The House met at 1330.
The Speaker: Just before I call the first order under routine proceedings, I would ask all members of the assembly to recognize in the Speaker’s gallery, from the Turks and Caicos Islands, West Indies, the Minister of Works and Utilities, the Honourable Sam Harvey. Please join me in welcoming Mr Harvey.
EVENTS IN EL SALVADOR
Mr Allen: I rise to pay tribute to those Canadian church workers and members of Peace Brigades International in El Salvador who have put their lives on the line to stand in solidarity with reform movements, labour and the poor in that unfortunate country. The Karen Ridds and the Brian Rudes have worked with and walked with those marked for assassination in order to give them a kind of international cover, but ultimately to shield with their bodies their crucial work of social change in a brutal regime.
Arrested, imprisoned and released, they escaped the fate of the six martyred Jesuit priests just murdered. Expelled from that country, they returned, weighed down by the knowledge that for every Canadian arrested and released, there are a dozen Salvadorean religious workers who are in jail right now, not to mention labour, educational and civil rights workers who could soon be numbered among the countless disappeared and the 80,000 civilian casualties of this tragic, decade-long civil war.
Their crime has been that they have taken seriously the simple proposition that to know God is to do justice; that the Christian gospel is a message of liberation from oppression, a social gospel for the poor of El Salvador exploited by an evil alliance of economic, political and military elites whose bankruptcy should long since have been evident to their American supporters.
The major churches of North America have stood witness to all that. This Legislature should find some way, I suggest, to support their demands for the air lift and direct delivery of emergency aid to popular organizations, for a forceful Canadian policy on El Salvador and for an immediate cessation of American military support for the Christiani regime.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr Villeneuve: Today the Ontario Federation of Agriculture begins its annual meeting here in Toronto. Ontario farmers are looking to this government to provide leadership, but the minister has already stated that there will be no new announcement this week. Strange, the same government which told farmers that free trade would destroy them is now offering budget cuts and no help.
Real interest rates are higher now than when this government announced its interest rate reduction program, but that was in the election year. That program has now been cancelled, even though farmers and the OFA say it is very much still necessary. The agricultural budget has declined from a high of 1.43 per cent in 1987 to 1.19 per cent of the provincial budget this last fiscal year. If Ontario agriculture is to receive the same proportion of the budget as it did in 1987, that same election year, agriculture would have $100 million more for very needed programs. Among the programs the OFA is calling for are short-term interest rate reduction programs and a long-term interest rate reduction program, as long as interests stay as high as they are.
We also need to maintain our soil conservation and pesticide reduction programs. We need policies for rural development which do more than allow developers with ties to the Liberal Party to dictate policy. This government, over these three days, has the opportunity to announce programs that are needed by farmers. Let’s hope it reacts, and not only with lipservice.
OTTAWA ECONOMY / ÉCONOMIE D’OTTAWA
Mr Grandmaître: It is a pleasure to rise and inform the House of a recently released survey by the Hemson Group, a Toronto-based consulting firm. The results of this survey indicate that the national capital region leads the nation in economic performance and has the best rate of employment growth, income growth and value per capita of industrial and commercial building permits over the 26 other Canadian cities that were studied as part of this survey.
J’aimerais ajouter que la période qui a fait l’objet de cette étude s’est échelonnée sur les années 1984 à 1988, période durant laquelle notre gouvernement a pris le pouvoir et a créé certains programmes qui ont très certainement joué un rôle important dans l’excellente réussite économique d’Ottawa.
Our commitment to Ottawa transit development and our plans for Highway 417 construction are just two of this government’s projects which have helped Ottawa attain such a sustained and reliable economic growth over the past five years.
I would like to take this opportunity to salute the hard work and dedication of all those in business and labour who have worked hard to make Ottawa Canada’s leading economic performer.
Mr Mackenzie: Although Hallowe’en is long over, the ghost is back. Once again the Liberal government of this province is the invisible ghost at one of Ontario’s bargaining tables. This time the negotiations involve the Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 250, representing the ambulance drivers of Owen Sound, Port Elgin and Kincardine and the private company known as Owen Sound Emergency Services Inc.
I raised this issue in the House once before, on 2 November, and I asked the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) how she could possibly refrain from interceding in this dispute when the ministry controls 100 per cent of the operating costs of OSES ambulance officers but refuses to offer OSES the same wages as it pays its own ambulance officers for the same work.
The owner-operators of OSES refuse to make any unauthorized offers at the bargaining table which the ministry may refuse to honour down the road. All that is needed to break the deadlock and to allow service to be restored is a public assurance from the ministry that additional funds sufficient to honour any arbitrator’s decision on wages will be made available.
There is no one who believes that the Ministry of Health is not the real power behind Owen Sound Emergency Services Inc. It is just a convenient legal fiction designed to carve up ambulance drivers into small bargaining units which can be dictated to by the government at arm’s length via fictional employers. Let’s stop the charade and let’s stop this unnecessary labour dispute.
Mr Sterling: Last week, Humber College opened its Business and Industry Service Centre. The centre will work directly with business and industry to design customized retraining programs. The community college has the expertise, specialized equipment and facilities to assist the private sector in training a competitive workforce. Kodak, Digital Equipment and Canada Post are already taking advantage of this innovative program.
The centre was established without any government assistance. Humber has been working with the private sector on an informal and ad hoc basis for the last 10 years. The money generated from previous training fees was used to finance the startup costs. The centre is now self-supporting.
This entrepreneurial venture is in stark contrast to the government’s own bureaucratic training programs. Transitions and the program for older worker adjustment have proven to be both expensive and ineffective. Yet studies forecast that 75 per cent of our current workforce will have to be continually retrained during its working life.
The Liberals are floundering on this important issue. The Premier’s Council is still working on its long-overdue comprehensive people strategy. Meanwhile, other institutions in the province are taking the lead and developing training and labour adjustment solutions. The minister should take note.
CANADIAN REGIONAL PARLIAMENTARY SEMINAR
Mr Neumann: Parliamentary reform, provincehood for the territories, electoral laws, the charter, the environment, the private member, Senate reform: these topics stimulated much discussion at the 14th Canadian regional parliamentary seminar of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association earlier this month. Yellowknife was the setting for this event, which I attended along with the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) and the member for Durham East (Mr Cureatz). We were joined by our clerk assistant Smirle Forsyth at this weekend in the real north. The world view is certainly different up there. I learned that my colleague the member for Kenora (Mr Miclash) is really a southerner after all.
Following the sessions, delegates enjoyed a tour of Yellowknife and a chance to try dog-sledding. To our surprise, we found out at the closing dinner that our efforts had been timed and trophies awarded. My keepsake is a trophy with a husky on top. My partner for this event was Gordon Wright, an MLA from Edmonton, and we formed the third-place team. Was it the influence of the Gretzky legacy on Brantford and Edmonton or was it my partner’s shouts of “Mush, mush” along the snowy trial?
Perhaps a showing more representative of Ontario was the 19th place finish of the team representing the Law Society of Upper Canada, the member for Durham East and the member for Welland-Thorold. The surprise of the day, however, was the impressive victory of Mr Forsyth. Along with his secret weapon, Missy Follwell, clerk assistant of the Yukon, Mr Forsyth did this Legislature proud. I ask all members of the House to join me in recognizing this tremendous accomplishment.
Miss Martel: Two weeks ago I advised this House of the financial difficulties facing Sudbury Downs Racetrack. Due to the great distances in northern Ontario, Sudbury Downs cannot attract the population base needed to ensure its financial viability. Downs owners and others have requested that the province introduce offtrack betting as a means of resolving the problem. The province promised to look into this but has yet to respond.
I warned that further delays by this government would cause grave financial problems for Sudbury Downs, and sure enough, on Friday afternoon track owners announced that as of 6 December the Downs will cease to operate. This will continue until such time as this government makes a firm decision on teletheatre betting. Several hundred full-time and part-time employees will be laid off, and local businesses providing service to the track will also be adversely affected.
I blame the Liberal government for this. On three separate occasions, I received letters from the Premier (Mr Peterson) and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Sorbara) stating the matter was under review. Both the then Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr Wrye), and the present Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations have met with track owners and local politicians regarding the situation at the Downs. The community was told that this government, with the help of the Ontario Racing Commission, would investigate further and make a decision. How much longer do we have to wait?
The request to approve teletheatre betting as a five-year pilot project in the north deserves immediate approval. If not, this government should be blamed for the Downs closure and the unemployment which results.
Mrs Marland: It has been barely a week since the members of this Legislature voted unanimously for the Progressive Conservative motion to designate the Rouge Valley and its tablelands as a provincial park. Today we hear of plans by Metropolitan Toronto to consider part of the Rouge Valley lands for an interim landfill site for the greater Toronto area’s solid waste management plan.
I would like to emphasize that my resolution was supported by all parties. If the Liberal government would live up to its word for a change, the Rouge would be designated as a park by now and it would not even be available as an option for Metro. We must remember that if on 6 December Metro council votes to accept the Rouge lands as an interim landfill site, it will not go through an environmental assessment under the Environmental Assessment Act. The Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) and the Premier (Mr Peterson) have both promised that all GTA interim sites will be exempted from the provisions of the Environmental Assessment Act.
As we have said in the past and I will reiterate again today, the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus supports the designation as a provincial park of all 10,700 acres of the Rouge Valley lands, including the valley and the tablelands. We do not support the decision on the part of the Liberal government to exempt all interim landfill sites under the GTA solid waste plan. Each one of these sites will be in operation for several years, and it is imperative that they all be environmentally sound. The Liberals have stalled again on this issue.
TRADE WITH UNITED STATES
Mr Tatham: In the news: The Europeans. charging United States television with dominating Europe while closing its doors to European programs, are talking about quotas against the United States and looking at the potential advantage of a unified market which, including the Soviets, could embrace as many as 700 million viewers.
The French culture minister, Jack Lang, says, “The Americans have a 100 per cent quota against us.”
“Trying to break through distribution barriers, price-fixing and a host of other restrictions, the United States cannot continue to tolerate either politically or economically a $50-billion bilateral trade deficit with Japan,” says Senator Baucus, Democrat of Montana.
Perhaps a free trade deal with the European Community and Japan would solve the American dilemma. Just ask our Canadian pork producers. Because of the threat of a new border duty, they have imposed a $2-a-hog fee on themselves, with a total of about $15 million to be raised between now and the end of March. If their protests are successful under the free trade agreement, the money will go back to the producers. That is free trade.
The Speaker: Before calling the next order of business, I would ask all members of the assembly to recognize in the Speaker’s gallery the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Honourable Clyde Wells. Please join me in welcoming the Premier.
Mr Kormos: Perhaps I may, Mr Speaker, and it is with the consent of the whole House, address briefly some of the recent events in Europe and, specifically at this time, the events over the past week and weekend in Czechoslovakia.
The Speaker: I presume you are asking for unanimous consent. Would there be agreement?
EVENTS IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA
Mr Kormos: Those recent events occurring in Czechoslovakia stir within all of us an emotion of heightened anticipation of both real and human change in its system of government and growth in its economy, so that all of those persons there, and indeed our families in our ancestral home for Slovaks and Czechs, once again live a life of freedom, security and prosperity.
Once again, the whole world watches both electronic and print media as today’s citizens of Czechoslovakia mass themselves by the thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands to peacefully demonstrate the need for dramatic reform in their social structures. Many of those demonstrators are young people who have never known the gift of democratic human rights. They do know what they do not have.
These young people, however, have learned from their families and friends who have made the pilgrimage to other parts of the world and experienced democratic rights of life. Those rights have not been a privilege of life in Czechoslovakia for some time, not since 1945 when the communist system was imposed by the so-called liberating Russians.
For most Canadians, understanding what life under suppression is like is difficult, but life in Canada for the minority of Slovaks and Czechs is a gift that is valued and respected. Our way of life in Canada is always a prayer of hope for our dear ones in our ancestral homeland. Every thought, deed and action in our home, church, in our common, everyday way of life in Canada has been an expression of our heritage, identity and values for our love of God and of our nation.
We stand as a voice in the free world for our silenced brothers and sisters in Czechoslovakia. As a people who are a contributing force in industry, research, professions, church and social development, we demonstrate that we are worthy of the quality of life we enjoy in Canada. Further, we demonstrate that our families who are under the horrific suppressions of communism are worthy of democracy.
As Canadians of Slovak and Czech ancestral roots, the present current of potential reform must be fostered by us. Never must the terror of life in communist regimes be allowed to revive and rear its ugly head of persecution, police brutality, unjustified incarceration, denial of freedoms. These must never be allowed again.
The present system of communist rule that has been in place since 1945 has imposed a horrendous suppression on the people of Czechoslovakia. That suppression is, for many, difficult to perceive because it is so horrific and because so many of us here enjoy the luxury of taking our freedom for granted.
Let me give members some examples. Let me talk briefly about freedom of religion in a communist regime like that which has suppressed Czechoslovakia. Under that regime, the Byzantine Catholic Church has virtually been dissolved and replaced by the Russian Orthodox Church, which, I tell members, is also suppressed. Bishops in the Catholic Church have been appointed by the state and not by the Church of Rome. This has created a wider split between the church and state. People holding any civil service positions, like teachers, police, are not allowed to go to church. Young men must study theology in secret. Some priests have been murdered for having more services than are allowed them on the permits issued to clerics.
Education, either post-secondary or technical level, has been reserved for the active communist members only. The opportunity of choice for a career for young people remains to be the privilege of a few, who also must alienate themselves from any association or contact with relatives who are churchgoers or who are not supporters of the state philosophy.
Free access and use of media as we know it is still another suppression that has long endured. The freedom to write or express opinions or defend oneself has been nonexistent. The few who dare to speak out have and continue to be incarcerated today.
Jan Carnogarsky, a young lawyer, is presently being tried for fictitious wrongdoing against the state. Mr Carnogarsky, like his father, remains to be a voice for the defence of human rights in Slovakia and has been imprisoned as a dissident. His only deed has been the legal defence of other dissidents who have struggled to humanize life in Czechoslovakia.
These are only a few of the atrocities. We pray that freedom and democracy is once again restored to the people of Czechoslovakia so they, like us, can wake up in the morning after an election knowing that they will not be imprisoned for marking their ballot as they choose; so their property is theirs and their families’, not to be taken away as state property; so they are free to write and express their opinions and be in contact with families elsewhere; so education and opportunities remain a privilege, a right accessible to all; so they may travel in the free world as law-abiding citizens, knowing that the police are there to protect their rights, and so they know that their families are secure, healthy and free to practise all the democratic freedoms that indeed we in Canada stand for and embrace.
I would close with the words of Alexander Dubcek, the great Slovak leader, who travelled once again from Bratislava to Prague this past weekend after some 21 years of absence and who said to the crowds, to the quarter of a million people who thronged to see him: “We have already witnessed the dawn once. Let us now act in such a way that the dawn breaks into daylight.”
Mrs Marland: It is a privilege to speak on behalf of our caucus this afternoon about the events in Czechoslovakia. The reform movement in eastern Europe is moving so quickly it is almost impossible for us to comprehend. Popular demonstrations in Czechoslovakia, which a month ago would have been brutally repressed, culminated in a massive rally on the weekend.
Alexander Dubcek, the former leader ousted in 1968 when his attempt at democratic reform was crushed by Soviet tanks, made a dramatic appearance at the rally and spoke to the crowd of over 250,000 people. He commented that it was the mothers and fathers of the present protesters who, and I quote, “raised their voices for truth and human rights 21 years ago. Today it is you who have raised the flag; that’s why we are here together in unity.”
The love of freedom is strong in Czechoslovakia. It has been suppressed for many years, but the underground movements have been preparing for the moment when they could again work openly for democracy. We in the west are amazed and delighted at the swift turn of events in Europe. Only two weeks ago, the Berlin Wall crumbled before our very eyes. Now the once all-powerful Communist Party of Czechoslovakia is in disarray, shuffling committee members and dropping hardliners. Today only three original members of the Politburo remain. Dialogue has now started between the Politburo and the Civic Forum, the reform coalition.
On behalf of myself and our party, I wish to congratulate the people of Czechoslovakia in their determination to decide their own form of government, and express our support for them in this historic period of change. We pray that they will be given the strength and courage to succeed as they strive for freedom and democracy. We who live today in our great country of Canada enjoy the freedom and opportunity that living in a democracy provides. I only hope that some of what we enjoy can be transferred to these people in Czechoslovakia through our prayers and through our own personal strength.
Ms Hošek: It is a great honour for me to be able to rise in this House in Toronto, Canada, thousands of miles from where I and my parents and grandparents were born, to speak on behalf of the government of Ontario about the extraordinary events taking place in Czechoslovakia right now. As the face of eastern Europe is being transformed, the sense of hope and possibility is being revived almost more quickly than anyone can assimilate it.
Czechoslovakia is a small country with a difficult history. In 1918 it was given the power of self-determination and between 1918 and 1938 it built a stable, free and democratic society, one remarkably tolerant of religious and racial differences, It was a socially responsible, technologically advanced and aesthetically creative community, a model for eastern Europe.
Decisions made by other people in 1938 effectively dismantled this state, as it faced the horrors of the Second World War. After the war, people came together again in the hope of recreating that country and that society, and by 1948 it became clear that democracy in Czechoslovakia was severely threatened and ultimately destroyed.
The loss of democracy and its freedom is something most people in Canada are lucky enough not to have experienced, but for Czechoslovakia it meant oppression, repression, political prisoners, state censorship, self-censorship and a state framework created and maintained to shut down creativity, energy and the free use of the mind and the heart for what people wanted to accomplish.
More than two generations of Czechs, Slovaks and Ruthenians have had their lives blighted in this way. Today we can feel that all this pain may be coming to an end. Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Czechoslovakia are demanding a return to a free and democratic society, with free elections, equal rights for all parties, a mixed economy and reintegration into Europe.
Here in Canada there are 80,000 people of Czech and Slovak origin who are watching what is happening with a combination of joy and apprehension. The reasons for joy are clear to us all. The reasons for apprehension, unfortunately, are also clear. We all know that the people who have been running Czechoslovakia for the past 21 years, since 1968, have not suddenly and magically become champions of democracy. All those voices call on us to add our voices in support of democratic changes to the political and legal structure of Czechoslovakia today.
Yesterday at a rally that was held here in Toronto, the Civic Forum of Czechs and Slovaks in Canada was founded. Its demands of the Czech state are free and democratic elections in Czechoslovakia, immediate release of all political prisoners with no more political prisoners ever and freedom of travel, not only from Czechoslovakia, but free entry for people from this part of the world into Czechoslovakia. For this to happen, there would have to be an immediate amnesty for all political refugees from Czechoslovakia now.
Yesterday many people told me they are dreaming of flying to Czechoslovakia for Christmas, to spend Christmas there with their families and friends, and I hope and pray they will able to do that. The Czech national anthem begins with the phrase that is translated as “Where is my home?” Someone I met yesterday told me that she cannot sing that without crying. My hope is that very soon all Czechs and people who care about Czechoslovakia will be able to sing that anthem without tears.
The Speaker: I have just been informed that we have a visitor from the Saskatchewan Legislature with us. We have a member, sitting to my right up in the gallery, the Leader of the Opposition, Roy Romanow. Welcome.
YORK REGION LAND DEVELOPMENT
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Premier. I wonder if the Premier can tell us exactly what he knows about the meeting that apparently took place in February 1989, involving his then Minister of Municipal Affairs, members of the minister’s staff and apparently the Premier’s executive assistant.
Hon Mr Peterson: I understand a meeting took place in that time frame and the minister informed the others that there was a police investigation going on into the matters in York region.
Mr B. Rae: I assume the Premier has informed himself of what took place at that meeting. Last week, I showed a copy of a cabinet submission which went to the minister which I gather was in fact the subject of the discussion at the meeting with Mr Ashworth. I wonder if the Premier can tell us, did Mr Ashworth or anyone else on the Premier’s staff give him any summary or any note or did the minister give him any summary or any note of the discussion that took place in Mr Ashworth’s office?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am not aware of any summary or note of that particular meeting. As I understand it, a discussion was held. They discussed the issue. The sense was, I am told from the minister, that the police investigation was ongoing and was in very capable hands.
Mr B. Rae: Can I ask the Premier then, when did he hear from the minister or from Mr Ashworth or from anyone else about any proposals that might have come from within the ministry with respect to a royal commission of inquiry?
Hon Mr Peterson: I was not aware of any discussions that came from the ministry with respect to a royal commission of inquiry from the minister or anyone else. As I recall, it was his recommendation that the police investigation was there, as well as an administrative review, looking at all the matters in York region.
The Speaker: New question.
Mr B. Rae: To the Premier again: The Premier will no doubt recall that the question of the ownership of his family company and its sale became a matter of public record in October 1988. It was detailed, in fact it was first outlined, on 22 May 1987, and further information was made available later on with respect to the involvement of Mr Muzzo as the owner of Consolidated HCI Holdings which was the holding company of the Avinda Video, which in turn was the purchaser of C. M. Peterson Co.
When that information became public and presumably the Premier took notice of Mr Muzzo’s involvement in HCI Holdings, did the Premier at any time discuss with Mr Ashworth or with any member of his cabinet the potential impact that his family company’s involvement with Mr Muzzo would have with respect to the Premier’s potential conflict of interest?
Hon Mr Peterson: It was a matter completely in the hands of the trustee.
Mr B. Rae: When the Premier refers to the trustee, I presume he refers to the trustee of his own financial affairs. Do I take it then that the Premier, in light of the information with respect to Mr Muzzo’s involvement with HCI Holdings, at no time felt that there was any potential conflict in terms of decisions that he might make or his cabinet might make or his ministers might make with respect to Mr Muzzo?
Hon Mr Peterson: That is absolutely correct. At no time was I ever involved and at no time did I ever feel there was a conflict of interest.
Mr B. Rae: What does it tell us about the Premier’s government when his Minister of Municipal Affairs, upon receiving a recommendation from within his own staff, to the point where the recommendation was drafted as a cabinet submission -- can the Premier tell us what it tells us about the way his government operates when one man on his own staff, Mr Ashworth, apparently had the power, by simply having a meeting with the Minister of Municipal Affairs at that time, to shut something down and the Premier remained blissfully unaware, according to what he has told the House today, of any such events or any such recommendations? Who was running the show at that time, Mr Ashworth or the Premier?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think my honourable friend refers to some allegations but I do not think that is correct. I do not think anybody has suggested he shut down anything. The police investigation was ongoing. There was an administrative review ongoing and if the member has any facts that should be turned up for the police, then very clearly I would hope that he would turn them over to the police, if he knows something that has gone on. Very clearly, there was an ongoing, independent look at these entire matters and it was handled, I expect, as it should be.
Mr Brandt: To the Premier on the same point: The Premier is aware that in newspaper accounts in the Globe and Mail this morning it is indicated that the OPP were completely dissatisfied with the thoroughness of the investigation, primarily arguing that an inquiry would have given them the powers of subpoena, that an inquiry would have given them the opportunity to bring forth witnesses who could perhaps have got to the bottom of the entire question.
Does this perhaps give the Premier some question in his own mind as to whether or not an inquiry should now be called as a result of the OPP indicating quite directly that they were dissatisfied with the thoroughness of the job that they did?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am not aware of the fact that the OPP were dissatisfied with their own work. I assume that they conducted an independent inquiry into this matter and came to their own conclusions based, as they should, on independent advice. They have every right to look at every issue, as indeed they should. If there is some suggestion, there is something the member knows that has not been looked at, then obviously they have a responsibility to go and look at it, but I assume that the independent OPP did that.
Mr Brandt: I want to go back to the question of subpoena. In the same article, the OPP indicated quite directly, in specifically relaying to the Premier the message that they relayed to the Globe and Mail in the interview, that they wanted an inquiry because it would give them the opportunity to subpoena witnesses and to carry out a more thorough investigation.
Under an inquiry, the investigation itself -- and the Premier referred to it as an independent inquiry carried out by the OPP. That is not what happened; it was an investigation. That investigation appears to be less than satisfactory, based not on whether the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae) or myself have any further information, but based on those who were carrying out the investigation coming to the conclusion that they could not get to the bottom of all of the information they required.
Does this not give the Premier cause to reflect that perhaps his decision should be changed in the matter of the inquiry?
Hon Mr Peterson: I do not want to rule anything out, and if there is any evidence to support looking at this thing on a wider basis, then certainly we are prepared to look at the situation. Believe me, we have absolutely nothing to hide in this particular matter.
To the best of my knowledge the police have not come to the government and asked for a look at this matter. If they have, I am not aware of the situation. Presumably they were there for a period of time. They have investigative powers and a very sophisticated force, and they came to their own conclusions on this matter. They are the ones who decide whether charges are laid, not us and not the member.
Mr Brandt: For my final supplementary, I have to say, with respect, here we have individuals involved who, according to the information that is publicly available, gave the largest campaign contributions that have ever been given to any political party in the history of this province. They were partially the subject of the OPP investigation.
On 1 February 1989, there was a meeting held in the Premier’s office with his principal secretary who quite arbitrarily decided, after reviewing a cabinet document with respect to the direction that was suggested, namely, that in which an inquiry would be held, to just simply shelve the whole thing, to push the inquiry aside and to allow the OPP to conduct an investigation, which is only part of the answer to the issues that we want to get at with respect to York region.
Does it not stretch the credulity of the Premier with respect to this entire matter that he would not at least investigate further after this particular decision was made in his office?
Hon Mr Peterson: First of all, there was a meeting held but there was no decision to shut anything off, close anything down or anything else. That is where my friend stands in the House on the basis of press reports and allegations that may or may not be accurate, but I am not aware of anybody closing anything off at all. There was an ongoing police investigation, and that is what happened. That was concluded some months after that, and presumably the member would be the first one to stand in the House and say that the police should look at this matter.
The Speaker: New question.
Mr Brandt: I have a question to the Solicitor General, again on this same matter. The OPP, which come under the minister’s cabinet responsibility, indicated in today’s newspaper that they were dissatisfied with the extent of the investigation, primarily because they did not have the powers of subpoena and were not able to carry out their investigative work to the extent that was necessary because of lack of co-operation from some witnesses. They said that they in fact preferred an inquiry.
Could the minister indicate today whether he has checked with the OPP to determine the factual correctness of those statements emanating out of that department of the government.
Hon Mr Offer: In response to the question from the leader of the third party, I would like to indicate that I am advised the investigation by the OPP was done in the normal usual and thorough way.
Mr Brandt: On 9 May 1989 York region and the OPP put out a news release that indicated there were no grounds for charges and that is what the minister is basing his response on. Now we have learned that there were no grounds for charges because the OPP could not get the facts. That is why the OPP wanted an inquiry. That information is available to the Solicitor General, as it is to us. Has he determined whether or not officials within the OPP have recommended that an inquiry be conducted?
Hon Mr Offer: In dealing with any investigation -- I talk about this in the widest sense -- the OPP and any police department, municipal or regional, in their investigation of any allegations of criminality have wide powers of search and seizure. They have a number of responsibilities in dealing with the whole question of any one particular investigation. I can tell the member I am advised that the investigation, as all investigations, was done in the normal course of proceeding.
Mr Brandt: In January 1989 it appears that the OPP did in fact have indictable offences. The release that came out following that, indicating no charges were going to be laid, came out in May. We know there was a meeting in February in between those two dates at which Mr Ashworth, the principal secretary of the Premier, was involved. A decision was made to proceed simply on the basis of an investigation, which the minister must acknowledge is not nearly as thorough and comprehensive as a public inquiry would be in looking at the allegations -- admittedly, at this point in time -- related to the York region development situation.
Is the minister prepared to review the documents from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, review the actions taken by the OPP and make a recommendation to his cabinet colleagues and the Premier with respect to the question of an inquiry now being held to get to the bottom of this whole matter?
Hon Mr Offer: The responsibility of the OPP, and indeed of any regional or municipal police force, is to investigate matters and allegations of criminality. In doing so, they have a wide range of powers dealing with search and seizure. In investigating those matters, they have a procedure they follow in dealing with the findings of any matter that has come about from that investigation. I am advised that the OPP, in this matter as in other matters, did that type of investigation in the usual and proper course.
Mr B. Rae: The cabinet memorandum I have referred to now for several days talks about the high rate of growth and development. It talks about land ownership being concentrated in a few hands.
The Speaker: The question is to the Premier?
Mr B. Rae: It talks about sewer capacities distributed by the region in a preferential manner. It talks about allegations of fast-tracking development proposals of friends by provincial and local officials. It talks about the relationship between developers, councils and municipal officials. Is the Premier asking us to believe that the material in this document was not discussed at the meeting in Mr Ashworth’s office?
Hon Mr Peterson: I was not there. I do not know what the discussion was about.
Mr B. Rae: He is, after all, the Premier’s executive assistant, not anybody else’s in that room; his.
An hon member: Was.
Mr B. Rae: Was. In light of what has now been revealed with respect to what has happened, would the Premier be prepared to amend the terms of reference of the existing Houlden inquiry so it can explicitly deal with these problems of perceptions of conflict, with the question of how this decision to cut off a potential inquiry into York region development was made so we can get at the bottom of this issue as well as others?
Hon Mr Peterson: The question is, what is the issue the member wants to get to the bottom of? What are the allegations? What are the facts? What is his prima facie case? I understood -- there are allegations thrown around every single day in this House by the member, by his colleagues and by a lot of others. I can tell him that they are being looked at. Any suggestions of illegality are looked at by the police force.
Believe me, we have nothing to hide in this particular matter. I do not rule out a look at this by some independent situation. I have no problem with that if it looks as if it is going to be productive, if it is going to turn up some information that I or the member do not know. But I can tell my honourable friend that the minister made the decision to proceed on the basis he said in this House and I have some faith that the OPP has the capacity to look at these matters.
Mr Brandt: To the Premier: The allegations are directly available to him as they are to every member of this House. If in fact they are incorrect, then I want the Premier to indicate that these statements were not made by an arm of the government, namely the OPP, in which it has indicated it preferred an inquiry because it would give it the right of subpoena and would give it the opportunity to take a more comprehensive review of all the allegations that surround the question of the development, the methodology being used for that development, capacity in the York sewer trunk line and the allegations between developers, that the whole situation out there would be better reviewed under the terms of an inquiry.
Is the Premier saying the OPP did not say that or that he is not prepared to accept the OPP’s recommendation?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am not aware of the OPP saying that to this government. The member could ask the minister responsible if it has ever said it to him, but I am not aware of the OPP saying that. As I said, they looked at the matter and I assume they were satisfied they had conducted a thorough investigation.
Mr Brandt: They were not satisfied. It is in the last paragraph of the story that appears in the Globe and Mail today.
The Premier and I both know that there are situations from time to time when misinformation is inadvertently passed on either through newspaper articles or otherwise. I ask the Premier, if that information is factually incorrect and if the OPP did not say it preferred an inquiry, would he stand before this House and indicate that the Globe and Mail is wrong, or alternatively that the OPP has suggested and recommended an inquiry but he is not prepared to accept its recommendation? Is he prepared to stand up and have it either one way or the other, but not both ways, the way he usually wants it?
Hon Mr Peterson: The Attorney General (Mr Scott) tells me he has talked with the Solicitor General (Mr Offer) and there was not that recommendation of the Solicitor General. My honourable friend refers to his research on the basis of a newspaper article. There are lots of things in newspapers every single day and obviously I am not in a position to defend every one or to criticize every one. All I know is what we know here. To the best of my knowledge, that recommendation was not made to the Solicitor General or to the government.
Some unnamed person in the newspaper -- look, the member faces them every day and I face them every day. I know a lot of unnamed people who have said even nice things about the member from time to time, though not many, and these things happen from time to time. I cannot respond to that and conduct public policy on the basis of some unnamed person who may or may not be accurate. I am sure my honourable friend understands that.
I will tell him if there are any facts, any suggestions or any prima facie case, obviously we take that very seriously, as we have when looking at these whole matters.
NATURAL GAS PRICING
Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister of Energy. A few months ago I had a call from one of my constituents complaining about the retroactivity of a natural gas rate that was given to them. I am just wondering if there are sometimes problems, particularly for senior citizens on fixed budgets, when a retroactive natural gas rate is awarded due to the fact that all the factors needed to determine the rate base are not available when the initial rate is established.
Can the minister ensure that when the Ontario Energy Board regulations are amended, consideration is given to allowing funds to be put in escrow, thus alleviating any need for retroactive rates being charged.
Hon Mrs McLeod: I appreciate the honourable member’s concern on behalf of his constituents on this issue. The honourable member’s question identifies the fact that the Ontario Energy Board does have the authority to set reasonable rates for the sale of gas by the utilities and also that it does at times have difficulty predicting all the factors that might affect those rates.
When they are concerned about the factors that might affect the rates, they can set up a procedure by which the utility is required to keep an account of the actual cost it has incurred as opposed to the forecasted cost. Should they find that there has been a surplus or deficit in that account, they can then decide to have either a retroactive refund, as has happened, or a retroactive charge, which I know is of concern to the honourable member and his constituents. I can assure him that the Ontario Energy Board looks very carefully at the impact of that kind of decision.
Having said that, I think the honourable member’s suggestion is an interesting one, certainly something that can be taken into consideration as we review the mandate of the Ontario Energy Board.
Mr Tatham: Does the Minister of Energy intervene before the National Energy Board to ensure that Ontario consumers pay the most reasonable rates for natural gas?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I can assure the honourable member that the Ministry of Energy does intervene with the National Energy Board on a number of issues, of course recognizing that the National Energy Board does not establish rates for natural gas for Ontario consumers. However, the National Energy Board does determine transportation tolls that can be charged by TransCanada PipeLines, and these in turn have a very direct effect on the rates for natural gas experienced by Ontario customers.
The ministry does intervene at the hearings on transportation tolls. In fact, I believe the most recent hearings begin this week and the ministry is intervening and providing evidence.
YORK REGION LAND DEVELOPMENT
Mr B. Rae: I want to go back to the Premier. We have here a situation where an individual and his associates made 71 per cent of the contributions to the Liberal Party coming out of York region. That same individual was also the main financial interest behind the purchase of the Premier’s family firm.
The activities of that individual and his associates become the subject of public concern, raised not only by the Globe and Mail but by several other people: ratepayers, taxpayers, politicians of all kinds. It is also raised within the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, to the point of having a detailed proposal for a royal commission with seven particular points, set out on page 11 of the memorandum, setting out precisely what it is this royal commission will look into. This royal commission does not happen. It does not happen, apparently, after a meeting in the Premier’s own office.
I want to ask the Premier, will he now amend the terms of reference of the Houlden inquiry to tell us why this inquiry was cut off in the first place and to get to the bottom of the potential conflict? Are we not entitled to that information?
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend stands in the House and tries to draw some unrelated facts together to try to make a point based on allegation and innuendo. The member has every right to do that in the immunity of this House, but I can tell my honourable friend that he is quite wrong. It was not cut off. There was never one started. It was an independent inquiry by the police. Surely my honourable friend understands that.
Mr B. Rae: Unless what the Premier is saying is directly contradicted by his former minister, I cannot believe the Premier is asking us to think that this memorandum was not the subject of a conversation with Mr Ashworth and members of the minister’s staff. I do not believe that and neither does the Premier. Nobody around here believes that. Surely the Premier will appreciate that the purpose of that meeting was to discuss what other investigations, besides the police investigation, were necessary, or were any others necessary.
I have put forward before the House facts that are a matter of public record. I want to ask the Premier again, will he amend, yes or no, the terms of reference of the Houlden inquiry so that it can deal with this problem as well?
Hon Mr Peterson: I can tell the member that I do not have any fear of looking at any of these matters where he has any facts rather than just allegations and innuendo. The member was told already by the former minister of his recommendations in this particular matter, based on the facts as he knew them, and they supported the idea of an independent look by the police. That is where the situation sits.
Mr Houlden has wide powers under his terms of reference. I can tell the member that if there is any suggestion or any facts, rather than just innuendo, that have to be dealt with, obviously we are prepared to deal with them in an open, independent way.
Mr Sterling: I would like to ask the Premier with regard to this confidential advice to the minister that was attached to the cabinet submission. On page 2 it says. “The police investigations have uncovered some indictable offences, but they feel that a great many problems remain beneath the surface.” That was a document dated 12 January 1989. Then we read the press release of 9 May 1989 wherein it says, “After a thorough investigation, investigators concluded there was no evidence to substantiate a criminal prosecution.”
On the one hand, we have a document of January saying there was evidence to lay charges for an indictable offence, and then we have a document three months later saying that there are none. What happened in between?
Hon Mr Peterson: Maybe the Solicitor General could help my friend.
Hon Mr Offer: I can only reiterate what I have indicated before, and that is that I am advised the OPP conducted a full inquiry according to all its rights, privileges and responsibilities and dealt with all the matters in the usual and normal course.
Mr Sterling: We now have two different documents three or four months apart, one saying there is evidence to lay charges because there has been an indictable offence committed in the province -- indictable offences, as the minister knows, are the more serious crimes under the Criminal Code -- and then we have a document three or four months later on 9 May, saying that after a thorough investigation it was concluded that there was no evidence to substantiate a criminal prosecution.
To me, that suggests something happened between 12 January and 9 May 1989 whereby either the police or the crown discounted the evidence that was found before and made a different determination. I do not understand how, when you have evidence to lay charges for one of the more serious crimes, you then can later decide you do not have any evidence at all.
Can the Solicitor General explain the difference?
Hon Mr Offer: The OPP, as well as all regional and municipal police forces, is charged with the responsibility of investigating any allegations of criminality. The OPP, I am advised, as in other cases, has conducted the usual and proper investigation into this matter and from the conclusions of that acted in what it believes is the best interest, based on all the information it had.
Miss Roberts: My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Recently, members of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 81, Aylmer, contacted me to express their frustration about not being able to get a Monte Carlo licence for the legion’s annual turkey raffle, a fund-raising event. This is to be held 15 December 1989. This is the first year the legion has held such an event having gaming tables. The legion held an event on 24 November and it had a Monte Carlo licence for that, but when it applied for the second Monte Carlo licence on 15 December, it was told it had to wait 50 days.
Is there a minimum number of gaming tables allowed at an event before a licence is required? Could the minister please clarify why the 50-day stipulation is there?
Hon Mr Sorbara: I want to say to my friend the member for Elgin that I understand the predicament the legion is in. In answer to her question, let me first say that for any charitable night that involves gaming tables an application must be made to the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations for a licence, I think for obvious reasons, and then there are guidelines that establish how many tables might be set up at that casino night.
The problem, and it is an unfortunate problem that exists for the Aylmer legion, is that there is a guideline in place which provides that these sorts of casino nights must take place at least 50 days after a similar night sponsored by the same organization has taken place. I think that is for obvious reasons. Those reasons are that one would not want to have a situation where one organization or another simply turned its right to apply for such a licence into the establishment of a regular sort of free-standing, Las Vegas-style casino. So there is that policy guideline that provides for 50 days between events.
Miss Roberts: Yes, but many of the nonprofit organizations and community groups in my area depend on fund-raising activities to do the work that they do in the communities. Is there a possibility for a group such as the legion in Aylmer to request an exemption so that it can have this particular fund-raising event? They do not have several a year. They have only two this year and they happen to be in November and December.
Hon Mr Sorbara: The short answer to that is yes, because we are dealing with guidelines, there is obviously a possibility that an exemption could be made for the Aylmer legion. The legion should simply direct a request to my ministry and that would be considered.
There are approximately 80,000 charities in the province that depend on the right to hold casino nights and bingos in order to raise funds. Many of them have encountered problems with the current regulatory framework and we are looking to a revised order in council and indeed a new piece of legislation which will put charities back where they belong, and that is in the driver’s seat as far as these sort of charitable gaming activities are concerned.
Mr Kormos: I have a question of the Attorney General. Last Thursday in Cambridge, Ontario Provincial Court Judge Jim Robson was called upon to hear an application by the local Child and Family Services Review Board regarding a 13-year-old girl. This little girl had repeatedly run away from her home and was being abused and assaulted, sexually and otherwise, by her 19-year-old boyfriend from Montreal. This punk from Montreal had also been a drug supplier for this child.
Surely by anyone’s perspectives this little girl is a child in need of protection. How could Judge Robson deny the application and send this child back on to the streets to live with a 19-year-old druggie, child molester and child beater?
Hon Mr Scott: This question is naturally a matter of concern not only to the member but to all members of the House. As the honourable member will perhaps remember, section 96 of the Child and Family Services Act provides that “no service provider shall detain a child or permit a child to be detained in locked premises in the course of the provision of the service to the child except as authorized under part VI.” Part VI authorizes a family court judge to make such an order for up to 30 days.
Apparently Judge Robson, after reviewing the facts and hearing the evidence, concluded that no such order should be made because the child would have run away from the facility. He therefore exercised his jurisdiction not to make an order. The children’s aid society had the option to appeal the order but it apparently withdrew from the proceedings and decided not to participate further.
Mr Kormos: Parents and others across Ontario are outraged and frightened, quite frankly, by this ruling, a ruling which throws a child on to the streets of Montreal, a 13-year-old little girl who has been assaulted, sexually abused and fed drugs by her 19-year-old boyfriend. What is significant is that it is the same so-called boyfriend whom Judge Robson says should take responsibility for the child. Parents want to know that the courts will protect their children. What is the government going to do to get this child off the street corner and to ensure that this does not happen again?
Hon Mr Scott: The member knows in this tragic circumstance the father had given up the child and apparently the mother is either unable or it is not possible for her to care for this 13-year-old child, so there is no contest with the parents. The parents simply are not available to exercise any supervision over the child.
As I have indicated to the honourable member. a child can only be held against its will in circumstances in which the law permits. There was no evidence before the judge that the child had been sexually abused or had engaged in any kind of sexual contact. There was no evidence before the judge that the child had been engaged in using drugs of any description. Judge Robson exercised the jurisdiction that is granted to him under the act, particularly in light of the fact that he was aware that the child had indicated clearly that she would not stay in the place in which it was desired to put her for her own protection. He made an order that can be subject to appeal in the normal circumstances if the children’s aid society sees fit to appeal.
Mr Runciman: My question is for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation in his capacity as the member of the executive council responsible for the so-called war on drugs. There was a press report on the weekend indicating that the government is committed to fighting this war without the basic strategic data related to the very significant increase in cocaine use in the province of Ontario. I would like to hear the minister’s response to that charge.
Hon Mr Black: I should first of all point out to the member that I think the article referred to data related to treatment and rehabilitation programs. We have annual surveys from the Addiction Research Foundation which give us reports on use of illicit substances including cocaine.
However, I also want to point out to him that most people who use illicit substances are not anxious to report their use to officials of any agency connected with government. They do not rush up and volunteer the information that they may or may not be using illicit substances. The best we can do and the best that any jurisdiction can do, whether it he in Canada, the United States or any other country, is to base our information on reported use and on estimates of use.
Mr Runciman: I do not think the minister read the article. I think most of the information that was pointed out in the article clearly is attainable by his ministry. He has not done it. It has been a year since the minister tabled his report to this House. Now he is telling us that he is going to spend $37 million. How can he spend that money effectively and how does he know where to spend it when he has not carried out the necessary studies? How is he going to do an effective job when he does not know where the real needs are?
Hon Mr Black: Let me once again tell the member that I have read the article and I believe I am correct in saying that the focus of that article was a thrust on treatment and rehabilitation programs.
I want to point out to him that from surveys done by the Addiction Research Foundation, which is one of the world’s leading organizations in terms of substance abuse and illegal drug use, we have approximations of the amount of drug usage and the use of various substances within Ontario. That is the best that any agency or any government can have.
There is no one, single way of collecting the kind of information that we would like to have or that my friend would like to see us have. We do base our plans and our programs on what we believe are fairly accurate estimates of the kinds of substances that are being used, the rates of addiction, the rates of use. We gather that information from a variety of sources. We gather it from police forces here in Ontario and across the country, we gather it from the Addiction Research Foundation, we gather it from reports of treatment centres that are looking after the needs of people across this province.
We do have good, accurate estimates of reported drug usage. The kind of specific information that my friend would like to see in place is the very kind of information that we would like to see in place. It simply is not available in Ontario, it is not available in Canada, it is not available in the United States. People do not rush forward to report their practice with illegal substances.
ONTARIO LOTTERY CORP
Mr Daigeler: My question is also to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. A few weeks ago, the Ontario Lottery Corp introduced yet another lottery game called Encore. Do not get me wrong, I do not have difficulty in principle with lotteries or gambling. However, I very much question whether the Ontario Lottery Corp should continue its very aggressive marketing strategy. As the minister knows, many people see lotteries as a form of regressive taxation.
In view of these concerns, is the minister prepared to tell the Ontario Lottery Corp to slow down or to cool it with its very zealous business plans?
Hon Mr Black: Let me first of all say that the Ontario Lottery Corp is an arm’s-length agency of the provincial government. As such, it has a very competent board of directors headed by a very competent chairman and it has in place a management team which directs the daily activities of the Ontario Lottery Corp.
I can tell the member that in my view the business plans of the Ontario Lottery Corp are, and indeed need to continue to be, sensitive to the feelings of the public of Ontario. They serve the public of Ontario.
I can tell him also that I meet on a regular basis with the chairman of the board and he and I share our views and concerns on a number of issues. One of those issues, obviously, is the marketing plans of that agency. When I receive complaints or concerns about the marketing plans or the advertising strategies, I pass on all of those complaints to the corporation so that it is aware of the kind of public feedback we are getting.
Mr Daigeler: I am pleased that the minister is sensitive to the concern I am expressing and that he is bringing that up with the chairman of the lottery corporation.
Can the minister advise the House if he is aware of whether either his ministry or the corporation is doing any surveys on the income level of the people who are purchasing lottery tickets and whether his ministry is monitoring the social problems associated with excessive gambling?
Hon Mr Black: I can tell the member for Nepean that some studies have been done just recently. They are based on public opinion studies dated 1987 and conducted by Hutchinson-Reid, a firm which specializes in these kinds of surveys. They would indicate -- and I have to get these statistics correct -- that approximately 46 per cent of the people who spend money on lottery games earn between $30,000 and $40,000 annually. They are not, by and large, people who are below the poverty line or people who are on very low incomes.
I can also point out to him that a recent newspaper article indicated that some research done by one of the leading experts in the field of gambling and addictions indicated that, by and large, people who have a gambling problem do not spend their money on lotteries. They find that does not satisfy their need. They find that they need a more instant reaction than waiting for a lottery draw to come up.
We are content at this time that there is no clear evidence that we are aware of or have been made aware of that would suggest that people with a gambling addiction spend their money on lotteries.
Miss Martel: I have a question of the Minister of Labour. I want to return to this issue of the government’s position on section 86n of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Last week the minister advised that this whole matter of who has final say was being considered by both labour and employers through the green paper process. What he did not tell the House was that in fact there is no consensus on this issue. Labour believes that the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal shall have the final say, and the employers believe that it should be the Workers’ Compensation Board itself which has the final authority.
Given that there is going to be no consensus between the groups, I would like to ask the minister again what his government’s position is on section 86n of the act.
Hon Mr Phillips: As I said, I think if we are going to have a green paper to discuss the matter, we should have a green paper to discuss it, rather than our making a decision in advance of it. It is quite clear there is some confusion about who has the final responsibility. I am not about to make a decision on that because I think all of us would want the green paper exercise to be one which people have an opportunity to express their point of view on, and rather than predetermining that issue I think it should be part of the consultations.
Miss Martel: If I thought the green paper process would work, I would agree with the minister, but I do not, given the differences of opinion.
I would like to raise with him a second case, the case of Gil Cabral. In February 1982, a six-foot steel pipe fell on his left foot. He was paid benefits until September 1982 and these were terminated. The worker appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal in February 1987 and his appeal was granted in part in December 1987. The WCAT directed the board to pay partial benefits until the board believed the injury had ceased or until it became permanent. The board of directors has stayed the decision and not a penny has been paid out since 1987. Mr Cabral lives in Metropolitan Toronto on less than $800 a month, and the board refuses to give him the $54,000 that it now owes him.
I would like to ask the minister if he thinks this is fair and should continue.
Hon Mr Phillips: On both points, I really believe strongly that if we are going to have a green paper to discuss the matter, it would be incorrect for me to make a decision in advance of it. On this specific case, again, as I said to the member on another matter, these are decisions that the Workers’ Compensation Board will make. I would he happy to look into any instance where she or any other member would like to have information on a specific case because the WCB is anxious to ensure that people are aware of situations like this.
On the specific case, I will look into it. On the question of who has the final authority, the tribunal or the Workers’ Compensation Board, as I said, it is a very complicated matter and one which will require a fair bit of consultation and a fair bit of discussion.
SENIOR CITIZENS’ SERVICES
Mr J. M. Johnson: My question is to the Premier. As the Premier is a very compassionate individual, I am seeking his assistance to resolve a very serious problem our disabled senior citizens are encountering if they happen to live in a second-storey apartment in a senior citizens’ complex.
Many of these homes do not have elevators and if a senior living on the second floor becomes disabled through a stroke, a heart attack, a knee operation or a broken hip, he then does not have access to his own home. If an elevator were available, he would be able to leave the hospital earlier and return to his home.
I am sure the Premier agrees this would be beneficial to all of us. Will he use his good office to help resolve this very important situation?
Hon Mr Peterson: I appreciate my honourable friend’s bringing this to my attention. May I just ask my honourable friend if he is referring to this as a generic problem or a specific situation in which we could be of assistance? Obviously, I will discuss the matter he raised with my colleagues, but if he could help me a little more in that regard I could perhaps be of more specific assistance.
Mr J. M. Johnson: The problem is that I have raised this for the past three or four years with the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons, the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens and the Minister of Housing. It does not fall within any of their mandates; even in the federal government, no one will accept the responsibility for the problem.
The problem is structural. The buildings were erected without any concern for what would happen to seniors living on the second floor if they did become disabled. There are many buildings around the province in this condition. I think we should all work to resolve it and what I think is needed at this time is for the Premier’s office to work with the three ministries I have mentioned and see if we can work together to come up with a policy to start retrofitting the buildings so that our senior citizens will not be denied access to their own homes.
Hon Mr Peterson: I thank my honourable friend for the point he makes. I was not sure whether it applied to a specific building or a generic thing. The point he makes is well taken and I will certainly discuss it with my colleagues and we will do the best we can. I am not sure, frankly, of the extent of the problem -- it may be very widespread -- or indeed, what our legislative authority is in that regard, but it is a very good and compassionate point my friend makes.
FOREIGN-TRAINED MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS
Mr Neumann: My question is for the Minister of Health. Recent news reports indicate that foreign-trained nurses whose first language may not be English are being asked to write English-language proficiency tests prior to being able to practise nursing in Ontario.
Can the minister tell us whether this is a fair practice or if she has investigated whether or not it might be an undue barrier to filling our nursing shortage here in Ontario?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I thank the member for his interest in this question. As members of the House know, nursing is a self-governing, independent profession and the College of Nurses of Ontario has responsibility for licensing, governance, regulations and testing of those who will be licensed in the province. They are an independent body, independent of government.
I know that the college of nurses is aware of this situation and I can say to the member that while the ministry has taken a number of initiatives to enhance the quality of worklife for nurses and to acknowledge this situation of nursing as an independent profession in the province, I am also aware that the college of nurses will be meeting with Mr Cumming next month to discuss his report and recommendations, which affect it as an independent, self-governing body responsible for licensing.
Mr Neumann: Similarly, physicians with overseas training have met with barriers in their attempts to practise in this province. Could the minister update the House with respect to what is being done to address this issue?
Hon Mrs Caplan: We have discussed this issue in this House on a number of occasions. There are some who believe that foreign-trained medical professionals are the answer for northern Ontario, and I have said I do not agree with that as an analysis of the situation. I feel that opportunities should be there for young Ontarians to become physicians, and that if we were to make a decision that would allow unfettered access into Ontario for foreign-trained physicians, that would jeopardize the opportunity for young Ontarians and actually require the closing of some of our own medical schools.
Having said that, he should know, and I am sure he does, that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is the licensing body and is the one that determines eligibility for licensing for all physicians in this province. They are independent, self-governing and self-regulating, as is the nursing profession, which I mentioned a moment ago. He should know as well that the ministry funds 24 physicians for free internship in the province.
Mr Allen: A question to the Minister of Citizenship: Chinese Family Life Services of Metropolitan Toronto exists to serve some 300,000 people of Chinese origin in this community. Recently, it completed a survey which discovered an alarming incidence of wife abuse in that community where it is doubly difficult to deal with because of certain cultural values that are part of that community’s heritage. That agency has only two staff people and faces already significant waiting lists without even getting into this major problem in the proportions that the report has indicated.
Can the minister tell me how it is that this government provides sufficient support for the hiring of only two personnel for an agency that is providing culturally sensitive services to some 300,000 people of Chinese origin in Toronto?
Hon Mr Wong: This is, I believe, a very sensitive issue. I attended the press conference that the Chinese Family Life Services organization held last week. I was there with my colleague the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues (Mrs Wilson). Having listened to the specific concerns that were raised, I agree with the honourable member that there are issues here beyond community and family service; they are also issues of being culturally sensitive and linguistically sensitive.
With respect to whether the provincial government is providing enough and adequate resources to this program vis-à-vis the broad cross-section of programs, let me inform the honourable member that upon concluding that press conference I returned to the Legislature here and spoke with my colleagues the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer), the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) and of course my colleague the minister responsible for women’s affairs with a view to getting together to discuss this matter one more time to see if there were some other things we could do to address these specific concerns that were raised.
Mr Allen: It is profoundly disturbing when one of the ministers whom we consulted indicated at the time of that press conference that she did not want to deliver these services through multicultural agencies; she wanted to do it through mainstream services. When a spokesperson for the mainstream service in Toronto, the Family Service Association of Metropolitan Toronto, tells us, “We don’t have the resources to deal with such large communities as these; and besides, when people from those communities come to us, they say they are distinctly uncomfortable in dealing with us,” there is something profoundly problematic in all that, it seems to me.
Can the minister tell us something more? Surely the minister will be insisting, with this group of ministers he is meeting with, that these culturally sensitive services may well be, and properly should be, delivered through a multicultural agency which has a sense of sensitivity for the problem concerned and the community concerned?
Hon Mr Wong: I think the central, fundamental point which the honourable member has raised is the way in which the government currently addresses problems, whether they are in family services delivery or in other areas, be it health or other services of the government. The key question in the words he used is whether it should be mainstream or ethnically or culturally specific. This is precisely the point that I think has to be re-examined. Upon initially conferring with my ministerial colleagues, let me assure the honourable member that we will pursue this issue vigorously and hopefully come up with a solution that is better than the one we currently have.
Mr Harris: I have a question for the minister responsible for the provincial anti-drug strategy if he is still available. I do not know what it is he was taking to let him assume he should be in the Premier’s chair, but I --
The Speaker: He is in his place, and now you may place your question.
Mr Harris: I wonder if the minister could tell us if he considers alcohol to be a drug, and does he believe alcohol abuse to be part of the drug problem in our society that he is to address in his role as minister?
Hon Mr Black: First of all, let me say that for the past year and a half I have been saying publicly at every opportunity that one of the largest problems that our society faces is the irresponsible use of alcohol. I think we have to recognize that illicit drug use is part of that larger problem of substance abuse and chemical dependency. The particular mandate of my anti-drug strategy is to deal with the use of illegal drugs, which includes the use of alcohol up to the age of 18, but we recognize that in dealing with that problem many of the programs we will support will provide some prevention for the alcohol problem as well.
Mr Harris: I assume the minister in referring to the age of 18 is not trying to lower the drinking age from 19 to 18; perhaps he meant 19, and maybe I could correct the record for him and assume that.
If the minister believes that alcohol is part of his mandate, can he explain why in this announcement last week, with great fanfare but minuscule amounts of money, not one mention was made of alcohol, not one mention specifically, nor was there any reference to fighting alcohol abuse as part of that strategy, in spite of the fact that he will know the Addiction Research Foundation has said it is the number one drug problem in Ontario today? Can the minister explain why not one mention was made in this great fanfare announcement last week?
Hon Mr Black: I would certainly not want to suggest that the member for Nipissing, being the very fine and responsible member he is, has not done his homework, but I would point out to him that in this little booklet here, called the Provincial Anti-Drug Strategy, there are several references to alcohol and to the fact, as I have just stated, that illegal drug use is part of that larger problem. I am not sure whether the member for Nipissing would like to revisit that document again. If he does not have a copy, I will be happy to send one over to him. It is called Reducing the Illegal Use of Drugs in Ontario -- A Provincial Strategy, and it does indeed mention alcohol.
I want to tell him also that I was up in his riding on Thursday of last week and visited one of the very fine treatment programs in this province, the St Joseph’s treatment program in North Bay. I spent some time there, discussing with them their very fine approaches to the problems of treatment and rehabilitation in the north. I want to compliment him on being a representative of such a fine group of people and the very excellent work they do in the fields of treatment and rehabilitation.
PLATES FOR THE DISABLED
Mr Faubert: I have a question for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs. In this weekend’s travel section of one of the well-known morning presses, it was reported that seniors travelling to Florida having a licence plate showing the handicap symbol have been ticketed by many municipal police forces in Florida for parking in handicapped spots. In some instances the fines have been as high as $100. Upon them making inquiries, they were told that Ontario does not have a reciprocal agreement with the state of Florida for recognition of handicap-designated vehicles.
Could the minister look into this matter with his colleagues, bring it to the attention of his colleagues the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Ms Collins) and the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye), to rectify the situation?
Hon Mr Morin: I was not expecting this question, but let me tell my honourable colleague that any issues which are related to seniors that create any embarrassment for seniors certainly are of concern to me. I will certainly discuss the issue with my colleague the Minister of Transportation and come back to the member on this issue.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 82, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Mackenzie: The bill provides that the minimum wage in Ontario cannot be less than 65 per cent of the previous year’s industrial aggregate average for the province, as published by Statistics Canada.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr R. F. Johnston moved first reading of Bill 83, An Act to amend the Education Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr R. F. Johnston: This is a very short bill which makes two major changes to the Education Act. First, it requires that American sign language and la langue des signes québécois be used as languages of instruction in schools for the deaf and other schools in Ontario where the number of pupils warrants their use. The bill also recognizes ASL and LSQ as heritage languages in the education system.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MINING AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 71, An Act to amend the Mining Act.
Mr Harris: I want to say a few words on Bill 71, An Act to amend the Mining Act, and to say how long it has taken the government to move on this bill and to let it be known that I am not criticizing this Minister of Mines (Mr O’Neil). He has not been the minister for that long a time, and I do not want him to take personally any comments I may make with reference to the fact that this bill is only coming in towards the tail end of 1989 when we believe it should have been given priority in 1985, 1986, 1987 or 1988.
It is a piece of legislation that is long overdue. It is designed to bring Ontario’s Mining Act up to date. It is the first significant update of the Mining Act, I believe, of 1906.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. There are many private conversations. The member for Nipissing may resume.
Mr Harris: Obviously I cannot lay any blame at the feet of the current minister, other than the fact that he was in cabinet when undoubtedly the Mining Act was discussed and was part of the collective process that shuffled it to the bottom of the legislative agenda session after session since this government took office in 1985.
I noted on Thursday that my colleague -- I am supposed to refer only to his riding -- the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot) had referred to the fact that this government has looked at mining enough that when it took office there was $13 million of tax levied against the mining industry and today there is $150 million of tax levied against the mining industry. They have been quick to make changes affecting the mining industry on the taxation side, and very slow -- in fact, they sat there for some five years -- to make changes to benefit the mining industry, to help streamline the way it operates and to bring industry, in the regulatory sense that this province has a mandate for, into the 20th century and indeed prepare for the 21st century.
Those are astounding figures. They have increased the tax haul primarily out of northern Ontario, where the mining industry is most active -- they have increased the tax haul more than 10-fold since they have taken office -- but sat with this piece of legislation for such a long period of time.
We will support the legislation; I do not want to take too long today because we want to get through second reading of this legislation. We want to get into committee of the whole where we can take a look in detail at the specifics of the sections of the legislation.
But it is a pretty sad day when those involved in the mining sector, the mining industries and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, say to me when I talk to them about the bill: “Mike, we’ve got some concerns. We have concerns about the amount that is now going to be removed from the legislation and put into regulation.”
They are concerned whenever a government of any stripe -- federally, provincially, municipally -- says, “Well, we are not going to put it into legislation, but trust us.” They have concerns, members would understand, because there is no more public input once it passes the legislative stage and it goes into the regulatory stage; the government can change those regulations and set them without any consultation, without any debate.
The Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) said to the radiologists recently: “I am not going to change the legislation to answer your concerns. I agree you’ve got legitimate concerns; there is a major problem with the legislation. But trust me, I will make the changes in the regulations.” Given the record of all governments, quite frankly, on “trust me,” and that of this government in particular, members could appreciate the lack of confidence that those who are affected by legislation have when a minister of this Liberal cabinet says: “Don’t worry. I know what we want is not in the legislation, and I know we are going to remove some sections from the legislation. Trust me, we will do you right by the regulations.”
The record of this administration over the past four and a half years of saying it will consult or reflect fairly has not been very good, and given the added knowledge that there is no more debate and no other forum in the Legislature or in committee for anybody to express those viewpoints, they are legitimately concerned.
They say to me, though, “Mike, this government has put this bill off for so long.” This is the same legislation that the member for Cochrane South (Mr Pope) introduced into this House in 1984, after a white paper and after consulting with the industry. I guess that was before Christmas in the fall of 1984.
Then there was a leadership event in my party, quite an exciting event, one I am looking forward to in the future as well, as members would appreciate. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for letting me slip that little plug in without calling me to order.
At that time, I was appointed the Minister of Natural Resources, responsible for the Mining Act. So while I was not minister very long, as members will recall, and those members who are students of political history will recall --
Mr Villeneuve: That was when the ministry was in good hands.
Mr Harris: -- as the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry says, that was when it was in good hands. I think it was, quite frankly, in good hands.
As short a time as I was there, the one legislative priority I had was to get that Mining Act reintroduced. We reintroduced it back into the House and served notice that we were prepared to deal with it quickly and to get on with it. Of course, events overtook us. There were many other fronts that were calling for attention and that I would have liked to move on. Many of them I did move on. As members may recall, in the environment area, I was the minister who banned chemical sprays in northern Ontario, for the first time in history, for the budworm problem and made the commitment at that time to triple the number of dollars available so that we could use a safe, effective biological spray.
There were a number of other areas but legislatively I really only had time for one, and my top priority was the Mining Act. I introduced it, got it back into the House and asked whether we could not move ahead with it. Events, members will recall, overtook me. There was a change not too long after that period of time. It was suggested to me by a new coalition of two people occupying the Office of the Premier. The member for York South (Mr B. Rae) and the member for London Centre (Mr Peterson) at that time, as I recall, took up joint occupancy of the Premier’s office.
The member for York South only lasted about half an hour, I think. My recollection is the Premier, the member for London Centre, said: “Bob, I think you’ve misunderstood, already, the accord. We’re not sharing this office. Get back to your own side. Thanks very much for power. We’ll see you later.” None the less, it was suggested by the member for London Centre that being a Conservative was not one of the qualifications he was looking for in his cabinet, not that I might have accepted had he offered, and I was asked to step aside and let a new Liberal minister take over.
That new Liberal minister took over. My concern is, aside from a complete shemozzle of resource policy in the ensuing four and a half years, specifically with respect to Bill 71, An Act to amend the Mining Act, that it was sat on and sat on and it did not meet the criteria of importance from any cabinet, and there have been a number of cabinets now. As members know, they shuffle in and out pretty fast over there. Not one of those cabinets has seen fit until today, or until this past couple of weeks, to give any priority to this legislation.
Now it is being brought in, according to the mining industry and the prospectors and developers, at the 11th hour, and while they have major concerns -- they have significant items of concern -- they would really like to see this bill go out to a committee. They would like to have an opportunity to come in and make their representations. They would like to talk, particularly about their concerns of moving so much from legislation to regulation.
They are saying to me: “Mike, we don’t trust these guys. If it gets delayed beyond Christmas, if we take that time to carry on -- we’ve finally got this one window of opportunity where the House leader for the government, the Premier and cabinet seem to say, ‘Okay, we’ll proceed with the Mining Act.’ We are afraid that if we take the amount of time necessary to really do a good job on this piece of legislation, we’ll never see it again. They’ll sit on it for another five years.”
That is not a very good way to deal with partners in any area of government where you deal with the stakeholders, with the partners who actually deliver the programs that we mandate. In this case, I am hearing all across this province from the municipal stakeholders, from the school board stakeholders. from the partners who deliver health care services that this is a government of confrontation, not consultation. We are having great concerns of trust that we are indeed being consulted.
Now I am hearing that same concern from the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada and from the mining industry. They are saying to me: “Mike, do the best you can. Do what you can in committee of the whole. We know that majority is going to jam it through anyway, but there are some things in there we absolutely have to have. We can’t afford to wait another five years.” They are saying to me a flawed piece of legislation and changes are better than none, so would I participate and co-operate in that way with this legislation. I think that is most unfortunate. However, as House leader and as a major critic for my party over the last four and a half years, I have to agree with them. I do not trust the government to bring it back either, should we not get it resolved and passed before Christmas.
So I will be supporting the legislation in principle. I am very concerned about being told to take a leap of faith, as the industries are being told to take a leap of faith by moving so much to regulation, but we will do the best we can on behalf of my constituents, on behalf of the mining industry and the prospectors’ and developers’ industry to try to make this piece of legislation better than it is.
Let me acknowledge publicly it is better than what is there. It has to be brought up to date. There are changes that have to be made, and we will be supportive of that. If the minister takes exception to my comments, he ought not to, because he has not been there long enough to be held responsible for all the dastardly things I am blaming on the current Minister of Education (Mr Conway) and former House leader or on the Premier (Mr Peterson). I hold the two of them accountable very strongly for this bill’s not proceeding forward sooner.
Even this administration took four tries. I am reminded that in June 1985 the first minister, the member for Cochrane North (Mr Fontaine), the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, reintroduced Bill 29, An Act to revise the Mining Act, which basically was a reintroduction of my Bill 29, which was a reintroduction of the bill of the member for Cochrane South just before we changed portfolios. Then that died in the Orders and Notices because the government did not see fit to proceed with it.
Because the then Minister of Northern Development and Mines, the member for Cochrane North, took a little hiatus from Cabinet for a period of time, or a little step back when he rethought throughout that period of time how one acts as a minister, the Premier was the acting minister then in 1986. He, I guess, as a sop to the mining industry and the prospectors’ and developers’ industry and to northern Ontario, said: “Let’s reintroduce this thing again. I know it’s got no priority, we won’t proceed with it, but maybe if we reintroduce it again, that will keep them happy for another year.” So he did that and he tabled Bill 29 again, and that, of course, died on the order paper.
Then the election intervened and this administration got a massive majority, certainly a mandate for change, I would say, from the people of Ontario. What a disappointment it has been to the people of Ontario -- the opportunity and the trust that they placed in this administration on 10 September 1987 and that disappointment through all policy areas and particularly in the spending capacity and the massive tax increases; however, disappointment as well in the mining industry and with Bill 71 because it did nothing. Now that they had a majority, they said: “We don’t have to pretend any more. We don’t have to introduce the bill and pretend that we are going to do it. We’ll just ignore it completely, and when we get around to it, when we have time, after we deal with everything else, we’ll get around to the mining industry. Who cares? We’ve got 94 seats.” So nothing happened for the rest of 1987.
Then in 1988 came a giant step backwards when the Liberals went back off the legislation and introduced a green paper. We had draft legislation, we had a white paper and then we had the actual legislation introduced. Then I reintroduced it, then they reintroduced it, and then they reintroduced it, and then they went so far backwards they said: “Look, I don’t think it’s going to fly to reintroduce this for the fifth time. The Tories have done it twice. We didn’t let them get on with it. We have now done it twice ourselves. I don’t think, politically, it’s going to fly. We ignored it then for a couple of years, so let’s try and see if they’ll forget about the past. Let’s see if the industry, the public and the Legislature will forget that we had no priority for it and forget about the past. Let’s put out a green paper and pretend we are starting all over again.”
Of course, that did not fly very far, and the industry then began to wonder whether we would go from a green paper to a white paper to no paper and that would be the end of it. They rose up. They spoke out loud and clear, as did my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, as did my party, to say: “This has gone on long enough. We must get on with reforming the way our mining industry, our prospectors’ and developers’ industry is operating in Ontario. We have to catch up now with all of the other provinces and get into the 21st century.” But I tell the House, it has been a long struggle, and finally we are at this stage.
So I congratulate the minister on doing something that the member for Cochrane North was unable to do, that the member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway) was unable to do, that the Premier, in his capacity as Minister of Northern Development and Mines, was unable to do.
Finally, I congratulate the industries; I congratulate my colleagues, I am sure, from northern Ontario in the Liberal Party who would have come forward and said, “Look, this has gone on long enough. They are going to laugh us out of our seats in the next election. They might do it anyway, but at least let’s make some attempt to reform the Mining Act,” and I congratulate members on all sides of the House who continued to press, continued to push.
There are the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the mining industry and certainly Pat Reid, that great individualist -- the only member, I guess, to the best of my knowledge, of the Liberal-Labour Party in this chamber. Maybe there were others; he is the only one I remember in my time -- who resigned his seat in disgust with his party, moved on to the private sector and then lobbied on behalf of the industry, as we know, so effectively to get Bill 71 into this House and to get on with it.
There are a number of specifics that I know the minister will be aware the industry has talked to him about. I want also, in congratulating everyone concerned, including the minister, in getting to this stage, to say I apologize that on Thursday I could not be present in the House for his remarks. I have read through them and I read into them that he is willing, even at the 11th hour and 59th minute, to make some changes in committee of the whole House which the industry is concerned about. I hope indeed that is the case, that he will take those concerns into account.
I know he cannot take them all into account. I know he has been told, as this government has operated in so many other pieces of legislation: “Let’s leave as much as we can for regulation so we can smoke that through on our own behind closed doors” -- the member for Niagara Falls (Mr Kerrio) is here -- “the same way we developed parks policy, where we can ignore all the consultations and the open houses and all the representations. Let’s get it into regulation, not into legislation, because you know that’s debatable and it’s up front. Let’s get as much as we can into regulation where we can smoke it through without any consultation.”
I and my party will vote for this piece of legislation on second reading. We will support it. I hope that is today, and we look forward to committee of the whole deliberations on this bill, as I understand, perhaps later this week, if not early next week. Let’s hope that we can collectively, working with the partners, working with the stakeholders, with the interest group, indeed take a piece of legislation that is better than what is there and make it even better on behalf of regulating an industry so important to northern Ontario, in particular, but indeed to all of those who are dependent on the mining industry for their jobs, for their future and for all of the related jobs.
Hon Mr O’Neil: First of all, I would like to thank both the opposition critics, the member for Lake Nipigon and the member for Nipissing for their very kind comments that were given both on Thursday and today, because I also feel that Bill 71, to regulate the mining industry, is a very good one. I think I should possibly just correct a few of the things that the member for Nipissing mentioned, although I thank him for his enthusiasm and his support of the bill.
I might mention that this bill, of course, has not really been changed since approximately 1906 in any major way. Although when he became the minister in June of 1985 it might have been his desire to really bring about some changes to it and make sure it was introduced, the events of the day did not make that happen. I might mention that his party, for some 42 years, had an opportunity to make those changes and to reintroduce that bill or to introduce a new bill, and that was not done. As I say, I give him the benefit of the doubt, and it may have been that had he been there for a little longer, he certainly would have made sure a bill that is so important to the mining industry in Ontario would have been brought in right away and would have been passed.
I might also say that he mentions the two Liberal ministers who were responsible for the bill -- were there three? -- about not introducing those. I would say that in each of their ways each one of those ministers worked towards that bill’s coming forward today, and I will especially mention the member for Renfrew North, who not only was very instrumental in making sure that we had the green paper produced and that we went all around the province of Ontario listening to the comments that were made by people in the mining industry that helped to formulate that green paper but also he has been very supportive to this government not only during that time but since then. As the member says, we have to impress upon not only all the members of this Legislature but the public of Ontario how important the mining industry is to us; that last year it generated close to between $7 billion and $8 billion, and it provided many thousands upon thousands of jobs. If I had not had the support of the member for Renfrew North when I appeared before cabinet and caucus, this bill would not be here.
I would also like to say that the member for Nipissing mentioned that there was some concern in the industry, but I will tell him that both the member for Renfrew North, in his consultations with the prospectors and developers, the Ontario Mining Association and also many other groups across the province, and my own consultation with them -- I feel that we have worked very closely with him. In fact, even up to today, I believe, we have been in contact with people in these different groups. We have discussed with them the new Mining Act and the type of amendments that they would like to see. Although we may not be able to cover all of the amendments that they would like to see done, I do feel that we in the government have gone a long way in meetings and phone calls and consultation with all of these groups to bring in a bill that I feel we can be very justly proud of.
I should also like to add a word of thanks to, as I mentioned, the critics and the members of the other parties and the House leaders for allowing us to bring this bill forward. I would also like to thank the staff of the ministry who have worked very hard and very long hours in helping to put it together; also my personal staff, especially Michael Brooks, who again has worked very many long hours in helping to make this thing happen.
As the member for Nipissing mentioned, it is hoped that the bill will go to committee of the whole House some time either Wednesday or the first of the week. We will be proposing amendments which we will be sharing hopefully today with the opposition critics so that they will be aware of them. We hope to bring those amendments in during committee of the whole House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
TEACHERS’ PENSION ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 66, An Act to revise the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1983 and to make related amendments to the Teaching Profession Act.
Mr Morin-Strom: I appreciate the opportunity to be able to address this important bill. Bill 66 follows shortly Bill 36, which was addressed in this Legislature less than two weeks ago, the Public Service Pension Act. In terms of the government thrust, this bill provides many of the same types of changes governing the teachers’ superannuation agreement that the government is attempting to impose upon its civil servants in the Public Service Pension Act.
At that time, as the pensions critic for the New Democratic Party, I laid out many of the concerns we had with respect to that initiative for public servants of the province of Ontario, and many of those same arguments apply with equal force to Bill 66, which really provides no tangible benefits to the teaching profession and the security of teachers and their families in their later years.
The pensions policy of this government is certainly not a progressive one, not one that is based upon any sense of shared commitment to the future of the teachers of the province of Ontario and certainly not based on trust that teachers and their representatives would be able to act in their own best interests in formulating and negotiating a pension plan for their future.
This bill attempts to combine the existing teachers’ superannuation fund with the teachers’ superannuation adjustment fund and calls for an increase of one per cent in the employee contributions to the new fund. Teachers in the province of Ontario now pay 7.9 per cent of their gross salary to the fund which is the highest teacher contribution anywhere in Canada.
Unfortunately, the increase in the payment that is being demanded by the government will have no corresponding increases in terms of pension benefits. There is no redress to the teaching profession for the increased payments that are going to come straight out of the wages that teachers are paid in the province of Ontario.
In effect, they are going to receive a one per cent reduction in their wages for the coming year and for all successive years until they reach retirement age, and this payment is largely to pay off the mismanagement of the teachers’ superannuation fund by the government of Ontario.
Study after study has shown that the investment policy of the pension plans, whether it is the public service pension plan or in this case the teachers’ superannuation fund, have not achieved the kinds of returns that could have been achieved with diligent investment policy.
The requirement that the government has put on these pension plans, that the funds be turned right back to the government at a favourable rate of interest to the government, has led to the result that the funds have not had the kinds of returns that pension funds should have been able to achieve and have achieved in other areas, particularly in the private sector where a much more balanced investment policy has been historically used.
Bill 66 sets out what the Liberals think of as an equal partnership between government and teachers in the administration of the fund. However, in reality, the partnership as set out in Bill 66 does not give teachers an equal voice in establishing administrative policies for the plan, in determining the level of benefits to beneficiaries of the plan, in setting contribution levels or in establishing actuarial assumptions. This notion of partnership is one of the key concerns that teachers’ federations and teachers right across this province have expressed to me and to all members of this Legislature in recent months.
The teachers’ federations have complained bitterly that this bill does not provide a fair dispute resolution mechanism and that all the power remains in the hands of the cabinet. The cabinet, through order in council, controls the composition, duties and powers of the pension board and maintains control of actuarial assumptions and future surpluses. This means that teachers are not in control of their own pension funds. Again, teachers want a plan that would give them a full partnership in these decisions.
I and other members of this Legislature have in recent months received a lot of correspondence from teachers. I know with respect to the initial bill that the government tabled in this Legislature in the late spring, Bill 41, that a lot of concerns were expressed and many letters were sent to individual members of this Legislature. Now that act has been rewritten because of numerous technical faults but without many really substantive changes.
The numbers of amendments that the government saw it was going to have to introduce -- as I understand, they were looking at over 100 amendments to Bill 41 in its original form because of the technical misdrafting that the government had on that bill -- led to the result that the bill was introduced in its new form, Bill 66. The revisions to the bill did not nearly satisfy the concerns that teachers and their federations have expressed to members of this Legislature.
As an example of the kinds of concerns that we have actually been hearing from individuals throughout the many communities, I will read a letter that I received just earlier today in fact. It arrived in my office here in Toronto. It is a copy of a letter that a teacher in Sault Ste Marie wrote to the Premier of Ontario, and I think it is quite representative of the heartfelt concerns that teachers are feeling with respect to the introduction of this bill and the inadequacies in it. It is dated 21 November, less than one week ago today, and reads as follows:
“Dear Mr Premier:
“Re: Bill 66 concerning the Ontario teachers’ pension plan:
“Thank you for your letter of June 22 and the printed matter concerning the Ontario teachers’ pension plan.
“I am writing again to express my concern that in spite of a proposed increase of one per cent in my contribution to the plan (a proposal which will considerably reduce my present real income which is the major support for my spouse and two young children) the benefits for teachers will actually be negatively affected by Bill 66.
“I am especially concerned that contributions to the plan will not be mandatory upon novice teachers who may begin their careers as substitute teachers. From personal experience I know that pensions don’t seem like a priority until one has many years invested in the profession. Capitalizing on this human trait does not become a government which represents citizens at all stages of their lives.
“I am also concerned that many retired teachers -- a large percentage being women -- who for many well documented reasons did not earn salaries as high as male colleagues are presently subsisting on $8,000 a year. I urge you to change the basis of their pensions to the best five earning years.
“Although I am not directly affected by either of these concerns, I cannot support or applaud a plan that will decrease my family’s real income at a time when we need it most when any additional contributions are not going to help improve the lives of other citizens of Ontario.
“I urge you to reconsider the OTF’s position on Bill 66.
“Thank you for your attention to this pressing matter.”
I think this is quite indicative of the concerns that we have been hearing from teachers right across the province of Ontario. This is a bill which is asking teachers and their families to give up an additional one per cent of their wages to fund a pension plan which does not include any improvements, including improvements to pensioners who at relatively low cost to the government could have improvements that would make a significant difference in their lives.
Many older retirees who were teachers back in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and have now been retired for a number of years are currently living at wages which are really at poverty levels because the pensions they were provided were totally inadequate.
Teachers today have asked, on behalf of their colleagues who served the profession well in previous years, that significant improvements be made to those numbers of elderly pensioners who have assisted in bringing our young people up to the level of educational achievement that we have been able to achieve in the province of Ontario, but this province and this government is unwilling to look at even relatively low cost improvements that would affect those who are most severely disadvantaged by inadequate pensions.
There are a number of concerns that teachers feel with respect to this bill. We know that across Canada millions of Canadian employees do have the right to decide their future through pension negotiations. The teachers’ superannuation fund was established in 1917, but 72 years later the Ontario government still controls teachers’ pensions unilaterally.
Teachers and the government are at loggerheads over a simple issue. Teachers want a say in the management of their pension funds; they want a say about how much they pay; they want a say about how much they are going to get back for what they pay, and they want a say about how the assets of the funds are going to be managed.
Surely this is not too unreasonable a request. After all, teachers and their unions have the rights today to be able to negotiate salary levels, working conditions and benefits in a wide variety of areas. Why do we, as a government, prevent the teachers from having those same kinds of rights with respect to negotiating improvements and the terms of reference for their own pension plan?
Surely within the private sector we have an established principle that unions do have the right to negotiate the levels of pension benefits and the pension plans they are going to look forward to in their retirement years. I do not understand why a government that has established that right in the private sector would want to deny it in the public sector to the teaching profession.
The government must have an understanding of the competence and the ability of teachers to be able to negotiate pension plans that will reasonably protect not only themselves and their families but also the funds that are in those plans, for future generations.
Last September, the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) invited the Ontario Teachers’ Federation to enter into the negotiations, or discussions as the government would call them, to strike a new pension deal. The Treasurer set the agenda for the pension discussions. He said: “Teachers and the government should be full and equal partners in the amount they contribute to the plan, in the way they share risks and rewards and in the role they play in the management of the pension funds in the future.” But when the OTF demanded a mechanism to resolve disputes between equals, the Treasurer totally broke off discussions and prepared to legislate the future of the teachers of this province.
This government has been unwilling to negotiate a real deal with the teachers of the province of Ontario. Teachers are insisting that a dispute mechanism be established so that they will have the ability to reach a fairly agreed upon settlement when it comes to pension disputes.
There has been tremendous confusion from the government as well in terms of the valuation of the teachers’ pension plans. When pension discussions began in the spring of 1988, the surplus in the teachers’ superannuation fund was said to be at a level of $461 million. Then last fall when the teachers’ superannuation commission’s actuaries actually discovered that they underestimated annual salaries, the surplus plunged to an estimated $33 million. But before Christmas the government and OTF representatives agreed that the commission’s actuarial assumptions again were too conservative. During pension talks government actuaries then set the teachers’ superannuation fund surplus at some $1.8 billion.
The confusion between the various figures with respect to the actual status of this plan has not lent any credibility to this government with respect to its ability to manage, control and know what is going on with the pension funds of the teachers of the province of Ontario.
Tremendous concern has been expressed by teachers over the years about the inadequacy of the rates of return on the pension investments. Those pension funds have not gone into investment at market rates. They have not been able to go into the private sector into investments in stocks and bonds. Instead the funds have always gone back to the government for the government’s own use and, for many years, at rates of interest which were much below the going rates.
Until recently, the government borrowed from the teachers’ superannuation fund at below market rates. For example, back in 1972, the teachers’ superannuation fund had more than $700 million in assets rolled over at six per cent. That was some 2.57 percent lower than the going rate for investment of new pension money. But what is worse, that $700 million was locked in at six per cent for 15 to 20 years, years that boasted the highest interest rates in Canadian history.
As a result, while many private pension plans were building up significant surpluses, the teachers’ superannuation fund was not generating those same kinds of surpluses, and now the government is faced with what it claims is a combined deficit between the two plans that are being joined in this bill.
In the mid-1970s and back, it was the then opposition leader, the current Treasurer, who chastised the Conservative government for borrowing some $70 million over 20 years from the teachers’ superannuation fund at more than two per cent less than what the government was paying to borrow on regular money markets. In the late 1970s, when the pension commission’s conservative assumption showed that the teachers’ superannuation fund was in deficit, the government whined because it had to make good on its bad fund management.
For most of the last 72 years, governments have mismanaged the teachers’ superannuation fund. They have not tried to maximize the return on the investment of Ontario teachers’ deferred wages so that the contributions from taxpayers and teachers could have been reduced or pensions could have been improved and secured.
In fact, this fund has suffered from a most ridiculous conflict of interest. It is the responsibility of the Treasurer to borrow for the province at the lowest possible rates, but the Treasurer also is the one who is in control of the assets of the province’s largest creditor, the teachers’ superannuation fund.
The subject of this mismanagement has been a major focus of a number of studies that have been commissioned by the government itself. I would just like to point out some of the recommendations contained in some of the most recent of those studies. It is most unfortunate that this government has not reacted in this legislation to the recommendations its own experts have made to them in these studies.
For example, in August 1987, a report prepared by Laurence Coward was submitted to the Treasurer on the financing of benefits under the Superannuation Adjustment Benefits Act and associated superannuation plans. This report, which was not released until early 1988, is quite a damning one in terms of the investment policy that has been undertaken by the government of Ontario when it comes to teachers’ superannuation funds. I will just read briefly from the executive summary and recommendations of this report.
On page 3 it says: “The PSSF” -- the public service superannuation fund -- “and TSF” -- teachers’ superannuation fund -- “are invested in deposits or debentures with terms of 20 to 25 years. Historically the return on such investments has been poor if changes in capital values are allowed for. Investment of the cash flow in marketable securities would be expected to increase the rate of return of the fund. Such a policy would remove the criticism that the government obtains a subsidy through investing members’ contributions at less than competitive rates and would improve the employees’ understanding of investment realities.”
The reality is that the funds have not been achieving the rates of return that other pension funds have been able to achieve because of those investment policies. As a result, we have a government that is now asking teachers to fund the government’s mistake and is asking teachers to pay another one per cent higher payment out of their monthly earnings in order to redress the inadequacies of previous government investment policies. Not only are teachers going to have to pay for those mistakes, but of course the penalty has also been on the taxpayers of Ontario over the years.
Related to the Coward report was a second report undertaken almost at the same time by Malcolm Rowan. It was issued in November 1987. This was a result of the Task Force on the Investment of Public Service Pension Funds and the report is entitled In Whose Interest? I think the title of the report is an indication of the concern that it expresses with respect to whose interest is really being taken into consideration in the investment policies of the pension funds of the public servants, and in this case, of the teachers of the province of Ontario.
The fact is that the interests that have been served have been the government’s own interests in terms of getting a cheap source of funds for the province of Ontario, certainly not the interests of its own employees, and in particular of teachers, with respect to ensuring that the best possible return would be achieved in their pension fund.
I just note, from page 1 of the summary and recommendations, some of the key points made by Malcolm Rowan and his task force in this report to the Treasurer.
The first conclusion is that “$16.7 billion or 45 per cent of all public sector pension fund assets are invested in nonmarket government debt and at rates of return below that which could be achieved if invested in a diversified portfolio of market investments.”
He goes on in point 2, “Ontario taxpayers could potentially benefit by at least $1.2 billion over a period of 10 years if the teachers’ superannuation fund (TSF), the public service superannuation fund (PSSF), the superannuation adjustment fund (SAF) and Ontario’s Canada pension plan (CPP) funds were invested in market investments.
Point 3 says, “Economic enhancement can best be achieved if public sector pension funds are invested in the capital market.”
This is one of the key conclusions of this report and of other reports that have been commissioned by this government. Malcolm Rowan then follows up these conclusions with a number of recommendations. These recommendations include the recommendation that the teachers’ superannuation fund should be invested in market investments. They have also asked that public sector pension fund investment should not be further centralized. Surely this is a case, I suggest, where we should be taking this advice and ensuring that the same type of fiduciary responsibility that is expected of private sector pension funds also apply to the teachers’ superannuation fund.
There are no provisions in Bill 66 that would ensure the management of the fund would be done with a fiduciary responsibility ensuring that the directors of the fund be responsible for the funds investment policy and ensuring that the fund achieve a maximum rate of return on investments.
This point is further illustrated by another of the recommendations from the Rowan report where he says, “Public sector funds should be governed by the same rules as private sector funds.”
Unfortunately, this legislation, Bill 66, includes provisions that ensure the teachers’ superannuation fund will not have to live by the same type of strict financial responsibilities that are demanded of private sector pension funds.
I know the same types of concerns would apply to this bill as have been expressed by professional actuaries with respect to the public sector pension bill. That bill, Bill 36, is currently in committee, and last week in the standing committee on general government we heard from professional actuaries that in their opinion the same kinds of responsibilities that are being applied to private sector funds are not going to be demanded in this bill and in that bill, Bill 36. The same kinds of arguments can be made with respect to this bill on the teachers’ superannuation fund.
The government is letting itself off the hook, for example, by allowing some 40 years to fund unfunded liabilities in the fund, while in the private sector, deficits or unfunded liabilities have to be funded within a period of 15 years. The government is not applying to itself the same kinds of responsibilities for balanced management of the funds and for ensuring that the funds are put into a diversified portfolio. The government is reserving the right to put the vast majority of these funds back into the province itself as an ongoing means of low-cost financing of the government’s ongoing deficits.
The final recommendation of particular concern from the Rowan report is his recommendation that, “Plan members should participate in pension fund decision-making.” To me, that is the key to this whole proposal, the inability of this government to see that pension funds belong to the workers of this province. In this case, the teachers of this province should have a real role in being able to manage, control and negotiate -- at least to be able to negotiate -- on an equal basis their pension futures. This government, in this bill, maintains its control over the pension funds, denying teachers the kinds of rights that are available to any other employees in Ontario.
Following the Coward and Rowan reports was another attempt to stall in terms of government initiative with respect to reforming public sector pension funds in Ontario. Dr David Slater was commissioned to do another report for the Treasurer. This was issued a year ago, following up on the Rowan and Coward reports.
The Slater report provides many of the same recommendations to the Treasurer, including the following, which are again right from the executive summary. Rather than going into detail, I will just bring some of the key points home that I wish this government would listen to, as they have been presented to it: (1) “To invest the pension funds in marketable assets”; (2) “To place the pension program on an arm’s-length basis to the government”; (3) “To increase the level of formal plan member involvement”; (4) “To have the government pay the costs of the large unfunded liabilities for pension rights arising from past service.”
These concerns reflect the kinds of concerns teachers have with respect to their pension funds. This government is unwilling to accept responsibility for the mismanagement of the funds in the past, for the inadequacy of the rates of return on those funds, and now is asking the teachers to make up the difference and increase their level of contributions to rectify inadequacies in the past.
I suggest that this government has not looked realistically at an open forum of discussions with the teachers’ federations. They have not listened to the concerns that have been expressed by the teachers’ federations across this province. They continue to act unilaterally in reasserting government control over the teachers’ pension plans.
In this bill, the government suggests the possibility of options for either a joint partnership in running the pension plan or for a third option where potentially teachers could have control of their own pension plan. However, it is quite clear what the government’s preferred option is, and that is what is the detail of the bill. The detail of the bill is the ongoing, continued government control of this pension plan, where all the decision-making, the control of the board, the administration and the terms of reference for fund management are totally in the government’s hands.
That is the content of the bill. It is only in the introductory notes to the bill that there is the suggestion of the possibility of working out an arrangement for either a joint partnership or a teacher control option that could override the detail of the balance of the bill as it has been written. Unfortunately, there are inadequacies in the indication the government has given for these other two options.
The joint partnership model as outlined in Bill 66 is unacceptable. That model allows teachers to share risks and rewards, but does not give the teachers an equal voice in the partnership. If the government and teachers are to share the risks and rewards, they must also share equally in establishing the administrative policies for the plan, in determining the level of benefits to the plan beneficiaries, in setting contribution levels and in establishing the actuarial assumptions. At the present time, that is not assured in this option, which is thrown out as a possibility.
The other option the government is suggesting as a possibility is an option of teacher control, of their taking over the funds and managing them themselves. However, the model outlined in Bill 66 does not give teachers control of their pension plan. In this model and in the Bill 66 partnership model, cabinet through order in council controls the composition, duties and powers of the pension board and maintains control of the actuarial assumptions and future surpluses.
When it comes to concern about the funding of this plan, one of the most serious concerns has to do with the potential for surpluses in the plan, given better fiscal management in the future. It is absolutely essential that any surplus must remain part of the assets of the teachers’ superannuation fund. The government must assume sole responsibility for the existing unfunded liability in the teachers’ superannuation fund. Unfortunately, the government is attempting to take any surpluses that may be built up to be able to apply to liabilities in the adjustment fund.
As well, with respect to contribution rates, of course the concern is that teachers are paying one of the highest contribution rates in the country, at 7.9 per cent today, and this bill is asking that they be moved up from that to 8.9 per cent of their gross wages. In many respects, however, the teachers’ pension plans are not as good with respect to provisions such as early retirement as pension plans in other provinces of Canada.
I will just come back, in closing, to the serious concerns our party feels with respect to the most fundamental issue in this bill, and that is the total lack of any real negotiability that is contained in Bill 66. This government continues the paternalism of the past. It wants to dictate the terms of the pension plan of the teachers of this province.
Surely it is time we had a progressive look at pension reform and that we had a Minister of Education who was willing to enter into open and honest negotiations with the teachers’ federations of this province, give them the right to be able to determine what they believe is in the best interests of the teachers of this province, and include within that the right to an arbitration mechanism that will ensure disputes can be resolved in a fair manner, not in the dictatorial manner that has been the government approach in the past and that one would certainly expect, under the wording of the current bill, will continue to be the government approach in the future.
Our party feels this bill is completely inadequate. This bill will have to go to committee for extensive public hearings to give the teachers of this province the opportunity to bring their points of view directly to the government. We ask the government to consider serious changes to this bill. As it is currently written, the bill is totally inadequate and would have to be most strongly opposed by our party and I certainly will be doing that.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Any comments or questions? There being none, further debate.
An hon member: The minister is speechless.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Burlington South.
Hon Mr Conway: The junior senator from Georgia now is recognized.
The Acting Speaker: Now, now, you just had your chance to say something.
Mr Jackson: We will remember that the Minister of Education has already expressed interest in the Speaker’s chair, based on his performance as the Education minister of this province. I will have to check the remuneration levels to determine whether or not that represents a good deal, but it certainly is a safe place for the Minister of Education in this day and age in Ontario.
Hon Mr Conway: Cam is much better extemporaneously. Don’t read this, Cam; you’re not going to do yourself justice.
Mr Jackson: I will be more than pleased to respond to the minister in debate and I invite him to the public hearings. I suspect it would be a refreshing change for the Minister of Education to attend public hearings on behalf of his government. As we speak, we are engaged in a serious matter dealing with the pooling of industrial-commercial assessment in this province and its division between separate and public systems. However, the minister is required in the House, but I certainly would love to see him for the first time at those public hearings, which will continue throughout today and during this week and, hopefully, next week.
Mr Speaker, before you rise to advise the purpose of today’s discussion is with Bill 66, the long-awaited teachers’ pension act and the amendments to the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, I would like to indicate my pleasure at being able to participate in this debate in anticipation of those public meetings.
I would like to say at the outset in debating this legislation that it would be easy to leave the level of discussion on that of numbers and technical points, but the issue that is facing all members of our House today with respect to Bill 66 is not one that can be buried in those numbers and placed out of sight by statistics for it is an issue that has to do with the fundamental principle of fairness -- fairness towards the teachers and the teaching profession in our province.
The way in which this government has dealt with our teachers in the past and the way in which it is dealing with them at this very moment is a source of grave concern for every person who holds dear the future of our public education system.
This government seems to have forgotten that excellence is a product of commitment of talent and labour and it is no less significant a lesson for those of us who serve in public life here as legislators with respect to our work but it seems to have escaped this government that it has forgotten as well that the high standards of excellence which characterize our educational system were also established that way and they continue to be maintained by our teachers and by their personal efforts and sacrifices as professionals and as members of our society.
What teachers expect from this government is to be treated as professionals, as contributing members of our society. Instead, this government does not consult with them on matters which impact on teacher professionalism, such as pensions, nor does it even address the human context in which the financial object involving teachers is embedded.
When I stood in the House recently to ask the Minister of Education about how he intends to deal with the impact of his new government’s insurance plan and what effect that will have on benefits for teachers, he was flabbergasted. He seemed caught unawares of the significant impact that legislation was going to have on teachers and trustees and taxpayers.
I say to that minister that his demonstration of his lack of knowledge of such an important issue relating to our teachers is really part of the witch’s brew which he himself referred to that day in the Legislature that is the real issue which is stirring within the Ministry of Education over the support that he and his government have shown for the teaching profession.
The message he is sending to the teachers of this province is one which has serious repercussions not only for the future of our educational system in Ontario but also for the future of the teaching profession. If this government had listened to the concerns of teachers or had taken responsive note of the particular problems that our teachers deal with on a daily basis in the classrooms, then it would know that teachers often find themselves between a rock and a hard place when it comes to fulfilling their mandate as educators.
One major reason for this is that teachers find that societal expectations upon them are very great, that governments, parents, the media, the workforce and students each have their own perception of what teachers are and what they are to have accomplished on our behalf in our schools.
Many teachers feel that the general perception of them is being all things to all people. Some parents expect them to step in as a role model to fill in what is missing in their own home lives. Students want, in some instances, instructors who meet their own exacting demands with respect to their perception of a with-it or an entertaining teacher.
We indeed expect a great deal from the teachers, as we expect that they will always be there to bail us out whenever problems develop in the way in which our young people and our children are socialized in our schools. We must come to realize the tremendous strain which these expectations place teachers under as we must ourselves learn to appreciate what it costs in personal terms for many teachers who rise well above and beyond the call of duty to reach out to our young people and to make a difference in their developing lives. Only with such an informed perception of the teachers’ perspective may we even begin to consider what we really, truly owe them in society. When it comes to pensions, I believe this government at least owes teachers the same fair treatment that it extends to others in society.
If this government will take a hard and a punitive stance with this sector of society, then that same Liberal government is capable of taking a hard and punitive stance with Ontario seniors and their benefits, with individuals on family benefits and their pensions and their assistance, or with the disabled. I see limited difference in the way this government would exercise power when it comes to various sectors in society.
Rather, this government should exercise every initiative at this point to assure the teachers in our classroom that their work is valued and that their personal efforts on behalf of students is appreciated and acknowledged. We must remember there are almost two million children being taught by almost 100,000 teachers in classrooms in elementary and secondary schools all across Ontario as we speak today, but nothing this government has done since it took office with respect to our teachers would indicate that it shares the sentiments or that it respects their critical role in our society.
The pensions legislation that is before us is just one more instance of this government’s unwillingness to exercise fairness towards the teachers and to treat them as the committed professionals they are in empowering them to decide, as partners with the government, the direction and the fate of their own pension funds. As it has done with so many professionals before them, this government has instead chosen to achieve a legislated resolution to this issue so as to circumvent its responsibility to let the teachers have a meaningful input into the decision-making process touching their own pensions.
Yet the empowering of teaching professionals in this way would effectively strengthen not only the profession as a whole but also would send a much-needed message of support to the individual teachers in the classrooms across this province. It is clear that with the largest majority in Ontario’s modern history, the Liberals will use their power to impose their definition of a new relationship with the teachers in Ontario. It comes as no surprise to find that this government tends to view groups such as teachers in the abstract. The Treasurer on occasion has called them overpaid; the Premier has referred to them as complainers, and the government invites confrontation and not co-operation, consultation and respect which alone are the true hallmarks of any good government.
This government cannot see the real face of education. If it did, it would see a teacher of the calibre of Arthur Christmas from the city of Sarnia. Art is the head of the music department at St Clair Secondary School, where he continues to demonstrate a continued commitment to educational excellence in that after six years of untiring effort he has expanded his program to include 17 classes with 400 students, three concert bands, three stage bands, a brass choir and concert jazz and show choirs.
He has accomplished all of this as a teacher, but in addition to the considerable demands of his time, Art teaches his students the value of community involvement and community service, and he teaches this by example. Art is director of his own community singing group, a group that has raised and donated more than $100,000 to everything from raising roofs on churches to tornado relief funds.
Art is also intensely involved in other community groups and gives free assistance advice to theatrical and music groups -- all this while Arthur Christmas battles the disease of cancer on a daily basis. This is what being a teacher means to Art Christmas and this is what it means to many like him across our province. This is what taxpayers in Sarnia see in the teaching profession, people who are entrusted to inspire the children.
It begs an important question. What is it about our teachers and about teachers such as Art that would want to make this government distrust them in the way it has with this legislation? Why does it refuse to deal fairly with them as partners in a decision-making process that is not only related to how this government thinks about the teachers, but more importantly is also related to how teachers think about themselves as committed professionals dedicated to affirming our most fundamental human values as learned by children in our schools?
I say to this government that by treating teachers fairly on the issue of their pensions, as well as on others, it is in effect undermining one of the most important agencies of social cohesiveness and equilibrium that we have at our disposal. If this government is blind to the committed work of teachers like Art Christmas, then it should at least open its eyes with respect to the ongoing need Ontario has for the personal examples of community leadership which our teachers provide to our younger generation.
If this government wants to effect meaningful social change, as it has said it does on so many occasions, then surely it must realize that such change can mainly be brought about through working with teachers and all that their professionalism and human example embodies. For whatever reason, this government stands now ready to make major, and in some ways adverse, amendments to the teachers’ pension act.
On Thursday 19 January 1989, the Treasurer delivered his statement in the House in an attempt to begin to deal with the burgeoning problems with inflation protection benefits in public sector pensions. Inflation protection to both public servants and teachers was enshrined by the two superannuation adjustment funds which were established in 1975 but were based on matching contributions by government and employees based on one per cent of pay plus interest earned.
The problem which had arisen is one of imbalance in terms of the increase in the number of retirees relative to the number of contributors to the adjustment funds. This imbalance will, according to both the Rowan and the Coward pension reports, impact unfairly on future taxpayers and on plan members who will have to pay more out of their own earnings to secure full indexation of their benefits.
Bill 66 is the Treasurer’s attempt to solve this problem. In accordance with the Rowan and Coward reports the Treasurer determined to merge both plans to provide one fund for teachers, with the government continuing to act as sole sponsors and guarantors of the fund. Again in accordance with the reports, the pension fund will be invested in marketable securities while full 100 per cent inflation protection will continue together with existing levels of benefit. The Treasurer also stated that teachers as well as public servants would be asked to contribute an additional one per cent of their pay to sustain the funding for future benefits.
Thus far the Treasurer maintained an objective administrative façade in trying to demonstrate how seriously he took the informed conclusions of experts in dealing with the teachers’ pension plan. In fact, the Treasurer’s actions with respect to the pension plan appear almost mechanical, almost a knee-jerk. His initiatives in the areas of pension reform, he says, follow upon the recommendations of the reports his own ministry commissioned to investigate the existing state of affairs.
Yet one very important aspect of pension reform, the validity of which can also be established by invoking the conclusions of those pension reports, was left out of the Treasurer’s grand pension design. That aspect has to do with the question of the empowerment of the teachers as partners -- which they are by virtue of the fact that half of the fund is their money contributed by them -- in determining the course of direction for all future pension planning.
The Treasurer makes much of his stated intention to follow the recommendations of the pension reports, but how has he handled negotiations with teachers on this fundamental point of teacher participation and empowerment? One of Dr Slater’s key proposals was that teachers and public servants should become full partners and joint trustees with the government in administering the plans and sharing future risks and rewards. Having followed the good advice of his consultants to the letter, the Treasurer then suddenly chose to take a different course of action when it came to this matter. In the Treasurer’s own words, he stated he felt that whole partnership in the conduct of our pension agreements is not possible at this time, at which point negotiations between the Treasurer and the teachers broke off.
I firmly believe that the Treasurer has a direct responsibility to take into account all of the recommendations of the pension reports that were commissioned to examine the current financial and administrative status of teachers’ pensions, including the recommendations for full participation in the decision-making processes by the teachers. Clearly, the Treasurer has failed to ensure that his Premier’s stated open-government policy is extended to our teachers and has instead opted for that course of action which is all too characteristic of this government, that of unilateral action without the effective participation in the political decision-making processes by those who are impacted most by those government decisions.
Nevertheless, the Treasurer appears to have found a way out with his elusive promises to establish limited partnerships with the teachers. For this Treasurer, full partnership is to be equated with the teachers’ request for binding arbitration, which the Treasurer has rejected.
But let us examine for a moment the relationship between the idea of full partnership and that of binding arbitration in proper context. I would like to say at the outset that I reject what is perceived to be the equation of the Treasurer’s for full partnership with binding arbitration, as if the former necessarily includes the latter. Furthermore, it is an equation which was first arrived at by the Treasurer and not with the teachers. What is critical to consider here is that a difference between the two ideas can be demonstrated and once that is achieved it can be shown that the rejection of full partnership by the Treasurer is a clear administrative flaw in his pension reform scheme, as it is in my view an indication of what can be called a lack of democratic nerve. That lack of democratic nerve is with regard to the empowerment of teachers with respect to their own pension matters.
Binding arbitration involves the introduction of a third, neutral, party in negotiations between two others. In this case, the two parties are the teachers and the government and the third party’s decision on specific positions taken during negotiations are to be accepted by the former. This means that a government decision could be overridden should a gridlock occur in negotiations with teachers. This also means that the very role of government is substantially altered in the process. If the role of government is that of objective arbiter which is open to the views of citizens and allows those views to inform its administrative decisions and otherwise exercises a unifying influence on society, then clearly the rationale for binding arbitration is absent, nor is there a need for it, under those circumstances and under that definition I have set out.
If, however, the government assumes a posture of conflict and unilateral action with respect to citizens and sectors in society, neither paying heed to democratically voiced concerns nor empowering them by allowing their legitimate views to guide the course of policy initiatives, then under that altered role definition it is small wonder that binding arbitration is invoked by citizens as the final way in which the democratic process may be ensured for everyone. In short, this government refused to listen to good advice and counsel from the Coward, Rowan and Slater reports. Therefore, it has shown its unwillingness to listen to pensioners and to their rights in this province.
This Liberal government has established quite a record of administration by conflict in this province. Rather than exercise its mandate to unify society, this government has consistently collided with diverse groups, especially professionals, by acting unilaterally and without paying heed to the input which these groups put forth on their own behalf once they saw that this government’s interests were opposed and in conflict with their own.
Democracy is not just the ability to be heard and taken notice of; it implies something much more fundamental than just that. Democracy means that political power is acknowledged to reside in the citizens rather than in the government, and this Legislature is simply an expression of the power which our citizens have invested in us. Democracy cannot be effective when citizens perceive that they are without the effective means to exercise their power in the political arena; in fact, in this legislative arena.
The model proposed by the Treasurer in Bill 66 is flawed. Full partnership is something this Treasurer must reconsider. The challenge before him is to find or establish the necessary mechanisms whereby our teachers are given the democratic right to exercise an empowered responsibility over their own pensions -- mechanisms, I add, which are recommended in his own consultants’ reports and to which he has said, at least in principle, he is committed.
I recommend that this legislation be referred to committee to ensure that our teachers have as broad a range as possible to communicate their views in a democratic, open forum and to see them acted on by this government. Without that government responsiveness to the teachers’ request for independence and without a flexible attitude on the part of the Liberal members of that committee, who control a simple majority during those public hearings, those public hearings quite frankly will be a sorry excuse for the unrealistic hope that this government is truly interested in listening.
Democracy is a lesson which must be continually relearned and relived if it is to continue as a meaningful political endeavour. In its negotiations with our teachers on Bill 66, it is hoped that this government learns the true meaning of that lesson once and for all.
Mr McLean: I would like to comment briefly on the statement given by my colleague the of issues which I agree with totally. It brought to the forefront the background of the superannuation problem that they are having with the government, and I think the member gave a very excellent speech. I know it would do the minister well to listen, to observe and to put into place some of the comments he made.
Mr J. B. Nixon: I would just like to say that I have heard a lot of noble sentiments expressed, but the previous speakers really have not spoken to the fundamental problem this bill is intended to address, and that is a horrible deficit in a pension plan which is guaranteed by the government of Ontario. For the first time in the history of Ontario the government has taken the decision to fully fund that deficit and ensure that from now and for all time in the future the teachers’ pensions will be guaranteed and put on a sound financial footing. That is the essential problem that the bill addresses. I commend the government of Ontario for having taken this serious important action.
Mr Neumann: Further to the comments of my colleague the member for York Mills, I would state as well that I think the speech of the honourable member would have been improved had he perhaps recognized the historical basis for what led to the legislation. The problem before this government and before this province with respect to this issue is well known and well documented. It is one which the government could perhaps have ignored and put off for some years and left to a further generation of legislators in this assembly to deal with, but it has been faced head-on and a resolution has been found to the issue. I would think that the honourable member should recognize that the roots of this problem go back to the time when his party formed the government in this jurisdiction.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I would like to make a few comments in reference to the debate today. One person mentioned receiving many statements from teachers explaining their frustration at the process. Perhaps they do not understand it; if that is the case, then surely at committee level we will have an opportunity to explain what is happening. They have expressed their concerns that they are being levied with an extra one per cent. They do not feel it is necessary; they have a great deal of difficulty in accepting the fact that there is a deficit position and how it has come about. I really do not think that financial information is getting through to the teachers. It may be getting out to some part of the teachers’ profession per se, but not to the individual teachers.
I think that we as legislators have a responsibility to make sure that the individual teachers are aware of what is happening. There is some information that is definitely needed for clarification. They have a problem in understanding what has happened in the past and how it relates to the future, whether they should be involved in a sharing program, if it will be better financially for them and also provide the security that they need. That too has to be explained so that it will not be something that is foisted upon them without their input and their knowledge.
They have expressed a lot of concerns, and there seems to be some gap in the information process. I am not sure what the problem is or how to address it, but there definitely is a need to do something about it. I would hope that this at least will come about in the hearing process.
Mr Jackson: I appreciate the opportunity to respond to all the very kind comments. I want to thank the member for Brampton for invoking the history of the pension reform in this province.
Mr Neumann: The member for Brampton isn’t here.
Mr Jackson: There is no question that we appreciate he is dealing with the issue before we have to, as an opposition today, but as the government after the next election we might have to deal with this. But we would have dealt with this issue in a different way, and I invite the member to the public hearings and the final debate in order to determine the difference between his government’s approach and ours.
In fact, our party is very proud of the fact that in Ontario we were open and sensitive and listening to the need for superannuated teachers for additional protection, and therefore the legislation exists here, which cannot be said of all jurisdictions in this country. We did that, as the member knows, because it was not the Ontario Conservative government that was responsible for the wicked inflation that ravaged this nation in the early parts of this decade, but 19 years of Liberal excessive spending federally. We in Ontario had to deal with that. At least we could deal with it from a perspective of appreciating the importance of the teaching profession who work in this province. But I do appreciate the member invoking that point of historical reference for all in this House. We look forward to his further contributions on matters related to education with similar exactitude.
I would like to thank my colleagues the member for Wellington (Mr J. M. Johnson) and the member for Simcoe East (Mr McLean), who contribute quite frequently in caucus discussions with respect to public education and support for the teachers’ profession. That is why I am not the least bit surprised that they were here to participate in the debate on this important issue.
Mr Neumann: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): A point of privilege? The honourable member for Brantford indicated that it should have referred to the honourable member for Brantford, not Brampton.
Mr Neumann: I was going to bring that to your attention, Mr Speaker, but then I did not recognize myself in his response.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Hampton: I am pleased to be able to participate in this debate because I consider it a very important one. Having been a teacher myself and having worked in two areas of the province as a teacher, I think I know from my own contributions to teachers’ pension plans how large those contributions are and what effect they can have on someone’s salary.
When I first began teaching, someone said to me, “Aren’t you happy to be in an occupation that pays relatively well?” Then I got my first paycheque and saw how much of it went into my teachers’ pension plan and how little was left for me to pay my bills with. I soon realized that the teachers’ superannuation fund takes a very large chunk out of each and every teacher’s pocket. From what I can see and from the figures I have looked at, it has been a great benefit to the government and not necessarily a great benefit to the teachers who at some point receive the pension benefits.
I want to say as well that I am a little disappointed. This is particularly important legislation. It has an impact on the province and it has an impact on a number of people whom we rely upon in this province to give dedicated service. Yet I look and I see all of four government members in the Legislature, four of 94 in the Legislature, to take part in this debate. I think that represents exactly this government’s attitude towards the teaching profession.
It has been nowhere better illustrated than the process that the government has followed in dealing with this legislation, because the government has basically said to teachers: “Look, we are in control here. No matter what the Slater report said, no matter what the Coward report said, we are in control here. We are a majority government, we are going to do it our way and you people can suffer.” That is essentially what has happened here.
All we need to do is look at any publication from any teachers’ organization to understand how upset the teaching profession is with this government’s high-handedness and with its arrogance. Let me refer to Newstoday, a publication of the Ontario Public School Teachers’ Federation, a federation to which I used to belong. Under the heading “President’s Viewpoint,” it states quite bluntly on the first page of the publication of 23 October 1989:
“On October 19, 1989, the Liberal government withdrew Bill 41, An Act to revise the Teachers’ Superannuation Act. Minister of Education, Sean Conway, then reintroduced pension legislation (now titled Bill 66) to allow for a number of technical modifications. The substance of the bill remains unchanged. It has been suggested that the restrictive text of the legislation compares to the War Measures Act and the authority conveyed to cabinet is similar to how the Family Compact operated in Upper Canada in the early 1800s. Even if these analogies are slight exaggerations, the bottom line is: the legislation is regressive and unacceptable.”
OPSTF is not the only federation that has been trying to give the government a message on this legislation. Virtually every teachers’ federation in the province and individual teachers themselves have written to the Premier, to the Minister of Education and likely to every member of this Legislature, but certainly to every government member of this Legislature, to impress upon the government how high-handed, I repeat, and how arrogant they are behaving in all of this.
What exactly do the teachers object to? I hear government members give their short speeches and say, “The government is acting on behalf of fiscal responsibility, and teachers are being unreasonable and teachers are being self-serving.” Let us look at what teachers are objecting to, and let us consider who is being reasonable here; very succinctly, what it is that annoys them.
First of all, the legislation has no provision for a binding dispute resolution mechanism. In this context, what we mean by a binding dispute resolution is that you have one party to the pension plan, the provincial government, and you have another party to the pension plan, the teachers. Teachers contribute a very large chunk of money to this pension plan, money out of their pockets.
Any arbitrator I have talked to lately, or any arbitration report I have read lately, has simply said that teachers’ contributions to pension plans are just that, teachers’ contributions, and employer contributions are essentially in lieu of wages; in other words, they are wages forgone. An employee forgoes wages today in order to get a decent contribution from the employer to his pension plan for tomorrow. This is not a radical idea. As I say, it has been mentioned by arbitrators.
If the members go back to that wonderful Liberal creation called the Anti-Inflation Board, they will see that some of that board’s decisions looked specifically at pensions and said, “Yes, pensions are wages forgone.” The Anti-Inflation Review Board actually looked at wages forgone and included them in percentage increase calculations of salaries when the Anti-Inflation Board was controlling salaries. I say they controlled salaries because they did not do a very good job of controlling prices. In fact, I do not think they every tried. That was another marvellous Liberal creation, only at another level of government.
In this case there is no provision for a binding dispute resolution mechanism. In other words, if the teachers and the government have a disagreement over the pension plan, will there be a neutral third party who can be asked to render an opinion as to what is reasonable in the circumstances? No, there will not be a neutral third party. The government will decide who is reasonable and who is unreasonable. How ludicrous. One of the parties to the agreement will tell the other party to the agreement when someone is being unreasonable, when someone is not acting properly, when someone is demanding too much or when investments are being made in the way that the legislation calls for. There is unilateral control; the government will decide, and teachers can like it or lump it.
Is that a reasonable position, that there should be no neutral third party to decide on these things? Is that a reasonable position in a democratic and civilized society? Any political scientist I have looked at lately would say it is not. Any jurist I have read lately would say it is not. Yet this government insists it is the teachers who are being unreasonable.
The teachers also note that this legislation will give control of present and future surpluses in the plan to the government. In other words, if the contributions from teachers and government are put into the plan, and over a period of time investments turn out to be lucrative and a surplus results, or if a number of teachers leave the pension plan such that a surplus results, then the surplus, under this legislation, will accrue entirely to the government.
Since arbitrators will say that pension contributions are wages forgone, is this confiscation by the government of pension funds a reasonable thing in a civilized and democratic society? I do not have to answer that question. The courts have already answered it for us.
There is a gentleman, Conrad Black, who decided a few years ago that he would unilaterally exercise control over his employees’ pension plan. He was going to be very coy about it. First of all, he would declare all of his employees surplus, close the stores, and then take $68 million out of the pension plan. That was his idea of fairness. Our courts, thank God, took a very careful look at the legislation and said: “This cannot be. This cannot be allowed. This is a trust fund. We will not allow Mr Black to do this.”
Most recently, an Ontario court has had the opportunity to look at the Ontario Hydro employees’ pension plan and has held essentially the same thing. It has said that, looking at pension schemes in a fair and reasonable way, the surplus cannot accrue entirely to the employer; it is the employees’ funds.
That is what the courts are saying. Has this government listened to the courts? No. This government is going to use its power as a majority government to ignore what Ontario courts have been saying about fair pension schemes, and it is going to bring in this legislation which will cause any surplus in the pension plan to go to the government. In other words, this government will not even listen to what our courts are saying today about what ought to happen with pension funds and who pension surpluses ought to accrue to.
Not only is it saying to teachers, “We don’t care what you have to say,” it is also saying to Ontario courts: “We don’t care what you have to say. We are a majority. We’ll do it our way and the rest of you can like it or lump it.”
I say, “Shame on this government,” because in the position it attempts to portray itself, that of being reasonable, and in the position it attempts to paint the teachers, that of being unreasonable, of acting in their own self-interest, it cannot also ignore what Ontario courts have said to it, and Ontario courts are saying that it is this government that is being unreasonable. It is this government that is being greedy and self-serving.
The third aspect that teachers object to, very strenuously, is that part and parcel of this pension legislation is a restriction on what pensioned teachers may do in the way of working as occasional teachers in the future. I want to ask again, who is being unreasonable here? I also want to ask, how far-sighted is this government being?
All across this province, we cannot find trained and certified teachers to work as supply teachers. I happen to come from a northern Ontario constituency. I know, as a fact, that it is very difficult from time to time to find trained and certified teachers to work as supply teachers in many communities across northern Ontario. It is very difficult indeed.
Where do boards of education frequently find teachers to work as occasional teachers? They find them among teachers who have retired. Retired teachers form the greatest pool of talent for boards of education in northern Ontario who want a steady supply and a supply of occasional teachers that you can count on. What is this bill going to do to those boards and what is it going to do to those teachers in northern Ontario, those retired teachers who want to continue to contribute to the cause of education? It is going to say: “No, you are limited. You are shut down.”
Let me point out exactly what the limitation is. The government will say, “Well, you are allowed three years after you have retired and you are allowed up to 95 days.” The key words are “up to,” because if, in your first year as a retired teacher, you work for two days as an occasional teacher, then that year is wiped out. It is not a total of 95 days times three and you can use them until they are all used up.
If, in your first year, you work two days as an occasional teacher, then that is it. The 95 are gone for that year. If, in the next year, you teach for one day as an occasional teacher, then that year is wiped out. If, in your third year, you work three days as an occasional teacher, that year is wiped out. Who is being unreasonable here? I say it is the government that is being unreasonable, and I think it is quite clear to what extent it is being unreasonable.
One of the other points that teachers are quite upset about is that this legislation increases contribution rates by one per cent per year, and that translates to a $500 increase on a $50,000 salary. If you are a beginning teacher, it does not take long for you to contribute a very large chunk of your money into this pension plan.
The government says, “We need this very high rate of contribution in order to make this fund work.” I want to point out that there are several other pension plans in this province, many of which are indexed, which do not rely upon and do not require such a very high rate of contribution from employees in order to make the plan work. I would refer members to some of the pension plans that are in the private sector; for instance, the auto workers’ pension. I would refer members to the hospital employees’ pension plan. I would refer them to those pension plans and ask them to consider the comparative benefits of the different plans. Fortunately, we have some outside expertise in this area.
The Slater report has reviewed this situation, the Coward report has reviewed this situation, and they have concluded, not to anyone’s surprise, that the reason why such large teacher contributions to this pension plan are required by this government is to make up for what has not happened in the past; to make up for government investments of this fund which did not yield a high rate of return; to make up for the uses of this pension fund which may have helped the government of the day a great deal in terms of providing it with a cheap source of capital but did nothing, or did very little, for the teachers’ pension fund in terms of its return on investment. That is the reason why such a very high rate of contributions will now be required.
There is another reason, however, and it goes back to who will have control over future surpluses in the plan. One of the things which the Ontario Teachers’ Federation did was to sit down and do some actuarial estimates of rates of return on the teachers’ superannuation fund. Members can see, with the kind of contribution rate that is being calculated here, that we could actually have a very low real rate of return of about three and a half per cent per year on investments, yet the fund that has been created would still be a viable fund. If members get any better rates of return, 3.75 per cent or four per cent, a surplus is created. Lo and behold, who gets the surplus? Do the teachers get the surplus? No, the surplus goes to the government.
I think it is pretty evident here again that this government is not thinking about the plan. It is not thinking about this plan which is called the teachers’ superannuation fund and it is not thinking about pension benefits. It is thinking about pools of capital, potentially, possibly, maybe down the road, for it to tap. After all, we should not be surprised at this. This is the government that taxes tires. This is the government that taxes lots for new housing. This is a government that has pushed up sales taxes as they have never been pushed up before.
Mr Ballinger: For what? Where does the money go?
Mr Hampton: This is a government that has cut grants in funding to municipalities and boards of education in order that it may keep more of the money, so we should not be surprised at all that the government is acting in the same way with respect to the teachers’ superannuation fund. If anyone stands in a position to derive a benefit down the road from this fund and if anyone stands to derive a pool of capital, this government does. It is this government that is looking after its own self-interest in requiring the contribution rate to be as high as it is.
I note that the member for Durham-York (Mr Ballinger) is shaking his head and he interjects every once in a while, as he is wont to do, and he says, “What is the government using this money for?” I want to put on the record just this: Just the other day, the government House leader tabled with the opposition House leaders his plan for wage increases and benefit increases for the members of the Legislature.
Lo and behold, one of the things which appears in this government’s plan is that there are going to be a bunch more sinecure positions created for Liberal backbenchers so that they can all elevate their salaries even more at the expense of the public purse. If that plan goes through, more and more Liberal backbenchers will feed even more than ever before from the public purse.
So I say to the member for Durham-York if he wants to know, if he wants an illustration of what this government is doing with some of its money, it is creating sinecure positions so that people like the member from Durham-York can have an extraordinary wage increase this year. That is what this government has been doing.
Hon Mr Bradley: Oh, I’d be careful on that one. Wait till everybody finds out what your leader wants for his pay increase.
Mr Hampton: It is nice to see the Minister of the Environment, even though he is not in his seat and wants to enter into this debate as well.
I only want to say that if we are going to debate wage increases for people in this place, what we ought to do is turn it over to a commission that would make some sound, reasonable and rational recommendations, rather than let this government decide how much its members are going to fill their own pockets. That is the rational way to do it. That is the way it ought to be done, but again, this government will not do that.
The final objection that teachers have to what is going on with this pension fund is quite simply that it provides no substantial improvements in benefits. Can members believe that? This legislation is going to take away. It is going to give government unilateral control. It is going to give the government present and future surpluses in the plan. It is going to restrict what retired teachers can do in terms of returning to the occasional teacher market to supplement their incomes if they need to or want to. It is going to increase rates by another one per cent a year so that teachers will be among the highest, if not the highest, pension contributors in the province. After all that, it is not going to provide any substantial improvements in benefits. No substantial improvements in benefits: That is the bottom line.
I ask members, when they review all of this, who is being unreasonable here? Who is being just a mite arrogant here? Who is telling everyone else, “We’re going to do it our way, and you guys can lump it.” It is pretty clear who is being unreasonable. It is pretty clear who is being self-serving. It is pretty clear who is looking out for their own interest and no one else’s. It is this government.
We should not be surprised at that. That has been the history around here for two years. We look at the government’s latest auto insurance scheme. It is not a scheme to deal with consumers in this province. It is not a scheme looking to the consumer interest. It looks only to the government’s political interest. It looks only to the government’s political survival. They are going to paper up something that is supposed to be an auto insurance plan, which is, in fact, nothing but a self-serving scheme for the auto insurance industry. But if they sell it quickly enough and dress it up with enough language, they think it will get by people. That is exactly what they are doing with this pension legislation.
The government thinks that it can isolate teachers, that if it pumps out the propaganda long enough and hard enough, it can paint teachers as being greedy and self-serving, and that is what it is going to do.
The government, because of its large majority, may be able to do that, but there are many of us here who intend to stay here for a long time, if we have to, to fight this legislation, and there are a number of us here who are going to raise every one of these embarrassing points, every one of the self-serving points that this government has engaged in time and time again when committee hearings start. Hopefully, if the media pays some attention, the people of Ontario will get a full picture of what is happening.
I could also say to the government that from teachers I have spoken to, I know they will engage in very deliberate and concerted activity to let this government know that they do not like what is happening.
I want to return again to the Ontario Public School Teachers’ Federation’s Newstoday newsletter to quote again from the OPSTF president who, in summarizing the teachers’ position, says this:
“Every teacher in Ontario has a responsibility to assist in achieving a fair pension. Your efforts are required and appreciated.
“If amendments to the legislation do not occur, you may be called upon for further and stronger protect action.”
I would say to the government that if it continues on the road that it is going down now, it will force teachers unwillingly -- they do not want to do it -- out of the schools and on to the picket line. If that happens, it will be very clear who is responsible. It will be very clear who has been acting in a self-serving and arrogant way: this government.
I say, as a former teacher and also as a legislator who has looked at what is happening here very carefully, that the government is totally on the wrong track. If this government had any sense of reasonableness, it would return to the bargaining table and work out on a mutual consent basis a pension plan that makes sense for everyone concerned and not just for this government’s political position.
I could go on at length on a number of points on this legislation, but there are a number of other speakers who want to get involved so I will stop now. I say again, however, to the government that it is not too late to go back to the drawing board. They would win a lot of credit if they went back to the drawing board. They should do it now before it is too late.
Mr J. B. Nixon: I would just like to remind the member for Rainy River that the pension plan in question is indeed the richest pension plan not just in the province of Ontario, not just in the country of Canada, but also, as far as I know, in the entire western world. There is none better. If you have that good a pension plan, you have to pay for it. It is as simple as that. There is an accumulated deficit. The government is funding entirely that accumulated deficit. There is an ongoing requirement to finance the superannuation fund and that is what the government is committed to doing in partnership with the teachers.
Mr Hampton: I suggest that the member take a careful look at the legislation, take a careful look at the two pension plans that are in fact being dealt with here. If he did, he would find that, yes indeed, the teachers’ superannuation fund is a fund which has a large surplus in it now. I would remind him, however, that arbitrators have said that the funds in that plan, in pension plans, belong to employees. Employees contribute very healthy sums and have for some time into this plan. In their bargaining process, they have forgone wage increases in the past in order that they could get decent contributions from the government to the plan.
It is true it is a good plan. We would very much like to see plans like that for everyone. We think it would create a more egalitarian society. I say again to the member that those funds were contributed responsibly and that is why there is a surplus. Now in the adjustment fund there is indeed at this time an unfunded liability, but I would refer the member again to the Slater and Coward reports. He would see whose responsibility it is and he would see why that unfunded liability is there.
Teachers have paid handily for the surplus of funds and for the wealth that is in the teachers’ superannuation fund. I would say to the member that he should maybe work for a couple of years as a teacher and he would understand to what degree his monthly paycheque is, shall we say, cut down due to the significant funds that have to be contributed to the superannuation fund. But I respect the member for pushing the government line again. He is indeed earning some brownie points for the minister on this one.
Miss Martel: I do not intend to speak very long. I am pleased to participate in this debate at this late hour in the day. I do not intend to talk about all the problems with this bill in particular, that is, Bill 66. However, there is one issue that I want to focus on and I will be brief in doing that because my other colleagues also want to have a say here today on this very important issue.
I do not come to this bill with a background of having been in the educational field. Some might say that I came out of education just a little bit before I got here and that would be true. Not long after I graduated I did come to this place. But let me put it in this perspective. I do have both parents -- one who continues to teach at this point in time and one who was a teacher for many years and was in fact a principal at our elementary school. I have never considered that either of them, when it came to educational issues, was particularly unreasonable.
There would be many who would say my father was unreasonable in all kinds of other issues and other matters, but when it came to dealing with education, when it came to teachers’ rights, benefits and pensions and on and on, I do not think that he was unreasonable. I do not think that mother, who continues to teach at this time, is unreasonable when she comes and looks at this bill and says as a teacher: “We cannot accept that. We cannot accept this for particular reasons.”
But the issue I want to focus on is surely that of the reluctance of this government to negotiate when it comes to the question of teachers’ pensions. Teachers in the province of Ontario do have some rights. We are not saying that they do not. We are saying quite clearly that they are able to participate with their local school boards on a number of issues. They negotiate their salaries, for example. They would begin negotiating, for example, working conditions within their boards and within their local areas and they have the ability as well to negotiate other benefits. So we have not said at any point in time that they do not participate in some way, shape or form. But the question I want to look at is really the last of the rights to negotiate, when it comes to pensions and pension rights.
I am not a negotiator, but I do think that if you take a step back, as all of the good members of this House do from time to time, and take a look at the private sector, for example, you would say, even in some of the worst working conditions in the private sector, that management and labour do come together to negotiate. Even in some of the worst cases that are raised in this House about breakdowns and negotiations in the private sector, the fact of the matter is that unions or their representatives have the ability to have some kind of input and some kind of stake into the particular plan they are developing for their employers and into the particular negotiated settlement that both parties are going to be bound to in the future.
So I cannot understand for the life of me, when we remove ourselves from the public sector and start talking about the private, why this government, or indeed any government, would not want to be on the leading edge of involving its employees in those same types of discussions. I do not think it is too much to ask. I do not find teachers are unreasonable when they make that request, in fact make that demand, that they should have some kind of participation in negotiating what their pension plans are going to be.
That is not unreasonable. That is a basic right, I suggest to you, Mr Speaker. If it is good enough for those people who work in the private sector, surely to God this government, which goes about legislating rules on behalf of the citizens of this province, would want in fact to involve its employees in those types of negotiations. Surely the government of the day recognizes as well as we do, that is, members on this side of the House, that teachers are reasonable and the request for participation and adequate input is certainly not unreasonable by any stretch of the imagination.
Let me just take a look at what teachers are asking for in terms of this particular question, and I think it is fairly adequate. They are asking for four things at the very minimum and those four things are:
First, that they are involved in establishing administrative policies for the pension plan;
Second, that they should be able to come to the negotiating table and they should be able to determine with the employer the level of benefits to the plan’s beneficiaries;
Third, that they should expect and they should be entitled to expect that they would come as equal partners to the table and talk about setting contribution levels;
Fourth, that they should be able to come to the table and receive all of the information from the actuaries as to what is in the plan, what the future prospects for the plan are and how much will have to be paid in to contribute at a level that would be sufficient over the long haul for all teachers involved. They should be able to receive that information and certainly to participate in establishing some of the assumptions around those actuarial figures.
I do not think that is a great deal to ask. That is a basic minimum, I think. If I was a teacher out there wanting to participate in a pension plan that was going to dramatically affect the way I live when I retire from teaching, I do not think that is too much to ask. I cannot for the life of me figure why the government thinks it is.
What do the teachers get, though? I have said that those are the basic rights that they are asking for, the basic requests they are making around negotiation of pension plans. But what do they actually get in Bill 66? I suggest they do not even get those basic requirements, those minimum requirements which I would expect all people who negotiate would want to come to the table with and expect to negotiate with the employer.
If you go through and you read the language of the bill, they get very much the government control plan which was and is one that they remain strongly opposed to because that reflects unilateral government control of the plan, with no participation, no input of employees, teachers in this case. While the government talks a good line about how it has provided at least two other alternatives within the plan, when you read the language of the bill and what the intention is and what rights the government has, you find out quite quickly that the two alternatives the government likes to talk about really in fact are nonexistent.
The other options, as they are presented in the bill, are very vague, they are very confusing, and perhaps they were written in that particular way to do just that. In fact they do not provide even the minimum types of requests that teachers are entitled to and that teachers have a right to talk about and teachers have a right to expect when they come to bargain at the table.
At the same time, it is interesting that while this government does not even provide those basic minimum requirements, it turns around and still asks that teachers pay one per cent more of their salary into the superannuation fund. If I am getting no change in benefits and as a teacher I have no right to participate in negotiation of that plan, why the heck would I ever want to participate any further with this government? Why would I accept this kind of a plan which does not involve my participation as a teacher in terms of that very important question of pension rights?
If this government wonders why the teachers are angry and the teachers are not accepting Bill 66, I think it only has to look at that one issue and the fact that it is giving people absolutely no input into the structure of their pension plan and what it will look like and what benefits will be derived and how the money will be invested; it is not giving them any of that type of control and it is telling them that, “We’re still going to go ahead and we’re going to take another one per cent of your salary to pay into the superannuation fund.”
The bottom line has to be that if this government is going to start to address the concerns that are out there, promoted by teachers, it really has to take a step back. It cannot expect that people are going to want to participate in or accept this type of bill when they have no input themselves. There is no mechanism for participation and indeed the options that are supposedly incorporated into this bill are so vague and so confusing that I do not think anyone, at least not on this side of the House, believes the government is really serious when it talks about other options, other alternatives that might be available besides government control.
I say to the minister that he should take a serious look at this again, that it is a problem that is not going to go away, that teachers are not going to accept that they have no ability, no mechanism, no right to participate in what should be a fundamental right; that is, the determination of their pension plan. I think he should go away and take a serious look and make a major revision in this particular area. Until he does that, he certainly is not going to get the support of this party on this piece of legislation, but neither will he have the support of teachers across the province.
Mrs E. J. Smith: I have to comment just briefly on a couple of the points that were made, the first one being the lack of control. The government consistently points out that it is willing to go to one of the other models, which will give them complete control if they want it, but also the complete responsibility. It is very clear that if that is done, new conditions and terms will have to be written up and the government remains open at all times to address this.
That is why the government has put forward a bill that points out those options. They are there to be negotiated at any time. As soon as the teachers wish to return and discuss those, they can be put forward in a new bill or an amendment to this bill, which gives full control to the teachers if they want it.
The question was raised, why would they want to pay one per cent with no change in benefits and no change in terms? The answer is simple. The plan got billions of dollars in the hole. It has been bailed out by the taxpayers once. They cannot expect that again. The whole bill is there to correct the situation that caused this deficit. Something has to be done to do so. There is no reason some people as well paid as teachers should expect to be bailed out of a pension fund that is actuarially unsound and puts this province into debt.
The government also, I would point out, comes up with one per cent as the teachers come up with one per cent. We meet their obligation of one per cent with our own as the employer. We simply are determined to have a fund that breaks even actuarially.
Miss Martel: Two things, if I might: I appreciate the member’s comment that in fact the bill provides for other alternatives, at least two other alternatives, one concerning equal partnership and the second concerning teacher control. I go back to the language of the bill, which in my humble opinion does not point to either of those two options. If we go through the language and the write-up in the bill, any of the controls, the rights, the responsibilities that the government has really lean towards the fact that there is only one alternative and that the government is not very serious about providing a second or a third alternative. In fact, the language that surrounds those other two alternatives is so vague and so confusing they do not warrant examination or acceptance by this House because they are not clearly stated.
I do not think there is any teacher out there who, if you asked him about the other two plans, would want to jump in feet first and accept the government’s proposal under Bill 66, because they do not believe, as we do not believe, that the government is quite serious. If the government were serious, it would have clearly outlined and distinguished what the alternatives were, what the rights of the teachers were going to be, what the rights of the government were going to be, how they were going to participate around the whole question of pensions and other issues. I do not think it is found in the bill and that is why I say quite clearly it seems to me that the only alternative from the government’s point of view is that of government control.
In terms of the increase in salary and the member’s statement about having to bail the teachers out, I assume what she is --
Mrs E. J. Smith: Bail out the fund.
Miss Martel: Oh, bail out the fund. I did not know the teachers were responsible all by themselves for putting into that kind of deficit, if that is indeed what the member is saying. I would have to say that there is a whole history of mismanagement around some of the moneys in this fund that perhaps other members better educated in this than I will want to talk about. I cannot expect that any teacher who has contributed now finds himself being bailed out, with no more rights than before, and would want to participate. I do no think that is an unreasonable suggestion from their part.
Mr Charlton: It is a great pleasure to join in this debate on Bill 66. I think my colleagues have adequately covered a number of aspects of the bill, but there are two aspects that were just addressed very briefly that I would like to address. The first is this question of equal partnership and the second is the question of actuarially sound.
First of all, the government a number of times, through the Treasurer and through the Minister of Education, have thrown out the challenge to the civil servants and teachers of this province about equal partnership. Some of my colleagues have raised that question and described how the question of equal partnership is dealt with in Bill 66.
I think, though, for the purposes of the public of this province we need to put that into terms they understand organizationally in the organizations in which they deal. For example, it has been said that Bill 66 and the bill to amend the public service superannuation fund ask for joint or equal partnership control, but retain unto the government the control of questions such as the contribution rate, the actuarial numbers that are used, the economic numbers that are used in the calculations, and ultimately the board, the appointments to the board, and the investment policies therefore that will flow from that pension board.
That is like this Liberal government, inviting an organization to affiliate with the Liberal Party in an equal partnership where the Liberals say, “We will give you an equal partnership in this party so long as we can retain control of the chair, so long as the chair will continue always to have absolute control over the agenda and so long as the chair will also have absolute authority over determining what is in order under the agenda.”
Is that in any way, shape or form an equal partnership? That is the kind of equal partnership this government has offered to the public service of Ontario and to the teachers of Ontario. There is no partnership at all unless the teachers and the public servants in this province have an equal voice on all the questions that affect the pension fund, right up to and including the board, an equal voice on the pension board and an equal say in the way that money is ultimately invested.
We have had three consultants’ studies now, laying out for this Legislature and for this government what the problems in the fund are. Mismanagement of the investments by the government: That is what the Slater commission said. They should sit down and read them. I am not going to read them into the record again. My colleague did that earlier this afternoon. All three of those reports clearly set out the problems with investment in the past.
This afternoon we have government members standing in this House and suggesting that not only is the problem because of underfunding in the past as opposed to investment in the past, but also suggesting that to be actuarially sound in the future the one percent increase has to go through.
We presently have the public service superannuation fund amendment before the standing committee on general government. Last Thursday, we heard testimony from a couple of expert witnesses. I think their testimony, because they both happen to be actuaries active in the profession in this country, might be of interest. Their comments on the PSSF bill are directly applicable to Bill 66 as well.
One of the actuaries who gave us written testimony last Thursday is Peter C. Hirst. Mr Hirst is president of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. He is also on the national executive of the Canadian Pension Conference. Interestingly, in 1986 Mr Hirst was appointed by this government to the Public Sector Pensions Advisory Board.
This gentleman was before our committee last week giving testimony against the government. What is that saying? The lawyer who is his own counsel is a fool and the doctor who acts as his own physician is a fool. What then do you say about the minister who has no expertise in the particular area whatsoever, who ignores the advice of the expert he has appointed to advise him and imposes his own advice above that of the expert? That minister is also a fool.
Throughout the comments by these actuaries last Thursday, having reviewed the legislation both before that committee and before this House, what we find are comments that basically debunk in total this government’s position about actuarially sound --
Oh yes, they do. The member can sit there and shake his head.
I will not have time to go through all this but I think a couple of good examples would be helpful. On the public service superannuation fund, we learned that in actuarial terms the government chose to use in its valuation what they call the entry age normal or the level annual premium method valuation instead of following the more common practice. The more common practice across Ontario and throughout Canada is a method that is called the unit credit method. The unit credit method is the method that is used in some 90 or 95 per cent of the pension plans in Ontario and in Canadian society.
This government chooses the actuarial method that is least used. It is an accepted actuarial method, but it is the least used and when you use it, it makes it impossible to take the pension plan that is based on these assumptions and compare it directly to one that is based on another set of assumptions. In other words, it makes things easier to confuse, easier to hide and easier to deflect criticism around.
It sounds like a perfectly natural thing for a government that is in a mess, a government that has created by its own actions and by the actions of its predecessor a deficit that has to be dealt with -- nobody argues that deficit has to be dealt with -- but by using the one method that is not the common practice in actuarial circles to value this pension plan, it makes it impossible to deal with this on a comparative basis.
Just a couple of other quick examples of the kinds of things they did along a similar line in their approach to this question of pensions: They have chosen to amortize the unfunded liability over 40 years instead of over 15 years, which is the norm. I want to explain to members what that does and how that distorts numbers in the system. It becomes very clear, when you start to see some of these things, precisely what the game is that these people are playing.
If we amortize an unfunded liability over 15 years with what they refer to as a level payment, we end up in the 12.9 per cent range -- this is what we would pay off of that unfunded liability each year; if we do it over 15 years at what they call per cent current it is about 13.3 per cent; if we do it over 25 years at per cent current it is 11.5 per cent; and if we do it over 40 years at per cent current it is 11.3 percent. So even going from the 15-year amortization to a 40-year amortization at either level payment or per cent current, the range of percentage that we are dealing with each year does not change all that much. It ranged from 11.3 at the low to 12.9 at the high.
But what does this government do in its valuation approach to the plan and the unfunded liability? It uses a 40-year amortization at what they call per cent future. All of a sudden, what do we find? It is not 12.9 per cent each year that we are paying off, it is not even 11.3 per cent each year that we are paying off, but it is 4.9 per cent. What are we doing with this 40-year amortization of this debt that the member for York Mills so nicely points out the government has taken total responsibility for? It shifts most of that debt far beyond the life of this government and on to future taxpayers, members’ grandchildren -- not even their children, their grandchildren. Is that good government? Absolutely not.
What is even worse when it does that is that we get the comments that in this piece of legislation this government is taking total responsibility for the current unfunded liability. In technical terms that is true, but unfortunately it has also put in the other mechanisms in this piece of legislation to pay off that unfunded liability so it never has to live up to the commitment. So yes, the member for York Mills can stand up in this House and say the government of Ontario is committed to paying off this unfunded liability, but in this legislation it has put the mechanisms around surplus and how future surpluses get applied, and tacking on the one per cent payment increase to ensure that although it has made the commitment to pay off the total unfunded liability over 40 years, the government of Ontario will never have to pay the vast majority of that because under this piece of legislation, having taken an additional one per cent out of the teachers, future surpluses will first have to be applied against debts of the plan.
Yes, the government has made the commitment, but it has put in place the mechanisms to ensure that it never has to live up to that commitment. This is the kind of approach this government takes to fairness and equity, which makes people like myself and like other civil servants in this province and teachers in this province and, continually, additional groups of environmentalists, energy activists, conservationists and so on and so forth understand that this government has no real understanding of the meaning of the words “equality, equal partnership, fairness.”
I think it is clear that I will be standing to oppose Bill 66, as will the rest of my caucus. I sincerely hope the members of the general government committee presently dealing with the public service superannuation fund and the members of whatever committee this particular piece of legislation, Bill 66, gets referred to, instead of just toeing the government line, take the time to realistically listen to the expert evidence that those committees will hear about the actuarial bunk this government has been trying to stick us with around these two pieces of legislation.
Mr J. B. Nixon: I could not avoid speaking to this one. The member for Hamilton Mountain has talked about the two actuaries who came before the committee to give evidence in the past on another bill. First of all, only one came; the other delivered a letter and it was read into the record. Only one gave evidence.
Also, we are not sure if the second one is an actuary. He is not the guy with a lot of initials behind his name. He is not the guy who is a member of a lot of professional associations. We really were not clear as to what expertise he had, if any. Now, he had a lot of opinions. I would suggest to the member that one opinion the member for Hamilton Mountain might consider is that ultimately the government -- he is right -- is not funding this deficit, but he is wrong when he thinks the teachers are; the taxpayers are.
This pension plan is funded by the taxpayers of the province of Ontario. This government has a responsibility to manage and steward that pension plan and those moneys responsibly. Let him not make any mistake about it or think that he somehow controls it, he should run it or anyone else. It is the taxpayers of Ontario whom we are responsible to and whose interest we have to protect.
Mr Charlton: I will reply very briefly to the member for York Mills. He can stand up and question the credentials of those people who testified before the committee last week all he wants. I think it is more important that each of the Liberals on that committee and here in this House dealing with this piece of legislation seriously questions his own credentials to make the kinds of judgements that are being foisted on us in almost total ignorance of expert opinion, including the lack of expert opinion which the member for York Mills has to offer on this issue.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I rise as the last of the Democratic Party caucus in opposition to this bill and I would like to start off by thanking my colleagues. I was supposed to have carriage of this piece of legislation, but family matters kept me from being able to be here at the opening of remarks. I thought their pithy and palpable hits were just what we needed and the government has been squirming ever since.
When we have people who can speak actuary like the member for Hamilton Mountain behind me -- I mean, I speak English and a little bit of French, but I do not speak actuary and I always find it very impressive when people can actually do that sort of thing -- I think it makes the government very unhappy.
I say to members of the public in general who do not know how legislation is written, the fact that we have Bill 66 before us today is a great shame, because it is recognized among those of us who walk the back corridors here from time to time that this bill, if it had stayed Bill 41, would no doubt have broken the record for amendments to a bill.
I look across and I see the former Minister of Education who is responsible for that and I say, “What else would he be remembered for?” What else would anybody remember him for at all if it were not for the fact that this bill would have had the most amendments of any bill presented? Of course, as he said to me just recently, they were all housekeeping amendments; all 100 and something were housekeeping amendments. That is a lot of dust, if you ask me. They had to move a lot of end tables on this one. Who said he does not do windows?
I would have to say that this is one of my fundamental disappointments, that members out there in the public do not realize what an enormous change there was between Bill 41 and Bill 66.
I will just say to the present Minister of Education, who is listening to me with rapt attention as he always does when I rise to my feet in the House, that the other thing this enactment is useful for is a little lesson about consultation and what the government considers active consultation with the teaching community in the province of Ontario. I think if there has ever been a failure of consultation and if there has ever been a time when a whole profession should be suspicious of a government for its intentions around a pension plan, this is probably the best example that I can think of.
The government adds on another one per cent that they have to pay and they are already paying virtually more than anybody else in society for their good pension plan. The government still does not give them any control of the plan. It still does not have any kind of resolution to the disputes that there might be between the government and the teaching profession, and the minister says: “But we had a great consultation.” He makes 100 and more amendments to a bill and he does not touch the substance one iota. He does not touch one of the things that the teachers’ federations are telling him are the things that are upsetting them and their membership.
Members of the standing committee on social development, who are not here today because they are presently dealing with another bill on education -- which I should be dealing with downstairs at this point; I will talk to my House leader about this kind of thing later on -- have an interesting experience ahead of them.
As those people come forward who know how to speak actuary and those teachers who know how this is going to hit them in their pockets again rub in the minister’s face what he is doing to them, I just say to him that if he does not make some amendment to the major principles they were talking about, the 25,000 who turned out in Hamilton not too long ago will remember him well into the next election and he will pay for it. Obviously, I hope he does not listen.
Hon Mr Conway: I want to, first of all, thank my colleagues on all sides who have participated in this debate over the last couple of days. It has been a good debate about an important subject where the government has advanced the argument that what we intend with Bill 66 is that a very good plan, a very good pension plan is in trouble and we want to secure that plan on much firmer ground so that it can meet the obligations expected of it into the future.
I want my friends opposite to know that I have listened very carefully to what they have had to say. I have been somewhat surprised to hear what some members had to say. The member for Rainy River does not appear to understand that the government, in good faith, is putting before the committee three proposals for governance: a proposal whereby there would be a partnership model; a proposal that would allow a teacher-run plan, and a proposal for a government-sponsored plan.
We offer those alternatives in good faith because we recognize that there is a range of possibilities. I want to say that the member for Rainy River seemed particularly confused about the fact that there is a range of possibility and we are going to look to the committee as it reviews this bill at the next stage for its views in that respect.
I want to say that in so far as the investment policy of the bill is concerned, it is very clear that the government has acceded to a long-standing request from the profession that the teachers’ pension fund be allowed to invest in nongovernment paper. That, we think, is a very important step in the direction of what it is the teaching profession has requested for some time.
In so far as the benefits offered over the years, particularly it must be said that this is a very, very good plan. My friend the member for Erie (Mr Haggerty) was observing parenthetically a few moments ago that there are many in the community who, if they had this plan, would be very pleased to have a plan of this kind. We do not in any way diminish the quality and significance of this plan and it is for that reason that we want to make sure this defined benefit plan is sufficiently well funded to meet the obligations that both the teachers and the government expect of it in the future.
I must say that under this pension arrangement, the benefits received for the contribution paid are extremely good, and we want to make sure, as I said today in my opening remarks, that the proposal, the government policy that underlines Bill 66, in fact provides additional benefit improvements.
I will accept that there are teachers who rightly wonder, “How is it that we can expect an increase in contribution rate without a very substantial increase in benefits?” I have to say in response that the issue in this debate has got to be this: a good plan is in trouble; it is in trouble because the indexation that was provided over a decade ago was not at the beginning, nor has it been throughout the piece, well financed.
The member for Rainy River or perhaps the member for Hamilton Mountain -- I forget which -- made the argument that teachers should have, by his submission, any surplus that has accrued on the main account. Our latest actuarial assessment indicates that there is no surplus on the main account, but the logic seemed to be --
Mr Morin-Strom: How many different stories do you have?
Hon Mr Conway: I see people gasping that that is not so, but our information is that the most recent --
Mr R. F. Johnston: Was this delivered a few minutes ago? This was just flown in. Where are those carrier pigeons?
Hon Mr Conway: I want to make the point that if the member’s argument is that one ought to have any surplus on the main account, how is it then that he does not accept the deficit that is in the Superannuation Adjustment Benefits Act account?
He cannot have it both ways. It seems to me that if he wants a surplus that may be, for the sake of argument, in the main account, he has to accept, by the same logic, responsibility for the multibillion-dollar deficit that is now in the SABA account.
I want to make the point that in this proposal we are saying that because of the difficulty in the indexation account we are moving to address that concern, and the government of Ontario annually makes a very substantial contribution to this fund.
I simply want to say to my friends opposite that we think what we are proposing is very reasonable. We have debated with the teaching profession over the last number of months a range of ideas. There is no question that on issues like contribution rates and benefits, for one very significant example, and on dispute resolution for another, we are not yet at one, but I do not rule out that over the coming days we are going to, hopefully, coming to an agreement on ideally the partnership model. But I have to tell my friends opposite that I do not take consultation to mean agreeing with the other partner in all respects, as I am sure they do not expect that of me either.
I simply want to conclude my remarks by saying that Bill 66, we think, is a very reasonable proposal. It seeks to combine both of these streams of the teachers’ superannuation account. We intend to put the indexation on a much better financial footing. We intend to extend benefits in areas like portability, for example. We are improving, substantially, the number of days that retired teachers can teach without extra penalty or payment --
Hon Mr Conway: I think my friend from Scarborough knows exactly what of I speak.
I simply want to conclude by saying that we accept our responsibility to ensure that this excellent plan is going to meet the obligations and expectations of it. I offer it to my colleagues for their support and I will look, Mr Speaker, for you to call the vote.
The House divided on Mr Conway’s motion for second reading of Bill 66, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ballinger, Beer, Black, Bossy, Campbell, Caplan, Carrothers, Chiarelli, Conway, Cordiano, Daigeler, Eakins, Elliot, Elston, Faubert, Fawcett, Fleet, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Henderson, Hošek, Kanter, Kerrio, Keyes, Leone, Lipsett, Lupusella;
MacDonald, Mahoney, Matrundola, McClelland, McLeod, Miller, Morin, Neumann, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., Offer, O’Neil, H., O’Neill, Y., Patten, Phillips, G., Polsinelli, Poole, Reycraft, Riddell, Roberts, Ruprecht, Smith, E. J., Sola, South, Stoner, Tatham, Ward, Wong.
Allen, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Hampton, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Johnston, R. F., Laughren, Mackenzie, Marland, Martel, Morin-Strom.
Ayes 55; nays 13.
Bill ordered for the standing committee on social development.
The House adjourned at 1809.