The House met at 1330.
Mr Mackenzie: It is apparent over the last two weeks that the promise made by the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) in June 1989 to establish critical care hotlines for physicians is not being kept. Each region of the province was to have a network operating this year, yet doctors around the province have heard nothing since the minister’s premature announcement.
Even in areas where such an integrated trauma or critical care hotline has been fully developed, officials associated with setting up such a hot line find themselves waiting for the go-ahead from the Ministry of Health. The hotline I am talking about is the REACH line that has been established in Hamilton. REACH stands for the Regional Enquiry and Access to on-Call Health professionals, which will give doctors from Oakville to Niagara immediate, round-the-clock access to 250 medical specialists in Hamilton hospitals. Yet the hotline remains inoperative as it awaits ministerial approval.
The case of the REACH hotline is just another example of the Minister of Health’s total inability to deal effectively with the needs of critically ill patients in the province of Ontario.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr Jackson: Last Wednesday. 8,800 college teachers, librarians and counsellors went out on strike, interrupting classes for some 110,000 community college students. The Minister of Education (Mr Conway) has stated that the government will not be intervening in this dispute. This position counters statements made by the Premier (Mr Peterson) back in 1984 when he was Leader of the Opposition. At that time, he repeatedly called on the Minister of Education to resolve that matter and intervene in the strike.
The minister has justified his position by saying there can be no doubt that both parties “have it within their power to resolve this at the table.” But given the fact that there are no meetings scheduled for two weeks, how can the minister expect the two sides to resolve this dispute? Meanwhile, he is jeopardizing the academic careers of 110,000 students.
Rather than sitting on its hands, the government should take a direct role in getting the two sides back together. This simple solution will help bring about a quick and reasonable settlement so that students can get back to the classroom as quickly as possible. Once again, the Liberals are demonstrating their lack of leadership on this important issue in our province. It brings into question their commitment to Ontario’s community colleges and the students they serve.
PORTRAIT OF WILLIAM DAVIS
BRAMPTON SMALL BUSINESS WEEK
Mr Callahan: I am pleased to rise to join with the Premier (Mr Peterson) in congratulating my predecessor, the former Premier William Davis, and his family on the occasion of the formal unveiling of his portrait. It is a proud moment for Bill and his family and all citizens of Brampton to have his portrait take its rightful place on the walls of the Legislative Building among Ontario’s 17 previous premiers.
In addition to that, in the light of my predecessor mentioning Brampton at least three times on every occasion, I also want to take this time to congratulate all of the people in my community who have set up programs proclaiming Brampton Small Business Week. Small business, of course, is the backbone of this province, and specifically in Brampton some 5,545 businesses are in existence; 4,714 of those have under 20 employees, a significant contribution to the small business milieu. Some $2.75 billion are generated by these small businesses.
I want to congratulate the board of trade, all levels of government, all those people involved in making this a successful week.
PORTABLE RAILWAY TIE EXTRACTOR AND INSERTER
Mr Kormos: I want to share with this House the unveiling last week of a remarkable and innovative new product manufactured and indeed with its design source in Thorold, right in the heart of the Niagara Peninsula. Elio Pierobon and his son Paul Pierobon, a company called EPP Track Equipment Ltd, along with John Verhage of Hydraserv Ltd. unveiled to the public and the press its new portable tie extractor and inserter. Entirely Canadian-manufactured, it is designed to simplify the removal and insertion of both wood and concrete ties anywhere along the rail system without the need of holding up normal traffic.
The main feature of this unit is its portability. The unit can be transported to and from the work site in the back of a conventional pickup truck with an eight-foot box and it is equipped with carrying handles so that it can be moved across rough terrain without undue personnel injury.
What this does is sit on the track and then bulldoze the tie through any packed or loose substrata. The new tie is put into the space vacated by the old tie. This unit is capable of handling all sizes of ties, both standard and switch ties, on all conventional sizes of rails and it is capable of extracting or inserting 40 ties per hour. Already three people are employed in the manufacture; it is expected that six will be. It is a wonderful new product, and these people are to be congratulated.
NATIONAL SMALL BUSINESS WEEK
Mr Harris: This is National Small Business Week in Canada, but Ontario small business people should be wearing black armbands. In Ontario we should call it Small Business Memorial Week, because the Liberal government seems determined to put small business out of business. One small business spokesman said recently that Ontario is “rapidly becoming a bureaucrat’s paradise” and, I would add, a hell for entrepreneurs.
The proposed employer health tax is but the most recent example of this government’s hostility towards the men and women whose efforts and enterprise are responsible for the creation of more than 70 per cent of all net new jobs in this province. The Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) implies that the EHT is no big deal for small businesses and will cost them less than five cents an hour at the minimum wage. Of course, if the Treasurer was not spending $4.7 million an hour, every hour of every day of the year, he would not need to soak small business with this new tax.
This negative and hostile attitude towards small business explains why John Bulloch, head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said this Liberal government is the most antibusiness government he has ever dealt with in 20 years. If the members of that administration who serve on the committee of parliamentary assistants for small business were genuinely interested in the future of small business, they would use this occasion of National Small Business Week to resign in protest.
PASSENGER RAIL SERVICES
Mr Neumann: The government of Canada is demonstrating remarkable disdain for the citizens of this country through its callous handling of the Via Rail cuts. The standing committee on transport courageously decided to hold public hearings on these cuts, yet the Prime Minister and his Minister of Transport, with stubborn determination, are surreptitiously moving to implement these cuts through order in council. A government operating in good faith would delay any cuts until communities have had a chance to determine the impact and the MPs on the committee have concluded their review.
It is clearly evident that both the municipal and provincial levels of government will be affected by cuts to Via service, yet there was next to no consultation with these important community representatives prior to the Honourable Mr Bouchard’s announcement of several weeks ago.
Last week, the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye) held meetings with communities most affected by these cuts. I commend the minister for this initiative and for his support for a moratorium on implementation of Via cuts so that their full impact can be assessed and adjustments made in the context of a comprehensive transportation strategy which views passenger rail service as important to Canada’s future.
Prime Minister, the Via Rail fight is not over. I intend to continue my efforts to work closely with our community in pressing Ottawa to abandon this shortsighted policy. Canadians need their trains. Do not shortchange our future.
Mr Breaugh: Members will be aware probably that this morning at the Whitby Jail inmates were detained in their cells. This follows a pattern of problems that have occurred throughout the correctional system across the province of overcrowding. It follows hard on the heels of allegations made last weekend that at the Whitby Jail, as an example, 20 prisoners who were sentenced to serve weekend sentences were turned away simply because there was no room at the jail to accommodate them.
It is rumoured in the newspapers that this is part of the end result of a crackdown on drug usage and more jail sentences being handed out. Whatever is the root source, surely the government must recognize that this an intolerable situation. We are talking about the safety both of people who work as correctional officers in the jail system and of the volunteers who go in and work in the jails.
Whether or not this government chooses to provide other than institutionalization for people who are sentenced by the courts, surely the government must recognize that it is a mockery of the whole judicial system to put people through that process and, as the end result, have people turned loose on the streets not because we thought about it and designed some new program that is more effective, but simply because there was no room in the jail to accommodate the prisoners who the courts said should be there.
Mr Cousens: More has to be done if deinstitutionalization of our disabled citizens is to be successful. This government continues to be bigger on rhetoric than it is on action when it comes to all types of community-based services and health support.
This is no more apparent than in the case of Louis Kirou, a 19-year-old resident of a group home for disabled persons. Because he has reached the age of adulthood, he can no longer remain a resident of a children’s group home, but there are no adult places for him to go. Government officials, advocates for disabled persons and community care workers have been trying to find a home for Louis for about two years, but the search has been unsuccessful.
The waiting list for group homes is about two years long and may grow to seven years long if this government continues to use rhetoric instead of action to provide bricks and mortar for disabled persons. We on this side of the House think that it is high time that the government began to provide real community-based services rather than studying the possibility of expanding these services.
There are many ways we can solve these problems for people: work with the councils; work with the communities; invest in projects and programs that will help people. This government is high on talk and low on action.
Mr Tatham: GATT negotiations: Did members ever hear the story Sam Slick told about selling his horse? It was a good-looking animal and fast, but as a young colt it had fallen through a bridge and ever after that horse would not cross a bridge. Sam sold the horse for big dollars and the new owner lost two buggies that the horse kicked to flinders when he refused to go over a bridge. That is one for Sam.
The dairy industry in the United States is attempting to break into the Canadian market through the use of the GATT panel ruling. The United States is able to protect its own dairy industry while trying to gain inroads in Ontario markets. Under the Canada-US free trade agreement, existing US law remains in place. The United States has a waiver from GATT which allows it to protect the dairy industry while Canada has no such waiver. The United States, in turn, is able to evoke its section 22 waiver and not allow any imports of ice cream into the United States. How much are you asking for that horse, Sam?
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time for members’ statements.
I would like to ask all members of the assembly to recognize in the Speaker’s gallery a delegation from the United Kingdom. There are six members of Parliament in the delegation, and they are Marion Roe, MP, leader of the delegation; Cecil Franks, MP; Andrew Hargreaves, MP; Allen MacKay, MP, Austin Mitchell, MP, and Allan Roberts, MP. Also joining them is John Brown, the British consul general. Please join me in welcoming our guests in the gallery today.
ANNIVERSARY OF HUNGARIAN REVOLUTION
Mr B. Rae: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I wonder if I might have the unanimous consent of the House to make a statement regarding the historic events in Budapest over the weekend.
The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Mr B. Rae: I thought the House might want the opportunity to reflect on the fact that today, which marks the 32nd anniversary of the uprising in Hungary, is also an occasion, this weekend, when thousands of people have been gathered in the central square in Budapest to commemorate and celebrate the proclamation of a new constitution and the celebration of a new constitution for the republic of Hungary, which marks, I think all of us would agree, a truly historic turn of events.
All of us in this House have made friends and associated and celebrated with Hungarians who came here in 1957 and who were made refugees by the tragic events of that time. They have made a remarkable contribution to our national life, as they have to the lives of many, many countries around the world.
One of the most fascinating features of the events over the weekend was the statement that was made at the time of the declaration of the republic, not only recognition of the historic tragedy of the events of 1957, but also a determination on the part of the Hungarian people to create a multiparty system, to create a true democracy, the ending of the Communist party of Hungary itself, its self-dissolution and an ending of the worst features of a totalitarian system which is now, it can truly be said, a system which is at an end.
There was also a determination on the part of the Hungarian people to reach out, not only to establish renewed ties and links with other parties around the world and with democracies around the world, but also to make ties with Hungarians who left Hungary in 1957 and before and after 1957. I simply wanted to draw the attention of the House to this turn of events in Hungary. We are going to have Lech Walesa here in two and a half weeks, a man who led a movement many of whose leaders were in jail just a few short years ago. That movement is now a part of the government of Poland.
These are truly historical events, events of tremendous importance to all of us and to all of the people of Canada. I thought it would be appropriate for us to draw attention to it and to reflect in our minds what we might do in this assembly to improve our ties with those democratic assemblies which are growing in eastern Europe and to think of practical ways in which we can be of assistance in making sure that the light of freedom, that the light of democracy is a light that, once lit in eastern Europe, will never, ever be extinguished again.
Mr Jackson: I too wish to rise, on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party, to acknowledge the events today in Hungary as well as the historical footnote for all freedom-loving peoples around the world; that is, the Hungarian Revolution.
In 1956, we know that Hungary began to experience a whole nationhood falling under the spirit of oppression and the weight of the communist system under Joseph Stalin. In response to peaceful demonstrations in neighbouring Poland. Hungarians eagerly took to the streets to express their own sense of hope for their future, only to be met with military confrontation at a radio station in their capital city, a radio station that was an instrument for government disinformation, a radio station that was the home base for secret police activities.
History well documents what happened. The revolution was short-lived. It was gallant. Yet the Hungarian Revolution has continued to this day under a very different form and under very different political conditions.
The hope for freedom has taken on a unique expression in the eastern Europe of 1989. Bullets are no longer being shot at unarmed crowds and the throngs in the streets no longer are being harmed just because they are looking for bread, yet that same determination is there in the hearts and minds of the Hungarian people as it was in 1956.
The Hungarian people today are closer to that dream that inspired their fathers in 1956 than ever before in this century. Hungary today is a republic. Hungary today has annulled its communist linkages, its Communist Party and its stumbling blocks in its efforts to achieve a better standard of living for its people as well as democratic freedoms for its government and its people.
Hungary today is different, as is all of eastern Europe, in ways unforeseen. The martyrs of the revolution died in 1956, but they have engendered a new hope and a new vision that is just now beginning to be experienced.
On behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party, I would like to express my sincere congratulations to all Canadians of Hungarian descent on this very special day in their history. I also extend to them and their brothers and sisters in Hungary our congratulations on a job well done. It should serve as a sobering reminder to all of us here in Canada, who often take the freedoms we enjoy too much for granted. of the difficulty and sacrifice it takes to regain lost democratic ground.
Hon Mr Wong: I would be more than pleased to make a statement today on behalf of the government with respect to this very special day today. This is a time of remembrance, particularly for all people concerned and interested in freedom in the world. Thirty-three years ago the world witnessed a very historic event in Hungary, and shortly thereafter 38,000 people of Hungarian origin came to Canada and many of them settled in Ontario.
Until today, this particular day of 23 October, never had this day been publicly acknowledged or celebrated in Hungary, but today we are witnessing a very important event that is not only symbolic but real. It evidences the beginning of positive changes, I believe, that are taking place in Hungarian society. We hope that the measures that are going to be taken by the Hungarian people will usher in constructive reforms for the future.
I would like to join with my colleagues from the other parties in commemorating this significant date and at the same time say to all of our Canadian friends of Hungarian descent and origin that we are pleased to mark this very significant day in history with them.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr Elston: Today I will be introducing legislation which will ensure affordable auto insurance rates and a comprehensive accident benefit plan to protect the more than six million drivers in Ontario.
The motorists of this province want two things. They want stable insurance rates. Sky-rocketing insurance premiums will not be tolerated. People expect to be treated fairly and this government will make sure that they are. Drivers want to be well protected in the event they are hurt in auto accidents. That is why they pay premiums in the first place, and what they do not need while they axe recovering are long delays and excessive legal expenses.
Our plan will return more of the premium dollar to those who need it, the injured victims. The Ontario motorist protection plan, which has its foundations in this proposed legislation, will meet these very important social needs. It will do so in a balanced and responsible manner.
The Ontario motorist protection plan is a comprehensive program. The system itself will be reformed in this new legislation so that consumers get premium savings and improved benefit protection. The underlying causes of higher insurance rates -- accidents and injuries on our roads -- will be addressed through a number of other initiatives so that premiums remain afford-able in the future.
Other highlights of the package are swift payment of accident benefits without the need to sue; greatly improved levels of payments: more people than ever before will be eligible for income replacement benefits including seniors, students and the unemployed; child care benefits will be available for the first time and income replacement for unpaid homemakers will be more than doubled; the freedom and flexibility to purchase additional insurance for even greater protection will be provided; a new, strong regulatory authority; a speedy and accessible system for resolving disputes; continued access to the courts in cases of serious injury and death; strong deterrents to bad driving; new measures to reduce accidents and improve highway safety; enhanced consumer protection; reform of the tort system.
First, let me deal with premium savings.
Bodily injuries totalled $1.8 million in 1988. It is estimated that accident victims received only between 60 and 70 cents of every dollar paid with respect to those claims. The rest goes to pay legal and other settlement expenses. These costs have to be paid by someone and that someone is every driver through substantially higher premiums.
To maintain this system and its expanding volume of litigation, it is estimated that drivers in Ontario would have to pay average premium increases of between 30 and 35 per cent next year. Clearly, such large increases are unacceptable. They are unacceptable to the general motorist, to the people who must drive for their livelihood, to seniors whose mobility means independence and to the government which must act in the public interest.
That is why the government is introducing this legislation. These important reforms will result in significant savings for consumers. Under the new system, average premiums will not increase at all for rural drivers and will rise only eight per cent for urban motorists next year.
At the same time, the new plan ensures that anyone hurt in an automobile accident will receive higher levels of guaranteed benefits. Those who are injured will be eligible for up to $1 million of supplementary medical, rehabilitation and long-term care. Income replacement benefits will be more than tripled, to $450 per week.
Under the new plan, coverage will be broadened. For the first time, students, seniors and the unemployed will be entitled to income replacement benefits. Child care benefits will also be provided for the first time. Income replacement for unpaid homemakers will be more than doubled and the period of benefit coverage will be extended to the same as for employed persons.
Optional insurance coverage will be available for even greater accident benefit protection. Consumers will be able to tailor their insurance to their individual needs.
These reforms will accomplish the twin goals of premium savings and improved accident benefits by reducing the need to sue. The vast majority of people involved in auto accidents suffer only minor injuries and they will be well protected by the higher levels of guaranteed benefits available in the new plan.
Injured victims will not have to pay expensive legal fees or wait months, and sometimes years, for compensation. Thus there will be no need to sue in about 90 per cent of all cases. In the remaining cases, those involving serious injury or death, higher compensation levels may be required and therefore access to the courts will be maintained. Guaranteed accident benefits will also be paid to these individuals or their estates, thereby providing support during the litigation process.
By reserving the courts for the most serious cases and reducing the amount of litigation in the system, significant savings can be achieved, savings which can be passed on to the consumer in the form of lower insurance rates and higher benefits. Under the new system, guaranteed accident benefits will be delivered within 10 to 30 days. Insurance companies will face substantial penalties for not paying on time. Additionally, a system of accessible and speedy dispute resolution will be available.
This is a dramatic improvement over the current tort-based system in which injured victims often have to wait years for compensation. The Ontario motorist protection plan will avoid the severe financial strain on families that long delays and cost of litigation often cause.
Timely delivery of benefits is especially important in promoting rehabilitation, because early treatment is often critical to recovery. The Ontario motorist protection plan will ensure that injured victims receive the immediate care they need without having to spend their family savings or go into debt while waiting for a possible court award or a settlement. The costs of long-term care will also be covered as a guaranteed benefit for the first time under the new plan.
I want to emphasize that the Ontario motorist protection plan is not designed to protect the bad drivers of the province. It will penalize them more than ever. Deterrents will be a key component of the system. Fault will continue to be used for rating purposes. That means good driving records will be reflected in preferred insurance rates and bad drivers will be paying higher premiums.
Additionally, the new plan recognizes that the cost of insurance is directly related to the number and severity of accidents on the roads. In order to address these underlying causes of higher insurance rates, a series of initiatives will be introduced by the government over the next several months.
These will include increased fines for speeding and other traffic offences; more enforcement on our major highways by the Ontario Provincial Police; driver safety promotion in the workplace; public education campaigns to promote the use of seatbelts, which has already begun, and daytime running lights for all automobiles; a new program requiring drunk driver repeat offenders to seek treatment and produce proof of having effectively dealt with their problem before their licences are reinstated.
We believe that the best deterrence to bad driving comes from criminal sanctions, higher insurance premiums for bad drivers, vigilant enforcement and better education.
People who are injured require care and rehabilitation whether they are deemed to be innocent or at fault in accidents. That is why, under the new system, all motorists will receive guaranteed accident benefits regardless of fault. This means that if someone causes an accident, perhaps because of a moment’s inattention, that person’s family will not be burdened with a lifetime of debt. The costs of rehabilitation, as well as income replacement benefits, will be provided.
What we are proposing, then, is a new social safety net. The social objective is to provide everyone injured in an automobile accident with the compensation needed to return to as normal a life as quickly as possible.
Insurance companies will be subject to a tough new regulatory regime. A new insurance com-mission will have broad powers of intervention and enforcement. It will be responsible for ensuring that accident victims receive prompt compensation and that disputes are resolved quickly through mediation and arbitration. The insurance commission will also be responsible for protecting the interests of consumers and regulating rates.
There are many other measures designed to help protect consumers in this legislation. Motorists will be given the choice of paying their insurance premiums on a monthly basis. Insurance companies will be required to notify drivers at least 30 days before changing or cancelling their policies. Brokers will have to disclose, on request, the number and identity of insurance companies with which they have contracts.
Auto insurance policies will have to set out the separate components of the coverage, how each was rated and the cost of each part. There will be a prohibition on tied selling, making the sale of one insurance product conditional on the purchase of another product. Consumers will be able to exclude certain drivers from their household policies so that good drivers are not penalized by bad drivers in a family. Insurance companies will have to establish programs that assist in deterring fraud, since claims abuses by a few dishonest people can result in higher premiums for everyone.
Since access to the courts will be retained in cases of serious injury or death, tort reform will be important in helping to streamline the system. In this regard, the Attorney General (Mr Scott) will also be introducing legislation today.
The government has adopted the only rational approach that balances the need for affordable auto insurance with the requirement for improved benefit levels. This made in Ontario plan provides leadership and direction. It addresses the underlying causes of higher rates and it therefore promises greater premium stability in the future.
Driving must be made safer and more affordable for the people of this province. This legislation, which is the cornerstone of our plan. will help protect consumers and reduce costs and risks of driving in the province.
Hon Mr Scott: Later today I will introduce for first reading two bills that will implement various tort reform initiatives that were announced in this House in a preliminary way some months ago.
The government has received thoughtful and useful suggestions for tort reform from many groups. In particular, the Ontario Law Reform Commission report on compensation for personal injuries and death and the Osborne report have been a source of many sound ideas and recommendations.
These bills, which propose amendments to the Courts of Justice Act, 1984, and the Evidence Act, contain amendments concerning prejudgement interest, structured settlements and changes to the litigation process, and will be undertaken in conjunction with complementary changes to the rules of civil procedure which were sent to the rules committee, composed of judges and barristers, under the Courts of Justice Act, some months ago.
With respect to a plaintiff’s entitlement to prejudgement interest on a damage award, amendments will be made to the Courts of Justice Act to expand the period for which such interest is available and to provide more neutral rates of interest for the calculation of prejudgement interest.
With respect to structured settlements, in some cases the court must increase the amount of a damage award, as members will know, to give the plaintiff sufficient funds to pay income tax that accrues over time on investment of the court award. A structured settlement can avoid the need for the increase or gross-up of a damage award. However, in the current system, structured settlements are only available where both the plaintiff and the defendant consent.
The amendments I will be introducing today would give the court the power, subject to some limitations, to order a structured settlement whenever a plaintiff requests that his or her damage award be grossed up to meet federal income tax consequences.
The other amendments brought forward today concern improvements to the litigation process and include (1) amendments to the Evidence Act to increase the availability and use of evidence of health professionals at trials, (2) amendments to the Courts of Justice Act to permit trial judges and lawyers to offer guidance to juries in assessing the amount of a damage award, (3) amendments to the Courts of Justice Act to enable an appeal court to substitute its own assessment of damages where it is of the opinion that a jury award ought to be set aside as inappropriate, (4) amendments to the Courts of Justice Act to facilitate the making of advance payments by defendants to plaintiffs before the court has determined liability.
I wish to make special note of the fact that these amendments will apply to causes of action that arise after the date of first reading of the bills.
It is my hope that these amendments to the Courts of Justice Act and the Evidence Act, complemented by a variety of rules changes to which I have earlier referred, will improve the fairness and efficiency of our tort system.
Mr Kormos: What an incredible narration on the part of the Minister of Financial Institutions. He talks about “made in Ontario.” He is talking about new insurance rules that were made in the boardrooms of the private auto insurance industry right here in Ontario. That is where those new rules came from, and that is where that insurance legislation came from. The auto insurance industry in Ontario invested over $100,000 in these guys in the last general election, and it is sure getting its money’s worth because the payback is starting right now.
This minister dares talk about reducing the need to sue. My God, he has eliminated the right to sue. He has guaranteed that 90 to 95 percent of innocent injured people in this province are never going to receive one penny in compensation for the pain and suffering or the loss of enjoyment of life they suffer at the hands of drunk, negligent and careless drivers.
What this servant of the auto insurance industry is talking about is making sure that people do not get anything for their pain and suffering and making sure that not a single worker in Ontario receives full wage replacement for his lost wages at the hands of drunk, negligent and careless drivers.
What this so-called Minister of Financial Institutions is talking about is making darned sure that the insurance companies make profits as they never imagined before in their lives. He is not the Minister of Financial Institutions; this man over here is the minister of private insurance companies because, boy, if they ever had anybody looking out for their interests, they have got him right now in the form of the member for Bruce (Mr Elston); I will tell the members that.
It is incredible. I watch the minister really closely, and never has such a load of crap ever been unloaded in this Legislature before. It should have been done out on the front lawn because at least the grass would be greener by virtue of it. This is entirely unacceptable to the people of this province. It is not going to work; it is not going to fly. This minister had better make darned sure he listens to the people across Ontario over the next several months before he tries cramming this down their throats.
Mr B. Rae: The critical issue here for the House to consider is, first of all, that we are being told by the government House leader that it is the government’s intention to proceed with this legislation and to have it passed before Christmas. I want to put the government on notice. There is no way it can take the right to compensation away from thousands of victims of accidents without giving every single person who is affected by it the opportunity to appear before a committee and to make this House and the Liberal Party understand what is at stake here.
What the government has done is it has taken into account the rate of inflation since 1977-78, essentially increased ever so slightly the level of benefits that will be paid to people and then said that all those people who previously had rights of action and rights to compensation under our old insurance system will no longer have that right today.
I want to make one other point. It is not as if this is even a pure no-fault system. It is not as if this system is even as good as workers’ compensation, because what you have is a system that is not designed to provide for fair compensation. It is designed to provide a rate of return to the insurance companies of Ontario which will guarantee them profits ad infinitum. That is what the Liberal Party is all about.
The only thing this insures fairly and squarely is the profits of the insurance companies of Ontario. The private-profit monopoly will be insured ad infinitum by the Liberal Party of Ontario. My colleague the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) was absolutely right when he said, “When the insurance brokers and insurance industry decided to hitch their star to the Liberal Party of Ontario, they got exactly the party they rented back in 1987 when they decided to start renting the Liberal Party to see what it would do.”
Look at this legislation and you will find, word for word and clause by clause, exactly what the insurance companies of Ontario wanted, exactly what the insurance business of Ontario wanted, and that is what the Liberal Party of Ontario has given them.
We do not have a public system. We do not have a good system. We do not have a fair system. And the people whose rights have been taken away and whose level of benefits will be affected are the people who drive in this province, the people who get injured in this province, and those are the people who are being shafted by this legislation.
Mr Runciman: Unlike the member for Welland-Thorold, I do not find the minister’s statement today incredible. I think we have gotten used to this kind of flim-flam act on the part of the minister, his predecessor and the government. There is no sense of embarrassment on that side of the House over what has transpired over the past two years: well over $10 million of taxpayers’ money wasted, down the toilet, by the actions and inactions of this Liberal government.
It is perhaps mildly surprising that the New Democratic Party is not even quietly supporting this kind of initiative. If one reads the column -- and I tend to agree with it; I do not always agree with it -- by Laurence Grafstein in the Toronto Sun a couple of weeks ago -- he is a Liberal, is he not?
Mr Brandt: Yes, he certainly is.
Mr Runciman: I will put a couple of quotes on the record. “What could be a more profound example of pure socialism than no-fault insurance? In essence, no-fault insurance denies that the crucial link between those” --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Runciman: “In essence, no-fault insurance denies that the crucial link between those who cause accidents and those who become victims of accidents is one of individual moral responsibility.
“Under no-fault the issue is no longer the relationship between a negligent driver and his victim, but rather the relationship between both the driver and his victim on the one hand and the state on the other.”
Since 1987, when I predicted the path this government was going to follow, I have said that no-fault was the second step in a three-step process. The government has entered the slippery slope towards state-run auto insurance, perhaps not at the pace my friends in the socialist party would like to see occur, but indeed it has embarked on that path, and it is going to be difficult to turn back now.
Our party is going to oppose this initiative, this measure, with all the vigour possible. Our party believes in the ethic of responsibility. Our party believes that individuals should be held responsible for their actions. This legislation is nothing short of legalized abdication of responsibility.
Again, it is not surprising when we take a look at what this government has done in respect of this whole question of automobile insurance; it has been ad hoc, panic-driven, seat-of-the-pants policymaking since day one. We have had report after report, recommendation after recommendation, just ignored by this government: the Slater report, the Osborne report, his own board’s report and recommendations respecting no-fault, totally ignored, at a cost of millions of dollars. Consulting firms that reported to the standing committee on administration of justice, to the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board and to the government again were totally ignored, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This has been a textbook example of government mismanagement and deceit. Regrettably, under House rules, even when it has become patently obvious that a member of this assembly has knowingly or otherwise misled the public, I am restricted as a member from stating the obvious. Hence, I am unable to state the obvious with respect to the member for London South’s 1987 election promise that he had a very specific plan to lower auto insurance rates.
Some hon members: London Centre.
Mr Runciman: I am glad my friends know the riding, London Centre. I will correct the record: London Centre. I thank the members for that assistance from the brown-nose gang. It is good to know they are alive and well and lurking on the back benches of the Liberal Party.
Under this plan, rates will not go down. Perhaps one of the most serious aspects of this is, as recommendation after recommendation has indicated, accident frequency rates and highway fatalities will increase. Yet the minister has the unmitigated gall to stand up today and say that he is concerned about highway safety, when all the facts are there that accident rates and fatalities on the highways are going to increase.
This system violates most people’s sense of justice and responsibility. It is a thrust by this government that we in the Progressive Conservative Party cannot and will not support.
Mr Sterling: I would like to say two brief things. First of all, the announcement by the Attorney General with regard to tort reform has nothing at all to do with the no-fault auto insurance scheme put forward by the Chairman of Management Board of Cabinet (Mr Elston), and the two should not be confused. Osborne clearly supports tort reform, as do many members of the bar.
Secondly, and perhaps in a lighter vein, I would like to recommend to the Attorney General that he put forward the name of the member for Welland-Thorold for Queen’s counsel this year.
The Speaker: Order. That completes the allotted time for ministerial statements and responses.
Mr B. Rae: In the absence of the Premier (Mr Peterson), I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Correctional Services. The minister will be aware, as I am sure all members of the House are aware by this time, of the fact that guards working in 18 jails and correctional facilities across the province -- according to my information as of this morning -- are in the middle of job actions that affect the conditions in the jail, and they are a result of the extraordinary overcrowding and deterioration in working and living conditions in those jails.
I would like to ask the minister why he had no statement to make at the beginning of the House today with regard to what is going on, and can he tell us what the government intends to do to ensure that the guards’ concerns about over-crowding and conditions in the jail will finally be addressed?
Hon Mr Patten: Yes, I am well aware of this particular situation. We have been monitoring this throughout the weekend. I can appreciate the frustration of some of the correctional officers related to the salary/wages dispute that is at arbitration at the moment and some of their concerns, indeed, for some of the pressures we have, particularly around the Toronto watershed, which is being precipitated by the more recent rash of arrests related to drug-related offences.
I can assure the honourable Leader of the Opposition that we are addressing this situation. We have added staff to this particular situation, particularly at the Toronto Jail. We have converted some beds because, the honourable member will know, the pressure is essentially on the remand side of the people whom we must supervise and care for.
I would also add that we have a 15-year capital plan that I have spent a great deal of time on in the last two and a half months since I have taken on this portfolio, and I expect in short order to be able to make some announcements related to expanding our capacity for beds for that particular population.
Mr B. Rae: This is at one and the same time a long-term problem. The Ombudsman, on page 10 of his 1987 annual report, in describing the conditions at the Barrie Jail, which he visited himself, said the quality of the environment at that institution does not meet minimum acceptable standards as we approach 1990. The Ombudsman drew attention to the conditions in the Whitby Jail where, he stated that as a result, this high population density leads to increased tension. The Ombudsman refers to the fact that this problem has been ongoing for 10 years.
We now face a particularly critical problem and at a point now where prisoners are being kept in their cells for long periods of time. In Hamilton over the weekend, two guards -- a man and a woman, according to information that I had -- who were asked to look after the so-called Toronto wing set up on an emergency basis that weekend, had nervous breakdowns.
We are now at a critical point in these facilities, where tension is running incredibly high. Just what is the minister proposing to do to see that guards are given some assurance that their working conditions and the living conditions of people in those prisons can be kept up to standard?
Hon Mr Patten: We believe we have the adequate number of staff. As I mentioned, we have added to that staff complement. If the honourable Leader of the Opposition will examine his statistics, he will see that the addition of staff in the last five years has outstripped completely, by a significant amount -- close to 30 per cent staff increases in our particular institution in the last five years -- our overall population growth of about five per cent, according to our annual report of last year. So we have done that.
We are extremely sensitive to this particular issue, let me assure the member. I hope that the opposition party will work with us, not against us, to precipitate a situation, in view of the sensitivity of this situation.
Mr Kormos: Let’s not confuse the issue by talking about Toronto and the watershed and prisoners being transferred. The fact remains that the transfer of prisoners, which indeed is taking place from Toronto to Hamilton and from Hamilton to Niagara, is aggravating a pre-existing situation of overcrowding and understaffing.
The minister has been told. He was told on 10 October by the member for Cambridge (Mr Farnan) and by the presence of correctional officers right here in this House. He was told on 16 October when I spoke to him about my observations at Niagara Detention Centre. We have one-person cells being converted into two-person cells by the mere bolting on of an additional bunk, now being converted into three-and four-person cells by requiring prisoners to literally sleep on the floor, and not just in one or two instances, but in frequent instances.
It is a real problem of overcrowding and understaffing. The minister does not do it any justice by denying it. When is he going to act, and why will he not act promptly on a real problem, a life-and-death problem for officers and inmates and prisoners of these institutions?
Hon Mr Patten: The member for Welland-Thorold did not speak to me. I did see a letter that was addressed to me, but it was an open letter, that identified some concerns I would have been very happy to talk with him about in person or try to address the concerns he identified.
I want him to know that I do share his concern. I ask for his empathy as well. This is a much bigger issue than any single ministry at this time and I believe the member well knows that. We have a situation now where in the largest metropolis of Canada there is an increase in the apprehension of persons for drug-related offences. That is a recent development. It is not something that happened three years ago or even two years ago. The local police officers are becoming more vigilant in their apprehensions. We are not an inn and cannot say, “No, we cannot take them.”
When he talks about the capacity of our institutions, I agree, it is now promoting that and placing pressure on us. It is not universal throughout the province --
The Speaker: Thank you. That seems like a fairly lengthy answer.
Mr B. Rae: It gives new meaning to the phrase “scot-free.”
I look to the Minister of Health. I am giving the minister some thousands of petitions from residents of Windsor. I understand the minister met this morning with some representatives of a group in Windsor that has been lobbying vigorously on behalf of heart patients. It is made up mainly of heart patients, and my colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke) and I met with them in September.
I wonder if the minister can explain why the proposal she presented to them in draft form says nothing about whether the government is prepared to have heart surgery performed in Windsor for people living in the Windsor/Essex county area. Why is there nothing at all in the proposal indicating that this is what the government is prepared to do?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I recognize the importance of this service, and l am committed to improving access to all the people in Ontario. We all know that while our services are good, we are always trying to improve them.
The Leader of the Opposition is correct. I did meet this morning with representatives from Windsor. I told them I had accepted the advice from an expert panel. I also told them of our plans to enhance and improve access to services, and while it is not happening as quickly as I would like, we are moving to enhance those services.
I am prepared to share with the Leader of the Opposition a letter which I sent to the chairman of the district health council outlining our commitment to see that everything that can be done will be done as quickly as possible.
Mr B. Rae: The minister must be aware of the fact that there are, according to my information. five patients this week who are expected to go to Detroit for surgery from the Windsor area; that there are, according to the guesstimates provided by the doctors in the area, as many as 120 patients who are on waiting lists for surgery in London and Toronto.
The minister’s draft proposal for audit tells the people of Windsor that they are going to have to wait until November 1990 to find out what are the booking and scheduling procedures and practices for cardiovascular diagnosis and treatment, to find out what is the monitoring of patients on waiting lists, to find out the reasons for postponements, to find out how long the waiting list is and what the waiting times for diagnosis and treatment and reasons are.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr B. Rae: What does it say about the organization of the minister’s own bureaucracy that she is incapable of telling patients today why they are on a waiting list, how long that waiting list is there, why their surgery is being postponed and how they are being monitored by the Ministry of Health?
The Speaker: Order. There are quite a few questions there.
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the Leader of the Opposition knows, I met with representatives from Windsor. I informed them that I had accepted the recommendations of an expert panel. I have asked that panel to report on a monthly basis so that if there are recommendations that it can give us on how we can improve, we certainly will expedite implementation of those recommendations. I have asked that they give us their full report within a year.
I would point out to the member that when the expert panel met with representatives from the Windsor area, they themselves anticipated that it would take that length of time to gather all of the information needed, and I would say to him that we are working with all of our partners in the delivery of health services: the doctors, the nurses, everyone. We do not want to politicize the individual cases and discuss them in an inappropriate forum. We want to implement the plans that we have and meet the needs as quickly as we can.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I would like the minister, if she can try, to be very specific in the reply to this question. There are heart patients here; the local press is here. Perhaps for once she can give the folks back home a clear answer.
Is she or is she not prepared to amend her draft proposal so that it specifically will state that the feasibility of a surgical unit for heart patients will be examined for the city of Windsor, and will she specifically change this date of November 1990 and do something more quickly? Hundreds of people are waiting for surgery --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr D. S. Cooke: -- and we have been waiting for four years for action from her government. It is not too much to ask her to move a little more quickly than she has.
The Speaker: The questions have been asked.
Hon Mrs Caplan: Let me share with the member opposite the letter which I sent, a paragraph of which will clarify and let him know that we are moving as quickly as we possibly can to seek the very best possible expert advice. I am aware of the anxiety of the people of Windsor. We discussed that this morning and I have met with people who are here.
The letter states, “The surgeons have recommended that the purpose of the audit should be to determine and assess the current situation regarding delivery of cardiovascular services in south-western Ontario and make recommendations to improve the delivery of service.”
I have asked this panel to report on a monthly basis. As it has recommendations, I will commit to the member and to all members of this House to move as quickly as I can to implement its recommendations.
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Chairman of Management Board and the Minister of Financial Institutions. The minister went on at some length with respect to the new package of auto insurance reforms that his government is proposing for Ontario, and I think it is important that we establish very clearly not only what people will be getting but what the citizens of Ontario will in all probability be losing with respect to the reforms the minister is proposing.
I would like to ask him a question in regard to a situation and his response would be welcomed. If an individual were involved in an accident, not the individual’s fault, and that resulted in several serious operations including a spinal fusion, under the legislation which he has tabled today, would that individual meet the threshold of permanent, serious impairment of an important bodily function and therefore qualify for the threshold limit?
Hon Mr Elston: The answer to that question is, he might. I do not know the various circumstances around the operation otherwise, but we have left it to the courts to determine whether or not the threshold would be met by such an occurrence.
Mr Brandt: Since the minister cannot answer for a specific case that I bring before him with respect to Ontario and since the Ontario model is, in great part, based on the experience and the model and, in fact, some of the wording is taken directly from the Michigan model, would the minister be able to indicate how these circumstances which I have just outlined for him would be handled under the Michigan legislation?
Hon Mr Elston: My proposal is designed for Ontario and I can tell the honourable gentleman that he has given us some very sketchy details of what he says the case is. I do not know the ramifications of the operation or otherwise with respect to the carrying on of an economic endeavour by the individual name. I do not know of a whole series of events, but I can tell the honourable gentleman, if there is a question in his mind about it. that our current system will be preserved for those people who have a serious injury that causes the impairment that would get them over the threshold. I just cannot answer his question, because he did not give me the details.
Mr Brandt: I want to advise the minister that in the case I brought to his attention, the Michigan Supreme Court in 1982 ruled that this particular circumstance did not in fact qualify at the threshold level. In 1986 the Michigan Supreme Court overturned its earlier ruling and indicated that it did qualify, and as a direct result of that the insurance rates on the part of the largest insuring company in the state of Michigan increased by 20 per cent.
What assurance can the minister give this House that a similar ruling as a result of the decision of the courts will not result in huge premium increases, coupled with the loss of the rights of the citizens of this province to sue in a great many cases?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman has just outlined for the people of Ontario the safety release we have in the courts determining that, in fact, people ought to be covered and in that case he has just seen that justice was done for that particular individual. That is what we want in the system. We want the release so that people can be assured they can get relief if they have serious and permanent injuries.
I cannot for a moment predict that the individual who now occupies the leadership of the third party will not be able to come up with some sketchy details that, from time to time, he will ask me to look into a crystal ball and adjudicate upon. That is not my role. The role here is to ensure that every person has access quickly to the necessary income replacement, the supplementary medical and rehabilitation services and long-term care on a no-fault basis, and that in situations where there is a difficulty because of a serious and permanent injury, they are taken care of. The incident that was just outlined for us indicates quite clearly why that safety release is necessary and is acceptable and provides the type of recovery opportunity that is needed to protect the people in Ontario.
I thank the honourable gentleman for bringing it to our attention.
Mr Eves: I have a question for the Minister of Health. I would like to bring to the minister’s attention this afternoon the case of Pat Terry, who is 46 years old. He has a past history of heart problems. On 21 June of this year he saw his cardiologist about chest pains and was put on a waiting list for an angiogram. They were then booking into January and February of 1990. He suffered another heart attack on 21 September -- luckily for him, a mild one. He was in Toronto General Hospital. He then qualified for an emergency angiogram, which was done one week later. He was in hospital for two weeks and released.
He is now put on a waiting list for angioplasty, the balloon procedure, which his doctors have determined would be the best procedure for him to undergo. Unfortunately for him, that procedure cannot be scheduled until some time in November. Last Thursday he suffered chest pains that were so intense he had to book himself back into TGH.- He has a 90 per cent blockage of one artery and he cannot walk.
How is that Mr Terry can find himself in this position in October 1989, after the minister’s announcement of June 1988?
Hon Mrs Caplan: None of those involved in the health care system wants to politicize the anxiety of anyone who is seeking treatment within the health system, nor am I sure the member opposite would want me in any way to comment on the medical judgements of the physicians who are doing their very best to see that people receive the services they need when they need them.
The member knows full well that we announced expansion in capacity. We are hoping the Sunnybrook unit will be up and running within a very, very few weeks. London has increased capacity, as have Hamilton, Ottawa and Sudbury. It is not as fast as I would like. I understand the frustration and the anxiety of the families in these situations, and I am always prepared to investigate any particular individual cases, but I would say there is the appropriate forum for those investigations to take place and I would urge the member opposite not to politicize these tragic family situations.
Mr Eves: For the minister’s information, Mr Terry contacted me both last Thursday when he checked himself into hospital and again this morning, and asked me to bring this case to her attention. Also. I was talking to Mr Terry’s cardiologist this morning. He is of the opinion that in cases such as Mr Terry’s the system has not improved in many, many months, despite the minister’s announcement of 9 June 1988.
How can it be that we have waiting lists that are just as long, if not longer, in October 1989? In the minister’s statement of 9 June 1988, she assured us that Sunnybrook’s unit would be up and running by the end of 1988. We are now approaching the end of 1989. She assured us that more procedures would be done at all these cardiovascular centres around the province and especially those in Metropolitan Toronto. How can it be that patients like Mr Terry find themselves in these waiting lists for months and months at a time?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say that we all want the same thing. I identified very early on that action had to be taken, developed a plan and we are implementing. It is not as fast as I would like: it is not as fast as any of us would like. In the last six months, 40 additional critical care beds have been opened in the Toronto and Hamilton area. Capacity has been increased in Hamilton and it is my understanding that the Sunnybrook unit is preparing to open very, very shortly. Capacity has been increased in Sudbury and in Ottawa. I know that everyone, including the doctors and the nurses, is doing everything possible to ensure that people receive the appropriate care they need when they need it.
Mr Eves: I would agree that doctors and nurses are doing everything they can and they are doing everything they can with the very limited resources that the Ministry of Health is providing them with. It is really a function of her government’s policy that beds have closed, especially in Metropolitan Toronto, when her leader promised that 4,000 more would be opened. It is a function of her government’s policy that there are not enough intensive care unit nurses to go around to operate a lot of these cardiovascular surgery units, and it is a function of her government’s policy that last week, as I understand it, at St Michael’s Hospital here in Toronto. many heart procedures were cancelled because of a shortage of heart pump technicians.
How can all these problems be still occurring some 15 months after the minister made her grandiose announcement of 9 June 1988? What has happened in the last 15 months? How come the waiting lists are still as long? How come Mr Terry has this problem?
The Speaker: Order. That is the fourth question.
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, we are making progress. It is not as fast as I would like, but we are. Does the member know what the people from Windsor told me this morning? They told me that their frustration is not because we have been discussing this for a few months, it is because a decade ago, when the member’s party had the opportunity to do something, it listened to nobody and did nothing, so today we are building a network to attempt to respond appropriately as quickly as we can, and we are listening and we are acting.
NATIVE LAND CLAIM
Mr Wlldman: In view of the absence of the Premier (Mr Peterson), I have a question for the Attorney General and the minister responsible for native affairs.
Could he explain how it was that on Thursday last, when his leader the Premier and he were both asked on three occasions to make clear the position of this government, what that position would be before the court in response to the application by the Teme-Augama Anishnabai First Nation for an injunction to stop the road and logging in the Temagami area, both were unable or unwilling to explain before this House what the exact position of the government would be before the court, and yet immediately after that, after question period, the Premier went outside and told reporters in the scrum what the government’s intention would be?
Hon Mr Scott: How it was? Let me explain: I think the honourable member has it wrong. The Premier did not answer that question in the House or outside the House and the reason he did not is that it is not possible for us to answer the question of how we will respond even now.
The reality is that everything depends on the relief that the TAA request in the notice of motion. If they request relief in respect of the Red Squirrel Road, that is one thing. If they request relief respecting all logging in this 4,000-square-mile area, which seems to be the most likely eventuality at the present time, that might lead to a different response. That is why it was then, and in my opinion remains now, very difficult to answer the honourable member’s question.
Mr Wildman: We all read the papers and I am sure the reporters were reporting what they heard from the Premier. The Premier indicated to them that this government’s position before the court would be to oppose the request for the injunction.
If that was the Premier’s position outside of this House, and now the Attorney General is indicating that he cannot make clear what the government’s exact position will be until he understands exactly what the Teme-Augama Anishnabai are requesting, could he clarify whether it is the position of his government that if the first nation requests the stopping of the road construction and all logging in the area until the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on the land claim, his government will oppose that kind of a request?
Hon Scott: As the honourable member knows, the request that the TAA make is for ownership of an area that is about 4,000 square miles. Some 800 TAA members and about 10.000 other Canadians live in the area. The scope of the injunction request that is made by the TAA is obviously critical. If they are asking simply that we should stop work on one road, that is one matter. If they are asking that all activity on all crown lands in the area they claim, such as logging, fishing and so on, should terminate, that is another.
The practical difficulty is that the TAA have not as yet delivered their request for an injunction. We were told that we would have it today at lunch time, but it has not yet arrived. When we have it, and have an opportunity to consider it, I want the honourable member to know that we will promptly let him and the public know what our response towards it will be.
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. The minister will have received a letter from the York South Association for Community Living in which it states that it is in a state of crisis. “We are presently making plans for the closure of several group homes and we will be requesting your ministry to accept the return of several former residents of your ministry’s facilities.”
They cannot attract or retain qualified staff. One third of their front-line staff positions are presently vacant. They have had a $50,000 advertising program and ended up without any people to take up the jobs and they say in their letter, “We believe that our residents’ welfare and safety are in jeopardy and we can no longer risk the possible liability we will face in the event of a serious incident.”
How is the minister going to address these problems of the York South Association for Community Living?
Hon Beer: I am aware of the letter to which the honourable member has made mention and also, living in the same area, I am aware of many of the problems which social service agencies face in fast-growing areas.
I think one of the things we are doing which is going to help to address some of the particular problems of associations such as the York South Association for Community Living is the changes with respect to salaries and benefits which we are working on. We recognize there is a need across the board to bring up salaries of those working in front-line agencies in fast-growth areas. We also recognize that it is not always possible to do that as quickly as we would like, but we are very much aware of that situation and I hope we will be able to address it and to be of direct assistance to them shortly.
Mr Cousens: The minister will be well advised that his document Challenges and Opportunities was viewed as a bold and forward-thinking set of initiatives when it was first introduced, and they say in their letter. “It has become long in its challenges and short in its opportunities.” They are facing a $5,000 difference in what it takes to have someone fill one of those jobs. They are talking about the possibility of closing a number of group homes in York region within the next three weeks unless there is an answer from this minister’s government. They have 130 people on waiting lists and they too will be faced with the problem
The minister talks in a positive way about what he is doing. Could he tell this House when he will have a solution for the York South Association for Community Living? Will it be within three weeks?
Hon Beer: As with problems facing all the various agencies that may arise from time to time with the ministry -- we work very closely with them. As the honourable member knows, it is a very decentralized, close-to-the-ground service. We are at this moment working with them to resolve the specific issues and it is our understanding that we will be able to do that.
Mr Cousens: When? Come on. when? He didn’t answer my question, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: I am sure the former presiding officer understands the standing orders. Thank you. New question.
Mr Faubert: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. Residents of my riding, Scarborough-Ellesmere, have advised me of their concerns about the condition of Highland Creek, of which the Bendale and West Branch run through my riding. This concern is also raised about other local waterways including Massey Creek and the Rouge River.
In Scarborough, Metropolitan Toronto and across Ontario we see an increased appreciation of the need to clean up the pollution of waterways, to maintain usable urban green spaces along watercourses and floodplains and to achieve a cleaner Great Lakes. Unfortunately, though, the water quality of urban watercourses is threatened continually by increased urbanization.
Can the minister advise how his ministry is addressing the cleanup of urban creeks and rivers?
Hon Mr Bradley: Excellent question, I must say, from the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere. I want to indicate first of all that one of the things that emerged from the Crombie commission, which I think offers a good deal of assistance and hope in this regard, is a request, a stipulation, that all levels of government look at the impact of any kind of development around these water systems which eventually flow into Lake Ontario. I think that is exceedingly important.
Concerning the Metro area, the member may be aware that my ministry has released a report which details some potential action and options for improvement of the Don River water quality. As well, we have allocated some $9.25 million in the 1988-89 budget to support Metro waterways cleanup projects such as sewage treatment plant improvements and detection. This is interesting because some of the young people we had employed in the ministry were involved in this.
This was looking for illegal hookups to the various rivers, in other words, where you had some combined sewers which went to the various rivers. This was a good part of our program. I must say, with the young people involved in the Environmental Youth Corps.
In addition to this, we have designated 17 areas of concern, which in fact were being addressed with the remedial action committee --
The Speaker: Thank you. I am sure there might be a supplementary, and you may want to save some of that information.
Mr Faubert: Municipalities should be increasingly involved in improving the water quality of their own watercourses. Can the minister advise if there are provincially sponsored programs which municipalities can participate in which either improve the effectiveness of sewage treatment plants or directly contribute to the cleanup of urban waterways?
Hon Mr Bradley: Yes, I can. Two things: The ministry is developing standards for the design of storm water pollution control facilities such as retention ponds and buffer strips along water-courses, which I think will reduce the runoff that is going into those. In addition, along with the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay), we are involved in a process of reducing the number of applications of pesticides. This would be a joint program which I think is going to be quite effective in that regard.
These retention tanks are an excellent way to go. and we are encouraging them. For instance, in the east end of Toronto there will be one constructed -- there is one in Hamilton; I had the opportunity to participate in the opening -- and what these do is in fact collect the storm water so that it does not rush immediately into these watercourses and sewage treatment plants. It is allowed to settle so that you do not have that kind of rush and flow of bacteria and other contaminants into the lake.
In addition to this, of course, we are encouraging municipalities to develop sewer use control bylaws. These are model bylaws where they can determine precisely what is going into the sewers so they can require, before the contaminants even get into the sewers, that those are in fact abated. These are comprehensive --
The Speaker: Thank you. New question. The member for Lake Nipigon.
NATIVE LAND CLAIM
Mr Pouliot: My question is to the minister responsible for native affairs regarding the Manitoulin land claim. The minister, perhaps better than anyone in this House, will be aware that in 1862, some time back, the land on Manitoulin Island, some 850,000 acres, was handed over to the government, to colonial officials, for the purpose of sale, and the profits were to be turned back to natives for their benefit, of course.
To this day, some 90,000 acres, including lakes, rivers, and a strip of land of 66 feet surrounding the entire community, has yet to be sold. This land claim has been going on for some 10 years. A lot of people are waiting for acquiescence, for political will from this government to resolve this outstanding issue. How close are we to a settlement in this affair?
Hon Mr Scott: As the honourable member knows, as well as anybody who might have been around since 1862 when the original transaction occurred, this government has received historically a substantial number of land claims, approximately 40 from various native bands. It was a matter of great embarrassment, I think, to all Ontarians that until 1985, no government of Ontario had ever positively responded to a native land claim in the province.
We have now responded to about 13 or 14 of them and are working on the others. Among the 13 or 14 is the Manitoulin claim, to which the honourable member makes reference, and we are working hard in order to negotiate a settlement to that.
Mr Pouliot: The minister is entirely correct when he states that the natives, over the past century, have been dealing with governments that lack the will to be honourable. It is as simple as that. Promises made during treaties have been broken time after time, have been ignored, and people have been taken down the proverbial path. Those treaties have not only been unfulfilled, but they have also left a heritage of bitter disappointment. Now the minister has a chance to redress this, for it is not only the natives on Manitoulin Island who are suffering from that lack of will. The tourism industry does not know where to plan -- or what to plan -- for the future. No one knows, and yet we hear rumours and we are told to ask the Attorney General, the minister responsible.
Can the minister give us, if not a meticulous one, somewhat of a ball park timetable? Will it be next month? Will it be six months from now? How close is he to having an agreement in this affair? It is very important, not only for natives, but everyone who resides on and loves Manitoulin Island.
Hon Scott: I know that few members in the House have the commitment to these issues that the honourable member questioning me has and I know he is very concerned to find what the timetable of the negotiations will be. It has been proceeding on for some period of time now. I would think if settlement in the short or medium term is going to be made, it will probably be made in the next six to eight weeks.
LOAN TO TENANTS’ GROUP
Mr Harris: I have a question for the Minister of Housing about the taxpayer-financed, $60-million purchase by tenants of the City Park Apartments in Toronto. It has been brought to my attention that several offers from the private sector were turned down and that the actual purchase price for these buildings is up to 20 per cent higher than the going market value. In fact, by paying too much, the government has now artificially inflated the market value of other rental property, all in the name of affordable housing. I would ask the minister how he can condone using $60 million of public funds to drive up apartment values while at the same time failing to create one single new unit?
Hon Mr Sweeney: As the honourable member probably knows, these were buildings that were involved in the Greymac flip situation of a few years ago. They ended up in the hands of a receiver. The receiver petitioned the courts to help it determine what should be done with these buildings. It was, I believe, and I stand to be corrected, a court ruling that in fact the buildings could be sold to the nonprofit sector. It is our understanding that it was on the basis of a tender bid.
The honourable member should be aware of the fact that my ministry did an analysis of the value of those buildings compared to the value of constructing new apartments and it was deter-mined that the price of those buildings was approximately 70 per cent of the value of constructing new units. On the basis of that, it was seen to be a fair price and it was seen to be a good use of the dollars that are available if we could acquire for the nonprofit market something like 740 units at 70 per cent of the cost of constructing new ones.
Mr Harris: The minister can have all his government people trying to figure out the value he wants. The fact of the matter is that on the open market, the price paid with government money was up to 20 per cent higher than the private sector thought they were worth.
Two years ago, the minister’s government inflated all land values in Metropolitan Toronto by selling Malvern land for over $4,000 a foot, piercing that barrier for the first time and setting a new high landmark for the price of land. Now the Ministry of Housing, with this inflated-value apartment transaction, has established a new inflated benchmark for this building and, in effect, the minister has inflated apartment building values for all buildings of this class here in Metropolitan Toronto.
Given that when he does that under his rent review system eventually those inflated values will all be translated into higher rents in all the buildings of that class here in Toronto, I would ask the minister again, how can he justify using taxpayers’ money to set a new high benchmark value for property and, in effect, increase apartment rents all across Metropolitan Toronto?
Hon Mr Sweeney: What the honourable member perhaps also understands is that the private sector has consistently advised us that it is not profitable for it to build new units. As a matter of fact, the most recent figure that we heard was that to build new, two-bedroom units in the Metro area would require rentals in the neighbourhood of $1,200 or $1,300 a month. The private sector is clearly saying to us that even if a number of other things were changed, it would not be encouraged to go out and build new units.
Therefore, with the distinct possibility that we cannot bring new units on the market at an affordable price, it seemed quite reasonable to be able to bring into the nonprofit sector 740-plus units at only 70 per cent of what it would cost the government to help finance construction of new units. The fact that the court decided that these nonprofit areas were the most appropriate buyer is something that we accede to.
Mr Harris: There are no new units here. All you have done is to increase --
The Speaker: Order.
RENT REGULATION OF RETIREMENT HOMES
Mr Fleet: My question is for the Minister of Housing. The Grenadier Residents Association is composed of 137 seniors who live in a retirement home at 2100 Bloor Street. They average 83 years of age; over 80 per cent are women and most live alone. Residents began moving into the new building in late 1987 with monthly rents of approximately $1,100, as advertised. In January 1988 and 1989, residents faced rent increases of approximately 14.5 and 30 per cent respectively. The seniors have fought back.
In 1988, the association made a precedent-setting application to rent review for a ruling of rent review legislation applied to their building and to roll back the rents. It was the start of a long legal battle because both sides are determined to appeal a negative result.
Final arrangements and submissions were provided to rent review by both parties in May. A decision had been first promised by early June and then repeatedly promised to be coming, quote, “shortly,” but has not yet arrived. The seniors are justifiably angry and frustrated.
The Speaker: Order. Do you have a question?
Mr Fleet: When will a decision be made?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The honourable member, as part of his question, indicated that both sides are determined that they will appeal what they see to be a negative response. That, quite frankly, is part of the reason it is taking so long to come up with an answer, because the rent review officers are very aware of the fact that this could be a precedent-setting decision, not just for the Grenadier but for rest and retirement homes across the entire province of Ontario, and not just for the ones that exist today, but for ones that will be built over the next three or four years and longer. So therefore, they have to be very, very careful that the basis of their decision is sound and that they can defend it against the inevitable appeal that the member already indicated.
I can only say to my honourable friend that we are aware of the concern on the part of both the tenants and the landlord there and we will get the decision as quickly as we possibly can. I understand, and I am sorry to have to use the term again, that it is about to come shortly.
Mr Fleet: Regardless of which way the rent review decision goes, the facts in this case highlight a gap in provincial regulation. Seniors in several hundred retirement homes all over Ontario lack adequate protection. A survey and a separate advisory committee report released earlier this year for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs documents the need for additional legislation.
To avoid a repetition for other seniors of the struggle of the Grenadier Residents Association, would the minister please advise the House when we can expect new legislation’?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The difficulty in the honourable member’s question is a presumption that the decision will be not in favour of the tenants. He may very well be correct, but then again, the decision may be the other way.
The difficulty that we are facing is that the rent review legislation was not drafted with this type of situation in mind, because it clearly did not intend to bring under rent review those buildings where the care component, the service component was every bit as extensive as the shelter component. So we really do not have at the moment, at least it would seem to be, legislation that is properly tuned to meet this particular need. The rent review officer may very clearly indicate that it ought to and find some way to bring it in.
However, until the rent review officers make that decision, we are not in a position to indicate whether or not new legislation ought to be brought in.
I have one concern I can share with my colleague and that is to wonder whether or not, as the honourable member says, tenants of an average age of 83 ought to be put through on an annual basis the rent review process. I would hope that we could come up with another way of resolving that issue and some of my other ministerial colleagues are looking into aspects of it and perhaps we can find some --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Kormos: To the Minister of Financial Institutions: The government’s new rules for insurance, the ones that the insurance companies paid for, asked for and indeed, if it is up to the government, are going to get, the same ones that ensure you get nothing for your pain and suffering, they are particularly unfair to small business people, to small entrepreneurs, to the self-employed, because those people will be unable to recover loss of profit and losses associated with the disruption of their business. Those same people, under the government’s new rules, could lose their businesses and recover absolutely nothing. How can the minister say that is in any way close to being fair?
Hon Mr Elston: As is not generally the honourable gentleman’s habit, he has sort of oversimplified the situation to the extent that it requires a fairly lengthy response, but let me be as concise as possible.
First of all, this program is designed to provide coverage quickly, provide income replacement for people who suffer injury. It is going to provide supplementary medical and rehabilitation benefits, it is going to provide long-term care: in those latter two categories alone $1 million will be the limit.
In addition to that, people will in fact be able to provide themselves or avail themselves of coverage with excess insurance. There is a market available. We know that many prudent small business people and others engaged in business activity do provide themselves with supplementary insurance above and beyond anything that they get in their automobile. They have requirements with respect to business arrangements where if they take out special loans or whatever, those are also insured by the institution so that the honourable gentleman fails to --
The Speaker: Thank you. Supplementary.
Mr Kormos: If Diogenes were in here with his lamp walking in front of those government benches, he would not even pause only slightly at the seat of the member for Bruce.
Let me run this past the minister. A 40-year-old, self-employed business person who earns $50,000 a year suffers two broken legs as a result of a drunk driver. As a result of the injury, he is disabled from working in his business for one and a half years and his business goes bankrupt. It is projected that it will take him five years to re-establish his business so that he can once again earn that same $50,000 a year.
He would get pain and suffering today. He would get maybe $35,000 for pain and suffering -- lost income, real lost income, of one and a half years times 50.
The Speaker: The question would be?
Mr Kormos: Under the government’s new system, under the auto insurance company’s new system, he would get no pain and suffering, no future income loss. Contrast that with a mere $135,000 to the $210,000 that he would deserve and that would adequately compensate him.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr Kormos: How is that fair? The minister is stealing from that small businessman, is he not?
The Speaker: Order. I appreciate your comment in question form, and please watch your words in the future.
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman is absolutely wrong. There is nothing there stealing anything from anyone, and for him to suggest that is really mindless. I cannot imagine that the gentleman really intended that to be the way he expressed his concerns.
But let me tell you this, Mr Speaker. Under the current system, that person might have to wait five or six years before he or she was able to collect on the costs of that lawsuit. What we have done is put in place something that is much fairer, much more responsive, much more quickly available to the people than what we have now. You can have income replacement. You can have long-term rehabilitation and supplementary medical care. You can have payments made for long-term care if you are required to be in a convalescent position for some time.
The honourable gentleman fails to mention those benefits and, in fact, he knows that in line with the example that was given to us earlier by the leader of the third party, as he now is, shows that there is a possibility that courts might determine that there is a long-term disadvantage that may have to be adjudicated in the courts and there could be recovery.
But the honourable gentleman cannot stand here in front of us now and just sort of put up a set of circumstances and then say, he being judge and jury on the case all by himself, “This won’t be covered by your situation. This won’t be covered by your program,” because that is not right. We have the safety outlet of allowing the courts --
The Speaker: Order. Perhaps this debate can continue when the legislation is introduced.
MUNICIPAL ZONING BYLAWS
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Housing who is also the Minister of Municipal Affairs. On 27 February of this year, legislation was enacted that amended the Planning Act, which declared that certain provisions in municipal bylaws and interim control bylaws which distinguished between related and unrelated persons would have no force and effect under Ontario law. These so-called exclusionary by-laws were a function of the university communities and it was well accepted that they were directed at university students and their housing needs.
Given that the minister’s political party, the government of the day for five years, has promised the students that it would eliminate these bylaws and given that his ministry has had a year to study the implications of this new law prior to its enactment, can the minister please explain why he has had such difficulty in providing a memorandum or some sort of guidance to municipalities across this province that are seeking his advice on the implementation of his own amendments to the Planning Act?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The intent of the legislation is very clear. As the honourable member indicated, any municipality that already has such a bylaw on its books is now faced with the fact that it has no effect. It cannot be enforced. Any municipality that had thoughts of introducing such a bylaw is now being told it would be of no advantage for it do so.
It is pretty straightforward. We have certainly indicated to any municipality that has requested information that that is it. It is fairly straightforward. I would point out to the honourable member, however, as part of his question, although it is probably going to impact to a large extent on university communities, it was not intended just for university communities. As a matter of fact, in some communities the operation of a group home could be impacted by this same legislation and is in fact being impacted by this same legislation.
Mr Jackson: The fact is that municipalities across this province have been getting no guidance, no clear direction and no leadership from the minister’s ministries with respect to how to implement this legislation. In fact, especially in university communities where several councils have had ongoing concerns and staff reports, this evening the council of the city of Waterloo will meet to discuss the staff report. I have a copy of it with me.
That council tonight is going to be considering the following recommendation, that its zoning bylaws not be altered at this time. It goes on to suggest a series of possible solutions, including an age-appropriate designation for residents in this province and possibly establishing student housing zones.
My question is simply this. Is the minister prepared to sit by idly, without giving guidance and support, when specific requests are being made and while councils like Waterloo consider these kinds of recommendations which the minister himself knows are inappropriate?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The clear message that has been given to municipalities is that they cannot discriminate on the basis of family relationship. That is the clear message.
Mr Jackson: It is okay to do it on age.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Just a minute. The question we have gotten back from a number of municipalities is that we are having some problems with respect to noise or with respect to parking. We have indicated to them very clearly they still have the authority, under their bylaw provisions, to deal with a noise factor or with a parking factor, and they can deal with that through their bylaws.
Our legislation does not in any way inhibit them from doing that. We have said: “Go ahead.”
If your real problem is noise, deal with your noise bylaws. If your real problem is parking, deal with it through a parking bylaw. But what you cannot do is the relationship of people within the homes. With respect to age, I suspect that any municipality that tried to make a decision based on age would run up against the charter, quite simply.
Ms Poole: My question is for the Minister of Revenue. In September, Metropolitan Toronto council requested that he approve its plan for bringing in market value assessment to Metro. As the minister is aware, in my opinion, Metro’s last-minute compromise plan is nothing more than pure political expediency of the worst kind.
Can the minister tell me, when Metro sent this plan to him, did it submit to him any analysis, any study, any plan or any indication whatsoever that it has analysed the financial impact on Metro? Second, since I will not get a supplementary, how can we as a government possibly approve this plan without some idea of its impact on Metro?
Hon Mr Mancini: I am glad I have the opportunity to answer the member’s question. It was far more direct than the question I received last week and from a far more interested member. I want to say to my colleague that I understand how sensitive she is about this whole matter. I also want to say to her that the responsibility for whatever impact studies need to be taken lies at the doorstep of the Metropolitan Toronto government, the same government that voted to have such a plan put in place.
As all honourable members know, more than 660 municipalities over the last 10 years have asked for some type of market value reassessment. I keep stressing to the members in the House that it is the responsibility of the duly elected members of either the regions or the counties or the local municipalities to ask for a market value reassessment.
I can see that a lot of the members in the Conservative Party do not care to hear this, but they are the ones, in fact, who passed the legislation in 1979 which gave the municipalities the right to ask for market value reassessment. We are going to consider very thoroughly the proposal that is before us and that has been duly passed by the elected officials of the Metro Toronto government.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Mr Ward moved that Mrs Smith and Mr Reycraft exchange places in the order of precedence for private members’ public business.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
INSURANCE STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Elston moved first reading of Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance.
The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? No?
All those in favour will say “aye.”
All those opposed will say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker: No further comments’?
Hon Mr Elston: No. but I do have another.
COURTS OF JUSTICE AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Elston, on behalf of Mr Scott, moved first reading of Bill 69, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, 1984.
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 Brampton South (Mr Callahan) was in full flight. There may be some other members who wish to participate in the debate on Bill 208.
Mr Cousens: I would like to participate in this debate. On Saturday I bought my first Time magazine in quite a period of time. There was George Washington with a tear. I would have to say that there are many people who have tears in their eyes at what is going on in the province of Ontario under this Liberal government.
The beginning of this article really began to tell me the direction I want to take in my address to the House today on Bill 208: “Government is not the solution. It is the problem.”
I think more and more of us who have been watching the David Peterson government have begun to realize that it is a misplaced group of people who are coming along and giving us all the words, all the rhetoric and none of the action that is going to lead to a long-term solution. What I am seeing is just an increase of words and a decrease in action. In fact, more and more people are talking about the paralysis of this government. We believe there is an increasingly cynical conspiracy to mask the truth.
We saw that last week when neither the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) and the Premier (Mr Peterson), in an answer to a question about the hotline for emergency care in an emergency situation, could provide that answer. That is not what I call straight talk. On the one hand, the government has said: “We have an emergency line. There is a hotline. Call it and you are going to get help.” Then the moment that a doctor in Midland made 14 calls, no one went and directed him to it.
By the way, at the same time that that was happening, the Minister of Health would have led the province to believe that the doctor was somehow guilty of malfeasance and poor practice. I do not know of that many doctors who would go and spend four and five hours just trying to find -- I guess I do. The problem is that the Minister of Health does not know that many doctors who are committed to the welfare and wellbeing of the people of our province the way he was.
What we are seeing is a government that acts through symbolism rather than a government that acts in a sense of saying: “Here is what we want to do and here is the meaning behind it. Here is why we have rationalized what we are up to.” Instead, we have to deal with, first of all, what I describe as a very insincere approach by the government in dealing with all the people who are coming to it, because out of the mouths of the Premier and the Minister of Health on that situation last week we were told one thing and we know another.
I feel the same thing is happening when we are dealing with the situation under Bill 208. Bill 208 is an important act amending the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act for the province of Ontario.
It is something that has to be taken very seriously by all of us, and I think that when we start looking at what the government has done and is doing, we see it stonewalling; we see it creating a form of confrontation between employers and employees. We see this government, on the one hand, in 1987 before the election, tabling this important legislation and then resurfacing it this year, still not clear on how it is going to deal equitably and fairly with all the parties.
There is a marvellous way in which we can work together, when we see it as a triangle in which the government, along with management, along with labour -- and those are the three corners that make up a strong triangle -- are working in concert and working together, rather than having one of those partners undermining the other.
It is imperative that we in this province have that long-term goal of partnership and trust and building upon relationships over a long period of time so that we are able to build a stronger Ontario and so that we are able to have a stronger workforce so that all partners are somehow leading towards a happy resolution.
When this bill was brought forward and then again represented to the Legislature this year, it reminded me of Neville Chamberlain. Neville Chamberlain and David Peterson have something in common. People wanted to believe Chamberlain was going to make a difference when he returned from his trip across the Channel. They wanted to believe there would be peace in their time. So too, they want to believe the Premier, the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) or any other minister in this House who opens his mouth and makes a pronouncement.
People want to believe that what they are saying is truly an expressed and honest reflection of what is going to happen because in their hands lies the power to govern, the opportunity to do something right and, if in fact they are not doing it right, we in the opposition have to make sure they are challenged to do so and awaken their sense of what is right and wrong, to do and to deliver what they should be doing.
Neville Chamberlain and Peterson were not bad people. I very often think that when we are dealing in opposition we lose that sense of personal caring for one another. When you look at Liberals, New Democrats and Conservatives, for the large part we are all here to serve our people, the people in our constituencies, regardless of their political persuasion. Regardless of anything at all, we are there to serve them and the best interests of the province. I happen to believe very strongly that all of us from all parties are genuine in that commitment. Yet notwithstanding that, the difference in philosophical bent that the different parties bring to the table causes the kind of difference of opinion that leads to confrontation.
I have to believe that when Mr Chamberlain came back from Europe he was at a key moment in history in which things could have been changed. I have to believe that the Premier (Mr Peterson), the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) and this government are no less important in our history, the history of the province of Ontario, and that what they do and deliver to the people of this province has significant long-term ramifications.
If this government would begin to accept the level of responsibility that has been laid upon it, with its huge majority, then it might well begin to realize that what it wants to do is not to give false hope and false promises, but to give the people of Ontario a balanced, honest, good government, a government that is going to respect the three corners of the triangle I just described, where government, management and labour work together to make sure that there is not going to be confrontation. I have to believe that the government has lost sight of that kind of confrontational politics by virtue of the way in which it comes forward with bills --
Mr Cousens: I would be pleased to pause for a moment.
Mr Speaker, if there is support from the House, we have a very distinguished visitor from another country here and I would be very pleased if one of my honourable friends would make an introduction.
The Deputy Speaker: Has the member for Dovercourt a request?
Mr Lupusella: I would like to request unanimous consent to introduce a distinguished guest in the public gallery. If such consent is given, I will introduce him.
Mr Lupusella: First of all, I am very thankful for the approval of my presentation by the honourable member. I know he is a very kind and honourable individual.
I would like to take this opportunity to draw to the attention of the members of this House the presence of a distinguished guest in the public gallery. He is the mayor of my home town in Italy. His name is Gianpiero Nistico, and I would like him to stand up and be recognized.
Remarks in Italian.
The Deputy Speaker: Would the member for Markham resume.
Mr Cousens: I share in the welcome. I think there is just a marvellous opportunity that we have here in the Legislature to meet people from across the world. You start realizing that the link many of us have with our home countries is something that is very good to maintain and it adds to the roots and strength of our multicultural fabric that makes up Ontario. So I thank the honourable member.
I was speaking earlier on Bill 208, the Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act. I really have to believe that there are certain ingredients in the Premier and the government that are lacking and are epitomized by the way in which the government has dealt with Bill 208. What I have seen develop is a sense of betrayal on the part of business and now a sense of betrayal on the part of the New Democratic Party in the way the government deals with this House, with interest groups and with legislation.
We have been talking about this bill for over 15 months and now it would appear the government is prepared to do some thinking on it only because everybody has been raising such concern about the way in which it has been tabled and the way in which it has been dealt with in this House.
I was saying in a historical context that the Premier and his government have a chance to be leaders in history. When they took power there was that great opportunity to be an open, good government. I have to say they have not been open and have not been good. I see it now as a tragic flaw of this government in failing to deal with issues honestly and openly, and then allowing them to fester and become a major issue that becomes a matter of concern to many, many people.
I am looking for a government that will be balanced, fair and responsible. I am looking for a government that will have a progressive social policy, a government that will have some sense of economic conservatism by virtue of the way it saves money rather than just spends it, a government that will have a balanced view, a government with an empathy for minorities and not just giving lipservice to everything.
I believe that this government has no deep feelings about anything and that the deep feelings, if any, are held in the Premier’s office. They are the ones who are coming forward, making policy and causing the rest, the backbenchers of this government to be quiet. The only time they are noisy is when I am in my chair trying to make a point and they start to carp. I venture to say that they are quiet in caucus, where they should be noisy. They are not in there digging away and beating up those ministers and telling them that they should be doing something differently. What they do is they save up their energy for the Legislature and then come in here like a bunch of penguins and start slapping their desks and making a few comments. I have to say that they will be found guilty by the tribunal of the people when they go before them in the next election, because they have not stood up for the other groups.
Mr Dietsch: Where did you pick him up?
Mr Cousens: Oh, come on; it is true. All the people in Scarborough; they have more members in Scarborough and they are doing sweet nothing about the Rouge. They do not say anything in the House. I have to assume they are saying nothing in caucus.
As far as Bill 208 is concerned -- I want to get back on that -- they have not done anything to motivate this government to really come clean and open up a proper, full dialogue on what is going on.
What we are dealing with is legislation that begins to change the balance of power that exists between government and the private sector. The private sector, as it stands, has felt a sense of estrangement from this government, an estrangement that has made it feel it had no way of getting through to the Premier and his government. The only thing they could do is begin to rally the troops, to rally all the different associations of which they are members -- I will come to that in my presentation -- the number of people who have finally had to get involved because this government was not listening to normal dialogue.
I think it is horrible. I think there is something fundamentally wrong when you have a government that wants to have a battle with every significant group in our society. They are doing it with the teachers. They are doing it with the hospitals. They are doing it with the insurance industry. Now, with Bill 208, this government is doing it with industry and commerce and trade. They now have the socialists mad at them. They had them happy for a few years.
Mr Callahan: They don’t like to be called that. Don’t call them that.
Mr Cousens: I am sorry; the NDP. I should not call the NDP socialist; they do not like it.
The fact of the matter is that when we look at what Bill 208 is all about, there can be no doubt that there is a need for action when we are dealing with the health and safety of our workforce. That is a given. Any one of us in this House has to know that there are those out in the work force every day, slugging it out, who are facing certain kinds of danger at any time.
It is for us to make sure that we establish an environment that protects their best interests. When you realize that in 1987, the last year for which statistics were available, over seven million days were lost due to occupational accidents and illnesses, seven million days of people who -- it just means that they are home, are not able to contribute to society and they themselves certainly do not feel fulfilled when they are not able to go and do their work.
Many of these incidents that generated lost time resulted in compensation payments, a total of $1.45 billion in workers’ compensation payments in 1987. I guess we have never added up recently the cost of the unfunded liability of the Workers’ Compensation Board in Ontario, but it is over $8 billion right now and growing. It is to the advantage of all of us that if the government is not going to come along and overhaul the Workers’ Compensation Board, then the least we can be doing on the other side of the equation is everything we can to protect the workers who have made this province strong.
The statistics become very alarming when you realize that in 1988 there were 360 deaths caused by occupational accidents and disease. This figure combines the number of traumatic deaths and the Workers’ Compensation Board allowable claims under the industrial diseases that have been acquired in the last two years that resulted in death, 360 people who are no longer part of this province, part of their family, part of the contributors to the future of our province. They are no longer able to be here because they died.
There is a very significant incidence of work-related injury and illness, nearly 2,000 people each working day in Ontario, the result of industrial machinery, toxic chemicals, compounds, repetitive procedures that produce strain. These are all part and parcel of occupational health and occupational hazard, we used to think, but the fact that it has gone on for a long time means that we have to do far more than we have done in the past to address these concerns.
I know that the ministry, ever since the legislation was brought forward in the 1970s, has added to the number of inspectors who go out and inspect and visit work sites. They annually carry out over 69,000 work site inspections. They investigate 3,500 complaints annually. How can they begin to touch them all when there are over 179,000 workplaces?
I happen to believe there is a need to do everything we can to make our workplaces safer. There is a sense behind the bill that I would like to put in balance, and that is to educate employers and employees on the importance of health and safety, and for all of us to understand that emphasis and to make sure it is seen as important, believed to be important. The commitment follows it through so that therefore everybody is committed to good safety practices because they want to be, because they care about their neighbour and because they care about their employer, because of everything.
I know that inspection alone is not the answer. We saw that in the school system. The Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) was a school trustee and chairman, as I was, for a time, and at one time we had inspectors. I do not think there are too many inspectors any more in the school system. It is too bad because I think on the one hand you can have the -- let’s deal with the analogy I want to make here.
We want to have quality education and therefore we have inspectors going in, randomly testing the system to see that they are producing and performing in the way they are supposed to. I see what is happening in Bill 208 as an opportunity for the government to say, “Once we have installed this, we will no longer have inspectors.” I hope there is no sense on the part of the ministry to withdraw the importance of having inspectors there to look at the 170,000 or so different workplaces. That is an essential ingredient, to continue to monitor the workplace, as it was and still is, I believe, in the education system where you have inspectors going in and working with the principals and the teachers to make sure their quality and their programs are to a standard that is acceptable.
We are dealing with a bill that has just so much to offer on the positive side, and yet we can deal with some of the negatives that come out of this bill. At that point we start to worry about the power of the joint health and safety committees.
When we see how this bill is being introduced, we know that workplaces with five to 20 workers will be required to have a health and safety representative and some 50,000 businesses will now be covered by health and safety legislation, including service areas such as hotels. What we see happening there is the passing down of responsibility.
I will be interested when this bill comes to committee. I believe the minister has agreed that it will have public hearings and that there will be an opportunity for those in small businesses to comment not only on what is going to happen once the bill is extended to their businesses through the legislation we will pass eventually, but also on to what degree they have been involved in providing for a healthy and safe environment for their employees.
For the first time in Ontario, with this legislation, construction projects with a work-force of 20 or more persons, where the project is to run no longer than three months, will require joint health and safety committees and worker trade subcommittees. This again is the kind of thing that is an extension of responsibility more to the workplace.
The health and safety committees will consist of at least two members and will be required in each workplace employing less than 50 people. The two members of each committee will consist of one management representative and one labour representative. They will have to be specially trained and certified to serve on the committee.
I can see that taking a certain amount of time and money. There is going to be a wrapping-up process to that. I do not see the government participating very much in the cost of that program. In fact, I think the government is saying that this would be borne entirely by each employer, and to that degree, there is some concern about the costs that are going to be brought in. There has to be a sense of responsibility at that point on the part of employers and employees to do this.
There are so many people today who work overtime. I know that in this Legislature many of us are putting in 60- and 70-hour weeks, and management who are not on a salaried basis are putting in far more than 38 to 40 hours a week, hope that some of this health and safety education that has to go on will not necessarily be paid-for time out of the coffers of industry and that the employees will buy into the program in such a way that it is not always a matter of the employer having to pay out.
There has to be a self-help procedure that is part of this. I do not think you can legislate that. It has to be part of the common sense of industry that goes into it. I would be interested in the minister at some point commenting on the way in which industry is going to have to foot all the bill. Is there some way in which those who are part of industry and make it work will contribute not only in the interest and the time they have when they are on duty, but in off-hours time for learning and developing it?
To me, in Canada, for us to develop the kind of future we are capable of developing, I do not think we are ever going to be able to do it just on a 35- or 40-hour week. There has to be far more of the old work ethic come back into this province and into all levels, not only of government but of the workforce at every level.
I understand the Ministry of Labour expects that there will be 50,000 joint health and safety committees established across the province and that there would be a possibility of some 200,000 certified members. I have not seen a great deal on what the province is going to do in the training and education of them. On the one hand, it expects the people to go for this training; on the other hand, I would hope that there is an infusion of some investment by the government to make sure that we train the trainers and that the committees are going to be brought up to a level at which they are able to have the knowledge they require and that we do not just expect industry to cover the total cost.
Now we come to the powers that exist in the bill. The minister has not yet tabled amendments to this legislation, but there are several parts of this bill that really give a tremendous amount of power to the joint health and safety committees. The first thing is to obtain information concerning tests of any equipment, machine, devices, articles, machinery or biological, chemical or physical agents in and about the workplace for the purpose of seeing that all this equipment is safe occupationally.
The next thing the committees would do is to obtain information concerning the identification of potential or existing hazards, whether they are materials, processes or equipment. So they would go through their whole operation with another look, with their eyes having been trained. Having taken a course, they would then be in a position to understand what is needed. Next, they would also look at the health and safety experience, work practices and standards in similar industries.
I see this as an appropriate learning curve in many ways so that the people who are out there and are in industry are going to be far better informed. I would hope that while they are out there looking at other industries they might learn how to become more efficient in their own practice.
The problem we have when we start legislating something that deals with one specific area such as health and safety is that we are dealing with a ministry that did not have too much conversation with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology, and that came through in a number of statements that have been released by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter). It was he who started to hear from far more of the manufacturers and businesses across the province saying: “Wow. Hold on. The Ministry of Labour is going too far.”
At the same time as we are in the process of improving health and safety, I know we cannot cloud that issue with other things because we want to have an emphasis on health and safety that we have not had. This is a growing, learning curve where we in this province will over a period of time make sure there are not 360 deaths, we will make sure there are not 200 million man-days lost a year, we will make sure we are doing the best for all the people of our province. I see this as progressive and positive.
I then start looking at what happens. A committee member is entitled to one hour to prepare for each committee meeting. I suppose the minister has to put it in the bill, but if a person is entitled to it, does that mean he or she always takes it? You see the different contracts that people have where they are allowed a certain number of sick days and they feel as if they are almost being cheated unless they take all their sick days.
That is the kind of common sense that is lost when you start legislating things that should be common sense. Considering the matter of one hour to prepare for each committee meeting, it is the employer who has to make ends meet, meet the rest of the payroll, make a profit -- there is nothing wrong with making a profit -- and as a result it is going to fall on the employer to make sure that happens.
When we see some of the things that can happen, the health and safety committee then becomes a very, very important leadership group within an operation to monitor and to watch over what is going on. They will be required to make written reports, and it is very obvious that they will have a responsibility that has not before been passed on to them.
Now, we get to some of the actions that can happen because of the joint health and safety committees. If the legislation goes through as it is now proposed before this House, a certified member of the health and safety committee can direct the employer to stop work, specifying the work or the use of any part of a workplace or of any equipment, machine, device or article.
That person who is on the joint health and safety committee can order the stoppage of work when he feels that a provision of the act has been contravened, when a contravention poses a danger or a hazard to a worker and the danger or hazard is such that any delay in controlling it will cause serious risk to a worker. That is what calls for judgement on the part of that committee member and that person’s judgement at that time, if it is absolutely balanced and fair and has no foul bias to it, will be in the best interests of everyone and the bill will be okay.
However, the direction to stop work is something that gives a tremendous amount of power to a certified member on this committee. I want to go into this because of the correspondence I have received and the comments that have come from people all across the province, and from my riding in particular, who are very concerned with the power that certified member has on that committee, because at that point that individual is in a position to cause the business owner a significant amount of trouble to the business.
The bill states that if a certified member did act negligently or in bad faith, the agency shall revoke the member’s health and safety certification for life. That is fine. In the meantime, the ultimate result could have been an assembly line on General Motors that was shut down for an extended period of time, where all the salaries of all the employees, plus the lost work time, is paid for by the manufacturer; 100 per cent of the lost-time costs are paid for by management.
The right to refuse dangerous work has been expanded to include work activity. This is another issue that opens up the power under the joint health and safety committees. Suddenly, we are now saying. “You can stop work whenever you see there is a problem.” An individual employee will be able to say, “I’m endangered by this and heavy lifting is going to cause me a problem.”
I hope they have the right now whereby if anyone is going to have a potential problem in what he is doing in the workplace, there is legislation to protect him from having to act on it in a way that would be against his best interests.
Then we go further on the work stoppage aspects of the bill as it is written. That is the penalty for noncompliance. That is going to be increased from the present $25,000 fine to a $500,000 fine, the highest in Canada. I have to say that this power that will now exist in the hands of joint health and safety committees really places a tremendous amount of power that may not always be used correctly and well.
I want to comment on that in some depth because of the correspondence I have received from people in my riding. They are very, very concerned with what is happening on that, because I guess they feel this government is rather naive about just what it is proposing. They are seeing a situation develop that is not too dissimilar from a person who is coming into work on the subway or using Via Rail, and he pulls the cord to stop the train. There is a $500 fine levied on the person who brought the train to a stop, so there is some disincentive for a person to pull the cord to stop the train.
In fact, on Via Rail, if someone does stop the train without a purpose and there is not a really legitimate reason for his doing so, he is subject to imprisonment and a $500 fine. I would say that gives him some reason to make up his mind before he pulls that cord. He is not just going to do it absent-mindedly. He is not going to do it for a frivolous reason. He is going to do it because he has thought it through and he said: “There is an urgent crisis here. We have to stop the train.”
There can be a variety of things that happen. That is why they have the cords there; to stop it when you have to. What I see happening here in this Legislature and with this bill, and also with the way the Peterson government runs everything, is it is a way of confronting people with a problem. They put all the bad news out there; they get people angry at them; there is a sense of frustration that develops and you end up not really having the consensus-building that leads to a better resolution.
I wonder just how we are going to solve it. The kinds of correspondence I have received from my constituents on this matter are enough to make one realize that it is not what we would call the positive legislation the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) would like us to believe. The Minister of Labour, in his speech on 12 October in tabling the bill, said -- it was a rather good line – “Bill 208 is a cornerstone of the government’s progressive legislative program,” and he also said it was the most progressive legislation in North America. I thought I had it underlined.
It may be the most progressive in North America; there is only one other government that has gone as far with its health and safety statutes and that is in Scandinavia. Aside from that, this government has come along and taken a leadership role that is going to destroy the balance that, to me, is essential to a strong working relation-ship between labour and management, that triangle that is part and parcel of what good government is all about.
I would like to put on record a number of letters I have received. I have one from the Markham Board of Trade. This is a letter that was addressed to me and I sent it on to the then minister. Maybe the minister was moved out because he was taking too hard a line on Bill 208 and they have put a softer touch in there with the new Minister of Labour and he is going to back off in a significant way from a number of issues and allow some of the balance to come back in the legislation. He has indicated he is anxious to do that.
But as the bill now stands, and without the amendments tabled from this government, what we are really seeing is that you get a letter from the then president, Mr Nichols, saying the amendments will enable businesses to be shut out by certified employees if it is in the opinion of these employees that the workplace is unsafe. There is no apparent recourse against employees who abuse this power. We know the only recourse is that they can never again be certified members of the health and safety committee, but it is nothing like the kind of abuse that is going to fall on the employer.
The board of trade also indicates there will be a significant transfer of employer-paid Workers’ Compensation Board premiums to fund a large new organization. This organization will likely require additional funding over the coming years. This will increase the strain on employers to fund their payroll and would inevitably reduce hiring. We all know the costs of government. If only I could find someplace in the last several years where the DP government, the David Peterson government, had somehow cut back on its spending and had come forward with suggestions to show that it was going to be frugal. But no, every chance they get they think they can solve it by throwing more money against the wall. That is a concern of a number of business people.
The fact is, he raises a number of other points about government inspectors having the power to seize, carry away and detain documents without laying charges. Is that going to be amended by the government changes?
I see the honourable member for Durham East (Mr Cureatz) in the chair and I would really like to compliment him. It is the first time I have had a chance to see him in the chair. The member for Durham East is really one of the most exciting members of this Legislature. He has so much to offer, and I appreciate the fact that he is in the chair. I wish you great happiness there as you are listening to myself and, later, the Leader of the Opposition.
As I go forward in the correspondence from the board of trade, it is typical of a large number of people who are saying this government has not been able to face up to the challenge that exists, and that is to maintain a balance between what business needs and what government needs. The London Chamber of Commerce spent a significant amount of time putting together a series of recommendations. I have to thank the honourable member for London North (Mrs Cunningham) for sharing this with me.
The London Chamber of Commerce, like myself, supports the underlying purpose behind the amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. They too are interested in the improvement in health and safety in the Ontario workplace. They support the stated objectives of the proposed changes. However, they say, “We feel that the proposed amendments do little to achieve the objectives professed by the ministry and little to address the underlying issue of workplace safety.” So they come forward with a number of recommendations. I would like to table them quickly, but I want them at least to be on the record. I will just table the short form of them because I am worried that the government will not be able to address these points totally. I would hope that they can come back from their hardened position and accept some of these recommendations.
It is so pleasing to me to see the Minister of Education (Mr Conway) in the House once in a while. He no longer has to be here as much. He is no longer House leader, but it is good to see him.
The recommendations are as follows: Restore the exemption of retail shops, offices and nonkitchen hospitality services. They are concerned about the millions of dollars that these enterprises would have to lay out if in fact through the inspectors who are out there now the government could see that they are already fulfilling the services that are required that underlie the bill. Is it necessary to have them included in the bill? I raise that question.
The second point they raise is to eliminate the requirement for a joint health and safety commit-tee in establishments of 20 to 50 employees. They are concerned about the regulations that will be brought to bear on smaller business and whether or not they are going to be able to really handle it. It is one thing to legislate it, but it is another to have them follow it through and do what they are supposed to do. I am wondering -- I will not comment on that.
Their third point: Allow the appointment of health and safety representatives and joint health and safety committee members by the employer in nonorganized workplaces. In other words, reserve a forced election of this representative for circumstances where a business has a history of recurring problems. This approach could be similar to a procedure recently proposed in British Columbia. I think they want to take the confrontation out of the selection process.
The fourth point: Remove the power to stop work from certified members of the joint health and safety committee. I hope the minister is very seriously looking at ways in which there can be a balance on that.
Fifth point: Delete the expansion of the right to refuse work to include work activity and replace it with specific standards for the weight that a worker can be expected to lift.
Next point: Reflect the makeup of Ontario’s workforce in the boards of directors of the agency and the safety associations. I did not have a chance earlier to comment on this but the new board that is going to be supervising health and safety legislation is going to be largely based on appointees from unions in the province of Ontario. I do not know the degree to which the minister is willing to back away from that. Some 70 per cent of the employees and workers in the province are not members of any union. Therefore, when the government is going to have a provincial board established, is it going to have all the employee members selected from the Ontario Federation of Labour? That, again, is a matter of concern. Let’s have a mixture of representation that includes the federation of labour but also a percentage of that part of the province of Ontario that is union held. Maybe we could get a cross-section of others. I am asking the minister to consider that, and that is the sixth point in this presentation.
The seventh point: Include health and safety professionals on the boards of the agency and safety associations. I believe there is a tremendous need for professionals and to balance off on them.
The eighth recommendation: Enforce the act by concentrating on education and using the power of the agency to adjust workers’ compensation assessment penalties. There is a great deal that can be said there where the employers of Ontario are not the adversaries of the Ministry of Labour in seeking safety in the workplace but are, instead, its greatest ally. By ensuring that the workplace parties know what is required of them, the minister will eliminate far more violations of the act than he will be concentrating on catching employers.
In addition, emphasizing the reduced direct cost to employers with successful safety programs will be far more effective than severe penalties in motivating employers to understand and conform to the act.
This is a significant series of recommendations and I am pleased to put them, in part, into the record. I know the minister has received a copy of this. The general public has not. I think it is just important that we realize that many people out in Ontario are concerned with the changes this government is about to make.
I start looking at the letters I am receiving and I have one from a president of a company that is very, very involved in health and safety. Because I do not have permission to read his letter giving his name and the name of the company, I am not at liberty to give it, but I can just assure the honourable minister that it was copied to the Premier (Mr Peterson), the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips), the member for Scarborough North (Mr Curling) and Donald Smith. People do copy Donald Smith and, when they call Ellis-Don, they believe something is going to be happening in this government and that then the government is going to react. Maybe we should all be calling Don Smith. He also copied John Bulloch of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the National Citizens’ Coalition.
I would like to just put on the record the kind of concerns that this constituent of mine has.
“I wish to voice my displeasure with your proposed Bill 208. The construction industry does not need anything more intimidating than the existing legislation and vehicles which are at your disposal. The taxpayers do not need any more bureaucrats to support.”
Three cheers to that point. The government has already added 7,000 more bureaucrats in the last four years since it came to power. I do not know how many more this ministry is going to add. The people out there who are paying the bills are beginning to become increasingly concerned about it. He does not want to have any more bureaucrats to support.
“Employers in our industry presently pay workers’ compensation rates at 10.96 per cent on an assessable payroll of $36,600, which works out to $4,011.36 per worker. I hope you do not think employers can afford more than that to support your new dream. Our firm is very proud of its achievements over the 21 years it has been in business. We are particularly proud of our safety record. The enclosed summary from Construction Safety illustrates that during 1988, our employees worked 136,906 hours without a lost-time accident. I suggest your government drop this bill and fine-tune current mechanisms. We don’t need more government.”
We look at this company’s construction safety injury frequency and cost record. He is telling it as it is, and yet he continues to pay high rates to workers’ compensation and now he will be paying even more to implement the kind of bill that Bill 208 represents.
I have another company, a manufacturing company, in my riding and here is a typical president. He copied the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Sorbara), but it was sent to the Premier. He said:
“This is a first for me; never in my life have I written to government, partly because I assume an individual letter is too small a voice, also because in my business affairs, organizations like the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association represent us, and I assume they would have a larger voice.”
I have heard from more people in the letters that I have who are saying, “I have never before written the government but I am having to now.” They were Liberals, anything, and they had that sense of trust that I talked about at the beginning, that trust people had in Chamberlain. They wanted to believe him; they wanted to believe everything was going to be fine. Because the Premier and this minister say, “Don’t worry, everything is just going to be fine,” they know --
Mr B. Rae: Mr Chamberlain?
Mr Cousens: Before the member came, I was talking about the fact that Mr Chamberlain and the Premier have a lot in common. They give a message that everything is just going to be fine and the fact is that it just is not so.
So he has come along and he, like many others, has joined forces with the different associations that have expressed outrage at what this bill is all about. I have not seen such a list of associations that are angry with it. He is relying, as many others are, on his association.
Listen to the list of those who are part of the employer groups: the Retail Council of Canada, the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, the Council of Ontario Construction Associations, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association, the Canadian Chemical Producers’ Association, the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, the Ontario Mining Association and the Ontario Trucking Association. These are at least a few of the associations in this province which have taken the time and energy and saw fit to come forward to say to the Liberal government of Ontario: “Stop. Listen. Look at what you’re doing. Look at the impact it is going to have on our industry and our business. We support safety” -- all of them have said that in their letters – “but we are concerned about the degree to which you’re going with it.”
I again refer to the letter from my constituent:
“However, I must say that your proposals for Bill 208 have got my attention, so in this letter I am speaking both in my role as president of this company and also on a personal note. In speaking personally, I have always considered myself both a small-l and a large-L Liberal, but this bill, and some of the other things that you are involved in, such as pay equity, indicate to me that you are very much out of touch with the world’s realities, and I must say, I am beginning to feel both frustrated and disfranchised.”
Why should a government be doing that to people in its own province? Why is it this government wants to alienate them from what good government can be all about? Why can we not begin to build bridges rather than fences, build bridges of relationships and understanding, of working together and allow there to be a dialogue where we are able to share and come out of this with a consensus? Someone has to give a bit here and someone has to give a bit there, but in the due course of time, we will end up with a stronger province, a stronger workforce, stronger business and a government that understands the working relationships between them all.
“The specifics of Bill 208, improving occupational health and safety, is a worthwhile goal.” He, along, with so many others in the correspondence I have received, has said that, and he goes on to say, “The health and safety agency needs to be broadly representative of the Ontario workforce.” I touched on that one earlier. The government should not just have representatives from specific federations on it. It has to have, again, a representative sampling of who it is that makes up the workforce in Ontario. He says, “Our workforce is not unionized,” which is true of two thirds of the total Ontario workforce: “We do not believe that our employees, who have chosen not to be represented by a union, should be represented on your agency for health and safety by organized labour. In addition, from a management perspective, our desire to work with the agency to help improve our safety will be relatively low if you allow big labour unions too large a voice.”
The second point: “We are totally opposed to the stop work provisions in the bill. Our workers already have the individual right to refuse work when they think it is unsafe.” To empower special “worker cops” to shut down unsafe operations is just too heavy-handed. My understanding from the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association was that this extraordinary power has been rejected by every other jurisdiction that has considered it, and Ontario should do the same.
That, again, is another manufacturer who is saying: “Stop. Don’t just go ahead and do it as you are proposing it.” This is another association that has written me, the Ontario Association of Foundation Specialists; they were not among the others on the list, and they just make a few points that the minister should realize. They say: “Your Bill 208 is unworkable and counterproductive. This act will create confrontations.”
And I believe Mr McDonald, the president of that association. It will create a tremendous amount of confrontation and the government is just leaving it wide open to it. It is going to go and put on to the negotiation table, far more than ever before, certain things that should be a matter of due course and this government is are provoking that. I just wish it would accept the responsibility for what it is doing and allow some honest dialogue to take place and some backing off by this government on what it is going to do.
This is another construction management firm which has written me, and again, resident in my riding. I like the way these people who do not often write letters put it down better than we can in this House, and he begins by saying to the former Minister of Labour the member for York Centre -- and he copied the Premier and myself, he said: “The pendulum has swung too far if Bill 208 is implemented. I have been in the construction industry for 20 years in Toronto and I have seen no need whatsoever for this kind of legislation. As usual, your proposal amounts to using a cannon to kill a fly. Forty-seven million dollars to search for problems in all of Ontario’s industry is ridiculous. With the records available to workers’ compensation, why not come down hard on the employer with a chronically bad safety record and the employee that has gone from disability to disability? Why must your solutions create more burdens for all employers?” And he goes on.
But I think when he says the pendulum has swung too far, he talks in an honest and candid way about the David Peterson government that has just gone too far. It does not know how to listen, it does not know how to come out with the balance that is needed, it does not know how to work with people and what it ends up doing is shoving it through because it has a 94-seat majority.
I have another letter from a construction company, a very good friend of mine; again because I have not asked him, I will not use his name, but he says: “I would like to go on record as strongly opposing Bill 208 and the creation of a new occupational health and safety agency. I see no justification for creating a new bureaucracy which will only increase construction costs in the province when the existing Construction Safety Association of Ontario works well. As a nonunion contractor, I firmly object to the influence organized labour would have on this proposed agency. Bill 208 infringes on the rights of nonunionized labour and will cause labour management disputes. Bill 208 should be withdrawn until further consultation and input is received from the construction sector.”
It is for that kind of reason that it is essential that we have an open, public debate on this bill; that we hear from those people who are writing me; that we allow them to table their concerns; that they can come forward with the kind of consultative assistance that could guide the government into doing something right for a change. To me, they are hoping and pleading for that opportunity.
Another construction company is a drywall and acoustic ceiling contracting business. It is a letter to me from a resident of my community. I cannot read it all, but he says, “We are writing to you as we believe the government of Ontario should hear from this industry and, as our MPP, we wish to enlist your help in asking that the Minister of Labour reconsider some of his planned changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act from an employer’s point of view.” That is probably the substance of most of the letters I have. Please intercede. Please get some balance out of this government so that they’re not just going to ram it through the way they’ve done so many other things that they’ve done. Have some integrity that shows the balance that’s needed.
I have another letter and this is a far more detailed one. This member is a member of the Ontario General Contractors Association. He is writing me again concerning Bill 208. He goes on with the items that he is concerned about. To me, he lays the point out. I want to raise a different point that he raises in his letter that I had not touched on. He says the agency that’s going to be established over health and safety in the province will allow the Ministry of Labour to abdicate the responsibility for safety on construction sites. Existing and new policy will be generated and enforced by the bureaucracy of the agency and not by the employers and government who are ultimately responsible.
I think he touches on something. The minister is going to have now a special agency responsible for health and safety and he personally will be removed from that as an issue. He can say now, “I don’t have hands on it.” It was almost the same as when the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet (Mr Elston) said that of the insurance industry, “Oh, no, we’re putting that off under a special agency” until they came out with some dumb idea and at that point the Premier’s bells started to ring, someone called Don Smith and said: “Change that. This insurance board is really going to mess things up.” They came back and now we have an announcement today, so there are ways.
There is no such thing as a hands-off agency, and yet what this minister is trying to do is say:
“Hey. I’m going to have all this packaged up neat and clean. We’re going to have an agency that’s out there looking after it. I no longer have to be involved because all the common sense is going to reside on them.” We cannot do it that way. There has to continue to be an involvement by the Minister of Labour in health and safety at all times. They report once a year with an annual report; that does not begin to be the dialogue that he has to have on situations.
If there was a disaster of any kind, if there was something that came up that goes beyond it, we do not want to have it so that he is at arm’s length and distant from them. We want it so that he is involved even if it is him and not a Tory or someone else who is in there. The minister personally has to have a hands-on experience and opportunity to be involved in those situations. I see the minister now saying, “Well, we’re going to refine the law. We’re going to put it so that it can be hands-distance away from us.” I reject that.
I reject it strongly and I hope that when we are having public hearings on this bill there will be an opportunity for the minister to explain himself on how he will continue to be involved in health and safety and not just relegated off to some little board. I want to make sure that there continues to be that personal touch.
This is another letter from another contractor and, again, I have never heard from this contractor before. I know him personally, but this got him up and got him writing. He said:
“The passing of Bill 208 would be a major mistake. As an employer, safety is my prime responsibility and I, without question, support any program that will effectively ensure a safer workplace.”
It would almost seem that the government, by drafting this bill the way it did, was saying, “The employers are irresponsible, we do not trust the employers to do anything, so we are going to take this and put it into effect so that they will be forced to provide that kind of workplace that is truly safe for all employees.”
I wish we would not paint employers generally with a brush as bad as that. I do not believe that to be the case. I know for a fact that if there are bad employers the government is going to identify them because of the number of cases they have that come to the workers’ compensation and it is also going to identify them through its inspectors. So therefore there is not always a need to come along and change the whole law to affect them all.
Here is where he goes on and he says: “Bill 208 goes far beyond the spirit of improving safety on a construction site in that it constitutes a massive counterproductive shift of power over the control of a construction project to labour forces that carry no ultimate responsibility for safety, nor accountability to the clients of construction. These responsibilities remain 100 per cent with the contractor.” This person wrote the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), the former Minister of Labour, the member for York Centre (Mr Sorbara), the former Minister of Mines, the member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway), the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, the former Minister of Housing, the member for Oakwood (Ms Hosek) and he just said, “I respectfully request the withdrawal of this legislation and the initiation of direct consultation with representatives from the construction contracting community.” That is what we want. We do not want to have confrontational politics on a continuing basis. We want to see a way in which we are talking about industry working together with government, in which both employees and the employers have accepted a responsibility to make it a healthy environment for all.
I have to tell you that the bill as it stands is fraught with problems. It is going to create a form of ill will that we do not need in this province. Maybe what I am doing is giving the government an excuse to stay in power for another few more years, because when it modifies this bill and accepts the amendments that have been proposed by a number of the people who I have commented on now, then it is not going to alienate as many people out there in the province of Ontario. This is a win-lose piece of legislation. As it stands right now -- in fact, it is not a win-lose in the sense of there being any winners, except the government in saying, “Hey, we ran through another bill.” Everybody else loses. I see it as a lose-lose proposition as it stands now. The government is going to lose considerably more respectability and the fair play that is so much a part of what good government is all about. The employees and employers are going to be forced into a confrontation that they have never had in the province of Ontario before.
I go back to my original opening statement when I commented on the Chamberlain analogy. I believe that the government is probably so naïve that it has no consideration of what it is going to do to the business community with this bill. It comes along and speaks out of both sides of its mouth and yet it says everything is going to be fine.
I have to go on record today as saying that I disagree strongly with what it has tried to do in Bill 208, the way in which it is destroying the balance between labour and management. I support a number of the recommendations that would lead to a safer workplace and I think that we have to move toward that as an urgent priority, but to say it is doing that while at the same time meddling in the affairs of people who have worked together over a long period of time is in fact a destructive force and not necessarily going to lead to the satisfactory solution that it has claimed.
I believe that there is still time to change this bill, to amend it to address the concerns that we have tried to raise through myself and other speakers from our party, that in fact there are a number of changes the minister can make. We will be bringing forward amendments when that opportunity avails itself. We hope when this is taken to committee and public hearings that many, many people will come forward and give their comments and that the backbenchers who serve on the committee will not be the same group that we have had in every other committee that just take orders from the minister’s office or the Premier’s office. Let them be open-minded, let them hear what is being said and then let them come forward and move towards some recommendations that will bring back that sense of fair play that makes for a good business environment in our province.
I think the most important thing that we have do here is to strike a fair and equitable deal in which all sides go away and feel that we are on the road to progress: We have developed legislation in the workplace that does protect the worker, that also protects the needs of government to be involved, that shows that there is not just a throwing of the pendulum to one side but that there is a fair and balanced approach to all the needs that we are talking about.
I have just touched the surface of what is important to this bill. I put the government members on notice that unless they are willing to reopen its thinking on this bill in a significant way, they will be in major trouble, not only in committee but in this House. with industry and with all the partners that make for a strong business relationship. I put them on notice that it is the kind of legislation that, without significant changes to it, could lead to the fall of their government. I put them on notice that they do not have for ever to do it because they have to go on and make the changes to promote good health and safety in this province.
Then as soon as there is an accident they will be coming along and saying we held it up. What we have to do is come forward now, in the crucible of the committee and in this House make the refinements and amendments to this bill that make it workable so that all sides will go away and feel that they have accomplished something for the betterment not only of the workers and the employers but of the government of the province of Ontario.
Mr B. Rae: I appreciate the chance to participate in the debate. I know that this is going to be towards the conclusion of the discussion. Obviously I want to repeat my private congratulations to you, Mr Speaker, for your elevation to the role of First Deputy Chair. Having worked with you and, if I may say so, lived with many of your rulings within our own caucus, I know that they will be fair and I know that your judgements will be fair as they are exercised in this House.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Please let him speak.
Mr B. Rae: It is not going to get any better than this, Mr Speaker.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the debate and I am particularly pleased that the minister is here. He and I have not had a chance to privately discuss his government’s plans with respect to Bill 208, so I will now deliver myself. What I would have told him privately, I will tell him in the confidences of the chamber and will try to go over some ground with him which I feel very strongly about and which my colleagues feel very strongly about.
Perhaps I can go back a way to some of the work which my caucus and party have done prior to my assuming the leadership of the party and subsequent to that. Our interest and involvement in the field of occupational health and safety goes back many years. I am sure the minister is reading upon reports and the history of this issue as it has dominated the politics of Ontario. But I would just remind him that if he goes back and looks at the debates of this House in the early 1970s, as I did when I came here in 1982, and examines the history of this issue through the period from 1971 onwards, and indeed, even before then, the minister will find there are few issues which have had as emotional a hold on the members of this House as the health and safety of the people who are working hard in jobs which are dangerous, which threaten their lives and which have caused many of their deaths and illnesses.
He will know the labour movement in this country, and indeed, around the world, has made the health and safety of its members one of its primary concerns. I can remember -- since I have been accused of being the son of a diplomat on so many occasions, I might as well turn this to my benefit once or twice -- I can remember as a teenager my father used to take me down to meetings of the International Labour Organization, when he was Canada’s representative to that organization, as he was to many other international institutions.
We would go down and listen to the debates. This would be nearly 30 years ago now, as I reflect on it. There were many great issues discussed in those meetings. South Africa was, in those early days in the United Nations organizations, beginning to be singled out and criticized for its racial policies. I can remember vividly listening one afternoon to a group of labour delegates from around the world discussing the problem of industrial cancer and talking in very emotional terms about the impact that had on their members, whether it was the leader of a British trade union talking about it as it relates to the coal industry, whether it was a German trade union talking about its impact on their industrial workers or, indeed, whether it was industrial labour leaders from the Third World talking about the very real risks workers in those countries took working in conditions which, at that time, were difficult and, looking at it historically, very, very dangerous.
In the early 1970s I began working for the United Steelworkers in their legal office. The Steelworkers helped to pay my way through law school. In exchange for working for them a couple of days a week and working full time in their arbitration office in the summertime, I got my education on how the world of work and the world of the law relate to one another and how we can use the law to try to improve working conditions.
I can remember the extraordinary battles we had in trying to get claims recognized for industrial illness, the tragic experience of workers whose cancers were initially never recognized. I see the member for Sudbury (Mr Campbell) is here. He will know the battle we had in the smelting plant. Initially in the smelting plant, they said to the workers: “Your cancer wasn’t caused here. There’s no evidence.” Then we produced more and more cases. In this House my colleagues, the former leader, Stephen Lewis, and others -- my colleague the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren), raised these issues with great emotion in the early 1970s -- would bring forward the problems.
We did this in a framework, I would remind the members, where we had the Workers’ Compensation Board and we had the accident associations. But we had no separate government legislation that would focus on the problem of occupational health and safety. Of course, we had construction standards which were in place, but essentially the philosophy which was contained in the law at that time, prior to 1977, was simply that the employer is responsible for safety. Whatever happens is the responsibility of the employer and it is the employer who will be liable to the Workers’ Compensation Board for any payments under the Workers’ Compensation Act for what happens to workers.
Our caucus in the labour movement, and I mean particularly the labour movement -- and I say this with pride -- we were expressing the experience of working people, we felt, on the floor of this House as we brought forward these examples. We made the amendments to the health and safety laws in this province with the introduction of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and really, if you look at it, Mr Speaker, at the same time as it was a minor step, it was an important step.
What was important about it? I believe the central importance of it was that for the first time the rights of working people to become involved in the issue of health and safety was recognized in law. As we later discovered, and I am going to come to this in a moment, these rights were not strong enough, they were not enforceable enough and we were not able to get at the question of the power structure, the power relationship, as it relates to health and safety.
But we were able to make some marginal changes, some changes within the Ministry of Labour, which the minister will know, more and more members of his staff -- I do not mean his personal staff; I mean the people working in the ministry -- had to become knowledgeable in this field and standards had to be developed, Ontario had to get on board and begin setting standards which would have an effect across Canada, because we are the major industrial province in here, and the Ministry of Labour began to develop its own expertise. As much as we were critical of that from time to time, at least Ontario was in the debate. That is what we assured through the measures that were passed during the minority Parliament in 1977.
When I got here in 1982, one of the first things I did was to ask my colleague Elie Martel, the member for Sudbury East as he then was, if he would undertake a very important job for our caucus. That was to go around the province and find out how occupational health and safety was really working on the ground. Elie, whose energy and commitment are now known throughout the province of Ontario and who was a member of this House for 20 years, undertook that task with gusto and with energy and with commitment, and he produced a report called Not Yet Healthy, Not Yet Safe. I commend it to the minister if he has not had the chance to read it yet. It was the first review that was ever done outside the Legislature, outside the government, that looked very directly at the question of what exactly is going on.
What the member found was that the law was not being enforced. He found that workers were being exposed to conditions which were dangerous for them and dangerous for their fellow workers. He found that the ministry did not have the capacity or the political will to enforce the law. He found that employers were flouting the law. He found that the so-called internal responsibility system, which was designed to ensure the participation of workers, was not working because it did not affect the balance of power at all in an industrial setup. He basically found that the government of Ontario faced a choice.
It faced the choice, and I can best describe the choice in this way: either the government would address the question of the power relationship in the workplace, focusing on education and training, yes, but focusing equally strongly on the question of enforcement, or alternatively the government would rely on an ever-increasing army of inspectors, which inspectors would be the people who would go around and enforce the law. Essentially that is the choice we face today.
The Tories would pretend that there is some other choice, and that is to continue with the status quo or to leave the power in the hands of the employer or to continue with a level of industrial carnage which surely cannot be tolerated by any civilized society where you have 500,000 claims going to the WCB every year and you have over 250 workers a year getting killed on the job. I cannot imagine that any member of this Legislature would possibly accept that the status quo could be allowed to continue.
Elie then produced another report, because we made some impact with that one but we wanted to go back again, and again the evidence was overwhelming and again the views from across the province in terms of people coming forward with examples -- and we raised so many examples in this House with the minister. Before he was here in 1985 and I am sure after he was here, he will remember the kinds of efforts that we made on this subject.
I can only say that I would have to match the kind of work that we have done here with the daily work that has gone on in the labour movement. I do not just mean at the leadership level. I am going to come to that in a moment, but consider the work that has been done on the ground, the extraordinary amount of education, self-education, the extraordinary amount of effort and energy that has gone into making sure that working conditions are improved.
There is not a seminar that I do not go to or a Canadian Labour Congress school or a Canadian Auto Workers school or a Steelworkers school where the question of health and safety is not first and foremost and where there is not developing a real cadre of people across the province who are knowledgeable, who are trained, who are bright, for whom health and safety education has been a very important part of their own education and who can best express their commitment to their fellow workers by getting involved in this field and being there on the front lines.
That whole development is what I believe led to the negotiations between the Ministry of Labour, the business community and various trade unions that is the background to Bill 208. I do not want to make any lessons here in political science for anybody, but I just want to make it very clear that Bill 208 did not fall from the sky. Bill 208 was the product of very long process of education, of negotiation, of bargaining and of learning that went on among all the players in this field and that has gone on not just for a couple of months but for several years.
I say to the minister, I know the discussions that went on. I have followed these discussions, as the minister will appreciate, with a degree of intensity which would only be matched if I was actually at the bargaining table myself. I know pretty well the discussions and the to and fro that went on and that led to the repudiation of Bill 106, which was clearly not going to fly, which was the first draft by the Minister of Labour and the decision by the minister, as he then was, now the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Sorbara), to bring in Bill 208.
I do not think there is anything unusual about that. I think it is entirely normal and healthy that legislation which is as sensitive and as important as health and safety legislation would be legislation that was found to be broadly acceptable to all the parties and all the players in the system, as much as is possible, given the fact that at the end of the day the government is going to make some judgement calls as to what it is going to do and, obviously, the legislation stands in the name of the government.
But I want to suggest to this minister that in seeking to undo or to change in a substantial way what his predecessor agreed to and put forward as government policy, in my judgement -- and the minister can learn to live with my judgements and to accept and reject them as time goes on, and he obviously has to listen to others perhaps more acutely than he listens to me -- I would say to him that he is really undoing whatever good was done with the introduction of Bill 208.
I would suggest to him that if the government is not prepared to proceed with some of the substantive and substantial changes which Bill 208 represents and rather is going to proceed away from that -- and I am going to come to that in a minute -- then the minister had better think through pretty carefully just what his own credibility and what the credibility of his own government will be with the labour movement.
I am not suggesting that the minister has done anything that leaves any doubts as to his own integrity because, to be fair to the minister, we all knew what the name of the game was as soon as it was announced that the previous minister was no longer going to be there as the minister. He received what I think is referred to in the business as a lateral transfer from the Ministry of Labour.
The previous minister, the member for York Centre (Mr Sorbara), indicated when that happened, when it was announced through the papers, because the papers got him when his guard was down, that he was surprised and that he was saddened by the move. I think any of us who know the previous Minister of Labour will know that while he took a considerable roasting while he was the minister, he came to enjoy that portfolio as ministers do from time to time and that he felt very strongly about the improvements that Bill 208 represented.
In fact, it is almost sad to read the very vigorous defence the previous Minister of Labour made of Bill 208 in the magazine called OHS Canada. I point out that OHS Canada is a business publication published by Southam. The minister makes a very potent case, not for amendments to Bill 208 and not for a watering down of Bill 208, but for Bill 208. In fact, I think it would be interesting, not just for the sake of the historical record but for all members, to contrast the statements the previous minister, the member for York Centre (Mr Sorbara), made about Bill 208 with the apologetic speech the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) made on 12 October 1989, which was the most extraordinary second-reading speech I have ever heard.
What did the minister’s speech on second reading consist of? Did it consist of a ringing defence of the reason the government had to bring in legislation to improve working conditions? Did it consist of a ringing refutation of those bald-faced distortions and manipulations of the truth which the construction and development industries and every major industrial organization in this country have brought against this bill?
Did he point out the sheer hypocrisy of an industry that has been responsible for the health and safety of workers and has presided over the destruction of the lives and health and safety of thousands of citizens over the last 100 years? Did he point out the hypocrisy of that kind of attack on legislation coming from the Neanderthals in the chambers of commerce and the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association?
Did we have the Minister of Labour standing on his feet and pointing out that these same organizations have resisted every single major change in industrial legislation, health and safety standards, pension legislation and social services since the middle of the 19th century? No. That is not what we got from the Minister of Labour.
What did we get? We got a statement in the debate on second reading, which is supposed to be a debate in defence of the principles of the bill, saying to everybody: “Don’t worry. We are going to amend this thing so that you won’t even recognize it.”
We now hear the member for Markham (Mr Cousens) predicting on behalf of the Conservative Party that unless changes are made, class warfare will break out all over Ontario and that unless changes are made, this group of people will go down to a defeat such as they have never seen. He has the historical effrontery to compare the Premier of the province with Chamberlain, which I suppose makes those of us who favour health and safety changes, Hitler. Imagine that kind of comparison, suggesting that anyone in the Premier’s position or anybody else who is, I guess, appeasing -- appeasing what, appeasing working people who have had enough of working 500, 1,000 and 1,500 feet underground and putting their lives in danger every single day of the week?
I want to say this to the Tory party. They were obliterated in the last election because they have missed the boat with respect to the opinions and feelings of the public of Ontario. Let me tell you. Mr Speaker, if they continue with the language and rhetoric they have adopted on this bill, they are buying oblivion in Ontario for the next 50 years, for the simple reason that they are showing an insensitivity to the problem itself.
The status quo cannot be sustained on health and safety. Anybody who understands this problem, anybody who appreciates the history of the discussions and the balances that have had to be struck, has to appreciate that the status quo cannot be sustained in Ontario.
What kind of changes have there to be? I want to suggest that it is now left to this party to say that we support Bill 208 in principle, not the amendments to Bill 208 as discussed by the minister, but the bill as it stands. If the Liberal Party and the Liberal government choose to abandon Bill 208 in substance in terms of the difficult compromises that had been reached on particular matters, then let the record show that.
I want to speak to some of the canards that have been raised by those opposed to this bill and to some of the distortions that have been put forward by those opposed to this bill. I particularly want to deal with the difficult clauses that have been objected to by the Tories in their attempt to find some consolation in 19th-century rhetoric. I want to deal as well with the fact that the minister himself appears to have bought, hook, line and sinker, the objections to this that have come from private industry, which if I may say so, has never shown a particular sensitivity or understanding on this matter.
Let me say that one of the funniest things I have heard come from the mouth of the member for Markham -- I have heard him say many funny things, all unintentionally, never intentionally, but one of the funniest things I have heard him say was to read out letters, in all seriousness, from industry, saying -- since the letters were all read out unedited, I can only assume that when he was speaking for the construction association, they were speaking for him and he was speaking for them. But there was one marvellous phrase from someone -- I am sorry; I cannot remember which one of the many letters it was that he read out -- when he said, “We don’t need new bureaucrats and we don’t need more government.”
Mr Dietsch: Hear, hear.
Mr B. Rae: I hear the member for St Catharines-Brock say, “Hear, hear.” The member for St Catharines-Brock will know because he has studied this bill in detail, I am sure, and he has the same clause-by-clause understanding of this legislation as he did on Bill 162.
He will know full well that the whole purpose and philosophy of this bill is designed to get us away from the notion that we can ever hire enough inspectors to enforce health and safety. I do not mind saying that since coming to this place I have given a lot of thought to this question. I suppose my initial reaction when you see the degree of the problem is to talk about more inspectors, and in fact, I suspect if you look back at the debates in 1982 and 1983, that is probably a lot of what we were talking about because that seemed to be the way to go: tougher enforcement, more inspectors, more frequent visits and all the rest of it.
Then as we began thinking about it and reflecting on it in less than a knee-jerk kind of fashion, it became obvious to us that unless you -- as the member for York Centre, the former minister who now sadly has to console himself with having his name on every elevator in the province, and that is about it -- said, and I am quoting from him, “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.”
I could not have said it better myself. The alternative to what is contained in Bill 208 is precisely the bureaucratic nightmare that the Tories say they want to avoid. The choice for the Tories, or the choice for Ontario, given that none of us wants to see that because it is not going to work, the question then becomes, when you devolve responsibility down to the level of the firm, down to the level of the factory, down to the level of the construction site, when you accept the fact that it is not possible to create a bureaucratic structure that can work in this way and you have to give the responsibility down to the local level, who are we going to give that responsibility to?
Let’s not hear any of this nonsense from the party over here about how the alternative is all these bureaucrats. That is not what the alternative is. The question is, who is going to call the shots on health and safety in the workplace? Who are we devolving to? Now the question becomes, who do you trust and what do you really believe about what happens in the workplace?
Here I must confess I am a democrat. I believe profoundly. I am a New Democrat; I am an old democrat and that is the way it is. If we are really interested in saying, “Let’s go for the democratic solution and not the bureaucratic solution,” because we have already admitted the bureaucratic solution is not going to work -- we have already accepted that, I think, as a consensus in the House. I think it is a commonsense acceptance across the province. We only have to look at the experience of economies that are sclerotic with bureaucracy to understand they are no good for anybody.
Then the question becomes, what is a democratic workplace going to look like? How much are we really prepared to trust the parties who are working in the workplace? How much are we really prepared to share power in the workplace? How much are we really prepared to share responsibility? If the Liberals have missed this, they have missed something very important.
When the labour movement accepted Bill 208, the labour movement made, I believe, an extremely important statement to the people of this province because what it said was, “We will accept responsibility if you are prepared to give us some power.” That was a statement for which some in the labour movement were criticized. The minister will know, every member who reads the paper will know, that there were some in the labour movement who were critical of that approach.
I say to the Liberals that if they blow this opportunity, they will have no one to blame but themselves for the consequences that will flow from a labour movement which says, “If you are not going to give us any authority in industry, if you are not going to devolve on us democratically a little bit of power to have a say in how decisions get made around this place, then don’t expect us to take responsibility for what happens.” Who could blame anybody for saying that? That is precisely the commonsense response they will get.
I know the pressures the government is under from the business community. The business community has to be educated in what a democratic society is all about. They have never understood what a democratic society is all about. The debate is not about socialism. It is about democracy. It is about how you make things democratic. This health and safety measure is about what an industrial democracy will begin to look like over a matter that affects the lives and the health and safety of people.
In the arguments I had in this House on workers’ compensation back in July when the Liberals, again, took us down a terrible path, I made what I thought was a very commonsense point and I will make it again. The reason we have to trust working people with health and safety is because it is their health and safety we are talking about.
How many of the 450,000 claims that go before the Workers’ Compensation Board are made by managers? How many people working in the office towers here, in New York and in Chicago are people who have died as a result of an industrial accident? When was the last time a president of Inco was killed underground? When was the last time the president of Macmillan Bloedel, any president of Macmillan Bloedel, fell 100 feet to his death or lost a limb because a chainsaw went out of control? How many people do we know working on Bay Street who at age 55 can hardly walk any more and cannot lift more than a pencil because their backs have been destroyed by industrial labour for 50 years?
These are the most fundamental ethical questions we face as members of this House. The reason we have to trust workers with health and safety is because it is workers’ health and safety that is on the line every day. I go to Timmins and speak to the women who are members of the VOME organization, Victims of Mining Environment, and look at the faces of the women who have been fighting for 20 and 30 years for compensation and talk to me in the most blunt and moving terms about how they heard about their husband or how they heard about their brother, about the cancer and the dust and the accidents. What manager faces those risks? What executive faces those risks?
We are dealing here with fundamental questions about what the relationship between capital and labour is going to be in a democratic society in the 1990s. I say to the Liberal Party that Bill 208, in my view, represents a historic opportunity to do the right thing and that if it betrays the trust and, yes, betrays the commitment of support that was made for this bill by people who negotiated knowing full-well the fine line they were walking when they made that commitment, then it will have an effect.
It will have an effect on industrial relations, on people’s sense of confidence and on relations between the labour movement and this government for many, many years to come. I do not say that in the same spirit in which it was made by the member for Markham, saying, “What is going to happen?” I have stopped predicting long ago what the electoral consequences will be. I am under no illusions about my capacity to predict those things and I have no idea. For all I know, this government could be elected when all its members are in jail. Anything is possible.
Mr Ballinger: I beg your pardon.
Mr B. Rae: Mayor Curley was. Anything is possible.
I say to the government that when you look at the substance of this -- we were talking today about Hungary. We were discussing today the impact of that and you have such exciting developments in eastern Europe. You have people who have realized that a sclerotic command economy cannot work, so they are talking about a democracy. “How do we create a democracy?” They are debating on the shop floor and they are debating at the plant level: “How do we make these things work together? How do we build it? We know that capitalism in its old form does not work. We don’t want to go back to the old industrial autocracy. We don’t want to live in a world where everybody is trying to make money off the backs of everybody else, but we want to create an economy that’s got some democracy in it. some bounce, some individual initiative, some openness.”
At the same time, in the west we are going to have to deal with this question as well, from a very different perspective. Does that mean industry is going to lose some unilateral power?
Yes, it has to. Does that mean power is going to have to be shared? Yes, it has to mean that. Whether we are talking about pensions, whether we are talking about health and safety, whether we are talking about making a marketplace work for people, this is what we are talking about.
What is so terrible about having a structure in which government says to workers and to management: “Share the power. Share the responsibility. Share the blame if things go wrong.” Labour understood that and the consequences of that. “But also share the initiative. Share the training. Share the education.”
The Construction Safety Association of Ontario is a joke. Do members remember the ads they used to run? They used to run an ad of an asbestos victim on television -- I remember seeing that ad -- and it said, “If only he knew.” Do members remember that ad? They had this poor guy lying on a hospital bed, saying. “If only he knew.”
Any historian, in a moment of dispassion, would point out that the Johns-Manville company knew about the effects of asbestos for half a century before it told its workers, so the question is not if only he knew; the question is if only the company had had the guts, the courtesy, the decency, the common sense of humanity to tell the workers what the hell they were working with when the company knew that it was a carcinogenic substance.
Maybe the ad would say, “If only the government had had the guts to enforce the law and tell the workers what the government knew and what the government bureaucracy knew,” which was years before the workers were ever told.
Hon. Mr Black: It must have been a Tory government.
Mr B. Rae: The member says, “It must have been a Tory government.” Of course, it was a Tory government, but I say to the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay that when we made the changes in 1985, one would have hoped that the changes would have led to some real reform that would have changed the nature of health and safety in the workplace.
I would say to the member that he is going to have to listen carefully in cabinet and he is going to have to think it through very carefully, but I can tell him when this thing goes out to committee, he should not think he is not going to hear very directly from people in his own constituency, on both sides, who are going to be asking him to make a choice: to choose whether he believes in essentially employers continuing to hold the upper hand when it comes to health and safety or whether we are going to see a greater balance, whether we are going to give workers some effective rights to enforce the law or whether we are going to continue to say: “No. Sorry. We have to get that inspector in there. He’s going to have to come in two or three days later and find out what the problem is and take it from there.”
The government has suggested making some changes which it has already announced. They have already thrown in the towel even before the debate has really begun in committee. I can say to the minister that it flies in the face of the commitments that were made by his predecessor. It also flies in the face of what I think makes sense.
If you are going to devolve power to people locally to enforce the law and to make sure that the law is being obeyed, you have to have an enforcement mechanism. Anybody who looks at any situation will know that you have to have that. What do you do when the dispute breaks out and there is no resolution of the dispute? Right now, what happens is that the employer’s decision is the decision that stands.
What Elie Martel found in his study of the internal responsibility system was that, because it did not deal with this power imbalance within the company and because the nature of industrial production and the production process generally gives the upper hand to the process and to the momentum for the process, that in fact power was not equally balanced and in fact it was almost impossible in critical situations to enforce the law.
I believe the decisions that were made by the member for York Centre with respect to the right to refuse work or to stop work where health or safety is in danger were changes that in principle we can support. I think in principle they can be supported by a majority of members in this House because what it says is not that any member can stop work, not that any local union president can stop work; what it says is that a member who has been certified and who has been trained in a program that is jointly run, jointly managed, jointly conceived and where certification is a joint decision, that worker becomes a cop, yes, but he is not just a cop for the union or a cop for the workers; he is a cop for health and safety.
Either we give this right to workers or, as I say, we leave it in the hands of the government bureaucrats or we leave it in the hands of the employers. I think it is the record of the employers that is in the jury box at the present time. It is the record of the Tories, of the employers, that should be on trial.
Now, where he says here, “A certified member who finds that (a) a provision of this act or the regulations is being contravened; (b) the contravention poses a danger or a hazard to a worker; and” -- these are all together – “(c) the danger or hazard is such that any delay in controlling it will cause serious risk to a worker, may direct the employer to stop work specifying the work or the use of any part,” etc. “that shall be discontinued.”
Then it has, “If there is a disagreement.... The employer does not have to lie down and say, “I agree with you.” The employer can, in the run of things, say: “You’re wrong. You’re full of it.” They then notify an inspector and the inspector comes in. Let’s say, for the purposes of argument, that a judgement call is made by a certified member. That judgement call is disputed by an employer. The work stoppage continues because that is in the act, but one can rest assured, Mr Speaker, that in a practical situation, if an employer is saying “I think this member is out to lunch; can you get down here?” do you not think the inspector will be down there rather quickly? Would your experience teach you, with your experience of the way the world works, that where you get a company phoning up a Minister of Labour and saying, “You had better get your buddy down here, because this is nonsense,” do you not think that would tend to happen rather quickly? I think so.
Then, as soon as he gets there, the inspector can say, “What is this? Get on with it.” Then if they find that a certified member has been frivolous or that a certified member improperly, negligently or in bad faith exercised a power under subsection 23(a), an immediate complaint can be filed with the health and safety agency and that agency can decertify that member, bingo.
I want to contrast that with what has to happen now. Mr Speaker, in my experience, do you know who benefits? In a big plant, in a large industrial plant, you can have an illegal work stoppage as long as everybody goes out. You can sometimes get away with an illegal work stoppage if the causes of it are clear enough and outrageous enough, and you are then into a whole other dispute which becomes enormously complicated and, from my experience in industrial relations, usually gets resolved. It is sort of like Brazil. Brazil’s debts somehow get forgiven or get taken care of or dealt with or handled because they are so enormous.
I am not being critical of any industrial union. I am simply saying that a larger industrial union has a better shot at using the old law and simply making it work to the benefit of its members, because that is how it works. But, Mr Speaker, consider the workplace where the workers are not organized. Consider the workplace where you have a bunch of people who have very little English. Go into a bucket shop anywhere in the Metropolitan Toronto area right now, which I know quite a lot about. Go to a plant that employs 50 or 100 workers. It makes fibreglass or it makes steel products. It might be quite a dusty, dirty plant. There might be problems. They are making $5 or $6 an hour, as my colleague the member for Sudbury East (Miss Martel) points out. The vast majority of those workers would not speak English as a first language. Literally, going into one of those plants, as every member here knows, is like walking into the United Nations. You have people who got off a plane a year or two ago, and they make up the majority of the workers in that plant. They do not know what they are working with. Probably the manager does not know what the stuff is. He just knows he has to meet that deadline and get that stuff out there, and that is how he makes his buck. He is not making a whole lot of money; he is making a little bit of money.
What do these workers have by way of protection now? Nothing. They can call up an inspector and say, “We’d like you to come down,” and the inspectors say, “I’ll put you on the list.” Maybe if they are lucky, an inspector will get there in two, three or four weeks. If there has been a death, if it makes the Toronto Star or if we raise it in the Legislature because there has been a death or we have had a tip from a worker who may have been involved in an organizing drive or whatever -- I do not know whatever it might be -- then maybe action would be taken in that plant, but not otherwise. Then we have to ask ourselves the question, if they do not get Bill 208 in its current form, what have they got? Nothing.
Mr B. Rae: No. nothing. That is the reality of what we are facing. I say to the member for Durham Centre (Mr Furlong), who scoffed when I said “Nothing,” I do not know what he is referring to. If he is saying the status quo gives them a whole lot, then he is not living in the same universe I am living in. If he is saying that the Liberal Party is going to be able to get away with making these amendments and making this process work without the co-operation of the labour movement, I say to him he is dreaming in Technicolor.
The minister cannot lead the labour movement along on a process of negotiation and take the labour movement up to accepting Bill 208 in its current form and then say, “We were getting so much pressure from the employers, there are just a few more changes we want to make.” It will not work. It will not work for the simple reason that the labour movement will not participate in this process, in my view, in my judgement.
I say to the minister that if the labour movement does not have confidence in the process, then it is not worth all the effort; it is not worth a candle. It is not worth the effort that has gone into it. Having a consensual bill that does not have a consensus behind it is a waste of time. I say to the government in all honesty, I am not surprised at what has happened. I predicted it would happen. I am not amazed or astonished that it has happened, but it will have consequences. It will have consequences for industrial justice. It will have consequences for the health and safety of workers, but most important -- and this is really where I want to say something positive to end with -- it is an opportunity missed. This represents an opportunity.
I can tell members that we sweated blood and tears over the fraud that we felt in terms of the existing accident associations, the fact that they were so undemocratic and so unrepresentative and so old-fashioned. We have struggled for so long to create a world in which industrial workers can get some responsibility and some authority for the work they do.
I would commend to members who may not spend much time with organized labour representatives to go to a union school and meet the people who are learning about the law and how it works, and look at the enthusiasm in their eyes; people who dropped out of school in grade 8 and grade 9, people who perhaps are recent immigrants to the country who never really had much education. The labour movement for them represents their education and represents their opportunity. The world of work, for them, represents their chance, and health and safety is for them, it is their lifeblood, it is their learning about the law and how it works, and look at the enthusiasm in their eyes; people who dropped out of school in grade 8 and grade 9, people who perhaps are recent immigrants to the country who never really had much education. The labour movement for them represents their education and represents their opportunity. The world of work, for them, represents their chance, and health and safety is for them, it is their lifeblood, it is their opportunity to express themselves, it is their chance to take some responsibility for what goes on in the workplace.
We face a choice in Ontario, as every country does, as every jurisdiction does. We can either continue with the old ways of doing things, in which management continues to manage and workers continue to take the consequences of that for better or for worse, or we can create a different kind of industry in which power is genuinely devolved, in which power is genuinely shared, in which it is widely understood and appreciated that the opinions and feelings and values and interests of people matter on the ground and in the plant, not just in some theory, but really matter, and that the views of somebody who is experienced on the job, who knows the industrial process from A to Z and knows everything that works and does not work in that plant, when he or she sees something going wrong and says, “This is going wrong.” the boss does not say. “Forget it, Charlie. I’m in charge here. Who the hell are you?”
We are trying to change that. That is what Bill 208 changes. It is not the revolution, but it is progress. I say to the minister, he tampers with it and he changes its principles at his peril.
Hon Mr Phillips: I agree with the leader of the official opposition. I think if we do not pass Bill 208 retaining the key elements of Bill 208, it is a missed opportunity. I think it is a goal that I am very much dedicated to, to ensuring that we pass Bill 208. which will be seen to be and will be the most progressive piece of occupational health and safety legislation in North America.
I very much would encourage the committee, although it will be its decision, to spend a good deal of time getting public input into the bill, but. Importantly, I think it will develop a lot of commitment to the bill because it is an essential element of the future of health and safety in this province.
The Leader of the Opposition said, and I agree with him, that the status quo is unacceptable. I find it difficult to remind ourselves of some of the statistics. We heard them earlier today but I will repeat them. There are over 400,000 accidents every year in the workplace in Ontario. Over 360 individuals die each year in Ontario as a result of accidents or workplace illness.
There is an enormous economic cost, although I hate to dwell on the economic cost because there is a much more important issue and that is the human cost. But the economic cost is where workers’ compensation each year has a compensation bill of around $1.5 billion. The really important aspect of all this is the human tragedy that is represented by accidents in the workplace.
There is no question the status quo is unacceptable, unacceptable to our party, unacceptable to the Legislature, unacceptable to the people of Ontario. That is why it is extremely important that we deal with Bill 208, that we pass this piece of legislation that will substantially enhance occupational health and safety in the province.
Just to go over some of the basic tenets behind it, and the Leader of the Opposition touched on a few of them, a key one is the partnership in the workplace. He is right -- it is impossible for the government to have enough inspectors to deal with occupational health and safety. There is no question that the best occupational health and safety exists where there is a partnership between the employees and the employers. That is absolutely fundamental to this bill. It underlines everything that is in the bill.
A second basic tenet in the bill is the need to dramatically improve the whole area of education and training around occupational health and safety. Employees must know what they are facing in the workplace, must know the hazards they face in the workplace, must have the knowledge to understand how to deal with those issues in the workplace. That is fundamental to this bill and fundamental to the tenets of it.
Also fundamental to it is to ensure that we provide individuals with the rights to deal with that responsibility and give individuals the rights to deal with their own occupational health and safety. If we are going to tackle in a substantive way the carnage that takes place in the. workplace, we have to ensure that we give the employees the necessary rights to deal with those issues in the workplace.
Lastly, there is the accountability for those rights. Certainly, if we look at Bill 208. things like substantially improving and raising the fine rates will be a help to ensuring that we demand accountability in the workplace.
There are three key areas in which we have proposed change in Bill 208. One is in the whole area of the right to participate. The second is in the whole area of the right to know and the third is in the whole area of the right to use the knowledge and the training that will be provided.
I would like to touch on each of those because I think it is extremely important -- we will be debating the possibility of change in the bill, but let us never lose sight of the very substantial changes in this bill that will improve occupational health and safety in the province.
The first is the establishment of the workplace health and safety agency. I would remind the members that the agency will be made up half with individuals from the labour side and half with individuals from the management side. The labour representatives of the agency -- and I make no apology to the third party -- will be made up from organized labour because organized labour does represent the workplace. Organized labour has dramatic and substantial experience in the whole area of occupational health and safety and a proven track record of making a major contribution to occupational health and safety. So the establishment of that agency with equal partnership within that agency is a key element.
We are substantially enhancing the number of joint health and safety committees. I believe the opposition asked how individuals in the workplace would have some rights. How will they have knowledge in the workplace? We are moving from roughly 30,000 to 50,000 joint health and safety committees in this province, a substantial increase in the numbers.
The member for Sudbury East in her comments asked about the whole area of construction and what we are doing to improve health and safety in the construction industry. Currently I think there are about 10 joint health and safety committees in the construction area in the province. We are going to move to 5.000 joint health and safety committees in the province. Each construction site which has 20 or more individuals who are working on that project over the life of the project will have a joint health and safety committee.
We are going to require health and safety worker representatives in an environment where there are from five to 20 employees. In terms of the whole area of the right to participate, we are substantially enhancing that, particularly, for the first time ever, in a province-wide workplace health and safety agency made up of half the people from the management side and the other half from the employee side and using, from the labour movements, experts in the whole area of occupational health and safety. That is the first thing, the right to participate -- a substantial improvement in that.
The second thing is the right to know. The Leader of the Opposition wanted to know how an individual in a workplace will become aware of problems in the workplace. We have a joint health and safety committee in every organization with 20 or more employees. We are going to impose on that organization or company the need to inform the joint health and safety committee about testing which goes on in the workplace. We are going to impose a right to do a once-a-month inspection in the workplace -- for the whole workplace a complete inspection at least once a year. We are going to impose on the workplace a substantial increase in the whole area of right to know for individuals in the workplace -- the right to know what is happening in the workplace and the right to know about hazards in the workplace.
The third area is the right to use the knowledge. We are extending, as I think everyone in the House realizes, the right to refuse unsafe work, to substantially increase the number of instances where one can refuse unsafe work. We are requiring in the workplace certified workers who will be knowledgeable about occupational health and safety and certified employers. So in each case where we have 20 or more employees and a joint health and safety committee, there will be a requirement to have a certified, trained worker representative and a certified, trained employer representative.
So the bill provides for a dramatic increase in the area of the right to participate, the right to know and the area of the right to use that knowledge. Bill 208 promotes these principles. It represents a substantial improvement in the area of occupational health and safety in the province.
We are proposing that the committee consider some changes, and I think it is important to review those changes because I think some will characterize them as dramatic. I would characterize them as improvements in the bill that enhance Bill 208. The first we are suggesting is to look at the agency. Right now, as I said earlier, the agency will be made of 50 per cent from the labour movement and 50 per cent from management. We are suggesting the committee consider instructing the agency to appoint a neutral chair. I realize the labour unions are concerned that may change what is regarded as the bipartite nature of the committee into a tripartite.
In my opening remarks a week ago, I stressed the need that the chair, in order to retain the bipartite nature of the committee and in order to retain the support of both sides, be acceptable to both sides. We find a mechanism that both sides make that selection of a mutually agreeable chair, so that we do not change the bipartite nature of that agency, and I agree with this. I think it is very important that we have the support and commitment of the labour movement in this whole area of Bill 208. That is my goal.
The second one we are looking at is in the construction industry. Originally, we were looking at certified workers being required on projects of 20 or more workers. As we looked at that, it became clear -- because of the nature of construction projects -- that it would be difficult to ensure that we had a certified worker on the site at all times on a project of 20 people, because on a project of 20 people there may only be three or four tradespeople on the site at one time. So we looked at the need to ensure that we had a certified worker. What we are suggesting the committee consider is that we have the certified worker requirement only on projects of 50 workers. We will still have the joint health and safety committee on projects of 20 but the need for certified workers will be for projects of 50, so that we would be assured that we would have a certified worker on the project at all times.
The third area we have asked the committee to consider changing is in the safety associations, where we are, as I think most members know, requiring the safety associations to move to having on their boards of directors 50 per cent from the workers and 50 per cent from management. We are suggesting that we give the safety agencies a longer period of time, two years instead of one year, in order to adopt that.
We are suggesting in the three previous areas some possible amendments for the committee to consider, amendments in the agency to have a neutral chair, amendments in terms of requiring certified workers on projects of 50 or more, and amendments in looking at the safety associations and giving them additional time. But in the whole area of the right to stop work, we are not proposing changes; in fact, it may be that after the committee process we stay exactly as Bill 208 is currently written. It may be that. It may be that. But I will say this, that we believe it requires a good deal of public discussion and input.
On the one hand, it is possible that the current provision is the best one, which essentially says under certain conditions, if there is imminent danger and it is clear that occupational health and safety laws are being violated, and it requires immediate action, the certified worker can close that production site down and inform the employer.
It may be that is the best approach. However, as I have become involved in the process. I realize that I do not believe that right currently exists in any workplace in the province. I have not been able to find that yet, and certainly as I looked at and talked about collective agreements, where they have worked out some of the better arrangements between the union and management, that right is not there. So I say to myself, is there a better way? If, in the collective bargaining process. that has not yet taken place, maybe there is a better way to do it.
I at least raise that question because there are many examples where there is solid, substantive occupational health and safety progress being made that does not have that right in it. I really believe we need to look carefully at this provision. It is one that we will find, as we get out to the public hearings, there is a lot of debate about and I am not prejudging what the solution may be.
As I say, I just know that right now the right we are proposing in Bill 208 does not exist in any workplace. Maybe that simply means it should or maybe it means there are some other, better solutions. I would ask the members of the committee and the Legislature to really spend a good deal of time looking at that. There is a danger in this, that we will lose the tremendous opportunity we all have to dramatically improve health and safety in this province because there are one or two issues that are really tough. I do not mind tough issues. I will work at it to find the right solution, but I encourage all of us to do that. This is one of them.
Perhaps the toughest part of the bill is, how do we ensure that workers in this province are not subject to working in conditions that puts them at risk. How do we ensure that? What is the best way to do that? I just say to the members, because that right does not exist currently in any workplace, maybe there is a better way to do it.
I want to chat briefly in the next three or four minutes about some of the comments the members made earlier in the debate, asking me, first, why the proposed changes now? Why not let the committee simply find those changes? I felt it was only honest and straightforward of me to come forward with those three changes I am proposing because they are ones that over the consultation period that has taken place over the last eight months seem to make sense. They are ones that seem to improve the bill.
I felt that if that is what we feel, and that is what I feel, the honest approach was to lay them out before the committee and let the committee have the benefit of that, let the committee have the benefit of those suggested amendments and let the committee hear the debate on it.
The second issue is the one that concerns all of us, and that is the question of whether we have diluted the bill in a substantial way. Have we, to use the term some might use, gutted the bill? As I look through the amendments I have proposed, I honestly do not think we have. The key elements of the bill are in place. I do not think the change of a neutral chair guts the bill. The recommendations on the construction changes, I think, are practical and workable and the other one was not workable. The recommendations on the safety association are practical and workable and do not gut the bill.
The stop-work one is the one that I think, as I said earlier, will require the most amount of work. I realize the committee is going to have a very difficult job, as the Leader of the Opposition said. We will hear both sides of that issue and the resolution of this one will be fundamental, obviously, to the success of Bill 208.
As we draw to a conclusion, I want to speak as strongly as I can in favour of the bill. As we work our way through it, and the committee will make its own decisions on time and on public hearings. I hope that we get broad public input into it. At the end of the process, my goal, our goal, is a piece of legislation that is second to none, that will begin in a very significant way to tackle the intolerable figures we see in the workplace, the intolerable injuries we see in the workplace, and worse still, the intolerable deaths we see in the workplace.
The bill represents really strong improvements in terms of the right to participate, the right to know and to be knowledgeable about the workplace, the right to training in the workplace and the right for individuals in the workplace to have a say and a role in determining their own future in the workplace.
I appreciate the opportunity to wrap up. I appreciate the fact that we still have much more to do in terms of moving forward on the bill. but l personally am confident that this House will ultimately pass a bill that other provinces and other jurisdictions in North America will come to view as the finest piece of occupational health legislation in North America.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for standing committee on resources development.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to revert to introduction of bills under routine proceedings.
The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous agreement?
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
EVIDENCE AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Ward, on behalf of Mr Scott, moved first reading of Bill 70, An Act to amend the Evidence Act.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
EMPLOYER HEALTH TAX ACT, 1989
Mr Mancini moved second reading of Bill 47, An Act to impose a Tax on Employers for the purpose of providing for Health Care and to revise the requirements respecting the payments of Premiums under the Health Insurance Act.
Hon Mr Mancini: I am very pleased to have the opportunity to bring some information to the attention of the members of the House as it refers to Bill 47, the employer health levy. This bill implements the proposal in the budget of the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) of 17 May 1989 to eliminate OHIP premiums and to establish an employer health levy.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Time, time.
Hon Mr Mancini: I know the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke) wants to abolish OHIP premiums because I thought some time ago I heard him say something about OHIP premiums and how unfair they were and I am happy to say that I expect the support of him and all of his colleagues in the abolition of OHIP premiums.
The bill contains the necessary provisions for introducing the new tax, as well as amendments to the Health Insurance Act, to phase out OHIP premiums. Both changes become effective in January 1990.
This act will improve the access to quality care for all Ontarians. It will replace a regressive and unfair system of health care financing with a more equitable and progressive method. Low- and middle-income Ontarians who now bear an unfair share of the health care costs will be relieved of this financial burden.
As the Treasurer described in his budget statement, these steps are also necessary to offset a reduction of $3 billion in the established programs financing from the federal government over the next three years. This is on top of the billions of dollars that have already been taken away from the province of Ontario by the government of Canada since the election of Brian Mulroney.
In the 1990 calendar year, the employer health tax is expected to generate $2.1 billion in revenues from 450 employers in Ontario. This replaces $1.8 billion in OHIP revenues. OHIP premiums, which have been frozen since 1985 upon the election of the Liberal government, now provide only 13 per cent coverage of health care.
The employer health tax is expected to cover 15.1 per cent of the cost of health care. In addition, all Ontarians will contribute to the new health care system through a one per cent increase in Ontario personal income tax. This is expected to generate 1.7 per cent in additional health care coverage and will provide the basis on which the self-employed will be making their contribution to the coverage of these costs.
The employer health tax will require employers with permanent establishments in Ontario to share the cost of providing health care services to all Ontarians. Based on the size of their payrolls, employers will pay a graduated tax of between 0.98 per cent for small business and 1.95 per cent for larger business starting in January 1990.
I would like to point out to the honourable members that this graduated rate will be the lowest provincial health tax in Canada. Quebec and Manitoba, with similar legislation, have rates of 3.36 per cent and 2.25 per cent respectively.
It should also be noted that Ontario’s and indeed Canada’s health care financing is considered an enviable, competitive advantage to our neighbours in the United States where health care costs are completely out of control and where I have read that by the year 2000, 25 per cent of all hospitals may close.
Some companies that now pay the full amount of their employees’ health insurance will realize substantial savings under the new act. The employer health tax will also lessen the burden of administration on employers as they will no longer have the responsibility of administering OHIP groups.
Employees will continue to be registered under their existing OHIP numbers. Employers will simply remit payments on either a monthly or a quarterly basis. The payment will be calculated by multiplying the appropriate tax rate by the total remuneration paid to employees during that period.
The graduated rate and remittance frequency are sensitive to the needs of small business. Smaller companies will pay a lower tax rate, to be remitted quarterly. This ensures that tax rates are progressive and that the administrative filing requirements are reduced as much as possible.
The employer health tax will make the financing of health care fair and equitable for all employers and employees as it eliminates the current patchwork of employer OHIP payment schemes. Currently employers have an option of offering full or partial payment of their employees’ health care insurance as part of their pay package.
It is a fact that the employer health tax will put $1 billion back into the pockets of the residents of this province. Individuals who pay directly to OHIP for their own coverage and that of their families will save $714 in the first year.
People who work for more generous employers who pay for their employees’ OHIP coverage will also realize a saving in taxable benefits equivalent to $665 in the first year. This saving of $550 million for people who pay direct and $450 million for people in group plans means there will be an extra $1 billion in spending power pumped into the province’s economy.
This act not only confirms the government’s commitment to providing Ontarians with quality health care, but also addresses the recommendation of the Social Assistance Review Committee to provide universal access to health care in the province. The Social Assistance Review Committee reported that the elimination of OHIP premium payments “would greatly improve access to health care, particularly preventive health care for many low-income people.”
The employer health tax does not apply to individuals who are self-employed. Pensioners are exempt unless they have employees. Other exempt groups include embassies, consulates, native people transacting business on a reserve and payrolls relating to native people working for a corporation on a reserve.
However, as I described earlier, all Ontarians, including the self-employed, will continue to contribute to the health care system through a one per cent increase in the Ontario personal income tax. Residents of Ontario will no longer have to pay OHIP premiums as of 31 December 1989.
Large employers will commence monthly employer health tax payments in January 1990, the first payment being due on 15 January. Small business employers will commence quarterly payments in April 1990, with respect to January to March liability.
Again, I would like to emphasize the fairness of a tax which is based on the actual pay, rather than the prepayment of insurance premiums. This act is now scheduled to go into effect on 1 January 1990, and I will be introducing amendments in committee in this regard.
To eliminate any perceived double payment of a tax for the month of December, there will be administrative provisions similar to other taxation statute provisions administered by my ministry, to cover such items as assessments, refunds, interest payments and also offences, to ensure fairness and compliance with the act.
In closing, the Employer Health Tax Act introduces a system of health care financing in Ontario that is not only more equitable and progressive, but also a simple tax which benefits all Ontarians. We in Ontario are proud of the quality of our health care. The employer health tax will enable us to continue to protect this high standard of care while also minimizing the financial burden on the residents of this province.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions et commentaires sur la présentation du ministre ? Sinon --
Hon Mr Mancini: I move that we adjourn the debate.
Ms Bryden: There are two minutes that I might use to speak on the bill.
The Deputy Speaker: I have a motion in front of me.
Hon Mr Mancini: She might not want to break up her presentation, but as far as I am concerned, if the member wants to use the three minutes that are available, by all means.
The Deputy Speaker: There is only a minute available.
Ms Bryden: I just wanted to say that my first comment will be that I am disappointed that the new minister is not giving us better service than we have had on other bills from this government. The compendiums came very late and now we are presented with 21 amendments, which I just received today. Even though they are dated Friday, they must have been delivered about midnight Friday.
I think this is a typical pattern of this Liberal government to give the opposition as little notice as possible of legislation and as little information as possible on the legislation. Therefore, I think the minister should be setting a better example as a new minister in this field, to provide service to the opposition parties.
On motion by Ms Bryden, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1800.