The House met at 1330.
NATIONAL HOMEMAKER/HOME SUPPORT WORKER WEEK
Mr Allen: This is visiting homemakers week. We on this side of the House hope the government will recognize the service of more than 6,000 visiting homemakers in Ontario by announcing that they will be paid a decent living wage. Visiting homemakers provide emotional support, practical help and personal care to elderly and disabled persons who might otherwise have to go into nursing homes.
Two years ago, one of the government’s own interministerial committees recognized that homemakers had to work in isolation with only about 15 minutes each week of supervision on the telephone. They had to make decisions and act independently. The report confirmed that the human relations skill and responsibility of the job are not always recognized. In addition to low wages, averaging $5.25 an hour, the vast majority of homemakers received no or few benefits, are not paid for travel time and often not even for travel costs.
In 1987, one month after the Premier (Mr Peterson) referred to the integrated homemakers program as the “cornerstone” of the government’s community services strategy, the government capped the program and cut back on the number of hours allowed for each visit. Now homemakers spend too much time going from case to case and people in their homes are getting less care, often only three hours a week -- hardly enough to make the difference to keep someone from going to an institution.
A recent small funding increase addressed neither inflation losses nor benefits and may not put a penny into the pockets of many homemakers. Long-term service remains entirely obscure. In short, the Liberal government is trying to take credit for an alternative health delivery program the community agencies have to deliver without funds to make it really succeed.
Mr McCague: Seldom in this House do we talk about happy occasions or do we congratulate some of the members of this Legislature. However, today I would like to take just a moment to bring to the attention of the House, Mr Speaker, that you have been here for 22 years today. That is a long time and in a political life some people would say it is too long. However, I do not happen to agree with that.
Along with you celebrating 22 years is the member for Niagara South (Mr Haggerty). I would also like to point out that the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren) and the member for Lanark-Renfrew (Mr Wiseman) will, on Friday of this week, have been here for 19 years, I guess it is. Is it 19? Where is the member for Nickel Belt?
Mr Villeneuve: It is 18.
Mr McCague: It is 18 years. I just wanted to bring that to the attention of the House and to say that all of these people have served their constituents well over long periods of time. We wish them well. We are all here to help them out. Mr Speaker, many happy returns.
LAND-RELATED INFORMATION SYSTEMS
Mr Tatham: Information is the resource of the 1990s. Ontario is a world leader in land-related information systems and technology. Oxford county has received an international award for exemplary government systems from the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association of Los Angeles. This award was only possible with the help of provincial ministries such as the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations and the Ministry of Revenue.
These ministries had the foresight to begin to co-ordinate provincial geographic data and initiate municipal applications like Oxford to utilize the provincial resources. Words are one thing; sales results are another. Oxford has demonstrated its IRIS to delegations from Qatar, Nigeria and Japan, resulting in contracts for mapping and consulting worth millions of dollars for Ontario companies.
Our Ontario government must continue to give leadership to ensure that we stay on the leading edge of the advances and the technology of geographic information systems. The government should maintain a co-ordinating role providing standards and integration among the Ontario ministries, as well as continuing to give leadership in the development of municipal applications of this technology.
Miss Martel: Last week I advised this House that the Workers’ Compensation Board had released a discussion paper on several proposed regulations related to Bill 162 and at the time I condemned the definitions of “suitable” and “available,” which the board proposes to use.
The proposal for integration of CPP and Quebec pension plan benefits with WCB benefits is equally reprehensible. The New Democratic Party and labour have always argued that these benefits should not be integrated at all. Workers pay into CPP and should receive full benefits when disabled. The board has traditionally deducted CPP payments from a worker’s average earnings and then set the two-week compensation rate. High-wage earners have not been affected and have received both benefits.
Now the board is using its influence with regulations to change all that and reduce benefits, CPP will be deducted after the compensation rate is set, so high- and low-wage earners will be penalized together. The board is trying to justify its position by saying that the wording in Bill 162 instructs them to change the present system.
That is an out-and-out lie. The board has also said the present formula is not fair since high earners, who did not have CPP deducted, should have been paying at that time. So the answer is to spread the poverty and misery around by making sure high- and low-wage earners have their benefits reduced.
The WCB cannot be trusted, but neither can a Liberal government that gave the WCB this kind of power. It is high time this process was stopped and a bipartite committee of labour and employers was established so they can develop the regulations together.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr Villeneuve: My statement is on behalf of all those involved in agriculture in the province of Ontario and is addressed to the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay).
First, let’s make one fact known beyond the shadow of a doubt. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food budgeted $579 million in 1988-89. The actual expenditures were $522 million, a difference of almost $57 million budgeted for agriculture but which in actual fact went to other ministries. This is in spite of a rather serious drought in 1988, where the province of Ontario provided no support to cash-crop fruit and vegetable growers.
Our pork and beef producers in Ontario are going through some of the most difficult times experienced in some years. Low return and high interest rates are forcing many producers to look for off-farm income. But I ask the minister, in all sincerity, what has he done other than to pay lipservice and build up anticipation for the agricultural community?
I would state but a few things which the minister and his predecessor are on the record as doing lately. He has eliminated the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program. He is methodically eroding and dismantling the farm tax rebate program. He has eliminated any financial support program oriented towards financial assistance to beginning farmers. He has steadfastly refused to support cash-crop fruit and vegetable growers with provincial assistance during a serious drought in 1988. He has rendered the farm tax rebate program a means test and one that the farmers do not want.
The Speaker: The member’s time has expired.
Mr Villeneuve: Mr Speaker, I could go on and on. We need real help.
Mr Reycraft: One has only to watch a typical newscast to know that we are at a time in our history when forces all around the world are mobilizing against a serious social problem, that of widespread drug abuse. Drug abuse, along with drug dealing, is a social cancer that knows no geographical boundaries and those of us in southern Ontario may have a special cause for concern right now. As American cities are becoming flooded with crack and cocaine, some experts are predicting that U.S. drug dealers will look towards Canadian cities, such as Toronto, Windsor and London, as fresh territory.
In this challenging climate I would like to draw the attention of the House to one of the innovative ways some students in this province are doing their part to combat this problem. A group of enterprising and caring students at H. B. Beal Secondary School in London has produced a hard-hitting film that chronicles the harrowing tales of several students who become involved with drugs and eventually meet their demise.
This 47-minute film, called Addict, has received many accolades and requests for copies have come from schools as far away as Vancouver and Winnipeg. I would recommend this video and others like it to the minister responsible for the provincial anti-drug strategy and indeed to all members of this House. Addict has the potential to become an effective tool in drug education programs across this province. It is a film that every student should see.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mr Charlton: I have a statement that I would like to direct to both the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) and to the Minister of Energy (Mrs McLeod) because it deals with occupational health and safety concerns in Ontario Hydro’s Lakeview generating plant in Etobicoke.
The ministers will be aware that there is a major reconstruction project going on in that facility. The facility, at the start of this project, was loaded with dust that contained a number of hazardous substances, primary among them asbestos fibres. The minister should try to find out why it was that the workers were not informed of the hazard before the outside workers began working in the plant, why they were not instructed on proper procedures in terms of dealing with and handling the materials in question, why the ministries’ air sampling in the plant dealt with a passive air sample when the conditions were far different than those conditions when the actual construction work is going on.
The ministers will be aware that a major $1.4-billion retrofit program in Lakeview disturbs and, more than disturbs, stirs up the kind of dust fibre that we are talking about and leaves the workers at risk and the only way in which the Occupational Health and Safety Act can be appropriately applied in a case like this is to have testing and sampling done under actual work conditions.
NATIONAL HOMEMAKER/HOME SUPPORT WORKER WEEK
Mrs Cunningham: This week, 16 to 21 October, is homemaker appreciation week across the province and across Canada. Homemakers are the unsung heroines of our health care system. They toil in relative obscurity. The workload is heavy, the hours are long and the pay less than adequate. Yet, without them, our hospitals and long-term care institutions would be in far worse shape than at present.
Homemaker services are an essential part of our health care system. Thousands of seniors, disabled and the chronically ill people are able to stay in their familiar surroundings because homemakers are available to provide help. The services save the government millions of dollars each year by keeping people out of institutions. An acute care hospital bed costs well over $300 a day. A chronic care bed costs over $200 a day. In comparison, homemaker services average $10 to $15 a day, while comprehensive home care is $40 to $50 a day. The figures speak for themselves. Home care is a real bargain, as well as being socially more acceptable.
The Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) has stated that we need more community-based health care. Homemaker services are already established in communities across the province. They provide an essential service and should be expanded, not subjected to miserly penny-pinching by this government.
This week, homemaker service agencies are publicizing their work across this country. We should be supporting them.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Ruprecht: Tonight, the parent-teacher association at Parkdale Collegiate Institute will meet to discuss illegal drug use. Tomorrow, the Bloor-Lansdowne Committee Against Drugs will be meeting at Bloor Collegiate and last Saturday our community organized a walk against drug abuse. This Saturday, an organization called Communities Against Drug Abuse will sponsor a forum against drug abuse.
These activities confirm a community grassroots cry for help. These communities are in need and are requesting our leadership. Some neighbourhoods are in fact so severely affected by illegal drug use that they see their sons destroyed and their daughters turned into prostitutes to pay for their drug habits.
The minister responsible for the provincial anti-drug strategy (Mr Black) produced an excellent report in 1988. Now many of the people and agencies involved in the anti-drug fight are waiting patiently for implementations, such as that all boards of education in Ontario “develop and implement comprehensive drug education policies and programs dealing with core curriculum.” It continues, “that additional funding be provided to the OPP to increase the complement of the drug enforcement section by 32 members and four support staff.”
There are many, of course, great recommendations in this report and that is why we cannot afford to let our citizens down. We cannot afford to be accused that we are fiddling while many of our children and young people experience burnouts.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr Sweeney: This morning, the Premier (Mr Peterson) made a historic announcement concerning our waterfront.
Our government is taking several important steps to ensure the preservation, protection and responsible use of the waterfront from Bowmanville to Burlington.
We believe that the intelligent use of this natural environment is critical to the quality of life for the five million people who will be living here early in the next century.
The government is taking four specific measures to achieve our goals for the waterfront.
We will ensure that nothing is done to diminish our options while we take stock of them. To accomplish that, we have declared a provincial interest, as provided for under the Planning Act, in the lands along the core of the Toronto waterfront. That is the area from Lake Shore Boulevard south to the lake and the harbour, and from Yonge Street east to Ashbridges Bay and Coatsworth Cut. This includes all of the associated water lots. Tommy Thompson Park, as members know, is already the subject of an environmental assessment.
We will use the powers under the Planning Act to maintain our options for a comprehensive waterfront strategy.
This declaration of provincial interest means there will be no major development of this area until we have determined what is appropriate for the people and for the environment.
Second, we will work with others who want the waterfront to be a place for people. Through an order in council released today the province of Ontario has mandated the Crombie commission to report to us on waterfront issues that are relevant to our jurisdiction along the western basin of Lake Ontario.
The province has set a long-term goal of achieving continuous public access to the waterfront from Bowmanville to Burlington. We look forward to the Crombie commission’s recommendations on how to accomplish just that.
Third, since the future of our waterfront goes beyond the lakeshore, we intend to protect the sources of water and the river valleys that feed into the lake. We are asking the Crombie commission to make recommendations on how to link and integrate the waterfront to the upstream watersheds throughout the greater Toronto area and how best to finance this endeavour.
As well, the Premier has asked the member for St Andrew-St Patrick (Mr Kanter) to identify ways and means of protecting in perpetuity the headwaters, river valleys, source areas and the Oak Ridges Moraine reservoir that feed the waterfront. This effort will be part of a greening strategy for the entire greater Toronto area.
Finally, we will review where we stand now and invite other governments to join us. We will pool our provincial lands on the waterfront with lands of the Toronto Harbour Commissioners. This will allow for an environmental evaluation of the most appropriate long-term uses of this land. We are inviting the city of Toronto and Metro to join us. I have already had an opportunity to approach both Mayor Eggleton and Chairman Tonks about their participation in this project.
These are some of the measures this government is taking to ensure our waterfront is a source of enjoyment for many generations to come.
USE OF FRENCH IN COURTS
Hon Mr Scott: Later this afternoon, I will be introducing an act to amend the Courts of Justice Act. This bill makes several changes to the legislative provisions that give French-speaking persons in Ontario the right to a bilingual judge in civil proceedings.
First, the bill provides that the right to a bilingual trial judge is available in all courts and in all parts of the province. Although this is not a change in the law, it does provide a statutory guarantee for many areas of the province where the right now depends on regulations.
Second, the bill will extend the right to a bilingual judge to cover pretrial hearings, including the hearings of motions.
Third, the bill will permit French-speaking litigants to file pleadings and other documents in French in eight counties and districts. My ministry will proceed on a step-by-step basis to expand these services to other areas of the province.
These amendments are in response to suggestions over a number of years by l’Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario. The council of the Canadian Bar Association’s Ontario branch has also recommended the changes contained in this legislation. I believe that the bill represents another important demonstration of our government’s commitment to the use of French in Ontario courts and I know it will be received in that spirit by all members of the Legislature.
Mr Speaker, if you will permit, I would draw the attention of the Legislature to the presence of John Richard, the president of AJEFO, in the gallery today.
Mrs Grier: I was present this morning when the Premier (Mr Peterson), the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) and the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr Sweeney) made their announcement about the waterfront, and it was certainly a very interesting announcement.
Those of us who have been concerned about the future of the Toronto waterfront certainty welcome the Premier’s comment that, I think he said, nothing taller than a tool shed would be built without provincial approval. That is something I have been saying for a long time, and I am sure that Mr Muzzo and other major developers on the Etobicoke waterfront will welcome that statement by the Premier as well.
The statement we have from the Minister of Housing today repeats what was said this morning, and I welcome this evidence of co-operation between the federal and the provincial governments and the expansion of Mr Crombie’s mandate.
However, there are a couple of glaring omissions from the statement. The primary area of federal-provincial co-operation on the waterfront is in the preparation of remedial action plans as areas of concern have been instructed to do by the International Joint Commission, and I think it is significant that nowhere in the announcement is there any mention of the Metropolitan Toronto remedial action plan or the lack thereof.
The other glaring inconsistency, of course, is that the area where a provincial interest is being declared is quite small. The area that the member for St Andrew-St Patrick (Mr Kanter) is going to be looking at is the whole greater Toronto area’s waterfront, but the provincial interest is only in the area east of Yonge Street. A cynic could say that that is the area where perhaps we are going to have an Olympic site or a trade fair and that the areas for the condominiums that have already been built and are proposed in Scarborough and Etobicoke are not of as great provincial interest.
The other glaring omission is any mention of the Environmental Assessment Act. In fact, if you read the announcement this morning, in conjunction with the document that has been known as Project X, you see that perhaps this morning’s announcement is right in line with the planning drift of this government, which is to eliminate all reference to the Environmental Assessment Act.
I welcome their interest in the waterfront. I regret their lack of commitment to real environmental assessment.
USE OF FRENCH IN COURTS
Mr Kormos: On behalf of the opposition, I can commend the Attorney General (Mr Scott) for the proposition contained in his statement today. We certainly welcome indeed the expansion of access to bilingual services in the course of trials and the availability of bilingual judges to French-speaking litigants.
Similarly, and obviously corresponding with that, there is the need to permit the filing of various papers and documents in the French language. At the same time, though, this raises for many persons the prospect and certainly the fear that this is going to entail increased expense to themselves. That is to say, in the instance of a party to litigation who is not a francophone but who is faced with a corresponding litigant who files French-language documents, as is and should be that litigant’s right, there is the fear of costs that would have normally been incurred, for instance, the cost of translation. It is a double-edged sword because French-speaking litigants as well, when confronted with English-speaking co-litigants, are faced with similar difficulties.
Surely, this ministry along with other ministries who, for instance, have introduced French-language services to the land registry system would want to make available to parties translation services to eliminate the concern about increased cost and to make the whole process more acceptable to persons of both languages here in the province.
Similarly, while it is certainty a welcome step, one cannot help but remind the Attorney General of the need not only for this type of progress, but also of other impediments to access to courtrooms that are so glaring and obvious in the province. One of the most obvious is simply the availability of court space. Many jurisdictions across Ontario are making do with what can be spoken of as no more than makeshift courtroom facilities. The Attorney General has what is often referred to as a short list of jurisdictions which are deserving of new facilities. Yet they have not seen the plans.
Those of us from Welland-Thorold who are among those making do with what amounts to makeshift are eagerly awaiting along with many other jurisdictions action from the Attorney General in that regard. We thank the Attorney General for what I understand is a commitment today on his part to initiate some action in that regard.
Mr Cousens: I would like to begin by complimenting the government for joining the David Crombie parade. We have a leader who is taking us in the direction that the people really want to go. There is not any doubt that we have to do something together to protect the waterfront and the whole area in the downtown part of Toronto as it relates to the lake and the beautiful surroundings we have.
When we have a pied piper who is taking us down the right road, it is rather smart, it is rather easy in fact, for the government to do something that it should have been doing a little earlier. But Mr Crombie, as the commissioner, has submitted a report and the cabinet has read and endorsed it, and I see this as a positive step.
If only the government could do this on more issues, where it would have, a federal and provincial working together on issues. The goods and services tax is a singular example where the federal government is doing something on sales tax. If they were working with the provinces, there would be an example of co-operation that in a federal government setup -- we have such a lot of governments, municipal, provincial, regional and federal, but there is not the working together that we should have in this country.
If we could begin to have this as an example of working together and apply it to other things such as the Rouge Valley, where the federal government has made $10 million available and the province has not yet made a decision to make this a national park; if we could do something to clean up the Great Lakes, where we could make the kind of commitment we need to make the lakes and river systems as they should be; if we could do something about storm water management and accept the fact that there has got to be a lot done between the province and municipalities to make sure that what is going into the lakes is well understood -- I know that it is a worthwhile step and endorse the fact that the government is making this initiative.
I compliment the member for St Andrew-St Patrick (Mr Kanter) for finally having a job in the Peterson government. He has been a lonely boy, when everyone else has been appointed to cabinet, and now he has a chance to write a report. If he does well, he will be like the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay (Mr Black) and might get into the cabinet. If his report has a few spelling mistakes, though, he might find that he has to go and wait a little longer. Good luck to the member for St Andrew-St Patrick. We are all pulling for him. I hope they read his report. Everyone else around there who has written anything is lucky to get it read.
This afternoon I will have the grand opportunity, one of the first we have had in a long time, in estimates in the Ontario Legislature, to have a chance to ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr Sweeney) a question about the water development program as it relates to his announcement, because already his ministry is spending $286,000 for three classified staff, giving each an average salary of $89,300.
I am wondering whether or not he is in a position, by taking advantage of Mr Crombie’s leadership, to be able to get rid of some of the people he has working on waterfront development now. It has taken them a year and a half to come up with the recommendation he is making today. Why does he not start looking at the economy of what he is doing? If I were in private business and had $286,000 for people who just came up with this recommendation, I would be a very wealthy man. I would take the money and put it in my pocket, or the Minister of Municipal Affairs and I could do it together.
We have got a lot of questions about where this government is spending its money. The fact now that it is getting it together with the --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Cousens: We want to see something happen. They are out there giving us announcements. We hope that in the next year and a half or two we will have something to really show for what they have been doing. I know they finally have a good leader in appointing David Crombie to head up the commission. With the fact that they have both the federal and provincial governments working together, maybe we can all go down a better road than the one they have been taking us.
Mr Harris: I want to comment briefly on the statement today by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and say this: We on this side of the House and a number of people in this province have had a tremendous amount of concern about whether this province did have a game plan, did have any overall vision as to where we were heading in the future in this province and indeed in the greater Toronto area.
I applaud the announcement today to follow along with David Crombie and ask this: If it does nothing else than bring together the Minister of Housing (Mr Sweeney), who is talking about -- I find it ironic when we are talking about the greening of the GTA that the Minister of Housing wants to take the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital lands and ungreen them and make them housing -- the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye), who wants to build roads through the Rouge Valley, the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) who wants to put garbage in the Rouge Valley --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Harris: -- and if it allows them to co-ordinate their own efforts --
The Speaker: Thank you. That completes the allotted time for ministerial statements and responses.
Mr B. Rae: I have some questions for the Premier arising from information which he has placed before the House in answers which he gave last Thursday. The Premier is quoted in Hansard on page L-36 as saying and I quote, “there is a system in place but the system was not used.” He then goes on to say, “So the question is: Why was that system which is in place and, to the best of my knowledge, functions well most of the time, not used?”
I have spoken this day to a great many people working in the field of emergency services and in the field of critical care and I am advised that there is at the present time no comprehensive system for critical care patients as opposed to trauma patients. I am advised that according to every definition, Mrs Lacroix was a critical care patient.
If I can quote a senior executive of one of Toronto’s hospitals, he said, “If there was a failure of the system it was because the patient didn’t fit into the system,” and he went on to say, “if the system is at fault, it is because we have not done with critical care what has been done with trauma.”
The Speaker: Question.
Mr B. Rae: Can the Premier tell us just what is the situation for patients like Mrs Lacroix today?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the honourable Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) can help the member out with that question.
The Speaker: It has been referred to the Minister of Health,
Hon Mrs Caplan: The letter that I shared with members of this House last week is a letter from the Toronto Hospital corporation referring to a number in their emergency room which is available for assistance to physicians. I undertook to share that information with members of this House and that is what I did.
Mr B. Rae: I have spoken with the person who wrote that letter and I can tell the minister on the basis of all the discussions that I have had today, if she is saying that there is a system in place for critical care patients, if she is saying that there is a hotline for critical care patients, if she is saying that there is a way of finding not only a bed but a surgeon for a critical care patient and getting that patient into critical care right away, the minister is wrong. She is flat wrong, she is completely wrong and she had no business giving the information to the House last week which she did.
The Speaker: Question.
Mr B. Rae: Can the minister tell us why would she have said that there is a system in place for critical care patients when the people who operate the system themselves say, “There might be something for trauma, but there is nothing there for critical care.” Why would the minister make that mistake?
Hon Mrs Caplan: In April 1987 we established a working group on critical care. They have been offering us their expert advice. In June of this year we announced in a statement in this House additional funding to improve the co-ordination of services from the time a patient is picked up by ambulance, arrives at a hospital emergency department, and when necessary, is transferred to a critical care or trauma unit. We have just begun to implement that kind of province-wide system.
The working group on critical care is meeting even today as we speak to offer us further advice, but I can say to the Leader of the Opposition that I shared with him as I said I would the information that was provided to me.
Mr B. Rae: The information which the minister had provided to her is information which she passed on and then used to bludgeon Dr Nesdoly and other doctors in the province who were involved in the Lacroix case. That is exactly what the minister did, and I am advised -- and I am passing this information on to the minister -- that in fact when she makes the distinction between critical care, intensive care and trauma cases, there is nothing in place for intensive care and critical care that matches the system that is supposed to be in place for trauma.
Those are the facts, that is what we have been advised by people in the system, and if that is true, why would the minister be standing in her place and giving that kind if misinformation to the people of Ontario, misinformation which I might say to the minister, affects the reputation of physicians in this province?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the Leader of the Opposition that it is extremely important that the information that we share in this House is accurate.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I have always undertaken to share with him the information that I have and to ensure that it is accurate and that these issues are dealt with in the most appropriate forum. As he knows, in this particular case the coroner has called an inquest and I believe that is appropriate.
I would say that if the member is really interested in trying to help us to find a solution to the challenges that we face in the health care system, then he will in fact not attempt to cast blame or take cheap shots but to work with us to ensure that we are all working together and behaving responsibly in this House.
The Speaker: Order.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Premier and it concerns the announcement that he made this morning concerning the waterfront. As I said earlier, I certainly welcome the evidence of co-operation between the federal and provincial governments in the expansion of Mr Crombie’s mandate. But the Premier will be aware that the International Joint Commission has called for federal-provincial co-operation to clean up the toxic hot spots on the Great Lakes by way of remedial action plans and that Metropolitan Toronto is a prime candidate for such a plan.
In the interim report released by Mr Crombie he recommended and I quote, “that the provincial Ministry of the Environment and Environment Canada move urgently to prepare and implement the Metro Toronto remedial action plan.” Can the Premier explain why this morning in his first major announcement concerning the Crombie commission there was no mention of this very pertinent and urgent recommendation?
Hon Mr Peterson: To the honourable member, I do not think there was any attempt to respond to all aspects of the Crombie report today. I think we responded appropriately today to declare provincial interest in certain aspects of those lands and I think it speaks well to a co-ordinated approach by four levels of government. That does not mean for a minute there is not lots more work to be done.
Mrs Grier: I would have thought that a cleanup of an existing problem would have been so integral to any further development that perhaps it might have been specifically addressed. But let me turn to another aspect of planning on the waterfront that was not specifically addressed. Also missing from this morning’s announcement was any reference to the Environmental Assessment Act.
This seems to confirm the government’s plan to gut the Environmental Assessment Act, as revealed in the leaked document that has become known as Project X. Can the Premier give the House his commitment that future planning for the waterfront of the greater Toronto area will be done in accordance with requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act?
Hon Mr Peterson: Can I just say that the comments of the honourable member -- I do not know how to describe them because she is usually fairly responsible -- are a crock, just a complete crock? Usually the member knows better than to stand up in this House and to embarrass herself by speaking so.
Mrs Grier: My question derives from the action of this government in refusing an environmental assessment for a critical part of the waterfront in my riding, where Mr Muzzo and Camrost Development Corp are planning a major high-rise development and where the Ontario Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee recommended that there be an environmental assessment. The government refused that recommendation and has come up with an environmental management master plan which is worse than being a crock; it is totally useless.
Can the Premier explain why, in his declaration of provincial interest on this entire waterfront, he confined that declaration to a very small area, an area where there are no major developments planned by private developers and where there is perhaps a world trade fair or the Olympics planned, the area east of Yonge Street? Why is the entire waterfront not a provincial interest?
Hon Mr Peterson: Previously, the motel strip in Etobicoke has been declared a matter of provincial interest. I am sure the member was here when that happened so she is aware that we are way ahead of her on that particular matter at the present time.
The one critical area that was discussed by Mr Crombie was declared a matter of provincial interest. That does not preclude the government from declaring a provincial interest on a much wider area, should that be necessary in the future, but that is the area of priority and that is where we are working at the present time. I think sensible, objective observers of this situation would say it is the absolutely appropriate place to start. It is the critical area, the area where the federal government and the provincial government have the majority of lands, and of course the Environmental Assessment Act will apply in every case that is applicable.
The Speaker: New question, the member for Sarnia.
Mr Brandt: I want to pursue with the Premier the question of the announcement this morning with regard to provincial involvement in the Toronto waterfront. We welcome that announcement; I want him to know that. In the course of the announcement, the Premier indicated that our heritage is slipping away piece by piece and that he was concerned about the retention of the heritage, which the waterfront was a major part of.
I would like to ask the Premier why it is that a very important part of the waterfront, namely the headwaters that discharge into the Toronto waterfront, are not described at all in his release, nor are they given any attention whatever. Specifically, I am referring to the conspicuous absence of any reference to the Rouge Valley and any reasons the Premier would not include the Rouge as part of a provincial park for purposes of preservation. Could he indicate to this House why he has intentionally avoided mentioning any reference to the Rouge in his comments.
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend did not read the announcement. He should have been there in person today because he would have learned something. The things he has just said in this House are not the case at all. What we said is that the member for St Andrew-St Patrick (Mr Kanter) is going to be looking at all the headwaters right up to the Oak Ridges moraine and all of the waterflows along the waterfront. He missed that part of it, obviously. I invite my friend to reread the release of this morning and then reframe his question based on facts, not just on his fantasy.
Mr Brandt: Let me give the Premier a fantasy he has not dealt with, with respect to an earlier report. He knows full well that there is an offer on the table now from the federal government committing $10 million to make that land into a provincial park. Why is it that his government has not indicated any intention whatever to contribute to the preservation of the Rouge Valley lands? The Premier should not stand up here and say I have not read the report. I have read it. It does not contain a commitment from him.
Hon Mr Peterson: It was not intended to deal with the Rouge specifically. It deals with the waterfront and all of the headwaters up to the Oak Ridges moraine. I think the member should read that.
The member wanted to ask me another question -- he is quite entitled to -- about the government’s commitment to the Rouge Valley. I can tell my honourable friend that we are going to preserve the Rouge. There is no question about that. Then he talks about this offer of the federal government. Who knows what that land is worth? Billions? Who knows the answer to that question. We are going make a commitment to that and we will share that with the member as that entire quadrant is reviewed on the basis of advice from the member for St Andrew-St Patrick.
The member refers to a $10-million offer from the federal government. I want to tell him something: That was about as cheap a political trick as I have ever seen, which I am used to -- and I do not mind that -- but that is in no way significant in terms of preserving the Rouge. If they were serious, they would have had a much different view of the situation. But I can tell him that this government is going to preserve the Rouge.
Mr Brandt: I have learned to listen carefully to the words used by the Premier. When he talks about the preservation of the Rouge, is he prepared to stand before this House and indicate today that he is not going to allow any roadways or highway networks through the Rouge, any landfill sites, any commercial or residential development in that particular sensitive area? Is he prepared to make that kind of commitment? When we talk about preservation, we mean that type of development would not be allowed in a provincial park, which the Rouge should be. Is he prepared to stand up and make a specific commitment rather than a generalized statement such as he gets away with so often?
Hon Mr Peterson: First of all, I do not think this government has to apologize for what it has done in provincial parks anywhere with the kinds of things it has done. I can tell the member it was his government that was in terrible trouble on provincial parks.
Let me go on to say to my friend that obviously we are going to preserve the Rouge. The question is, whose definition of “the Rouge”? All those aspects are being studied at the present time and we will share those with him at the appropriate time. My friend says “that particular sensitive area.” He has not stood up and said what, in his view, the sensitive areas are.
There are a variety of different views on this situation and how far it runs up the headwaters into the moraine, the sensitive river valleys and a lot of other surrounding land. Various different people have various different interpretations of the size and scope of the Rouge, as my honourable friend knows. I say to my honourable friend that all of those issues are being co-ordinated and we will respond to the honourable member when decisions have been made. I can tell him it is our intention to preserve the Rouge and all the sensitive areas -- he used that word -- he talked about.
Mr Eves: I have a question for the Minister of Health. It is my understanding that Dr Girotti, who is the director of trauma services at the Toronto General Hospital, and other doctors from that hospital have been meeting with officials from the Ministry of Health this morning regarding the Stella Lacroix case. Could the minister please provide the House with an update as to the particulars and details of that meeting.
Hon Mrs Caplan: As I said, in April 1987 we established a working group on critical care. That committee has been meeting over the course of many months. They advise us on the announcement I made last June regarding emergency and trauma services in this province. I understand their meeting is ongoing at this time to advise us how we can improve in the future.
Mr Eves: We on this side of the House are trying to get to the bottom of the minister’s mystery hotline. Doctors across the province have been phoning myself and colleagues on this side of the House about her hotline that she described at TGH. In fact, the doctors claim that there is no such hotline and that the TGH phone number she refers to simply links callers with the TGH emergency room and tells the caller the name of the doctor on duty in that particular emergency room.
I think it is about time we got the truth about her supposed hotline. Will she publicize the hotline number she referred to today and will she provide the House with documentation regarding the 800 calls she claims it receives each year and the exact procedures it uses to link doctors with beds?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As I have said in this House on a number of occasions, and particularly on 11 October in response to the member’s question, I believe it is important that we gather all the facts and that, as I had those facts, I would share them not only with the coroner but with members of this House. People’s lives are at stake. It is very, very important that we make sure these matters are dealt with appropriately. I would say to the member we must get all the facts.
Mr Eves: This case has been before the House on three or four separate days now. The first day, the minister claimed she could not talk about it because there might be a coroner’s inquest. The next day, she claimed the doctor was at fault because he had not used your mystery hotline. She still does not know what the number is today. Yesterday, it was learned that her ministry handbook for emergencies in Ontario does not list or contain her mystery hotline phone number.
Dr Girotti has something to say about the hotline and the public deserves to know the truth about the minister’s hotline. She cannot have it both ways. Does she not think it is about time she started worrying about saving lives instead of saving face’?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member opposite is talking about someone’s life. We are dealing with getting the facts and having this dealt with in the most appropriate forum. I made a commitment in this House. I shared the information we had. I can say to the member that a coroner’s inquest has been called and that all the facts and information will be dealt with in that most appropriate forum. We want to make sure we are all working together to improve the services to the people of this province.
Mr Kormos: This is to the Premier, and it is to the Premier because he is the one who promised some two years ago that he had a very specific plan to lower automobile insurance premiums in Ontario. He has a new plan. He has sure given it to the drivers of Ontario, but he is not reducing premiums. Indeed, what this new plan ensures is that it guarantees middle- and upper-income drivers will not be fully compensated for their wage loss, for their economic loss. The maximum of $450 a week of wage replacement translates to $23,400 a year when the poverty level for a family of four in Toronto is just under $25,000.
What that means is that innocent victims of drunk drivers, negligent drivers are being deprived, are being denied the right to get full compensation for their actual loss of income. How can the Premier call that fair?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the minister can help out my honourable friend again.
The Speaker: Referred to the Minister of Financial Institutions.
Hon Mr Elston: If the honourable gentleman the member for Welland-Thorold reviewed the way the system was designed to work, which in fact delivers quick payments for replacement of lost income and provides benefits for supplementary medical and rehabilitation services and long-term care services as well, through the package he has spoken about, he would understand that in combination with other collateral benefits there is ample room for replacement of lost income. He would also understand that in addition to having a market in which to purchase larger amounts, there will be ample room for replacement of the lost income he is so concerned about.
With respect to his preamble, which said there has not been a control on rates, he of course fails to acknowledge that there was a cap on rates, and he knows the history of that; plus, introduction of this proposal will preclude the raising of rates by some 30 per cent to 35 per cent. In fact, that control on rates has delivered on the promise that was made two years ago.
Mr Kormos: The Premier obviously is not going to keep the promise and he certainly cannot expect his minister to. Let’s run this one past the minister. Let’s talk about a 35-year-old factory worker who is making $800 a week who is hit by a drunk driver and suffers serious whiplash. That is not an uncommon scenario. He is off work for a year because he cannot do the heavy lifting and twisting involved in his job. For damages for pain and suffering for one year, what does he collect under this scheme? Zero; nothing. For lost income, he collects $23,400 when his total loss, his real loss is some $41 ,600. That means a shortfall of $23,200 that he is out of pocket because the minister took that away from him.
That is the type of system he is talking about, one that guarantees profits for insurance companies --
The Speaker: Question,
Mr Kormos: -- and one that denies injured people compensation for their injuries, denies people the right to be compensated for their loss of income.
The Speaker: Question.
Mr Kormos: He cannot call that fair, not by a long shot.
Hon Mr Elston: The system is indeed fair and what the honourable gentleman forgets to do is to take into account all of the other support mechanisms that are in place to assist that person. It is not uncommon for other disability programs to be in place and it is not uncommon for there to be shared responsibility in those situations. It is not uncommon for the gentleman to get his description of the events wrong. In fact, it could be that there was some serious injury that would require litigation.
He, like all others who wish to make their point at the expense of the public’s awareness and understanding of this system, designs and defines the examples so as to preclude any reasonable and intelligent assessment of the product. He wishes people to remain confused.
The real, clear point is this: Quick dealing with the losses that are sustained by accident victims. His introduction of the issue of the impaired driver striking this individual is of very little concern, because what he fails to tell the people is that we will punish the impaired driver. There are tough standards in place for the impaired driver. There are tough standards in place for those people who violate the law. There are tough standards and there are tough punishments. There will be increased costs for those people who do damage.
Let there be no mistake about that and let there be no mistake about the fact that there will be quick relief for those people who lose under the accident scenario.
Mr Eves: My question is to the Minister of Health again. The meeting of which she spoke about with the working group on critical care has apparently just ended and Dr William Sibbald, who happens to be the chairman of the working group says, and I quote, “The working group is of the opinion there is no provincial hotline in place.” Will the minister now admit that in fact this hotline she speaks about does not exist, and why did she tell the House there was such a hotline when the chairman of her own working group, which she was so proud of a minute and a half ago, says there is not one?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member opposite has raised questions in this House on numerous occasions. I have shared with him the information I have. I have read it into Hansard based on the very best information I have. It is important that we have the facts. I refer him to Toronto General Hospital. It is their phone number. I actually visited the hospital on a number of occasions. I would say to him that no one has suggested we cannot improve in the future how we implement services to access care. That is why we are looking at structural changes. That is what the critical care working committee is advising us on.
Mr Eves: The minister herself and the Premier (Mr Peterson) have told the House that Dr Nesdoly perhaps did not use what was available to him. Yet Dr Sibbald is also quoted as saying that Dr Nesdoly used “appropriate lines of communication available at that time.” Will the minister be big enough to stand up in this House and apologize publicly to Dr Nesdoly right now?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to make sure that we gather all the facts and that we make sure this type of situation is avoided in the future. I believe the coroner’s inquest is the most appropriate location and I would say to the member opposite that it is extremely important that the information we share in this House is factual.
The Speaker: New question, the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr B. Rae: I want to put this question again to the Premier and I mean it in all seriousness. He provided information to every member in this House last Thursday. I quoted to him in my first question what that information was. I would like to simply repeat it again. He said, and I quote, that “there is a system in place.... It was there, but for some reason the people involved did not avail themselves of the service.” He went on to say, “Why was that system which is in place and, to the best of my knowledge, functions well most of the time, not used?” He said not once but three times that the system was there.
We have clear evidence from the people responsible for critical care in this province that in fact the information the Premier gave to the House on Thursday was false. Is he prepared to stand in his place and admit that the information he provided to this House on Thursday was false?
Hon Mr Peterson: With respect, I do not agree with my friend at all.
Mr B. Rae: His minister told the House on 22 June that a Metro Toronto hotline for critical care would be in operation on 1 July. That is the information she provided on 22 June. I am now advised by the doctors responsible for the system that there is no such hotline for critical care patients, for intensive care patients, and the Premier has the gall to stand up in his place in this House and say that the doctors out there were not using a system that is in place. The system is not in place. All the people in the system understand it except for the Premier. When will he finally come to his senses and recognize that he gave information and told the province things on Thursday that are in fact not true?
Hon Mr Peterson: I do not know what more evidence we need and I think we have expressed that to my honourable friend.
The Speaker: New question, the member for Simcoe West.
Mr McCague: My question is to the Minister of Health. I had a call at lunchtime from a doctor at the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital. He asked the head unit nurse this morning what the number was, the mystery hotline number they were supposed to use. The nurse looked all morning and could not find it. Now will the minister stop her fancy footwork and give me a number that I can at least give Dr Smith at the hospital in case he has an emergency tonight?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The facts of this unfortunate case will all be dealt with during a coroner’s inquest. I am pleased to be able to say to the members of this House that I am happy to share whatever information I am able to share with them, and if anyone is interested in specific numbers the ministry has available, I will be pleased to share them with the members,
Mr McCague: The honourable member is not doing her job. I want the number that Dr Smith can call tonight if somebody in my riding gets in trouble. For God’s sake, give it to us.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I understand the question from the member opposite is an extremely important one, and he knows that we have a number of control centres available throughout this province.
What is most interesting is that his own colleague in this House, the member for Parry Sound (Mr Eves), in response to my statement in June, said: “I don’t think we have to spend $18 million to come to commonsense conclusions. Any doctor I have dealt with certainly knows what hospital to call and what other specialized physicians to contact in terms of needing specialized care.”
We are establishing province-wide networks. In the meantime, the hospitals make services available. I would be pleased to give to the member opposite the number of the Toronto Hospital corporation, which they gave to me.
Mr M C. Ray: I have a question for the Minister of Health. It concerns cardiac surgery in the city of Windsor. The minister has repeatedly said that Ontario will provide quality health care as close to home as possible. This statement poses some confusion for residents of Windsor, where “as close to home as possible” often means the city of Detroit, if the services are not provided at home.
The president of the Essex Medical Association has been negotiating with Detroit hospitals for the delivery of cardiac surgery services to residents of Windsor. At the same time, there are press reports in Windsor that Ministry of Health officials are not involved in these negotiations. My question is, under these circumstances, where are residents of Windsor to look for cardiac surgery services in the context of the minister’s statement, “as close to home as possible,” and what coverages are Windsor people to expect under the Ontario health insurance plan?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member for Windsor-Walkerville raises an issue that is of concern to the residents of Windsor. As he knows, we have asked an expert panel to advise us on ensuring that Windsor residents have access to the services they need. My priority is always to ensure that they have services available and that we try to have them as close to home as possible.
The member will know that London and five other centres across this province all offer specialized cardiovascular services. London is the natural referral centre, but residents of Windsor can be referred or can request referral to any one of the six centres offering cardiovascular services.
Mr M. C. Ray: That is not exactly responsive to my question. Could I ask the minister at least to update us on the investigation regarding the possibility of locating a cardiovascular centre in Windsor?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member knows, these decisions are made on the very best advice we can receive. We established an expert panel which has had representations from residents and physicians in the Windsor area. I believe their recommendations have just been received; they are recommending a full audit of services available to people in southwestern Ontario, and we will commence that audit as soon as possible.
The Speaker: New question, the member for Windsor-Riverside.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I would also like to ask the Minister of Health a question with regard to cardiac surgery in Windsor. One can remember too, that she talked about the hotline down our way that did not exist, but I would like specifically to ask the minister, is she or is she not prepared to publicly announce today that there will be a full feasibility study into the possibility of having cardiac surgery in Windsor, yes or no? She has had several months to study it. Yes or no?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member knows, we rely on the very best of expert advice as to how to proceed to ensure that people have access to the services they need when they need them. I can tell him that we have just received the recommendations of the expert panel, and their recommendation is that a full cardiovascular audit be conducted so that we can determine what services are available and what, if any, services should be enhanced or provided, how they work and so forth. The terms of reference will be available very soon.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The minister certainly works quickly.
Can the minister respond to another major concern of cardiac services in our community that her ministry ignited several weeks ago, and that is the whole issue of angiograms conducted in the city of Windsor’? Can the minister tell us today whether her ministry spokesman was correct in saying that angiograms were unsafe when they are performed in Windsor because we do not have cardiac surgery, or are they sale’? If they are safe and approved by the ministry, is the minister prepared today to admit, at least on this issue, that her ministry was wrong and to apologize to the people in our community, and specifically Dr Wong and his colleagues’?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I have never questioned the competence or medical judgement of physicians in this province. I understand that a letter was sent by the ministry, but I would say to the member that my priority is to ensure that people have access to effective quality care right across this province, and we rely on physicians who are accountable to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to use their very best medical judgement in determining where and how people access that care.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Is it safe?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I’m not a doctor.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Your ministry spokesmen didn’t hesitate to say it was unsafe.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr D. S. Cooke: What a joke. It’s time for another cabinet shuffle.
Mr Pouliot: There is no such service available. No one has the guts to stand up and say it. That’s the problem. That’s what is taking so long here.
The Speaker: Do you enjoy wasting the time like that’?
Mr Eves: I want to pursue this issue with the Minister of Health again. Dr Girotti, chairman of the trauma unit at Toronto General Hospital, has been quoted again just a few minutes ago as saying that the TGH hotline is a local hotline for internal use, and he talks about internal facilities. It is not a provincial hotline. The minister led this House and the people of Ontario to believe that it was. I am giving the minister the opportunity, for the third time today, to admit that she made a mistake, that there is no such hotline and that perhaps she will look into developing one in the future.
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, the member is wrong again. I never used the term “provincial hotline.” What I did was read into the record, information that I had received from the Toronto Hospital corporation about a service that it provides in its hospital to assist physicians outside of Metropolitan Toronto. Those are the facts. That is it.
Mr Eves: The facts are that the critical care working group has submitted a report recommending to the minister that she set up such a provincial hotline so that there will be one to call in every region of the province in the future. It is my understanding that the minister received that report before the Midland incident, that she did nothing about it and that there is no number. Will she do something about setting up the number, and why did she give this House information that was incorrect’? There is no number. Will she not admit that’? There is no provincial hotline number.
Hon Mrs Caplan: In June, I announced an approach to establish across this province an integrated trauma program to co-ordinate and speed access to trauma and critical care. Do members know what that member’s response was? His response was: “I don’t think we have to spend $18 million to come up with a commonsense conclusion. Any doctor I know and I have dealt with will certainly know what hospital to call and what other specialized physician to contact.” He criticizes everything, whether he is right or wrong, or whether he has the facts or not. Come on, get serious.
The Speaker: Order. There are other members who would like to ask questions.
GENERAL MOTORS VAN PLANT
Mr Faubert: My question is to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. All members of this House will be aware that workers from the Scarborough General Motors van assembly plant are currently in a state of limbo as a result of GM’s announcement on Thursday to shift its van production from Scarborough to Flint, Michigan. As has been clearly pointed out, this decision could adversely affect up to 2,700 automobile workers, many of whom live in Scarborough. It appears that the free trade agreement may well have contributed to this decision as well as the current interest rate policy of the federal government.
Can the minister advise this Legislature if the free trade agreement may have provided an added incentive to General Motors to shift these jobs out of Scarborough to Flint, Michigan?
Hon Mr Kwinter: It would be very difficult to attribute that particular action to the free trade agreement. I think it is more a matter of the overcapacity of the industry, the rationalization of the plants in North America and the factors in the marketplace.
Mr Faubert: Many constituents in my riding have expressed to me their concern about the overall effect of the free trade agreement on the manufacturing sector. Can the minister advise the House what impact the free trade agreement has had on manufacturing jobs across this province?
Hon Mr Kwinter: The free trade agreement has been in effect since January of this year, and it is too early to try to find out what impact it has had. I should say, though, that during the free trade debate we were concerned that some jobs would leave Canada and go to the United States. There have been some cases, particularly that of Outboard Marine in Peterborough, where that seems possibly to have been a result, but our monitoring of the manufacturing jobs in the past year has really been inconclusive in view of the fact that the number of jobs has remained virtually the same.
I think what the member is seeing is a combination of some backlash of the perception of free trade and also a situation where the economy is not quite as vibrant as it has been in the past. All of these are contributing to some of these adjustments.
Mr B. Rae: I want to go back to the Premier and make this point: In this House, if we cannot rely on the personal word of the Premier with respect to his answers, then I say we are in some trouble. That is my problem. That is why I asked my first question to the Premier, and that is why I have another question for the Premier.
On Thursday in this House, the Premier said, “There is a system in place, but the system was not used.” He did not say that once; he said it about four times in his answer. We now have comments from the working group on critical care and Dr Sibbald, who stated, “The working group is of the opinion that there is no provincial hotline in place.” I have been advised this morning by other people working in the system, who are in a position to know, that in fact there is no co-ordinated system to deal with critical care patients across the province.
The Speaker: And the question?
Mr B. Rae: I want to ask the Premier this:
Why did he give information to the House last Thursday which was so obviously incorrect and false with regard to critical care in Ontario’?
Hon Mr Peterson: It was completely accurate. Why does the member stand up, continuing -- let me just read the letter to the member again, because he may not have read it. It says:
“The resident did indicate to Dr Nesdoly that a bed would be available after 11 pm. Dr Nesdoly did not call back. The emergency hot line for use by physicians around Ontario, number 340-3000, and staffed 24 hours, was not used, nor was the trauma team consulted.”
Those are the facts from the president of the Toronto Hospital. The member might not like those facts. He has a way of interpreting and bending facts to suit his purposes sometimes, but let me tell him that he has a responsibility to stand up in this House and not twist facts the way he has been doing.
Mr B. Rae: Let me come back to the Premier who wants to talk about information provided. His own Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) told us in this House on 22 June this year that she would “improve accessibility to services by establishing critical care hotlines for physicians in each region which will be interconnected throughout the province. The Metropolitan Toronto hotline will be in operation 1 July.”
That is what the minister told us, and I am telling the Premier today that the information I have is that there is no such service for critical care in Ontario. There may be a line for trauma. There is a difference between trauma and critical care. Mrs Lacroix was not a trauma patient; she was a critical care patient.
We are also advised by Dr Sibbald that in fact there is no province-wide hotline for critical care in the province today. Will the Premier come clean and admit that when he spoke to this House on Thursday and said there is a system in place for patients like Mrs Lacroix, he was wrong, completely wrong?
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend may want to change his question again, but let me repeat to him what the report was from Mr Stoughton, the president of Toronto Hospital. That is the information on which we went, and it is all there. He chooses to ignore it, time after time. He thinks that by shouting and repeating himself he can persuade people he is correct. Let me tell him, he is wrong. He shouts and screams enough but cannot persuade people he is correct.
Here are the facts as reported by Mr Stoughton, and I will repeat them to the member because he has trouble understanding them: “The resident did indicate to Dr Nesdoly that a bed would be available after 11 pm. Dr Nesdoly did not call back. The emergency hot line for use by physicians around Ontario,” and I repeat 340-3000, “and staffed 24 hours, was not used, nor was the trauma team consulted.”
There is going to be an investigation into this matter, and who knows why it was not taken advantage of or anything else. But I think my honourable friend has an obligation not to distort the facts in this House as he is doing.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Revenue. Metropolitan Toronto council has referred to the minister its plan for property assessment. It has also proposed a market value assessment approach that is unique among all other municipal reassessment processes. Can the Minister of Revenue tell this House whether, he plans to approve this scheme as proposed or whether changes will be suggested to Metropolitan Toronto’?
Hon Mr Mancini: All I can tell the member at the present time is that the matter is under serious review. My officials are looking into the matter, and I have discussed it with a number of my colleagues, including the Metropolitan Toronto caucus. The matter is under thorough review, and when I have an answer I will report to the House.
Mr Cousens: The minister should be getting an answer ready so that we do not have to read it in one of the local newspapers. Surely the minister is aware of the severe impact that these recommendations are going to have on the commercial and industrial sectors in Metropolitan Toronto. Metro’s industrial and commercial sectors are going to have to pay the commercial concentration levy, and now Metro’s industrial and commercial sectors must pay the burden of increased property taxes. Where does the minister stand on this issue?
Hon Mr Mancini: This is a matter of local option. There are 668 municipalities in the province that have opted for some form of market value reassessment. It is not the responsibility of the government to decide for the municipality whether or not it should have some form of market value assessment; it is the council’s responsibility. They have made a decision, and we are reviewing their decision.
Ms Oddie Munro: My question is to the Minister of Housing. On 29 September 1989, the region of Hamilton-Wentworth formed a task force on affordable housing commissioned by regional chairman Reg Whynott and to be chaired by councillor David Christopherson. The task force is made up of 27 members selected from the community with terms of reference providing for input and advice from a regional perspective to address all elements that affect affordable housing. Liaison with the province is obviously a priority. My question is, what is the minister’s initial response to this unique initiative taken by the region of Hamilton-Wentworth?
Hon Mr Sweeney: When I had an opportunity to speak to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario in August of this year, I indicated clearly what the priority of the ministry was going to be. I indicated also that it was not a task that I could perform by myself, nor could the provincial government, with respect to increasing the supply of affordable housing. I invited them to participate with me in this task, and quite frankly I am delighted that the region of Hamilton-Wentworth has set up the committee which the honourable member describes and is willing to work with my ministry in that particular capacity.
Ms Oddie Munro: Community reaction in Hamilton-Wentworth is certainly very positive. We believe it is a well-meaning, needed and accountable issue, and in my view the region should be commended and I am glad the minister has done so. My supplementary question to the minister is, what is the likely procedure of his ministry in dealing with this local regional task force? I realize the minister has procedures in place for municipalities, but this is a region and I am wondering what the procedure would be in terms of planning and implementation of required affordable housing.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would first of all say to Hamilton-Wentworth region that they are free, welcome and encouraged to avail themselves of whatever resources are present in my ministry in terms of data, analysis and things of that nature. Second, if they come up with solutions which do not fit any of the existing programs of the ministry, we would be quite happy to sit down with them to determine how we can reshape those programs so they can meet the needs of Hamilton-Wentworth.
I would point out to the honourable member that when my colleague the former Minister of Housing made her announcement that there would be a change in the planning and housing processes in this province, she identified a number of regions in the province that are of particular concern. Hamilton-Wentworth was one of those with respect to the 25 per cent affordable housing, the three-year supply of residential lots, and the 10-year identification of residential land. Therefore, it is very appropriate that Hamilton-Wentworth be one of the early regions to come forward and to take this initiative on themselves.
LAND STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM
Mr Wildman: I have a question of the Minister of Agriculture and Food. When is the minister going to allocate the required funds to meet the demand from Ontario farmers for financial assistance for adoption of conservation methods in farming practices across Ontario?
Hon Mr Ramsay: On Thursday of last week I signed an accord on behalf of the province with the Honourable Don Mazankowski which would transfer $11 million of federal funding to Ontario. We are now going to be negotiating with the federal officials on designing programs that will benefit Ontario farmers so that we can do a better job on the farm in conserving our soil and water.
Mr Wildman: Following from that, what effect will this have on the land stewardship program of the ministry, a program which according to Galen Driver of the ministry is “grossly oversubsidized” -- that is a quote -- and which resulted in the fact that in May the ministry had to send out 500 letters to new applicants to inform these farmers that the ministry had no money to fulfil their proposals for projects under the program?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I think maybe the word is “oversubscribed.” I think maybe that is what the member was saying. I hope he does not feel that we oversubsidize some of these programs, but if it is oversubscribed, which I think it may be, we think it is important. We have had basically this argument for the last couple of years with the federal government so that we could count our land stewardship programs as being part of our share. Now that we have reached that agreement we are going to be able to refund the land stewardship program, which I am sure the member and all members of this House have agreed is very important for viable and sustainable agriculture in Ontario.
ENFORCEMENT OF FISHING REGULATIONS
Mr J. M. Johnson: My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. A report in the Toronto Star dated 16 October, said 11 men, 10 of them commercial fishermen, were fined and jailed for unlicensed fishing and selling of lake trout. The justice of the peace who heard the case, Ross Forgrave, estimated that eight tonnes of lake trout were caught and sold by the poachers. Justice Forgrave was very critical of the Ministry of Natural Resources for the “unbelievably slow” time it took to lay charges. Why did it take her ministry officials eight months to lay charges in this case?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I would have to ask some questions about that specific case to know about the length of the time delay. Obviously, the enforcement of our fishing regulations is extremely important to us. A major emphasis for our conservation officers is to carry out that enforcement. It is clearly very important to us in terms of our fisheries policies.
Mr J. M. Johnson: Eight tonnes of lake trout is a lot of trout. Justice Forgrave was very critical. In fact, he went on during this case to say that, “there is dead wood in the ministry somewhere.” Since that is not the former minister any longer, it must be the minister’s responsibility. Since a million and a half anglers purchase fishing licences, does the minister not feel that she has a responsibility to be more active than her ministry has been in the past, because taking that number of sport fish away from the sport fishermen certainly lowers the reason that people should buy a licence?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I certainly would agree, although I had some difficulty hearing the honourable member’s question.
The management of our fisheries is a very important responsibility for the Ministry of Natural Resources and for the minister. Obviously, we do put an emphasis on the management of our fisheries program in terms of our restocking program, in terms of the research we do on fish habitat and in terms of our enforcement of fishing regulations. It will continue to be an important responsibility for us.
NORTHERN HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Pouliot: My question is to the Minister of Health regarding the critical shortage of family physicians for the underserviced area of northwestern Ontario. The minister will be fully aware that those communities are presently embarked on their annual pilgrimage to recruit and hopefully to retain that kind of expertise which is becoming so rare in the north over the past years, and I am talking here specifically four or five years, perhaps a decade.
We have made some positive recommendations to the minister that would help enhance our situation and we are told that the system is under review, a system that would provide essential services for the people of the north. Can the minister tell the people of the north what kind of specifics, what kind of announcement, will improve the care system for the people of the north?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I recognize that there are some northern communities that are experiencing difficulty in both attracting and keeping doctors, especially specialists, in their communities. That is the reason that I established the Northern Health Manpower Committee. We have advice from people right across the north. In fact, when I was in the north last week, I was informed that they are optimistic that they will be able to best advise me on how we can help the communities of the north to attract the kind of not only doctors but also allied health professionals to help to meet their needs.
Mr Pouliot: While it would not be fair to accuse the minister of being responsible for the pitfalls and the shortcomings of the north, she must, with respect, realize that we have been more than patient.
We have offered alternatives, alternatives that would work, such as the reinstitution of the foreign doctor program, those people who can fit the criteria, to come on a short-term and perhaps long-term basis and alleviate the shortage that we have up north. We have talked about added incentives. We have talked about building universities in the north to better address the problems of the north. Those are workable alternatives. Studies will not do it. Additional civil servants will not do it. We are giving the minister the answers to make our lives somewhat better.
The Speaker: And the question is?
Mr Pouliot: What specific plans does the minister have; what does she wish to tell the people of the north today, regarding their hopes, short term and long term, to address this problem?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member that in fact we have had some successes in the past. More than 800 doctors, dentists and other allied health professionals are working in 218 designated underserviced areas. We know as well that overall there are sufficient numbers of doctors in the province, that the problems are geographic ones. Therefore, as we develop strategies to attract people to the north, we will be working with all kinds of incentive programs as well as with the best advice from northerners. We are listening and we are taking action.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Minister of Transportation and it is with regard to northern Highway 69, which runs from Sudbury to Parry Sound. The minister is well aware that that road is in fact unsafe in that the number of accidents that occur on that particular stretch of highway increases almost yearly, and the road itself has been for some time of very real concern to the citizens of Parry Sound, Sudbury and the places in between. Will the minister give this House some indication of how high up on the priority list his ministry has placed this particular stretch of highway?
Hon Mr Wrye: I want to indicate to the leader of the third party that I was very pleased to be able to visit with the members of the District of Parry Sound Municipal Association yesterday to make a luncheon speech and to turn the sod for the first section of road, I suppose, north of Parry Sound on the way to Sudbury, and that is the Parry Sound bypass.
The honourable leader of the third party will know that this very important $11 million project, and indeed the bridge that goes with it, is now under way and will be open in the fall of 1990. The member will also know that we are spending close to $250 million over the next several years on sections of Highway 69 south of Parry Sound because while the question alluded to the area north of Parry Sound from there to Sudbury, there is a great amount of work to do not only in the northern section, but in the area in the southern section.
With a $250 million investment in the years to come, I can tell the honourable leader of the third party that this government considers Highway 69 a very, very important priority indeed.
The Speaker: Perhaps we could leave the supplementary for another time.
SECURITY IN PREMISES USED BY PUBLIC
Mr Villeneuve: I have a petition from the Cornwall and Area Housing Authority and it reads as follows:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We request that the Ministry of the Attorney General withdraw Bill 149, An Act to amend the Trespass to Property Act, which we believe is unnecessary and without mandate.
“While we respect the rights of minorities and youth, whom Bill 149 alleges to protect, we oppose the way in which the proposed legislation will erode the ability of owners and occupiers to provide a safe and hospitable environment for their patrons or customers. We are further concerned about the legislation’s potential for increasing confrontation in the already difficult process of removing individuals who create disturbances on publicly used premises.”
This petition is signed by residents in the counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and the city of Cornwall. I fully endorse it and I have signed the petition.
The Speaker: Perhaps the member might reread the standing orders.
Mrs Fawcett: I have a petition from some members of my riding. It is to the Premier and Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It is concerning the implementation of French-language services in Ontario, known as Bill 8. I have signed my name, as required under the standing orders, and for no other reason.
Mr Kerrio: I have a petition signed by 21 people that relates to their concern about Bill 8 and would have it withdrawn, according to the petition. I present it, signed by myself, but do not agree with the petition.
Miss Nicholas: I have a petition from the Mississauga Landfill Site Liaison Committee, The signatures are 4,022 in all. It is to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It is from individuals who oppose the development of further landfill sites in the city of Mississauga and who request that alternative methods of waste management be sought.
I have signed this petition that I am tabling.
Mr MacDonald: I have a petition addressed to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario. This petition, signed by 207 citizens of Ontario, requests the Parliament of Ontario to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.
I have affixed my signature to this.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
Hon Mr Scott: Mr Speaker, the bills have not arrived, so I will have to stand down till the next day.
The Speaker: There will still be another day.
ONTARIO WATER RESOURCES AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Harris, on behalf of Mrs Marland, moved first reading of Bill 61, An Act to amend the Ontario Water Resources Act.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr Kormos, on behalf of Mr D. S. Cooke, moved:
That this House condemns the government for its mismanagement of its responsibility for automobile insurance -- specifically, its failure to make automobile insurance more affordable, more accessible and fairer and its failure to institute a system of driver-owned insurance for the people of Ontario.
The Speaker: I would remind the members that we are now in a new procedure under the new standing orders. The time will be divided equally among the three parties. I have instructed our timekeeper to keep that in mind and I would also remind the mover of the motion that he may reserve part of one third of the allotted time today for this to reply prior to 5:55, when a vote may be called at that time.
Mr Kormos: Mr Speaker, it is certainly not news to anybody here and it is similarly not news to anybody across the province, especially those five million to six million drivers who have to pay automobile insurance premiums annually, that automobile insurance premium rates have simply risen beyond affordability. Sky-high is no longer appropriate. Perhaps more appropriate is that the premiums have literally gone out of this world. All of us knew that and all the members of this House knew that. The Premier (Mr Peterson) knew it back in 1987 -- and this has been said time and time again, but it warrants being said again. The Premier knew it because back in 1987 the Premier promised drivers in Ontario that he had a plan. He had a very specific plan to reduce automobile insurance premiums.
The reason he promised that is so clear. It was because premiums had risen beyond affordability for the vast majority of drivers here in the province of Ontario and especially for people like senior citizens, people on fixed incomes, especially for people like young family heads who were struggling to cope with all those other debts that they carry with them, and for people like small business people, for whom operating a vehicle or vehicles was an essential part of their business operation.
Since the fall of 1987, this government, and quite frankly since before the fall of 1987, this government had made a number of promises about automobile insurance and those promises recognize the shabby treatment of drivers, of insurance consumers by the automobile insurance industry here in this province. It recognizes the unaffordability of automobile insurance, it recognizes the unavailability of automobile insurance because every day we hear of drivers -- good drivers, not bad drivers -- good drivers who are being told by their insurance brokers or insurance companies that they are not going to be renewed when that policy comes due for renewal. They are being told: “Too bad, so sad. We do not want your business any more.”
Where does that driver go? That driver finds himself or herself going to what is called the Facility Association, where he or she is looking at premiums that are three, four or five times as much as they were paying to regular insurers. They are looking at premiums that are unaffordable. What is the net result? The net result is that people are being forced to literally put their cars up on blocks. People are being forced off the roads in this province and, sadly, that includes people like senior citizens who rely on their motor vehicles and their cars for mobility on a day-to-day basis. That includes people who live in that vast and major part of Ontario where public transit is not a day-to-day fact of life, where indeed the prospect of getting your groceries means a car trip of 10, 15, perhaps 20 miles or more. What we have come to learn is that driving is not a privilege; driving is a necessity. It is a fact of life for so many people in the province.
Well, the government did a number of things. The government set up the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, some $7 million worth, which considered a variety of options. When that board recommended this option, the option that resulted in insurance premium increases anywhere from 17 per cent to 80 per cent, 81 per cent or 82 per cent for drivers in Ontario, that $7-million investment on the part of the Liberals in Ontario was quickly scuttled.
The board was revived, and the board was asked to consider a number of American imports, American models, New Jersey and Michigan-type models that talked about things like thresholds; models that were imported from jurisdictions where the absence of health benefits was a serious problem and where the speedy provision of health benefits for injured persons was seen by some, at least, as a not unfair tradeoff for the right to collect compensation for other injuries.
What we have now is this government making a proposal about what it calls a no-fault system, what it calls a threshold system, what it calls new. There is not a lot that is new about so many parts of it. First of all, let’s take a look at no-fault, because really, we have had no-fault, the way the government is talking about it, for the last 10 or 11 years. They are called schedule-C benefits under the Insurance Act. They have been in place for at least a decade. What it means is that you are purportedly or supposedly entitled to some wage replacement. You are purportedly or supposedly entitled to some medical expenses, death benefits, in the event that happens, rehabilitative expenses. things of that ilk.
Now, mind you, 10 or 11 years ago when schedule C was implemented, wage replacement was stuck at $140 a week and there was no indexing of that. That meant, as years went by from a decade ago to the present, that $140 never changed. It never kept pace with the realities of people’s incomes; similarly, with rehabilitative expenses and perhaps even death benefits.
So what has the government done? The government says it has introduced no-fault benefits. Well, all it has done is update these schedules, $140 to $350. It would have been at least that, had it been properly indexed at the time, in any event.
It has introduced a promise of medical expenses, mere months after it abolished premiums for the Ontario health insurance plan and, after much pressure from the opposition, ensured universal OHIP here in the province of Ontario and, indeed, removed subrogation of rights from the insurers so that there is a real and literal subsidy on the part of taxpayers and OHIP to automobile insurers as they now stand.
But what does the new plan mean? The new plan means that most people, and we are talking about 90 per cent to 95 per cent of innocent automobile accident victims, will receive absolutely no compensation for their pain and suffering -- absolutely none. It means that people who are employees who work for a living will never be able to receive their full wage loss. The way the government has done this is by ensuring that you will never get more than 80 per cent, and the maximum is $450 a week.
This new scheme on the part of the Liberal government means that if you are self-employed, you will be unable to recover loss of profit and losses associated with disruption of your business. That means that small business people could lose their businesses. They could suffer the shame and financial plight of bankruptcy and recover not one cent for those damages.
Again, we are talking about innocent accident victims. We are talking about the victims of negligent drivers, drunk drivers, people who, quite frankly, probably should not be on our highways. We are talking about a Liberal government telling drivers in Ontario that those of them who become innocent victims of motor vehicle accidents will be unable to recover for any serious physical injuries, including broken bones, scarring, torn muscles and the pain and suffering that accompanies these types of injuries. The reason why is that this government says that before you can collect compensation for the pain and suffering associated with these injuries, for the loss of the enjoyment of life associated with injuries, the injuries have to be permanent.
Broken bones, scarring, torn muscles, the pain and suffering accompanying these are inevitably not going to be perceived as permanent. Indeed, the people who drafted this legislation -- and we know who drafted it. I mean, this was penned by the insurance industry, and holy cow, this government is so far into the back pockets of the insurance industry that its members’ mouths must be full of lint. This government has done everything but sit down and write and sell the policies for the insurance industry here in the province of Ontario.
Now the government is guaranteeing that injured people, innocent victims of bad and drunk and negligent drivers, are not going to be compensated for their pain and suffering and injuries. The government is guaranteeing that that is going to be a reality. The government is also guaranteeing that it is going to be a reality that the auto insurance industry is going to enjoy profits like it has never seen for a long, long time here in the province of Ontario.
Indeed this plan, this scheme -- and it ain’t much of a plan, it ain’t much of a scheme if you are a consumer or if you are a driver here in Ontario -- is designed to screw drivers but to ensure profitability for the insurance industry. This scheme from the Liberals means that you cannot recover anything -- zero, zip, not a penny -- for emotional and psychological injuries like depression, shock and anxiety.
Let me give members an illustration of that last situation. A mother crosses an intersection with her young daughter. A drunk driver comes through a red light, striking the daughter, killing the daughter in full view of the mother. The mother goes into nervous shock, suffers severe psychiatric illness in witnessing her daughter’s death. This mother, who had worked, making $25,000 a year, now cannot. It takes three years of psychiatric help before she is able to return to her work. She has no right to bring an action, because her disability is not physical in nature, but rather it is mental. The mother has no right to claim no-fault benefits, as she herself was not bodily injured by the accident.
There is a provision for death benefits, the death of a dependant, and she may be entitled to that modest lump sum, but her total recovery is going to be nominal, quite frankly. Her total recovery from the Liberal government’s insurance companies scheme is basically going to be, once again, zero, nothing, zip, in a system which ensures -- the one the Liberals are not suggesting, the one the Liberals are not recommending, the one we are going to continue to fight for is a system that ensures that people are compensated for their pain and suffering, be it physical or emotional or mental.
This woman might receive damages for her pain and suffering in witnessing her daughter’s death and suffering with a nervous breakdown in the range, perhaps, of $40,000. This woman might receive repayment for her loss of income in the range of $75,000. You are looking at a victim of a drunk driver or a negligent driver who suffers horribly at the hand, as you will, of that drunk driver; who, in an adequate regime and one that, I could tell members, we propose in a public, driver-owned automobile insurance system, would receive compensation for injuries in the range of perhaps $100,000, because that is what those injuries are worth, if indeed they can ever be quantified in dollars and cents.
Hon Mr Elston: You do not know that.
Mr Kormos: In the system proposed by the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) and the Premier and the Liberals, the one which is barely a response -- well, it is not a response at all to the difficulties suffered by drivers in Ontario. It is a response to the pleas -- not the pleas; the demands, I suspect -- of the auto insurance industry. That type of victim would receive zero, I tell members that a system that is fair is one that ensures that insurance is available at affordable rates.
A system that is fair is one that ensures that people who suffer loss of wages, people who suffer rehabilitation expenses, people who suffer those immediate out-of-pocket costs will be compensated quickly and speedily for those on a no-fault basis, regardless of fault, but that, similarly, people who suffer the pain and suffering that accompany so many injuries, people who suffer the loss of enjoyment of life, be it temporary or permanent, will be similarly compensated for that, and that if it requires litigation, if it requires access to the courts to obtain that compensation, the right to go to court, the right to engage in litigation will be retained.
I can tell members that the New Democratic Party proposes and advocates a system that is driver-owned, that is public, that is a nonprofit system, because that in itself ensures savings to the tune of millions of dollars a year to drivers in provinces where public, driver-owned, nonprofit systems are in effect. It is a system that ensures speedy replacement of wages -- not portions of wages, but real replacement for real losses by real people of real wages, something that the Liberals are not prepared to do by any stretch of the imagination; a system that recognizes that people do suffer at the hands of bad and drunk and negligent drivers and that the suffering is, however poorly, measurable none the less in terms of dollars and cents. It recognizes that the pain and suffering, be they temporary or be they permanent, should be compensated, that the loss of enjoyment of life should be compensated and that, as I say, the right to engage in litigation should be reserved.
This government has had the opportunity many times in the last year to take a look at models that are available to it of public, driver-owned, nonprofit auto insurance systems that guarantee that people are going to be compensated for pain and suffering and for loss of enjoyment of life. It has had the opportunity to look at models of these types of system and it has chosen not to.
It chooses not to do so at not just the suggestion but, I suggest, the command of the auto insurance industry here in Ontario, an auto insurance industry that has insisted for so long that it is going broke, that it is losing money, that it is not making any profit, but at the same time fights so hard and spends so much of its customers’ money ensuring that it maintains its stranglehold on drivers in the province of Ontario.
We are talking about three provinces here in Canada -- Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia -- all of which have nonprofit, driver-owned, public auto insurance systems, all introduced by Co-operative Commonwealth Federation or New Democratic Party governments and all of which have governments that have been replaced by parties that were, during the course of the legislative discussion of these public schemes, so thoroughly, totally opposed to the prospect of public, driver-owned, nonprofit automobile insurance, parties that were adamant that this would foretell some great social disaster, but parties that, when they acquired power, none the less retained those very same public, driver-owned, nonprofit auto insurance systems.
Among them are some of the most right-wing governments this country has ever seen, governments like the Social Credit government of British Columbia, a government which sometimes appears to have so much in common with our Liberals here in the province of Ontario. None the less, in each of those three provinces we are talking about -- in Saskatchewan, a public, driver-owned, nonprofit system that goes back well into the 1940s; in Manitoba and British Columbia, systems that go back into the 1970s, systems that have been retained by those political parties which, when they were in opposition, opposed them so vehemently.
Why? Because they work. Those parties know they work because they provide affordable insurance. Those political parties know that because they provide insurance fairly. Those political parties know that because they ensure that insurance is available to every driver in those respective provinces.
This government is engaging in more than a little bit of razzle-dazzle, more than a little bit of legerdemain, more than a little bit of smoke and mirrors. Sometimes people ask me why I wear cowboy boots into the Legislature. I explain to them it is because the crap from the other side gets so deep that if I wore regular shoes it would seep down into my socks.
It remains that this government has absolutely no interest in protecting the interests of drivers in this province. It has absolutely no interest in ensuring that they have fair, affordable, available, accessible automobile insurance. Its interest is to make sure that the automobile insurance industry, the private, big, corporate automobile insurance industry, is pieced off and taken care of.
The job of this government is to make sure that the $100,000 and change that the auto insurance industry invested in the Liberals in the last general election is returned, if not in payment at least in kind. It is about time, if these people are really concerned about drivers in Ontario, that they start looking at a public, driver-owned, nonprofit system and that they start talking about drivers’ rights rather than insurance companies’ rights. It is about time they get down to doing it.
Mrs Cunningham: Our party will be speaking to the order by the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke): “That this House condemns the government for its mismanagement of its responsibility for automobile insurance -- specifically, its failure to make automobile insurance more affordable, more accessible and fairer.” We will not be speaking to the second part of the resolution, but we would like to take this opportunity to get some of the public’s concerns on the record.
I think the public concern, quite frankly, started some 17 months ago when the Premier promised a very specific plan to lower insurance rates and the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board announced its inaugural, benchmark, premium rate increase. That is really what it is all about in Ontario. The public, in looking at what it could afford and what it got in return, said, “We cannot keep up with the rising costs of car insurance premiums.” The Premier recognized that and promised a very specific plan to reduce those premiums. What we are facing today is a plan by this government that in fact will not reduce the premiums.
It is just another example of the expectations raised during the election of 1987 by the Liberal Party as it campaigned across this province. As people look at their budgets -- many of them are having trouble even purchasing car insurance these days -- they are saying, “What will we do down the road if the premiums double and triple?” In fact, they are looking to this plan to reduce. What we do know is that that cannot possibly happen. What the public is very incensed about is the action by this government to look for input and then ignore it.
Basically, if we are looking at the reports that have been put together for the government, we are looking at some $1 million or more for the Slater report, another $1 million or more for the Osborne report and, more alarming, over $8 million -- we are looking at some $10 million to $11 million that the board and the two inquirers into the automobile insurance challenge have put before this government.
I suppose the public would be assured and satisfied if someone paid attention to the millions and billions of dollars worth of reports that this government asks for, but in this instance we have a blatant disregard for what I think is probably an extremely important report in this province, one that I think, given what we have heard around this province by all political parties and memberships, as well as certainly all members of the general public, is one that the Honourable Mr Justice Coulter Osborne from the Supreme Court of Ontario, a commissioner, of course, should be taking rather seriously.
I would think, after the two volumes and the very strong recommendations that were produced, that this government would be taking a very careful look at the recommendations, because in fact others use the Honourable Mr Justice Osborne’s reports and recommendations, not just those particularly to do with automobile insurance, but over the years they have been used as benchmarks to guide governments in the drafting of their legislation and to guide the legal profession as it tries to solve cases in the courts in this province and across our country.
I would like to read from a synopsis, the Summary of Findings and Recommendations. Finding 108 states, partially: “It is doubtful there would be any significant reduction in transaction costs in threshold no-fault. There is, hence, no cost-efficiency basis on which to proceed to threshold no-fault.”
Another finding, 120, states, and I quote:
“Threshold no-fault should be rejected because it is relatively inefficient and unnecessarily arbitrary. There will either be no or minimal savings on transaction costs in threshold no-fault.”
These are very specific recommendations, but there is not a very specific plan on behalf of the government to reduce the auto insurance premiums as promised.
I am not certain that the public of Ontario would really be as incensed if in fact this government could promise that it would be keeping a lid on the rates that people would be paying. What we should be doing is taking a look at a way to solve the specific problems, and we are not. We are increasing the problems for the public and we are taking a look at accident benefits right now on paper. As we look at the current level and the new plan level, some people might get very excited. It is a very political plan, this Ontario motorist protection plan, a very political document with guaranteed accident benefits.
As we look at the income replacement, and this is for victims, of course, who have been disabled or who have missed time from work because they are recuperating, and we take a look at the current levels, what we are doing here is saying that the employed persons now can get $140 a week for 104 weeks unless they are totally disabled. The new plan on the surface looks very good, $450 a week capped at 80 per cent of gross income for three years, or life if totally disabled. That looks good on the surface.
The real problem, if one goes down to all the different categories, is the issue around long-term care. Right now, the current level is negotiated in the courts. If a member of the public is disabled, if a member of his family is disabled, if his neighbour is disabled, he has the right, for whatever reason, to go to court, and the final solution will be made up in a court of law.
For long-term care, for somebody who is bedridden, for someone who is totally disabled and who cannot go to court, which will be the majority of persons, the new plan level is $500,000. Right now the person has the right to go to court and ask for exactly what it would require to take care of him over a long period of time. Now, the government will say, “Oh, but people who are permanently disabled or people who are really tremendously disabled, disfigured, cannot walk, have problems speaking, cannot run their daily lives will be able to go to court,” and to a point that is true.
But what the public should be very concerned about is who decides who goes to court. I can tell the members now that physicians basically decide who goes to court in this law here. The physician will be asked, “How disabled?” and will be given the responsibility of deciding who can go to court. And so instead of the courts deciding, we will now have physicians deciding in their office how much people can get as an income replacement. Whether they are students, unemployed, retirees, unpaid homemakers or employed, the physicians will be making up their minds as to what they will be recommending.
Why would the physicians in this province -- as we have chatted around, because they have come to our office to tell us of their concerns -- waste time talking about these kinds of issues when their real profession tells them that their responsibility is in the delivery of health care, not deciding for this government how much an accident victim should be paid because of a motor vehicle accident?
Hon Mr Elston: Judges and juries decide that.
Mrs Cunningham: No, judges and juries will decide on a very small group of people, and those people will be so disabled that the minister and I would never have a problem of deciding who they are. But judges and juries will never get to talk to the majority of people who are in the courts now, who have an opportunity to fight in a court of law. They may not be happy with their settlement, but they have had the right to go to court and have our courts decide; not a doctor in a doctor’s office, not a doctor and an insurance agent, not a doctor and an insurance agent and a neighbour, but they have had a chance to go to court.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: Because of that and because others feel the same way that our party feels, we have had a number of letters from members of the public as they relayed their concerns to us, most of whom I have asked to write to their member of the provincial parliament in order to get a specific response. These are just a few of the letters, and if the government wants to sell this insurance plan -- and I hope it will not try too hard because it is tremendously unfair -- I hope over a period of time it will look at some amendments and changes.
I hope I can be reassured that there will be some changes in this no-fault threshold plan as those of us who have the opportunity, which we have not had, take a look at all the technical points. I myself am spending some time and plan to meet with the minister, who I am sure will be glad to meet with me as always.
Hon Mr Elston: I will meet with the critic. Are you the critic?
Mrs Cunningham: I have just been told by the minister that he will meet with the critic,
Hon Mr Elston: Are you the critic? You are the critic, I presume?
Mrs Cunningham: I think that is another issue: accessibility to ministers in this government. I ran for this political office so that I could speak to people who were elected. I hope the minister will take back those remarks.
Hon Mr Elston: You haven’t answered the question yet. I asked if you were the critic because I understand you have displaced Bob Runciman.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: I am the critic of all the ministers because I have been elected by the public to bring their concerns to the ministers. Therefore, I suppose that as long as I am a responsible critic and as long as I go to the different ministers with positive suggestions for improvement, the minister will be most happy to meet with me. I just take that as a given.
This letter was sent by one of my constituents to the Premier:
“Re: No-fault insurance.
“I have just learned that the Liberal government plans to continue to pursue its single-minded political agenda in implementing no-fault insurance. Two commissions set up by the government have illuminated the folly of such a course, yet your government has decided to forge ahead. As a lawyer, taxpayer and automobile driver I am fed up. Why don’t you simply do the reasonable thing and adopt the recommendations of the Osborne inquiry and stop wasting our time and money.”
Hon Mr Elston: “As a lawyer.”
Mrs Cunningham: The minister says, “As a lawyer.” It is interesting that the professionals out there working to serve the public are the ones who are the bad guys when it comes to this government. We are dealing today with health care professionals who have been pointed to as the bad guys in the delivery of health care service by the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), just by the way that we do not have any communication back and forth that is meaningful and reasonable.
I would hope that this minister is not going to pinpoint the people who are responsible for playing a very large role on behalf of the public in fairness and in law. That is what is missing here. These people are the people who work on a day-to-day basis, and their job is fairness. If we cannot rely on our institutions, especially our judicial system, we are in trouble. So I hope that the professionals, who are trusted by the public -- and those of us who do not have our trust hopefully will be doing something about that -- who are doing their job on a day-to-day basis in an honest way, are the ones my remarks will be addressed to and about.
We have another letter here. This is to myself in my office, again from some citizens in London:
“Dear Mrs Cunningham:
“We have never written before to a member of Parliament to express a view on any public issue whether it be a piece of draft legislation or otherwise, but we have been so devastated by learning the contents of the Liberal proposal for insurance reform that we are certainly compelled to write to you now...
“As you are probably aware, accident victims under our current system will eventually be fully compensated for all their losses, with partial compensation coming early on under the existing no-fault provisions.”
Hon Mr Elston: That is not true.
Mrs Cunningham: The minister says it is not true. That is a fact, to a point. I would like to correct that.
Hon Mr Elston: That’s right. There’s no guarantee of full compensation and you know that.
Mrs Cunningham: No one could be fully compensated, and perhaps the word would be “fairly” compensated in the courts.
“Obviously, the current no-fault provisions, especially for a loss of income, need to be improved but not at the expense of an innocent victim’s right to full compensation.” That is what is being denied.
“The Liberal proposal eliminates an injured victim’s ability to recover: “(a) any income lost beyond the first 80 per cent, up to a limit of $450 per week” -- innocent victims right now can collect more than that if they go to court -- ”(b) any loss of income-earning opportunities in the future.”
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: That is a real cause of concern for young people. Who will ever decide the loss of income-earning opportunities in the future for a very young person? They will never see the opportunity for a loss of income in the courts. Any young man aspiring to be a physician who was disabled at age 18 but who was not totally disabled or disfigured will not have the opportunity to go to court. Many of us have had first-hand experiences in this matter and I can assure members that is a real problem. I hope the minister is listening very carefully.
My colleague has already spoken to the compensation for pain, suffering or loss of enjoyment of life, and I am sure the minister would agree that is not a possibility now unless you are one of the people who can go to court,
Unless the injured person either dies or is catastrophically injured, none of those previous benefits because people did go to court, can be enjoyed, and I think life is here to enjoy. When they take away the future earnings of a young person with this no-fault threshold insurance, I cannot believe that the Liberal members really understand all the implications of this legislation. I hope this one will not be pushed through in the same manner that other laws have been pushed through since I have been elected.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Well, that’s their plan: no public hearings.
Mrs Cunningham: I will tell the government: Get the doctors mad, then point fingers at solicitors, making all the professionals around here look like bad guys.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: The college professionals are out today. We have got a government that does not have a hope of winning next time around to complete its promises of 1987, because there is no way it can do it in three years in a responsible way.
Mr Haggerty: Dianne, are you speaking as leader now?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: “The threshold for injuries that will still qualify an accident victim for full compensation requires that they sustain a ‘permanent serious disfigurement.’”
How would members like to be able to be the person who has to decide what a permanent serious disfigurement is? In some families, it will be very much different than in other families, and at certain ages it will be different. Can one imagine the responsibility of the physicians in this province to decide that something is permanent and serious?
How do we decide what a “permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function caused by a continuing physical injury” is? To a six-year-old child, that may be quite different than to an 80-year-old adult. Do members know who is going to have to decide that? Physicians who are already so busy that they cannot in fact deliver health care in this province because of many of the red tape procedures and unnecessary legislation introduced by this government. I have been party to sitting to one of them more recently, and that is Bill 147 which cuts off services as opposed to expanding them.
“This legislation will have cruel consequences for people with serious injuries, which are not permanent and for those with disfigurements which are permanent but perhaps not serious enough for the Premier or his minister for financial institutions” and whoever advises them. The minister will be the person who will have to make those decisions because he has taken the law into his own hands and has taken it away from the courts. That is what is happening in this legislation.
“What of the aspiring musician or surgeon who loses a finger or suffers a loss of sensation or mobility in a hand?” I would like that question answered.
Hon Mr Elston: It’s covered.
Mrs Cunningham: It is not covered. If it is covered, you can answer this letter.
Hon Mr Elston: Send me the letter.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: I am sorry. I apologize. I will give this letter to the Minister of Financial institutions and I am absolutely most interested in his response to that question. You have taken yourself out of the realm, in responding to that question, not only of the courts, but of a human being, if you can answer it -- ”There is somebody else, but not us.”
The Deputy Speaker: There will be no interjections and the member will address her remarks through the Speaker.
Mrs Cunningham: “What of the person with a broken back or broken thigh who does not make a recovery but only after months in hospital and then more months in rehabilitation?” What happens to that person? Is he permanently disabled? Who is going to decide whether or not that person with a broken back can even go to court?
Hon Mr Elston: Courts, courts.
Mrs Cunningham: Automatically a broken back goes to court? Is that what I just heard’?
Hon Mr Elston: No, I said the courts will decide.
Mrs Cunningham: “The courts will decide.” So that is the answer: automatically a broken back goes to court. “The courts will decide.” We just heard the Minister of Financial Institutions say that. We have that one straightened away. That is great.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: “Also in cases below the threshold, the victim’s immediate family members will lose their right to claim for the losses of care, guidance and companionship which were previously given by the victim.”
That one, to many mothers out there and persons who have chosen to stay home with their innocent victim -- often young children, often the elderly -- who will compensate them as they have no choice but to stay home? Try to get a homemaker these days. We talk about homemakers week. You cannot get anybody to come into your house and take care of your loved one. Even if you could, who is going to pay for it? Oh, this government will pay for it.
According to its plan, it will pay for it. They get a capped income -- the homemakers -- of $185 a week if they have to stay home and take care of their child. That does not work. That is only if the homemaker is hurt. What about the child? I do not see anything here. Child care: $50 per child, a maximum of $200 a week. Does that mean somebody is going to pay the mother $200 a week to stay home? My goodness. What about somebody, $50 a week for child care? That is what you are going to get if your child is injured, $50 a week? Come on. Answer that one.
Hon Mr Elston: No, that’s not what that says. That’s not what that’s about, Dianne.
Mrs Cunningham: The minister can take the Hansard and answer anything he likes. If I am wrong, I will be the first person to admit it. These are questions I am posing.
“Drivers who cause accidents are currently taken care of with respect to their medical and rehabilitation needs and they receive some compensation for lost income, but why should their innocent victims be treated exactly the same?”
That is all they get. The victim gets the same as the driver who causes the accident. They “are currently taken care of with respect to their medical and rehabilitation needs and they receive some compensation for lost income.” That is the driver. The driver gets that now, and the victim gets the same? Does the minister know the insurance companies are now selling riders? They are actually preparing for another level of insurance so that you can get money because this new plan level will not be fair or sufficient enough to cover their costs.
“Aside from these shortcomings, there is no evidence that motorists’ insurance premiums will not increase to the same degree as they would have under our present system or under a system which would remain essentially the same but with improvements to the existing no-fault benefits. There will be a heavy cost to set up and continue the bureaucracy which will be required to run the new scheme,” and I do not have to underline that.
I could go on, I will just say that also because the disability insurers will be barred from recovering their payments in vehicle injury cases, the sickness and accident insurance many citizens now carry will become more expensive. The public gets to pay for this. They will be paying physicians to get letters stating the seriousness of accidents. The Ontario Medical Association has no idea what it is in for.
The public will pay because children who are ill will require more help at school. They may require some therapy, they may require some counselling, and so will families. The only place they will get it is to go to the public. They have no hope of going to the courts; 90 per cent of them have no hope of going to the courts. That is my figure, and I will be happy to take a look at the track record three or four years down the road. I am sure I am absolutely right and I will look at the track record down the road.
What does this do really’? Nothing. It does not if you go back to, “We have a very specific plan to lower insurance rates.” No way. There is another promise. What does it really do? It takes away the right of individuals across this province to be reasonably compensated through the system of the courts for accidents and it gives every benefit to the driver who has caused the accident. There is nothing here for the innocent victims, especially young children, and I feel very badly that the minister is taking our remarks with tongue in cheek and not listening to the public.
I could go on and talk about other letters that say, “Threshold no-fault automobile insurance plans will not likely result in premium reductions” and “optional or ‘choice’ no-fault is not feasible.” It would take us a few more minutes to go into that. I do not want to take up any more of our party’s time, only to say that we are tremendously disappointed in this retrograde step on behalf of this government in solving a problem. That was increased auto insurance rates, and they have not addressed it at all. Instead they have mucked up a system that is basically working on behalf of the public.
Mr Ferraro: It is a pleasure for me to participate in this first, if you will, opposition debate under the new rules. It comes as no surprise that when it is an opposition day we are dealing with a motion that condemns the government. I would be totally shocked if it were to the contrary.
I do not normally take personal shots at colleagues, but I took note of the fact that the New Democratic Party member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) made reference to the fact that he wears cowboy boots. I think he alluded to the fact that he wears cowboy boots because manure runs downhill or because it is piled pretty high in this House. The only comment I wish to make in that regard is that it is a fact that the member for Welland-Thorold has worn cowboy boots long before he entered this esteemed chamber. In fact, I would be willing to bet that anybody who wears cowboy boots probably rides a horse and I would be willing to bet that his horse wears boots for obvious reasons.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): Now, the member should not be inflammatory.
Mr Ferraro: I do not want to go any further, because he is liable to say something about the white part I have in my haircut or something, and that would be getting a little off topic.
Mr Ferraro: I want to say that when I listen to the member for Welland-Thorold and others in the New Democratic Party, it is very reassuring to know essentially where they are going to come from. They have promoted and will always promote as a party the idea of driver-owned auto insurance.
Driver-owned auto insurance is nothing more and nothing less than a euphemistic slogan for government controlled and operated auto insurance, pure and simple. They allude many times to the fact that there are three provinces in the Confederation of Canada that have driver-owned insurance and that indeed when subsequent governments changed, they have not gotten rid of it.
That is very factual, but I would point out to the member as well, once again, that there are seven provinces that do not have driver-owned, publicly run auto insurance programs and that indeed it is, I think, a political fact that it is always difficult to get rid of something once it is in place.
The New Democratic Party members will often talk about the fact that, okay, we are in the pockets of the insurance companies, and many times they say that obviously to promote their own philosophical point of view. I think it is fair to say as well that not only is it factually incorrect on the part of my party, but the same allegations have been made by many vis-à-vis the New Democratic Party members and the fact that they get their marching orders from Gord Wilson and Bob White in the unions. So I can honestly say in this regard that the same allegations could be inferred in that regard.
The establishment of a government-run system, quite frankly, is nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to the problem. A government-owned insurance company, nationalizing the insurance company would do absolutely nothing for addressing the problem of auto insurance premiums, absolutely nothing, because they conveniently never talk about the fact that it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to set up a government-run auto insurance system.
Indeed they could refer to the cost to the taxpayers of those other three provinces and the fact that they have lost interest on the capital invested in those particular programs. They never mention the fact that there would be tremendous dislocation for the 40,000 workers in the insurance industry in this province. Very seldom do they talk about that.
I said, and I want to get back to it, that the establishment of a government-run system, because that is the essential debate here, whether you keep it in free enterprise hands or you go to government control -- I will say this about the NDP. At least they have a position. I listened very carefully to the member for London North (Mrs Cunningham) from the Conservative Party and being the good opposition member that she is, she attacked the government on various concerns pertaining to the issue, as is her job, but I do not recall hearing what the Conservative solution to it is. At least the NDP has one. It is the wrong one, but they have it. Either you take over the industry, you do nothing or you try to address the underlying problems surrounding the whole situation.
I want to address as well the concern often expressed by members in the opposition, and the media in fairness, about a statement made by the Premier in my neighbouring riding of Cambridge which is next to Guelph, where he indicated that indeed he had a specific plan to lower insurance premiums. In fact he has kept his word. If we know nothing else -- and I remind members that all this discussion and Slater and Osborne and the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board have brought to the attention of all members of this House and of the public --
Mr Ferraro: Mr Speaker, I guess I have struck a nerve over there because, as difficult as it was, I sat here very quietly and listened to my opposition friends. I would at least think they would have the courtesy, and I know they will, to listen to me. Obviously they may only listen with one ear, but at least give me that courtesy with no interjections.
In any event, if we did nothing -- all the knowledge that we have now in the government because, quite frankly, we knew nothing prior to 1985 about the insurance business. If you wanted information about insurance companies, you went to one company and you got one set of data and you went to another company and you got an entirely opposite set of data. We do know if we had not implemented the freeze or the limited premium increases that we did, rates would have been substantively higher. We do know, and I say in a nonpartisan way that indeed if we did nothing now, insurance premiums would be 30 to 35 per cent higher. We all can understand the political ramifications of allowing something like that to transpire. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out.
Never mind that the Conservative Party would say, “Well, that is fine, Rick. You shouldn’t have stuck your nose in the private sector business at all.” I say to you, Mr Speaker, that same logic was discarded by the Conservative Party when it came to rent controls, and we all know again, and I am reiterating a previous statement, that they stole the idea from the New Democratic Party.
It is without question a reality that the Premier has lived up to his word. We froze rates and gave small increases, and I want to address the fact that no one who is knowledgeable about the insurance business in Ontario would suggest for a minute that insurance companies are not making money. Indeed, they are making money. That is good because they make money and they pay taxes and they employ people and they expand and all the rest of it, but it is factual that they are losing tremendous amounts of money in the auto sector. To suggest that they were not going to rise much higher and that indeed the Premier did not in essence live up to his word by keeping premiums lower, in my opinion, would be a false misrepresentation of the facts.
It is important that a few statistics be indicated. I said we are taking a concerted approach. We are, because the solution, to reiterate, of the government taking over the insurance industry is by no means dealing with the real causes of the problem. The causes are broad and, in that regard, lam proud to say that the minister and the government got together with a number of other ministries and we have a comprehensive approach.
Essentially, we have taken the approach that we have to improve the number of accidents that are being created on our highways. There has to be accident prevention. I remind you, Mr Speaker, that there were 203,000 accidents in 1987, which is the last year we had statistics for, and of those 203,000 accidents, 121,000 of them resulted in bodily injury. I would remind you as well, Mr Speaker, that the number of insured motorists in Ontario has risen dramatically, as has our population obviously. In 1978 we had 4.7 million drivers in Ontario, and last year we had six million and obviously more than six million drivers now.
So the first thing we have to address is the problem of accident prevention and bodily injury claims. Much is being made about the fact that, “Well, okay, you came out with threshold no-fault, Rick, and now you are going to not allow those who do not have serious injury or death to get some form of compensation.” That is true. There is no question of that, but the reality of the situation is that we think quite frankly that it is a much fairer system. There is no question that there is a tradeoff.
I might point out that one third of all those who had a tort or a court action to get some form of settlement could either not prove that they were at fault or not identify the other person at fault. So one third were not getting access to the system in any event.
The other thing that should be pointed out, and it has been reported, is that if somebody started a tort action, and normally it took three years or a number of years certainly, when the claim was finally resolved, assuming people could wait that long to get some reimbursement, it has been reported that 30 to 40 per cent of that settlement went to lawyers. I can understand lawyers being somewhat upset. I would say in the same vein, however, that many lawyers are quite concerned that indeed their champion at this point in time for the cause appears to be the New Democratic Party.
The other issue we want to deal with, and some of my colleagues will speak to, essentially is dealing with other areas, and that is one of property damage, regulatory reform and consumer protection.
A brief point I wish to make is that we have established a new insurance commission which is a consolidation of the Superintendent of Insurance, the Ministry of Financial Institutions and the old Ontario Automobile Insurance Board. The mandate of that commission, quite frankly, is quite broad and, hopefully, will result in -- not hopefully; I am sure it will -- better monitoring and enforcement of some of the new rules that we are establishing.
Another point I wish to make that is of particular importance to people, aside from the fact that in urban areas we are told they will now be subjected to an average rate increase of eight per cent and if you are in a rural area, essentially, no rate increase for the next year, in keeping with the Premier’s indication prior to the last election, the claims will be settled within a 10-day to 30-day period. I think that is very important because the claims not only will allow people to get on with their lives but indeed will let them get the proper compensation and rehabilitation and much-needed medical attention that they deserve, and more quickly.
I suggest, with great respect, that my fellow colleagues in the Liberal Party will be indicating to a greater degree some specifics of the program, but I will conclude by reiterating that we could have done nothing, which I think is what the Conservative Party is promoting because I have not heard where it is coming from. We could have taken over the auto insurance business and indeed nationalized it, which of course is not to the liking of the Liberal Party. We still believe in the free enterprise system. But what we have done is taken a comprehensive approach to dealing with the issue and, hopefully, history will prove that it is the right one.
The Acting Speaker: I do not know whether it was because he was so controversial or other members were so sensitive, but I know that unnecessary interjections will not be taking place to such a degree as they were while the member for Guelph (Mr Ferraro) was speaking. At this point in time, it gives me nothing but great pleasure to recognize the member for Cambridge.
Mr Farnan: The motion before the House requires that the House condemn the government for its mismanagement of its responsibility for automobile insurance and raises two grounds upon which the government may be condemned. I want to take both of those in turn.
The first ground, it says, is “specifically, its failure to make automobile insurance more affordable, more accessible and fairer.” This focuses the debate, in my mind, in terms of consumer protection. I will read that again: “specifically, its failure to make automobile insurance more affordable, more accessible and fairer.” And so it is that we look at this piece of legislation through the eyes of the consumer.
I go back in time a little and I say that the consumers of Ontario have been the victims of misleading advertising. It was in the great riding of Cambridge, just three days before the last provincial election, that the Premier made his oft-repeated statement, “I have a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums.”
I want to look at that statement a little more carefully than has been done up until now and to see exactly what that statement would mean to the consumer. The consumer, who was about to vote three days later in the election, looked at the statement of the Premier and the statement said, “I have a very specific plan to reduce automobile insurance premiums.”
The consumer might logically conclude, I put it to you, Mr Speaker, and I know you will agree because you are a very logical individual, that because the Premier said that, his plan would mean that insurance premiums would actually go down. The consumer might also be excused if he concluded that benefits would remain on par. The consumer could conclude two things, that premiums would be reduced and that the benefits would not diminish.
Perhaps I can put this in a simpler form. If we were talking about a box of cereal that was priced at $4 two years ago and one attempted to sell the product today for $5, while at the same time reducing the amount of cereal in the packet to one tenth of its original contents, we would call that a ripoff. The consumer would conclude that the price had gone up and that the amount of the product received had gone down substantially. In arguing that the government deserves to be condemned, I put it to this House that in fact this is precisely what has happened within the automobile insurance industry.
Let’s be very clear that premiums continue to escalate. It was extraordinary to me that the member for Guelph, a good friend I have to say, would have used the argument only moments ago that the Premier had kept his promise because the price was going up only a little bit. I would suggest to the members that it has not just gone up a little bit; it has gone up a little bit and a little bit and a little bit and a little bit, and with all the little bits, the 4.5 per cent, the 4.5 per cent on top of that, the 7.6 per cent on top of that and the eight per cent within this new package, we are now talking about an accumulated increase of some 25 per cent.
I suggest again that the member for Guelph is out of touch with the reality of consumers. When they look at any product and see the price go up in two years by 25 per cent, in the eyes of consumers that is a very significant increase. I also put it to this House that not only is it a very significant increase to raise the price of a product 25 per cent in two years, but that when you reduce the amount in the package, when you reduce the benefits that are available for that increase in premium, then you are actually reducing the product to the consumer for a significant price.
We are not talking about reducing the product in a minor manner. I am talking about reducing the product significantly. This new legislation strips the consumer of 95 per cent of the protection that is currently enjoyed by automobile consumers in this province. This Liberal government strips away the rights of consumers to recover damages in almost all cases if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident in Ontario.
I want to read into the record just the extent of the deduction in coverage that the consuming drivers of Ontario will face. Under the proposed plan, the consumer will get nothing for pain and suffering as a result of an accident. If the consumer is an employee, he will be unable to recover full loss of his or her wages. If the consumer is self-employed, he will be unable to recover loss of profit and losses associated with the disruption of his or her business. Indeed, the consumer of auto insurance premiums could lose his or her business and recover nothing.
The consumer will be unable to recover for many serious physical injuries, including broken bones, scarring, torn muscles and pain and suffering that accompanies these and other injuries. No matter what the consumer earns, the most he or she can hope to recover under this plan is $450 per week.
There is one exception to the group, those consumers who die, those consumers who are killed in the accident. They will not suffer any loss of claims, but it may be a little bit too late for them now that they are dead. For those who are injured and who are close to death, they may not suffer under this legislation, but for 95 per cent of the driving public of Ontario, their rights have been stripped away.
In a nutshell, what is the measuring rod of consumers? The measuring rod of consumers, I put it to the members, is value for dollars. The chairman of the Committee for Fair Action in Insurance has this to say: “It would mean less money for accident victims and higher insurance premiums for all Ontarians. The end result will show that we are paying more and getting less return for our dollar.”
Consumers understand that. The Premier, for example, in his reaction to the legislation says, justifying the legislation, “It allows for a new product that protects people and keeps rates affordable.” We have been through this. It is a new product. It is a vastly inferior product and rates affordable to the Premier of Ontario may not be rates affordable to the drivers of Ontario. There is a difference between the affordability of a man who is independently wealthy and the ordinary driving public of Ontario.
Consumers are extremely wary. They know the debt that the government of Ontario, the Liberal government, owes to the insurance industry. They are aware of the extraordinary intervention of the insurance industry in the last provincial election. Let me suggest that consumers are looking at the reaction of the insurance industry to this legislation, and here is the reaction.
Bill Weafer, senior vice-president of Guelph-based Co-operators General Insurance Co, from the riding of our previous speaker, says, “the move towards limited no-fault insurance is good for the motorists and the insurance companies can live with it.” Cannot the members see the smile on their faces?
Serge LaPalme, president of Gore Mutual Insurance Co of my home riding of Cambridge, said he was “especially pleased with the government’s effort to reduce accidents,” but catch this: “The rate increases planned for next year, however, are not acceptable. Premiums will remain inadequate.” So even with the 25 per cent, the auto insurance industry is already paving the way for further increases. The escalation, the spiral will continue.
Leonard Latham, president of the General Accident Assurance Company of Canada, says of the plan, “It is something we can live with although it is too soon to tell if the increases will be adequate.” Again, they are staking out their ground. Jack Lyndon, president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said, “It is without question an improvement.”
The Consumers’ Association of Canada in the final analysis will look at this legislation and will decide to support it on its fairness and value. They do not need the insurance companies to tell them whether it is fair or whether it gives them good value. Indeed, a spokesman of the consumers’ association of this province and of the Committee for Fair Action in Insurance are also clearly pointing out that it does not give consumers protection. The consumers’ association knows that the Premier had no plan. It is obvious that this Liberal government is intent on catering to its friends in the insurance industry.
Very simply, as this government puts the money into the pockets of the insurance industry on the one hand, it is taking it out of the pockets of the drivers of Ontario on the other hand. The consumers of Ontario are being ripped off to pay off the election debt of this Liberal government. It is as simple as that. Before I conclude, I want to add that there is a necessity for public hearings. We have to go out. We have to listen to the people.
Finally, I am going to spend one minute on the second part of the motion. It says we condemn the government because it has not instituted “a system of driver-owned insurance for the people of Ontario.” I cannot really condemn the government on that, and the reason is this: When the Premier said he had a plan, he was running on some plan. I do not know what that plan is. I do not think anybody knows what that plan is. If in fact his plan was a driver-owned insurance scheme, then we could condemn him on it.
However, the reality of the matter is that this House in good conscience, and this House representing the voice of the consumers of Ontario, can eyeball the government and say to it: “You did not do what you said you would do. You have failed to make insurance more affordable. You have failed to make insurance more accessible. You have failed to make insurance fairer. You deserve to be condemned.” Certainly, I know that I and my colleagues will vote in favour of that motion.
The Acting Speaker: I thank the honourable member for Cambridge. At this time the chair would like to recognize the honourable member for Leeds-Grenville.
Mr Runciman: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and this is the first opportunity I have had with you present in the chair to extend my personal congratulations. I am looking forward to your efforts in your new capacity.
I want to say at the outset that we certainly appreciate some of the wording of this motion put forward by the New Democratic Party, but we are not going to be able to support it. Of course, it is not because we support the government’s activities with respect to automobile insurance over the past four years, but we are not, have not and will not be supporters of government-run auto insurance and that is clearly what is incorporated in this motion today.
Back in the fall of 1987 I made a prediction, a three-step prediction, if you will, indicating that this Liberal government would first establish a rate-setting authority, which it did through the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, and that the second step in the three-step process would be the introduction of no-fault auto insurance. We have now seen that come to pass. The third step, if this government remains in office or if we end up with a minority government, a Liberal government supported by my friends to the right, we are going to be faced with a third step in that prediction in 1987, and that is a government-run program.
We have seen this government sort of stumble from crisis to crisis in automobile insurance since the fall of 1987, sheer chaos with two ministers of Financial Institutions who have had other responsibilities, and that may be one of the reasons behind the fact that there has been this sort of seat-of-the-pants ad hoc crisis management approach to automobile insurance. We have had first the current Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) having that capacity, with the significant responsibilities, and now the Chairman of Management Board (Mr Elston) as well. I do not believe the issue has received the kind of attention through executive council representation that it perhaps should have.
I am looking at the way this government has handled this in a very ad hoc, irresponsible way. I think in many respects it is a textbook case of government mismanagement, and in many respects, of government deceit. I say that quite seriously. I am not trying to be political, although that is certainly part of my role here. We have heard ad nauseam comments about the Premier’s promise in September 1987. It is quite clear he did not have a promise, that he had no real plan, no real hope of fulfilling that promise. It was made out of political expediency to try and put a significant issue behind him and in effect to con the voters of Ontario.
I am afraid that what is occurring with the introduction of this threshold no-fault proposal is another attempt by this government to once again insult the intelligence of the electors of this province, to once again try and con them into accepting the fact that this government is moving in their best interests with respect to the auto insurance issue. In fact, we know that is not the case. We know there are all kinds of problems and concerns inherent in this proposal that the government is trying to conveniently ignore.
Those guys across the floor amaze me in respect of the fact that they seem to have no sense of embarrassment over the way they have handled this issue over the past four years. They simply shrug it off. I think the polls, if nothing else, indicate that people out there are slowly but surely becoming cognizant of the fact that this is a sham, that the government really has no plan, that it is not operating in their best interests.
Mr Chiarelli: What polls are you looking at?
Mr Runciman: The Angus Reid poll is the poll I am referring to. That certainly has dealt with a whole range of issues, and automobile insurance was one of them where the government was found wanting.
We take a look at the question of tax dollars that have been wasted over this period of time. I know a number of colleagues have mentioned the fact that we have had the Slater commission and that we have had the Osborne report by Mr Justice Osborne. Then we have had the $7 million or $8 million poured into the toilet at the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board. That is just the beginning. We really do not know the cost of other matters that are behind closed doors and perhaps not easily available to us in the Legislature, let alone the public at large.
I know, for example, that when we went through the Bill 2 hearings in 1987-88, the government hired a consulting firm to take a look at the insurance industry. It came back with a whole host of recommendations and concerns about what the government was doing, pointing out that the only jurisdiction with a comparable approach was the state of Massachusetts, which was in utter chaos with over 60 per cent of its drivers forced into Facility, and that was the kind of prediction facing this government. That money, spent on that report, to indicate to them that they were going in precisely the wrong direction, was thrown out the window; again, as I said, flushed down the toilet.
We have seen a host of other reports. The Ontario Automobile Insurance Board itself, which was supposed to be an independent body -- in fact, we had the former Minister of Natural Resources, the member for Niagara Falls (Mr Kerrio), who has now left the chamber, publicly chastised by the Premier for suggesting that if the rates went above a certain level, the cabinet was going to intervene, that the cabinet had final authority with respect to setting automobile insurance rates. He was publicly rebuked by the Premier, and the minister was humiliated and had to make a public apology.
What in fact happened? Again, we had a study done by a consulting firm that said that changes in risk classification were going to create all sorts of significant dislocation out there in the market, that you were going to find seniors be faced with 100 per cent and 200 per cent increases and that other good drivers in society would faced with those kinds of unfortunate increases if the government went ahead -- until the final report came out. Then they proved the former Minister of Natural Resources right. He was telling the truth all along. He told it like it was. Yet, his colleagues in the executive council, the Premier, had the audacity to publicly rebuke him and force him to apologize. We did not see the Premier or his colleague the Minister of Financial Institutions apologize publicly to the minister. They probably never apologized to him privately either. Those are the sort of people we are dealing with.
We have had the board humiliated on a couple of occasions. Certainly the risk classification was the worst one where the chairman of the board, Mr Kruger, was forced to eat humble pie publicly. I think a number of other individuals in that role, and I have said this in the past, would have resigned but Mr Kruger, for reasons known best to that gentleman, has decided to tough it out, take a few kicks in the kneecaps and soldier on. As I said, most individuals facing that sort of public humiliation would have stepped aside.
We have talked about the fact that the changes in risk classification and the minister involving himself in the rate-setting process last summer not only resulted in severe problems for the board in terms of its public confidence, but it also obviously resulted in serious problems for the insurance industry itself. I have heard estimates that the insurance industry lost close to $150 million because of that exercise of preparing for the new changes in risk classification, computer programs, etc, that were put in place, and then the government made that flip-flop and that money went down the drain for all intents and purposes.
There may be a connection between that $150-million loss and the figures we now hear about in respect to the insurance industry being given by the government $143 million through a tax rebate and OHIP payment relief. That may be the government’s attempt to placate the industry in respect to those significant losses suffered by its flip-flop on risk classification.
In respect to the threshold no-fault approach, the Progressive Conservative Party cannot accept the concept that no individual should have to be liable for his own actions and that the cost of any risk should be distributed among all members of society. I think we all agree that this is a litigious society, but we urge the government to look at the system and correct it through tort reform and not through what we believe to be legalized abdication of responsibility. The threshold no-fault approach is a position and a thrust by the government that we will not, and cannot, support. We simply do not buy it. In this party we believe in the ethic of responsibility -- that individuals must face the consequences of their own actions.
If we look back at the Honourable Mr Justice Coulter Osborne’s Report of Inquiry into Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation in Ontario, he made essentially the same kinds of comments in respect to the changes proposed by this government. I would like to put that quote into the record. All I have to do is find it. I am quoting Justice Osborne, for the benefit of Hansard.
“The public sense of justice of what is fair and reasonable must be taken into account. The moral values implicit in tort law seem to me to be both understood and agreed to by a substantial majority of drivers who may not know what tort means or what tort law is, but who do appreciate what it stands for. As related to motor vehicle accidents, the public understands and accepts the rules of the road. The concept of some individual responsibility for individual actions is central to what reasonable people regard as just.”
We wholeheartedly agree with Justice Osborne. Of course, we wholeheartedly agree with much of the report the justice made in February 1988. Of course, if one looks back at this whole sad story in respect to how the government has approached this, if it had not jumped in with both feet in the fall of 1987 in its effort to try to meet the hollow promise of the Premier and had instead waited for Justice Osborne to report, we perhaps would not be in the mess that we are in currently.
Osborne made significant recommendations in view of how we could change the current system: tort reform, a significant improvement to no-fault benefits currently enshrined in the Insurance Act. The overall effect of the changes that Justice Osborne suggested back in February 1988 would have resulted in an average reduction in auto insurance rates across the province of $53, a rate decrease if indeed we had taken enough time, had been patient enough to wait for six or eight months for Justice Osborne to table his report and then follow those very excellent recommendations and suggestions. But instead, we headed down the road which I think inevitably is going to lead us to government-run auto insurance. I know one of the government speakers was talking about a former Conservative government bringing in rent controls and sort of trying to suggest that -- I am not sure what he was trying to suggest. It is difficult to ever know really what that particular member is thinking about.
Mr Philip: Who voted for the last rent review act?
Mr Runciman: I am not going to get into that interjection. We can talk about it later on, if you wish.
Mr Philip: The Liberals and Conservatives brought us the last memorable event.
Mr Runciman: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale is suggesting that he -- perhaps he does not support rent controls any longer. That would certainly be a shock.
I want to suggest that once you enter that slippery slope it is very difficult to extricate yourself and we certainly have seen that in respect to rent controls. I think if you look at the original thrust of rent controls it was to be a two-year program, when they were brought in in 1975 or 1977. As I said, once you start down that slope it is pretty difficult to pull back politically. That is the direction in which the government is headed with respect to automobile insurance.
We talked about the three provincial governments that are involved in state-run, government-run programs now and the fact that some of them have Conservative governments and have had Conservative governments. Again, we had those witnesses appear before us at the justice committee in respect of Bill 2, and again it is indeed a political problem. It is tough once you get on to that road to pull out and pull back, despite all the problems it may create for all of us and like the problems that rent control is now creating in respect to the availability of affordable housing in this province. But what have we seen the Liberal government do in respect to rent controls: expand the program to cover all rental housing in the province. That is this free-enterprise government that the member was boasting about.
I would talk about rates and how they are going to be affected by this no-fault proposal. It has been pointed out by other speakers that we have had significant increases that are in the neighbourhood of 20 per cent since the Premier made his hollow promise in 1987. Now the minister is suggesting that we are going to be looking at an eight per cent average increase in respect to no-fault. I think perhaps the key word is “average” in respect to that. I would like to quote a senior official of the insurance brokers’ association, “We know that the eight per cent refers to the core product, the core product, not additional coverage such as optional collision, which accounts for about half of all premium costs or comprehensive insurance.”
The reality is that the eight per cent that the government is talking about as an average does not include coverage such as optional collision or comprehensive insurance. We are talking about coverage that accounts for about half of all premium costs and is not going to be covered by this eight per cent. That is something the government is not talking about again. They are trying to buffalo the voters, the consumers of this province, with this eight per cent figure, hoping desperately that they can get through this period of time, through the next provincial election, and then will try and deal with it when it comes upon us again with some sort of ad hoc approach at that particular point in time.
The other matter we talk about in respect to this supposed eight per cent figure, which is really a laugher, is the fact that we have seen all kinds of instances in respect to caps being placed on over the past two years and caps simply do not work. What we have happening is that insurance companies will reunderwrite. They will put drivers into different categories, if they have had one accident or two accidents. They will refuse to offer insurance, which is happening on an increasing basis, refer them to a sister company at higher rates or, even worse, they stick them in the Facility Association, which is an insurer of last resort, and you are looking at increases in the neighbourhood of 30 or 40 or 50 per cent.
We have doubled the number of drivers in Facility in the past year and a half. We have, I think, in the neighbourhood of 50,000 plus drivers now in Facility, and we are going back to the predictions made in 1987 when we looked at Massachusetts that now has 60 per cent of its drivers in high-priced Facility. That is the direction this government is taking us in.
The member for Cambridge was quoting the president of Gore Mutual, who happens to be a personal friend of mine, and he was saying that the eight per cent is not enough. Of course, he is looking at the eight per cent not being enough even though half the premium costs are not going to be affected by that when we look at the fact that it does not cover optional collision or comprehensive insurance.
I think that the consumers of this province, the drivers of this province, are going to be facing significantly higher increases than the bill of goods the government is try to sell them at the moment. Who knows what the timing of the next election is going to be, but perhaps that will come back to haunt them before the next election. But I can see them attempting to counteract any negative public pressure by again coming in with some sort of interim increase, some sort of cap to try and tide them over through the next provincial election. What in effect that is going to do again is force more of the private sector companies out of this province, out of this market and force us more and more into a corner where we are down to the position at some point in the future where if indeed this government is in power, the option they are going to move towards is government-run auto insurance.
The insurance industry is being generally supportive of this proposal. I can understand that. We are dealing with a majority government. We are dealing with something that they hope is going to be helpful, but I think that in their own best interests, if they look down the road in respect to how this government has dealt with this issue for the past several years that they have to know, they should know that they are in very, very serious trouble if the folks over there continue in government and continue with their seat-of-the-pants approach to policy-making in respect to automobile insurance.
Another element of costs, which again perhaps the minister will touch on, is the fact that hopefully the no-fault plan was going to reduce court costs, it was going to reduce litigation, but I think initially everyone agrees that we are going to see significant numbers of court challenges in respect to the threshold, in interpretations of the threshold. So that for a period of years we are going to see the courts as busy with insurance matters as they have been under the current tort system. I doubt very much that we are going to see any significant reduction in those costs for a period of time. So that again that is going to have an impact on the rosy glasses approach that the government is taking in terms of the kinds of increases that will be coming forward in the next period of time.
I want to talk about driver safety as well. This is an element that the government with its big press conference of several weeks ago tried to make a lot of noise about, but in effect it is not really doing too much and, in fact, what it is doing is going against the recommendations of virtually everyone in respect to no-fault auto insurance and the impact it is going to have on accident frequency in the province and on the numbers of fatalities that will result from that increased accident frequency.
I will quote the automobile insurance board. The board was of the view that the adoption of a threshold plan would result in an increased accident rate and predicted that even modest increases in accident frequency -- five to 10 per cent -- would eliminate any rate reductions associated with threshold plans; so we have the government’s own board telling it, along with a host of other experts, that accident frequencies are going to increase and the board is saying, “Even with a minimal increase in accident rate frequency, you are going to eliminate any rate reductions that are associated with threshold.”
Let’s hear the minister respond to that particular concern of his own board and of numerous experts. If we look at the Quebec experience, that has been exactly what has happened in Quebec with the no-fault program -- an increase in frequency, an increase in fatalities -- and the government is ignoring that and coming forward with this lightweight baloney in respect to what it is going to do to improve the safety situation on the highways in this province. That is what it is.
On one hand they are going to increase the accident-rate frequency by a significant number. Everybody says that. Their own board says that, and they are trying to counteract that by increasing the number of highway patrols, increasing fines for speeding and having a safety belt public awareness program. Come on, let’s do something meaningful in respect to highway safety. Let’s look at some of the real problems out there: What about teenage drinking and driving? What about looking at automatic suspensions for anyone, a teenager involved in an accident where alcohol is involved in that accident?
If we look at the number of fatalities in this province involving drinking, they very much involve teenagers. They are by far the highest percentage in respect to fatalities on our highways involving alcohol. That sort of problem should be dealt with, the problems of the highways themselves, the infrastructure. If we look at the one, in the Woodstock stretch of Highway 401, over 1,000 accidents, 21 people killed between 1984 and 1988. The Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye) is here. I am sure that he is going to deal with things like that across the province, the very real problems with the highways.
I think that again, the government is moving in a wrong direction. The People to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, PRIDE, have indicated their opposition to this effort, this no-fault thrust and concept. They think it is going to have a very negative impact on automobile accident frequencies in the province.
Finally, I want to talk a bit about the government-run aspect and the fact that although we agree with much of the wording of the New Democratic Party motion, we cannot agree with that particular aspect of it. We know that our friends in the NDP, the only time they support government intervention is when the Toronto Transit Commission goes on strike; or do they? No, I guess they do not support government intervention; that is the only time they do not support government intervention. Otherwise, they are all for government intervention in virtually every sector of the economy, I guess. They would probably nationalize Burger King if we gave them an opening.
I want to talk about that, that government-run auto insurance. I have talked about the fact that once you get on to that slippery slope, it is politically difficult to extricate yourself. It becomes a very political exercise. During the Bill 2 hearings, we had witnesses from Saskatchewan who were telling us that every second auto insurance claim -- get this, every second auto insurance claim -- results in a ministerial intervention. That is how politicized the system has become and that is where they are going in respect to getting involved in government-run auto insurance.
We do not have the competitive pressures with a monopoly and the advantages of potential savings that go along with competitive pressures. We are going to have prohibitive startup costs. We do not know the implications in respect to the free trade agreement, but there are comments in respect to the free trade agreement that insurance companies operating in the province would have to be compensated. I recall the Attorney General (Mr Scott) during the free trade debate expressing concern about that element of the free trade agreement, that it would make it difficult for the Ontario government to nationalize the auto insurance industry.
Lower premiums under a public plan -- and this has happened in the west -- are frequently illusory. They are subsidized by higher taxes. They have hidden subsidies such as free police and medical reports and they really hide the true cost of a public plan.
We have supported the recommendations made by Mr Justice Osborne. We are also very much attracted to the freedom-of-choice option which will indeed offer consumers the option of a no-fault program or a tort plan. What that in effect does is, it takes it out of politician’s hands and puts it where it should be, in the hands of consumers.
I regret that because of the wording of this motion we are not going to be able to support it. We certainly strongly condemn the actions of this government. We think they have indeed deceived the public in respect to their activities over the past number of years and, in fact, we think this no-fault program, the eight per cent they are talking about again is a shameful effort to deceive the public of Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): The member for Algoma-Manitoulin.
Mr Brown: Mr Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment to the chair.
I rise today to share a few thoughts on the very complex and important topic of auto insurance. Virtually every jurisdiction on this continent is grappling with the need and the importance of presenting a fair, affordable product to the drivers of vehicles.
We have seen an unacceptable rise in insurance claims and, therefore, an unacceptable rise in rates in this province, as has virtually every province or state on this continent. Whether we talk about Florida, Michigan, Manitoba or California, the problem is all the same. The increased numbers of claims and the increased amount of settlements has driven the cost of insurance ever skyward. If Ontario were to have the present system in place, our drivers would see increases of between 30 and 35 per cent this year. Clearly, that is not acceptable to consumers.
It is also not acceptable to continue to see up to one third of the drivers in accidents not adequately compensated because either they were at fault, fault could not be determined or the cost of going to court was prohibitive. This often results in innocent families at risk of having lifelong debt.
I am a member representing a large northern Ontario constituency. I know that my constituents are very interested in this issue because northern Ontarians need their vehicles. They must have their cars. They must be able to operate their cars. Public transportation, where it exists, is usually inadequate. If you wish to go to work, if you wish to go shopping for groceries, you must use your car. Therefore, in my riding, a good, affordable insurance product is especially necessary.
None the less, a good insurance product by itself will not bring down rates. Until the cost of settlements is controlled, until the cost of payouts is controlled, insurance premiums will continue to rise. The only way to reduce payouts is to moderate the number and severity of accidents.
Therefore, I would like to briefly examine the issues of deterrence to bad driving and accident prevention. These are important factors in reducing the risk on the roads and therefore the cost of insurance. The Ontario motorist protection plan is not designed to protect bad drivers. In fact, they will be penalized more than ever. Deterrence will be a key component of the new system. Fault will continue to be used for rating purposes. That means good driving records will be reflected in preferred insurance rates and bad drivers will be paying higher premiums.
Additionally, the plan recognizes that the cost of insurance is directly related to the number and severity of accidents. A reduction in the accident rate is the only way to hold down premiums, but this cannot happen immediately. It will require long-term and ongoing initiatives.
Under this plan, people convicted of drunk driving will face severe sanctions, fines, jail sentences and substantially higher premiums. A new program for repeat offenders will require them to seek treatment and provide proof of effectively dealing with their problem before their licences will be reinstated.
Speeding has been cited as one of the largest single factors contributing to serious accidents. Therefore, speeding fines will be more than doubled. Fines for other traffic offences will be raised. There will be increased enforcement on our major highways by the OPP.
Driver safety promotion will take place in the workplace. A province-wide education campaign to encourage the use of seatbelts will be introduced. A 10 per cent increase in usage could save as many as 80 lives and prevent more than 1,300 injuries every year. An education campaign to encourage motorists to drive with their headlights on at all times will be introduced.
Highway improvements, including the construction of new median barriers and the paving of more road shoulders, will be done. New traffic management systems will be tested and implemented. Lane control signs, advanced computer systems, vehicle detectors and closed-circuit television and other innovations will be adopted to improve safety and efficiency on Ontario’s highways.
Some have suggested here that reducing the amount of litigation in the system, as the plan proposes, will lead to greater irresponsibility and recklessness on our roads. This is just not true.
Mr Faubert: Poppycock.
Mr Brown: That is right.
Has the threat of lawsuits ever acted as a deterrent in the current system? Certainly not. The number of accidents and injuries has continued to rise in spite of litigation.
The government rightly believes that the best deterrence to bad driving comes from criminal sanctions, higher insurance premiums, vigilant enforcement and better education. This is just one component of the Ontario motorist protection plan. It is very important that people understand that a no-fault system still has deterrence.
I will yield the floor to some of my other colleagues who will bring forth other parts of the protection plan.
Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, first let me add my congratulations to the many which I am sure you are receiving on your appointment as First Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole House.
I remember very, very vividly the eve of the last provincial election, held on 10 September 1987, when I was campaigning in northwestern Ontario in what is the largest riding in the province of Ontario, The reason I remember so vividly is because I have a very clear recollection of what arguments and questions confronted candidates from all three major parties as they did canvass literally door to door. People wanted to know about automobile insurance.
I recall on that last day saying -- because I do have a lot of respect for the office of the Premier and respect for the person who presently occupies that office and I too believed, candidly, that a plan was being put in place, a secret plan, mind you, to save the drivers of Ontario a good deal of money. The plan was supposedly intended to reduce the burden of high premiums.
It was to be some months after the last provincial election that I and other citizens of the province realized that there was really no such thing and that what you had was a ploy, not a plan but a ploy, and not a secret ploy but an invitation for the people of Ontario to be lured to cast their ballots for the Liberal Party of Ontario on the basis of the belief that car insurance would cost less.
An additional reason perhaps why I was taken in is I was very much aware that the riding the Premier represents is blessed, if you wish, with many head offices of insurance companies. So I said surely the Premier would know, perhaps better than anyone, that when you go to Toronto or London, many of those skyscrapers were built by premiums, were built by profits not by losses.
The Premier, therefore, being fully cognizant said, “We are going to give the taxpayers of Ontario, the motorists of Ontario, a break.” He went on record and said, “I have a plan that will lower” -- and that was in 1987, more than two years ago – “the amount of money that you have to pay to buy protection.”
Obviously the people of Ontario believed that such a plan was in the making. Needless to say, there has been no such reduction for there was never any such plan. Instead we have the minister responsible coming up with what is really a deal and saying, “We will exchange your right to be compensated, your right to go to court in 90 per cent of the cases, for a lesser impact in terms of auto insurance premiums.”
Let’s see what you have here. You have 80 per cent of your wages to a maximum, you get two broken legs, two broken arms, a drunk driver runs you over, you are the only breadwinner. The welfare council in Toronto tells you that the poverty level, if you have two children, is $25,000 a year to live in Metropolitan Toronto. What this man there tells you is that at the maximum level you are only entitled to $23,400. That is what $450 a week does. He does acquiesce, he does say, “Yes, I, as the minister, as a member of the government of the day, am telling people that you will and you shall give away your right to recourse to get justice through the court system in 90 per cent of the cases.”
You will still pay higher premiums because he does say, “Yes, the premiums will go up,” and on top of it, you will live in poverty. He says, “Well, what it will do, no-fault will really save money.” In every jurisdiction, in the province of Quebec, in the United States, inevitably when the no-fault system has been put in place by the respective legislature, premiums have not gone down, premiums have gone up.
So clearly the losers in this scheme, in this tradeoff that was ill-conceived, are the people of the province of Ontario who are paying exorbitant auto insurance premiums. The government has to be commended, I say to the Premier. Perhaps when it comes to reading polls they do it really better than anyone else. They do it better than our friends the Conservatives for they adhere to a certain philosophy. The New Democrats are guided by the needs of the average people, of the majority of Ontarians, and adhere to a very well structured and a very strong philosophy.
But when it comes to being the scavengers of the political marketplace, when it comes time for the vultures to gather, with no philosophy, under the basis of whatever it takes, they are really missing. The people of Ontario have a right to be consulted. We have asked the minister on several occasions whether he will guarantee that the average motorist in Ontario will be heard through the process of public hearings, and we have failed to receive that guarantee. Why not have a plebiscite or a referendum? Why do we not listen to people?
I checked a couple of days ago and the coverage that I need for my humble vehicle -- for I am not a member of the executive council and therefore it is essential and imperative that I live in accordance with my moderate means -- yet on that humble vehicle, on that ordinary car, I would save $400 a year if I was to purchase it or if I was to live in Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia or Saskatchewan.
So what we have here because we cater to the rich insurance companies, nothing short of that -- because we want to guarantee them a handsome profit on the service that they provide and the protection that we need -- it is costing individuals such as myself, but much more important, people who cannot voice their concern, people who cannot defend themselves because they do not have the forum that we have, which is every citizen of Ontario, paying $300, $400 or $500 more a year. If they had their own system, a system whereby public auto insurance sanctioned and administered by Ontarians, their system, you would have an automatic saving.
In conclusion, yes, I was offended by the vehicle used to propose the no-fault system, to put it in place: $95 million of taxes on premiums are being eliminated. That should be good for the consumers. I could appreciate that. I do not appreciate as much that $45 million, which is the responsibility of the insurance company towards the OHIP system, the hospitalization system, is being eliminated. The consumers on the one hand will save $95 million, but in the true world they will pick up under general taxation that $95 million plus an additional $45 to $48 million, which is another handout and gift from the average people of Ontario to the rich insurance companies.
I do not want to take too much time. I realize that our great leader will have the opportunity to conclude the debate on auto insurance.
Mr Lipsett: I join the debate to speak against the opposition motion this afternoon and to instead support and commend the initiative taken by the Minister of Financial Institutions who has brought forward the Ontario motorist protection plan, a plan designed with the needs of the consumer foremost in mind.
Having been a member of the board of directors of Formosa Mutual Insurance Co before coming to Queen’s Park, I gained a valuable insight into the demands and expectations of the auto insurance industry, particularly in Grey and Bruce counties. I therefore believe that this comprehensive plan which combines the efforts of several ministries is a positive step forward. I would like to speak specifically to the scope and delivery of accident benefits under this plan.
The success of this first-party accident benefit system is based on its ability to deliver benefits to injured victims as quickly as possible. To expedite this process, a new dispute resolution system will be established as an alternative to court proceedings. It will include mediation and arbitration procedures to allow for speedy, efficient and fair resolution of disputes over accident benefits.
Since access to the courts will be retained in cases of serious injury or death, certain changes to the tort system are desirable to improve the compensation process. These reforms, recently announced by the Attorney General (Mr Scott), will include streamlining of the litigation process, changing the way prejudgement interest is calculated and allowing for structured settlements in lieu of large lump sum payments. This reduces the need to increase awards to cover tax on the lump sums.
In addition, the government is eliminating the three per cent tax on insurance for personal-use vehicles. This measure alone will save the province’s motorists about $95 million.
In the delivery of accident benefits, consumers will be given the benefit of the doubt as to whether supplementary medical and rehabilitation benefits should be paid. A wide definition of “rehabilitation” will be used, including vocational, daily life skills and medical rehabilitation, to ensure that injured people are returned as quickly as possible to normal life. Victims will qualify for resumption of income-replacement benefits; in the case of relapse, up to 90 days after returning to work compared to the 30 days currently. Insurers may be ordered to pay substantial penalties on overdue compensation where that company refuses to pay or delays unreasonably.
As for property damage to automobiles, the major change is that drivers will collect from their own insurance companies for damage to their cars if they are not at fault. Drivers deemed to be at fault will be covered for damage to their vehicles only if they purchased optional collision coverage.
In conclusion, I believe the features of the Ontario motorist protection plan will benefit the drivers of this province, and the implementation of this comprehensive plan deserves our full support.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member for Kingston and The Islands.
Mr Keyes: Mr Speaker, may I also just add my congratulations personally to you in the role you have assumed. I look forward to your learned leading of this group in its deliberations.
I also take pleasure in speaking briefly for a few moments today on the issue of, as it has been dubbed in this emergency debate, automobile insurance. I want to try and reiterate some of the issues that have been raised already today, and perhaps some that have not.
I want to give, first of all, a lot of credit to the work that was done originally on this whole idea of looking at auto insurance, the work of people such as Slater and Osborne, who have given much of their time towards it.
I want to look at the context, that this particular motorist protection plan really does mobilize a great deal of government resources to make driving in this province a little safer and more affordable for the people of Ontario. We must not look at this plan in a very narrow light, but in a much broader one.
It is my opinion that the drivers of this province really want three things when it comes to automobile insurance: (1) they want affordable rates; (2) they want to be financially protected in the event they are injured in an accident; (3) they want their benefits to be delivered in a prompt manner, without the delays and the costs that are associated with protracted litigation.
This issue of high insurance rates that we have seen in past years is really only a symptom of the whole underlying problem that we have on the roads of this province. Therefore, we must address the issues of the growing traffic problems, the rising accident rates, the increased injuries we experience and, of course, the resultant higher claims costs. The Ontario motorist protection plan, in my opinion, really urges the need and tries to meet the need for a long-term solution rather than a short, knee-jerk reaction to the problems we are facing.
Going back to those three concerns that are raised by our drivers, in my opinion the plan meets these three consumer objectives because it strikes the right balance between affordability and protection, and it does this by eliminating the need to sue for most injured victims. In fact, it is estimated that probably 90 per cent of persons suffering accident damage will not need to sue to recover costs or other damages. In all but the most serious cases, the plan’s guaranteed benefits provide more than adequate protection to the motoring public.
The injured victims will not have to pay the expensive legal fees or wait months and sometimes years for their compensation. The insurance companies, as the act points out, will be required to deliver these guaranteed benefits within 10 to 30 days of the accident and insurers may be charged penalties for overdue compensation.
Of course, this whole act will avoid the severe financial strain on families that is brought on by the long delays and the costs of litigation that we sometimes see. In fact, it is suggested, and this is not to try and draw any disparaging remarks towards the lawyers, that as much as 40 cents of every dollar of claim that is levelled happens to go back to the lawyers who are litigating the particular case -- at least 40 cents out of every dollar.
Finally, this timely delivery of benefits is especially important in cases requiring rehabilitation because early treatment is often the most critical component to a speedy recovery. Of course, some people have found fault, saying that persons in high-wage earning brackets will not be adequately covered for their salaries in the event of an accident.
I want to remind everyone here that there will be optional insurance coverage for even greater accident benefit protection than what will be the base level, which everyone will have the advantage to purchase. That is a very significant aspect that has perhaps not been well enough understood by all members of the opposition parties, additional benefits you can choose to have to augment what you consider the status you need to maintain. Consumers then will be able to tailor their insurance coverage to their own individual needs.
As I said earlier, there will probably be no need to sue in at least about 90 per cent of all cases coming as a result of accidents. In the remaining cases, 10 per cent, those that involve serious injury or death, higher compensation levels may be required and therefore access to the courts will be maintained for this particular category.
By reserving the courts for these very serious cases and reducing the amount of litigation in the system, we will all benefit by the significant savings that we will achieve, savings that then can be passed on to the consumers in the form of improved accident benefits and more affordable insurance rates, which we said is one of those key requirements that they wish.
It has been reported that personal injury lawyers, as I said earlier, take anywhere from 30 to 40 cents of every dollar awarded to accident victims who sue. Last year alone these lawyers reportedly earned approximately $700 million from bodily injury claims, but now, with the advantage of this motorist protection plan, much of that litigation will become unnecessary and the new plan will then return a large portion of these legal fees to Ontario motorists by way of premium savings and higher benefits.
I would just like to reiterate -- I am not sure it was done by the members earlier this afternoon -- those improved benefits that we have consistently referred to: the improved benefit of income replacement, which will be more than tripled from the existing $140 a week to $450 a week; up to $1 million of supplementary medical, rehabilitation and long-term care will now become available for those in need; for the very first time students, seniors, the retirees and the unemployed will be entitled to income replacement benefits of up to $185 a week; the income replacement benefits, of course, of unpaid homemakers will be increased from the current $70, also to $185 a week, which is a significant increase of 164 per cent; for the first time, child care benefits will also be available, $50 a child to a maximum of $200 a week; death benefits -- of course we do not like to feel this is something we will be subjected to that frequently, but let us be realistic and know that we will -- will be increased from $10,000 of benefit to $25,000, an increase of some 150 per cent.
In closing, may I just reiterate that the whole purpose of the motorist protection plan is to look in a much broader way at the issues facing us, to try on behalf of all our drivers and all our citizens who may become involved to provide them with more equitable treatment, whether it be before the courts or whether it be in the subsequent actions taken as a result of an accident in which they may be involved.
I appreciate the opportunity to lay before the House a few of these points, to reiterate some and perhaps to add some new ones that have not been touched on today.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate’? The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere.
Mr Faubert: Mr Speaker, as this is my first opportunity, I would also like to congratulate you on your present appointment.
It is my pleasure to participate today in this debate on the opposition motion related to automobile insurance. Much has been said today here in the Legislature, and indeed in the media, about the automobile insurance product reform, which is called the Ontario motorist protection plan, announced by the Minister of Financial Institutions on 15 September 1989.
The threshold no-fault reforms are surely a welcome and effective initiative in terms of both cost reduction and consumer benefit enhancement. However, less has been said about the other substantial reforms that are all part of the total package of reform, such as the initiatives geared to reducing the number of automobile accidents on our roads and highways. Some of those initiatives have been touched on by the member for Algoma-Manitoulin (Mr Brown), such as enhanced police enforcement and a doubling of fines for speeding, as well as the campaign for the use of seatbelts and daytime running of lights, which are proven measures to protect the driver from accident and injury.
However, even less has been said about significant consumer protection reforms included in the Ontario motorist protection plan. Therefore, I believe it is important to outline for the record these consumer protection initiatives that I believe demonstrate the scope and far-reaching effects this all-encompassing plan offers the drivers across our province.
Ontario’s drivers will be pleased to know that there will be greater public disclosure of auto insurance information and increased protection of consumers under this new system. Insurance companies will be subjected to a tough new regulatory regime. The new Insurance Commission to be created through a merger of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board and the office of the superintendent of insurance will have broad powers of intervention and enforcement. The Insurance Commission will be responsible for ensuring that accident victims receive adequate and prompt compensation and that disputes are resolved quickly through mediation and arbitration.
The Insurance Commission will also be responsible for protecting the interests of consumers and indeed regulating the rates. New consumer protection measures will include a requirement that all insurance companies offer policyholders the option of monthly billing. Many insurance companies now bill customers annually or semiannually. This could be a significant one-time payment for many people. Monthly billing will provide more flexibility and convenience for the consumer. New consumer protection measures also include a prohibition against tied selling, making the sale of one insurance product conditional on the purpose of another product.
Mr Speaker, if you have received the complaints about this that I know most members here have, presently most insurance companies only write insurance, especially here in Toronto, on the condition that they also get the household policy. This will be prohibited under the new legislation.
There is a minimum 30-day notice to consumers of any policy changes or cancellation. There is a provision to allow specific drivers to be excluded from a household policy so that good drivers are not penalized by bad drivers in a family. There is a requirement included that insurance policy documents provide full disclosure on the separate components of the auto insurance coverage and how each component was rated and the cost of each part. There is a requirement that brokers must disclose on request the number and identity of insurance companies with which they have contracts.
Other measures that will be adopted to protect the rights of consumers will help reduce the costs of operating an automobile in Ontario. The government will expand the ghost car program to deter fraud by repair shops. This operation, using an unidentified car with known damage, helps investigators detect repair shops that are ripping off motorists. In addition, it is clear that claims abuses by a few dishonest people result in higher premiums for everyone else. Under the Ontario motorist protection plan, insurance companies will have to establish programs that assist in deterring fraudulent claims for property damage and theft.
Consumers presently do not have a central source of information about premiums, policies and, indeed, how to shop for insurance. To remedy the gap, the new Insurance Commission will operate a toll-free telephone information service, as well as providing educational material.
Under the new system, car owners will recover directly from their own insurers for damage to their vehicles if they were not at fault in accidents. In this way, the premium better reflects the value of the insured’s own vehicle because under the present system drivers must insure for damage they may cause to other vehicles. This creates uncertainty because drivers cannot know what value or type of vehicle will be involved in an accident with their car.
These consumer protection reforms, as part of this comprehensive package, will be welcomed by drivers across the province. They combat the problem of rising automobile insurance rates, which are at the very centre of the cause, while at the same time it addresses the need to make driving in Ontario safer both in physical and consumer protection terms. It is part of the plan that will stabilize auto insurance rates and serve the consumers of Ontario.
There are two specific areas raised by the opposition that I would like to address. First, the member for London South (Mrs Cunningham) stated that there are two major government reports that have come to the same conclusion about no-fault insurance. This refers first to what is known as the Osborne report, which is the Inquiry into Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation, and of course the recent report of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board. Indeed, these simply are not facts but statements of half-truths as presented by the opposition.
The OAIB made no final conclusion either for or against no-fault and yet that is constantly quoted by the opposition, saying that it did come out against no-fault. There is a second point related to the Osborne inquiry. They state that the Osborne inquiry rejected no-fault insurance. It is very interesting to note that the grounds that were given and stated by Mr Justice Coulter Osborne were a very strong conviction that he personally supported the fundamental right to sue and therefore was opposed to any no-fault recommendation.
The second deals with the issue of affordability raised by the member for Cambridge (Mr Farnan) who attempted to put it in very simple terms. He has just ignored the fact that traffic volumes are constantly increasing on Ontario roads and that the number of accidents and injuries continues to mount. Accident and injury statistics are reported presently at a 10-year, all-time record high, and therefore the costs associated with those statistics are staggering. Bodily injury claims in Ontario in 1988 totalled $1.8 billion and insurance rates reflected the rise in this escalating risk.
The new plan finds the right balance between affordable premiums and appropriate benefits and I think that is what everyone is looking for when they shop for insurance. The new plan will hold premium rate increases to moderate increases. Without this reform of the system, it is estimated that motorists would face increases of 30 to 40 per cent when government caps expire next year. Under this reform plan, rates will increase eight percent on average in urban areas, and average rates for motorists in rural areas will not increase at all.
For these reasons and those put forward by my colleagues on the government side, I intend to vote against the motion. I will therefore yield the remaining government time to allow for the minister’s statement.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): I thank the honourable member. As I cast my eyes about for any other member participating in the debate, I would like to now recognize the honourable member for York South.
Mr B. Rae: No, no. The minister. I will be going last.
The Acting Speaker: Oh, I am sorry, the minister.
Hon Mr Elston: And the first shall be last is sometimes the way it is seen.
The honourable member for York South is going to be wrapping up, I understand, but the one thing I want to do is indicate my concern at the institution of this resolution by the opposition party, I guess largely at the behest of the House leader of that party.
I want to indicate quite clearly that the resolution is premature in its entirety in the sense that it is obvious from the discussions we have had so far that most of the members on the opposition party side who have spoken have neither read nor understood what they did read, if they did read anything at all, about how this program is to function and provide people with the benefits of adequate insurance coverage.
Mr B. Rae: Give us the bill. Have you got a bill? I haven’t seen a bill yet.
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable member for York South, who said he did not want to speak yet, is busy chiming in with his concern at this particular time, but I will be listening to him with great interest because I suspect that when we get to listen to his version of the material, he will forget to underscore all the great attributes of this particular piece of legislation. He, as is the way with opposition parties, will reflect most specifically on negatives and in fact will develop some sort of hypothetical situations which he will define out of coverage in this new, fairer manner of providing assistance to the public of the province.
Let me just say this: The objective of this insurance is to provide people in the province with the ability to get back into the workplace, back into the home environment, as quickly as possible. They will have access to income replacement. They will have access to income replacement above the package that is provided for in this core package, as I describe it on an occasion, because the insurance industry will make available excess coverage so described to the product. They will get quick service because we will ensure through the new insurance commissioner that quick service is delivered to the people who require that.
We know what Osborne said. We know what others have said about the way the industry so far has responded to schedule C. We have taken those comments seriously, unlike what the opposition parties have said from time to time, that we ignored all of the material which has been before us. Far from that, we have taken seriously the recommendations and we have brought together a system that will require the insurance industry to respond to the needs of the individuals who have been injured in automobile accidents.
In addition, for those people who have found themselves seriously injured, there will be access to the tort system. There will be awards in the courts, as is currently the case. There will be those cases which will go to the courts, which will be decided by the judges, which will be decided in front of panels of the peers of the people who are injured. There also will be those cases -- and they failed to say this -- which will be sustained in being able to pursue the litigation because they have got no-fault benefits in amounts which are much beyond those that are now available to anybody in this province. The limit currently is $140, and it forgets to provide benefits to homemakers who are currently unpaid. It forgets to pay benefits to students. It forgets to pay for those people who are seniors. It does not provide for supplementary medical and rehab services beyond $25,000. We have raised that to $500,000. We have raised the long-term care component to $500,000 as well.
Those sorts of supports that will help those seriously injured people will allow them to prosecute their claims through the courts in the situation of serious injuries. We are sustaining people in being able to get a fair hearing of their injury claims in front of the courts.
We are being fair in that we provide quick access to the recovery of those benefits through the automobile insurance package. We are providing a quick response to those people who up to this point would have had to pay out of their own pockets for the rehab services, for the long-term care services, before they got the court awards later down the road.
Those people who are in front of the courts and cannot find anybody to sue, or who cannot find anybody else at fault except themselves or who find that they are suing an underinsured -- those people currently are left wanting in our system. This system will provide those people with support. The objective of this government is to provide those people with support, so they can get back to work and so they can get back to their families.
The member for London North, who sustains herself in the belief that she will be the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, totally misread the material when she said only $50 a week was available to sustain an injured child who suffered as a result of an auto accident. The $50 per child is an amount that is available to families who find that the homemaker and the earners in the family are unable to look after their children. It is a supplement to help them meet the demand of in-home support while the accident victim recuperates.
There are so many parts of this program that are designed to provide a very good social safety net for the people who find themselves injured. Those people over there will not admit to any good parts in this program. They will not even admit that, as a result of our initiative, we have now got the opportunity of seeing rates which are as much as 20 per cent or more below what the current market provides.
We have kept the rates, and we have brought in a new product which will yield average increases of zero or eight per cent in rural or urban centres respectively. That would not be the case if we did not do our reform. It would not be possible. We have in fact met the test of requiring insurance companies to offer lower premium rates. That is clear.
But these people will construe it in some other way so that they can confuse the public into believing that they, as New Democrats, have the answer in making everything a public corporation. That is where they are at. That is what they want to do, and you can see them like seals applauding. That is not necessarily true, though. Making something public does not ensure that people get fair and speedy service. That is what we will ensure with this product: fair and speedy service to the people of the province.
There is one other thing I want to say while I have the opportunity of speaking, although I am being interrupted by the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot) who spoke at length -- in fact, almost too long, according to his leader, who I know cut him off so he could save some time. We will not stand for bad drivers on the road. The point was made by the member for Welland-Thorold, and it has been made by others who are concerned about the damage inflicted by drunk drivers, negligent drivers, bad drivers: they ought not be tolerated. I agree with them. I am in a position where I acknowledge that I agree with the member for Welland-Thorold about that part of his intervention. The rest of his stuff was a little tough to take, but I am prepared to agree to that part at least.
What have we done? The comprehensive package we have put together for the people of this province indicates quite clearly that the bad driver, the drunk driver, the negligent driver will not go without punishment. The drunk drivers will in fact pay the fines and the suspensions that go along with the Criminal Code and Highway Traffic Act offences. They will pay higher premiums because of their bad driving records.
There will be higher fines. There will be demerit points. All of those things will be visited upon the drunk, bad and negligent drivers.
In addition to that, the drunk drivers will have to go through a rehabilitation program and show that success has been achieved before they get back on the roads. That is what we propose to do because we agree with the member for Welland-Thorold, the people who appeared in front of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board and with others who have asserted that bad drivers, negligent drivers and impaired drivers ought not to benefit in the system.
Let’s talk about one other aspect of concern. Let’s talk about the fact that there are a number of reports that speak to the issue of threshold and other types of insurance. All of those reports spoke very briefly to the point about whether or not there would be cost savings. There was a quote given to us by the member for London North. She indicated that Osborne said maybe it will not save any money. There was an indication in the Kruger report, as some are describing it, that indicated there would not be savings through the threshold no-fault system, as it was brought in from Michigan and otherwise.
We agree with those sorts of things. We agree with the recommendations there. That is why we have a comprehensive program. That is why we do not have the Michigan no-fault system here. That is why we do not have the New York no-fault system here. That is why we have an Ontario system. That is why we are bringing in this policy, because it reflects the needs of the people of Ontario. Unlike the people of the New Democratic Party, who will reach to British Columbia, reach to Saskatchewan, grasp towards Manitoba for some salvation, indicating that this is the salvation of the people of Ontario, we believe that this government has a responsibility to work for the people of Ontario. We believe Ontario needs what Ontario best reflects as needs.
The needs are for quick service for our people to sustain those people as they are rehabilitated, and for fair prices for the products they purchase. We do not believe that the honourable gentleman across the way, the member for Welland-Thorold, who has made his point about wearing cowboy boots and other things could be so distracted by the cleanliness of his socks that he could forget to underscore the various merits of all the benefits our new product will yield.
In a couple of seconds, actually in about 11 seconds, the member for York South will probably tell us about what bad stuff is available to the people of the province through this new system. I want to tell the people of the province that he should make sure he tells them about all aspects of the product and does not ignore the benefits available through this fine system.
The Acting Speaker: I would like to thank the honourable minister and at this time recognize the member for York South, to whom I would like to apologize for my incorrect procedure.
Mr B. Rae: Mr Speaker, no apology is necessary from you or from anyone else. Let me say to the -- or even from the member for Oshawa (Mr Breaugh).
Let me say that this is one more step along the road that has been taken by this government. I have some memories going back several years on the question of car insurance and I have heard the minister say many things. I have heard him on other occasions say that we did not know what we were talking about when we said that the 7.5 per cent increase he announced was a fictitious number, when we said it was going to be more like 16 per cent or 17 per cent. He accused me of misleading the world, of not having a clue as to how the insurance industry worked and of being totally out to lunch with regard --
Hon Mr Elston: Bob, you are exaggerating.
Mr B. Rae: No. I can recall the minister’s language quite vividly. For a minister who normally makes Michael Wilson look animated in terms of his presentation of issues, the minister looked positively agitated with respect to what we were saying. When this minister comes into the House and says there is going to be a zero per cent increase in rural areas and an eight per cent increase, on average, in urban areas, I can just tell the minister that he does not know what he is talking about.
Nobody in this House ought to believe what he says. He cannot write the cheque. He cannot deliver the service, because the critical point about what the Liberal Party of Ontario has done in its approach to insurance is that it has said to the insurance industry, “What do you want?”
The insurance industry comes back and says, “We want a system in which we are still in the driver’s seat and still in charge and in which our profits are going to be underwritten by the government of Ontario and by the drivers and the people of Ontario.” The minister and the Liberal Party of Ontario have turned around and said: “Fine. Here you are. At the end of the day we don’t have a no-fault scheme.”
All the newspaper headlines describing this as a no-fault scheme are nonsense. Mr Speaker, you as a representative of the bar will know perfectly well that all that has happened is that the government has taken the benefits that were paid out 10 years ago, 11 years ago, $140 when they were announced, and it has simply increased them slightly more than the rate of inflation. That is the first thing they have done.
The second thing they have done is make some changes with respect to rehabilitation and we have no way of assessing how well those are going to work. The third thing they have done is to increase death benefits a little bit. Again, I say a little bit in comparison to inflation, a $10,000 benefit paid out in 1978 is a $25,000 benefit to be payable in 1989 or 1990.
That is what they have done: no major change philosophically from 1978. We no more have a no-fault scheme in 1989 than we had in 1978. The only difference is that the capacity of victims to be compensated has been taken away, limited and scuppered by this legislation.
One often hears it said -- I have heard all the Liberal members who spoke as we listened to the wave of Liberal members coming at us after 5 o’clock. Wave upon wave, the band of 94 produced yet another apologist for the insurance industry, yet another followed by yet another until finally the chief apologist, the minister himself, came forward. They frequently talk about the delays in litigation, about the extraordinary frustration that people face in disputes with insurance companies and the extraordinary costs of litigation.
I often wonder, listening to these Liberals as they say this, what supernatural force is it that is preventing the insurance companies from settling fairly with people who have a claim? What is that extraterrestrial force that has taken hold of the insurance industry and somehow created this extraordinary delay, the monstrous duplication, families waiting for years, five, six, eight years, for a reasonable settlement from an insurance company?
It is the insurance industry itself. If anybody is to blame for the protracted delay, for the litigation and for people who are suffering because the benefits have not been fairly paid out, it is the insurance industry that ought to be blamed for that. I cannot imagine a government that having seen -- the insurance industry is very good at getting in premiums. They are very good at taking in premiums. They are not very good at paying out claims. It is a lot harder to get a claim out of an insurance company than it is for them to get premiums out of you. Everybody, regardless of political party, understands that.
This is the industry to which the Liberal Party is now beholden and this is the industry to which the Liberal Party says: “We are going to continue to give you the monopoly over how rates will be set. We are going to give you the monopoly on what those rates will be.” Even that little toothless tiger that was created for a short period of time, the insurance board, has been dissolved and amalgamated with the superintendent of insurance. The capacity on the part of an independent board to set insurance rates is now over and gone. That is what the minister has told us.
What we have here is a government and an industry that is saying to consumers, “You are going to have to pay more.” At the same time it is saying to consumers, “You are going to have to get less.” Let’s listen to precisely what the insurance board had to say in its report on no-fault insurance, or so-called no-fault, or an increase in the threshold or increase in no-fault payments. What did they say? I am quoting, “Any cost savings forecast arise almost entirely from a reduction in benefits payable to injured claimants rather than as a result of any increase in efficiency of the proposed systems of insurance compared with the existing system.”
There is no trick to this. There is no trick to what the government has done. They have left the private profit monopoly in place and they have readjusted the way in which benefits are paid out in such a way that some people are going to get a whole lot less, some people’s claims are going to be affected in a negative fashion and they are going to do some rejigging of how the no-fault claims will be paid out. That is the beginning of it and that is the end of it as far as fairness is concerned and as far as so-called insurance reform is concerned.
I can remember vividly the last election campaign. I can remember vividly the ads and the propaganda that were put out by the insurance brokers and the insurance industry. Mr Speaker, you will recall, as others will recall, one of the major charges and accusations made against public auto insurance by the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario. Do you remember what they said? Mr Speaker, what did they say? They said the only reason that Saskatchewan and British Columbia have been able to carry on as they have is because their system is so heavily subsidized, and that if you had a free market system which had no subsidies in it you would have to recognize that there would be cost increases.
Well, the Liberal Party has taken care of that argument. The Liberal Party has taken good care of that argument, because of what they have done in order to create a rate structure, which they believe will be politically sellable and will get them through to 1990, 1991 or 1992 -- at least until the next election campaign. That is all this is. This is a further instalment on the insurance industry’s rental of the Liberal Party of Ontario long enough to get them through the next election campaign. That is all it is.
They have introduced a system of subsidy, but not a system of subsidy whose benefits will go directly to the consumers of the system, and not a system of subsidy that goes directly to drivers. No, no, no -- that is not who they are subsidizing. They are not subsidizing drivers. The Liberal Party of Ontario and the government of Ontario are now going to be subsidizing the insurance industry of Ontario when it comes to car insurance. They are going to be subsidizing them to the tune this year of over $140 million.
This industry is one which admittedly has been crying poverty for several years, but it is an industry that has over the last several years made literally hundreds of millions of dollars in profits for its overall rates and overall insurance. The minister should look hard at the information that was put before the insurance board. He should look hard at the information that is contained in the insurance board’s report. The minister will find the overall profitability of the insurance industry is extraordinary and he will find, even with respect to car insurance, an overall rate of return on investment that is positive and favourable.
I say to the minister, whenever the Liberal Party decides to call the next election, I look forward to talking to the people of the province about the record of the Liberal Party of Ontario with regard to insurance.
Monsieur le Président, j’attends avec impatience les prochaines élections. Nous pourrons alors parler directement à la population de la province de la honte du Parti libéral, qui s’est laissé louer par l’industrie de l’assurance, qui s’était laissé louer pendant les dernières élections, qui se laisse actuellement louer par l’industrie de l’assurance, et qui se laissera clairement louer pendant les prochaines élections, qui auront lieu d’ici un an ou deux.
I must say to the minister I think that what he has done is an incredible disservice to the people of this province. The suggestion from his House leader, for example, that this is not a subject which requires extensive hearings in Ontario is an insult to every person who has been injured, or to every person whose claims are going to be affected by this legislation. I say to the minister that it is to the victims of accidents that we must be speaking.
It is on behalf of the victims of accidents that we must be looking, and it is to the safety and protection of drivers across Ontario that we must put our minds and our hearts as we begin to wrestle with this problem. I think as we do that, a public system that is driver-owned, in which the bureaucrats and the private profit hustlers in the insurance industry no longer have a monopoly is the kind of system that the vast majority of people in this province will want to build.
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time under standing order 41 for opposition day debate. Now, according to standing order 41(g), I will place the question. Mr Kormos has moved, in the absence of Mr D. S. Cooke, the motion which you have all heard and discussed.
The House divided on Mr D. S. Cooke’s motion, which was negatived on the following vote:
Breaugh, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Farnan, Grier, Hampton, Kormos, Laughren, Mackenzie, Martel, Morin-Strom, Philip, E., Pouliot, Rae, B., Wildman.
Ballinger, Bossy, Brandt, Brown, Callahan, Campbell, Carrothers, Chiarelli, Cleary, Cooke, D. R., Cordiano, Cousens, Cunningham, Cureatz, Elliot, Elston, Eves, Faubert, Fawcett, Ferraro, Fleet, Furlong, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Harris, Hart, Henderson, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Kanter, Kerrio, Keyes, Kozyra, Lipsett, Lupusella, MacDonald, Matrundola, McCague, McClelland, McGuigan, McGuinty, Miclash, Morin, Neumann, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., Offer, O’Neill, Owen, Patten, Polsinelli, Poole, Reycraft, Riddell, Roberts, Runciman, Smith, D. W., Smith, E. J., Sola, South, Sterling, Stoner, Sullivan, Sweeney, Tatham, Velshi, Villeneuve, Ward, Wong, Wrye.
Ayes 16; nays 70.
The House adjourned at 1808.