The House met at 1330.
Mr Farnan: Why bother having public hearings on issues of importance and concern to the people of Ontario? These hearings span over several weeks and very often involve a large committee and staff touring the province or paying for delegations to travel to Toronto, This represents an enormous expense to the people of Ontario. However, even when there is overwhelming opposition to proposed government legislation, invariably the Liberal government brushes it aside and refuses to listen to the voice of the people.
The most recent example of the government’s contempt for the Ontario public was the committee hearings on Bill 119. Two hundred and twenty-eight municipalities, representing 7.5 million citizens, and all 105 briefs heard by the committee objected to this government legislation that pits culture and recreation against hospitals for lottery funding, but to no avail.
It is the same old story, just as it was for Sunday shopping, court security, auto insurance, the Workers’ Compensation Board, and no doubt will be for health and safety. The people speak and this Liberal government ignores them.
But perhaps it is not a complete waste of lime. Maybe through these expensive but futile hearings, the people of Ontario will come to the realization that this Liberal government is completely insensitive, autocratic and out of touch with its citizens. Maybe those who are not heard in committee can ensure that they will be heard in the next election. You will agree, Mr Speaker, ignore the public and there is a political price to pay.
Mr Jackson: It is with great pleasure that I rise to acknowledge Persons Day, when 60 years ago the Privy Council in England declared that Canadian women were indeed persons and could participate in all facets of life as Canadian citizens, including being eligible for appointment to the Senate.
This is a day for all women to reflect on the historical struggle for their fundamental rights to be included as equal partners in a society that is still largely male-dominated.
Much work in this area remains to be done. Let us remember the sobering thought that it was not too long ago when women were not even regarded as persons. The persistent remnants of those gender dark ages are with us still when we hear of a man earning twice what a woman made for the same job in a shelter for abandoned women in Owen Sound; when we see rape crisis centres applauded loudly by government ministers, who then fold their hands when those same centres ask them for enough funding to keep their doors open, and when our court system pays more attention to the perpetrators of violent crime against women than to the victims.
Much work remains to be done, and we as legislators can begin to do it by learning, first of all, to listen to the women of Ontario. What they want is not special treatment but equal treatment along with men. So I remind the government that its responsibility towards women does not end when women cast their ballots and have mailed their letters to the Solicitor General. This government must respond swiftly and decisively to meet the needs of women. Women across Ontario experience this day as a renewed call to action on behalf of their rights. This government would do well to follow their example.
Ms Poole: This afternoon, I too would like to invite members to join me in celebrating an important victory won by Canadian women 60 years ago today.
Most members in the House are aware that 100 years ago, no woman had the right to vote anywhere in the world, but some are not aware that, even as recently as 60 years ago, women were not considered to be persons in Canada under our laws.
As the member for Burlington South (Mr Jackson) has said, in 1928 the Supreme Court of Canada actually ruled that women were not eligible for appointment to the Senate because they were not legally persons. However, on 18 October 1929, the Privy Council in England unequivocally reversed this decision with the following words: “and to those who ask why the word ‘persons’ should include females, the obvious answer is why should it not?”
This was a great day in Canadian women’s history. Today, over 1,300 supporters of women’s equality rights met to celebrate and to honour those women who fought so hard to earn this very basic right. We also wanted to express our support for organizations such as the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund. LEAF, which are continuing to fight on our behalf.
Please join me in applauding women past and present who have fought the good fight for us.
MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Mr Hampton: The 1988-89 Public Accounts figures indicate that the Ministry of Natural Resources spent $500,000 on hotels and resorts during the last fiscal year. This ministry’s travel budget is second only to the Ministry of Transportation’s transportation and travel budget. Yet, as an increasingly massive chunk of the Ministry of Natural Resources budget goes to finance the travel escapades of its senior bureaucrats, total funding for the ministry has actually been reduced by this government to $570 million from $576 million.
The irresponsible budgeting has taken its toll of Ontario’s natural resources. The ministry is unable to pay its conservation officers a fair salary and, as a result, there is a shortage of men and women who want to be conservation officers, despite the fact that everywhere in the province there is a recognized need for more COs.
Furthermore, despite this province’s enormous annual losses to forest fires, the Ministry of Natural Resources this past summer cut the number of trained forest firefighters by 130. In addition, the general fish and wildlife budget has not kept up with inflation. Further, the number of seedlings provided for reforestation has been cut. It would seem, if one looks at it, that the Ministry of Natural Resources is now more interested in hotels and resorts than it is in protecting our natural resources.
DENTAL HYGIENIST PROGRAM
Mrs Cunningham: Fanshawe College has had approximately 1,200 applicants apply for 16 spaces in its dental hygienist program. As a result of the extremely limited number of spaces in dental hygienist programs in Ontario today, there is a real need for trained dental hygienists in this province. In fact, one third of the students attending the Erie Community College near Buffalo, New York, are Canadians. This is at a personal cost to these students of over US$5,400 just in order for them to receive the classroom space and training they need.
The Premier’s Council stated that the government should work with the appropriate areas of government to develop a comprehensive people strategy that will address vital education, training and labour market policy issues. The issue of dental hygiene programs is just one example showing that this government does not recognize the importance of job training for our young people.
Provincial grants for community colleges do not even cover the direct operating grants of colleges in Ontario. This problem with the dental hygienist program is not new. Obviously both residents and dental hygienist students need to see a greater commitment from this government in order to provide the dental health care in Ontario that is essential.
Mr Owen: There are many people in Ontario and across Canada waiting to hear if organs have come available that could allow them a chance at living healthy, full lives since transplantation of organs has become a common practice. At one time organ transplants were seldom successful. However, today 80 per cent of transplant patients recover. No longer is this an experimental procedure. It is a life-giving reality. Over 95 per cent of cornea transplants are now successful. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of organs for transplant, and 40 per cent of those in need of donor organs still die as a result of this shortage.
We can all help to alleviate this shortage. What is needed is a commitment of people now that when they die, if at all possible, their organs will be given to anyone who needs them. Attached to the Ontario driver’s licence is a donor card. In the event of death, the signed consent allows the use of organs for transplant. This need is critical. Only 26 per cent of Ontario citizens have signed the donor cards.
Families of those who have donated organs tell me of the comfort of knowing this gift has given life to others. I would like to appeal to the members of this House to bring this message to their constituents.
In Canada, 52,000 people will die this year from heart disease and 28,000 as a result of liver disease. We now know how to help them. It is now up to all of us to provide the means.
Mr R. F. Johnston: It may have been over 60 years ago that women officially under the law were moved from being chattels of men to being persons in their own right. But still, in 1989, women have a greater right to poverty than men do; they certainly have a greater right to lower wages than men for jobs of equal value. Today the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) and others will rise and talk about the Pay Equity Commission’s report on a group of women, as many as 900,000, who were left out of the initial considerations and promised by this government in 1985 that it would deal with pay equity in its entirety.
There is another report today that was brought down, which we would like to hear comments from the Minister of Labour about, from the Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues, which surveys a huge number of ways in which women are discriminated against in this province still in 1989 in terms of labour law, and this government has yet not committed itself to a full overhaul of the employment standards legislation.
My colleague the critic for the Conservative Party talked about the woman’s right to protection against violence against her person in this province in this day and age. Although this is a great day to celebrate the final recognition by the courts of this land about personhood, we must also recognize that we have an awful long way to go before women can feel equal and as secure as men in this society.
Mr Pope: I have viewed with growing concern developments for transportation in northern Ontario and specifically wish to draw to the attention of the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye) for the province of Ontario the fact that we have had the Rukavina committee reviewing rail services in northeastern Ontario.
The very day they had their meeting in the city of Timmins, the tracks for the Ontario Northland Railway were being ripped out of the downtown core. We have had recent decisions of impending cutbacks in Via Rail service that will affect various parts of northeastern Ontario. We have had a recent decision of Air Canada withdrawing jet service to northeastern Ontario communities. We have no clear statement of what NorOntair is going to be doing to fill the void that is being left by these services, specifically to link Timmins and North Bay in the aviation system. We have had no indication of the priorities of this government with respect to road construction and particularly municipal road maintenance and upgrading in municipalities in northeastern Ontario.
All of these issues, coming as they do at the same time, leave many of us in northeastern Ontario asking the Ministry of Transportation for the province of Ontario to make a clear statement of policy on transportation evolution in northeastern Ontario and some clear indication of what programs will be put in place to support those policies.
JACK GOODLAD SENIOR CITIZENS RESIDENCE
Mr Faubert: On 9 September 1989, I had the privilege to represent both the Premier (Mr Peterson) and the Minister of Housing (Mr Sweeney) at the official opening of the Jack Goodlad Senior Citizens Residence in my riding of Scarborough-Ellesmere. I commend the Ministry of Housing for its participation in the development of these 170 units. They are a welcome addition to affordable housing for seniors in the city of Scarborough.
This residence is named after the late Jack Goodlad, a former Scarborough alderman with whom I had the privilege to serve on city council. Residents should take pride in this name, for Jack Goodlad had an exceptional record of hard work on council that all public representatives would do well to emulate. He was an ordinary but a very extraordinary man who was a truck driver and who decided to run for office because he believed he understood and could speak for the concerns of his fellow citizens.
Jack was also someone who never took no for an answer. He was fond of saying, “I’m just an average guy doing his best for the people who elected me.” His record was far from average, as he gave his heart and his soul and eventually his life serving the people of Scarborough to the end.
I congratulate all those involved in the building of the Jack Goodlad Senior Citizens Residence and, in particular, I would like to commend the chairman of the board and president of the residence, Barry Christensen, and all board members for the time and effort they have contributed to this very worthwhile project. Their persistence made it happen.
Finally, I would like to wish the residents of this seniors’ complex every happiness in this, their new home.
The Speaker: That completes the number of allotted members’ statements.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Isn’t anybody going to announce that it is Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s birthday?
An hon member: No.
Hon R. F. Nixon: And we wish him well.
An hon member: That is right.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I would ask for unanimous consent for statements regarding the California earthquake.
Mr Curling: On behalf of the government and the people of Ontario, I wish to express our sincere sympathy to the families of those who perished in last night’s devastating earthquake in the California Bay area. I would like to extend our concern to those who suffered injuries and the many who face the arduous task of rebuilding their lives and homes today.
Ontarians who wish to help in the relief effort can make a contribution to the American Red Cross through the Canadian Red Cross at 5700 Cancross Court in Mississauga. In addition, the federal Department of External Affairs has established a toll-free number for those seeking information about family and friends in the area. The number is 1-800-267-6788.
Our sympathy and concern have been conveyed today in a letter from the Premier (Mr Peterson) to California Governor George Deukmejian. We have also extended an offer of any appropriate assistance which may be requested.
Mr B. Rae: We join with the member for Scarborough North in extending our condolences to those families who have lost their loved ones as a result of the tragic events in California last night. Anyone who watched the really quite frightening events on television, as I did and I am sure many members did yesterday evening, could not help but be just so moved at the courage and the ingenuity and the sense of sacrifice and the sense of pulling together of all those who were doing the rescue work; the women and men who, in some cases at considerable risk to themselves, were crawling through that very narrow space between the two highways trying to get to some cars and find if there were any people who were still alive and who could be helped.
It is often said that out of tragedy sometimes a greater common sense of the fragility of life emerges. Sometimes a sense of not only what we can take from life but what we must all give back to life re-emerges in all of us. Our hearts go out to those families whose lives have been devastated by this terrible tragedy. But at the same time we must rededicate ourselves to building a world that always has room for people and to building a world that can respond to the victims of a tragedy such as the one we have all just witnessed.
Mr Brandt: We are all horrified by what happened in the San Francisco Bay area as a result of the devastation in the earthquake that occurred last night.
I want to begin my remarks by quoting from one of the players in the World Series. Terry Kennedy. who is a catcher for the Oakland As, was getting ready to play in the third game of the series, which is, as we all know, the ultimate baseball experience, and just the promise of that experience swept up all of Toronto and Ontario a few short days ago. Mr Kennedy had this to say of the devastating earthquake that hit northern California yesterday:
“We found out where the priorities of life are. The World Series doesn’t mean anything compared to what happened in this city tonight. People were hurt and people lost their homes, it makes me feel sick.”
The earthquake yesterday and its shocking, devastating aftermath truly do bring home where the priorities of life are. The death toll, as we have been advised to this point, is really quite staggering; some 300 people are reported to have lost their lives and the count may well go higher. In addition, there are 600 who are injured as of the last report I have received. That count may go higher, as well. The material losses, which are not nearly as important as the injuries and the loss of life, are well in excess of $1 billion.
This does not take into account the damage at Santa Cruz, which was the epicentre of the earthquake. At the time of the information I received, there were no details with respect to how extensive the damage there was, other than that dozens of buildings and whole blocks of the downtown community are apparently devastated.
From the television we received last night and again this morning, we have compelling evidence of this horrible event. Perhaps most horrific are the deaths caused by the collapse of a major highway. The equivalent, in Ontario terms, would be if the Gardiner Expressway collapsed from Jarvis Street to Bathurst Street during rush hour on to Lake Shore Boulevard. That is exactly how extensive that destruction was.
I think we have to be thankful the tragedy was not even worse, given that it occurred at the worst possible time of the day. As well, if the epicentre had been closer, who knows what would have happened to the 50,000 or 60,000 people who were in attendance at the World Series ball game.
On behalf of our party, our hearts and our best wishes go out to the people of the San Francisco-northern California area, as well as our condolences. We hope they are able to cope with the terrible tragedy that has struck them. It is also our fervent wish that a tragedy of this magnitude never happens again.
The Speaker: I believe it would be fitting, when Hansard is printed, if I were to send those words and a copy of Hansard to the Governor of California.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr Wrye: A balanced transportation system is important from an economic, environmental and quality-of-life perspective.
In May of this year, the government announced a $2-billion transportation capital program to help meet the needs of the province.
The rapid growth of the regions surrounding Metropolitan Toronto has created the need for a strong, interregional passenger transportation system. The government of Ontario has met that need through its ongoing commitment to upgrading the GO Transit network. GO’s mandate is to provide service in the five regions around Metro, as well as in Metro itself. GO trains have experienced a 16 per cent increase in ridership over the past year.
I would like to inform the Legislature today of a further improvement in the service GO Transit is providing for the residents of northern Metropolitan Toronto and York region.
Starting 30 October, GO will add a fourth morning train to its schedule on the Richmond Hill line. This new weekday train will leave Richmond Hill at 6:50 am, stopping at Langstaff, Old Cummer and Oriole stations before arriving at Toronto Union Station at 7:28 am. This follows the introduction of a fourth evening train this past summer. Together, these two trains will help accommodate the 20 per cent growth in ridership on this route over the last year.
We have taken a number of other steps to upgrade GO service to the northern portion of Metro and York region. The fare integration program, which allows preticketed GO passengers to ride local transit buses to and from the GO station with no additional fare, was extended to Richmond Hill Transit last month.
Parking lots at both Langstaff and Richmond Hill stations have been expanded this summer, and we are working to improve the facilities for connections between GO’s Richmond Hill line and the Toronto Transit Commission services on both Finch and Sheppard Avenue. The work at Finch is expected to be completed early next year.
As part of this government’s commitment to maintaining the high standards of GO service, additional funding has been made available to GO through the $2-billion transportation capital program. This capital program is intended to maintain road and rail links, while remaining sensitive to environmental concerns.
Among other things, the funding will allow GO to purchase more rolling stock. As a result, GO has just signed orders for more bilevel rail cars and locomotives. These orders represent a further investment by the province of Ontario of more than $112 million in the interregional transit system in the greater Toronto area.
UTDC Inc will build 60 more bilevel cars at is Can-Car facility in Thunder Bay. The $78.4-million order will provide employment at the plant for one year, with the first car scheduled for delivery in May 1990. The order will expand GO’s fleet of bilevels to 334 cars.
The diesel division of General Motors of Canada will construct 14 locomotives for GO at its London plant at a cost of $33.7 million, These locomotives have been designed to handle the special demands of GO’s commuter operations.
These orders will give GO the most modern and efficient commuter rail equipment fleet in all of North America.
In closing, I am pleased to inform the House of these improvements, which are part of our ongoing commitment to providing balanced, convenient and efficient transit services for the greater Toronto area.
Hon Mrs Wilson: Sixty years ago today, Canadian women were recognized as “persons” in the eye of the law and became eligible to be called to the Senate of Canada.
The participation of women in all aspects of society has changed dramatically in this century. Women won the right to vote, to run for political office and to share in the decision-making process of our country.
The day, 18 October 1929, marked a great step towards the achievement of equality for women in Canadian society. While we have seen continuous, steady progress in the intervening years, there is much more to accomplish.
Our government has undertaken a number of important initiatives to enhance the status of women in Ontario. This government’s commitment to pay equity is the most progressive in any democratic jurisdiction.
One of the most distressing problems that women face is the incidence of family violence. In my capacity as the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues, I view the elimination of violence against women as a priority. If we are to have safe and secure communities, women must feel and be safe in our communities, in our workplaces and in our own homes. To that end, this government considers it a priority to continue to enhance the prevention of wife assault and all other forms of violence against women.
Today’s women are lawyers, welders, scientists, airline pilots, judges, machinists and senior officers in our armed forces. They are also MPPs. By the year 2000, half of our paid labour force will be female. In order to be economically competitive, we must use all our human resources effectively.
I ask my fellow members to join me in acknowledging the positive changes that have occurred as a result of that auspicious day some 60 years ago. I ask them to join with me and with this government in working to continue to promote awareness that women are not only persons but equal partners in the future of our country.
Hon Mr Phillips: I would like to join with my colleague the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues in acknowledging today Persons Day,
Women have indeed made significant progress and the Ontario government has been in the forefront of that progress. But as my colleague said, we must not fail to recognize that much more must be done. It is for that reason that the government brought forward the Pay Equity Act.
As honourable members will recall, the act came into effect 1 January 1988. The legislation established the Pay Equity Commission and it required it to study and report on what are called predominantly female sectors of the economy that were not covered by the act.
I am pleased to table that report today and to thank the commission very much for its work.
The government is committed to the pay equity concept and pay equity is a key element in this government’s long-term strategy for improving conditions in our workplace, while of course continuing to keep Ontario competitive with other jurisdictions.
I look forward to studying the commission’s recommendations and announcing an appropriate government response.
I might take this opportunity to acknowledge in the east gallery today our commissioner of the Pay Equity Commission, Brigid O’Reilly, who is here with some of her other senior staff. I might ask her to stand and be recognized.
Mr Breaugh: I would like to respond briefly to the statement by the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye) regarding GO Transit.
I hope this is an indication that he understands now that he does have a transportation crisis in and around Metro and that this gridlock does not disappear any more. It starts at about seven o’clock in the morning and stays in place until well after seven o’clock in the evening.
I hope the minister has some sense of what needs to be done in transportation. We believe GO Transit will be an important part in solving that problem, but it is not a matter of planning any more; it is a matter of dealing with a transportation crisis.
One other thing does need to be said, although I do not think the minister is going to want to hear this part of it. It is to the everlasting shame of this government that the handicapped are denied access to this transportation system. It is not because somebody forgot, which is perhaps usually the case, and it is not because the minister has not been told, because he has been, on the record, here. It is because he chooses to deny them the right to use GO Transit.
While we are at it, we should be careful that we do not restrict the definition of those who have a physical handicap. Those who have tried to use GO Transit in any of the new stations will know that it is a real physical challenge to get at that transportation mode. The minister is doing things that make it most difficult for people who are frail and elderly and those who have any kind of physical disability whatsoever to use this transportation system. That is a crying shame.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I would like to respond to the two statements on women’s issues at once, if I might, following up from what I said in my remarks earlier on today. It is somewhat ironic that this government would get up and make positive statements around women’s issues following the year when it cut back the budget for the Office Responsible for Women’s Issues by $818,000, some real indication of its priority for this government.
It is ironic that on the day that the recommendations from the Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues come out, on which the ministers have been briefed, there is no comment about the kinds of things that council has addressed. Perhaps that is because the government does not value it as much as it used to. It cut 22.3 -- I guess thousands of dollars from its budget this year, slashing it enormously from the support it used to give it in the past.
I think it is interesting that the minister would rise today and talk about pay equity and not talk back to the days in 1985 when the promise by this government was that all pay equity matters would be dealt with by the end of the first session of the accord between our two parities at that time. Here we are, these many years later, with a report on which he has no particular opinion at this point.
I wonder if as a minister, he is going to forget what the Attorney General (Mr Scott), women’s issues critic at the time, said a few years ago when he said that the government would move at the same speed for these women in jobs classified as predominantly women’s jobs as it has on pay equity as a whole. If that is the case, that means we should see legislation enacted in this House in three months’ time. That was the same kind of promise the minister made in the past.
I would just like to say that I have some concerns with the direction of this report. It looks to me as if, instead of 900,000 women being left out because of the exclusions and the various models being put forward, perhaps as many as 500,000 women will still not be covered by pay equity even after the kind of redress that is put forward in this particular document today. I did not hear the minister speaking to that at this point. The idea that we would exempt small employers means that many, many women will not be affected.
The Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues (Mrs Wilson) can get up today and talk about violence. How can she do that when we still do not have a stable funding basis for rape crisis centres in Ontario? How can the minister do it when the government still has not fully implemented the standing committee on social development’s report of 1982 on family violence? How can she possibly say that she is giving that the kind of priority it deserves? Of course, there was no mention at all of child care in the comments made today, and rightly so when one considers the abandonment of movement in that area as well.
Although I would recognize the importance of the symbolic day, so many decades ago, of women being finally recognized as persons, I would say that symbolically here again this afternoon we are getting a clear indication from this government that women’s issues are second class in terms of its priorities.
Mr Brandt: I want to take advantage of one of the few occasions when I can compliment the minister on an announcement he has made, in connection with the expansion of the GO Transit system and some of the ancillary activities such as the building of some of the rail cars that will occur as a result of this expansion. The minister is in fact building on a tradition in this province of leading all of North America in terms of transit service. The GO system that was put in place by a previous government has proven to be an amazing success story and I am delighted the minister is continuing that tradition.
I would remind him, however, that there is much to do in transportation in terms of removing some of the gridlock we are experiencing, particularly in the Metropolitan Toronto area and in some other communities in other parts of the province as well. Highway 17, Highway 69 which I talked to the minister about yesterday, as well as the ongoing problem of the safety barriers to be erected on Highway 401, are all matters of major concern that must have the attention of the minister as soon as possible. and I would trust he would be making those announcements shortly as well.
Mr McCague: I thank the minister for his announcement today and for anything he is able to do to improve the service within the GO transit service area. The minister will know that there is increasing pressure in Simcoe, Simcoe West, Simcoe Centre and Simcoe East for the extension of GO’s mandate beyond Highway 9 to the north. I would hope that the minister, when he is looking at Peterborough and other areas for GO, would also look at increasing the mandate for Mr Parsons and company and allow them to move into Simcoe if the service could be justified and the ridership warranted it.
Mr Jackson: I wish to convey my disappointment at what is the maiden statement for this province’s new Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues (Mrs Wilson). I am disappointed that she indicates that the leadership her government has provided is seen through her initiatives with pay equity and with the prevention of violence against the victims of violent crimes, predominantly women.
I am very disappointed because the actual record for this government does not demonstrate the kind of sensitivity she would indicate today. In fact, it is this government that has refused to look at the serious and necessary judicial reforms women require in order to be put on an equal basis in our court system. They have not enjoyed that treatment in this province historically.
A woman in northern Ontario can be subjected to the statements that some of the judges have made about women who are victims of violence. This government refused to look at a judicial inquiry into such statements about women as, “We know your husband has beaten you several times and perhaps he has gone too far because he put you in hospital,” and then there is a suspended sentence. Women are not treated equally in our courts and the Attorney General (Mr Scott) knows that. He knows that and he refuses to sensitize our court system. He refuses to encourage that our police systems be more sensitized.
In fact, our women should have the right, victims of violent crime, to be interviewed by a police officer of their own gender who has been trained to understand the psychological damages that are occurring for that victim at that time. Yet the government stands in silence when the Hamilton and district rape crisis centre is cancelling programs with a waiting list of 100 to 120 victims of incest and violence because the minister refused to answer the correspondence about the need for funding to allow those counselling programs to continue.
Women are not treated fairly in our courts, as I said. We have a system in this province where there is a presumption that a woman who is raped does not suffer severe emotional damage. That is still a condition in our court system and it is wrong. It should be removed and it should be lifted. Only then will women feel comfortable enough about approaching our court system and allowing their case to proceed so that real justice for the victim can occur.
No wonder. The victim’s compensation fund in this province only has two per cent of its fund being used by women who have been victimized in assault and sexual assault cases. When the minister talks about rape crisis centre funding and pay equity, I remind the minister that it was her predecessor who was paying almost $30,000 for his personal chauffeur and yet our rape crisis centres are being asked to operate with staff being paid $12,000 and $14,000.
Mr B. Rae: I want to again ask the Premier some questions about the very real contradictions between what he has been telling this House and what other people have been telling the world. Dr Sibbald, who the Premier will know is head of the working group in the Ministry of Health dealing with critical care, has told people that in his opinion, and indeed in the opinion of the working group, that Dr Nesdoly, who was the doctor treating Mrs Lacroix, “used all the resources available to him.” He went on to say, “He used the appropriate lines of communication that were available to him at the time.”
Those words directly contradict what the Premier personally told this House when the Premier personally said “the system was there. The question is: Why was it not used?” He said outside, “The situation could have been solved very easily.” The Premier said, “A system was in place.” Those are two very different answers. Who is telling the truth: the Premier or Dr Sibbald?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think we have answered this question on many many different occasions. I have read the letter to my honourable friend and I cannot enlighten him any further, because he refuses to be enlightened.
Mr B. Rae: This is a matter of some considerable importance, not only to Mrs Lacroix’s family, but to many other patients in the province. The question is, when the Premier gets up a full day after a tragedy has taken place in the province and assures members of this House that as far as he is concerned a system is in place for critical care patients, and he states categorically that the system could have been used and was not used by Dr Nesdoly, and we then find four days later that the expert in the field, Dr Sibbald, states categorically that Dr Nesdoly used all the resources that were available to him, and when he states categorically that there is no such thing as a critical care hotline and comprehensive system for the treatment of critical care patients -- when he says it does not even exist -- why was the Premier giving us such a misleading impression last week when he was commenting on Dr Nesdoly’s practice and what Dr Nesdoly did --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend stands up there and tries to continually make the same point, even though he is on very fragile ground.
Mr Wildman: He is just trying to defend the doctor against you.
Hon Mr Peterson: Well, I understand his right to stand up in this House and make a point, but I do not think it is correct that he would want to distort the matter one way or the other, which in my view he is very clearly doing. I quoted a letter from Vickery Stoughton at the Toronto General Hospital, as the facts they were operating on the basis of. It was said by some, including the member I think, there were no critical care beds available in Toronto and in fact there were. We have quoted that letter and it is all there for him to see. It seems to me it is quite clear.
The Speaker: Order. There seems to be a lot of comments from both sides. I wish members would watch their language.
Mr B, Rae: I would simply ask the Premier this question. He is not prepared to admit that he has made a mistake. He is not prepared to admit that he gave, at the very least, a very misleading impression. He is not prepared to admit that he has been unfair to Dr Nesdoly. He is not prepared to admit that his government has not done what it said it would do last June. He is not prepared to admit that his government has made a mistake and that Dr Nesdoly was right. It is not Dr Nesdoly’s fault with respect to what happened. The delay is the responsibility of the government of Ontario.
I would like to ask the Premier. He now says it is Vickery Stoughton’s fault because the Premier read his letter. Last week it was Dr Nesdoly’s fault because he did not how to use the system. When is the Premier going to start taking responsibility for the failures of his own government’?
Hon Mr Peterson: I say to my honourable friend, I want to say this very carefully to my friend. If there is anybody who deliberately distorts in this House, it is him and him personally.
Mr Wildman: Order.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: Withdraw.
Hon Mr Peterson: I withdraw that, Mr Speaker.
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend just stood in this House and put words in my mouth. I did not blame Vickery Stoughton, I did not blame Dr Nesdoly, and he would create a different impression.
I say to my honourable friend, he would want to be careful. I have heard him in this House on other occasions standing up on his high horse, accusing members of this House of certain things, not once but twice, and having to crawl back into this House at a quarter to six and make a craven apology because he has been wrong. It is about time he stands up and admits that he is the one who is wrong in this case.
The Speaker: Order. If you want to waste the time, go ahead.
Mr B. Rae: I am not sure if I heard an offer to come back at a quarter to six or not. We will just have to wait and see.
GOODS AND SERVICES TAX
Mr B. Rae: I have another question for the Premier, It is about the goods and services tax. The Premier is on record as saying he was going to fight a provincial election to stop free trade. We all know what effect that had. That was the same election campaign in which he said that he had a very specific plan to reduce car insurance. The Premier has now threatened very widely that he intends to fight the GST. However, yesterday his Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) told us that instead of fighting the GST, he was going to have to commit assault and battery on the taxpayers of the province of Ontario. The fight seems to be with the taxpayer, not with the federal government.
I would like to ask the Premier this simple question. Just what is the plan that the government of Ontario has to fight the GST and is it going to be as effective as the fight on free trade and the plan to reduce car insurance rates?
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend talks bravely about the fight on free trade during the last federal election. Was it not his federal leader, whom he was advising, who decided to low-bridge the free trade issue? They were worried about alienating the French. lt was the Liberal Party that carried the fight against free trade. The members of the New Democratic Party and their federal leader wimped out on it. That is the reality and that is now the subject of great internal debate in their party. He should be embarrassed to stand up and even take that point of view. So he should not tell me about who fights and who does not fight. They are the ones when it comes down to it, who disappear on these matters.
Let me tell the member, the Treasurer was there yesterday representing the views of the province. The premiers have said it is unacceptable, and we shared all that information with my friend.
Mr B. Rae: I did not hear an answer to my question. I heard the usual array of personal abuse, which I have now come to expect from the first minister of the province, but apart from that, I did not hear an answer.
Since the Premier is such an expert on the question of credibility, I wonder if he would comment on the credibility of his own government, which promises to fight a campaign against the GST, describing it as inflationary and everything else, when at the same time the revenue to his own government from a retail sales tax in the province of Ontario has gone from $5 billion when he took office to a projected $9.5 billion next year. Just what is his credibility in fighting a goods and services tax when the Liberals themselves have raised the sales tax by one per cent and revenues have gone up over $4.5 billion in that period’?
Hon Mr Peterson: My friend continues to believe he takes the high road and nobody else does. Let me tell him, there is nobody who has engaged in more personal attacks in this House than he personally and he should know that. So I just do not think we have to take a lecture from him.
Let me say to my honourable friend, he is quite right. We have raised the provincial sales tax in this province and we have spent that on services for the people of this province. When he talks about credibility, how can he, every day, come in here and say, “Spend more, spend more, spend more,” and then say, “You should not raise taxes”? If anybody has a credibility problem, it is my friend.
Mr B. Rae: I want to come back to this question. The Premier has told us, the Premier told the people of the province, that there would be no free trade deal “if David Peterson became the Premier.” That is what he told people before 1987. In 1987 he told people that he had a specific plan to reduce ear insurance rates, Now we have the Premier going around saying he might even have to call an election on the question of the GST,
I tell him the phoniness of his campaign needs to be exposed and it is going to be exposed now. Where does he start telling the people of Ontario that he is going to fight the GST when he has been the master of assault and battery on the taxpayers of this province when it comes to sales taxes in Ontario’?
Hon Mr Peterson: My friend is talking about the next provincial election. Obviously he is a very, very nervous fellow at the present time. He was obviously afraid to go in Ottawa because he knew he would be decimated there. Now he is afraid to stay here and fight an election here. Let me tell my friend, when the election comes I will be happy to share the issues of the day with him.
He can have his view for the people and put it forward -- how he is going to cut taxes, increase spending and lower the deficit at the same time. He, with his magic, may be able to do that, but I can tell him we will put forward a credible program, addressing the needs of the people of this province with a strong and stable tax base that people can afford in a competitive and dynamic economy and province. That is where this government will be and he can be on all sides of every issue, as usual.
The Speaker: New question.
Mr Brandt: I had a question for the Premier but he answered them all.
The Speaker: Order, The member for Sarnia would like to ask a question, and to which minister’?
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr Brandt: As I was saying, my question is to the Minister of Colleges and Universities, who also at times acts in the roles of the Minister of Education as well as the Minister of Skills Development.
As the minister is well aware, there is a large number of college students who have appeared here at Queen’s Park and taken the trip to Toronto to indicate their concerns about the college system, the current strike and the problems surrounding funding for college education, Would the minister indicate what steps he intends to take to break the current deadlock that has come into place between the college system and the teachers’?
Hon Mr Conway: I thank the honourable leader of the third party for the opportunity to address a very important issue facing the province at the present moment. I can tell the House that earlier today I met with a delegation of the student assembly and I also, with others in the assembly, met that group of students on the steps of the Legislature. I would like to tell the House what I told those students.
The government strongly supports that collective bargaining process. We certainly appreciate the concern of students, but we recognize that as supporters of the collective bargaining process the best settlement is going to be arrived at while at the negotiating table. Both parties have it within their powers to resolve this at the negotiating table. The mediator stands by to assist in any way that he possibly can. I would strongly encourage all members to continue putting the pressure where it belongs, and that is on both parties, to take advantage of the collective bargaining process to resolve this in the best interests of the students and the community college system at large.
Mr Brandt: I can appreciate the minister wanting to stand on the sidelines to some extent with respect to the activities that are going on at the present time, but I wonder if the minister could help me in understanding why it is that he will not take a direct role in intervening in this matter to try to bring about a quick, orderly and responsible settlement so that the students can get back into the classrooms as quickly as possible’?
Hon Mr Conway: Mr Speaker, if you understand and support the collective bargaining process, you understand that it is up to the parties to accept their responsibility to return to the table and to solve this in the best interests of the students and of the system. I mean what I say when I say that I support the collective bargaining process and I repeat that both parties have it within their power to resolve this at the bargaining table. It is to that table that I would strongly encourage both parties to now return to take the opportunity to use the mediator in any way that might be productive and I simply say again that I appreciate the students’ concern. I share with them the desire to get this resolved, but let us not kid ourselves: The best resolution is a negotiated resolution. That can only occur when the parties return to the table and solve it there, between themselves.
Mr Brandt: Anticipating that answer, I would call the minister’s attention to November 1984, when the now Premier and the Leader of the Opposition at that time criticized the then Minister of Education for not moving expeditiously to resolve the dispute that was current at that particular moment. I ask the minister what has changed so rapidly between 1984 and 1989 that what was right back in November of that year is inappropriate or improper now’? Why will he not intervene, as his leader suggested in his discussion with the then Minister of Education back in 1984 when he called for intervention?
Hon Mr Conway: Because in the circumstances of this situation there can be no doubt that both parties have it within their power to resolve this at the table and I repeat what my honourable friend from Sarnia knows better than most people in this assembly and that is that if this matter is to be resolved, it will be resolved by the parties at the table. The mediator stands by ready and willing to assist in any way possible and I repeat, I expect both parties to return to that table and to resolve this in the best interests of the students and of the community college system at large.
Mr Eves: I would like to return to the issue of Mrs Lacroix that we discussed with the Minister of Health yesterday. I would like to simply read the minister her own quote of last Thursday 12 October from Hansard, when in response to the Leader of the Opposition she said, and I quote, “‘The Emergency Hot Line for use by physicians around Ontario…staffed 24 hours’” -- a day -- “was not used nor was the trauma team consulted, but all have confirmed that the patient would have been accepted had they been contacted as part of the normal procedure that is in place for patient referrals.’” Does the minister still stand behind that statement’?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member opposite continues to display his lack of credibility in this House. I will send him a copy of the letter from the Toronto Hospital, in which the quote is contained and that I was quoting on that day.
Mr Eves: I do not know what delivering a letter has to do with answering the question I asked. I asked the minister if she stood behind the quote that she made.
Mr Callahan: You do not read your mail.
Mr Eves: I do not usually have a habit of reading other people’s mail.
Dr Nesdoly is not alone. I was talking today with several physicians around the province, one of whom is Dr Pressnail of Barrie. He had a similar incident on 8 and 9 August of this year, whereby he had a woman patient and at 10 pm started looking for a hospital in the province of Ontario. She required some very serious neurosurgery help. By six the next morning she had gone to Toronto General Hospital, whose emergency department admitted the woman and then sent her back to Barrie by ambulance at 6:30 am on the next day. They finally found a physician for her in a hospital that would take her and try to handle her problem at noon the next day and she subsequently died.
Is this another isolated incident’? Are we going to blame Dr Pressnail like we blamed Dr Nesdoly? Perhaps I could read some of the other --
The Speaker: Thank you. Order. The question is, is this an isolated case?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member opposite that this is not the appropriate forum for discussing individual cases. I would say to him that I am always happy to investigate any individual case and I know how difficult it is for the professionals in this province and for the families of patients in this province to have confidential information discussed in this House.
I would say to the member that because he stands in his place and says that I am blaming someone, that does not make it true. I have never stood in this place and blamed anyone. I have talked about the dedication of the professionals in this province and I would say to him that he should stand in his place and acknowledge that, which is true.
Mr Eves: Seeing as how the minister is into reading letters today, she will undoubtedly be aware of a press release issued by the Ontario Medical Association today. It goes on to say:
“It seems to us that when problems like this happen,” -- we are talking about Dr Nesdoly’s case -- ”the government points fingers of blame at hospital administrators, doctors and nurses.
“To attack the integrity of a member of the medical profession or any other health care provider in such a manner is intolerable. Mrs Caplan has said many times that she wants the co-operation of all health care providers; however, when circumstances like this occur, she blames the providers.
“It would help to create the mood of co-operation that she says she wants if she and the Premier would apologize, in writing, to Dr Nesdoly, and do so immediately.”
Will the minister do that immediately, please?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I will say again to the member, I know he has difficulty understanding some of the things about our health care system. I know that on occasion he plays word games and on occasion in this House he has real trouble in understanding the information that I give to him. I will say very clearly that never, never in any way have I ever assessed blame, never have I ever questioned physician judgement and his saying so or anyone else’s saying so simply does not make that true.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr R. F. Johnston: I have a question for the Minister of Colleges and Universities around the strike question as well.
Is it not the case that in fact the minister is already a third party at the bargaining table? He is the silent parsimonious partner at that table, the partner who has passed through 5.5 per cent to a system which is in growth in numbers of students, in growth in terms of demand on programs, yet he expects these people to be able to settle at the table. Why will he not admit that he basically is there at the table right now in terms of his underfunding?
Hon Mr Conway: No, it is not true that under the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act passed by the Conservative government of some years ago that the Minister of Colleges and Universities is at the table. But it is true that this is a government which over the last four years has seen operating grants overall to this system, which has not seen great enrolment growth; in fact, 1989 enrolment as compared to 1985 enrolment would show roughly the same total numbers. It is true that in that time of relatively stable enrolment growth this government has seen the operating grants to the system overall increase from approximately $460 million to now almost $700 million, an increase of over 50 per cent.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The minister well knows that the reason that we are having a strike at the moment is not the particular matters that are on the table, but this is a system which is feeling very much under siege and under question, whether it is Vision 2000 and the whole role of the future of the colleges or whether it is the undermining of programs, like the gutting of programs at Niagara College and other colleges in the province of Ontario over these last number of years.
It is the minister’s funding which is making it impossible for the two sides to come together on this matter. I do not now understand why he will not admit that it is that parsimonious nature of this government which is causing the difficulty.
Hon Mr Conway: I repeat to my good friend, who needs no lecture about the dynamic of the collective bargaining process, that the reality of this government’s funding to the college sector over the last four years is quite contrary to his analysis, and I repeat, while the system overall has not seen a very significant enrolment growth, in fact the enrolment growth over a four-year period in net numbers is about stable. The fact of the matter is that the overall appropriations for operating purposes have risen by over 50 per cent, from about $460 million to nearly $700 million this year.
I know the assembly joins with me in sharing the concern of those students who gathered on the front steps of this assembly today. They will want me to say again that the resolution that must be arrived at is through the collective bargaining process. The two parties at issues are the College of Regents, representing the 22 colleges, and the union. Let those people return to the negotiating table and let those people, in the interests of the system and the students, arrive at the earliest possible resolution at the negotiating table.
EMPLOYER HEALTH LEVY
Mr Pope: I have a question for the Treasurer. The Treasurer will be aware that on 30 September, Statistics Canada published --
The Speaker: Order. I did not hear. To which minister?
Mr Pope: My question is to the Treasurer. The Treasurer will be aware that Statistics Canada issued a report at the end of September, which indicated that tax increases pushed inflation almost a full percentage point higher this year. It is therefore the view of Statistics Canada and many business and community groups across this province that tax policies, including this government’s tax policies, are a major contributor to inflation in this country and in this province.
The Treasurer is also aware of growing discussion about the competitiveness of Ontario as a jurisdiction in which to invest and locate and continue to operate a business. First, we have seen the advertisements for the competitive advantage to Saskatchewan and Quebec in their recent budgets. That and other comments led the Treasurer of this province on 6 October to be reported as saying that Ontario must stay competitive to keep businesses, and quoting tax rates and tax policies as the main issue in addressing the competitive position of Ontario,
Mr Speaker: And the question?
Mr Pope: The question to the Treasurer is, will the Treasurer follow the lead of the province of Manitoba and give exemptions for small businesses in this province from the employer health levy that he is about to impose in this province’?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member no doubt has perused the legislation that is before the House now. He would be aware that the rate for small business is less than one per cent. As a matter of fact, at the minimum wage, the employers make their contribution at about less than five cents an hour. We do not think that that is going to be a serious impediment to the competitiveness of small business.
I think this is particularly true, when you look at what the United States, with which we must compete, have to pay for similar medical services. Lee laccoca himself, the guru of the free enterprise system, has said that to make Chrysler cars, he pays more for health services than he does for steel in the car. As a matter of fact, the provision of our medicare facilities which, in spite of the comments made by honourable members, is generally seen worldwide as a very good one, an excellent one, is one of the most important competitive advantages that we offer on a worldwide base.
Mr Pope: I ask the Treasurer about the small business sector of this province and he gives me a quote from Lee laccoca. I do not know where the Treasurer is sitting on this. We are talking about exemptions. We know the question was put to him that Ontario had to be careful that it does not lose business investment and jobs to lower-cost areas of the United States. His response to that was that the warning was a good one. Those are his words.
In light of his own recommendations of his own government in an Annual Report on Small Business in Ontario put out by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology in 1988 about the impact of payroll taxes on the competitive position of small businesses in the province of Ontario, we want to know why he will not give an exemption, not a reduced rate but an exemption, for the small business sector of this province to encourage competitiveness and to keep them in this province’?
Hon R. F. Nixon: We want to pay for medicare. We are paying about $14 billion, just a bit less than that. That base is growing at about 10 per cent. Some people in this House feel that is an inadequate growth itself. We have to find the money for it and at least 16 per cent of that overall cost is going to be based on the tax the honourable member refers to.
In order to recognize the very competitive situation that he is bringing to our attention, we have established a standard rate at 1.95 per cent compared, for example, to three per cent in the province of Quebec. For small businesses with payrolls under $200,000 a year, the rate is just half that, less than one per cent. We feel it is fair, equitable and competitive.
Mr Adams: My question is for the Minister of labour. Outboard Marine Corp recently announced that it is closing its manufacturing operation in Peterborough. Some 300 jobs are being lost to Belgium, Hong Kong and the United States. Would the minister please tell the House what is being done to help those who are losing their jobs?
Hon Mr Phillips: I must say that one of the most difficult jobs as Minister of Labour is being involved in a situation like this where we are talking about lives and the significant dislocation of lives. What we do in a case like this is work with the federal government, labour -- in this case, the union -- and management in establishing a joint committee, funded I must say by the province, the federal government and by the company, to assist the workers.
We, the provincial government, have what we call an employment adjustment branch. We provide counselling work. We have an employment standards provision that ensures at least a minimum in terms of severance pay, and we will make certain that minimum is adopted.
We are establishing that committee working with labour, management, the federal government and the provincial government to do the very best we can in the significant dislocation to this company, these workers and the city of Peterborough.
Mr Adams: A special feature of this matter is the high proportion of older workers who are involved. I wondered if the minister could tell the House what is being done to help these particular workers.-
Hon Mr Phillips: I think many of the members in the House probably will be interested in this because, tragically, we see a number of plant closings that affect older workers. About a month and a half ago, we signed a joint proposal with the federal government to deal with older worker adjustments. It is a program called POWA, program for older worker adjustment.
It is designed to help workers who are 55 years of age and over. It is designed to assist them for approximately 10 years, from 55 to 65, to assist those people who have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits, who have found it impossible to find a job, and to provide assistance to the age when they can get their old age pensions. That program we signed jointly with the federal government. We are now setting up the mechanisms for it.
I cannot assure the member that this company will qualify for it but it seems to meet many of the criteria. I would suggest to the member and to the employees involved in it that they avail themselves of the possibility of that program because I think it is a good program and would be of assistance particularly to those older workers affected in this particular case.
DARLINGTON NUCLEAR GENERATING STATION
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of Health. On 11 October, I asked the minister to conduct a baseline health study of the population surrounding the Darlington nuclear generating station before the station opened. In reply the minister said that the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy was conducting a health status study which she said “will provide the kind of information so that in fact we will be able to meet the needs of our future populations.”
Upon inquiry, it appears that the facts are that the fieldwork for the council study does not begin until January 1990 and will not be ended until November 1990, so that it will be at least two years before we have any useful statistics from that study. Can the minister explain how the study that she referred me to will be of any use at all in providing baseline data prior to the opening of the Darlington nuclear generating station?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The health status survey which is being conducted by the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy, as the member opposite has indicated, I think will be a very significant undertaking. It will be the first time in Ontario that we actually have the kind of data and information gathered in one of the largest surveys ever in this country so that we will be able to monitor how we do in the future, evaluate our programs and see how we can have an even healthier society in the future.
Mrs Grier: This is the third time I have raised this question with the Minister of Health and she still seems to be unable to understand that the point of a baseline health study prior to the opening of the generating station is to have accurate knowledge of the state of the health of the population before a nuclear generating station opens in their community. That means things like their white blood cell counts and the level of tritium in the blood, not the kind of questions the Premier’s Council study is going to be asking or would have asked even if it had been done before now.
The minister has been asked for this study by all the local councils in the area surrounding Darlington and by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. Time is running out. Will the minister try to understand and to give me a commitment that she will do some very basic studies before Darlington opens, or else that she will postpone the opening of Darlington --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mrs Grier: -- until after the Premier’s Council study is done?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The information that I have for the member is that the Atomic Energy Control Board has commissioned a study by the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation of leukaemia rates around nuclear research, processing and generating facilities. I would say to the member as well that the responsibility for monitoring the health of the community is vested with the local board of health and that the Ministry of Health is always offering advice and assistance to local boards.
Mrs Cunningham: My question is to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons. I recently spoke to the annual meeting of Cheshire Homes of London Inc. The meeting was extremely well attended; it was well attended by a large number of disabled persons who are anxiously waiting for the recommendations in the John Lord report, especially as they relate to attendant care, to be acted upon. This government and all of us are committed to deinstitutionalization. What is the minister going to do about the recommendations of this report’?
Hon Ms Collins: I want to first express my thanks to the member for her interest in and her concern about people with disabilities in this province. The Office for Disabled Persons and myself endorse and support the values of self-reliance and self-direction. I want to assure the member that I am committed to the development of long-term strategy for the rationalization of the delivery of support services.
Mrs Cunningham: Even taking the most conservative of figures that Mr Lord has presented, the most conservative of figures, it is clear that the number of persons who need attendant care exceeds the level of current services by some three to 10 times. That is rather significant. Across this province, we have disabled persons who are in need of attendant care by three to 10 times the numbers that we are able to provide at this time.
This group has asked me to go back and address them again in the very near future and I know other members in this House have the same kind of requests from disabled people across this province. My question then is, when specifically can I go back to Cheshire Homes of London and Cheshire Homes across this province and tell them that the minister will be taking action and implementing the recommendations, especially as they relate to attendant care across the province of Ontario?
Hon Ms Collins: I know the member is aware of the long-term care study that is being done by this government. A number of members in the cabinet are involved in that: the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer), the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mr Morin) and myself. That is looking at some aspects of the attendant care issue. Those proposals will be dealt with very soon. I am sure the member will become aware of them.
FARM SOIL AND WATER RUNOFF
Miss Roberts: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Last week, a report released by the Conservation Foundation in the United States and the Institute for Research on Pubic Policy in Canada found that the health risks are increasing for those of us living around the Great Lakes water basin, due to the accumulation of toxic chemicals in the environment. This is of grave concern to myself and to the constituents in Elgin. One of the sources identified as contributing to the problems in the Great Lakes is the chemicals used by farmers and the runoff that goes into the Great Lakes, as well as into the ground water. What steps has the ministry taken to alleviate this problem’?
Hon Mr Ramsay: Having travelled the province in the last two and a half months and having spoken to the farmers of Ontario, I can assure the member that the farmers of Ontario share her concerns, the same concerns I have, with the quality of our water and soil resource in this province.
There are really two ways of going about this. We can look at abatement of pollution and also at reduction in the use of chemicals in our farming practices. Our ministry is working on both of these tracks. My predecessor the member for Huron (Mr Riddell) introduced a program last year, Food Systems 2002. This is going to be a 50 per cent reduction in pesticides over the next 15 years. Part of the components of this program are research so that we can look at expanding our use of nonchemical alternatives, farmer and consumer education and field advisers to do farm demonstrations.
We also have a grower pesticide safety course that 11,500 farmers have completed to date, and thanks to my colleague the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley), we will have that course mandatory by 1991.
Miss Roberts: I am glad to see that the minister is dealing with it, but does he foresee any new programs on the horizon that are going to address this problem? Is there anything else he is going to be doing?
Hon Mr Ramsay: As I mentioned yesterday to the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman), the federal and provincial governments have signed a soil and water accord that will enable us to enhance our present programs. As the member is aware, we already have a land stewardship program and the soil and water environmental enhancement program that abates much of the runoff into Lake Erie. I hope that with our officials working together, since this accord has been signed, we are going to be able to design some new programs to further combat this problem.
Mr Wildman: I can think of a couple of things that smell worse than Lake Erie,
The Speaker: I think the member behind you would like to ask a question.
Mr Philip: I wish the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman) would not talk about smells when I get up to speak.
I have a question for the Chairman of Management Board. Would the Chairman of Management Board inform the House of the total amount of dollars that will be spent as a result of recent increases in remuneration for persons appointed by order in council and would he tell us how many of these appointees have received such increases?
Hon Mr Elston: In fairness, I think it is a question for Orders and Notices, but I presume what the honourable gentleman really wants to do is follow up on a report by Mr McAuliffe. What I think he probably is alluding to is the issue about the report done Monday, I believe. If he would be so kind as to identify it later, I will get specifics. What I did with respect to the material on the CBC show was to ask my office to contact the people who are the subjects of the inquiry to see if we can have their consent to release personal information, as is required by freedom-of-information requests.
Mr Philip: There are over 5,000 appointees, so l am sure we are going to get a quick answer on that inquiry.
Would the minister confirm that some have received increases as high as 33 per cent increase in remuneration, and that one or more has received increases of $19,000 or more per year in remuneration? How can the minister justify that kind of increase on behalf of political appointees when he is offering public servants between four per cent and six per cent?
Hon Mr Elston: I have not yet been able to review the material that is the subject matter of that report on the radio. I am in the process of getting the material brought forward. I will be able to provide the member with more detail when I have replies from the individuals about whom the member requested the information. We are in the process of asking those people if they would consent to the divulgence of their pays. We can give ranges, and in fact ranges of amounts that are given to the appointees to the boards are available. Those remain available to the reporter who I think has keyed the honourable gentleman to ask the question.
I am quite pleased to entertain a request through the order paper to provide a detailed answer to this in written form. If he wishes to pursue that avenue, which is really the logical place to pursue that sort of information request, we will be pleased to process it in due course.
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE
Mr Sterling: I have a question of the Attorney General. I hope the Attorney General is aware of the unrest with regard to the justices of the peace in this city of Toronto. It is my understanding that on Friday many of the justices of the peace will be unavailable for work. There is a very critical situation with regard to these people. Evidently, there are over 3,000 people who will not have their cases or matters heard before the courts on Friday due to the minister’s inability to deal with the justices of the peace in a fair manner. They are at their wits’ end. What is the minister intending to do to stem this particular action?
Hon Mr Scott: I am always glad to get a question from the member for Carleton (Mr Sterling). But the member for Cochrane South (Mr Pope) has a question of me and he is here so rarely that I thought he should be allowed to ask it in place. Perhaps he will be allowed to come on next.
I am aware of the concern that the honourable member from Carleton has raised --
An hon. member: Cheap shot.
Hon Mr Scott: No, it is true.
Mrs Grier: Also unparliamentary.
Mr Jackson: That is against the standing orders of this House. You know better.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Scott: All right, if it is against the standing orders of the House, of course I withdraw it, but I do not understand it to be.
The Speaker: Order. There seems to be some argument on the standing orders. There is nothing in the standing orders directly. However, the tradition of Parliament is that no member should refer to the absence of another member.
Hon Mr Scott: I was not familiar with that rule. That is my fault and I promise never again to make reference to the absence of the honourable member.
The member for Carleton asked a very important question. He is aware of course that for more than a decade in Ontario the justices of the peace have been concerned about the position in which they find themselves. He will also be aware that this government introduced a new Justices of the Peace Act, which was just recently passed, and has appointed a chief judge coordinator of the justices system.
The good news is that after a long stall going on close to 20 years, we are now very close to implementing the requirements of the Mewett report as found in the new statute. I am confident that the justices of the peace, who are an important part of the judicial system, will not engage on Friday or on any other day in the kind of unlawful activity to which my honourable friend referred.
Mr Sterling: I wish I was as confident as the Attorney General. The president of the association, James Allen, resigned this morning, as I understand it, because he is concerned about the fact that the justices of the peace have been jerked around by the minister’s office. They have been referred from one civil servant to another civil servant to another civil servant and back to the first civil servant without any reply from the Attorney General or any of his ministry.
Bill 93, which the minister referred to in his statement, does not resolve the problem of dealing with the civil service in asking to deal with the remuneration of justices of the peace. As the minister may know, I introduced an amendment that would allow the justices of the peace the same kind of mechanism as provincial court judges have in this province. Why will the Attorney General not make some kind of commitment to the justices of the peace that will provide them with some avenue to negotiate, to talk to an independent third-party group in order to negotiate their salaries and their working conditions in the future? He knows and has said in this Legislature today --
The Speaker: Order. The member is now making a speech.
Hon Mr Scott: It is really not fair to put the question in that way. I practised law, as the honourable member has. I practised law for 25 years in Toronto and in that period of time the previous government, for 25 years, never gave a meaningful increase in salary to either the provincial judges or the justices of the peace or, by the way, to the lawyers who operate under the legal aid plan. When we came in in 1985, we had our hands full. The crown attorneys were going on strike, the lawyers would not work under legal aid, the justices of the peace were on strike and the provincial judges suggested they were going to go on strike.
Mr Sterling: When were they on strike?
Hon Mr Scott: They suggested they were, in 1985.
Now, we came into office and we have instituted significant wage increases for all these important groups. We have also done one other thing that the justices of the peace specifically asked for. They asked us to implement the Mewett report in the form of legislation and that we have done. I understand the problems they confront. We have made significant headway, trying to play catch-up to 25 years of inactivity and we will continue to do so, I have met with them before and I will be glad to meet with them again, but this kind of misinformation is not required.
The Speaker: I think it is time we were keeping things under control around here. The member for Algoma (Mr Wildman).
Mr Wildman: I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources.
Mr Owen: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I would point out to the Speaker that I did rise before the member for Algoma, before, during and after you were standing.
The Speaker: I will recognize the member for Simcoe Centre.
Mr Owen: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I realize that the colour of my jacket may dazzle or something like that. At any rate, I have a question for the minister --
Mr Sterling: A point of privilege, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: I remind the member that the standing order states that this 60 minutes is used for oral questions and points of order, not for points of privilege, so could he bring that up later?
Mr Sterling: Okay, Mr Speaker, on a point of order: Is there a difference between a member of this Legislature saying that another member has provided misinformation and calling him a liar?
Is there a difference?
The Speaker: I am not here to ask questions. I am here to make decisions.
Mr B. Rae: It was not a riddle.
The Speaker: I beg your pardon.
Mr B Rae: It was not a riddle. There is no trick involved.
The Speaker: I think that after today’s question period I will have to look at the whole Hansard, just to see what was said.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. The minister will no doubt recall that I have spoken to him. There also have been media reports that have concerned people in the city of Barrie. The suggestion has been made that there is a linking of illness and deaths with exposure to chemicals used at the former Robson Lang Leather tannery in Barrie. The plant is no longer functioning, but many of the former workers and many of their families are now worried about the effects of any possible exposure that may have taken place on their long-term health. I wonder if the minister could share with us the status of his investigations into these allegations.
Hon Mr Phillips: It is a matter of considerable concern, as the member has indicated, to himself, to the people of Barrie and clearly to the former employees and the families involved here. Just to bring the member up to date on what we are doing, our ministry has established a group to look at a study of the health effects on the affected workers. We are asking for assistance in finding ex-employees. This plant went into receivership in 1986, so we have established a phone number within the ministry, which we would be happy to give to the member and others, to inform us about former employees so we can get help in terms of analysing the health effects on them.
We are going to Cobourg to talk to the employees at the former head office of this firm to see if we can get further records of former employees. Our ministry will be attending the meeting that is scheduled, I think, in Barrie on 31 October. It is a matter of some considerable urgency and interest to us and we very much look forward to this study and hopefully proving one way or another whether these were related --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Owen: I find that the alarm that has taken place with regard to this particular plant seems to be contagious. I now find that other plants seem to be concerned. The former workers at other plants are saying: “What about the materials we’ve used on the job when we were working? What about the training that was or wasn’t given with regard to what we were dealing with? What about protective clothing in handling of possibly hazardous materials?”
With that in mind, and knowing that the minister is now introducing and pursuing the occupational health and safety bill, Bill 208, I wonder if the minister could advise what this bill could do in the future to try to avoid a recurrence of this type of problem.
Hon Mr Phillips: Bill 208 is an important bill and the official opposition will be discussing it this afternoon, as well as the third party, I know. In my judgement, Bill 208 is designed to tackle issues like this. We have in the bill the agency that will be responsible for developing education and training programs so that workers and employers will be trained to identify issues such as may possibly have existed in the Robson Lang situation.
Workers will be certified so that they will be knowledgeable about the workplace. Joint health and safety committees will have the right to regular inspections in the plants. They will have the right to responses in writing to their recommendations. The fines for organizations and companies will be increased dramatically, like to $500,000. The whole Bill 208 is designed to tackle and substantially improve occupational health and safety.
The one other thing I would say is that there is a program called the workplace hazardous materials information system which I think could have been helpful in this particular instance in identifying perhaps hazardous materials that were in that workplace. The WHMIS program is now in place.
MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Mr Wildman: I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources related to the figures published for Ministry of Natural Resources travel and accommodation in the government’s Public Accounts. This ministry’s travel budget is now second only to the Ministry of Transportation’s.
At a time when the ministry’s total budget has been cut, when the total number of seedlings purchased for planting has been cut and thousands of seedlings have been destroyed, when the number of forest firefighters has been cut, when conservation officers continue to be underpaid and overworked, how can the minister justify the expenditure of $132,448 on travel and $309,409 for accommodation for senior MNR staff, most of it spent on the weekly airlift of staff to Thunder Bay?
Now that the environmental assessment is going to go for another three years, how much more is she going to take from other programs just to pay for travel and accommodation for senior staff?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I trust that the honourable member, by his question, is not calling into question the decision on the part of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment to hold a class environmental assessment on the whole matter of timber management and the effect of timber management on the environment.
I hope he is not also calling into question the decision that was made by that environmental assessment board to hold a large proportion of its hearings in Thunder Bay, and in fact in other areas in northern Ontario, which is the very heart of what will be affected by the discussions.
Certainly, the ministry’s budget is impacted by the increased cost of the environmental assessment hearings, the class EA hearings that are going on in Thunder Bay. We accept that as being a cost of carrying out this very important hearing on the environmental effects of our timber management plans.
Mr Brandt: I have two petitions. One is a petition signed by 29 residents of the Sarnia area, calling on the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) to enter into meaningful negotiations with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation with the view to obtaining a settlement of the pension which would be fair to teachers.
Mr Brandt: The second one is a petition signed by approximately 32 residents of the Sarnia area, objecting to the implementation of Bill 8.
Mr Owen: I have a petition, signed by 28 residents of my riding, requesting the repeal of the French Language Services Act, Bill 8, and it is submitted by myself under this statement.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ESTIMATES
Mr McCague from the standing committee on estimates presented the committee’s report as follows:
Pursuant to standing order 57, your committee has selected the estimates of the following ministries and offices for consideration:
Ministry of Municipal Affairs, 5 hours; Ministry of Transportation, 5 hours; Ministry of the Environment, 15 hours; Office for Disabled Persons, 7.5 hours; Office Responsible for Senior Citizens’ Affairs, 7.5 hours.
Pursuant to standing order 58 the remaining estimates of the ministries and offices not selected for consideration are deemed passed by the committee and reported to the House in accordance with the terms of the standing order and are deemed to be received and concurred in.
The Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 58(b) the report of the committee is deemed to be received and the estimates of the ministries and offices named therein as not being selected for consideration by the committee are deemed to be concurred in.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
COURTS OF JUSTICE AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Scott moved first reading Bill 62, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, 1984.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Scott: I made a statement about this yesterday in statements.
NOTARIES AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Scott moved first reading of Bill 63, An Act to amend the Notaries Act.
The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
An hon member: No.
The Speaker: All those in favour will say “aye.”
All those opposed will say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Scott: The purpose of this bill, unanticipated as it will be by members of the opposition, is to turn the position of the official who is responsible for examining potential notaries from a Lieutenant Governor in Council appointment to a public service appointment.
TOWN OF IROQUOIS FALLS ACT, 1989
Mr Pope moved first reading of Bill Pr31, An Act respecting the Town of Iroquois Falls.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 208, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act.
The Speaker: I believe the member for Nickel Belt was speaking. He may have some further comments.
Mr Laughren: Yes, Mr Speaker, you are correct in your belief. I did adjourn the debate on Monday last.
During the debate I was expressing my concern about Bill 208 and trying to say to the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips), or trying to convince the minister at least, that our fears were founded, not unfounded as he was implying to us. Let me tell the minister why we are so concerned about the proposed changes in Bill 208, because the minister was pretending that there was really no fundamental change in the bill, he was just making it a better bill. That is what he was trying to convince us of and we simply do not believe that to be the case. We believe that the principles of this bill have been severely diluted.
As a matter of fact, if you look at the bill as having a basic principle of the right of a worker inspector, for example, or a management inspector to shut down an operation and you remove that right, then in effect you are contravening the principle of the very bill itself. There is no question in our mind that the changes that the minister is proposing are very serious indeed. Let me be specific.
The minister continues to shake his head. I am starting to worry about the minister. If he shakes his head on every single point that is made, it is apparent that we are not getting through to him at all; and not only that, but he may do himself some damage.
Mr Dietsch: Which way is he shaking it?
Mr D. S. Cooke: It’s not up and down.
Mr Laughren: It’s not up and down.
Let me remind members what he said in his opening remarks on second reading of this bill last Thursday. He said, “I would like to present some changes, and one...approach to a particularly complex question that will be proposed to the standing committee on resources development after second reading.” What he is doing is sounding an alarm bell that he is going to suggest -- ”propose” is the exact word he uses -- some changes to the standing committee, which will of course be holding public hearings on this bill, then dealing with it in clause-by-clause to consider any amendments.
The minister goes on to talk about the commitment to the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, which is the umbrella health and safety organization in the province of Ontario. He says, “As a means of facilitating the building of this partnership and contributing to the excellence of its ultimate product, the government will propose amendments to the committee that would add to the agency a full-time, neutral chair.” Here we have a proposal that is going to turn the health and safety agency from a bipartite organization into a tripartite organization.
Mr J. B. Nixon: With Elie Martel in the chair.
Mr Laughren: It would still become a tripartite agency regardless of who was in the chair. Even if the member for York Mills were in the chair, it would be tripartite. I do not know how the minister can continue to say that he is not fundamentally altering the bill.
He says, early in the bill, “That act was founded,” talking about the Occupational Health and Safety Act, “on the central idea that it is the people in the workplace who are in the best position to identify and minimize health and safety risks.” He says that and then goes to immediately set up the most important agency in the province dealing with health and safety, the umbrella health and safety organization, by turning it into, not a bipartite organization with workers and management on it, but a tripartite organization. That is a very worrisome move.
I always thought that the internal responsibility system was based on the theory that the people involved with the workplace were the ones who knew most about it, had the most stake in it and would make the most reasonable recommendations for improving health and safety in the workplace. And now here we go taking away that bipartite nature on which the internal responsibility system is based and turning it into a tripartite one with a neutral chair. A neutral chair implies that it is neither management nor labour that is involved in chairing this organization. Then how is it an internal responsibility system if he does that? I suppose the minister could say it is not involved in the direct workplace, but it is still the agency whose responsibility lies with health and safety in the workplace.
The minister goes on, “Bill 208 expands workers’ rights to refuse dangerous work so that dangerous work activities, such as lifting unreasonably heavy loads, may be avoided.” That is what the bill says. Then the minister says, and this is what has us worried again:
“The government will propose an amendment to the committee to clarify that this right is directed at avoiding current or immediate dangers.
“The long-term ergonomic concerns, such as, for example, repetitive strain, although of equal concern, we suggest will be dealt with more thoroughly by the highly trained health and safety committees.”
He says it is of equal concern, but at the same time he will not allow that to be dealt with in the same way as an immediate concern. I do not know why not. It implies that there would be -- he does not use the word “frivolous,” but at the same time, why would he not allow that to be done? If a place is serious to the long-term health of the worker rather than just the short-term, surely that is just as important, if not more important. If that place has to be shut down, that does not preclude the health and safety committee dealing with it more thoroughly after it has been shut down to see what can be done to resolve the problem. It is not a case of, “If it is dealt with in the short term, therefore it can’t be dealt with in the long term.”
That is what the minister implies. Why did he not leave it the way it was, because there is not going to be an abuse of that. The minister goes on:
“As the government creates joint health and safety committees on construction projects, for the first time we will propose several measures to enhance the effectiveness of Bill 208 in the construction sector.
“First, we would propose to raise the threshold at which certification is required to 50 workers and a project duration of six months.”
I believe the bill said 20 workers and three months in its original draft. Once again, that is diluting it.
The minister goes on, and he is talking here about the right to stop work, and this is really the crunch. This is where the ministry and the government came under so much pressure, and it was expressed in a very clear way by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter). When the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology said that he was concerned about the bill and Ontario’s competitive position, and that he made no apologies for being the voice of business in the province, and expressed his concerns with Bill 208, I wondered, did he get his knuckles rapped at the cabinet table? It would be interesting to know that. I did not know that ministers went around complaining about a bill that cabinet was dealing with.
Mr D. S. Cooke: He stayed in his portfolio. The Minister of Labour got bumped.
Mr Laughren: Yes, here is a case where the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology makes a complaint about a government bill, as a member of the cabinet, and gets away with it, while the former Minister of Labour, the member for York Centre (Mr Sorbara), who is simply trying to shepherd a difficult piece of legislation through, gets bounced on his ear. What kind of government decision-making resides over there? It is a strange way to reward, on the one hand, a minister who is trying to deal with difficult legislation on one hand and, on the other, a minister who does not show much cabinet solidarity in dealing with a piece of government legislation.
I know that the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology is not here to defend himself but that is his fault, not mine. That is what he said. I really wonder about that.
Anyway, we all know that the problem with the bill was that it gave a certified worker inspector the right to shut down an operation that is deemed to be unsafe, certified by the umbrella organization, the health and safety agency. They had to be certified. But no, the business community launched an all-out lobby, an attack on the government and said, “You’ve simply got to do away with that because it is going to give the workers too much control.”
The minister, in dealing with that question, says, “The question of the accountability for such authority” -- namely, to shut down a workplace -- “is important and it has been argued that a unilateral authority to stop work is inconsistent with the collaborative nature and accountability of the joint health and safety committee.” That is what he says.
I thought that was the whole idea of the internal responsibility system, that people could shut down an unsafe place and that the people on the job could shut down the place. That is the whole purpose of the internal responsibility system.
The minister goes on to say, “These are issues that will have a profound impact on the day-to-day business of Ontario workplaces.” How? I hope when the minister replies he will tell us how these issues will have a profound impact on the day-to-day business of Ontario workplaces. Is it to make them safer, or because they will be shut down, or because it increases costs, or because it would make the workplaces less competitive? What is behind that statement in the minister’s opening remarks on second reading of this bill?
He goes on to say, “They deserve a thorough and public debate.” Well, they are going to get that anyway, they are going to get a full and public debate before the standing committee on resources development. If the minister really wanted some changes, why would the minister not have let Bill 208 go through the process with the committee in its original form, and, after they have heard from everybody across the province presumably, management and labour, heard all the arguments pro and con, let the committee members move amendments? Is the minister doing that?
Oh no, the minister is going to propose amendments himself. We all know the makeup of standing committees around here: six Liberals, two Conservatives, two New Democrats. We know where the majority is, obviously. So why is the minister -- I hope he will tell us this -- proposing amendment now rather than listening to the people of the province before he does that?
Mr D. S. Cooke: Because he’s already heard from the business community.
Mr Laughren: Yes. Why not wait and let the committee process proceed? Because if he signals now that he is proposing this amendment, whether he proposes the amendment now or after the hearings, the word is out, the signal is out.
He says, “We therefore propose to refer this matter...to the standing committee on resources development for further discussion.” Of course, that is the purpose of public hearings. But he is not waiting for the public hearings; he is saying it now.
The minister goes on to say, “We would offer to the committee for its consideration one possible approach to the stop-work issue.” I hope I am not being too precious on this issue, but look at the choice of words the minister uses there. He does not say that, “We offer the committee one approach to the whole question of not allowing an operation to operate in an unsafe way.” He does not say that. This is a value-laden way of wording it. He says, “We will offer the committee for its consideration one approach to the stop-work issue,” as though we have got to deal with all this stop-work. He has really loaded his statement with his choice of words.
He goes on to say, “We are very mindful of the need to recognize that where the internal responsibility system is working, and an effective partnership to control workplace risks does in fact exist, decisions ideally” should continue to be made jointly “unless the parties decide otherwise.” So what he is saying is: “Leave the status quo in place. Don’t worry about it. We won’t give anybody the right to shut down an unsafe operation; we’ll let the present system remain.”
Of course he goes on, “However, where the health and safety record and the demonstrated commitment of the employer to sound health and safety practices are unacceptable, alternative approaches should be considered.” In other words, someone is going to have to decide whether or not the health and safety record of the employer is acceptable or unacceptable.
I do not know who makes that decision, but presumably the minister knows who will decide that. Will that be a subjective decision? How will he know whether it is an unsafe or a safe one? What is he going to do with the mining industry, where he has so many deaths every year and an incredible amount of injuries? Every mining operation has an unacceptable health and safety record. They are trying, but the record is unsatisfactory. What is he saying about that? I would be interested in knowing what the minister is going to do and who is going to make a decision as to whether or not it is acceptable or unacceptable.
“One approach could be that the health and safety agency could direct that measures be taken to attempt to improve the situation and create an incentive to strengthen the joint responsibility system.” I am not sure what that means either. Is it like waving a wishing wand that things will get better? I do not know what he means there.
“And create an incentive.” What is an incentive? Is he talking about negative incentives? Is he talking about positive incentives? Negative incentives would be, for example, an increase in the worker’s compensation assessment on the employer. It could be shutting the workplace down. I do not understand it. It could be fines, but there may be no law being broken. The minister is using strange words to try and tell us what direction he is heading with this.
He says one measure is still going on with ways to avoid the stop-work issue, as he would call it. “One measure could involve giving both certified members independent authority to stop work in situations of immediate danger. A second measure could involve the assignment of a ministry inspector to the workplace…up to full-time at the employer’s expense, to bring about improvement.” Members should think about that one for a minute. The minister is saying, if there is a problem in the workplace, maybe there should be a full-time inspector, at the employer’s expense, in the workplace.
I really thought it was very clear to members of this assembly. I can remember, when the standing committee on resources development toured on the mining safety question, that we deliberated for some time on the question of the internal responsibility system and we concluded -- and I know and I am going to quote him in a minute -- that the former Minister of Labour, the member for York Centre (Mr Sorbara) felt very strongly that the only alternative to the internal responsibility system was an army of government inspectors in the workplace.
Is that what any of us wants? Do the employers in this province want an army of government inspectors at their expense out there? I do not think so. I surely do not. I do not think that the workers in this province want it. Employers do not want it. So what is he talking about? It is a silly solution, when there is an easy one at hand, and it is the original bill, without these amendments.
I was really taken aback when I sat in my place and I heard the minister say that one possibility of dealing with the unsafe workplace is to have an inspector in the workplace, “up to full-time at the employer’s expense, to bring about improvement.” Well, I would like to know how many inspectors the minister is prepared to hire. I would like to know, in a place like Inco, with an unacceptable record, how many inspectors he is going to have in a place like that. This completely contravenes the entire principle of the internal responsibility system, and I am really surprised that the minister would even consider that.
The members can see there are reasons why we are worried about what the minister is about. Well, we do know that this bill is going to be referred to the standing committee on resources development, a group of legislators who take their work very seriously, and I say that quite seriously. They will hear the presentations, presumably all across the province, and I assume as well that business and labour will make presentations to the committee. I assume that, but -- and I am not counselling this -- I can tell members it would not surprise me if the labour movement said, “Blow it out your ear.” They thought they had a deal on this bill, and the government betrayed them; it really did. If the minister does not believe me, he should ask them. They will tell him.
I suspect they will feel they have so much at stake here that they will make presentations to the committee, but the government will look pretty stupid if it holds hearings on this bill and only the business community makes presentations. I am telling the government it would not surprise me if they did that.
The committee will debate the amendments that are presented to it, either government amendments or opposition amendments, and we will proceed as we always do. Votes will be taken and we will see how it shakes down at the end. But I am really unhappy with the signals that the minister has given about changes he wants to make.
Now, it is possible, of course, that the presentations made by people before the committee will be so strong and so compelling that the minister will not get his way and that members of the committee will not simply take direction from the minister. They will say: “No, Mr Minister. All the evidence we have heard tells us that you are doing something that you do not need to do here.” We will see.
I have been around this place a long time, and invariably when the minister indicates that he wants something in a committee, the government members toe the line and the minister gets what he or she wants. We will see, and we will see what the presentations are like. I do hope that presentations are made from both sides, but as I say, it would not surprise me -- because I do not think the labour movement should have to grovel for a safer workplace. I do not think a safer workplace should be up to the bargaining process. I think it should be up to the Legislature to ensure that workplaces are safe, and I would understand the people in the labour movement if they said the betrayal had been of such magnitude that they simply did not want to be demeaned by the process any further. As I say, I am not predicting that, but it sure would not surprise me.
Do members know what bothered me a great deal? It was when the minister indicated that he did not want to allow certified inspectors, worker or management inspectors, on the job to shut down an unsafe operation, because if the members look at the bill carefully, the safeguards against a frivolous work stoppage are substantial.
I will give members an example. An operation can be shut down under the following conditions:
“23a(1)(a) a provision of this act or the regulations is being contravened,” in other words, a law is being broken; “(b) the contravention poses a danger or a hazard to a worker; and (c) the danger or hazard is such that any delay in controlling it will cause serious risk to a worker.” If those three conditions are met, the operation, under the original bill, can be shut down.
Now, if a certified worker inspector or a certified management inspector shuts down the place frivolously, out of anger or pique or whatever, then there is a very serious censure of that person. I was reading from section 23a, and under subsection 23c(9), if the worker, or whoever, shuts down a place for frivolous reasons, that person is decertified. That is a very serious thing for somebody who takes the job seriously and has become certified by the central health and safety agency. Further, “If the certificate of a member is revoked by the agency, that person is ineligible to be recertified.” It is not just a tap on the wrist. There have not been abuses up to now, so why is the minister worried about this?
I was reading some comments just the other day by the former Minister of Labour, and this was in a publication called OH and S Canada, occupational health and safety. This was in the July/August 1989 edition. It is a Southam Business publication. They were interviewing the member for York Centre, who at that point was responsible for the bill, before he got dumped on his ear.
Mr Dietsch: Who got dumped on his ear?
Mr Laughren: Mr Sorbara.
Mr Curling: Lateral transfer.
Mr Laughren: Why does the member not ask him if he feels it is a lateral transfer?
This is what he said. He was talking about the right to shut down a place. “Some people have the wrong impression that the government is interested in investing in individual workers the discretion to decide whether plant A is going to be operating today or not. That’s absolute nonsense,” said the former Minister of Labour.
It goes on: “As well, a good part of the amended act will not apply to small business, he points out. This sector has been very vocal in protesting the bill,” the small business sector.
This is a direct quote: “Ninety per cent of the businesses in Ontario, they tell me, have under 20 employees.... So in some respects this bill exempts 90 per cent of the businesses in the province.” That is because businesses with fewer than 20 employees do not have to have the health and safety committees in the workplace. That is why he said that.
It goes on to say: “‘Anyone who has significant responsibilities in the workplace is under pressure to act reasonably,” says Sorbara. ‘What we’re trying to do is place qualified, trained, knowledgeable and responsible people in the shoes of workplace inspectors to do what inspectors would do under similar circumstances. Our inspectors aren’t primarily out there to look for opportunities to shut down a workplace and deny people an opportunity to earn a living. But they have a duty when there is imminent danger to order that something stop.’
“For example, Sorbara says, inspectors might lock out a machine because it’s unguarded or because workers nearby do not have the right protective equipment. An employer couldn’t use that machine until the problem was solved.” In other words, under the old act, a worker could refuse to work there, but the operation could continue with some other worker. That is why this bill is important.
Mr Sorbara says: “That’s the kind of thing we are thinking of. Now we’ve got a couple of options.” This is an interesting quote, and this is why I stressed what the minister said a few minutes ago about hiring inspectors to do the job. This is Mr Sorbara speaking: “Now we’ve got a couple of options. Either we can hire every fourth person in the province to serve as a labour inspector, or we can begin a process which, in the fullness of time, when fully in bloom, will give us a system where the workplace parties themselves are taking more responsibility.”
Now that is the internal responsibility system. That is what it is all about. Mr Sorbara saw that. He said we are not going to hire every fourth person in the province as an inspector when it can be done on the job, and done better on the job. Yet, here is this minister saying in his opening remarks that perhaps they are going to have to hire inspectors, paid for by employers, to do the job on the job. I cannot think of anything more ridiculous, and I do not understand why the minister agreed to gut the bill this way; I really do not. I am very disappointed.
The other argument that was used by some people was that unorganized labour was not represented on the health and safety agency, that it was management and organized labour; and on committees and so forth. The member for York Centre argues “it isn’t as big a problem as people would have you believe,”
“After all,” and this is a quote, “‘organized labour -- the trade unions -- hold beliefs that are not diametrically opposed to the interests of other workers. There’s not a conflict of interest there,’” he says. “‘The substance of what organized labour is talking about is not inapplicable or unrelated to problems that exist in workplaces that are unorganized.’” That argument was a red herring, I think most of us felt.
The member for York Centre saw that this bill was not a dangerous piece of legislation, a threat to management in the workplace. He understood that. This minister though, for some reason that I guess is made clear by the remarks of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, has agreed to go along with pulling the rug on the bill in its original form. We will see as we proceed through the process.
I hope there is full participation in the hearings across the province. I hope we do not try to hold those hearings before we have time to do them properly, for example, when the House is in session. But that is not a decision for the minister to make, and he has not indicated that either, I might add. I do believe that the standing committee on resources development has dealt with a number of health and safety issues and compensation issues and has an ongoing interest in it. I must say the members of that committee have worked very hard when they have been handed issues like this and have done a good job, in my opinion, in dealing with them. I think the minister understands that.
So I do hope that we have a full-blown, participatory process here all across the province. I urge the minister to keep his mind open on these issues and, just because he has made an opening statement on second reading indicating what he wants, that he does not insist that be the end result, if the hearings indicate and the evidence during the hearings is such that it is not necessary to do those things, and if the members of the committee feel that there will not be interference from the Minister of Labour.
Members can call me naïve, they can say I have been around here too long to even think things like that, but we are dealing with an issue that is extremely important here, and I think we all understand that. It is health and safety that is at stake here. Surely to goodness, if we err on one side, it is on the side of health and safety, not on the side of management rights. I think that is where I come down on any issue of health and safety, erring on the side of safety rather than on management rights.
I understand why there was an enormous lobby out there. I think the concerns were largely unfounded, but I also know that it was very effective.
The former Minister of Labour could not have read the opening speech on second reading that the present minister did. He could not have done it. He would have choked by page 4 or 5. Once he got started saying what amendments he was going to propose to the committee, he really would have choked on his own words, because he could not have swallowed that. He simply could not have.
So it is not fair for the minister to say that the changes which he is proposing are not substantial. They are substantial. Why would he propose them if they were not? If they were not substantial, he would have let the committee process have its way and then have government members, as a result of the hearings, propose some amendments. But he has not done that. He has said, “No, before you even start out there, these are the amendments, the changes we want to make in this bill.”
That is a worrisome beginning to this process because I really think the minister should be condemned for not having confidence in the committee process to say “There’s Bill 208,” and for not saying to the business community: “You go out there and you make your case to the committee. Don’t come and lobby me here. Go and make your case to the committee in the public hearings just like everybody else will have to.” That is not how it was done. It was done behind closed doors and that is how these proposals came to light. That is not the right way to deal with the committee process around here.
Why would we bother with this lengthy committee process, the time, the money spent travelling the province, if the outcome is predetermined? It is a waste of time for those of us who serve on the committee. It is a waste of time for the people who make presentations to the committee. If the minister has predetermined all the major changes, forget it. Barrel them through. Do not worry about the committee because it would become meaningless. There is enough cynicism out there about the political process without adding to it by gutting not only a bill, but also the committee process and the public hearing process at the same time.
I urge the minister to think carefully about what he is doing. I know he has been under enormous pressure to bring forth these changes. I understand that, but surely to goodness the role of government is such that one makes those difficult decisions and one does not get sandbagged by a lobby such as the case with this bill. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind about what happened here -- nobody’s mind. All we can do is hope that the presentations made to the committee are so compelling that members of the committee will seriously consider not doing what the minister has indicated he would like to see the committee do during the clause-by-clause debate and the proposal of amendments.
M. Pope : Monsieur le Président, il me fait plaisir de participer à ces débats au nom du Parti conservateur de l’Ontario. Nous avons des problèmes avec ce projet de loi, que j’aimerais indiquer aux membres de l’Assemblée législative et aussi aux gens de l’Ontario par l’entremise de la télévision.
We have some grave concerns about Bill 208. Quite frankly, when we put it in the context of other labour legislation that has been brought in by this government over the past year, our concerns are even more amplified than if this act was taken in isolation.
I must reflect upon, and I am going to over the next few days, the comments of the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren), particularly what I perceive to be his statement -- if I misquote him I apologize to him in advance -- that “organized labour thought it had a deal” on this bill. I take him at his word that there had been some discussion. If the Minister of Labour or the Ministry of Labour in any way participated in breaking a deal or their word on this legislation, I think that is a very serious matter that reflects upon the credibility of the current minister, his ministry and this government.
I hope we will hear more about this from speakers from the opposition party because that does concern me a great deal. It concerns me a great deal because I have put it in the context of what happened with the workplace hazardous materials information system and with Bill 162 amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act. I bring up WHMIS for one reason.
It was about this time a year ago that the then Minister of Labour approached myself and the members of the New Democratic Party, Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, and indicated that he needed co-operation to get WHMIS through, with virtually five minutes of statements from each opposition party, in order to meet an agreed-upon federal-provincial timetable for implementation. He indicated that there had been widespread consultation on WHMIS and there was broad general support for it.
We, in our party, took the minister at his word and on the very day he came to us, in fact that legislation was passed. I believe the deadline was 30 October or 31 October for the passage of that legislation.
Then I go back to my constituency and lo and behold, for the next four months I have nothing but complaints about WHMIS and about the way it is being implemented by the employees of the Ministry of Labour, its costs and the concerns that are being raised about how it does not adequately address the needs of operating companies and the needs of their employees.
So I start to wonder what is going on down here when a bunch of people who obviously got together in Toronto -- regardless of who they represent and whether or not it be big organized labour or the big trade associations of this province -- can sit around over supper and make a deal and then claim that they widely consulted everyone and there are no problems, when in fact I go home to my constituency and I hear nothing but problems about this legislation I was told had broad support.
Then we get to Bill 162 and again we are told there has been broad public consultation with injured workers, organized labour and employer groups across the province of Ontario. And lo and behold, when we proceed to second reading all hell breaks loose and in fact the Minister of Labour of the day, despite being asked three times by myself in speeches on first reading, second reading and committee of the whole on Bill 162, never does produce a list of dates of meetings that he had with organized labour and with employer groups across this province during which the specifics of Bill 162 were discussed.
Three times I spoke; on first reading, on second reading and in committee of the whole at length and each time I put the same request to the Minister of Labour of the day, not the current one, but of the day, to provide that information. It never was forthcoming. Nor do we have an economic impact statement provided to this House with respect to Bill 162 and we all know that the processes of the cabinet of this current government, similar to the processes of the cabinet of the previous Conservative administration, are that for every new legislative package an economic impact statement must be produced for the policy and priorities board of cabinet for it to consider prior to approval of statutory amendments.
So none of that information was forthcoming on the so-called consultation process and second, we find out during second reading and in committee of the whole that in fact there was virtually an unanimous feeling out there across the province by organized labour, by injured workers and their representatives and by employer groups that in fact there had been no substantive consultation on the provisions of Bill 162 whatsoever. Where did that lead us as a Legislature? It led us into weeks and months of hearings in committee on Bill 162, during which time it became clear that there had not been full consultation. Second, it was clear that because of the restrictions on time and availability imposed on the committee by its majority that not every interested party would be heard across the province of Ontario.
We then had the prospect of the then Minister of Labour introducing substantive amendments in the middle of that very process and not allowing the same interest groups to go back and comment on those amendments that he introduced.
So that is some of the background that I bring to this discussion as Labour critic for the Progressive Conservative Party over the past year. These kinds of problems of failure of process, which I talked directly and personally to the minister of the day about, and the confrontation tactics in the legislative process did not serve to further industrial relations and industrial harmony in the province of Ontario. And on three occasions when I spoke of this the answer was silence.
Here again we see, with respect to Bill 208, what appears to be a failure of process, first and fundamentally, and a lack of a consensus from the key players in the efforts that we all support to improve workplace health and safety across the province of Ontario.
The same reasons that led us to oppose Bill 162 on second and third readings and in committee of the whole lead us at this point in time to not lend support to Bill 208. With respect to Bill 162, we indicated we were not prepared to support the government on this bill because injured workers, organized labour and worker representatives have not been properly consulted and had advised us that in their opinion the rights of injured workers in this province would be adversely affected by the provisions of Bill 162, and the minister of the day refused to address those concerns and then only laterally after a lot of the hearings had taken place in the committee of the whole.
The same is true of Bill 208. Employer group after employer group, right or wrong, have deluged our offices with objections to Bill 208. They feel they have not been part of the process of developing this legislation and they have grave concerns, if not outright opposition, to the fundamental principles of it.
And so I must say that with respect to Bill 208 our position is exactly the inverse for the same reasons as our position on Bill 162. Failure of the process, unwillingness of the current minister to address those failures now, prior to the commencement of debate on second reading, and a feeling by a very important player in the resolution of this issue for the betterment of health and safety in the workplace, the failure of that key player, the employers of this province to be convinced that this is workable and it is in their interests.
I do not accept the proposition that injured workers with respect to Bill 162 were not interested in reform of the workers’ compensation system and making it work better, and I do not accept the proposition that if an employer opposes Bill 208, that employer is not interested in an improvement in the system and substance of better occupational health and safety provisions to protect the workers in the workplaces of the province of Ontario.
It is the responsibility of the government to fully consult prior to introduction of legislation, to craft the legislation to try and minimize legislative conflicts and to do it in a way that achieves a broad consensus of both organized labour and individual workers on the one hand and employers in the small business sector on the other, who must live with the consequences of our act. Both with respect to Bill 162 and with respect to Bill 208 we have failed to do this as a Legislature.
I say there has been a failure of consultation. I want to indicate that the then Minister of Labour oft-times stated, as he did in a letter to Michael Parker, vice-president of Partak Ltd, general contractors, of Cobourg, which letter was dated 9 May 1989, with respect to Bill 208 as follows:
“The proposed amendments have been formulated following extensive consultations with senior representatives from the business and labour communities. While the introduction of Bill 208 has given rise to controversy in some quarters, it has received very positive reaction from people across the province.”
That is a letter from the member for York Centre, who then goes on to outline in detail the principles of the bill. I just want to reiterate what the former minister said. “The proposed amendments have been formulated following extensive consultations with senior representatives from the business and labour communities.” It is clear that was not the fact. I would like to, in some detail, put on the record for the current minister some of the comments about what is supposed to be a process of consultation.
The former minister received a letter dated 6 March 1989 from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. A number of people had signed a petition to him and it involved a meeting that took place on 3 March 1989. The people who signed this petition urged him not to proceed with further legislative review and passage of Bill 208 in its current form, and to seriously consider the views of the business community of Ontario. I gather that these are people who were at a conference hosted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who are asking him to consult. This is the same minister who had said there had been extensive consultation with the business community.
During the meeting that obviously took place on 3 March, and as well, during a presentation to the Institute for International Research conference on occupation health and safety, held in Toronto on 13 March 1989, and this is a document printed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a number of statements were made about the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Crisis in Ontario, Politics versus Policy. It was a rather interesting perspective, not all of which I share, but a rather interesting perspective on the deterioration of a co-operative, consultative approach to formulating health and safety legislation in the province.
First, there is a very interesting comment, and it is only one paragraph, so I would like to read one paragraph from a 22-page document; “It is time for the politicians, both at Queen’s Park and in the union halls, to set aside their pious rhetoric and stop the name-calling, the theatrics and the statistical manipulations. To these people, we say to you, you are not dealing with draconian employers. Overwhelmingly, you are dealing with people who are extremely concerned about the health and safety of their employees because they are their friends and often, their own families. In addition, good health and safety conditions make good sense from a business standpoint.”
I think that is a good place to start, that it is the concern of workers and management in this province, and if it is not, it should be. They then go on to indicate that more than a year before both the federal and provincial legislation, a separate Canadian Federation of Independent Business mandate vote resulted in a two-to-one ratio for support in favour of legislating a right for all employees and for any community resident to know about potential hazards in their workplace. I am trying to give members a sense of the philosophical or policy basis from which that organization has acted.
They then go on to detail the events that relate to Bill 208. Their position is that they firmly believe Bill 208 will become an embarrassment to the industrial climate of this province and will destroy any responsible balance of joint labour-management co-operation to achieve safety in the workplace.
They then proceed to give a chronology of the bill and indicate, in no uncertain terms, that although there had been some three meetings over the process of six months with respect to general discussions on occupational health and safety, that the provisions of Bill 208 were never directly put to them or their representatives in any meetings with the former Minster of Labour, the member for York Centre, or the Ministry of Labour officials,
Without quoting further or any more extensively from this, I would ask that the minister consider this. I will just give him the dates, so he can review this internally in the ministry and see if their statement of fact conforms with the statement of fact from the ministry. Let me briefly tell members how this so-called consultation process worked. “The first session we had was on 1 and 2 February 1988 and we discussed the legislation introduced by former Labour minister Bill Wrye, namely, Bill 106. There was no hint of the many serious provisions in Bill 208.
“The second session was held on 1 and 2 September 1988 where the ministry first floated the idea of a new authority that would deliver health education and advisory programs. But there was no talk of any new regulatory legislation and, indeed, in a ministry background paper prepared for this workshop, the ministry stated, ‘The authority would also undertake a comprehensive review of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and make recommendations to enhance the internal responsibility system.’
“In our view, this meant that one of the first tasks of the new agency would be a joint labour-management study of the effectiveness of the individual’s right-to-work refusal, not stop-work, and certainly no sudden new provisions introduced without more detailed consultation and advice.
“The third meeting with the Ministry of Labour and senior representatives of organized labour was held just before Hallowe’en of 1988. This process of consultative tricks and big union treats continued. We were given another background paper which we were told to keep confidential. After all, they said, it was only a rough draft.
“We had received a distinctive impression that there would be other opportunities to examine more detailed proposals. Unfortunately, however, no minutes were taken at any of these meetings.
“Throughout all these loosely managed workshops and roundtable meetings, my business colleagues and I were both consistent and insistent in protesting against a union-dominated structure for any new agency. All throughout the latter half of 1988, my other business colleagues and the CFIB also argued vociferously against organized labour’s suggestion to certify individual workers to stop work.
“We finally get to our discussion paper. It was attached as a background information piece to the legislation which was immediately passed at first reading this past 24 January. Along with this entrenched legislation was a press release issued by the Labour ministry which stated, ‘I urge expeditious passage.’ The conclusion is that our consistent and well-researched concerns were not just ignored. We were set up.”
That is exactly the same position that organized labour, injured workers’ representatives and organizations took with respect to Bill 162. If there is a consistency in Bill 162 and Bill 208, it is that one party or another, both of which are needed for consensus and reform and improvement in occupational health and safety with respect to each of these bills, felt their advice was ignored and that they were set up.
We are now about to proceed along the same path of having hearings without having the final detail of the ministry’s position on this legislation before us. They want us to pass Bill 208 on second reading without ever introducing their amendments, with just a bare statement of principle from the minister.
I have to agree with my friend the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren) who said that the minister has indicated in his opening statement on second reading, in effect, a reversal of many of the fundamental principles of Bill 208. He cannot say, as he did in his statement at one point, that the essential principles of the bill remain intact and, at the other, do what everyone else realizes has been done, that is, change many of the essential principles of the bill.
The response to this legislation has been serious, multiple, such as to cause the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) to say, “I have not seen an issue that strong concerted opposition from the business community as has Bill 208,” an indication from the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology that the current minister would likely alter the wording of Bill 208 to make it more palatable to the business community and cabinet.
Another quote from the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology: “We had a breakdown in communication. We were lead to believe that there had been consultation with business and that they were on side.” The very words of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, a cabinet colleague of the Minister of Labour, indicate clearly that he believes there is a failure of process, a failure of consultation with respect to Bill 208. I would submit, on behalf of the injured workers of this province, there was that same failure of communication and consultation with respect to Bill 162, the Workers’ Compensation Act and its amendments.
The concerns that have been raised by the business community are numerous. I want to just summarize some of those concerns really by quoting in part -- just through reference, not by reading -- an individual group that my friend the member for Nickel Belt would accept as being a credible commentary on labour relations issues and proposed legislation, the law firm of Mathews, Dinsdale and Clark. They have put out a legislative alert with respect to Bill 208.
Their alert was delivered to our offices as members of the Legislature on 15 March 1989. The title is Legislative Alert, Bill 208 and OHSA:
“On 24 January, the Minister of Labour gave first reading to Bill 208. Bill 208 proposes substantial amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
“The highlights: Maximum fines for corporations will increase from $25,000 to $500,000. A new bureaucracy will be established. The workplace health and safety agency will ‘certify’ and ‘decertify’ certain joint health and safety committee members. A certified member may order an employer to stop specific work where the work contravenes the OHSA and poses a serious risk to a worker. Employers will be required to develop a written health and safety policy for the workplace. Minimum number of workers at the project to require health and safety representative reduced from 20 to five.” I know the minister has addressed some of these issues so I am just reading it for its historical perspective.
“A constructor must establish a workers’ trades committee if work at a project will last more than three months and employ 20 or more workers. An employer or constructor must respond in writing to any health and safety committee or representative recommendations within 30 days, and directors and officers of corporations are given duties under the OHSA and will be subject to quasi-criminal prosecutions with maximum fines of $25,000 and/or jail terms.
“The Ministry of Labour has publicly stated that these amendments to the OHSA are designed to encourage employers and workers to work together to improve workplace health and safety. The Honourable Mr Sorbara said that the amendments ‘will provide labour and management with new opportunities to work jointly to fulfil that responsibility.’
“However, the proposed amendments create additional duties and costs on employers and may result in a more adversarial approach to workplace health and safety issues. Proposed refusal to work amendments will potentially paralyse a job site or production line by a frivolous or intentionally, false safety complaint by a certified member. Work may resume only with the approval of a certified worker or an inspector. The degree of downtime and lost production by employers will be dependent on the speed, availability and efficiency of government safety inspectors.
“Two other critical defects with the proposed amendments are the increased adversarial approach to health and safety in the workplace that these changes will undoubtedly create and the rather one-sided increase in responsibility that is placed on the employer. For example, the proposed amendments, on the one hand, require written employer safety policies, written responses to joint health and safety committee recommendations and compliance with the Ministry of Labour orders.
“On the other hand, inspectors have new powers to seize employer records, corporate directors and officers have a duty to take all reasonable care to ensure that the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations are complied with and maximum fines for corporate employers are increased to $500,000. The more an employer complies with amendments, the more documentation will be available to be seized and used for quasi-judicial, quasi-criminal prosecution of employers, supervisors, officers and directors. Further, there are no corresponding amendments placing such duties or liabilities on union stewards or union executive members.
“An example of this second defect are the dramatically increased fines, increased duties on officers and directors of corporations and less control over workplace work refusals. This clearly derogates from a balanced approach to the internal responsibility system that the legislation was originally based on. The absence of duties or responsibilities on unions or joint health and safety committees in these amendments adds to this particular concern. It may also diminish the existing relative responsibilities that workers share with others for compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
“Bill 208, if passed into law in its present form, will substantially increase duties, obligations, costs and the threat of quasi-judicial prosecution against employers and their representatives. This increased adversarial approach to health and safety in the workplace will not likely promote employer-worker co-operation. Added bureaucracy and search and seizure powers of the Ministry of Labour will not clearly assist Ontario workplaces to become better places to work.”
That was the initial response last March from the first analysis of the legislation. What I have tried to indicate is the nature of the complaints. We have all received hundreds of letters from individual employers, from workers and from organizations across the province, the majority of which oppose this legislation.
I must state, however, to support what has been said by the member for Nickel Belt, that the information we have is that not only do the organized labour people support this legislation, not only do they think that they had some sort of understanding about the principles of the bill with the then Minister of Labour, but they have indicated that if this legislation is not proceeded with, and Mr Wilson made this very clear in some of his comments in Kitchener-Waterloo and in other places, they will attempt to increase the pressure on the government to have criminal charges, including serious criminal charges, brought against executives of companies where there are injuries and fatalities in the workplace.
So what l am saying is that the government has now managed to work itself into a position where by passing the legislation, there will be an increasingly adversarial approach in the workplace and, if we refuse to do anything with this legislation, we will have an adversarial approach in the workplace as well, neither of which is in the best interests of this government, of this Legislature or of the people of the province of Ontario.
What we need to have from the minister now, before we vote on second reading, is the list of his amendments to this particular piece of legislation, in detail, introduced for us to review on second reading to see how the principles of this bill have been changed, and we need to allow all of us and many groups across the province to comment on the changes that the minister is now proposing.
If we get into any other process, I say to the minister, we are going to have the same problems that we had in the workers’ compensation legislation, where the committee will be constantly interrupted in its work, amendments will be coming in after the fact and during the fact as well as before the fact, people will not feel they have had an opportunity to comment on the final product and no one will be satisfied with the legislative process. Organized labour will not, employers will not, the members of the committee will be totally frustrated and arguing about time allocations, who can be heard and who will not be heard.
I saw their problems. I sat with that committee on Bill 162 in Timmins. I saw the problems they had trying to organize the time with all of the submissions that were presented to the committee across the province. They had a very difficult time. They attempted to do their best, to hear as many people as they could, but the fact of the matter is when all was said and done, we had a confrontation or a conflict in committee about how many people would be heard, whether or not everyone had a right to be heard and when we would call a halt to this process.
I am not just talking about the debate among committee members, and I understand the conflict that took place there between the various party representatives. I am talking about the opportunity for other groups to be heard, and to be heard with respect to the final product that the minister has in his mind.
I think people are entitled to comment on the final product that the minister has in his mind, not comment on a piece of legislation that has been proposed with substantial amendments to be forthcoming, and then have them forthcoming after the people have made their presentations. It does not make sense and it becomes a very frustrating exercise for all of us here and for the people who want to participate.
One of the concerns with this legislation that has been put to myself and to many members of this Legislature has to do with the fact that unorganized labour will not be represented. That feeling comes not from someone’s supposition; that is a direct statement from the Ministry of Labour, that the worker representatives will be drawn from organized labour. If that is not the case, then I think now is the time to say that. If that is not the case, now is the time to put that one to rest.
No one is saying that organized labour cannot represent the same concerns that any employee representative would raise. No one is saying that. No one is saying that a representative of organized labour is less genuine in dealing with occupational health and safety issues, policies and programs, absent the context of industrial relations or collective bargaining. No one is saying that they will not genuinely do their best to focus on occupational health and safety issues. That is the reason they are there. We know that they will do it.
No one is saying that organized labour does not deserve credit for its historic contribution to the improvement of occupational health and safety in the workplace, but many others have shared in that progress. There are unorganized workers who are committed to it in the workplace in co-operation with other workers; employers who have gone beyond the law in the consultation process in improving conditions in the workplace, and employers who have gone beyond the law to help families and individuals who have suffered from industrial disease.
Many people have contributed to an improved climate in occupational health and safety in this province. They all deserve to be congratulated -- they do not deserve to be condemned -- and all of them have a right to be involved in this new legislative process, whether they be organized or unorganized, small or large.
A small employer is every bit as concerned about occupational health and safety as a major manufacturer. A small lumber mill operator in northern Ontario in Hearst or Timmins has every much concern for the workers in the mill and in the bush as Chrysler Canada, GM Canada or Ford Canada does, individual worker groups, who are laying pipe on a construction site in Timmins or Toronto, whether they be organized or unorganized, these small groups have as much concern about working conditions as the Ontario Federation of Labour. They all have a right to be involved in the evolution of this process and to be involved in its administration. It is up to all of us as legislators to find a way to make that happen.
I say lay that one to rest. The minister has broad contacts across the province with organized labour, the workplace and unorganized workers. The minister has the abilities -- we all have the abilities -- to bring to the fore people who would make excellent contributors to this new process, and it is up to us to find them. It is up to us to give them the help in the context of what we want to do as a Legislature to deal with Bill 208. It is up to us to help them to make it work. I urge the minister to look at that issue and bring some changes forward which would set that issue at rest.
I say again, you do not get a broad consensus on occupational health and safety issues by having supper with some of the big-shot corporate executives and some of the big-shot labour executives in this province. That leaves too many people out of it who have as vital an interest and a role to play as those people do. Yes, the consultation process is important -- let it proceed -- but that is not the be-all and end-all of legislation and the legislative process in this assembly.
Individual companies such as Partak Ltd, a representative of which was here today, have written to individual members of this Legislature voicing their concerns about this legislation. There was much concern, even though the minister in his letter of 9 May to Partek Ltd indicated there had been broad consultation and broad support for Bill 208.
So much concern was voiced to individual members of all parties in this Legislature that the minister, as a courtesy to us, prepared a generic response to Bill 208. That generic response indicated the principles of the bill and tried to address some of the issues that seemed to be a common complaint about this legislation through the mail that all of us were receiving.
How can we claim there is broad support for the principles of this bill when we are getting so much mail, and the minister has to give us a generic response to try to answer the avalanche we have all had in our offices from a variety of groups?
The Canadian Society for Professional Engineers, a professional organization, in a letter dated 19 June 1989, voiced its concerns about this bill and where it placed its members in terms of their professional responsibilities and their professional liabilities; it voiced its very serious concerns on behalf of all its members.
Now we are not just talking about employers; we are also talking about those who are contracted to perform specific services related to the workplace in Ontario. Whether they are engineers, architects or whatever, the concerns are there, and not just from management of specific companies.
Mr Speaker, I meant to give you the date of the generic letter that the former Minister of Labour sent out to all of us. It was dated 6 April 1989. It has the addressee’s name in blank, it gives the context of the bill and it repeats the statements that I quoted earlier:
“The proposed amendments have been formulated following extensive consultations with senior representatives from business and labour communities. While the introduction of Bill 208 has given rise to controversy in some quarters, it has received very positive reaction from people across the province.”
That statement is contained in the generic response; so if we use this form letter, we are all on record as saying there was extensive consultation and broad support across the province for this legislation. Fortunately, I did not use it, but others may have. In fact, that was the very question being raised by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and many other business organizations in letters that we all received and in submissions that were made to various cabinet ministers over the past months, including obviously the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.
It is clear that the situation has changed with the appointment of a new minister. I hope the new minister will address the concerns that the member for Nickel Belt put on the record when he indicated that somehow there had been a commitment of this government to organized labour to proceed with the legislation in the form that it was introduced by the former minister, the member for York Centre.
I hope he will address that issue because, whichever party we represent, it is of grave concern if there is a fundamental breach of an understanding that perhaps tied itself to other legislation or to other issues that were being dealt with by the government of the day. I want to leave that issue for the minister to address, and hopefully he will in his response.
The Minister of Labour, in a statement to the Legislature on 12 October, last Thursday, indicated in moving second reading of Bill 208 -- and I quote from page 2892 of Hansard -- “We are firm in the government’s commitment to the principles of the bill.”
This issue was addressed by the member for Nickel Belt so I will not dwell on it at any greater length, but it is my understanding that in seven fundamental areas the minister has either altered or reversed the essential policies contained in the original draft of Bill 208.
I ask the minister, in his response at the end of this debate on second reading, to address the eight principal concerns voiced by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and other groups, and address whether or not they have been altered by the amendments that the minister may be proposing and at the same time to indicate the text of the amendments that he is now proposing to alter or address the principles he now wishes to incorporate in the bill.
He indicated that Bill 208 was supported in principle. He also indicated that the bill contained a number of measures that strengthened and enhanced the system of occupational health and safety in the province. But he went on in his statement to indicate eight changes in policy that his amendments will entail. I would like to review his statement and give him the eight so he may address this.
1. “As a means of facilitating the building of this partnership and contributing to the excellence of its ultimate product, the government will propose amendments to the committee that would add to the agency a full-time neutral chair.”
2. “To address concerns about the degree of self-determination these organizations will retain and to facilitate a smooth transition, I will propose amendments to the committee that allow these organizations to decide on their composition of the board of directors as long as 50 per cent of the representation is from workers employed in that sector.”
3. “I also propose to provide for the settlement of disputes, if any, in this regard by an impartial umpire and provide up to two years to make the adjustment.”
4. “The government will propose an amendment to the committee to clarify that this right” -- the right to refuse dangerous work -- ”is directed clearly at avoiding current or immediate dangers.”
5. “In order to ensure that this is done in an efficient, comprehensive and thorough fashion, I would propose changes to the committee that provide for an orderly phasing in of the certification requirements; clarify that the sector-specific training requirements for employer and employee representatives will be identical and that existing training and expertise of candidates will be recognized in the certification and the certificate for certification.”
6. “For the first time we will propose several measures to enhance the effectiveness of Bill 208 in the construction sector.”
7. “In recognition of the intimate nature of the small workplace and the best communication techniques in these workplaces, it will be proposed to the committee” that a requirement “for employers to communicate their workplace health and safety goals and to gain the commitment of their entire workplace by requiring a written policy and program in the workplace” -- “be removed from workplaces with fewer than five employees.”
8. “We therefore propose to refer this matter, as well as the bill, of course, to the standing committee on resources development for further discussion and public input.”
I do not know if that means further amendment or not. Having gone through the debate on Bill 162 during this current year, I am not sure what that means.
Again, the minister reiterates in his statement:
“The Ministry of Labour has been engaged over the last eight months in consultation with employers and employees. They indicate broad support for the bill both in terms of its principles and in terms of much of the content.”
Clearly, even the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology does not believe that Bill 208, as it stands before this House in its unamended form, is a result of broad consultation. In fact, as I noted earlier in my statement, he is quoted as saying there had been a failure or a breakdown of the communications system.
As well, I believe it is clear that there is not broad support for the bill in terms of its principles and much of its content. In fact, there is widespread opposition to the bill in terms of many of its principles and its content, and I think it is those concerns that we have to address.
Many organizations, as well as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, have indicated their objections to us and to all political parties in this Legislature to the bill: the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association, the Council of Ontario Construction Associations, the Retail Council of Canada, the Ontario Trucking Association, the Canadian Chemical Producers’ Association, the Ontario Mining Association and the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association.
All of these organizations are important. They are of influence in the economy of this province. They should be listened to. I hope the minister will be meeting with them to redress the failure of the previous minister to do so.
But there is more than that. They have the ability, financial and otherwise, to express themselves, to meet with government, with ministry officials and with the cabinet representatives. They have the ability to lobby us at Queen’s Park for their point of view and, in fact, they are used to doing that on various pieces of legislation we deal with from time to time.
My concern is the problems we have from small businessmen, individuals who come to our constituency office in St Catharines, in Niagara Falls or in Timmins, who meet with us on Saturday morning or Friday afternoon or call us in our homes or in our offices on Sunday or Saturday, or any evening when they feel they must take the opportunity to communicate with us, to voice their concerns over this bill and how they think it will affect them.
It may be that from time to time or in some of their specific comments they are wrong. But the fact that they feel this way has to give us all concern as legislators and surely puts the onus, not on us to justify what the Ministry of Labour is doing, but on the Ministry of Labour to come up with comprehensive answers to these very detailed and specific concerns.
I do not want to go through another argument with small employers in Iroquois Falls or Matheson about whether or not they have to label used chemicals in containers when I am being told by the Ministry of Labour that everyone knows about the legislation and everyone accepts
In fact, no one knew about WHMIS in the small business sector, and no one knew what it meant in terms of training, the time that would have to be taken to teach, the fact of designating employees to teach, the cost of labelling and the cost of containerization.
None of that was told to us when this started; I do not want to go through that process again, and we should not have to, Surely it is the obligation of the Ministry of Labour to deal with those details and provide them to us so we can answer these kinds of questions when they come to us.
A generic letter of response from the Minister of Labour saying there has been broad consultation and general support is not good enough when you have people with specific individual concerns.
The lack of detailed response from the government is part of the reason why many groups in this province are being led to question whether Ontario is a good place to come and locate, invest or expand -- so much so that the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has to address it in his speeches and in question-and-answer sessions across this province. Also, Quebec and Saskatchewan in their budget documents are parading their competitive advantages, not just on taxes but in terms of bureaucracy and legislation and law.
I happen to think Ontario is a great place to work; it is one of the more progressive jurisdictions in the world in terms of workplace conditions and safety and concern for the safety of our workers. I think it is a benefit, not a detriment. But surely to goodness the Minister of Labour and the cabinet members of this government have an obligation time and time again to make these statements, to answer these concerns and to change the laws to make them more palatable, more acceptable and more workable in a co-operative, coherent approach to occupational health and safety in the province.
I hope we are not going to get into the confrontation that evolved out of the processes of Bill 194 that has led to some of the problems we now see in the health care system. Surely we are not going to see the kind of confrontation we have seen with judges and justices of the peace that is going to lead to the kind of job action in the justice system this Friday in this great city. Surely we are not going to have the confrontation from the classroom that we have seen because of the unilateral decision of the Treasurer to rewrite pension legislation without consultation.
We do not need that kind of adversarial process between the government and everyone else in occupational health and safety in this province. We already have two strikes against us with Bill 162. Surely we do not want to strike out as a government and as a Legislature with respect to Bill 208. We need the co-operation of everybody in our first and most fundamental priority of improving occupational health and safety in this province.
It is the minister’s role to ensure that co-operation, to ensure that there is a full understanding of the future direction of the government in Bill 208, and if there are tradeoffs, to honour those tradeoffs. That is why I want to return to what my friend the member for Nickel Belt said. Not only that, there is a more fundamental obligation upon the Ministry of Labour to indicate in detail how much paperwork will be involved, how much time per month will have to be spent on Bill 208, what the reporting requirements will be in some detail, what exactly will be the administrative limits of designated employees in the Ministry of Labour to go in and seize records and any other documents that they see fit for the purposes of this legislation.
All these matters, which are raised in our constituency offices, surely are the kinds of nitty-gritty operational things that the Ministry of Labour should be able to answer now.
Bill 208 was introduced in January. Surely to goodness, after nine months, going on 10, we should know how this system is going to work. We should know who the key representatives will be; we should have some idea of their background. We should know what is going to happen in the Ministry of Labour offices on University Avenue. We should know exactly what its impact will be out in various regions of the province and how expeditiously or nonexpeditiously the Ministry of Labour will handle the obvious confrontations that may arise from time to time, albeit regrettable, for whatever reason.
These are the kinds of concerns that lead people to reject innovative reforms and occupational health and safety legislation: the concerns about how it is going to work -- not about the goals or principles but about how it is going to work and whether it is going to add to the burden of government intervention and bureaucracy, either in their businesses or in their personal lives, on a day-to-day basis.
We can start putting people in jail, if that is going to be the context of Mr Wilson’s comments: “If we don’t get Bill 208, we’ll start asking for jail terms for executives,” Has it deteriorated to that, where we are going to have jail terms? Surely to goodness the goals we all share for improved occupational health and safety legislation lead us to other, more important avenues. I do not think organized labour or workers’ representatives should be reduced to threatening jail terms for people in order to get some adherence to provincial law or to what is required to improve working conditions in the workplace for organized workers or unorganized workers in this province.
I urge the minister in his new capacities to set these concerns to rest; give a detailed statement on how this process will work, and lay some of these concerns to rest. Make sure they do not affect the ability of this Legislature to pass Bill 208 or the willingness of the people of the province to accept Bill 208.
I have some concerns about the establishment of an agency, another bureaucracy. I think the way to go is to have a clear, legal framework of rights, obligations and responsibilities in the workplace and to leave our priority at that. To set up another costly agency with the costs that we have seen the minister estimate -- the Ministry of Labour has given us the estimate of how much this is going to cost -- I do not think is the way to go.
We already have health and safety associations in this province. We have seen them reformed in 1985 and 1986 as a result of hearings that were held in this assembly. They are starting to work better. Surely to goodness there are other consultative mechanisms that workers and management in this province can adopt on an individual basis, from region to region, and not have some expensive bureaucracy overseeing all out of University Avenue.
There is better and more talent available on a nonpaying, co-operative basis across this province. There are people with experience in the workplace, both good and bad, experience with working conditions, who are committed to a continued improvement of occupational health and safety in this province. I know they would step forward and offer their services to the workers of this province, to the employers of this province and to all of us to make a better system for the benefits it brings to our society.
Even as we speak today, many groups and organizations are formulating representations to the Minister of Labour. This issue is not settled. The issue is not finished. The minister’s statement about intent does nothing to resolve the concerns and fears of many people across the province about where we are headed. Until we have the amendments of the minister, until we are allowed to analyse them and until these many groups are able to analyse them themselves and make submissions to us on an informed basis, knowing what the minister has finally in mind for this bill, until we have that in hand, none of these concerns, none of these criticisms are going to abate whatsoever. The minister has it in his hand now to resolve all of these issues and to continue on.
In summary and conclusion, we have some concerns about Bill 208 that we have tried to be forthright about. On Bill 162, we voted against the bill because organized labour and injured workers and their representatives did not feel they had been properly consulted. We had some concerns about the content of the bill that were not answered by the minister in spite of numerous opportunities to do so.
With respect to Bill 208, we have the employers, and their comments are reiterated by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology, saying that they have not been properly consulted and saying that they have concerns with the principles of the bill. We think the proper process for this government to take now is to suspend the debate on Bill 208, bring in its amendments, allow these same groups that have written to all of us to comment on its amendments, and we will go from there and see if we can get an attitude of understanding and co-operation towards bringing this bill through.
Otherwise, the minister knows what is going to happen. We are going to have long public hearings. We are going to have very confrontational debate and voting in the committee. The process will not have been expedited one whit, nor will this bill be a product of co-operation, mutuality and respect, which we need in occupational health and safety legislation in this province.
The minister has the process in his hands if he wishes to use it. If he does not, we are in for a long session in the committee as we review the bill. It is something I think can be shortened with a little bit of time being taken now.
Mr Dietsch: It is a pleasure for me to be able to rise today and speak on what I think is a very solid step in the right direction. I think it is necessary to put it into perspective for my friends who are busy listening to what I say.
We are talking about seven million workdays lost. We are talking about 360 men and women who died last year. We are talking about a provincial cost to the economy of $700 million, not to mention the cost of a workers’ compensation system of $1.45 billion.
On Thursday 12 October the Minister of Labour introduced for second reading a bill to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The amendments proposed in Bill 208 will provide Ontario workers with the most progressive piece of legislation in any jurisdiction on this continent.
Bill 208 was crafted to significantly build on two important health and safety principles: (1) that the people in the workplace, both employer and employee, work as partners together to foster health and safety; (2) that the employer and the employee be appropriately trained to recognize and control the risks in the workplace.
These are necessary adjustments to the act, which is now 10 years old. In the interim, we have seen dramatic changes to the Ontario workplace. Work in Ontario is increasingly technical and technologically complex and I know my friends opposite understand that.
Work today is largely based on information, knowledge, awareness and familiarity with sophisticated equipment. As a result, there is a need for workers to be better educated, better trained to carry out their jobs and to do so in a way that makes us competitive in the world market.
The increased complexity of jobs, the utilization of technology and advanced equipment and processes also generates new and more complicated health and safety risks. New equipment brings with it new performance requirements and the new potential for dangers.
As well as equipment, workplaces have seen a huge increase in the numbers and types of chemicals used on the job. Every week new compounds are created and put into our workplaces. The level of protection against potential health and safety risks from such substances requires a far more sophisticated knowledge for us to understand them and take the appropriate health and safety precautions.
Clearly, the workforce must be given the opportunity to become better educated about the materials they are handling on a day-to-day basis. The workplace hazardous materials information system, referred to in this House as WHMIS, the amendment put in place in 1988, addressed this issue of toxic chemicals.
Bill 208 builds on the workplace hazardous materials information system, initiatives in providing for better education and better training of the workplace parties. At the heart of this bill is the principle of fostering a partnership between business and labour in taking on what is referred to as joint responsibility for health and safety in our workplaces in this province.
The bill will create the Workplace Health and Safety Agency. Its chief mandate will be to develop and deliver safety education to men and women in the workplace. The agency will give occupational health and safety a focus it has never had before, providing a source of common direction to attack health and safety problems on a province-wide basis. Most important, it will provide labour and management with a forum in which to discuss, deliberate and act on health and safety matters as equals, as partners -- that is right, as equals and partners -- on a very important aspect of the agency’s education and training function: to develop a standard of knowledge and competence in occupational health and safety.
It will lead to certification of joint health and safety committee members. I know how important that aspect is because I come from a labour background of working 24 years on a factory floor. I can attest to the importance of that education, that training and that need for certification so there are quality people in the workplace.
To become certified, committee members will have to have special training provided for and authorized by the agency. At least one labour and one management member of every committee will be certified. Certification ensures that committee members have the information and knowledge they need to make effective judgements on health and safety matters, a very important issue. I am pleased to see members opposite listening attentively as I address these concerns.
The bill considerably extends the number of joint health and safety committees in this province. Armed with proper education and training, committee members will be better able to acquaint themselves with the testing strategies, such as air monitoring and other industrial hygiene investigations. The bill requires they be consulted and present during such testing.
Armed with that proper education and training, committee members will be better able to understand the technical details of workplace health and safety monitoring reports commissioned by the employer, which the bill ensures committee members have access to.
The bill requires committee members to inspect part of the workplace at least once a month, as long as entire workplaces are inspected at least no less than once a year. That is an important attribute of this bill. I know that members will work hard on health and safety committees to ensure that those safety concerns are addressed before it comes to the area of dealing with stoppage of work. It will be done on an ongoing basis to ensure that they are addressed on an ongoing basis.
The bill also requires employers to respond to the written committee recommendations within 30 days of those recommendations having been made. I think it is important to note that no longer will it be eligible for employers to disregard those concerns that have been put forward. It will be necessary for them to respond in writing within 30 days -- the employer’s response being in writing -- and if they disagree with the committee, they must set out the relevant reasons why. If he agrees with those recommendations, he must, or they must, outline a timetable on which action will be taken.
Let’s look at those points. First, we are going to be dealing with the employer and employee committee that will be reviewing the workplace. It will be addressing the concerns that have been pointed out in writing to the committee. If there is agreement on the concern being addressed as a safety issue, the employer must outline how, when and where these eligible areas will be taken forward with a timetable in which to act.
The bill also expands on the enforcement capabilities of the Ministry of Labour. It increases the ability of the Ministry of Labour inspectors to carry out their role and increase the maximum fine for those convicted of breaking the law.
Following the minister’s introduction of the bill for second reading and his suggestions of the kind of changes to some features of the bill, we witnessed in this House a very unfortunate and unfounded attack on the proposed process – disgusting, to say the least.
The member for Hamilton East (Mr Mackenzie) accused the minister and the government of gutting the bill and betraying labour.
Mr Wildman: Hear, hear.
Mr Dietsch: I can tell the member that nothing can be further from the truth. It is absolutely ridiculous. He knows it and I know it. I cannot allow these kinds of accusations to go unanswered. The changes to the bill amount to a set of proposals from the minister to the committee.
Mr Wildman: Oh, come on. Who is being ridiculous now?
Mr Dietsch: He sits on the committee and knows these are intended to help make the implementation of the bill more feasible.
Nothing, I repeat, in these proposals undermines the important principles of this bill. The crucial partnership between business and labour, the support for better training, the expanded role of the workers as part of a joint health and safety committee, among many other steps, are all sustained and untouched by the proposals raised last week.
Let’s look at the claims made by the member. He says the bill has been gutted. I say let’s look at the facts. The bill raises fines from $25,000 to $500,000. The bill requires joint health and safety committees at some 20,000 additional workplaces, including retail sites and construction projects, and places these committees in virtually all workplaces with 20 or more employees.
The bill gives these committees a more effective role, as I just spelled out, inspecting the workplace regularly, making recommendations to the employer on health and safety issues and requiring a written response from the employer within 30 days. The bill expands the powers of the ministry inspectors in terms of what they can require. This is truly the most progressive piece of health and safety legislation we have seen in a very long time.
The member for Hamilton East claims that the government has bowed to business pressures. Did they advocate a 20-fold increase in fines, the expansion of inspectors’ powers or increased responsibility for committees? They did not.
The accusation is that the government betrayed labour by suggesting changes to the composition of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency; specifically, the suggestion of adding a neutral chair. This change is intended to add efficiency and sound administrative strength to the proposed agency. You know it, Mr Speaker, and I know it. This chair would be selected by business and labour jointly. This chair would be responsible to the members of the board.
The accusation is that the proposed changes betray construction workers. On the contrary, the bill requires, for the first time -- that is right, for the first time -- joint health and safety committees on all projects with more than 20 employees. In addition, the minister is suggesting that where there are 50 or more workers on a project for six months’ duration or more, there is the added requirement for certification. The reason for this higher threshold is the high turnover of workers on a construction project and the logistical problems this creates.
There has been a lot of concern expressed over the issue of stop-work. With respect to that issue, the minister has himself pointed out that this is the most contentious issue, that it is one deserving public discussion, and he has proposed a thorough review of this issue, including public hearings at the committee stage.
Something I am proud of in this government is the open and accessible approach to how we deal with legislation, unlike the way legislation has been dealt with in days gone by; long gone by, I would hope.
One possible approach has been made available to the standing committee on resources development and it is intended, again, to preserve the principle of workplace partnership. It has been pointed out that in the bill which is founded on partnership and joint action, it is inconsistent to allow the authority to act unilaterally on stop work. In many cases the working relationships between employers and employees are of the sort that Bill 208 promotes, and at these places, joint arrangements and other approaches are likely to be quite appropriate.
I know that from dealing with workplaces, from a previous role I had before I came into this House. I know my friends opposite shudder every time I mention that I was a union leader and every time I mention that I represented labour. I know that kicks the pegs out from my friends opposite, because they like to hold up the pedestal that they are the only, sole supporters of labour. Not true. There are many of my friends on this side of the House who do an admirable job at representing those concerns. Most particularly, the newly appointed minister has already been recognized as an individual who is willing to hear those concerns and deal with them justly in an air of fairness. No one in the province of Ontario can object to dealing with things in an air of fairness.
There are workplaces where the joint approach is clearly not operating, and those are, as a result, dangerous workplaces. In these instances, other arrangements are clearly required. It is quite possible that, let’s call them bad actors, will face independent authority to stop work or will have a ministry inspector assigned to that workplace for as much time as it takes to improve the situation, the health and safety practices, in the workplace.
In other words, nothing the minister said last week suggests that the right to stop work, or the unilateral right to stop work, will be removed from the bill. It is clear to anyone who has read the bill or has listened to the minister in the House that the proposals introduced by the minister in this House last week are a very important stride forward.
I sincerely hope, and I have that flame of optimism that is part of my Liberal makeup that says we will not find ourselves in the unfortunately ironic situation of preparing legislation giving workers a much greater role in responsible health and safety and at the same time have threats of job action and labour strife ringing in our ears that I sat in this House and listened to. I am talking about in the workplace co-operative partnership, not adversarial roles.
Those of us who truly seek improved health and safety in Ontario’s workplaces must continue to work together to ensure that these important steps are put in place in order to bring about a safer, more productive working environment. The bill deliberately sets the scene for those kinds of improvements by placing the principal responsibility for the workplace health and safety on those who have repeatedly told us they want that responsibility -- the employer and the employee working together as partners co-operatively, jointly.
It is only when the workplace parties cannot or will not carry out those responsibilities that progressive steps are taken by the appropriate authorities. The members have witnessed them recently and I have witnessed them. They are not the ideal, but sometimes it is necessary to ensure that standards are maintained. Mr Speaker, surely that is the way this workplace in our province ought to operate in the matter of workplace health and safety. You know, and I know, we all win when we work co-operatively together.
There is an increasing trend in business today of involving employees more and more in the running of business. Some of the most successful businesses, in my opinion, are those that have worked in that partnership together. They are businesses that have been founded on employee input. They are businesses that have been founded on joint operations and on co-operative partnership. I think it is important to stress that. The trends in today’s workplaces are significantly different and we require that co-operation.
This approach improves morale and job satisfaction. This approach offers benefits for the employees, ideas and input. This approach increases the employee’s sense of partnership, commitment and loyalty. Ultimately, these factors contribute to improved productivity and quality.
Health and safety can only benefit from joint commitment. This province’s experience with the Occupational Health and Safety Act has in the last 10 years demonstrated that. Where workplace parties dedicate themselves to the internal responsibility system it does indeed have the major impact on health and safety in the workplace. Improved health and safety results in greater productivity and competitiveness by improving that morale and efficiency and lowering those compensation costs. That $1.45 billion would be better spent on wages in the pocket, rather than compensation costs. We know that; my friends opposite know that. This government is striving to fulfil a chewing away of those costs in those commitments to lower those health and safety traumatic areas in this province of Ontario.
It is my view that Bill 208 offers an appropriate mix of incentives and enforcement measures to make the Occupational Health and Safety Act an up-to-date and effective piece of legislation. As a result of Bill 208 I look forward to safer workplaces, fewer fatalities, fewer on-the-job injuries and fewer work-related illnesses. I know in working together we can accomplish that goal. I know if we all worked as hard towards that goal as sometimes we do at working at odds in this House we could achieve it. That partnership here could spill off into that workplace. I think it is an important extension into that Ontario workplace and it will be more productive and more efficient.
Strengthening the Occupational Health and Safety Act will mean both social and economic benefits and I urge members to allow the committee on resources development to get on with the job of reviewing those outstanding features of the bill and of implementing the appropriate changes that may come as a result of the committee. I have been on the committee and I know there have been changes in the bills that I have worked on and I know that even after many of us leave this House there will, through the committee process, be improvements through public hearing process; there will be input.
I heard my friend opposite comment on the types of development of hearing process that have gone on already and whether we have been open to airing the concerns of the bill wide enough so that business and labour could have input, and was there a consultation process that was large enough that there was a direction that could be followed. There was much consultation. In fact, it still goes on today and I know that it will go on through the committee process. I know that our friends opposite have said that there has been a lack of consultation. Not so.
This bill in fact has had considerable consultation, and I look forward to the public forum process and hearing from members of the community at large, from business, from small business, from construction, from labour, from nonorganized labour, from citizens at large. I know who has taken a great interest in this piece of legislation and will come forward, I am sure.
I cannot help but comment on a few of the points that have been made today and previous comments that have been made. During Bill 162 our friends wanted, in fact demanded amendments be put forward so that the committee process would have an idea on where we were going, what changes were being put forward that they could study, we could study together, work together to make better the end product of that bill.
Not today. Today, they find fault with the fact that the minister gave an indication. We do not talk out of both sides of our mouth. They say we talk out of the whole round of the mouth. It gets confusing from a person who is newly elected but not ignorant of the political process to hear people talk on this side and that side, all around. It becomes very confusing. I cannot believe that the people watching would have an understanding of what is going on.
I know that members opposite have given an indication already of some thoughtful consideration. I know that there are many in the business community who will come forward who have been working towards putting thoughtful and measured print together so they can submit it to the committee, so that we in the committee will have an opportunity to pay close attention, as we have always done. I know from sitting on Bill 162 that the process was open. Now the cries come that it fell on deaf ears.
I know the opposite. I know that the members on the committee took the challenge, they took the information that was brought forward and they sorted it. I might say the committee did a good job under the direction of the committee chairman, and I look forward to this under the direction of the committee chairman, being the same committee chairman I would hope. Certainly he should be rewarded for the very eloquent and direct job that he has done in the resources development committee. I think it is important to note that the committee process allows many individuals in this province to have input into that legislation.
There was a view that just opposition members were interested in this piece of legislation. I want to tell you that I believe every person in this House is concerned about health and safety in the workplace. I choose to be an optimist in that vein. Albeit we all approach it from somewhat different directions, so only time will tell whether the direction has been a proper direction or not. Only time will tell that. I have no doubt in my mind that time will show the changes that will be made for the benefit of health and safety in the workplace and the province of Ontario will be held up as a model. Many across this nation and across North America will be looking at this model. I know that through the open and accessible process, the sense of fairness that the minister has already exemplified. I know, and I feel quite confident that the process will allow us to develop what I think will be a very good piece of legislation.
I want to take the time while I am on my feet to re-emphasize a couple of what I think are very important points. I know everyone is interested in the sense of fairness and in the sense of good legislation in the province of Ontario. I outlined that costs, as high as they are, are really, in my mind, insignificant to the lives that are lost. It is not good enough that we can carry on in the way that we have been carrying on. It is not good enough by today’s standards, by today’s technology and by today’s advancement that we can accept those kinds of injuries as being commonplace within the workplace.
Strengthening labour-management partnership will help us to achieve what I consider our goals. I am pleased to be a part of that process. I have said in my comments that I come from a labour background, that I worked for 24 years on the factory floor, that I understand what workers go through. I have seen workers injured. I have been an injured worker myself. I know the traumatic feelings that not only the workers go through, but their families go through.
I know that the general public at large expects and has the right to demand that we deliver safe workplaces in this province. You cannot do that without proper training. I think one of the fundamental parts of this bill is the fact that we are going to train individuals that they have a sense of partnership within this whole process.
I know, from being involved in health and safety in the workplace, that it requires a co-operative vein; that it requires us to work co-operatively together; that it is difficult for many of us who get swallowed up in our own lives of working on our day-to-day jobs and fulfilling our outside activities on an ongoing basis -- and many of them are varied -- to find time to train. To find time for education and understanding and knowledge of those areas of concern is very difficult. This bill will ensure that we deliver proper training to individuals.
We talk about education in the province of Ontario and we all know that it is the base, that it is the foundation, so why would it not stand to reason that the training within the workplace will provide for us the avenue we will take that will educate workers in such a way that they will be able to overcome those areas? They will be able to stop and think before they act in a workplace situation that endangers them, whether it endangers them by loss of a finger, loss of a hand, loss of an arm or however that affects them. It is important that they have that equal footing so that they can work in a better, safer condition and if they do not cause the traumatic feeling for their families.
It is, I think, one of the bases for us in this province to make sure that knowledge is provided in such a way that it is accessible and able to be used; that when we look at some of the things that we are finding in the workplace today as being long-range possibilities of accidents or injuries or illness, we develop a technique that we can counteract those areas; that we can develop within ourselves an opportunity that we know that people going into a workplace setting are not going to be subjected to the fears of whether they are going to walk out in a whole form as they walked in.
My friends in this House, having varied backgrounds and varied experiences, know full well that is why I, as an individual, choose to believe that everyone in this House supports the principle of it, supports the meaning and that it is the different approach that we will take, the development that we will enhance ourselves with through the committee process that will allow us to develop legislation that will be second to none.
I have to comment in relationship to the neutral chair in its bipartite approach. The minister, very clearly, very succinctly, pointed out that the “essential...bipartite nature of joint accountability and trust in this agency would be threatened if the bill did not require the chair to be selected by the parties and be accountable to them.” That is a quote from Hansard in terms of the delivery of the minister’s speech.
Some members opposite, in the excitement of recognizing that Bill 208 was coming on the floor, I think got caught up in what they perceived was in the bill as opposed to what the minister said. I think it is important and I cannot emphasize strongly enough that it is very clearly pointed out in the address of the minister and all it really requires is my friends opposite to pick it up and read it. It is in the English language. Iti is easy to understand and it is very clear.
I feel bad that my friend opposite the member for Hamilton East is not able to be with us today to hear my remarks. I know that he probably is in his office listening to my remarks because I know how clear he would want to be on what I am saying today.
As I wrap up, I want to point out that the very important component of the workplace partnership, the education and training, the enhanced rights and responsibility and the enhanced accountability in the workplace are very important areas. I know that I take my commitment serious, not only to this House but to the constituents who elected me, to make sure that the legislation that we develop will in fact be the kind of legislation that will enable us to reach our goals and our objectives.
Let me say that I believe that people in the province of Ontario, after this legislation has had its full public hearings, with its potential for change that comes about as a result of that public hearing process, as all members in this House know, will develop what I consider to be a landmark piece of legislation that many will want to copy, that many will use as the model for ensuring that their workplace employees will be well looked after into the future.
I want to say that that is my belief. I know we can do it. With the help of my friends opposite and the open and accessible committee process that we have, I know it will be achieved. I know that my friends take my comments seriously. I know that they have listened intently, for which I thank them, and I look forward to working with the committee members in the future to develop our landmark legislation.
Mr Wildman: I listened to the member’s comments and I must say that, while he said at times he was confused by some of the comments made on this side of the House, I was a little perplexed by some of his descriptions of how the committee process works, particularly when he referred back to the debate in committee on Bill 162, the workers’ compensation amendment bill.
As I recall in that debate, the members of the party supporting the government on the committee were adamant that they did not want to extend hearings. At one point they did not want any hearings, of course, but when they did have them, they did not want them extended. Then when many, many groups from all over the province appeared before the committee during the period of time we had for hearings, even though we could not hear half of the ones that had said they wanted to appear, when they appeared and gave us all very similar proposals for amendment to the bill, without question the Liberal members on that committee rejected the amendments. They said the bill had to be passed as drafted.
When we juxtapose that position of the Liberal members on the committee with the position that is being presented to us now on Bill 208 on occupational health and safety, that is why I become perplexed. How is it that in the workers’ compensation bill the Liberal members could not accept amendments, even though the overwhelming number of groups that appeared before that committee suggested the need for amending a number of significant parts of that legislation, but now when we deal with the legislation on occupational health and safety, the Liberals are saying we must have amendments, we must consider amendments?
Mr Elliot: It gives me a great deal of pleasure today to rise in my place and compliment my desk mate of going on three years now for an excellent summary of a bill which all of us have been grappling with seriously for a fair period of time now. I found his remarks to be succinct to the point that they accurately reflect what is in the bill and, at the same time, I think because of his own personal background, we should pay attention to his comment on the bill a little more closely than maybe we do to some others. He obviously, from some of his comments, has been a labour leader and has been very conscious of safety in the workplace for a good number of years. I think the number he mentioned was 24.
I know from my own experience of probably 30 years in the workplace -- mine was a little bit different than his, but I did have a workplace somewhat similar -- I too was concerned about safety measures in the workplace. I think the thing we should focus in on here is the awareness level of the need for this particular piece of legislation. The costs associated in money alone are horrendous in this particular area. Something needs to be done.
But in my short time in this Legislative Assembly, I think the human cost associated with both death in the workplace and serious injury or even minor injury in the workplace has been one of the things that I and my staff have spent probably the majority of our time concerned about. It is obvious that something has to be done with the present legislation to save both the cost in dollars and the cost in human suffering.
I think my colleague the member for St Catharines-Brock (Mr Dietsch) succinctly put together a really nice summary of why we should sit down in committee, further seriously consider this important piece of legislation and make it as good as it can be.
Mr Morin-Strom: I would like to respond briefly to the statement by the member for St Catharines-Brock (Mr Dietsch) on Bill 208. The member fails to recognize the fact that this bill, with the amendments that the government is now proposing for it, is a watered-down version of the bill that had been introduced earlier this year.
I find it quite interesting, in fact, that today we have here assisting the Minister of Labour and quarterbacking the bill, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, who has played such a great part in ensuring that the interest of the business coalition that has been acting to fight the provisions of this bill would get the amendments it wanted placed before this House, and ensuring that the Liberal members of this government will come forward and support the business coalition’s amendments -
I think it is quite clear that the former Minister of Labour was removed from his post because of the initiatives he had made with respect to the initial writing of Bill 208 and that the bill as originally formulated did provide some measure of health and safety protections to the workers of this province. The gutting of this bill by the business coalition, now supported by Liberal members such as the member for St Catharines-Brock and quarterbacked within the Liberal Party quite clearly by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, has been an affront to all the workers of this province.
I think this member should stand up and admit who it is that he is representing when he discusses this important bill, which the workers of this province want to see in terms of the original form, not in the gutted form that the Liberals are proposing at this time,
Mr Adams: I must say I find the remarks of the member for Sault Ste Marie (Mr Morin-Strom) quite extraordinary. I do not speak with the detailed technical knowledge of this legislation that the member for St Catharines-Brock has, but I do speak as a private member of this House who spends an enormous amount of time on Workers’ Compensation Board business. Not only in my office do we conduct the business of an MPP, as he deals with injured workers’ problems; we also have worker counsellors who use my office as a base for their counselling of injured workers. So I see these workers literally on a daily basis.
How the member for Sault Ste Marie can suggest that co-operative legislation --
Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I really do not like to interrupt the member at this time but, as I understand it, the time is set now for response to the member for St Catharines-Brock and not the member for Sault Ste Marie.
Mr Adams: I do understand that, but my remarks relate directly to those of the member from St Catharines-Brock. This is a co-operative initiative. It requires the responsible involvement of both worker and management. As far as I am concerned, the workplaces in this province can only be safe if all of those in those workplaces are involved in safety. This legislation is co-operative legislation involving workers and management.
The Deputy Speaker: Comment period is over. Would the member for St Catharines-Brock wish to reply?
Mr Dietsch: Yes, I would. I would like to thank my colleagues in the House for their kind compliments, those of them of course who paid kind compliments. I can understand the member for Sault Ste Marie being perplexed. I am perplexed at him lots of times, so that does not surprise me,
It is full public hearings. The process for Bill 208, which we are debating in the House today, is going to develop, I think, a very good piece of legislation.
There is a point that I would like to cover. Continually in this House I hear of the previous Minister of Labour being removed from the post. Nothing could be further from the truth. As one would stand in this House and make accusation after accusation, innuendo after innuendo, it is easy to do those kinds of things. They should put some fact into it, prove what they are saying, then I will believe them. But up to that point in time, I can only consider the source.
The bill is being accused of being gutted. I outlined those areas. Nothing could be further from the truth. The important point is partnership in the legislation, employees and employers working together in partnership. That is what I want to emphasize and that is what will make Ontario workplaces safe.
Mr Callahan: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I notice that the member for Sudbury East (Miss Martel) is making interjections which are contrary to the standing orders. As well, she is not sitting in her seat. The fact is that we only have four members of the opposition and the third party.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to remind members that interjections from any seat are never in order.
Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I just want to point out to you that that is Mr Callahan, not Mr O’Callahan.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you very much. Would other members wish to participate in this fine debate? The member for Sudbury.
Mr Campbell: One of the fine legislative techniques is how to shave a 30-minute speech down to six minutes, but I will give it a good shot anyway.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak today.
Mr Wildman: You can speak tomorrow too.
Mr Campbell: I could speak tomorrow too. I understand that. But unfortunately House duty changes and I am not here.
I wanted to talk a bit about partnership and training and the fact that Bill 208 reflects the government’s determination to revitalize and strengthen the essence of the occupational health and safety system and create a system that will foster a strong partnership between labour and management to collaborate in controlling the risks in the workplace; a system that will provide us with lasting long-term abilities through improved training and education to reduce workplace illness and injury in this province.
Certainly the idea of Bill 208 is about dealing with partnership and training, strengthening the labour-management partnership for ensuring health and safety at the workplace, ensuring that both labour and management have the training and education necessary to give full effect to their health and safety efforts.
I want to deal for a minute with the changing nature of the workplace. As has become evident throughout the past decade, work in Ontario is increasingly technical and technologically complex. For the most part, work today is based on information, knowledge, awareness and familiarity with sophisticated equipment and processes. As a result, there is a need for workers to be better educated and better trained to carry out their jobs and to do so in a way that makes us competitive in the world market.
The increased complexity of jobs and the utilization of technologically advanced equipment and processes also generates new and more important complicated health and safety risks. The need for an increasingly well-educated workforce is clear and this need extends to good training in health and safety. Better training provides a way of ensuring that the goal of safer workplaces, which are in the interest of both labour and management, are realized. These goals can only be realized through co-operative efforts in a spirit of partnership.
I have been speaking in some rather general terms about the need for partnership and training. Let me now turn to discuss some of the recent examples of important initiatives in health and safety that embody these principles.
The workplace hazardous materials information system or WHMIS: A key example of partnership and training is the workplace hazardous materials information system, a national system for labelling hazardous substances, providing information on the substances to workers and ensuring that workers have appropriate training on the WHMIS system.
Many Canadians are exposed to hazardous materials on the job. In the past, information about these materials was often incomplete, inconsistent or not available. This means that employers and workers were often unaware of the hazards of a material in the workplace and necessary handling precautions. By setting standards for the type and amount of information to be given to the user of hazardous materials by providing the appropriate training, it is expected that illnesses and diseases caused by hazardous materials in the workplace would be reduced.
It is important to note that this initiative is a tripartite effort involving a partnership between labour, employers and the federal and provincial governments.
I could go on, but I see the hour is turning up to six o’clock.
On motion by Mr Campbell, the debate was adjourned.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to remind the members of the House that because of an order of the House, the House will not sit tomorrow morning and will reconvene at 1:30 pm.
The House adjourned at 1758.