The House met at 1330.
NURSES’ PARTICIPATION IN HOSPITAL MANAGEMENT
Mr Reville: Members may remember that last spring the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) rose in her place and with much fanfare announced that she was going to solve the nursing crisis in the province of Ontario once and for all. Of course, what she did was to say, “I am going to change the regulations to the Public Hospitals Act so that nurses can finally have some say in how their workplaces are run,” and she then pointed a finger at the hospital administrators of the province and said, “Ye shall do this thing by 30 September 1989.”
As my colleague from the third party and I have pointed out, many a time the minister’s fiat is not always obeyed by hospitals, although we cannot imagine why. Today in the press we see that a head nurse, Glenna Cole Slattery, has said that only one of the province’s 222 hospitals has complied by the 30 September deadline and that, of course, has set in motion a huge argument with one of the administrators of a hospital who says: “No, no, she is wrong. There are two hospitals.”
Well, whether it is one or two, one or two out of 222 is a very poor score. When do members think that the government will really take action to improve the problems in nursing in the province?
EMPLOYER HEALTH LEVY
Mr Jackson: I hope the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) takes the time to review what a coalition of Ontario small businesses had to say this morning about his employer health tax. The coalition made a forceful case against the tax on the grounds that it is not revenue-neutral, that it is a hidden tax which will ultimately be paid by employees, that it could hurt business development in Ontario, that it will create huge amounts of extra paperwork and a larger civil service.
I would think that a Treasurer who yesterday released a forecast projecting higher unemployment rates, slower growth and fewer new jobs, would want to reconsider the wisdom of imposing a tax on job creation. At the very least, the Treasurer should add some meat to the bones of his government’s rhetoric on the importance of the small business sector by following the recommendation made this morning by the coalition and earlier by this party that the bill be amended to provide for a small business exemption. Such an exemption would greatly reduce the complexity of the new tax system but encourage small-business job creation and move the new tax closer to revenue neutrality thereby relieving our employers of having to pay additional tax on account of this government’s mismanagement of the health care system.
If the Treasurer turns a deaf ear to these recommendations and to others which will be put forward during public hearings on the employer health tax bill, I fully expect to see him back in this chamber in the not-too-distant future trying to undo the mischief caused by this most destructive new tax.
Mr Adams: While every Parliament is representative in the sense that every individual and group in the province is involved in the electoral process, no Parliament has ever been a true cross-section of the people it represents. It is healthy for a Parliament, from time to time, to think about its makeup so that members become more conscious of biases which might develop in it.
We can think of representativeness in all sorts of ways. For example, the average age of members in this House is 49 years. This is somewhat younger than the last Parliament, but it is higher than the average of the general population. The 18-to-34 age group of electors is very poorly represented here, with only 2.6 per cent of the members representing 20 per cent of the population. The over-65 age group is also poorly represented, with just over four percent of the members representing more than 10 per cent of the population.
Around 80 per cent of members have some post-secondary education. This is certainly not representative of the province as a whole and indeed may be very unusual for the parliaments of Ontario, as only 10 years ago at least one quarter of the members had finished their formal education with high school or less. It is very important that, from time to time, we become conscious of our biases.
Miss Martel: In mid-July of 1989 the federal government amended the Criminal Code to permit provinces to regulate teletheatre betting of harness racing. In no small way the problems being faced by Sudbury Downs, northern Ontario’s only racetrack, prompted this action. With the federal government on side, it is now up to the provincial government to agree to offtrack betting so that Sudbury Downs will be able to attract the population base that cannot now be attracted due to the great distances of northern Ontario.
According to the Sudbury regional development corporation, Sudbury Downs plays host to 800 people, on average, on racing nights. Of these, 15 percent are out-of-town visitors and up to 18 customers served in the dining lounge are from outlying communities. The track employs 165 full-time and part-time employees, with a payroll of over $500,000. Additional revenues are generated in the surrounding area with the provision of goods and services to the track itself.
In the past 14 years the Downs has generated some $2 million in municipal taxes. However, the track has continued to incur financial losses and will only be able to turn the tide with the advent of teletheatre betting. Many of us have written to the Premier (Mr Peterson) and to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Sorbara) to encourage this legislation.
On 18 August, the Premier advised he would embark on discussions to obtain the necessary information to make the decision. On 11 September, the minister responsible promised more of the same. On 25 October, the Premier again promised to research the matter and make a decision. To date, there has been no response. It is time the government stopped stalling and established teletheatre betting in this province.
Mr McCague: I want to bring to the attention of fellow members the plight of a very brave young man living in England. Just 10 years old, Craig Shergold is fighting a battle with cancer. Determined that his illness will not stand in the way of making his mark on the world, Craig has decided to enshrine his name in the Guinness Book of World Records.
He will do this by receiving more than 1.25 million get-well cards. With the help of thousands of strangers from around the world, Craig has just about realized his dream. With a little help from the members of this Legislature, he is bound to go over the top of the goal post.
Together, we represent nine million people. As members, we have networks that reach into every corner of this province. We can use those networks to make Craig’s wish come true. In a race where time is our only adversary, we can come together to help Craig cross the finish line.
I urge all members to make this brave young fellow’s wish their own and play their part in making it come true. On behalf of Craig, reach out to the people of Ontario and urge them to send a get-well card to Craig Shergold, 232 Kent Street West, Suite 4, Lindsay, Ontario, K9V 6A4.
Mr D. R. Cooke: Yesterday, once again, the House celebrated in unanimity the excitement and the drama that is sweeping eastern Europe. We are witnessing changes that are revolutionizing, not just that part of the world, but the whole world. These changes will have profound effects on world trading patterns. Yet the west does not seem to be grasping either the duty or, frankly, the opportunity.
The dream was started in Poland and in Hungary. It was started there, in part, because these two great nations are in very, very tough economic straits. They have opted for open free markets but they desperately need our help.
Poland is Canada’s greatest debtor nation. While it was ruled by communist dictators, we lent it $2.3 billion, more than we have lent any other nation in the world. Surely now that it is taking the giant steps to convert itself in record time to a free enterprise economy, it is the time to come to its aid.
Lech Walesa’s humour will be sad if we do not respond. He likened western support to offering a beautiful necktie to a corpse. Let us do better. If Ottawa cannot be more generous in dealing with Poland’s debt, and they should be more generous, let our government at least take the lead in trade ventures wherever we can.
Mr Hampton: The government calls its proposed insurance scheme a creative initiative designed to keep insurance premiums in this province at a minimum. However, the government is not so quick to point out that over $141 million of taxpayers’ money will be handed over annually to subsidize the insurance companies of this province.
It is not enough that under the government’s auto insurance scheme accident benefits will be savagely cut and rates are to increase at a minimum of eight percent, but if the government has its way, the people of this province will be supporting the pocketbooks of the insurance industry through their tax dollars as well.
I have no doubt that Ontario’s insurance companies are more than pleased with the Liberal government’s proposal. However, the government’s auto insurance scheme does a grave injustice to Ontario drivers and Ontario taxpayers.
Rather than hide the increases in insurance premiums with a $141-million subsidy for the insurance companies, the government should admit its auto insurance scheme does not produce substantial savings for Ontario’s drivers and if the government is willing to admit this, it will very soon find the support is totally lacking for its so-called new auto insurance proposal.
Mr Wiseman: As we all know, the cost of vehicle registration fees goes up substantially this year but the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye) has yet to tell us how much money will be collected through this measure. However, with an increase of from $54 to $90 in the greater Toronto area, coupled with a smaller rise outside, it is surely to be a hefty amount.
As well, the minister has declared war on those who exceed the speed limits through his plan to double speeding fines but we would like to know what the minister is doing with this windfall.
Is he, as we hope, planning to use this money to continue extensive reconstruction which is badly needed on our local roads? Does he understand the very real dangers involved in driving on some of our rural highways?
My own riding of Lanark-Renfrew has several projects which are in dire need of assistance and I offer one example of county road 18 from Port Elmsley to county road 1 as just one of the examples of the work that should be done in eastern Ontario.
I would urge the minister to do what he can to ensure that the money collected through these initiatives stay within his ministry to be used to maintain our local roads and keep our people safer.
Mr Daigeler: Last weekend’s historic opening of East Germany’s borders brings deep joy to all nations. For the first time in over 50 years of totalitarian rule, East Germans and, it appears, others in eastern Europe are free to travel as they wish.
We who have grown up in western democracies take the right to free movement for granted. Seeing so many people enjoy for the first time in half a century a quiet stroll in West Berlin or other parts of West Germany -- these signs of people’s new-found freedom -- warms our hearts, but it also makes us thankful for our own privileged situation where civil liberties have never been seriously threatened.
As history unfolds in eastern Europe in dramatic new beginnings, let us hope that they will usher in an era of freedom, peace and prosperity for all. May we never again witness the building of a wall that divides families and nations into two physical and ideological blocs.
As Prime Minister Mulroney prepares for his forthcoming visit to the Soviet Union, I call on all Canadians to help eastern Europe with moral and economic assistance in this difficult period of transition. I also invite all levels of government to open our own borders for those who wish to find a new home in Canada where freedom of speech and freedom to travel have always been the cornerstone --
The Speaker: Thank you. That completes the allotted time for members’ statements.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mrs Caplan: Further to my announcement two weeks ago regarding our government’s initiatives to improve recruitment and retention of nurses, today it is my pleasure to announce that the key position of nursing co-ordinator for the province has been filled.
Pat Bethune, the president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association has been appointed to the position effective 1 January 1990 following completion of her term as the Ontario Nurses’ Association president.
I want to emphasize again how important the enhancement of job satisfaction among nurses is to the future of our health care system. Ms Bethune will be a vital link between the ministry and the nursing profession in accomplishing this goal. She will report to the ministry’s assistant deputy minister for planning and programs and will have two nursing policy advisers assisting her.
Ms Bethune comes to the ministry with a wealth of valuable experience. She has been a staff nurse at North Bay Civic Hospital since 1967, and during her nursing career, has been involved in a wide variety of continuing education programs. She has also been an active member of provincial and local labour relations committees and, in addition to her involvement with the Ontario Nurses’ Association, has been affiliated with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.
As co-ordinator, one of her tasks will be to work with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario to develop workshops to assist and advise nurses who have been appointed to hospital committees. I think we have found the ideal person to advise the government on what steps will best enhance the work environment and the role of nurses in this province.
Ms Bethune will be co-ordinating some of our major nursing initiatives. She will have input into decisions regarding the $5-million nursing innovation fund, the $1 .5-million bursary program, restructuring and broadening the membership of the Advisory Committee on Nursing Manpower, and the $400,000 funding for research in quality of work environment issues which I recently announced.
Ms Bethune’s election to the presidency of the largest nursing organization in Ontario speaks to the respect she has won among her peers. Ms Bethune represents their views and we, as government, expect to learn a great deal through the interchange.
Nurses play a crucial role in our health care system. I feel that the appointment of a nursing co-ordinator is an important step toward finding solutions to a number of the challenges facing nurses and the nursing profession.
Ms Bethune is in the gallery today and I would ask members of the House to welcome her.
Mr Reville: It had to happen. I knew that if I stayed in this House long enough, the minister, who is wont to make many a statement, would eventually make a statement that would leave me speechless, or worse still, it would render me congratulatory.
I would like to congratulate the minister on unusual sagacity in this appointment. Clearly, Ms Bethune is eminently qualified for this post and while the minister acknowledges that she believes the government will learn a great deal from Ms Bethune, I suspect that the government will learn a great deal more than the minister may now suspect.
Her first job, I understand, will be to work with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario -- I see the executive director here today and I welcome her -- to develop workshops to assist and advise nurses who have been appointed to hospital committees. We suspect that at the moment the staff-student ratio will be very high. As I understand it, job one of Ms Bethune will be to try to convince the 221, or perhaps it is 220, hospitals in the province that do not have nurses on any of their committees. That will be an important and worthwhile job, and I wish her well in that connection.
I am not going to use my full time today, which is another unusual experience, but as I stand here a wallflower, I must point out to the House that everybody always wants to dance with the minister.
Mr Brandt: On behalf of our party, we would like to congratulate Ms Bethune on the appointment and also, with some reluctance, congratulate the minister as well on her very appropriate appointment.
Certainly we recognize, I think, as do all members of this House, that we can improve very substantially on nursing services in this province by developing a better relationship and a better level of understanding between nurses through their input on these various committees than perhaps has been the case in the past. So we want to take this opportunity to join with our colleagues in the official opposition to wish the former resident of North Bay the very best.
I know that if my colleague the member for Nipissing (Mr Harris) were here, he would want to extend a congratulatory word or two on behalf of his own local constituency and on behalf of our party, but I am pleased to have the opportunity to so do.
We will be very interested in working with Ms Bethune in any way that we can as well, co-operatively, to see if we can in fact entice some of the nurses who have left the profession back into the field, if we can in fact overcome some of those very real problems that our professional nurses have identified, such as working conditions, such as the salary structure, such as a whole host of problems that we have to come to grips with if we are going to improve the level, the standard, the quality of health services in this province. In anything that can be done in that respect, the minister has our undying co-operation, I assure her.
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time for ministerial statements and responses, so in the same congenial mood, I call for oral questions. The Leader of the Opposition.
Mr B. Rae: Mr Speaker, in the same congenial mood in which you called on me, I will address my question to my dear friend, the congenial Treasurer.
GOODS AND SERVICES TAX
Mr B. Rae: I wonder if the Treasurer could -- I hope he has before him a copy; I thought he might have brought it in with him -- turn to page 101 of the Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review for 1989. There the Treasurer will find a list of tax expenditures, that is to say, tax revenues that are forgone, under the heading of “Retail Sales Tax Expenditures.”
I was interested, as I am sure many other Ontarians were, in the apparent negotiations that took place during the first ministers’ conference saying that there was going to be a new period of negotiation among the treasurers with the Minister of Finance with respect to the future of the goods and services tax.
My question for the Treasurer is this. He will see from this sheet that Ontario forgoes well over $10 billion in revenue, money not taxed, some of which would be taxed under the GST. Can the Treasurer tell us, is part of his desire for negotiation based on the fact that if there were a combined tax participated in by Ontario, it would mean that the retail sales tax would apply to many services and many things upon which Ontario citizens are now not taxed?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I do not believe the honourable member is correct when he tells the House that there is some sort of resumption of discussions with the Minister of Finance for Canada, the other treasurers and myself about the proposed new tax. There is no indication of that at all. I should say that Mr Wilson has called a meeting of the treasurers for, I believe, 6 December in Ottawa, but there is no indication whatsoever that there will be any discussion of the tax at that time.
We might certainly reiterate our criticism of the fiscal impact on the province, but the government of Canada, particularly the Prime Minister in his opening remarks, said clearly that the tax was going forward as planned.
Mr B. Rae: Perhaps I could ask the Treasurer this. Can he tell us, are there any circumstances in which he can foresee that Ontario would participate with the federal government in a combined, double-whammy, GST-retail sales tax escapade? Are there any circumstances in which he can see such joint participation?
Hon R. F. Nixon: First, I think the honourable member would be aware that in the comments from the Treasury, myself and my colleagues have indicated that we feel the rate of the tax is too high at nine per cent, that we disagree with the government of Canada that the inflation pertaining to that high rate is simply going to be a bit of a blip in economic history. We feel that the nine per cent rate is too high and that it should be lower than that.
Second, we have indicated that we do not like the way they propose to tax the municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals. We think they should be zero-rated. Our criticism of the tax has been put forward not only in public but for the honourable member in times past.
Mr B. Rae: I think what we have just heard is a prelude to a change of heart on the part of the government of Ontario. That is what I am hearing.
I want to ask the Treasurer to again look at page 101 and table 3. Professional services: He is forgoing now $4 billion. Commercial services: He is forgoing now $2.2 billion. It does not require a great deal of imagination to say that Ontario could even lower its own retail sales tax ever so slightly, join in with the GST and look at the --
Mr Neumann: Is that what you are recommending?
Mr B. Rae: No, it is not what I am recommending. It is what I am warning taxpayers is going to come, a double whammy, participated in fully by the Ontario government, in which consumers who have not been paying tax in Ontario on all these items will suddenly wake up one morning and find an agreement with the federal government in which the taxpayers have literally been taxed to death. That is what we are warning Ontario taxpayers about.
The Speaker: Are you asking if the Treasurer agrees?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member is tilting at windmills. This is the sort of thing that is typical for the honourable member to undertake. If he thinks that we are going to undertake the taxing of farmers, for example, or fisherpersons -- did he notice that listing, fisherpersons? -- hospitals, religious and charitable, disabled persons -- this is the list he is talking about.
As a matter of fact, there was a time under the bad old former government when production machinery was taxed. That is no longer taxed, because obviously the Legislature believes that we have to see that the means of production and making jobs is as tax-free as possible, fostering the economic development of this jurisdiction and the jobs that are associated with it.
Mr B. Rae: All I can say is that when I asked the Treasurer whether there were any circumstances in which the government would not participate, he was not able to answer the question directly.
Hon R. F. Nixon: What is this coda that he adds on to the question?
Mr B. Rae: The minister has a prelude; I have a coda. That is all right.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Financial Institutions. One of the little-recognized sections of the bill which the minister has proposed on car insurance contains some draft regulations with respect to the way in which the no-fault plan would work. Can the minister tell us what kind of care he thinks a person disabled as a result of a car accident can receive for $1,500 a month?
Hon Mr Elston: In addition to the benefits which are prescribed under the regulations, as the member indicates, of course there will be litigation to determine the personal needs of a person who is disabled as a result of the car accident, so I cannot describe for him fully what each individual will require. That is why we have retained access to the courts for those serious situations.
Mr B. Rae: I can tell the minister, and he may not be aware of this, that you can get injured in an accident, you can even get killed in an accident and it can take years and years for that litigation to be settled. The minister has made that even more assured because of all the loops and hoops that he has required people to go through.
I want to ask the minister, what does he think is going to happen for the four or five years? Assuming that there was litigation and assuming that it was allowed, what is going to happen to the person who has to survive in terms of long-term care needs on $1,500 a month? Can I ask the minister specifically this question: Why is he forcing people who are going to be injured in these accidents to spend the first four or five years after an accident in an institution? Why is he going to be doing that?
Hon Mr Elston: That is not the case, as the honourable gentleman knows, because what he failed to recognize was that in addition to the $1,500 a month, which he has segregated apart from the rest of the benefits, there is in addition $450 per week as income replacement. There are monies available also for supplementary medical care and rehabilitation costs. When you put all of those items together, in fact, there are a number of dollars which are made available.
I have to say as well to the honourable gentleman that he has rightly put his finger on one of the problems with our current situation, that people are left high and dry without any sustenance, at least, hardly any sustenance at all, to allow them to maintain their lifestyle, to allow them to support their need for rehabilitation, except by dipping into their own personal reserves, going into debt, for instance, to help them recover and be rehabilitated in a timely manner. That is why the benefits which we have, by regulation and otherwise, made available for the people are going to be a vast improvement over what we have now. He has rightly identified the long delay in litigation and that is what we are going to overcome by this new, balanced product.
Mr B. Rae: The minister should know this -- he is a former Minister of Health; the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) knows perfectly well -- and if he does not, I will tell him. It is impossible for somebody who is seriously disabled to be cared for at home on other than a purely temporary basis for $1,500 a month. If the minister does not understand that, I will tell him that it cannot be done. In terms of the seriousness of the disability, it cannot be done.
The net effect of what he is doing and proposing by setting a limit, a cheap, cheesy limit of $1,500 a month, is that he is forcing these people into institutions. Why is he doing that? Why is he bringing in an insurance scheme that is forcing people into institutions? That is exactly what he is doing by capping the benefit for long-term care at $1,500. Do not ask them to rob their children’s food in order to pay for long-term care.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman has taken a lesson from the book of the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos). He is not telling the whole story. This gentleman knows very well that in addition to the very good and very well managed medical system that we have, there is $1,500 more for long-term care, there is more money available for rehabilitation services and there is available $450 per week to help replace the income.
On top of that, we have home care programs both for acute and chronic care patients. We have assistance for homemakers put forward through the auspices of the member for Oriole, the Minister of Health, and from the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer). We have a program which now is, in a comprehensive manner, able to keep people in their homes in a way in which they have never been able to be kept in their homes before. We have a program which will help sustain people over the long haul that is required to sustain them while they process their litigation. They will have a better chance of having an evenhanded decision made about the litigation. They will be able to prosecute their litigation to the fullest extent, to allow them have their personal needs looked into.
ONTARIO PUBLIC SERVICE
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Chairman of Management Board of Cabinet as well. I hope that I can get the Chairman to give, perhaps, a somewhat more concise answer than the last series of responses.
I want to ask the Chairman of Management Board, in view of the statements made by the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) where he has indicated, in anticipating a slowdown in the provincial economy, that in order to maintain or to keep the deficit at the current level, increased taxes or a reduction in services or a cut in certain programs will be necessary -- that is what the provincial Treasurer has said with respect to his economic forecast relating to what he anticipates will be a slowdown in the economy -- in view of those facts, why is it that over the past four years his government has increased the leased space which he is renting in the Metropolitan Toronto area by some 750,000 square feet? How can he justify that kind of increase?
Hon Mr Elston: I am not sure exactly where the honourable member wants me to get a concise answer to a question as verbose as that. He went on for a long time, but basically I will answer him this way. He is on his feet daily telling us to do more in making available more programs and making available more money for more people. On every other day, he stands up to the people outside and says to them, “Cut back.” Today is his “Cut back expenditure” day. And that is an important item for him, because on an interim basis he is planning, perhaps, to run for leader, so he wants to be fiscally responsible today.
But I will tell him we have not added one square metre of space more than we require to deliver the programs that he is telling us to deliver. We are not adding one more square metre of space than is required to assist the people in a way which he and his members day by day advocate in front of the Minister of Health and the Treasurer, in front of the Attorney General (Mr Scott), in front of the Minister of Education (Mr Conway), in front of the Minister of Correctional Services (Mr Patten). We take into account what is needed. The people of the province expect us to deliver and we are delivering the programs.
Mr Brandt: I have to say to the Chairman of Management Board, with the greatest of respect, that the 750,000 square feet I am talking about are not programs for people; they are offices for staff. That is what they are, offices for staff who are working at desks. They are not field representatives.
That represents, I might add, only Metropolitan Toronto. It comes to a cost of some $60 million. Can he justify the Treasurer saying that he is going to either increase taxes or cut back programs when he has allowed his real estate leasing to expand at a rate that is probably comparable to the other nine provinces combined in this entire country? How can he justify that kind of irresponsibility?
Hon Mr Elston: First of all, there is no irresponsibility here at all. In fact, the minister in charge of our real estate portfolio, the Minister of Government Services (Mr Ward), is managing in a very prudent way and in fact making sure we have the space that is available at the best price and located in the areas which allow us to efficiently administer the programs.
One would think the member for Sarnia, who used to be, in a previous incarnation, a minister himself -- a ministry that was very badly managed and unable in fact to deliver the necessary assessment of the environment that was required -- would be upon his feet applauding to know that the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) currently has been able to put in place more staff people to take care of the problems that he left -- that is, the member for Sarnia left -- before his demise as Minister of the Environment.
We have put together a package of programs which is an efficient housing of the people who work very diligently to deliver the services to the people of the province. You cannot deliver services without people being employed to do so. He knows that. And that is what we have done, put together a real estate management package which lets them deliver those programs efficiently and effectively.
Mr Brandt: The estimates that I have shared with the minister do not include the costs of moving, the costs of renovation for those offices, the costs of desks or telephones or expenses relating to those employees or computer terminals. None of those costs are included in my estimate of some $60 million in new leased space which he has taken on.
Why does he not admit openly to the people of Ontario it is because he has hired 7,000 additional civil servants, many of them here in the Toronto area? My estimates do not even take into account the expansions throughout the rest of the province. Why does the minister not try something unique and cut some of his costs instead of constantly and incessantly raising taxes?
Hon Mr Elston: Mr Speaker, I told you the member for Sarnia would be telling us to cut costs. This is his “Cut costs” day, and I appreciate that. I can tell the honourable --
Mr Brandt: That is not programs. Don’t mislead the people. I am not talking programs. I am talking expenses.
Hon Mr Scott: Get real.
The Speaker: Order, the member for Sarnia. Order, the Attorney General. I think it is time to pause and I would ask all members, when they are addressing the House, to address their remarks through the chair.
Hon Mr Elston: I know there is a lot of pressure on the member for Sarnia to run and I can appreciate that he wishes to tell people that he does not think that there is any relation between the number of people who work for the government and the delivery of programs, but there is. In fact, one of the important things that he fails to tell the people of the province is that we have expanded our presence in many northern locations to house people who are delivering services much closer to the people than they have ever been before, in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, North Bay, a number of areas.
Yes, we have had new leases put in place in Metropolitan Toronto, and does the member know why? Because sometimes there has been an expansion of the number of people who work for the members in this Legislature which has required us to move offices into new locations. There is accommodation required there.
But I will be quite clear: There are more people working for the civil service in the province of Ontario. Some of those come to us because we are required to deliver federal programs like the Young Offenders Act requirements --
The Speaker: Thank you.
The Speaker: Order.
RETAIL STORE HOURS
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Attorney General, but I see someone sitting in his place with a bow tie on. If the Attorney General is in fact here today, my question relates to an issue that has been raised in this House on many occasions. That is the backlog in our court system. I want to ask the Attorney General, if I might, if he is aware of the length of delays that is the current situation in the Peel court system at this particular point in time. Would he share that with us?
Hon Mr Scott: If I was here, I would tell the member that I am aware of that.
Mr Brandt: Since the Attorney General was not able to make it today, perhaps he wants to give the question to someone else. My supplementary, and I want to be of help to the Attorney General and he knows this, is that with respect to Peel, the latest information I have been able to receive is that it is experiencing about a six-month backlog. It is something in the order of April 1990 when it will hear the cases that are brought before the courts at the moment.
In speaking today with the chairman of Peel region, Frank Bean, he indicated with respect to the Sunday shopping issue that without stores being fined they are going to continue to defy the law. The Attorney General is aware that not only were stores open last week, the major grocery stores in particular, but also today in some of the Toronto newspapers there are full-page advertisements indicating that they intend to defy the law again this coming Sunday.
Is the Attorney General prepared now to take what we consider to be the appropriate action, to seek an injunction to stop those openings from occurring so that he can put an end to this particular problem before it gets completely out of hand?
Hon Mr Scott: The honourable member asks about the delay in the provincial criminal court in the county of Peel. The delays there have, for almost a decade, been very substantial. We established, a year or so ago, a delay reduction committee under the leadership of Senior Judge August and, as the honourable member notes, we have brought delay times significantly under control. The problem is not solved, but enormous headway has been made in Peel county with existing resources and additional new resources which will shortly be on stream to address the problem.
I want, while I am here, if I am here, to simply pay tribute to the work of the bar in the county of Peel, the crown attorneys, the judges and the administrators who are in stressed times doing everything they can to make this system work much more effectively than it has since the late 1970s.
With respect to the Sunday closing question, the honourable member will know that the region of Peel is applying to the court for an injunction with respect to Sunday shopping problems in its jurisdiction, and I am advised that application will be heard on Friday of this week.
Mr Brandt: The Attorney General knows full well that my question related to the delays and how they are going to have a negative result in relation to the Sunday openings and the concerns that the regional municipalities have in bringing their case effectively, efficiently and quickly before the courts.
I ask the Attorney General, in view of the fact that the chairman of Peel region has indicated his concern not only about the cost but about the delays and that other chairmen in other regions are having similar problems, does it not make sense, since he has the responsibility, which he can take up under section 8 and which we brought to his attention yesterday, to seek an injunction to stop this matter from growing as it is going to grow, since other stores are going to follow the lead that has now been taken by the grocery chains? Why does he not take the action and responsibility that is part of his office?
Hon Mr Scott: I have already tried to make it plain to the honourable member. The region of Peel has already commenced or will very shortly commence proceedings, I am advised, to exercise its powers under section 8 of the act in order to seek an injunction. Therefore, the problem is being addressed in the very way the statute contemplated.
The role of the government is to provide prosecutorial services in respect of charges. As I indicated yesterday, as a result of activity last weekend, almost 100 charges have been laid, and I repeat that we intend to take those charges seriously. We intend to prosecute to the limit of the law. We intend to ask for maximum fines and we intend to invite the court to confiscate any profits that are achieved if this conduct is judged illegal.
Mr Wildman: I have a question of the Minister of Agriculture and Food about his comments to the Niagara Federation of Agriculture recently to the effect that protection for Ontario farm land might be eased and land made available for development, comments quoted in the St Catharines Standard on 31 October. Why is the minister preparing to abdicate his obligation to fight for the interests of agriculture and to protect farm land from the epidemic of urban development? Is the government so deep in the pockets of urban developers that it cannot stand up for agriculture in this province?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I am pleased to answer this inquiry from the member for Algoma. I wish the member had been there at the meeting in Niagara. Obviously the Niagara area land use policy is just about the number one agricultural issue in that particular region of the province. It is a region of the province where we have some of the most valuable agricultural land and at the same time have tremendous developmental pressures.
Soon the member will be seeing that this government will be coming down with a land use policy. This policy will be stronger than the land use guidelines adopted by the previous government in 1968. I feel the member will be satisfied with that policy.
Mr Wildman: This government’s food land preservation policy statement was issued in 1986, almost four years ago, for comment and the minister now says it will be available soon. Where is it? Where are the new government’s financial support programs that are needed to encourage new agricultural techniques and adaptation for farmers and to help cut farm debt in Ontario? Who protects Ontario farmers from this minister?
Hon Mr Ramsay: The joy that is expressed in this chamber overwhelms me. Where is the policy? It is with myself at this time. As the member is very well aware, after considerable consultation, which I think was in great need because it is a very complex issue, we are now in the final stages of discussion of this policy. The government has many issues to discuss with regard to this. When the member refers to financial programs, obviously we are now considering, in the next budget cycle as it commences, what appropriate programs might be initiated or continued in the next budget year, and those things will be announced in the spring.
ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Mrs Marland: My question is for the Minister of Citizenship. Last week, I gave the minister the opportunity to demonstrate that he has the same integrity and ethics as his predecessor. I asked him about certain correspondence regarding a former employee of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The minister offhandedly said that that letter was six months old, was in the past. He said all matters had been fully investigated. He said I had had an opportunity to answer and ask those questions in committee.
I ask the minister today, now that he knows that what he said last week was in fact not the facts, that that letter has not been investigated, that I have not had an opportunity to question the former employees of the OHRC, will he once and for all guarantee that we can have a full and open public hearing into the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s hiring practices?
Hon Mr Wong: In response to the honourable member’s question, let me point out once again that the minister and the minister’s office were not charged with the responsibility of investigating interpersonal allegations or facts pertaining to specific cases. Rather the standing committee on government agencies was charged with the responsibility of looking at the Ontario Human Rights Commission and determining in specific terms how it could strengthen its performance in the future. That is where the honourable member should be addressing the particular concern she has.
If the member feels that the correspondence which she brought to my attention would be relevant, I would recommend that she present it to the chairman of the standing committee, who is a member of her own party and sits a few feet away from her.
Mrs Marland: It is incredible that this minister thinks everybody else is charged with the responsibility for what goes on at the OHRC except him. In fact, that committee, with six Liberal members, has already voted down the opportunity for former employees to come before it and answer these questions.
I ask the minister once again, based on the fact that we now know that Mr Amin and Mr Gordon, when they did appear before the committee to answer questions on their interministerial government review of the OHRC, in fact gave -- I cannot use the word “misled,” so I will say they gave -- inaccurate information to that committee. Is the minister not at all concerned about the fact that his government is stonewalling this whole issue and wants it swept under the carpet?
Hon Mr Wong: The standing committee has a certain responsibility. At their agenda-setting meeting, they determined which people they wanted to hear from and which ones perhaps were not necessary to hear from. I understand the honourable member was not even present at the meeting that determined which people should attend the meeting.
Again, let me turn to the positive. I believe we should be looking at how we can strengthen the Ontario Human Rights Commission so that we can help it to maximize the equality of rights and opportunities for all people in Ontario in accordance with the mandate --
Mrs Marland: If I was the president of any company in this province which that commission came in to investigate, I would tell them to clean their own house first.
The Speaker: Order, the member for Mississauga South.
Mrs Marland: What is it you are afraid of? The truth?
The Speaker: Order. Just let the members waste the time if they wish.
PASSENGER RAIL SERVICES
Mr Neumann: My question is for the Minister of Transportation. The minister is aware that his federal counterpart, the Honourable Benoit Bouchard, announced major cuts to Via service in Ontario. In particular, he announced that the most popular, well used, early morning trains from London, Kitchener, Peterborough and Kingston into Toronto would be cut because he considers these as commuter trains.
Today I released the results of a survey of passengers on one of these trains, train 662 from London to Toronto. Results show that two thirds of these passengers are not daily commuters. Does the minister accept Mr Bouchard’s argument that these well used passenger trains are a commuter service and therefore a provincial responsibility?
Hon Mr Wrye: I appreciate the fact that my colleague the member for Brantford has conducted such a thorough study and that he took the time to do this survey, which has, I think, in terms of exact numbers of responses -- and I understand the response rate was over 90 per cent -- shown what this government has said consistently, and that is that these are indeed intercity runs.
It is interesting to note that because the distances are over 50 kilometres, by Statistics Canada’s own definition, these are intercity runs, but the survey results, as I understand them, indicate that 34 per cent of those using the trains are commuters but that the other 66 per cent, two thirds of those surveyed, are business people on their way to and from Toronto for the day, people coming in to do shopping, to attend to other matters.
These are indeed the kinds of intercity passengers that the federal government has historically had a constitutional responsibility to serve. I intend to press the federal government, and to continue to press the Prime Minister along with members of the government, to accept these constitutional responsibilities and restore these services.
Mr Neumann: The fact is that we are facing the elimination of these trains on 15 January. The Prime Minister said, “Use it or lose it.” Yet his minister is cutting the most heavily used trains on the runs I have mentioned. Will the minister meet with Mr Bouchard and convey to him our concern that by cutting these heavily used trains, he may be seriously jeopardizing what will be left of Via after January 1990?
Hon Mr Wrye: I was in Ottawa last week with the Premier (Mr Peterson) at the point at which the premiers of Ontario and Quebec made a commitment to the mayors of the corridors to continue to support the kind of intercity travel that we need.
I can tell the honourable member in the House that I intend to meet with Mr Bouchard on Tuesday next and I intend at that point to press this government’s case to put a moratorium into effect so that we can take a good, long, hard look, using the royal commission or other vehicles, at the future of rail transportation services in Canada and most specifically in Ontario. That includes not only those important rail transportation services in the southern corridor but also the transportation services which are so vital to northern Ontario and which we play such a crucial role in already.
ST MARYS RIVER WATER QUALITY
Mr Morin-Strom: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. With regard to concerns that he has expressed in the past about inaction in the United States on environmental matters, I would ask how he would respond to the fact that he has received letters, for example, from Congressman Robert Davis from the state of Michigan, with regard to inactivity by the province of Ontario in carrying out its role under the water quality agreement between the United States and Canada to protect and enhance the Great Lakes and, in particular, inaction on the remedial action plan on the St Marys River. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has the lead role in developing the remedial action plan, and to this point has not met its target of September of this year to provide the initial draft of that plan.
The Speaker: Question.
Mr Morin-Strom: I would ask the minister why he has not taken his ministry in the role of the lead on this RAP in providing a draft plan that would ensure the cleanup of the St Marys River.
Hon Mr Bradley: I usually say, “Thank you for the question.” In this case I will because it allows me to address an issue I was addressing in Detroit, Michigan, on Monday of this week when I was speaking to the Soil and Water Conservation Society. They had representatives from the state of Michigan, from Ontario and from other jurisdictions.
One of the things I mentioned was where I thought the Canadian performance and the American performance were not good and were good, and one of the areas where I want to see some considerable action and improvement is in fact the area the member has identified and is personally familiar with. We are eager to move forward in that regard.
We are eager to do it in the right way as well. When you have a very careful consultation with the local people, one of the problems is that it takes a little longer to do it, but I have found that when you do consult widely with the local people, who know the problems in the area intimately and can make some good recommendations, you get a better product in the long run.
I am as anxious as I know the member and his colleague from across the border are on this particular issue, and I am confident, as I mentioned in estimates when I was discussing this matter, that we will see some rapid movement in this area and in other areas in the very near future.
Mr Morin-Strom: I find it disturbing when we get letters from a right-wing Republican congressman of the United States saying that Ontario is holding up the process on the St Marys River remedial action plan. One specific recommendation that came from the bi-national public advisory council that the minister has just referred to was for an independent monitoring program for the Algoma Steel plant. That has not been acted upon by his ministry to this point.
We have another letter here from a United States Senator, Carl Levin, expressing concern that Ontario agreed to take the lead in drafting this RAP since most of the river pollution derives from Canadian sources.
The Speaker: Do you have much more there?
Mr Morin-Strom: He is expressing the displeasure of the United States at the slow rate of progress on the St Marys River RAP and Ontario’s failure to meet the promised September deadline.
The Speaker: Question?
Mr Morin-Strom: Will the minister tell us what he is going to do in order to provide a schedule for the completion of the RAP, and can he assure us that he will meet the final deadline, not only for the draft but for the final completion by June 1991?
Hon Mr Bradley: I know, for instance, that on 28 November of this year, which is not far off, there is a meeting scheduled in Sault Ste Marie at which I hope a lot of these matters will be resolved. It will be beneficial in that it deals with the goals that are to be set for the remedial action plan -- the remedies, the timetables and the various commitments -- and I think that meeting will be very helpful.
I am always interested in hearing from people from other countries, particularly when I look at their voting record in the Congress on all environmental issues. I am always interested to hear what their comments are on this, so I will certainly be pleased on this specific issue to once again see Ontario in co-operation with Michigan. I must say that this does not happen in every jurisdiction, but we do have joint remedial action plans that we are working on with the others, and as I mentioned to the member, I like to gather as much of that information as possible so that we do a good job.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Bradley: I am confident that the 28 November meeting will be very beneficial and I know that the member is looking forward to the resolution of this matter in a manner that he --
The Speaker: Thank you. We will try the next questioner now.
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Education. The minister will be aware that teachers and school boards are now beginning to realize that they are going to be forced to subsidize the no-fault car insurance scheme proposed by his government. He is also aware that 90 per cent of automobile accident victims will not meet the proposed pain threshold set out in Bill 68 and therefore will have no redress in our courts. If a teacher is in an accident that does not result in death or permanent serious disfigurement, he or she will defer not to the courts but to the no-fault benefit schedule.
Under part IV, weekly benefits, of those draft regulations, a teacher will have to use up his or her sick leave credit gratuity, which many teachers have worked up to 20 years to accumulate, prior to receiving auto benefits. The same teacher could have a heart attack a year or two later and be completely wiped out.
My question is this: Can the minister explain why he personally is supporting this piece of legislation that in the event of an auto accident requires teachers to exhaust their benefits package entirely, which both they and the school boards have helped to fund?
Hon Mr Conway: I am pleased to support my government in the very progressive initiative that is currently before this House. I do not have any difficulty whatsoever in following the able leadership of my friend the member for Bruce, the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston), who has explained to this chamber at length several good components of the government’s insurance policy. As far as the impact upon teachers is concerned, I am sure that if there are specific aspects of the government’s insurance policy that teachers wish to take up with the government, they will not be reluctant to use the well-established means for bringing their concerns to my attention.
Mr Jackson: The minister’s defence of his colleague is admirable. Equally of concern to the citizens of this province should be that the impact of this legislation on school boards should be better known to him and of greater concern to him.
We know this bill is going to have an impact with school boards having to come up with additional moneys, in their already strained budgets, to compensate employees who are in automobile accidents. Since the provincial share of educational expenses does not account for this increased access to this benefits package, it is ultimately going to fall on local taxpayers to fit the bill.
Now that the minister has made the statement about access to resolutions of this matter, will the minister publicly support public hearings so that school boards, teachers and employee groups can assemble the information and report back to this House so that we will understand the financial impact this will have on employees, on school boards and on local taxpayers?
The Speaker: Order. We do not need all the reasons.
Hon Mr Conway: It ought to come as no surprise to the House that I support my friend and colleague the member for Bruce in his position and the government’s position with respect to the insurance policy currently before the House. It might, however, come as a surprise for the House to know whether the member for Burlington South supports his colleague the member for Leeds-Grenville (Mr Runciman) in the latter’s view on insurance policy.
I simply want to say to my friend the member for Burlington South that it is hard to take seriously the witches’ brew of fantastic, hypothetical possibilities he has trotted out here this afternoon, which I cannot believe he takes seriously.
Mr McGuinty: My question is for the Minister of Health. I have a copy of a letter from one Michael Hurley, the president of Local 870 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Mr Hurley has written regarding the quality of care at the Perley Hospital in my riding. He has indicated that budget cuts at the hospital will have a negative effect on the quality of the lives of the patients at the hospital. It has been stated by the Perley Hospital administration that the budget cuts required could result in the closure of 36 beds. Can the minister assure this House that the budget of the Perley Hospital will not be cut so that 36 beds will not be lost?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to assure the member that the answer to his question is yes. I know he is interested in the following information: There have been no budget cuts at the Perley Hospital. The Perley Hospital’s budget was $7.3 million in 1985-86 and this increased to over $9.1 million in 1988-89. This represents a 26 per cent increase in three years. This year’s budget is over $9.5 million.
I want to assure the member that essential services will be maintained at the hospital and that chronic care beds will not close. He knows my priority is always the quality of patient care. If there are any specific concerns that anyone has, regarding quality patient care, I will ask my staff to investigate. I want to assure him I will use the powers given me under the Public Hospitals Act to ensure that quality patient care is maintained.
Mr McGuinty: The minister will be aware that a number of my constituents are concerned about the waiting lists for chronic care patients to enter institutions in the Ottawa area. Can the minister indicate what she plans to do for those who need chronic care services?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to acknowledge my colleague’s concern in this extremely important area. He knows that I am working with my colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer), my colleague the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mr Morin) and also the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Ms Collins) as we develop a comprehensive system of long-term care that will include individuals’ independence and family and care giver support, as well as in-home services for those who can stay home.
He knows, and I know he would agree, that there are some chronic care patients who need to be in institutions, but I know that he supports, as I do, the fact that it is important for us not to institutionalize our senior citizens unnecessarily.
NORTHERN AIR SERVICES / SERVICE AÉRIEN DU NORD
Mr Hampton: My question is for the Minister of Northern Development. Last spring, the minister announced a tentative proposal to sell norOntair’s Dash-8 airplanes, which provide vital passenger services across northern Ontario, to Air Ontario. Last week on 14 November in the Thunder Bay Times-News, the vice-president of Air Ontario said that Air Ontario still has an outstanding offer to purchase norOntair’s Dash-8 airplanes. Can the minister tell us, is he still considering the sale of norOntair’s Dash-8 airplanes to Air Ontario at this time?
Hon Mr Fontaine: I would like to thank the member for Rainy River for his question. First of all, those negotiations are being done between the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission and Air Ontario. To date, I have not received any news about the last negotiation between Air Ontario and ONTC. I was in Thunder Bay last week. Dash-8s are still flying in the area and they will continue to fly until there is a sale. We all know about it, but there are some conditions on that sale. If Air Ontario does not meet those conditions, there will be no sale.
Mr Hampton: I appreciate the minister’s answer but I want to ask the minister this: Why would he continue negotiations with Air Ontario for the sale of norOntair’s Dash-8s when Air Ontario has already indicated that if it purchases the Dash-8s it will discontinue service into Kenora and Fort Frances? It has already discontinued service into places like Geraldton and Terrace Bay. Why would the minister sell those Dash-8s to Air Ontario when, based upon past experience, it already has that bad record? In view of what has happened at the Dryden air crash inquiry, why would he still be considering selling those airplanes to Air Ontario?
L’hon. M. Fontaine: Pour en revenir à la question de mon ami le député de Rainy River : premièrement, je ne peux pas comprendre pourquoi il parle en dernier de l’écrasement de l’avion à Dryden ; ça n’a rien à voir avec les Dash-8.
First, I want to tell the member that, as I told him in my last answer, if Air Ontario does not meet the proposal I asked, that it serve Fort Frances, there will be no sale. Second, last year I told the member in this House that I was trying to sell those airplanes with the lines I had in mind, Fort Frances and all that, to get money to buy new airplanes to serve the smaller centres. That is the bottom line.
Mr Villeneuve: To the Minister of Agriculture and Food: The minister will be aware of examples in the United States that clearly demonstrate that the use of alcohols in automobile fuels reduces harmful hydrocarbon emissions and ozone creation. Alcohols, because they contain oxygen, result in more complete burning of fuel, and fuel ethanol of course can be produced from the distilling of grains. Why did this government last February pass regulations that lower the amount of oxygen fuels can contain and therefore eliminate one use for substandard grains for fuel ethanol?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I think the member’s interest in this, obviously, is to increase the opportunity for our agriculture industry in Ontario to grow alternative crops, and in this case, crops that could be developed and processed into alternative fuels to replace some of the hydrocarbon fuels we use today.
Some of the considerations that have to be made in making these decisions is the total energy used to produce these crops, such as corn which is obviously a high demander of energy as one of its inputs to produce the crop. I am very interested in alternative crops for Ontario agriculture and we have many projects under way through research in Guelph and other places that are always looking at this.
Mr Villeneuve: We must be interested not only in alternative crops, but also in alternative crop uses. It is interesting that in the United States, Colorado in particular requires at least two per cent oxygen in fuels for clean burning because of the altitude, but here in Ontario we are ready to impose fines on anyone who has more than one half of one per cent oxygen in the fuel. Can the minister tell us what sort of role alternative crop uses and fuel production from crop production will be coming forth in his plan oriented towards the year 2000?
Hon Mr Ramsay: This is the type of discussion my ministry has with the Ministry of the Environment. I have spoken to the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) about this and I am glad to have encouragement from the honourable member to pursue this sort of discussion.
Mr D. W. Smith: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. The federal government has just released a green paper, which is a discussion paper entitled Growing Together, regarding the future directions of Canadian agriculture and food policy. As I read through this document, it appears that they seem to be moving away from a supply management approach to subsidization towards a stabilization approach.
Mr Villeneuve: David, you’re reading between the lines.
Mr D. W. Smith: l want to ask the Minister of Agriculture and Food what role, if any, the minister plays in developing this document and what were the minister’s views on the federal green paper?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I was very interested in the reaction from the third party to the asking of this question in referring to reading between the lines. I certainly do not want to prejudge the discussion paper the federal government has published. For them, it is a catalyst for policy discussion, somewhat similar to the priority planning policy meetings we have had across the province. I attended the last one we had, last night in Ridgetown, and the critic for the third party was also there.
To further answer the question, I would say to the member that our ministry had some input in trying to discover some of the challenges facing this industry in the next decade.
Mr D. W. Smith: The federal policy review has stimulated considerable discussion with our Ontario farmers. As well, as I have read through here, I would hope that the minister in his discussions, whether they be at a first ministers’ conference or wherever, would not develop our policy ahead of the United States or European Community because it will put our farmers in a very difficult position if we have to move in ahead, and yet the other countries, these huge superpowers, are going to stay protected. What actions will the minister be taking to ensure that the interests of Ontario farmers are well represented?
Hon Mr Ramsay: We have been in touch with the federal department about this planning conference. I have been invited and have accepted to co-chair a policy session in Ottawa on food safety, an area of interest I am looking forward to becoming very highly involved in. I think it is very important that we have these meetings in concert with our federal colleagues and also other provinces. It is very important we have that input in these discussions that are going on internationally, at the binational panel in the United States with regard to some of the free trade disputes and also at the GATT discussions going on in Geneva.
ADULT PROTECTIVE SERVICE WORKERS
Mr Allen: I have a question to the Minister of Community and Social Services with regard to the provision of service by adult protective service workers, particularly in the Durham region.
The minister will know that adult protective service workers provide an invaluable service to developmentally handicapped adults around the province in a direct service and in an advocacy fashion. He will also know there has been a major problem in the Durham region inasmuch as a pay equity settlement in the municipality with the adult protective service workers there has created a major financial problem for the region which only the minister can solve.
Given that through his ministry he has raised some questions about the importance of this service and the problem created by the refusal to fund to meet the additional costs of a pay equity settlement, would the minister please explain his intentions with regard to the adult protective service workers in Ontario and in this particular case?
Hon Mr Beer: As my honourable colleague mentions, there have been some concerns around the adult protective service program in Durham, and officials from the area office of my ministry have been working with Durham region around that. We had some concerns in terms of the salary settlement that was made that other factors beyond pay equity came into that and were beyond the budget we had been able to provide for that year.
What we are looking at is whether we can continue that service with the region of Durham or whether it would be more effective to do that through a community-based organization. That is where the discussions are at the moment.
Mr Allen: We come back to the old runaround on the question of community devolution of services. It would appear that what the minister is going to do once again from that ministry is to offload an important service out of the municipality on to a community-based independent agency with the effect that the salary base levels will be worse, the advocacy service will probably be constricted and the overall service provided by the adult protective service workers would be significantly reduced, in spite of a major study which has been laid before cabinet which indicates the critical importance of this service.
Would the minister himself meet directly with Durham officials to discuss this question but also in the light of the future of the adult protective service workers’ role in Ontario so that we can sort this question out and get it back at the level of delivery where it ought to be?
Hon Mr Beer: I think that our goal in terms of this program is to provide as extensive a service as we possibly can with the funds available. In working with Durham and some other centres in providing this program, we have said that we want to look at some of the models that exist in other parts of the province where we have been able to offer this service in an effective way and through community-based organizations.
If after the discussions between my officials and those of Durham it appears that there would be some usefulness in my becoming more directly involved, I would be pleased to do that. But from what I am aware of at this point in time, I think that it is best if the discussions continue the way they are going. I am optimistic that we will be able to resolve this issue before too long.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Mr Ward moved that notwithstanding standing order 94(h) the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot item 29.
Motion agreed to.
DIRECT GRANT PROGRAM
Mr Wildman: I have a petition signed by 24 residents of the very small township of Thompson in Algoma district. It is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
“That the population criteria for the Ministry of the Environment’s direct grant program for private water systems be forgiven.”
Mr Adams: I have a petition from a number of people in the Peterborough area. It is properly addressed and it reads:
“That in the interest of ‘real reform’ of pension arrangements those teachers who retired before June 1982 now begin to receive a pension based on their best five years under the same formula as those who retired after June 1982.
“That in order to encourage full partnership between teachers, organizations and government, the Superannuated Teachers of Ontario have a representative on the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Board, which will replace the Teachers’ Superannuation Commission.”
Mr Adams: I have another petition from people in the Peterborough area. This one concerns resolution 62.
“We, the undersigned Ontario citizens, are opposed to private members’ resolution 62, which reads, ‘That the government of Ontario through the Minister of Natural Resources should bring forward legislation to prohibit the use of dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles on conservation authority lands.”’
BICYCLES AND SKATEBOARDS
Mr Adams: I have a petition here on behalf of my friend and colleague the member for Durham East (Mr Cureatz). This too is properly addressed and it reads:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“To remove bicycles from public sidewalks, downtown cores, highways under city and town jurisdiction and to prohibit bicycles on school grounds or designated school areas; and,
“To designate skateboards in public areas dangerous and illegal, to be used only on private property or on specific recreational areas.”
The Speaker: You have signed them all?
Mr Adams: I have signed them all, Mr Speaker.
Mr Laughren: I have a significant number of petitions, too numerous to read, all dealing with the French Language Services Act.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INSURANCE STATUTE AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting insurance.
The Speaker: Checking Votes and Proceedings, I see that the member for Welland-Thorold adjourned the debate. Would the member have any further comments to make?
Mr Kormos: Very briefly. I am not going to be lengthy; I am going to try to sum up. There are a couple of new things that have to be mentioned, and I am going to try basically to sum up what I spoke about yesterday. I know there are other members of the opposition who are going to be addressing yet other aspects of this legislation and pointing out the horrible impact this is going to have on people across Ontario -- drivers, all people from all walks of life, from all parts of the province.
I will tell you, Mr Speaker, and this is perhaps by way of benevolent warning to the government, to the Liberals sitting here in this Legislature, there is concern being expressed across the province about how the Liberals are managing this horrible little piece of legislation, this Bill 68, this new auto insurance regime that was written by the auto insurance industry in the boardrooms of that same auto insurance industry, albeit right here in Ontario, but which was designed to make profits for that auto insurance industry that those companies have never seen before in their histories. It is a payback, and I am going to talk about that once again in a few minutes.
There is a groundswell of public opinion. I am looking at an editorial in the Hamilton Spectator yesterday, and it calls for a debate on the so-called no-fault plan. We discussed yesterday that no-fault was really a misnomer because there are lots of faults that one can find with this legislation. Indeed, it is as faulty a bit of legislation as has ever been presented in this Legislature. In fact, calling it no-fault is a little bit of fluff and puffery on the part of the Liberals here, because really it is a threshold scheme.
Yesterday we talked about what Mr Justice Osborne said about threshold schemes. He made it quite clear that what they are there for and that their impact is not to get the seriously injured people into the system but to keep injured people out of the system. That is what Mr Justice Osborne concluded while, at the request of this government, he was performing his investigation of auto insurance and its delivery here in Ontario.
Perhaps it is useful to discover once again that Mr Justice Osborne said conclusively in his report in 1988, “I reject threshold no fault.” That is the very sort of system we are talking about right here: threshold no-fault. Mr Justice Osborne, after consideration of it, said no, it is bad, it is wrong, it is going to hurt people. All it is going to do is pad the pockets of the private auto insurance industry in Ontario. It is not going to help drivers. It is not going to create affordable insurance. It is not going to create insurance that is provided fairly to drivers of both genders, of all ages, from all parts of the province. That is why Mr Justice Osborne said no, “I reject threshold no fault.” That was in the performance of his inquiry into motor vehicle accident compensation here in Ontario.
But look again at this editorial in the Hamilton Spectator, which calls for a debate on what the government calls, albeit it is a misnomer, the no-fault plan. The buttons we are wearing are very polite; you have got to concede, Mr Speaker, that these are polite buttons. I thought of a number of slogans that could go on a button and none of them was as polite as this one, which says: “No-fault? Well, no thanks.” As I say, that is about as polite as one could ever get when you consider the horrible impact this legislation is going to have on people across Ontario and when you recognize that this legislation is a payback.
This legislation is a payback to the auto insurance industry; it is a payback of the debt that this government and the Liberals here in this Legislature have to the auto insurance industry. It is a debt that is documented -- it is no secret, quite frankly -- and that makes fridges and paint jobs look like kids’ stuff or small fry in the total scheme of things. We are talking about big bucks. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. That is the kind of debt we are talking about.
The editorial in the Hamilton Spectator yesterday, 14 November 1989, called for a debate of the no-fault plan. Let us recognize that if all this, all of what we have been able to point out, is not enough, this government has no intention of letting people in Ontario comment on the legislation and the way it is going to impact on their lives.
Sure, after some pressure, the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) with a wink and a nudge -- and I guess the old saying is, a wink is as good as a nudge to a blind man -- says, “Oh yes, we’ll have hearings.” But what he has not said yet is that we will have committee hearings to consider this legislation, to hear from people in Ontario; that they are going to make sure that the folk from North Bay are going to be heard as thoroughly and as completely and as readily as the folk from Welland-Thorold down in the Niagara Peninsula.
The minister has not yet said that the committee is going to be allowed to hear from people across Ontario in communities, cities, towns and villages, from the north to the south, from the west to the east. He has not said that. Why has he not said that? Because he does not want to hear from these people.
Quite frankly, if he thought he could get away with it, I have no doubt that he would rather this whole process were quite a secret one and without any comment or debate at all. Indeed, the speed with which these people want to ram this legislation through generates, and should generate, a great deal of suspicion. That was emphasized when the Minister of Financial Institutions made his comments yesterday. He is talking about speeding this whole process up, ramming this through, just slipping it past the public, because he knows, as the rest of this government knows, that the more and more that people across Ontario become aware of how bad this legislation is, the more they will realize how dangerous and cruel it is.
We talked yesterday about how cruel it is, because we talked about fairness; we talked about what fairminded people would tolerate. I know that you, Mr Speaker, among others here yesterday, sat as a fairminded person and, I am sure, shuddered at what this legislation holds in store for drivers and people of all shapes and sizes across the province of Ontario, recognizing that it is designed, not to help least of all innocent injured accident victims but to generate profits never before seen by the private corporate auto insurance industry.
Among other things, we know that we are talking about a gift here, an involuntary gift from the taxpayers of Ontario. We are talking about in excess of some $140 million that is being handed over, if this legislation passes, to the private corporate auto insurance industry here in Ontario. That is taxpayers’ money. Where is that coming from? We know where it is coming from. In this bill the government advances the first $90 million, give or take a few. When these guys talk about bucks, to say give or take a few million really seems nothing. I have nothing against drunks or sailors, but quite frankly, these people, the Liberals here in this government, often can spend money like drunken sailors, especially if it is not theirs, if it is taxpayers’ money.
Indeed, they are doing it with taxpayers’ money here. They are picking the taxpayers’ pockets of Ontario, first of all, to the tune of $90 million and change and giving that as a gift, a freebie, to the auto insurance industry; and then there is the scam in the OHIP system for another $40 million or $50 million. So the total figure is up around $143 million. We will not really know how painful it is going to be until after it happens, but that is why we are here: to make sure it does not happen because fairminded people in Ontario will not let it happen.
The editorial in the Hamilton Spectator yesterday, 14 November 1989, called for a debate of the no-fault plan. The author of that editorial knows the minister has no intention at this point of letting that committee hear from people across Ontario. He has no intention of letting all those people who want to comment on this legislation speak out at the committee in response to the legislation -- no more so than the government had any intention of having a consultative process in gear when it came down to Bill 162, the workers’ compensation legislation which it rammed through this Legislature a little while ago, and no more so than it had any intention of having real consultation with the Canadian Bar Association, the Advocates’ Society and the Criminal Lawyers’ Association when it came down to Bills 2 and 3 being in the standing committee on administration of justice.
The Hamilton Spectator speaks for a whole lot of people when it says to debate the no-fault plan. I will read this for members because it is only yesterday’s paper, and I know that not all of us here have a chance to get the Spectator, but it is written in that editorial, “Premier Peterson’s government, understandably” -- you bet your boots, “understandably” – “is in a hurry to rush through the no-fault car insurance law.” Sure they are in a hurry to rush it through. They are in a hurry to rush it through so that the outrage that is experienced by every single person who comes to realize what this legislation is about will not be allowed to ferment and develop in communities across Ontario.
They are in a hurry to rush the no-fault car insurance law through so that it can be in force in the new year. But with the wisdom that is so obvious, this same editorial states, “But it would be a mistake to pass flawed legislation just for the sake of speed and bookkeeping convenience.” You had better believe it that it would be a mistake, and you had better believe it when we talk about this legislation being flawed. The editorial in yesterday’s Spectator says “it would be a mistake to pass flawed legislation just for the sake of speed and bookkeeping convenience.”
The editorial goes on to praise the leader of the third party: “Andy Brandt, the Conservative interim leader, is right to demand a committee study the plan” -- just as we have all along, Mr Speaker, and the editorial mentions “hearings to collect evidence and comments from people across Ontario.” The editorial says, “That would be a wise investment and a safeguard.”
It is a long-standing, traditional safeguard, so fundamental a democratic safeguard, yet the Minister of Financial Institutions has no interest in seeing that safeguard put into effect because we have not had the pleasure of hearing the minister indicate yet that he is going to let people across Ontario comment on this badly flawed legislation. We have not heard from the Minister of Financial Institutions yet that he is going to let the committee process operate fully and democratically and hear from people from every city, village and town in Ontario. My vision of the Minister of Financial Institutions is of him sitting over there with his jackboots on; that is about how much respect he has for democracy when it comes down to this bit of legislation.
I join with the editor of the Hamilton Spectator in calling for hearings to collect evidence and comments from people across Ontario. That is so basic. How could any fairminded person not agree that is what has to take place before legislation like this is dealt with in its finality here in the Legislature?
The editorial goes on to say, “On the face of it, the no-fault system” -- this Liberal government no-fault system – “appears attractive.” It goes on in the next paragraph to say:
“However, some worrisome questions have been raised, mostly by lawyers. They admittedly have substantial self-interest in insurance legislation, but that alone doesn’t blunt the points they’ve raised.
“One is that the compensation schedule for lost income due to accident injury is inadequate and would drastically lower living standards for the disabled.”
The editorial in the Hamilton Spectator recognizes what we have been saying in this Legislature for some time now. It recognizes that no working person in Ontario will be permitted to receive his or her full wage replacement, even if he or she is an innocent injured accident victim; even the innocent. No single innocent injured accident victim in Ontario will be permitted to receive his or her full wage replacement -- and he or she has been injured at the hands of a drunken, reckless, careless, negligent driver -- because of the legislation that the Liberals want to ram through.
That is one of the worrisome questions, that it is inadequate. Quite frankly, the ceiling, the maximum -- the complete, absolute, total maximum -- is $450 a week, and we know that $450 a week for a family of four here in the city of Toronto is below the poverty level. So we have a scheme here that oh so clearly favours the auto insurance industry, that is going to force families, that is going to force little kids, into poverty, the families of innocent injured accident victims. Innocent people are going to be forced into poverty at the hands of this government and its scheme, which is designed to put big profits into the pockets of the auto insurance industry. Shame.
The editor writes, “One” -- worrisome point -- “is that the compensation schedule for lost income due to accident injury is inadequate and would drastically lower living standards for the disabled.” He goes on, “Another is that many people might not be able to afford supplementary income protection insurance.”
That is something the minister has been tossing about more than occasionally here in the Legislature. He is as much as conceding the gross inadequacy of this legislation, the absence of any real protection for innocent injured accident victims when he says, “Yes, but you can buy extra insurance, extra coverage for all sorts of things.” That puts the big L for big lie on any suggestion that rates are going to be controlled even to the extent that the minister appears to suspect, because we have not heard any concrete terms in that regard. In fact, rates are going to climb and climb, and the minister is conceding, confirming and guaranteeing that what people are going to have to pay for insurance coverage is going to be just out of this world. It is going to be sky high. It is going to be like something in their worst nightmares that they have never dreamed of.
You will recall, Mr Speaker, I presented to the minister some comments by Don McKay, the general manager of the Facility Association, to the effect that the ranks of the Facility Association are going to increase, are going to expand, especially if this legislation was passed as it now stands. Why? Clearly, first of all, the Facility Association ranks of Ontario drivers have more than doubled in the last year. The Facility Association, as we know, is that pool for high-risk drivers, but by virtue of having doubled in the last year in identifying many of those drivers who have been forced into Facility, which costs thousands of dollars -- not hundreds of dollars, but two, three and four times what insurance costs in the regular market -- we know that good drivers have been forced into Facility.
We are told by Don McKay, the general manager of the Facility Association, that it is going to get worse, not better, if this legislation is passed. Why? Because as he explained to us, the insurance industry is going to start using avoidance techniques for certain classes of drivers, especially for certain occupational classes of drivers like seasonal workers, like self-employed people, like senior citizens, like so many of those people who constitute the volunteer armies here in Ontario.
Let’s talk about that for just a minute. Let’s talk about what this is going to do to the hundreds -- not hundreds, thousands; no, not thousands -- to the tens of thousands of dedicated, committed, hardworking volunteers here in the province of Ontario who give so freely of their time and energy and skill in communities across the province and in causes from A to Z.
As the members know, many times those volunteers happen to be senior citizens who are retired, who do not have jobs. It is the fact that they are enjoying the pleasures of retirement that permits them the time to engage in this volunteer activity. That is, quite frankly, the typical volunteer. Those people are among the classes of people who are going to be denied insurance coverage by the auto insurance industry here in Ontario once this legislation is passed.
Do you know why, Mr Speaker? I am going to tell you why. I know you know why, but you have got to be the Speaker and I am the one doing the speaking.
Mr Ballinger: Is that what you call it?
Mr Kormos: I know you know why, Mr Speaker. Gosh, do you know what I did today? I hear the member for Durham-York (Mr Ballinger) cackling again.
Now, I tell members, the Liberals have got a big majority, and they can play around with the public right now with that big majority, but there is going to be a general election at some point in this province, and the people of Ontario are not going to forget -- least of all for people like the member for Durham-York, who won by a mere plurality of 482 votes back in the general election of 1987. I tell the member for Durham-York he better mind his P’s and Q’s because he did not enjoy that healthy a plurality, did he? A mere 482 votes; he should be a lot more careful. Listen --
Mr Ballinger: Do not worry about me. I will be back.
Mr Kormos: If I were a betting man, I would give odds on that -- healthy ones, healthy ones. We are talking about volunteers who are going to be turned into victims because of what the Liberal government and the private auto insurance industry is doing to them with this bill, Bill 68, right here, right now; turning volunteers into victims. Forcing those good people, who volunteer for hundreds of causes -- do I have to list them? I mean the Red Cross, volunteers who transport cancer victims to and from treatment, people who deliver meals on wheels to the elderly, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, people who volunteer with minor hockey, baseball, basketball teams and leagues in communities across Ontario.
These volunteers are going to get turned into victims. These volunteers, as often as not, will be among those classes of people upon which, as we were told by Don McKay, the general manager of Facility Association, the private corporate auto insurance industry, once it gets its way with this legislation, is going to start using avoidance techniques. The volunteers being turned into victims; it is a shame.
Small business people, and we talked a little bit about this yesterday, small entrepreneurs, people who work hard, people who, as often as not, do not work 40-hour weeks or 50-hour weeks but work 60- and 70- and 80-hour weeks, and who make significant contributions to the economies of their communities; communities like the ones I come from, Welland and Thorold in the Niagara Peninsula; communities like the ones every single member of this Legislature comes from. Small entrepreneurs are going to become victims if this legislation is passed.
Why? Because they are among the classes of people upon which the auto insurance industry, if it gets its way with this legislation, is going to be using avoidance techniques. Just as Don McKay said, the general manager of the Facility Association, in his third quarterly newsletter, October 1989: “They are going to contribute to that ever-accelerating swelling of the size of the Facility Association that has more than doubled in the last year and is going to continue to grow and grow and grow with good drivers who are being denied insurance coverage by the regular private automobile corporate insurance industry.”
Well, to carry on with the editorial, because the last statement that I had referred to in the editorial was the comment by the author to the effect that many people might not be able to afford supplementary income protection insurance and that that is backed by the Facility Association which insures the hard-to-insure at high premiums.
The next paragraph is an interesting comment. It warns this government, “Before locking Ontarians into a new system that may contain some nasty surprises” -- nasty surprises, deadly surprises – “The government should open up the proposed no-fault program for public examination and discussion.” What a simple and basic request, what an essential and integral part of the democratic process and what an affront to the democratic process for this government to deny the right of people across Ontario to be involved in a public examination and discussion of this legislation.
Well, there is good reason for it; you better believe that, Mr Speaker. There is good reason for it because this legislation is not designed to withstand the scrutiny of drivers and members of the public across Ontario, of course not. This legislation was designed to be forced through this Legislature as quickly as possible before people found out what was happening to them and what was going to happen to them so that the big payback to the private corporate auto insurance industry could take place.
I say that it is a shame and it is sad, and it is a sad day for the province that democracy and a traditional long-standing democratic process like open, public committee hearings should be ground under the heel of a Minister of Financial Institutions who does not want to serve the public of Ontario but very clearly wants to serve the interests of the auto insurance industry here in Ontario.
The editorial goes on, “Before locking Ontarians into a new system that may contain some nasty surprises, the government should open up the proposed no-fault program for public examination and discussion.”
The editorial in the Spectator goes on to read, No doubt, the exercise would slow down the government’s schedule.” That is conceded, but haste in this instance is not what is going to serve the interests of people in Ontario.
“No doubt the exercise would slow down the government’s schedule and risk another round of steep premium increases.” Now, I have to comment on that. Steep premium increases, holy cow, because there was a freeze on premiums back in 1987 -- a freeze -- yet this editorial for some reason says, what? -- ”another round of steep premium increases.” Well, that is what this freeze by this government has been all about, a whole succession of steep premium increases. Reflect back, Mr Speaker: 4.5 per cent, another 4.5 per cent, that comes to 9.2, and now 7.6 and then to boot you have the old premium shuffle work in there, the old premium flip.
The owners of apartment buildings have been doing it for a long time now so now we have auto insurance companies here in Ontario pulling off the very same scam. Scottish and York: Thousands and thousands of drivers insured by Scottish and York are being told, “Well, your policy isn’t going to be renewed,” and this government has not got the guts or wherewithal to enact legislation to make sure that the insurance is available to people and drivers here in the province of Ontario. It says: “Your policy is not going to be renewed, but I will tell you what we are going to do. Just walk this way, walk down the hall because we have got an insurer for you called Victoria,” and lo and behold the premium that Victoria is charging to the very same driver for the very same cars is 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 per cent higher than what it was under Scottish and York.
My goodness, it is an entirely effective way to circumvent the so-called 7.6 per cent cap or premium increase freeze. And do I have to say the punch line -- I guess it is inappropriate because it is not funny; it is sad -- the punch line is that Victoria Insurance just down the hall from Scottish and York has the very same owner, the very same president, the very same signature, the very same address, the very same secretary, but a far cry from the very same premiums.
What a slick move. It is the premium flip and it is being done to thousands of drivers here in the province. It has been done to thousands of drivers here in the province of Ontario. This government knows it has been done to them. This government has condoned and tolerated that it has been done to them, and it is going to keep happening. It has made a mockery of any prospect of premium or rate freezes.
The authors of the editorial in the Hamilton Spectator know that full well when they write, “No doubt the exercise” of democracy, public examination, public comment and public discussion on this scheme, this new regime being proposed by these government members on behalf of the private corporate auto insurance industry, “would slow down the government’s schedule” -- and this, as I say, is so pithy an observation on the part of the editor – “and risk another round of steep premium increases.”
These guys are not fooled -- 4.5, 9.2, 7.6, darned right, those are steep premium increases and they all occurred during the so-called freeze. Wow. But the editorial goes on to read, “But that might be cheaper and safer in the long term than exposing people to ruin through flaws that the government didn’t notice or fully evaluate.” Editorial writers sometimes have to be careful because the editorial writer here says people are going to be ruined “through flaws the government didn’t notice or fully evaluate.” I will add one more to that -- and did not care about.
But the editorial goes on to say, “At least the questions raised by the new plan’s critics should be answered in an impartial forum.” That is exactly what the minister wants to avoid. That is exactly what he will go to any lengths to avoid doing, to having wide-open, full, public hearings at the committee level about this legislation. I tell the members, that is all I ask of the government at this point, to participate in that gesture of confirmation of a long-standing, democratic process -- the committee; the committee that travels across Ontario so that people from the farthest north and from Toronto as well, from the farthest east and from Windsor as well, can look at this legislation, talk about it, think about it and tell the government about it through its committee. That is all we are asking for.
Obviously, when we ask for that, we are not alone, when there are those in the government like the Minister of Financial Institutions, who declined to do it, notwithstanding that people are going to be ruined through the flaws inherent in this legislation. Is that hyperbole? No.
Let’s use once again -- I know the government does not like it when we talk about small business people and how they are going to be ruined by this legislation -- but we talked yesterday about the small businessman who, after years of hard work, was making $50,000 a year income, but who was injured at the hand of a drunken, reckless, careless or negligent driver -- take your choice -- but was an entirely innocent victim suffering, let’s say, broken legs or a broken back. He is prevented from working in his business for a recovery time of a year or a year and a half.
Notwithstanding that he clearly earned an income of $50,000 a year from his business that he had worked so hard to develop and establish in his community, and notwithstanding that his inability to work at that business for the year and a half constitutes a loss, a real loss, a genuine loss, a measurable loss, a pecuniary or economic loss of $75,000, what compensation is there going to be for that person through the insurance companies’ scheme?
For the pain and suffering of broken legs or a broken back that takes a year or a year and a half to recover from, compensation under what this government wants to impose on the people of Ontario for pain and suffering is not a cent, not a nickel, not a dime, not a penny. Zip, zero is how much compensation that businessman or businesswoman is going to get for what is an unenviable and, for so many of us, an unappreciable level of pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life; not a nickel.
Economic loss: $75,000 of income, a year and a half recovering that he or she has not been able to work at that business. Are they going to get $75,000? They are innocent. They did not do anything wrong. They were victims. Are they going to get a single penny? They will get the maximum $450 a week and not a penny more, notwithstanding that their actual loss is $75,000.
You will recall, Mr Speaker, that same business person suffered, as one could expect -- and that is why I say this is an entirely reasonable illustration; incidents like this are happening regularly across Ontario, across all of Canada, incidents of a person who cannot work in his business, because we are talking about small business people here, the types of entrepreneurs that we in this party, the New Democratic Party, have always supported and encouraged, small business people.
When you are a small business person, being out of commission for a year and a half can and so often would lead to the bankruptcy of the business. This same person, this innocent injured accident victim, gets not one penny for his broken legs or his broken back suffered at the hands of the drunken or reckless or careless or negligent driver, who receives less than one half of his real economic or pecuniary loss, then suffers a bankruptcy. He or she has to spend the next five years recovering from that catastrophe, that disaster, and it takes another five years before that young, or whatever age, business person restores his or her business status in the community back to the point where he or she is making that same income. Is there any compensation for that lost income over that five-year period? You guessed it, Mr Speaker: not a penny, not a cent, not a nickel, not a dime, zero, zip.
A question to be asked is, is that fair? Is that humane? Is that the sort of standard we have in our society? Of course not. Only the most mercenary approach could ever result in a scenario like the one I have just described. I tell you, Mr Speaker, it has to be something akin to blackmail. I do not know what it is that the insurance industry has on this government but, boy, is the insurance industry ever pulling the strings. That is so apparent.
This editorial is one of what will be many editorials across Ontario calling for this government to engage in a little bit of democracy, a little bit of consultation with the public, a little bit of making sure that people in cities, towns and villages across Ontario have an opportunity to comment on this legislation.
You know what, Mr Speaker? If the minister would pass me a note right now that said, “Of course, this committee is going to be permitted to travel and hear from as many people as want to address it,” on the understanding that he would get up and announce it right now, I would say, “Let’s get on with it.”
I tell members that what is going to happen if this government gets its way is that the committee is going to sit here at Queen’s Park for a day, two days, maybe three days, the same type of consultation that took place with Bill 162 and the workers’ compensation legislation, the same kind of consultation that took place with Bill 2 and Bill 3 in the court reform legislation. Consultation, my foot. It is called ramming it down the throats of the public and the drivers of Ontario.
We talked a lot about the legislation really being not no-fault but threshold legislation. We talked about what the Honourable Mr Justice Osborne had to say about the Insurance Bureau of Canada and its request, its proposal. We know that what the insurance companies wanted is not as much as what the government is prepared to give them, that indeed the insurance companies, through the Insurance Bureau of Canada, requested and proposed a threshold that would exclude, in their submission, 92 per cent of innocent injured people from receiving any compensation here in the province of Ontario.
We have learned that that threshold, being the threshold that is applied in Michigan, indeed excludes 94 per cent in the state of Michigan. The threshold being proposed as an incredible gift to the insurance industry by this government, being more onerous, more rigid and more restrictive than what the insurance industry itself asked for, is going to exclude in excess of 94 per cent and perhaps as many as 95 per cent to 99 per cent.
Let me tell members once again what Mr Justice Osborne said. Mr Justice Osborne is the one who said in his report, “I reject threshold no-fault.” Mr Justice Osborne said this: “It is plain that the IBC (Insurance Bureau of Canada) threshold is designed to keep claimants out of the system for cost reasons, not to let the seriously injured in.”
He said that after thorough examination and consideration of that system. It is the very kind of system that this government wants to impose and wants to force on people here in Ontario right now. We talked about a whole lot of people who are going to be hurt real bad under this new regime being imposed on people in Ontario.
Let’s talk about some more people who are going to be hurt real bad. Let’s talk about some more people who have a strong interest in having an opportunity to participate in a very simple and basic democratic process, the process of participating in committee hearings sitting in communities across Ontario.
We can go through a little bit of a list now, because I know that the minister would love to be able to comment on these classes of people. The minister knows that union members are going to be hurt real bad by this legislation. Union members are going to get a screwing that they have never had before in their lives from this government, or from any other government; I tell you this, Mr Speaker. It is true. I am not sceptical.
Unions represent large numbers of industrial workers and other workers here in the province of Ontario and have negotiated substantial income replacement benefits for those workers, their membership and pension benefits for those same members. What happens in this new regime, this scheme that is being imposed upon drivers and the rest of the public in Ontario by this government and by the private auto insurance industry, is that the benefits that workers have earned and struggled for, really a part of their earned pay package, are deducted from the no-fault benefits that they would be accorded.
This is remarkable, just a little bit more subsidy. These guys have spread the great myth for so long about subsidization of insurance systems, a myth when it comes down to driver-owned, public, nonprofit auto insurance systems out west but a reality right here in Ontario when it comes to private corporate auto insurance systems. This is going to be the most thoroughly and completely subsidized auto insurance system in all of the western world, and it is a private, corporate auto insurance system.
Subsidies? Let me tell members, unionized workers in the province are being told, “You are going to have to subsidize your insurance system with your income replacement benefits and pension benefits, part of your earned pay package.”
And you know what, Mr Speaker? What we are talking about in this regard is the so-called no-fault benefits, the ones that really cannot be called no-fault because you can find so much fault with them it is just remarkable.
But what Osborne noted is that in places that have this kind of no-fault -- and we have experienced it here in Ontario from 1972 on, when we have had schedule C, section B benefits, so-called no-fault benefits -- there is a considerable amount of first-party litigation. What that means is litigation -- litigation is suing -- in which an ensured person sues his own insurers, usually over the nonpayment of the no-fault benefits.
You know what, Mr Speaker? It is a long time overdue that they have been increased from $140 to $450, and if you think insurance companies were reluctant to pay those no-fault benefits out to injured people before, when they were only $140 a week, just watch when they are up to $450 a week. I said yesterday that the insurance industry is notorious for its short arms and deep pockets.
Union members are going to be hurt real bad by this legislation, and they are the people who want an opportunity -- a very basic, fundamental, simple opportunity -- to address the legislation before a committee that travels across Ontario permitting them to appear before it. That is all that is being asked for, a little bit of democracy here.
Union members, workers in general, all working people in Ontario are going to suffer, going to be hurt real bad, going to be hurt cruelly by this Bill 68, by this insurance companies’ legislation, because we know that nobody is going to get more than 80 per cent of his lost earnings, and even that is up to a maximum of $450.
Let’s talk about the worker who makes $700 a week, who is injured and unable to work and who, the government would have us believe, is going to be entitled to speedy no-fault benefits, just as long as he does not have to litigate for them, as Mr Justice Osborne said happens in other regimes, other jurisdictions where you have the same type of system.
Let’s talk about the worker who makes $700 a week, who cannot work, who has lost his earning ability as a result of a motor vehicle accident. That worker will lose $250 a week for as long as he or she remains disabled, because this is not wage or income replacement; this is a ceiling, $450 a week. The worker who earns $700 a week will lose $250 a week, week after week, for as long as he or she remains disabled.
Now, the Minister of Financial Institutions, it seems to me, is talking through his hat when he suggests, “Well, folk like that worker who earns $700 a week should be buying extra insurance.” Once again, so much for the so-called eight per cent that we are told insurance is going to increase for drivers here in Ontario this year as a result of this new plan. Horsefeathers, Mr Speaker, because that certainly does not take into account that extra insurance he has to buy, does it? Even at that, no insurance company will sell that person insurance to cover his full loss of earnings, and as we clearly know, that extra coverage that he might choose to buy will cost that person an additional premium. It will cost him an arm and a leg, Mr Speaker.
I know we talked about this yesterday, but we talked about how that $140, the schedule C, section B no-fault wage replacement has been in effect in this province since 1972 and was upgraded to a $140-a-week wage replacement. That part of it was upgraded to $140 a week in 1978. It remained $140 a week in 1979, 1980, all the way up to the present. That is what it is, $140 a week. The one distinction about that and what the government wants to ram down people’s throats is that the worker who loses his or her ability to earn income, regardless of fault, gets that $140 a week, but can then, if he or she is an innocent victim, look to the negligent, drunken, careless, reckless party to make up the difference.
What this government is doing with the legislation that it is putting before this House right now is protecting that same drunken, reckless, careless, negligent driver by saying that he or she, the drunk driver, the reckless driver, the careless driver, the negligent driver who breaks people’s backs and legs, will not be liable for the shortfall in wage replacement.
Had that $140 been indexed so that automatically every year, based on a legislated formula, it increased to a figure that was a proper figure, an adjusted figure for taking into consideration inflation, we know that figure would be reasonably close to $450 right here and now, today, in 1989. But the government did not index the $140 back in 1978, did not index the original figure back in 1972. As was said yesterday, that could have been oversight. It could have been purposeful and cruel, but to give the benefit of the doubt, it could have been oversight.
It certainly is not oversight in this instance, because the government has been reminded of that shortcoming of the old schedule C, section B benefits, the $140 a week no-fault wage replacement that has been here since 1972, time after time. Do you think it is indexed now? Not on your life. So, within literally months of this legislation becoming law -- a sad day that will be -- that $450 is going to become less and less as the months and years progress.
Let’s talk about another group of people here in the province of Ontario who are going to be hurt real bad by this legislation, who have real good reason for wanting this government to engage in just a little bit of democracy; not just democracy, a little bit of decency, letting people in cities and communities across Ontario make comments to a committee that travels across the province to hear those people make submissions about this legislation.
Another group of people who are going to be hurt real bad are school teachers, Mr Speaker. Let me tell you why. School teachers, it is a fact, have substantial sick pay plans. Under this legislation that the auto insurance industry wrote and that the government is trying to ram through this Legislature, sick pay plans have to be used up before the no-fault insurance pays anything. Members might recall that yesterday we talked about the teacher who had accumulated, through her hard work and through not having exhausted the sick days, some 40 weeks of sick days and was seriously injured, an innocent accident victim of a drunken driver or reckless driver or a negligent or careless driver. That school teacher was forced to use up every day of that 40 weeks of accumulated sick leave.
What we know is that to accumulate 40 weeks of sick leave, you have to invest more than a little bit of time in your profession as a school teacher, and when you have exhausted it, you no longer have that bank of sick days that will accommodate you in the event of a serious illness or in the event of heart attack. This scheme really attacks, assaults schoolteachers and people like school teachers, because sick pay has to be used up before the no-fault insurance pays anything.
We talked about the schoolteacher who had accumulated 40 weeks of sick pay. Let’s talk about an injury to a teacher who is an innocent injured accident victim, who is off work as a result of that injury for six months. That teacher who uses up the six months’ accumulated sick pay receives nothing in no-fault benefits. An innocent victim of a drunken driver, off work for six months, gets not a cent because that person has had to use up the sick pay that he or she has earned in the course of doing his or her job and doing the job well.
Now let’s suppose that same teacher then goes back to work, misses time because of, as I indicated, the flu or a heart attack or any one of many illnesses that we all should be concerned about. That teacher had used up all of his or her accumulated sick pay because of an accident that was somebody else’s fault; that same teacher will get no pay during his or her absence from work due to sickness. I ask you, Mr Speaker, is that fair? No, we know that is not fair. There is not a fairminded person in Ontario who is going to say that is right, that is proper, that is the way it should be.
We have talked about how self-employed people, small business people are assaulted by this legislation, how they are hurt real bad by this new insurance regime that the Liberals are trying to impose on drivers and the public of Ontario, how they are hurt real bad by legislation that, “Oh, yes,” the minister says, “It is made in Ontario.” You bet your boots it is made in Ontario. It is written in the boardrooms of auto insurance companies in Toronto, Guelph, London and wherever else they might be situated.
Let’s talk about small business people, entrepreneurs. Oftentimes, and we know this, small business people will put their profits back into their business and the income that is taken out does not really represent what is being built there, what is being earned on an annual basis. Now if a small business person, even as an innocent victim in a motor vehicle accident, is disabled from working as a result of that accident, all he or she gets is 80 per cent of the gross weekly income. We know if it is a new business, he or she may have no income from it yet. In that case, what does that person receive out of this no-fault scheme -- this no-fault scheme that really is not a no-fault scheme, because you can find lots of fault with it -- what does that small business person get? Nothing, not a cent, not a nickel, not a dime.
We talked about the business person who is off and unable to work for a year and a half and who loses the business. Once again, this scheme that the Liberals are trying to ram through this Legislature in the most undemocratic way, the one that they do not want to go to committee -- Mr Speaker, they do not want this legislation to go to committee. They do not want this legislation to be commented on by people across Ontario. If they did, they would say so.
If they did, they would stand up and say: “This legislation is going to committee and that committee is going to hear as many submissions as there are submitters to appear before it. That committee is going to travel across Ontario so that people from every part of Ontario can comment on this legislation.” Unionized workers who are going to be hurt real bad by this legislation, schoolteachers who are going to be hurt real bad by this legislation, small business people who are going to be hurt real bad by this legislation, in a democratic system, should all have an opportunity to address the committee in their home town and let the government know how badly this legislation is going to hurt them and their families, their children and their spouses.
We talked yesterday about the small business person who is forced into bankruptcy because he or she became an innocent motor vehicle accident victim. That small business person may well be able to prove that he or she lost a substantial business deal because of the injuries. Does this scheme, which puts big profits into the pockets of the corporate auto insurance industry, provide compensation for that? No, there is no compensation for that, not a cent.
That is why small business people in Ontario want to participate in what is a traditional and basic democratic process of having a legislative committee go across the province, hearing submissions from interested persons, from interested groups, from people who are going to be affected by this legislation, people like small business people, people like schoolteachers, people like unionized workers.
Farmers: I can tell you this, Mr Speaker, farmers are going to really suffer. Farmers are going to be hurt real bad. Farmers are going to have the life squeezed out of them by this legislation, by this Bill 68, by this new auto insurance regime that the Liberals want to force through the Legislature. Why? Because they are self-employed people who, quite frankly, seldom have much provable income. Their earnings are to a large extent absorbed by the farm rather than going into their pockets.
It will be very difficult for a disabled farmer. We are talking about people such as folk down in the Niagara Peninsula with vegetable farms, with vineyards -- and we know that the vineyards are being paved over -- with fruit farms, with cattle and other livestock farming operations. It is going to be very difficult for these farmers, if they are innocent accident victims, to qualify for much of a benefit, if any. If a farmer has to hire somebody to help out with the inevitable farm chores, the no-fault system pays nothing for this. That is what they call it. “No-fault.” Some no-fault.
Have we not hurt our farmers enough in this province without striking another blow against the hard-working men and women who produce the food we eat? Really, they deserve better than what this government has given them in this legislation. There is not a fairminded person in Ontario who would think it is okay to do what this legislation is going to do to farmers.
Students: We have seen students a whole lot in this Legislature recently, have we not? This government has kept community college teachers out on strike for four weeks because it was unprepared to adequately fund the community college system, and it knows that. Over 8,000 teachers out on strike for the last four weeks here in Ontario.
Mr D. W. Smith: We didn’t keep them on strike, Peter. What are you talking about?
Mr Kormos: If the member wants to talk about the community college system, I can tell him about community colleges, because we have Niagara College right down in Welland-Thorold. Niagara College has had to shut down its theatre arts program; Niagara College has had to shut down its dental hygiene program; it has had to lay off a whole bunch of teachers and support staff. Why? Because it was underfunded, because the poor student funding by this government --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): I do not mean to intervene in any member’s right to say whatever he wants for as long as he wants, but I am going to direct your attention to standing order 23, which covers the rules of debate in the chamber. I am going to also point out to members that the decision as to whether or not you are being repetitive is, among other things, the kind of decision the Speaker has to make, and those decisions are not open to a challenge any more. So I am not casting any aspersions on anyone, but I am pointing out to you that we do have standing orders which cover the situation, and members should be mindful of that when they engage in debate.
Mr Kormos: I thank you for that direction, Mr Speaker. I value it. I know that you were paying close attention, because oftentimes the distinctions are subtle and it takes a quick mind to recognize those distinctions. A dullard, for instance, would say, “My goodness, you are being repetitive,” when in fact one is illustrating a succession of subtly distinctive examples. So I appreciate the skill and the talent that the Speaker brings to the chair and the attentiveness with which he is treating my comments.
These students, the students who sat right here in the galleries of this Legislature, telling this government: “You have been underfunding our school system. You don’t care about students in Ontario” -- I tell you, Mr Speaker, they were right. Teachers went back to work today, but not through anything this government did. This government had plenty of opportunity to do all sorts of things to resolve the conflict between teachers and the community colleges here in Ontario, like footing the bills, like paying the bills, but the government did not. It was only through the goodwill of those community college teachers that they were able to negotiate a quasi settlement and get themselves back in the classroom so that tens of thousands of those kids, those community college students across Ontario, are back in classes this week.
It is clear that this government does not give a tinker’s damn for students. If you need another illustration of that, Mr Speaker, let’s talk about what they are doing to students in this legislation. A student, under this so called no-fault scheme -- it is called “no-fault” but it really is not -- is entitled to a weekly benefit of $185 if, if, if, the big if, if he or she is over 16. What that means is that students under 16 are ignored.
If you get injured real bad in a motor vehicle accident, if some of these pages here for their first week at Queen’s Park, were to get injured, were to get a broken leg, let’s say, in a motor vehicle accident where it was not their fault, where a drunk driver ran them down, why the biggest chunk of them -- I suspect any one of them -- would not receive a penny, not a nickel, not a dime, because they are not 16 yet. Do they suffer any less? No. Does it hurt any less? Is it any less sad for one of these fine young people to be run down by a drunk driver and suffer broken bones than it is for a student, a youngster over 16? Of course not.
A student is entitled to that weekly benefit -- we have got to do this very carefully -- of $185, one, if he or she is over 16, and two -- and this is the catch, this is what generates all that litigation. Boy, the lawyers are going to be busy when this legislation is passed because there is going to be all this first-party litigation that Mr Justice Osborne talked about in the Osborne report. There are going to be all those people who are having to sue their own insurer, the people who have to sue their own insurance company because that insurance company does not want to live up to its responsibilities.
A student is entitled to a weekly benefit, one, if he or she is over 16 and, two, if as a result of the injury, he or she is unable to perform all or substantially all of his or her normal activities. That is another threshold, is it not? It is why this is not a no-fault system at all. They call it that; that is what the Liberals call it. That is part of their marketing scheme. That is part of the smoke and mirrors. That is part of the puffery that is being used to promote this and market this and package it, but really it is a threshold system.
What we have learned already from Mr Justice Osborne about thresholds is that they are not designed to let serious injuries in. They are designed to keep people out of a compensation or benefit system. Unable to perform all or substantially all of his normal activities--that is the same kind of restrictive threshold -- it ranks along with the litigation threshold, which basically says you have got to be dead or darned close to it before you can look for compensation. Here you have got to be completely disabled or darned close to it before you are able to even be considered for this most modest benefit.
The student has got to be unable to perform all or substantially all of his normal activities. Well, even the briefest of reflection will show that in order to qualify, a student is going to have to be virtually bedridden. We know that very few students are going to qualify for benefits for any appreciable period of time, and once again students, young people under 16, just like these pages right here, are not going to receive a penny, notwithstanding that they are going to be suffering the broken bones, the smashed bodies at the hand of drunken drivers, reckless drivers, careless drivers and negligent drivers.
We talked yesterday about the little 12-year-old who had a broken back, a 12-year-old student who had a broken back, was in traction in the hospital for four months and lost that school year, of course, and then had to spend another year at home recovering and could not go out and play baseball and do all the other things and play with the other kids and play in the playgrounds and bike around the way a youngster, a kid, a little boy or a little girl 12 years old should be able to do. He lost two years of school, had a broken-back traction for four months in a hospital. That is a painful, painful experience, especially for a 12-year-old and especially for an innocent victim of a motor vehicle accident.
We talked about how being 12 years old does not reduce the pain, does not reduce the discomfort, does not reduce the impact on that youngster’s life, and how that youngster does not get a single penny, not a cent, does not receive a moment’s attention when it comes to compensation for pain and suffering. Is that not just incredible? Is that not the most unfair response that one could ever dream of, that an innocent accident victim, a 12-year-old kid who has a broken back at the wheel of a drunken driver receives not one penny for compensation for pain and suffering? It is not fair. We know that.
The only reason the government has things like this in this legislation is to make sure that the insurance industry makes profits like it has never seen before, because it is not uncommon for a student to lose a year of school as a result of an accident. The injury may be relatively brief, yet still because of the timing and because we do not have any choice about when we are victims of these sorts of horrible accidents, the injury might prevent the student from writing final exams or it may simply resolve in there being enough lost time from the school year that the year has to be repeated.
Now this can happen without the student qualifying for any weekly benefit at all because we know that what the case is in the event of a 12-year-old kid, it is also in the case of a 16-, 17-, 18-year-old student who does not meet this threshold. This is an insurance scheme. This is a new regime of thresholds, not of no-fault. There are thresholds running rampant through this legislation.
Why do these people not start calling it by its proper name, calling it the way it really is? This is a threshold system. It is the very sort of system about which Mr Justice Osborne said, “I reject this type of system on behalf of the government of Ontario,” and he listed a whole pile of reasons why he rejected it.
He rejected it because it was not fair, because it excluded far too many people from any compensation for real, serious, painful, long-lasting injuries. He rejected it because it does not result in lower insurance premiums, because this new regime is not going to make insurance any more affordable here in the province of Ontario, and that is in some respects for some people the bottom line.
Good drivers across Ontario are going to continue to have premium increases that climb year after year after year. Good drivers across Ontario are going to continue to receive notices from their insurers saying, “I am sorry, but your policy will not be renewed,” which means they have to go to Facility Association where they are paying two, three and four times what they were paying to regular insurers.
This legislation is not going to solve the crisis we have in this province of the unaffordability of insurance and, quite frankly, the unavailability of insurance. It is not even going to come close. It is not designed to do that. What it is designed to do is to generate untold-of, unheard-of profits for the insurance industry. What is it designed to do? It is designed to create a payoff in taxpayers dollars, a payoff to the auto insurance industry in the first year alone of over $140 million. We are going to get to that later. We are going to talk about what is being paid back, and the debt and the sense of indebtedness that was generated in the election year of 1987.
Students are going to suffer. They are going to suffer handily. They are going to be hurt really badly by this legislation. Young students and older students are going to be hurt really badly by this legislation. It is designed to hurt them badly.
It is designed to make sure they do not receive compensation for real injuries so the insurance companies can receive bigger and bigger profits.
We talked about the 12-year-old with the broken back last year, the innocent, 12-year-old victim of a drunken driver. We talked about a kid who was out of school for two years who received not a penny in compensation for the pain and suffering, not even the $185 a week, notwithstanding that this little kid, this little 12-year-old is in traction in the hospital for four months with a broken back. There is not a penny of compensation. Why? Because it is not a permanent injury. It does not pass the threshold. The threshold means you have to be dead or darned close to it before you can even think about receiving any compensation for your pain and suffering. If you are dead, quite frankly, it does not matter a whole lot, does it?
The little kid we were talking about last year not only spent four months in the hospital in traction and a year at home, but was two years late in entering the workforce because that student had to make up that two years’ time in school. When you are delayed in entering the workforce, there is an economic loss. That youngster is two years behind his or her colleagues, peers and friends in terms of entering the workforce. Is there any compensation for that under this scheme, under this new regime being imposed upon drivers in Ontario? No. Is that fair? The answer once again is no, of course it is not fair. No fairminded person in the province or anywhere else in Canada would consider that to be the right thing to do or the fair thing to do or the just thing to do.
Homemakers, women and men who work daily, seven days a week and every week of the year as homemakers, caring for their families, their spouses and their children, are going to be hurt really badly by this legislation. Boy, are they going to suffer cruelly. They are going to suffer by this legislation because the legislation is not designed to help them; it is designed to make bigger and better profits for the auto insurance industry. Let me tell the members how. Like students, homemakers can be entitled to a weekly amount of $185 maximum, once again only if, as a result of the injury, that person is unable to perform all or substantially all of his or her normal activities.
Like the student, that homemaker is going to have to be virtually bedridden to qualify. What does this legislation do? Once again, we are talking about innocent people. What about the homemaker whose legs are smashed by the bumper of a runaway car wheeled by a drunken driver? We know she or he does not receive a penny in compensation for pain and suffering because it is not a permanent injury. It does not pass the threshold.
What if that injury puts that person, that homemaker, in a position where she is unable to perform, let’s say, half of her normal activities?
That is not unusual. This is not an outlandish example, an outlandish scenario. This is not hyperbole or an imagination run rampant. It is a very realistic scenario, one that is repeated, I am sure, regularly across Ontario.
Does that person receive any compensation under this no-fault system? No-fault? One can find so much fault with this scheme, one can find so much fault so quickly, so thoroughly, so immediately. No-fault, no thanks. These guys, if they were going to be candid, if they were going to be honest, would be calling this the faultiest of all insurance systems, because it surely is.
That homemaker whose leg is smashed by the drunken driver and who can only perform half of her responsibilities, half of her activities, is not even going to receive anything for pain and suffering. She is also not going to receive that $185 a week that the Minister of Financial Institutions tosses about with some apparent pride.
What about the person who is sadly disabled as a result of an accident, such that the person has to rely on the so-called no-fault benefits, has to rely on the long-term care benefits described in section 8 of the regulations proposed by this government to accompany this pathetic legislation? What about that person, the person who needs long-term care?
The minister makes much ado and a whole lot of noise about the $500,000 ceiling. Well, catch this. This is the punch line. There is a $500,000 ceiling but you have to reach it at the rate of $1,500 a month; $50 a day. What that does is buy three, maybe four hours a day of care. It forces that person into an institution, and quite frankly at $50 a day, a pretty demeaning and unsatisfactory institution.
That is a real contradiction in what appears to be this government’s stated policy, that the government and the community should be doing everything to facilitate community living for disabled persons. Well, this government with this scheme is forcing disabled persons into the crummiest of institutions because it is forcing them into institutions and providing them with care for which they can pay no more than $50 a day.
This government is generating images that were written about by Dickens when it talks about the $1,500-a-month ceiling. This government is recreating the poor-house. It is recreating the seediest and most pathetic of warehousing for disabled persons, persons disabled in motor vehicle accidents.
I know my colleagues want to speak on this legislation and I am going to leave it to them to address some of the other issues contained in the bill. I am going to leave it to them to point out the gross inadequacies, to point out how dangerous this legislation is to so many other groups of persons and individual persons in our community. I believe they agree with me that it is really only a matter of decency to let people in Ontario speak out about this legislation to a committee that travels across the province.
The Minister of Financial Institutions stands up and says, “Let it go to committee.” No. I say let it go to committee. Tell us right now, today, that the committee is going to be permitted to travel across Ontario to listen to people from the north, from the south, from the east and the west, to listen to farmers, school teachers, students, homemakers, unionized workers and small business people, to listen to those people from across Ontario in their cities, towns, villages and regions about this legislation.
Let the minister tell us today that is what he is going to do, because that is the decent thing to do and that is the democratic thing to do. If the minister does not want to do it, he has revealed himself to be neither democratic, nor, quite frankly, decent.
I spoke about this a little bit yesterday. The problem has been one of the unaffordability of insurance. What that has meant is that good people who deserve better have been forced to put their cars up on blocks. Senior citizens have been forced to give up driving, senior citizens whose physical mobility quite obviously has diminished from when they were youngsters and for whom a car can mean the difference between being house-bound and experiencing a little bit of freedom, a little bit of mobility and a little bit of opportunity to socialize and interact with their friends, neighbours, peers and colleagues. Senior citizens have been forced off the road.
I will tell members how dramatic it has been. In the four and a half years prior to 1987 here in Ontario, insurance premiums rose by 65 per cent. Then the government put a freeze on them but they continued to rise notwithstanding the freeze. This government’s purporting to freeze insurance premium rates ranks along with this government’s ability to make and keep promises.
The concept is inherently contradictory because the government froze premiums and then granted increases, as we said before, of 4.5 per cent, then 4.5 per cent, then 7.6 per cent, and even at that the insurance industry is not satisfied because it is doing its old premium flip, its premium shuffle, and sending people down the road to the sister insurance company, such as Scottish and York is doing with its clients, sending them down the road to Victoria.
The government has tried real hard to cloud the issue because the government has had to live with the promise the Premier (Mr Peterson) made back three days before the general election in 1987, the promise he never kept and, I will tell members, the promise he never intended to keep.
The big flim-flam; the biggest con job most of us have seen in a long time. What a scam. What a disgusting, pathetic scam.
Honest to goodness, for the Premier to promise the people of Ontario three days before that general election back in September 1987 that he had a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums, once again, was horsefeathers. He did not have a plan. He knew better and he was prepared to take his chances.
The sad state of affairs is that the emperor has no clothes. That promise has been revealed to be much less than a promise. It has been revealed to be, well, let me put it this way: People across Ontario are saying, and I am shocked, that the Premier lied. People across Ontario are saying that the Premier lied in September 1987 when he said he had a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums.
Do members know what these people are calling people who lie? We know what they call people who lie. Where he is leading us is a matter of much concern to us over here in the opposition, but I am shocked that a political leader can have earned that label by virtue of a promise that I agree he had no intention of ever keeping.
Do you know why one can say that, Mr Speaker? The promise was made, and it echoes in our memories, “I have a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums.” He did not just happen to say it by accident. I mean, it was not something that slipped out. It was a response to the very conscious realization on his part, on the government’s part, on the Liberals’ part that the auto insurance system was in a state of real crisis here in Ontario, and that is why I have brought with me today the 23 April 1987 announcement by the then minister, the member for Wilson Heights (Mr Kwinter).
Mr Maclean: He must be in Italy.
Mr Kormos: The member is right. I have not seen him. I would think he would want to be here because undoubtedly he would know that reference was going to be made to 23 April 1987, but what I am told is that he is among 10 Liberal backbenchers on a Junket with a capital J to Milan. Is it an overnight junket? No. Is it a junket on which the participants have to really grind it out? No. Is it a representative group of, let’s say, one person from each caucus? No.
Mr Mahoney: Your leader was invited.
Mr Kormos: Oh, yes. You are darn right they invited the member for York South (Mr B. Rae), and I understand they invited the leader of the Conservative Party, but to their credit each had enough courtesy to the taxpayers of Ontario to say, “I will not join those pigs at the trough.” They have enough sense of stewardship of the taxpayers’ money not to participate in such an obscene abuse of power.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): Order, please. I would like to bring to the honourable member’s attention that it would be appropriate if he spoke to the legislation at hand, second reading of Bill 68. We would appreciate that very much.
Mr Kormos: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am speaking of obscenities. This bill, Bill 68, is an obscenity. It is an obscenity that is equalled only by this junket on which 10 Liberal backbenchers accompany the Premier to Italy along with a whole host of other folk. Their names were listed in the paper.
Johnny Arena went. I suppose he is going to cook for them if they get hungry late at night. Here come the cheeseburgers. Johnny Arena just happened to be along, and a whole bunch of Ferraros from Guelph. But what the heck. I suppose if you are going to go all the way to Italy, you should have some company. The Premier is not going to be alone. Once again, I concede that maybe the Premier needed 10 backbenchers to come along with him at taxpayers’ expense. They could carry his luggage and that is an obscenity. That irresponsibility, that lack of stewardship of taxpayers’ money is an obscenity. This legislation is an obscenity.
When we talk about this, let’s consider the myth that had been perpetrated to the effect that the auto insurance industry was losing money. Remember that line? Of course. They had been crying big crocodile tears for a long time, spending their premium dollars on all sorts of outlandish advertising programs, the old, “If pigs could fly.” Here these pigs at the trough are actually producing ads about pigs flying. They should have been a little more straightforward in showing those snouts oinking into the old food trough, into the old pork barrel.
On 23 April 1987, the then minister said at a Queen’s Park media conference, “While overall profitability increases” -- profitability of the auto insurance industry – “some consumers continue to pay unjustifiably higher premium rates with no recourse for their shabby treatment in the marketplace.” That was in April 1987.
At that point the broken promises just gushed. There was an eruption. It was more like a bout of flatulence on the part of the ministry because there was a burst of promises, all of which drifted off into the atmosphere.
The minister said back in April 1987 that in view of those circumstances, the shabby treatment of the consumers in the marketplace, the increasing profitability of auto insurance and the unjustifiably higher premium rates -- it was the Liberals own person who said, “In view of these circumstances, the government has decided it is necessary to take immediate steps to protect Ontario consumers.”
Then he went on to announce a series of promises. He announced the capping of the rates for all automobile insurance, a promise that was so quickly broken. The breach of that promise is so well documented. We have talked about it time after time. It is there, the 4.5 per cent, the 4.5 per cent, the 9.2 per cent, the 7.6 per cent.
The creation of an independent rate review board; real big, real independent. Remember Mercer, the consultant? Hired for big bucks by this government’s rate review board, and then it is found out in pretty short order that it also happens to be one of the biggest automobile insurers in the whole country and in all of North America. Really independent. That was really impressive, an independent rate review board.
Some two and a half years later, I guess one has to smile when one reads these promises of the then minister: creation of an independent board with powers to approve, adjust or roll back rates. Roll back rates? It never entered its mind. The first thing that board did on behalf of this government was decide that, notwithstanding that auto insurance companies were profitable and notwithstanding that the insurance industry in Ontario was extremely profitable, it was going to make sure that those profits were almost quadrupled and that any rate-setting exercise it embarked on from that point was going to be based on a premise that the auto insurance industry was entitled to and was going to get guaranteed profits some four times what it had been making up until that point. That it is the premise of this independent board with the Mercer company, one of North America’s largest automobile insurers; that is the independence of this board.
Roll back? Who are they kidding? They announced rates all right. They announced rates that were increases of anywhere from 17 per cent to 82 per cent, depending upon where you were in the spectrum. Who were the people who were hardest hit by this so-called scheme on the part of this government to protect consumers from the shabby treatment in the marketplace by the automobile insurance industry? Who were the victims in this scheme, in the government’s own words, “to protect consumers against unjustifiably higher premium rates”? Who were the people hurt? Senior citizens and young women drivers were among those most drastically hurt by this independent review board.
Some of the other promises were remarkable. The creation of a consumer insurance bureau headed by an insurance advocate to provide consumer information and assist consumers with their claims never happened. Governmental management and control of the motor vehicle statistical information base never happened. That whole process was so thoroughly co-opted by the auto insurance industry that the consumer never had a chance. Who is a party to that whole fraud but the authors of the legislation, the authors of that legislation and the authors of this legislation at the behest, at the request, at the direction, at the instruction of the auto insurance industry. This legislation is guaranteed to generate profits never seen before, and in first year alone, the big gift is $143 million and change.
When I started talking this afternoon, I said I was going to talk about the genesis of that obligation, at least insofar as we are able to determine it, because one has to say, “My goodness, what has the insurance industry got on these guys that they would impose this legislation on drivers in Ontario, that they would risk the political futures of so many of their members?”
Drivers are not going to forget what is being done to them. Drivers are going to continue to pay increasingly higher premiums. Drivers are going to continue to be denied insurance coverage and forced into Facility Association under this new regime. Drivers, because of the minister’s complete disdain for the democratic process of committee hearings, are not going to have an opportunity to speak out against this insurance. The schoolteachers, the students, the farmers, the homemakers, the unionized workers -- why would this government risk the political futures of so many of its members by passing such horrible, such totally flawed, such indecent, such obscene legislation?
This is what we have been able to determine. This is what has been reported. It leaves questions, but this is what has been reported. Documents filed with the Commission on Election Finances show -- this is what is reported; Lord only knows what else there is -- that insurance companies. brokers and consultants contributed $118,701 to the 1987 Liberal election campaign. The auto insurance industry obviously knew that the Liberals’ promise to reduce automobile insurance rates was to become one of a long string of broken promises. That is the real concern, that the $118,701 that was gifted to Liberal candidates in the 1987 general election warrants a payback. As I say, this makes fridges and paint jobs look like small stuff.
If the auto insurance industry were in such dire straits, how could it afford the $1 million to run ads in Ontario explaining that the high premiums were not the insurance industry’s fault? Baloney. How can it afford to spend another $1 million of premium money to convince British Columbians that the private insurance industry should be allowed to take over the Insurance Corp of British Columbia, the public driver-owned system that is working, and working well, providing affordable insurance fairly to all drivers in British Columbia, just like the systems in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan it dates back to 1946.
That is what we say. We say that this legislation cannot be passed. In the name of decency it cannot be passed, and in the name of democracy this government is obligated to let people across Ontario comment on this legislation at the committee process, not just people in Toronto but people from all over Ontario. That committee has to be permitted to travel as far and as long as is necessary so that every interested person in Ontario can comment. To do any less is to express the ultimate disdain for democracy and for our constituents.
I suppose it comes as no surprise to you, Mr Speaker, that we are not going to be supporting this legislation. We will be voting against this legislation, and we will be doing everything in our power to inject a little bit of democracy into the minister’s veins and some decency into his heart to get him to have real committee hearings on this. I thank you very much for this opportunity to speak about this matter this afternoon.
The Acting Speaker: We have been listening to the honourable member for Welland-Thorold on the motion for second reading of Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance. Are there any questions or comments? The honourable minister, looking in rotation.
Hon Mr Elston: I would ask for equal time, Mr Speaker, but I am not sure the people would wish to revisit all of the issues. There are a couple of things I want to do, though.
First, I want to indicate to the people who have listened to this that the honourable gentleman has basically put the position of the lawyers of the province. He, as a member of the New Democratic Party, would probably be loath to be described as being in favour of the status quo, but that is exactly what he is in favour of. His is a no-change party, a dynamic which is new to the New Democratic Party. I look at their august history as being people who motivated change in the province and who looked at a redistribution of wealth in a different sort of way -- sometimes not exactly the way the Liberal Party would look at it -- but in this situation he has hearkened back to the past and said: “Don’t change a thing. Don’t redistribute the premium dollars to the injured. Don’t follow the benefits that are in this package.”
In fact, we wish to redistribute the benefits. I want to go further and say in my limited time that the thing which this gentleman does not do, and he does a great disservice to the public, is tell the people that the current tort system is the undoing of a large number of people in this province. Almost one third of the people involved in serious accidents in this province are unable to access the tort system because they cannot find the person who was driving, who caused the accident, they themselves were at fault or there were insufficient coverages. He has not indicated that there are problems with the current system that leave people without homes and without businesses. In fact, he is doing a great disservice by not describing the dislocation that occurs and the delay in the system currently now that may take five or six years before anything is decided, even if it is decided in favour of the individual claimant. We have to get the whole story, and I think we will probably hear more of that full story from the next speaker.
Mr Kormos: Mr Speaker, I would like to answer one question --
The Acting Speaker: Unfortunately, it is not your turn yet. However, you will have the opportunity.
Mr D. S. Cooke: First of all, I would like to indicate how much I enjoyed listening to the member for Welland-Thorold yesterday and today, when I was not here. One of the reforms we have achieved in the last few years is that we have legislative coverage in our offices. So when I was not here, I was watching very carefully, monitoring what was happening in the House.
In the two minutes when the member is going to have an opportunity to respond I would like him to explain to me whether in his opinion the legislation that is now before the Legislature is the final plan the Liberals have; the plan that would have been the promise that the Premier made just days before the last election; the plan he said he had at that time to lower insurance rates; the plan that resulted very shortly after that in a freeze being implemented on rates for car insurance, a freeze that allowed insurance companies to get rate increases of over nine per cent in the first year that the freeze was put in place and another 7.6 per cent this year; the plan that put a rate review board in place, and then the government brought in that legislation, had public hearings across the province, set up the rate review board, and then found out that the rate review board would not work, so it had to be scrapped. Of course, this legislation is part of the new plan. I think this is the third plan that the Liberals have brought in.
I guess I would like to get an idea from somebody who is a real expert, who has followed very carefully the plan that the government has put in place and who is much more knowledgeable than I am in the area, whether he thinks this is the final plan that the Liberals are going to try to foist on the people of this province, or whether there is going to be a fourth fallback position for the Liberals when they find out that this does not work and that this is not accepted by the people of the province. Perhaps he could indicate what he thinks will happen to the rates for auto insurance under this grand plan of the Minister of Financial Institutions.
Mr McLean: I want to comment briefly on the member’s statements yesterday and today. I want to comment on the Osborne report which he referred to many times with regard to the threshold insurance.
This government has another example of the narrow wording of threshold that I think will cause a number of problems in the area of interpretation for permanent injury, the classification of important bodily function and the definition of “physical” as it relates to the physical component of chronic pain. This member brought up all those subjects in his speech.
I know this government has a lot of concern with regard to amendments that will be brought in to make this bill a better bill. I know the minister has always brought in several amendments in previous legislation, and I am wondering if this bill is going to be the same, with a lot of new amendments to it.
The fact that a commission was set up to set rates, to me, is something that has been unheard of: a commission that is going to set the rate of what you pay for insurance. I am sure the insurance companies will be setting the rates, because they are going to say, “Now you can make a profit of 10 per cent.”
I commend the member for bringing out the issues and the very concerns that should be brought in public hearings, if this government sees fit to go that route, which I am doubtful it may. I know the minister will elaborate on that. I say, when the public hearings are held, the people across this province should have the opportunity to have full input into this bill.
Mr Harris: I appreciated hearing the comments, either here in the House --
Mr D. S. Cooke: Or in your office.
Mr Harris: Or in my office, as the House leader for the New Democratic Party has said, over the past two days. It is a bill that concerns us greatly, and as the minister indicated in his comments, he looks forward to hearing the remarks from the member for Leeds-Grenville (Mr Runciman), as do I, and I have no doubt that the member for Leeds-Grenville will point out in his comments much of the concerns of the people of this province.
I also want to tell the minister and the Speaker about the reaction to it in the whole gist of the conversation. The minister said there were some things that the member did not talk about that he was looking forward to hearing. While I am confident the member for Leeds-Grenville will say part of it, I say to the minister that if he is sincere and really wants to hear from the people, then this whole charade, this bill, should be taken to the people. If he really wants to hear what the people have to say, then give them the opportunity for some input -- the people from Nipissing, the people from Sudbury, the people from Kenora, the people from London, the people from eastern Ontario and the people from all across this province.
Our goal is to allow the people to have their say. Our goal is to make sure this legislation is not delayed unduly but that we do hear what people all across this province have to say. If the minister is sincere, he will agree with us and send this bill out to committee for hearings across this province before jamming it down the throats of all Ontarians.
The Acting Speaker: We are in second reading of Bill 68 and the continuation of questions and answers. That concludes the rotation. I would like to call upon the honourable member from Welland-Thorold for his concluding remarks.
Mr Kormos: Let’s take a look at what this government is doing to us. It is taking us into the dark ages. I told the members yesterday about how Mr Justice Osborne had written in 1988 that legislative enthusiasm for threshold systems, such as they are trying to impose on us, has diminished in the last decade. No new schemes have been implemented, and two states in the United States have repealed their threshold plans in favour of add-on no-fault benefits, which quite frankly is what we advocate.
One serious problem is affordability, of insurance premiums going sky-high beyond the affordability of most people here in Ontario. The government has refused to address that problem; it is not addressing it now, and it has refused to look at options that are available to it to resolve that problem.
The other serious problem is the matter of availability. More and more people in this province are simply being denied insurance coverage. They are being refused renewal by insurers who may have insured them for years and decades but who, for any number of reasons, decline to renew their policies. These people are often -- this is happening to good drivers with good records, along with others -- being forced into the Facility Association with premiums two, three or four times what they would be paying in the regular market.
The solution is readily available. It is a public, driver-owned nonprofit auto insurance system. The elimination of profits saves drivers millions of dollars a year. We know from the government’s own studies that the western systems of public, driver-owned insurance are more efficient. They use their premium dollars more efficiently, and we know that from the government’s own studies.
Mr Runciman: It is a privilege to have the opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill 68, certainly an extremely important piece of legislation, affecting millions Of Ontarians across this province.
I simply want to reiterate what my House leader said with respect to the opportunity for full public hearing across the province when we look at this kind of legislation. I know the minister was interjecting earlier and suggesting that the committee sets its own agenda, but he has been around here as long as I have, and he knows the majority on that committee is going to follow the direction of the minister and his executive council colleagues; if they do not want full public hearings across this province, it is not going to occur.
Members should look at the comments made by the minister in the Toronto Star just last month, “Elston Rejects Full Public Hearings on Insurance.” To suggest that the committee is going to do something that is in contradiction to the wishes of the minister himself, is laughable. We know that all of these folks have aspirations to join him in an executive council at some point in the future so they are not going to be going against the minister’s wishes.
I found it interesting when he was talking that the minister was criticizing the member for Welland-Thorold, sort of supporting the status quo, and the minister was talking about the redistribution of wealth. I was recalling that I asked the minister a question some time ago about a column by Laurence Grafstein, a rather prominent Liberal and talking about no-fault auto insurance as a --
Hon Mr Elston: I am not sure you are right on with that.
Mr Runciman: Well, it is my feeling that the gentleman is a Liberal and a relatively prominent one. Perhaps the honourable member wants to correct the record at some point in the future.
In any event, he was bemoaning the fact that there was no debate, no philosophical debate, if you will, about the merits of no-fault. As he said, it is a socialist approach to insurance and redistribution of wealth, and I thought it kind of passing strange in respect to the position that the New Democratic Party has taken on this. I can understand that, the fact that party has called for a government-run program for some time and I guess it is getting away from the comments we heard from the member for Welland-Thorold today in respect to getting away from the idea that no-fault is indeed a socialist kind of initiative.
They are not describing it as no-fault. They are describing it as a threshold plan. Indeed it is a threshold plan, but it is a threshold that virtually no one can pass, so in effect it is certainly not quite pure no-fault as they have in Quebec, but it is darned close to it. We talked about threshold and the member for Welland-Thorold will agree, I am sure, that although the government is using a figure of 90 per cent, suggesting that 10 per cent will be able to pass this threshold, if he even looks at the Osborne study, he will know they took a look at another threshold plan with a much less stringent threshold than the one the minister has introduced, and they were looking at something like 93 per cent to 95 per cent.
I think the suggestions by lawyers and others in society that we are probably really looking at a 97 per cent figure is not beyond the realm of possibility so that in fact we could see through a variety of court challenges, etc down the years that somewhere in the neighbourhood of only three per cent or four per cent of accident victims will really be able to secure access to the courts under this legislation.
The minister in his opening comments was interesting in respect to the views that he was going to listen to, input at the committee meetings and suggesting that he and his government had taken advice from the various commissions that have been established over the years and had spent millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars. That is interesting when we look at the history of this issue.
Of course, I had the good fortune of playing hockey with the minister this afternoon, and for some reason or other we always find ourselves on opposing teams. The minister carries his stick high, and in my part of Ontario we suggest the kind of hockey the minister usually engages in is wood chopping. I attempted to catch him with his head down, but to no avail. It is going to happen sooner or later and in respect to auto insurance he is going to be caught with his head down and this government is going to be caught with its head down because it is indeed leading the people of this province astray.
It is going to have to pay the piper at some point, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, hopefully prior to the issuance of the writ, but obviously it feels they can float this thing by the public, deal with the consequences after the election and try to remove auto insurance as a significant issue. Certainly, we are going to try to do our best to ensure that is not the case, but obviously, that is the strategy of the government at this point.
Hon Mr Elston: You won’t let the bill pass. The strategy of the opposition is to prevent the passage of this balanced and moderate legislation.
Mr Runciman: The minister is continuing to interject. One of the concerns I have in this whole exercise is that when we ask questions in this House -- and it could be the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of my party, the member for Welland-Thorold, myself and others, trying to convey some very real concerns that are out there about this program that you have introduced, we continuously get, in all fairness, I think, bafflegab from the minister. We really do not get meaningful responses.
I can give an example. The other day, when I talked about safety and I specifically asked the minister about studies dealing with the question of increased accident frequency rates and increased fatalities, I pointed to a study done at the University of Toronto suggesting we could be looking at somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 additional fatalities in the province of Ontario under this program.
I know the minister disputes that and has a pat response to that kind of concern. But I asked him a very specific question. I said, “What kinds of studies has he done in respect to this very serious question?” He did not answer that. He did not answer it because obviously, they have not done any studies. He does not deal with that. It is a pat, political answer always and there is no real effort to address those kinds of concerns.
We wanted to talk about the costs associated with this. I raised the question a couple of weeks ago, about a study done by Professor Jack Carr at the University of Toronto. I will put those facts on to the record again. This indicated that the introduction of this new system will cost consumers close to $800 million.
That is $480 million the insurance companies save in compensation payouts for pain and suffering under the new threshold; $150 million the insurance companies save in compensation payouts for economic loss under the threshold; $95 million, the revenue the government is forgoing by eliminating of the three per cent tax that is currently paid on insurance policies and $48 million, which is the amount insurance companies no longer have to pay to OHIP for medical services provided to innocent victims of car accidents. It is close to $800 million.
I suggested this to the minister. I specifically asked him if they had carried out any actuarial studies in respect to this plan he has brought in and what the impact is going to be. Again, we have not received any answers. We have talked about the government spending millions and millions of dollars, first with the Osborne Commission, and then with its own board, to take a look at product reform. We know that actuarial studies were carried out, and certainly, I think Osborne referred perhaps to an older actuarial study in respect to no-fault, but I believe the board, and I stand to be corrected on this, did indeed do actuarial studies on threshold no-fault, but not the one the minister has adopted. Certainly, not with the kind of stringent threshold that he has adopted.
We have heard some criticism of the insurance industry here and I am not going to be critical of the insurance industry. They have had a tough row to hoe over the past couple of years, dealing with this government. They have been jerked around in an unbelievable fashion. We can go back to earlier this year when the minister talked about changes in risk classification, again, against all of the advice before him, all of the hearings of the standing committee on administration of justice on Bill 2 when we had witness after witness tell us about the impact of risk classification. We had a study that cost the government hundreds of thousands of dollars, I believe, by Mercer, which made the same basic message clear, I guess. It should have, in any event, to the minister.
But what happens? He had to have it dropped on his desk and when he saw the reality of the kinds of increases, he panicked, despite the fact that he had all that information before him months before that date. What happened to the insurance industry? Because the minister had made a decision that, “I am forging ahead despite the evidence that is before me and before the government,” the industry was obligated to make significant changes in respect to computerization, in respect to a whole host of administrative changes that were required because of the requirements of the government in respect to doing away with the old standards of risk classification and bringing in these new changes.
Then the government, again this minister, pulled the rug out from under the insurance industry and certainly, in an embarrassing fashion, out from under his own appointee, John Kruger, chairman of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board. It was very embarrassing, very humiliating for Mr Kruger but somehow he shrugged it off like the good Liberal soldier that he is and did not suggest any criticism of the government whatsoever, I guess, although he did say, “If they kick me once more, I may not take it.” I think that was something like his response. “If they kick me once more, I may not hang around here any longer.”
I was getting to a point about the insurance industry. I have heard various estimates, nothing from the industry itself, but the industry in that whole exercise lost somewhere between $150 million and $450 million. Those are estimates that I have heard. I have heard it from people involved in the periphery of the industry, I have heard it from brokers, I heard it at a meeting of brokers in eastern Ontario that I attended last week, where that figure was floated.
In any event, we know and I am sure the minister, if he wants to be honest about it, is going to stand up here and indicate that indeed there was a considerable loss of money to the insurance industry because of what he did in respect to risk classification, the obligation he placed upon them to make changes and then when he pulled the rug out from underneath them in respect to those changes, the cost implications that held for the industry.
I am not going to be terribly critical of the industry. I know we are saying, “Well, this bill and the approach of the government is certainly putting lots of dollars in the pockets of the industry.” I think there is no question that is indeed the case. Perhaps the conscience of the minister has been bothering him in respect to the kinds of losses the industry has suffered because of his actions over the past year or so. I do not know. Certainly, this threshold is indeed presenting the industry with a windfall but I guess we could look at the first year or two as a payback rather than a windfall for the ad hoc, sloppy crisis management of the government and the minister in respect to automobile insurance.
I talked a bit about the threshold and we will get on to that later on. We have heard some reference to the Facility Association. I guess, as critics, certainly the member for Welland-Thorold and myself hear quite a good deal about what is happening with Facility. I saw a statistic recently -- Facility is a national facility -- and I think Ontario now represents close to 75 or 80 per cent of the members of Facility now, that Ontario drivers are making up that a significant component of Facility.
We know that Facility, although still relatively small in numbers, in terms of Ontario drivers, has doubled over the past period of time, I think a year or so.
I want to tie this Facility increase in with what the minister said in his opening comments about the public hearings process and about taking advice from the reports that have been dealt with earlier, Osborne and the OAIB report. He is going to listen very carefully to the recommendations that are made.
I have to go back, since I have been involved in this since the fall of 1987, before that really, with Bill 2 and sitting through the hearings of the standing committee on administration of justice. To be fair, the minister was not the minister at the time but, in any event, I think the government’s approach to this issue has not changed in respect to listening to some very good advice, in fact not listening to some very good advice.
As I said earlier, we sat through that exercise, Bill 2, and witness after witness appearing before us, and on the last day of the hearings -- and I have said this before. I am not sure why this happened on the last day; I am not trying to suggest there was some sort of conspiracy. This happens to be a fact, that on the last day of the hearings we were presented with a report on the Massachusetts system.
The Massachusetts system was, as I understood at the time, the only one really comparable to the kind of process, system, that the government was trying to introduce in Ontario through Bill 2. That document, that assessment of the Massachusetts situation was really an indictment of the system this government was bringing in, rate regulation and the establishment of the board to regulate rates.
It pointed out all of the problems, the real horror story, that had occurred in Massachusetts. It talked about 60 per cent of the drivers in Massachusetts now finding themselves in Facility Association. You are going to be paying at least double the rates that you would outside of Facility Association, double and triple. That is the common sort of thing that is occurring with Facility Association.
So this minister knew early on, or at least his colleague the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) did, that the Massachusetts experience, the only one comparable, had ended up with 60 per cent of the drivers in Facility Association and a huge number of insurance companies leaving the state and simply not offering auto insurance in the state.
What did the government do with respect to that kind of evidence that was before them? Absolutely nothing. They forged ahead with this unfortunate policy. They forged ahead at the cost of millions of dollars to Ontario taxpayers. Again, we can talk about not only the Facility; we can talk about the risk classification evidence that was presented to us as well, which I have already mentioned.
We can talk about a whole range of issues respecting the initiatives of the government, and all of them were pinpointed very clearly by testimony before the standing committee on administration of justice in the fall of 1987. It is tough to swallow the suggestion the minister is making today, that he is going to be receptive to input from witnesses and from the opposition parties with respect to the legislation that we are now discussing.
He has mentioned legal fees, and I am sort of jumping all over the map here. I am not necessarily advocating this, but the Committee for Fair Action in Insurance Reform talked about this a week or so ago at a press conference and suggested to the government -- and the minister has frequently used this as one excuse for his actions; that is, the legal fees and the proportion they represent of the bill that is now facing drivers in the province.
It was suggested by representatives of the FAIR organization: “Why not deal with legal fees. Why not look at regulating legal fees and retaining the system we have with modifications, modifications presented by the Honourable Mr Justice Osborne?” I am going to talk about that. I am not endorsing that kind of regulation of that profession. I would be the last one to do that, but I am just suggesting that a representative of FAIR, in fact, its spokesperson, was suggesting that.
Indeed, I guess there were other innovative ways that this could have been dealt with instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water, which is what this government has done.
The minister was going on earlier about the situation that currently exists and how some people are not being treated fairly under the current system, and I agree with that. There is no question. There are some problems with the system and they were very thoroughly addressed by Mr Justice Osborne. I do not know what happened. No one really knows what happened back in the fall of 1987. Perhaps this minister does not know.
His predecessor, the Premier and perhaps a few other members of the executive council know what transpired following the election, when the Premier made that promise that he had a specific plan to lower insurance rates. He got back into his office and said: “Look, I said this hairbrained thing spur of the moment. I hadn’t thought it out. Now you guys come up with some sort of a plan that is going to meet this promise that I made during the election campaign.” I am sure that was the sort of scenario that occurred.
So then the minister and the Ministry of Financial Institutions had this hot potato thrown in their laps by the Premier with his off-the-cuff, off-the-wall promise. Even though we were in the midst of a very thorough study by Mr Justice Osborne at a cost in excess of $1 million to Ontario taxpayers, because the Premier had made this promise, with no idea of how to keep it, the ministry and the government, because of the Premier, were forced into taking this kind of action, this kind of ill-thought-out initiative, while Osborne was still in the process of doing a thorough study of the industry.
So, what happens? They forge ahead with this. In February 1988, Osborne came down with his recommendations and one of the first things he said is that the government is doing this completely wrong. It should not be setting up a rate-setting authority. Everything they are doing is wrong. But of course the hard-headed, stubborn folks in the government who had started down this unfortunate path were not prepared to step back and reassess where they were going, even though Osborne came in with some very excellent recommendations. I cannot recall the exact figure, but the thrust of his recommendations in terms of rates across this province was going to see a rate decrease, I believe, on the average of $50 to $60, something like that.
That was back in February 1988. The minister talked about some unfortunate people being left out in the cold under the current regime. That could have been addressed and was addressed by Osborne with respect to the schedule C benefits which the minister could have, under Osborne, increased immediately.
So the minister gets up and talks about speedy response in terms of getting no-fault benefits and a whole host of other arguments that he put forward to justify his position. Those were addressed by Osborne, and as he said, we should not be an importer of systems; we should be an exporter of systems. The minister has heard that one. If he had made those changes with respect to schedule C benefits, he would have addressed the concerns that he is now using as a significant degree of justification for the approach he has taken. That is the reality of it. I am sure the minister will want to differ with me, but as I see it, and certainly as an awful lot of other people in this province see it, that is the case.
I talked about this earlier too, that the government is hoping that this thing is not going to blow up in its face. They have been staggering from one situation to another since the fall of 1987, and obviously they are hoping they can get this thing through the upcoming provincial election without a lot of irate drivers in the province coming down on their shoulders and the shoulders of Liberal members of this Legislature. They want to maintain an illusion that premiums are not going up, and there is no question that it is nothing more than an illusion.
I think we heard the member for Welland-Thorold going over the figures, the so-called freeze over the past number of years and the fact that we have affected something like 20 per cent increases, average, on automobile insurance in this province since the freeze was implemented, this so-called freeze. Of course, in this situation the government is now talking about an eight per cent average increase in urban areas -- we do not know what that means with respect to how the government or the insurance board is going to define “urban areas” -- and perhaps no increase at all in some of the rural areas of the province.
That is more smoke and mirrors, because we talked about the subsidization of the industry and the eight per cent, if you talk to people in the industry and just factor in the $145 million with the OHIP and tax breaks that I have talked about earlier. If the industry was not getting those kinds of breaks, that eight per cent would be in the neighbourhood of a 15 per cent increase. I hope the people of the province who are perhaps viewing this debate this evening will take note of that fact.
Certainly when we talked about no-fault initially, or at least when the government talked about product reform and was looking at no-fault, we were talking about meeting the promise of the Premier, meeting the Premier’s promise of reducing insurance rates across this province. That has not happened. What the government has done in this smoke-and-mirrors effort to deceive the people of this province is, through the back-door, if you will, although it is public knowledge -- when it comes to you, Mr Speaker, and myself getting our bills in the mail from our local brokers, it is going to show perhaps an eight per cent increase. But in reality you are also paying out of your wallet through your taxes, so you have an equivalent increase in the neighbourhood of 15 percent, and that is just factoring in that $145 million figure.
Again, it is a total effort in my view to fool the people of this province, to deceive the people of this province and to accept the fact that, in effect, they are doing something positive with respect to auto insurance premiums in this province.
I want to talk about Bill 68 with respect to recovery and just put a few things on the record with respect to what happens with this new program in terms of recovery. Under this bill you will get nothing, absolutely nothing, for pain and suffering. If you are an employee, you will be unable to recover your full loss of wages. If you are self-employed, and I think this is an important one to remember, you will be unable to recover loss of profit and losses associated with disruption of business. You could, quite realistically under this program, lose your business and recover nothing -- absolutely nothing. Also, you will be unable to recover for many serious physical injuries and you will be unable to recover for any emotional or psychological injuries.
No matter what you earn, the most you can recover is $450 per week. We have heard all kinds of examples with respect to the $450 a week, and we can use an example of someone living in the Toronto area making $40,000 a year, a wife, a couple of kids, a mortgage. Under this program, the maximum that he is going to receive is $450 a week. The minister boasts about speedy payment of these benefits, the $450 a week. Is the speedy payment of $450 a week going to make up for that $17,000 of lost income? I will ask you that, Mr Speaker. Speedy payment of $450, while that particular individual could be losing up to $17,000 a year with no chance of recovery.
Mr McLean: It is a shame.
Mr Runciman: It is indeed a shame, and it is a hoax being perpetrated on the public of Ontario by this government. I think the person we really have to lay this at the doorstep of is the Premier himself. We are talking about some very unfortunate people in society who are going to be negatively impacted by this legislation and have already been negatively impacted by this government’s fumblings with auto insurance over the past two years.
We have a Premier of this province today who quite frequently shoots from the hip, does not carefully think out some of the things he is saying, some of the promises he has made over the years. We can look at his criticism of his colleague the Treasurer when he used a word to describe him, which I will not use in this House, and then later had to apologize. We have seen a whole host of indications of this Premier not thinking before he speaks. Certainly that has occurred in this situation.
But the implications are pretty severe for all of us as drivers and people with auto insurance in this province because of this Premier. I do not want to be too harsh on the gentleman, but he has lived a rather protected life. He grew up in wealthy circumstances, never had to work a day in his life and, for all we know, never did work a day in his life.
This is someone who at 26 was made the president of his father’s firm. He really worked his way up the ladder. Right out of school and was made the president of his father’s firm. Now what he actually did as president of his father’s firm is certainly open to question, but in any event we know that particular gentleman never really had to get his hands dirty in life, never had to work shift work, never had to work a real job, never had to appreciate the problems faced by low-income people in this province or across this country. That is continually indicated in the actions and the comments and the initiatives of this government under the leadership of David Peterson.
Mr McGuigan: He worked on a railroad gang.
Mr Runciman: A railroad gang? What a bunch of bunk.
Let’s face it. This gentleman, and I will call him a gentleman, has made this kind of a comment, this kind of a promise without even thinking it out. We had the same sort of thing with beer and wine in grocery stores, Mr Speaker. You will remember that in 1985. It served him well in the 1985 election, but again it was another off-the-cuff, ill-thought-out promise with significant social and economic implications for the province.
Now we get a situation here where he has made a similar kind of promise again with significant social and economic implications. Then what has he done? He has thrown that hot potato into the lap of the civil service to try to come up with some sort of a solution, some sort of an answer, some sort of a resolution to this ill-thought-out promise that he made in September 1987, clearly to gain votes, clearly to defuse an issue that was creating some difficulties for him, especially from the official opposition which had used it as the primary plank in its election platform.
I think we can talk about deception. I know these are strong words in the Legislature and we try to refrain from them. I know the member for Welland-Thorold was using some rather strong language as well in respect to the actions and the words of the Premier, but I think it is a very difficult obligation placed upon us as legislators when we see that sort of thing occur, when we see that sort of promise occur which could never be fulfilled and has not been fulfilled. In my view, the facts are there before us to have that kind of response. In my view, it has not been fulfilled. You have to have blinkers on not to know that this government has miserably failed to meet that promise.
Again I get back to the difficulty in this particular circumstance for myself, the member for Welland-Thorold and other members of this Legislature, to deal with this question of the Premier’s promise and not say things like “deceiving the public,” not say things like “misleading the public,” not use words that are even stronger than those, because indeed that is what happened. That is what occurred. Those are the facts. They are right out there before all of us if we just want to stand up and take a look at them and admit them.
This particular situation has created, as I said, for myself and I am sure for the member for Welland-Thorold and others in this House, when we are dealing with this issue, a great deal of difficulty in coming to grips with how we can describe and deal with the Premier’s promise and his actions since that promise was made.
Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I am loath to interrupt the member for Leeds-Grenville and I apologize to him, but if I may, I recall last week the member for Carleton (Mr Sterling) --
The Deputy Speaker: Under which standing order is that, please?
Mr Kormos: -- objecting to the absence of the Attorney General (Mr Scott). The Speaker at that time pointed out that the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General was present in the Legislature while Bill 2 was being presented and carried by the government.
Now I note that not only is the minister not present for what he purports to be important legislation, but his parliamentary assistant is not present either. So the same argument from the Speaker cannot hold. It is pathetic that the government obviously is so insincere from its own respect about this legislation that it does not have the minister present when the bill is being debated, nor even the parliamentary assistant.
The Deputy Speaker: With the return of the minister. Would the member for Leeds-Grenville please continue.
Hon Mr Elston: Mr Speaker, if I may, I went out to the washroom after having listened to the member for Welland-Thorold. I thought I was entitled to take that short break. I apologize for any inconvenience to the member for Welland-Thorold.
The Deputy Speaker: Now that we have settled Mother Nature’s issues, would the member for Leeds-Grenville please continue.
Mr Runciman: I hope the minister does not have a similar urge during my comments.
I want to talk a bit again about a particular issue that I raised in the House, and that has to do with the question of increased accident frequency and the increased number of fatalities that will occur, as a number of studies have shown, with a no-fault system.
This particular study was done by Roseanne Devlin at the University of Toronto and was an analysis of the experience in Quebec. I know that a criticism can be made that the system in place in Quebec is pure no-fault. There is no threshold. I guess I want to make the point, as I have made earlier, that we are going to be darned close to pure no-fault under this program. From the projections we have seen -- and I think they are realistic; certainly we have no studies from the government to prove otherwise -- we could be looking at about a 97 per cent figure in terms of accident victims excluded from access to the courts under this process. So I think the Quebec experience is relevant.
This lady did a very thorough study in respect to this, and I want to put some of that on the record. The most important observation, from one of the tables, is: “The no-fault variable indicates that fatal accidents in Quebec increased by 9.62 per cent after no-fault was introduced. Thus, driving care has fallen significantly after no-fault.” That is just one quote, and again, it is a very valid concern.
I think the minister, although he is not prepared to admit it today or not prepared to admit it during question period when we raise this issue, recognizes that there is some validity to this concern. He and his colleagues have tried to address it through the addition of OPP officers, seatbelt review to ensure that more drivers are utilizing seatbelts and a number of other areas, which in my humble opinion are not going to have any real impact in respect to accident frequency in this province. It will be negligible.
Of course, the reality is that over the past number of years accident frequency has been decreasing in the province with the current system in place. Here is one figure from the Ontario Road Safety Annual Report: In 1974, there were 1,748 persons killed on the highways, and in 1987, 1,229 people were killed on the highways, so a reduction of over 500. We can continue to look at those kinds of statistics, which should elevate the concerns of the government in respect to the road they are taking us down.
I think as I quoted earlier -- and this is the gist of various studies and concerns, not only of this particular study. Osborne made this kind of reference as well. Even the insurance board under Mr Kruger made this kind of reference -- driving care falls significantly after the introduction of no-fault.
I want to also put on record a quote from Governor Thomas Kean of New Jersey: “After 16 years of no-fault auto insurance in New Jersey, the governor has now called for a return to the old tort system. It seems that no-fault, as some predicted it would, inflated everybody’s insurance costs by eliminating the economic incentive to drive safely.”
There is 16 years’ experience in the state of New Jersey with a no-fault program. Certainly there are going to be differences in respect to how this is handled, but I think in terms of encouraging unsafe driving practices, allowing the high-risk driver on to the roads because you are going to make his or her insurance that much more affordable, is going to be even more of a problem in this jurisdiction than it was in New Jersey or some of the American jurisdictions because of the particular program, the particular threshold, that this minister is bringing forward.
The United States experience -- we have not had a no-fault initiative in the United States since 1976 -- and in fact two states have backed away from no-fault in recent times. So that no-fault is no panacea, and, as Justice Osborne said, it is being imported on the backs of at least 90 per cent of innocent accident victims in this province.
Mr McGuigan: You don’t have to tell us that. We know it already.
Mr Runciman: The member for Essex-Kent knows this already; I do not have to tell him this.
Earlier on, this member was talking about the fact that we have had 20 per cent increase in auto insurance while this freeze was in place. I talked about the Premier’s promise, and he said it had been kept. The facts are there, and now he is saying that he has all the answers, that he knows what is going on, that I do not have to say this any more. The reality is, they do not want to hear it any more, and when they do hear it, they do not pay any attention. They ignore it. They treat it with contempt.
This government has handled this whole situation with a great degree of ineptitude. There is no question about it. One of the amazing things is the lack of embarrassment on that side about the way they have handled this. They have the unmitigated gall to sit in here today and in weeks past, in months past, and shrug their shoulders and say, “We are proceeding in the best interests of the consumers of this province.” What a sham.
The sad thing about this, up to this point in time, is that they have been able to get away with it. The public of Ontario, by and large, are not paying a lot of attention to this debate, and that is regrettable because most of us are going to be affected. Most of us are going to be impacted, mast of us are going to see loss of rights. But nobody -- I should not say “nobody” -- but a lot of people, perhaps the majority of people, are really at this point in time not paying attention to this debate. I see it in my own office. I am not getting calls about no-fault.
We have to, as opposition members, make the case, a case that we believe in, even if no one is listening to us. In terms of what we view as the best interests of the people of Ontario, we are trying to do that. We have some very serious concerns about what this government is doing to the people of Ontario in respect to this process. We also have some philosophical, ideological differences with the whole concept of no-fault. But setting those aside and dealing with this particular proposal, we think it is bad news indeed for all of us in Ontario.
I want to put on the record again that 9.62 per cent figure in fatal accidents. If we translate it into actual deaths, that could, if indeed it proves to be the case, result in up to 100 additional deaths on the highways in Ontario. It may be difficult for some of us to grasp the suggestion that some sort of new form of auto insurance could result in additional deaths on the highways, but again I hark back to the fact that under this program, he is going to allow, he is going to make it affordable for more high-risk drivers in society to be out on the highways. That is the reality of it, and that is where the problem becomes not only a problem but a major concern.
Of course, another element of this study is that prior to the switch to no-fault in Quebec, the bulk of accidents were property damage accidents. Now we are seeing bodily injury accidents. The proportion is just on a flip-flop. Where we had property damage, now it has gone the other way with personal injury accidents in Quebec under no-fault. Those are the facts. If the minister does not have a copy of this study, I would be quite willing to provide him with one.
Hon Mr Elston: Does that include your campaign literature?
Mr Runciman: If you want to make a contribution, send it right over.
I will go to a number of other areas, but I think that is one that certainly has not been addressed adequately in this House, and most certainly not by the minister, when I have raised this. I will continue to raise this, as I am sure the critic of the New Democratic Party will as well, to try and get some kind of answer. Perhaps the reality is that the minister does not have an answer. He does not know. That would not be surprising, because as I have said from the outset, this has been a fly by the seat of the pants approach, ad hoc, dealt with crisis to crisis to crisis, and in essence that is what is happening here again.
We have talked about having actuarial studies to determine the real financial impact of this on innocent victims: no actuarial studies done. We have talked about having studies done to determine the impact on accident frequency and increase in fatalities: no studies done.
That bears out the fact that there has been very little planning, if any, in respect to the development of this proposal that the government has placed before us as Bill 68. They were looking at something, I guess, that as I said was going to mollify the insurance industry they had inflicted significant damage upon earlier this year, mollify the insurance industry for a period of time, perhaps only for two or three years, and at the same time try to continue to deceive, delude, fool and trick the public of Ontario that indeed they were doing positive things with respect to automobile insurance.
Talking about people being deluded, in my view the industry is being deluded and deceived in this, but it has to deal with this government and with this legislation; it is the only game in town. They want to continue to survive in the private sector so they have to try and adapt to the whims of this Liberal government.
I have predicted -- I did this some time ago -- that this whole exercise was a three-step process. Number one was the establishment of a rate-setting authority, number two was no-fault auto insurance, and number three was government-run, state-run auto insurance. That will please my friends in the New Democratic Party. It certainly will not please those of us who believe in the free-enterprise system. It will probably please a significant number of executive council members of this Liberal government who are not offended by the idea of significant intervention in the private sector, as Bill 2 clearly indicated.
In fact, I recall raising the issue of nationalization of the insurance industry with his predecessor the member for Brant-Haldimand (Mr R. F. Nixon), and he clearly indicated in this House -- it is in Hansard -- that he was not offended by the idea of the government taking over auto insurance. It did not bother him to any significant degree. We are talking about one of the key players in the Liberal government.
It is something that is certainly not going to be easily handled, but we have heard all the various stories about the Ministry of Transportation being able to assume this through its licensing offices, about a lot of this material already being computerized, so that there would be that kind of transition after we get through all this exercise, including no-fault.
It fits into this package nicely, as endorsed by their friends at the Toronto Star who are very strong supporters of government-run auto insurance and were pleased and applauded the government with the introduction of a no-fault plan. They saw it as a step, an evolutionary process, the kind of step the government should be taking towards the ultimate goal of the Toronto Star and the New Democratic Party and perhaps of a number of members of the Liberal cabinet, towards the nationalization of the industry in this province.
I have some sympathy for the industry with respect to this situation. It has to deal with the current political environment, but a couple of years down the road, if it thinks it is safe, if it thinks this no-fault program is going to protect the private sector in this province, it is kidding itself. Just look at the actions of this government over the past two years. It has no hesitation whatsoever in intervention, even if it does not make any sense, even if it is going to cost us a bundle. It does not matter.
There may have been an off-the-wall promise by its leader of the day, or perhaps the former fund-raiser for the New Democrats, the Attorney General, has come up with another of his brainstorms that involves government intervention in the private sector. They will not be offended by it. They will get right in there, arms and legs; they will jump right into it. We will ultimately pay the price as the taxpayers of this province. They have no reservations. Look at 1985. They quickly jumped into bed with the New Democrats and adopted a socialist agenda that carried them through for two years. We can look at the ranks over there.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Runciman: The member for Oakwood (Ms Hošek) is interjecting here. We know the member for Oakwood philosophically, ideologically is probably very much to the left of the political spectrum, certainly with what we read about her comments, her views of the past. In fact, we know that she was torn between the NDP and the Liberal Party when she was deciding to run for office in Ontario.
She opted for the party of power. Let’s face it. The polls all indicated -- I am not being critical of the member for Oakwood. I have a great deal of respect for her. She opted for the political option that was going to give her the opportunity to exercise real power as a member of the executive council. She did that for a brief period of time and perhaps she will have another opportunity at some point in the future. I know she has her fingers crossed, her toes crossed, and we wish her well.
I just wanted to make that point with respect to the insurance companies. We are talking about people being deceived, people being deluded. I have a great deal of concern, legitimate concern. I made this prediction two years ago, a three-step prediction, and it is being followed through completely: rate-setting, massive intervention in the private sector, a rate-setting authority, no-fault auto insurance. Then at some point, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, once we see rates start to increase, the pressures are going to be there. It has been indicated right across every jurisdiction in the United States that has adopted a no-fault program that those pressure are going to be there. You cannot avoid them.
There is going to be pressure from the New Democrats with respect to those rates. There will be particular problems that arise, shortcomings that we have pointed out in this debate and will continue to point out during the hearings process, that are going to aggravate the situation, continue to elevate the pressure on the government. It has put itself into such a position now that it has limited its options. It has severely limited its options.
I said back in 1987 that once you get on to that slippery slope, it is damned difficult to extricate yourself. I have used the analogy of rent control. If you want to go back to 1975, when rent controls were brought in as a temporary two-year program, look at what it has done to us now. Look at what it has done to affordable housing in this province. Look at what it is costing us, $40 million to the taxpayers for rent control so somebody in Toronto earning $300,000 a year can live in a rent-controlled apartment. The folks in eastern Ontario, where the majority in terms of this province are people living under the poverty line, under $10,000 a year, under $5,000 a year, are subsidizing people in Toronto to live in rent-controlled apartments.
Hon Mr Ward: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I just want to advise you that His Honour awaits to give royal assent to some bills, and if the member would consider adjourning the debate shortly, we could proceed with that.
Mr Runciman: What is shortly? I am a very agreeable fellow as the government House leader knows. I will have another opportunity. I was just getting wound up on this but I will --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I have been told the Lieutenant Governor wanted to come in at 5:55 pm.
Mr Runciman: Ten minutes. I am wondering if this is a ploy on the part of the government. Here I was getting wound up, really getting into this thing and the House leader jumps up with an interruption which proves to be faulty, which proves to be in error.
In a calmer fashion, I want to talk about rent control and the analogy, and I think it is a fair analogy. If we look at the history of rent control and what transpired there with respect to the introduction of it as a temporary program in 1975, with pressure continuing to grow, especially in urban areas. We now find ourselves in a situation where it is politically difficult, if not impossible, to extricate ourselves from that situation.
I found it in my own riding, where I have not too many tenants but an overwhelming majority of them support rent controls. That is the political reality. Once the government has entered this process with respect to automobile insurance, it is going to be very difficult to back away. As I said, they have severely limited their options with respect to where they can go if this no-fault proposal does not succeed and does not meet their expectations.
I have no doubt or reservations in predicting that it is not going to succeed. It is not going to meet their expectations if they have any other than getting beyond the next election and continuing to fool the people of this province that they are dealing with a very serious problem in a meaningful and productive fashion. They are not doing it. They have not done it and they are not going to do it.
This is no answer at all other than perhaps the temporary alleviation of the political pressures this government is feeling with respect to this issue, for the most part pressures brought upon the government by itself, by its ineptitude, by its failure to deal with this in an appropriate way, by its failure to deal with proposals, commissions and recommendations, a host of testimony and a range of boards and commissions and special studies undertaken by Mr Justice Osborne and others. They have brought these pressures upon themselves. They have placed themselves in this position.
As I have to conclude, I want to reiterate that the responsibility for all this, the responsibility for this mess, this quagmire the government has got us into as taxpayers, as residents of the province, in my view rests at the doorstep of one individual. It rests at the doorstep of the Premier. He made a promise with no study, no information and no idea of what the implications of it were, no idea whatsoever, a promise that was hollow at best and has caused this problem. He has created this problem. He is responsible for the situation the government now finds itself in without the intestinal fortitude to back away at several junctures where it had the opportunity to do so.
Is this the appropriate time to adjourn the debate?
The Speaker: I would think it is a very reasonable time.
Mr Runciman: I will look forward to an opportunity to continue next week.
On motion by Mr Runciman, the debate was adjourned.
His Honour the Lieutenant Governor entered the chamber of the Legislative Assembly and took his seat upon the throne.
Hon Mr Alexander: Pray be seated.
The Speaker: May it please Your Honour, the Legislative Assembly of the province has, at its present sittings thereof, passed certain bills to which, in the name of and on behalf of the said Legislative Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour’s assent.
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees:
The following are the titles of the bills to which Your Honour’s assent is prayed:
Bill 2, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, 1984;
Bill 3, An Act to amend certain Statutes of Ontario Consequent upon Amendments to the Courts of Justice Act, 1984;
Bill Pr29, An Act to amend the Toronto Baptist Seminary Act, 1982;
Bill Pr31, An Act respecting the Town of Iroquois Falls;
Bill Pr33, An Act respecting Grand Valley Railway Co Inc;
Bill Pr35, An Act respecting the Ontario Home Economics Association;
Bill Pr38, An Act to dissolve the Board of Trustees of the Ottawa Charitable Foundation;
Bill Pr42, An Act respecting the City of Guelph;
Bill Pr48, An Act to revive East York-Scarborough Reading Association Inc;
Bill Pr50, An Act respecting the City of Etobicoke;
Bill Pr51, An Act to revive Astcam Co Limited.
Clerk of the House: In Her Majesty’s name, the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor doth assent to these bills.
His Honour the Lieutenant Governor was pleased to retire from the chamber.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon Mr Ward: In terms of the business for the week announced last Thursday, there has been a change, by agreement. The opposition day will now take place on Monday, as indicated in motions given earlier this week. Tomorrow we will proceed with committee of the whole on Bill 147, and following that, we will resume the adjourned budget debate and possibly conclude Bill 68.
The House adjourned at 1757.