The House met at 1330.
Mr Farnan: In 1988 the Salvation Army closed its homes for the aged in Cambridge. The home, the former Galt Hospital, was transferred to the city of Galt under a private member’s bill in 1955 and a short time later sold to the Salvation Army for $2. The city of Cambridge transferred adjacent lands for $21,900 in 1982. The Ministry of Community and Social Services has spent over $400,000 in renovations to the home.
In 1989 the Salvation Army entered an agreement with Winfield Developments from Winnipeg to sell the land for the construction of luxury condominiums. This will result in a financial gain of between $2 million and $4 million for the Salvation Army.
These profits should stay in Cambridge. The Salvation Army was the recipient of these lands because of its commitment to provide a home for the aged in Cambridge. These moneys could be well used for the construction of the elderly persons’ centre in Cambridge that is currently at the planning stage.
Charitable organizations are not above the law and certainly the government should clearly state the standard of moral conduct we expect from them. I regret that many of us in Cambridge find ourselves in this particular confrontation with the Salvation Army, but we in this House must realize it is necessary from time to time to question all institutions.
I believe the Salvation Army should make the generous offer of leaving this money in the city of Cambridge and returning those funds owed to the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Mr Cousens: On behalf of our party I would like to congratulate Ms Audrey McLaughlin, who was elected leader of the federal New Democratic Party this past weekend in Winnipeg.
Mr Speaker, as you know, we do not always agree with members of the opposition, either official or unofficial, at Queen’s Park, and we have similar disagreements on points of policy and future directions for Canada with the federal NDP. However, I know there is one question that all members of this House and the federal House of Commons do agree on, and that is that the people of Canada are best served by having the most capable, hardworking and committed leaders possible.
This past weekend the members of the federal New Democratic Party decided that Ms McLaughlin fits that bill. We acknowledge and accept their choice and we wish her well as she works for the betterment of all Canadians.
I also wish to acknowledge the hard work of all the candidates in the race to succeed Mr Broadbent. Their participation in one of the most basic exercises in a healthy democracy, next to a general election, demonstrates a vitality in our electoral system that must serve as an example to the rest of all the world and as an inspiration to those countries now taking their first cautious steps to an open, multiparty style of government.
It is a good day for Canada when a woman of her stature and interest in the wellbeing of all people is given this position of honour and responsibility.
Mrs E. J. Smith: I wish to join the member for Markham and, especially as a woman parliamentarian, congratulate Ms Audrey McLaughlin on her recent win as national leader of the New Democratic Party.
The role of women in government, regardless of party, is important in more than symbolic terms. Women, whether from the western provinces or from other areas such as urban Ontario, bring their own experiences and their perceptions to the halls of government. We all benefit together and the country benefits by this broadened perception.
There are many problems in our society that particularly impact on women. Traditionally, they are problems such as those involved in the care of our children and often the care of our seniors and those who are less fortunate in our society.
As well as that, the workplace has changed dramatically with the presence of numerous numbers of women and this too must bring us to address the problems that occur in the workplace. Particularly because of the presence of more women in those areas, this makes it particularly important at this time that we have women visible in our government, bringing their perspective and their particular values to it and heightening our awareness of these problems within our society.
Mr Reville: The Infant Feeding Action Coalition has several suggestions that I would like to deliver through you, Mr Speaker, to the Ministry of Health.
Studies in Canada and elsewhere continually confirm breast feeding’s protective effect in reducing childhood infectious diseases. There is, of course, no question that breast milk is nutritionally and physiologically the correct food for infants.
That is why, in fact, the Infant Feeding Action Coalition would like the Ministry of Health to require that the World Health Organization code of marketing of breast milk substitutes be in effect in hospitals and other health and medical facilities; it would like to ensure that the Ministry of Health itself recognize that breast feeding is fundamental to the development of maternal and child health; it would like the Ministry of Health when it is surveying the population to include questions about infant feeding practices and attitudes to infant feeding in its surveys, and it would like the Ministry of Health as well to recognize lactation consultants as a health discipline and make them available across the province with public funding.
This seems to me to be an old idea whose time has come back.
Mr Sterling: Last Wednesday, I questioned the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) on the negative effects of his government’s corporate tax strategy on the competitiveness of Ontario’s industrial base. The minister responded, and I quote, “I do not really feel that I have to sort of explain why certain companies are here or why they are somewhere else.”
The timing of the minister’s display of indifference was certainly ironic, given the events of the very next day, last Thursday, dubbed Black Thursday. It saw the loss of 2,100 jobs in Ontario’s valuable manufacturing sectors. These layoffs bring the total number of jobs lost in Ontario to 13,000 this year.
Ontario has become a very expensive province in which to locate. While companies are quickly realizing this, the government is not. It continues to squeeze every last penny from our vital manufacturing sector with ill-conceived antibusiness tax policies.
The minister says he does not have to explain why companies locate here or elsewhere. Well, he does not have to. Members should just look at the government’s new employer health levy and the commercial concentration tax. The government’s corporate tax policies, unfortunately, speak for themselves.
Mr Carrothers: A recent article in the Globe and Mail pointed out that illiteracy is affecting approximately one third of all firms in Canada.
It was reported that about one third of companies are having problems introducing new technology because their employees are func-tionally illiterate. The same number reported that employees caused problems in product quality or in productivity, and about 40 per cent say that employees with basic skills shortages face difficulties taking on new assignments or transfers to new positions.
Even in the current economic climate this is a significant problem, especially as Ontario faces increased competition from Asia and Europe. It is difficult for us to compete when we may have up to seven per cent of our workforce illiterate.
In Ontario, a number of organizations are addressing this problem. One organization, the Halton and Peel Industrial Training and Advisory Committee, recently received a $255,000 funding grant from the Ministry of Skills Development. This organization has assisted 30 to 40 businesses in the Halton area alone, providing literacy upgrading programs in the workplace. They provide an essential service in the fight to overcome illiteracy in Halton’s business community.
It gives me great pleasure to recognize their accomplishments and wish them well as they start their second year of operation.
Mr Kormos: The Liberal government’s new auto insurance scheme, the one that is written by the auto insurance industry -- the Liberals call it no-fault -- what a scam; it is riddled with faults. The Liberals carry on with their flim-flammery, trying to sell this bill of goods to a desperate driving public. Will the Liberal scheme reduce insurance rates? Not on your life. Premiums are going to continue to go up and up, and so are the insurance companies’ profits.
Will this Liberal scheme create fairness for the driving public? Once again, no way. More and more drivers, including good drivers with good driving records, are going to be forced into the incredibly expensive Facility Association with rates that are two, three and four times those of the regular market.
This Liberal scam will guarantee that over 95 per cent of the innocent accident victims receive not a single nickel, not a dime, not a cent in compensation -- nothing whatever -- and that is shameful. This Liberal scam is going to guarantee profits such as the insurance industry has never dared dream of; a windfall in the first year alone of around $650 million for insurance companies here in the province because of the legislation this Liberal government is trying to force through this Legislature. Once again, that is shameful.
But we know that a public, driver-owned, non-profit insurance system can provide insurance affordably and fairly, as in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. If we are going to address the issues of affordability and fairness, it is time now that we start looking at the fair and affordable public, nonprofit, driver-owned systems that are already in existence.
Mr Sterling: I recently attended an awards ceremony honouring those who contributed to the enhancement of the disabled community in Ontario. Clifford Chadderton, a constituent of mine, was nominated for this award by the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada. He has been a vocal advocate of thalidomide sufferers for many years.
Mr Chadderton’s efforts have made me intensely aware of the injustices which exist for these victims as they attempt to seek compensation from the federal government for their disability. In 1963 the then Minister of National Health and Welfare, the Honourable J. Waldo Monteith, said, “It is our job to ensure that these victims are cared for in the best possible manner...and their needs are met to the fullest possible extent we can devise....”
Canada remains the only country in the world which has not yet compensated its thalidomide victims. Aside from the fact that the federal government approved the drug for distribution and waited a full three months after other nations withdrew the drug before taking action, if we simply overlook these errors in judgement, then we should simply look to the facts.
We have over 100 individuals in Canada who, through no fault of their own, have had their lives irreversibly damaged. If not for legal or moral reasons, then simply for humanitarian purposes, these people must be allowed to live their lives to the best of their abilities and the federal government should help to make this happen.
SUDBURY RED CROSS
Mr Campbell: Recently I had the pleasure of presenting a plaque on behalf of the province commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Red Cross Society in Sudbury.
This milestone offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on the Sudbury Red Cross and the efforts of its well-trained staff and volunteers. The Sudbury branch not only serves the city of Sudbury but is also the northeastern Ontario regional office. Since 1914, when Sudbury was granted a Red Cross charter to raise funds for the First World War relief, the Sudbury branch has expanded its role considerably.
The Second World War marked the watershed in the development of the Sudbury Red Cross because it saw the creation of the blood transfusion program. Today Sudbury is one of 17 network centres across Canada responsible for the collection, processing and distribution of blood and blood products within its region.
The Red Cross in Sudbury also offers a wide range of services designed for the local community. These include seniors’ home support, which provides older Sudbury area residents with home maintenance, family visits and the fun, fitness and transportation program.
I congratulate all the volunteers and staff who have helped make this organization a vital link in the local, northern, national and international communities.
I would ask my colleagues in the House to join me in extending congratulations to the Sudbury Red Cross on its anniversary and the wish for continued success in the future.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES / ÉTABLISSEMENTS CORRECTIONNELS
Hon Mr Patten: Mr Speaker, I would like to make several announcements and update you and members of the Legislature on issues of importance related to the operations of the Ministry of Correctional Services.
During a time of heightened growth, especially over the past year, new demands have been placed on the total justice system, including the police, the courts and my ministry, demands that include increased prosecution of offences involving family violence, rapid growth in urban centres and increased apprehension of those involved with illicit drugs.
My ministry has also recognized dramatic changes in the profile of offenders being admitted to supervision. We are seeing, by and large, more multiproblem offenders, those suffering from combinations of learning disabilities, alcoholism, psychological problems, illiteracy, addiction and an inability to control anger.
I would like to review briefly the approach this government has taken to address these pressures.
First, the ministry is committed to a long-term corporate direction, with plans geared to provide a balance between the institutional and the community correction system.
This is consistent with the planned approach the government has taken since 1985. Since 1985 we have increased the budget for this ministry, reflecting a real growth -- meaning deducting the inflationary factor -- in excess of $160 million in key program development initiatives such as treatment programs involving the development and expansion of secure treatment facilities in eastern Ontario, northern, southern and central Ontario; the establishment of community treatment initiatives and substantial increases in fee-for-service contracts with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other treatment professionals; youth services for young offenders, involving the creation of programs and services in both the community and institution environments; upgrading our network of secure institutions to improve supervision and care of adult offenders; creation of a staff training and development centre in Hamilton, and a modern computerized information management system that will enhance the effectiveness of staff in performing their duties.
Over the period from 31 March 1985 to 31 March 1989, correctional staffing has increased in institutions by 33 per cent and in our probation services by 38 per cent.
Cependant, nous avons connu un surpeuplement dans certains de nos grands établissements urbains de détention préventive, en particulier dans la région du grand Toronto.
Nous prenons donc des mesures pour accroître la capacité des établissements et augmenter le nombre d’employés ; nous cherchons aussi continuellement à rehausser les services de traitement offerts aux contrevenants condamnés.
Recent demands, to which I have just referred, have made it necessary to accelerate some of our planned institutional initiatives. Therefore, I want to announce three specific initiatives today.
First, I am pleased to announce that the ministry will build a 272-bed remand unit for adult offenders awaiting trial, sentencing or other judicial proceedings. The unit will be built as an addition to the existing Maplehurst Correctional Centre in Milton.
In order to accelerate the construction, we will use a design-build method enabling each stage of construction to proceed with minimal delay, with an expected completion date in the winter of 1991-92.
This will help alleviate pressure in the high-growth areas of Peel, North Halton and Dufferin areas presently being served by the Metro Toronto West Detention Centre.
I am also pleased to announce the conversion of 68 beds at the Mimico Correctional Centre for use by remand inmates requiring accommodation in the Metropolitan Toronto area.
These beds, which are expected to be ready for occupancy this month, are in addition to the 68 beds which were converted for remand use earlier this year to help alleviate population pressures at the Toronto Jail.
The operating budget on an annualized basis for the new detention unit at the Maplehurst site will be in excess of $6 million. New staffing will include correctional officers, nurses, social workers, psychiatric and psychological services and chaplaincy. Major support services will be supplemented by the existing Maplehurst complex. This allocation is exclusive of the additional staff already provided to the Mimico Correctional Centre.
Dans certaines régions moins peuplées, nous avons également continence à réouvrir les places qui avaient été fermées temporairement l’année dernière à la suite d’une sous-utilisation.
These new resources, a combination of 408 beds, interim and long-term additional staff and reopened beds will address issues of the greater urban complex. They will also help support the government’s overall drug strategy.
Les députés ne sont pas sans savoir que le ministère a entamé des pourparlers avec le syndicat des employés de la fonction publique de l’Ontario. En ce qui a trait aux clauses portant sur les salaires, les discussions en sont maintenant à l’étape de l’arbitrage exécutoire ; nous espérons que la question se règlera sous peu.
In addition to wage concerns, job action, information pickets and questions relating to staff working conditions, occupational health and safety have also been raised by both parties. I am pleased to report to members substantial progress in discussions between this ministry and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
Therefore, I am announcing a third initiative:
Where institutions have operated over capacity, we have agreed to supply additional staff over and above the complement, to manage those situations as long as capacity problems persist. As the hiring of the 90 additional staff, at approximately $3.5 million, will take some time, an additional $1.7 million in overtime salaries has been added this fiscal year to assist immediately in those institutions where capacity is a problem. We have also agreed to advertise immediately for 50 correctional officers currently vacant in the Toronto area.
In addition, the ministry and the union are committed to the full utilization of the ministry’s employee relations committee structure, which involves both union and management personnel. Formal processes are in effect at both the local and the provincial levels. A number of issues of significant interest to both union and management have been identified, including recruitment strategies, methods of filling vacancies, shift scheduling and absenteeism, as well as a number of general issues.
I am also pleased to inform the Legislature that my ministry, together with OPSEU, will set up occupational health and safety committees in all of our 52 institutions, as well as on a ministry-wide basis, to enable management and union to work together to address health and safety issues in the workplace. Terms of reference for these committees will be worked out in the very near future.
Other discussions have and are taking place with the human resources secretariat in respect of retirement issues and with the Ministry of Labour and my ministry on a wide-ranging occupational set of health and safety concerns. Because of the complexity and the magnitude of correctional issues, we can expect that their resolution will take some time. I will report progress on these issues and any further developments to honourable members in a timely manner.
I am confident that with the renewed spirit of trust and co-operation, coupled with operational initiatives I have announced today, we will work together with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union to meet the challenges of the 1990s.
Mr Farnan: I have some comments I would like to make on the statement today. The first and most hopeful comment is that the minister has indicated that he will listen to the front-line workers within the correctional system. This is a first. I am sure the workers in the system appreciate it, and I hope it continues.
The actions of this government, however, are reactive rather than proactive. It is only when the stench becomes so bad, only when the system is exposed, only when there is total breakdown within the system that we have a response from the government.
I can take the minister back through Hansard and the rosy picture that was painted of correctional systems by the member for Timiskaming (Mr Ramsay). It just was not the truth. We knew the system was rotten. If the statement in the House today has any value at all, it is this: It is a confession. It is a confession on the part of the government that all is not well; indeed, the system is very, very precarious.
The statement was not made today openly. The minister got up and matter of factly announced this program, but this statement was dragged out of the minister. It was not an open and free admission of the state of the correctional system. It was something that was dragged out of this government.
For years the system has been in a deplorable state. For years correctional officers and their representatives made petitions and presentations and delegations to this government, and nothing happened. There was constant questioning in this House on the state of the system by myself as the critic.
Let me say that the understaffing that exists in the correctional system, the overcrowding that exists, the tension, the anxiety, the fear, the stress under which our correctional officers work -- this has been so blatantly obvious, but the bottom line was that it took a four-day work stoppage of correctional officers in order to bring some realization to this government. What we have here, I want to venture to add, is somewhat of a Band-Aid solution and certainly long overdue.
Health and safety committees -- the minister stands up as though it is some kind of fantastic announcement. We are talking about one of the most volatile, hazardous and dangerous work situations in the province of Ontario, and in 1989 the minister stands up and says: “Isn’t it something? We’re having a health and safety committee in the most dangerous work situation in the province of Ontario.” It is about damn time, I say to the minister.
I want to suggest to the minister today that he is not recognizing the overall problem. We have a systemic problem that encompasses the whole criminal justice system. He will recognize, to some extent, that the drug sweeps and family violence are changing the pressure on our institutions. He did not mention in that remark the psychiatric patients who are crowding our institutions, sick people getting sicker. He did not mention the lack of literacy programs, and of course, if the police are simply going out and bringing in more people, if the courts are giving sentences and if the institutions cannot match the sentences, no matter how many jails we build, we are not going to have sufficient jails to look after the inmates that we have.
The average stay in a provincial prison is 77 days. If the average stay in a provincial were 70 days, there would be no overcrowding. Has the minister ever thought of the fact that perhaps instead of looking at incarceration and warehousing, we might instead look at rehabilitation and at a seven-day difference in the length of stay within an institution?
Has the minister examined the possibility of fine-option programs? A large number of people in our correctional institutions today are there because they do not pay a fine. In Alberta, there are very excellent fine-option programs, community service programs. In Ontario, we have two small examples of this, and this minister is talking about building jails when he should, in fact, be expanding the fine-option programs and community service programs.
My greatest regret about this statement is its lack of vision. It is a lack of vision, and basically I am looking forward to the New Democratic Party task force in the new year when we examine the system in more depth and expose it for what it is. Certainly a lot needs to be done. The minister has applied a Band-Aid.
Mr Cousens: The Minister of Correctional Services has made a good announcement today. We have not heard very much from his ministry since the strike that took place. It was four unhappy days that brought to a focus a lot of the problems that are endemic to the system. I think what we are seeing happen is that someone has put together a presentation for the minister to give today.
Certainly the strike has taken a while to develop; it is going to take a long time to solve those --
Mr Cousens: We know it was not the minister. We know it came from another office of the government. The fact of the matter is we have to be very concerned in our province about those people who are under the care of this government, and especially those who are in corrections. I think there is a real need for us to remember that there is a serious problem of overcrowding and there is a serious problem in the relations between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the government.
I think combining those two critical problems really leaves us with a powder keg. We saw it start to smoke not too long ago, and what we are seeing the minister now come forward with are a few suggestions that will go at least a small way in helping to solve those concerns.
I am surprised that in the minister’s statement there is no mention of what he is doing with regard to serving the people within the system. We have a problem. We are going to see it tonight. Maybe the minister should take some time to watch the CBC special on the women’s penitentiary in Kingston. I know the numbers are different for women than they are for men, but there is a serious problem within that system for women. Is the problem not somewhat, as well, in Ontario?
I challenge the minister, through the Speaker, to come forward and show us what he is doing to make sure that all people within that system are being treated carefully with equity and with fairness. I am not just talking about the inmates, the people who are being served by the system, but I happen to know from firsthand experience from situations that come to me through my riding that it is not a happy system that he is running. He is never going to have a perfect one, but the fact is, I think he is sidestepping a sense of responsibility on what should be done.
It also has to do with the way the minister is treating his own staff. Are people being given a chance to move up within the system, to have a chance to improve and develop themselves, as they should, through education and through programs that allow them to move forward and develop? That too should be an important part of a system that is looking at people.
We have a system that is full of pressures and today it is good to see relief in some of those areas. I would be very pleased if this minister could look back at some of the other announcements that he has made and not followed through on. We are talking about a system that is over capacity. It is a system that has the potential of being a good one, but we have to take this far more seriously so that the people who are in our institutions will have a chance of getting out and living their lives back in the community in a fruitful and full way so that their lives are not just scarred for ever by being in a system that is so overcrowded and so undernourished by this government.
It is a serious situation. I am pleased and happy that the Minister of Correctional Services has made a statement today. I hope that these promises he has made will be followed through and that in fact we will see that they are fulfilled.
We just cannot take for granted the needs of those people who are in our correctional system and who are under parole who need this care. They are important people of our society and it is to our benefit that we bring them back into society to live full and good lives again.
The minister, as a minister, and his ministry should be giving this as high a priority as possible. Unfortunately, the minister does not get the support from the government, through the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) and the Management Board of Cabinet, for the moneys he needs to do it. It takes a strike to get his attention. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only way in which anyone can get attention from this government. We have to hit them over the head before they do anything.
The Speaker: There have been quite a number of private conversations taking place. It has been somewhat difficult to concentrate, but I am sure that many of those conversations can wait for a little while.
TABLING OF INFORMATION
Mr Harris: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise on a point of order under standing order 95, which deals with written questions. You will recall that every so often we on this side of this House must remind the government of its duty to reply to questions in Orders and Notices. This government has been in office for several years now, and every session we have to remind it of its duty to respond to the written questions on the order paper. Since their first session on that side of the House, the Liberals have been tardy in responding to order paper questions consistently, session after session.
For the first year or two, we brought this to the attention of the House and we assumed and put it down to basic incompetence. However, if you look at today’s Orders and Notices, Mr Speaker, you will see literally dozens of questions unanswered. Questions 208 to 240 were placed on the order paper back in July, five months ago. The government itself indicated it would respond to these questions on or about 16 October. That was a month and a half ago. Questions 265 to 267 were addressed to the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) on 10 July. Five months later we are still waiting for a response. We know how partial the minister is to waiting lists as a form of public policy in the health care system. It is unfortunate and it is regrettable, but we are expecting it from this government. We can no longer assume that this is basic incompetence. It must be a systematic policy on the part of the government.
Mr Speaker, still on the point of order under standing order 95, I draw to your attention specifically another series of questions placed on 6 November. These questions were also addressed to the Minister of Health. Her policy of creating waiting lists continues. Today’s order paper does not indicate whether order paper questions 326 to 335 have even received an interim response. I would take from this that they are in complete violation on 326 to 335 of standing order 95(d).
My point of order is this: The government is in violation of standing order 95 and appears to have a systematic policy of not being open and forthright in responding to legitimate public policy questions. We on this side of the House --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Harris: -- regard the Liberal policy of creating waiting lists for health care services --
The Speaker: Thank you. Order, order. You placed your point of order very well and very extensively. The government House leader may have a comment on that.
Hon Mr Ward: Very briefly, I note that the order paper questions the member refers to all have been provided to members of the opposition, at least in terms of interim answers. I suggest that the member doublecheck his data.
The Speaker: Order, order. There was a fairly lengthy point of order and a not-so-lengthy response. However, it seems to boil down that there is difficulty with one or two of the questions still on the order paper. I am sure the government House leader will look at the point of order very carefully.
Mr B. Rae: One company executive has referred to last Thursday as black Thursday because of the announcement of some 2,100 layoffs in the province: 900 jobs gone when Ford Canada closes its engine plant in Windsor, 800 layoffs as a result of the merger of Canadian Airlines and Wardair, up to 240 out of work due to the closing of a glass plant in Mississauga and 150 jobs gone in Niagara Falls because Gerber’s is closing its plant and moving it to the United States.
These changes are coming fast and sure. They are causing great concern to working people across the province. I wonder if the Premier can tell us, why has the government announced no new programs to deal with these dramatic changes since its election in 1987?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the minister can help out my honourable friend.
The Speaker: Referred to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.
Hon Mr Kwinter: We, as a government, are very concerned with the announcements being made on plant closures and layoffs, and I should tell the member that these are a result of a series of events. One is the global economy. Free trade, undoubtedly, has created some of the problems. Also, we have a situation where the federal government has not responded adequately. They have done nothing on the Dupré recommendations and they have done nothing on adjustment programs. We had predicted that these things would happen and we are doing what we can through various government programs to ease that particular hardship.
Mr B. Rae: “This is exactly as we predicted.” The minister is simply passing the buck. We look at the field of pensions, we look at the field of severance, we look at the field of employment standards, we look at the field of training -- all those areas are within the province’s jurisdiction; they are within the jurisdiction of the province of Ontario. The minister turns around and says to Ottawa that it has not introduced any new adjustment programs. I say to the minister neither has he, neither has the Liberal government of Ontario.
We have seen in Ontario, the manufacturing centre of Canada, that because of all the changes which he has described -- some of them because of free trade, some of them because of interest rates, some of them because of the changes that are happening all around us -- there is going to be major change in Ontario. Why is there no provincial strategy in Ontario to deal with that change as it affects working families?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition that there is no plan. We have the program for older worker adjustment. We have other programs that are in place.
Mr B. Rae: That’s not your plan.
Hon Mr Kwinter: No, but they are there.
The Premier’s Council is bringing out a major report to deal with the whole idea of human resources. But to put it in its proper context, I think that members would want to know that in October of this year the unemployment rate in Ontario was 4.9 per cent, the lowest in Canada, and I think members will want to know that in October employment grew in Ontario by 14,000 after an increase of 8,000 in September. In a 10-month period to date employment in Ontario has grown by 86,000 over the same period last year.
Mr B. Rae: Now the minister really does sound like Brian Mulroney. Now all the minister is doing is taking credit for the jobs that are created. I want to remind the minister that a job loss of 1,200 in Windsor is the equivalent to 12,000 jobs being lost in one day in Metropolitan Toronto. That is the severity of the job losses we are talking about.
I think we are entitled to ask, what is the minister doing on pensions and early retirement, what is he doing on training, what is he doing on adjustment, what is he doing on employment standards and severance? These are all the areas where this government has jurisdiction and responsibility.
The Speaker: What is your question?
Mr B. Rae: Why has the minister moved in none of these areas to assist the workers who have been devastated by these changes? Why not?
Hon Mr Kwinter: Again, I have to disagree with the Leader of the Opposition. We are moving in all of those areas. In every one of those areas we are bringing forward changes to the legislation. I should also mention, and again I do not want to defend the industries that are laying these workers off, but I can tell the member that the announcements are being made in a timely fashion so that some of those adjustments that are going to be taking place will be absorbed and lessened through attrition. We are working closely with the Ministry of Labour and with the companies to lessen that impact on those communities.
Mr B. Rae: It is always nice to hear the minister say that the announcements about somebody getting fired are timely.
The Speaker: Is the question to the same minister?
Mr B. Rae: My question again is to the Premier. I am sure the Premier has been following the news of the inquest around the death of Stella Lacroix. Just last week, one of the witnesses at the inquiry told the inquiry -- and I am quoting from what she said -- referring to the Premier and the Minister of Health, “We felt they had less-than-accurate information.” This is Vicki Kaminski, who is a member of a Ministry of Health working group. “Statements from Peterson and Caplan ‘made it sound like there was a provincial hotline that was widely known. Our concern was that there was no such number.”’
I would like to ask the Premier, in light of the statements that he has made in this House about a system being in place but that the system was not used, something which he has said time and again here and outside, is he finally ready, now that this evidence has come before the inquest, to apologize to Dr Nesdoly and to apologize to all those people who were so badly hurt by the Premier’s truly ignorant remarks that he made at the time of Stella Lacroix’s death.
Hon Mr Peterson: I think that the minister can help out the honourable member.
The Speaker: It has been referred to the Minister of Health.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would like to say to the Leader of the Opposition that the inquest is ongoing and has not yet concluded; that is the forum where all the facts come out. But he should know that the Toronto Hospital, whose letter was presented to this House in good faith, stands by the contents of that letter as being accurate.
Mr B. Rae: I say to the minister that this defence of hers is truly indefensible. The statement that has been made by her own civil servant clearly contradicts the information that was presented by the Premier to this House, and even at this date he is not prepared to admit that he was wrong.
I wonder how the minister reacts to the statements made by Dr Stone, for example, from Toronto Western Hospital saying that there is no problem with beds, the problem is nurses and that the critical problem at that hospital at the time of Dr Nesdoly’s tragic search was not that there were no beds available -- he said there were beds available -- but that there were no nurses, there were no staff to handle Ms Lacroix. I would like to ask how the minister feels about that harsh reality finally coming home to her at the inquest?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want the member opposite to know that our position all along has been that all the facts must come out. When he is looking at the facts it is important to note that since 1986 there has been a 26.3 per cent increase in the number of critical care nurses working full-time in Ontario. For Toronto alone that increase has been 16.7 per cent. When the member refers to vacancy rates, it is also very important to look at the enhancement of services and the number of new jobs that have been created for nurses here in Toronto and across the province.
I have always said how important it is to have accurate information in this House. I will say to him that we have always referred to the system that was in place at the Toronto General Hospital and the system that was in place at other hospitals across this province. When we refer to nursing vacancies we also must refer to the new positions that have been created for nurses as we attempt to enhance the services so that --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mrs Caplan: -- the people of this province will have appropriate health care delivery as close to home as possible.
Mr B. Rae: I do not think that this minister understands what is going on. Dr Cooper, who was in charge of the intensive care unit at the Toronto Western Hospital on 10 October, “agreed his department was working at peak capacity that night.” I am quoting from the Globe and Mail. Dr Cooper said: “Yes, there were beds. There were empty beds. But there were no nurses to look after those beds.”
I must confess that when I want to know about what the situation is in a hospital I would rather hear from Dr Cooper than from the Minister of Health because I think he is more accurate in what he is telling us. He is telling us that there are beds that are there that are available, but there are not the staff to provide the beds with that kind of care. I think that is the most troublesome statement that has come out of this inquest.
The Speaker: And the question?
Mr B. Rae: How does the minister feel about what Dr Cooper just said?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to say to the leader that in fact I am looking forward to the recommendations of the coroner’s inquest into this very difficult and troubling matter. I want him to know as well that we are working with the hospitals across this province to ensure that the services that they deliver are appropriate to meet the needs.
I want him to know as well that I understand the issues facing nursing in this province. I believe the initiatives that we have undertaken to improve the quality of work life for nurses, and also to acknowledge the changing technologies and the role that nurses play by giving them greater say in hospital decision-making, are important and significant steps.
Is it perfect in Ontario? Of course not. Can we do better tomorrow? Of course we can. We are always trying to make sure that we do a little bit better tomorrow than we did yesterday and we look forward to recommendations from the experts across this province to give us their very best advice on how we can do that.
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Premier. The municipalities in the greater Toronto area are presently preparing submissions to the province with respect to alternative landfill sites that are being considered at the present moment. I think I should address this question to the Premier in the absence of the Minister of the Environment and also because it is a government decision which will involve far more than just the Minister of the Environment.
There are two conditions that I feel are absolutely essential to any approval that the government of Ontario might provide to the GTA municipalities on the alternatives that they are considering. One is that the Rouge lands not be used as a landfill site and the second is that any proposed landfill site undergo a full and thorough environmental assessment as part of the requirements. Will the Premier commit his government to those two reasonable conditions?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am sure the member will be pleased to see that the Minister of the Environment has just amved.
The Speaker: It has been referred to the Minister of the Environment.
Hon Mr Bradley: I think I heard the question.
Mr Brandt: I will repeat it.
Hon Mr Bradley: No doubt the member will. I think I heard the question. The member would know at the present time that Metropolitan Toronto and other municipalities, particularly those within the GTA, are attempting within their own councils to determine which would be the most appropriate way to deal with their particular disposal problems and indeed with waste management overall, because it involves both management in terms of diverting waste from any potential disposal method and the ultimate disposal method as well.
I can indicate to the member that the government will be very interested in seeing, first of all, what proposals would come forward. My under-standing is that there have not been final decisions made. I think the member made reference to Metropolitan Toronto. There is a works committee report, but there has been no final decision made by Metropolitan Toronto.
The member would know that whatever site or facility is ultimately chosen would go through a very rigorous regime whereby they would look carefully at all the environmental implications. I know the Environmental Assessment Board would not want to approve --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Brandt: The minister uses a very interesting word when he talks about a comprehensive regime, which I think is what the minister said. I am looking for a response to two reasonable conditions which I think the government should set forth as a clear signal to the member communities of the GTA, to indicate to them that it is unacceptable to the government that the Rouge be considered as a site for any potential landfill and, second, that they understand well in advance that they are going to have to go through a rigorous and thorough environmental assessment rather than some regime that may be proposed by the minister as an alternative. Will the minister commit, on behalf of the government of Ontario, to those two very reasonable conditions?
Hon Mr Bradley: It is amazing how reasonable the former Minister of the Environment is now that he is not the Minister of the Environment. I can recall my friend chastising this government because there were not rapid enough approvals taking place in various areas, but we will leave that behind. That was another day.
I do want to indicate to him, of course, that there will be a hearing before the Environmental Assessment Board. The member is aware of that. No site, I am sure, would be approved by the Environmental Assessment Board that does not meet the criteria of the province of Ontario. It must be a safe environmental site no matter where it is, anywhere in the province of Ontario, or the board would not approve it.
Also, he would recognize that in fact there is an opportunity for each of the government departments to comment on any of the proposals that come forward and any of the commenting agencies so that they can assist the board in making that decision, by providing hydrogeological comments, for instance, on the implications for any of the surrounding areas, and I think they will do that.
I would hate to get in a situation where this Legislature is dictating at this very moment what the final decision of Metropolitan Toronto might be. No matter what the decision is, it would be --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Brandt: Let me say to the minister that he is being very unclear. I think he is intentionally attempting to confuse the issue when one asks him for a direct response in regard to the environmental assessment being an absolute requirement.
I am sure the minister would realize that the citizens of Pickering, Whitevale and other areas want to have a say in what happens in their respective communities. I am sure the minister recognizes that the environmental assessment process is there for that very reason, in order to allow for ample, thorough, complete -- exhaustive in some instances -- citizen input. I am sure the minister will recall as well, when he was across the floor, how determined he was to see that every single approval of any kind, of whatever magnitude, went through the environmental assessment process.
Hon Mr Bradley: I wasn’t the critic.
The Speaker: Is that your question?
Mr Brandt: Will the minister give that commitment to the communities that are concerned now that they may not be given the opportunity to go through a full and thorough environmental assessment?
Hon Mr Bradley: The former minister, now the leader of the third party, would know that the citizens will have an opportunity to make a case before a mandatory hearing which will be held before the Environmental Assessment Board. They will be able to mobilize all of their resources to indicate whether they are in opposition or in favour of it.
I would suspect that no matter what site is selected by whatever municipality anywhere in Ontario, the leader of the third party or his friends will be opposed to that site. We recognize that. I remember my days in opposition, but he should remember that I was not the Environment critic, which he gives me the credit for.
There will be a very rigorous process. The member knows that. The Environmental Protection Act takes into consideration everything associated with that specific site, and whatever site happens to be selected will be evaluated very carefully. I have faith in the Environmental Assessment Board, that it will hear all the evidence impartially and will hear citizens who are opposed. Those citizens, thanks to the Attorney General (Mr Scott) and others in this government, will have intervener funding to make their specific case --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Bradley: -- and I think that the ultimate decision will be a wise one on the part of the board.
The Speaker: New question.
Mr Brandt: I hope that is clear in the minds of the people of Ontario, because I understand the process. The minister understands the process, but he cannot answer directly as to whether or not he is --
The Speaker: Were you asking the same minister?
Mr Brandt: I have another question that I want to address to the Minister of Health.
The Speaker: Oh, I see. Fine.
Mr Brandt: I would like to ask the minister if she can advise this house if individuals who refuse to pay their final OHIP premiums to cover the period from January to April of 1990 will be covered for any health expenses that they may incur during that particular time period beginning 1 January 1990. Could the minister advise the House, please?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to assure the member opposite and all members of this House that it is the policy of this government that during the transitional period, as we move from premiums to the employer health levy and funding for health services from consolidated revenue, all residents of Ontario will be covered for the health services that they receive.
Mr Brandt: I want the minister to know that my office is receiving complaints with respect to direction being given by her ministry indicating that those individuals who are not prepared to pay for January, February, March and April will in fact not be receiving health care, if required, from the province of Ontario. That is the message. I have confirmed that through my own research department, which has called to see whether that is the message that her people are getting out.
I want to advise the minister that the payment period -- January. February, March and April, the first four months of 1990 -- is already covered under the new employer health levy and that this is a double billing. Why is it that her ministry is telling individuals that they will not be covered, and is she prepared to indicate --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Brandt: -- to this House that she will advise her ministry staff to cease and desist from that kind of message?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would ask the leader of the third party to listen very carefully to what I said. I know that there is some confusion among the people of this province. I want them to know that through this transitional period of time, where there is some confusion, we will be doing everything we can to clarify for people the coverage they have under the health insurance division from the government of Ontario Ministry of Health. Everyone in this province will be appropriately covered to receive the services that they need in the province of Ontario.
Mr Brandt: If people refuse to pay for January through April of 1990, is the minister saying that they will get complete and total coverage through the health system of Ontario?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to assure the leader of the third party that we will do everything we can to make sure the people receive accurate information on how to appropriately respond. We want them to know that they will be fully covered through the transitional period and that no one resident in Ontario will be denied access to health services.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I would like to go back to the issue of plant closures and layoffs. In addition to the 900 jobs that were --
The Speaker: To which minister?
Mr D. S. Cooke: To the Premier. In addition to the 900 jobs that were lost, unannounced, last week by Ford Motor Co, there was also an announcement of a plant closure at Reflex, another 80 jobs lost, and 162 jobs as of January of this year at Kelsey-Hayes. In one or two days 1,142 jobs were lost in the city of Windsor, and that is the equivalent of at least 12,000 to 15,000 in Toronto.
If that kind of catastrophe occurred in this region of the province, the Premier would have at the very minimum today given a statement as to what action the government was going to take to try to help out a community in such dire straits. I would like to ask the Premier exactly what the plans of his government are, considering the fact that Windsor already has about 10 per cent unemployment and another 1,200 jobs are going to be lost. What are his plans to come to rescue that community?
The Speaker: Thank you. You have asked that before.
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the minister can help out the honourable member.
The Speaker: Referred to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.
Hon Mr Kwinter: In my previous response, and again I do not want to make light of what is happening in Windsor and other communities, but we have a situation where those companies have come forward and announced that at the end of the 1990 model year those jobs will no longer be in place. They are making every effort to adjust. A lot of those jobs are going to be taken care of through attrition, and we are working through the Ministry of Labour with the various companies in the automotive sector to see what we can do to replace those jobs in Windsor.
I can tell the honourable member, and I do not want to make light of the fact that a man who understands that his job is coming to an end is under severe pressure, we do have programs to help him. We are also working with those people to try to get some additional employment into the Windsor area. As the honourable member knows, the automotive industry is a cyclical business. This has happened before and we have been able to make some adjustments. We will continue to make those adjustments.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The minister makes a comment that the auto industry has a cyclical nature to it. I understand that. I was in that community in the early 1980s when we had 20 per cent and 25 per cent unemployment.
It is up to this government to show some leadership so that we do not go through that depression again, and that is exactly where we are heading. We have never fully recovered. We have had 10 per cent unemployment while Toronto prospers, and all we have got from those guys are comments that southern Ontario is prospering and there is no need to help.
One thing the minister could do -- that is why I asked the question to the Premier but he fluffed it off -- is look at decentralization of some of the provincial government jobs to help communities like Windsor, one-industry cities, diversify. I would like to ask the minister, and perhaps he would refer it back to the Premier, whether he would be willing to consider seriously the decentralization of some of the provincial jobs into Windsor and stop making the kind of comment the Premier made last week to our local reporter that: “Windsor is just like Wingham. They want provincial jobs too.”
The Speaker: The question has been asked.
Hon Mr Kwinter: I do not think this government has to apologize for the efforts that we have taken on behalf of decentralizing Ontario.
Mr D. S. Cooke: You have done nothing in communities like Windsor.
Hon Mr Kwinter: Let me tell the honourable member that we have diversified in eastern Ontario and western Ontario. We are going to be working with that community. We are working with the various industries that thrive in that community in the automotive area and we will see what we can do to replace those jobs.
I want the member to know that we met with the Ford Motor Co. They told us about their plans. I am sure he knows that that particular plant has been around since the 1920s. It is a plant that has been up and down, that has been living on borrowed time, and its time has come. There is nothing we can do about that, but we are going to work to see what we can do to get some new industry into that community.
The Speaker: Order. There are other members who would like to ask questions, but if you do not want them to, that is fine. New question, the member for London North.
RETAIL STORE HOURS
Mrs Cunningham: My question is for the Premier. I am sure the Premier is aware that this weekend there were a number of stores open again on Sunday in direct contravention of this new act. The one that was most widely publicized was the electronics retailer who advised us that he was opening because other electronic retailer stores were opening. In spite of the numerous charges being laid by the municipalities that are doing their very best to enforce this law, the legislation appears to have no effect on the violators at all.
I ask the Premier at this time if he will direct the Attorney General (Mr Scott) to accept his responsibility and do something about this breakage of laws in the province of Ontario.
Hon Mr Peterson: I say to my honourable friend, there are laws in this province in many areas and some people choose to break the laws. In my view, that is totally and thoroughly unacceptable and they will be prosecuted as anyone else is who breaks the law.
Mrs Cunningham: The Premier surely ought to know that we fought long and hard against this legislation because we did not think it could in fact be administered. But his Solicitor General at the time advised us quite frankly that the law is fair because it removes loopholes and increases penalties. In this way we will ensure that Sunday shopping is not forced upon communities that do not want it because some retailers intentionally flout the law.
They are flouting the law. The Premier made it really, really clear during the hearings and during the publication of this legislation that he had the clout, and he does. The Attorney General in fact can close those stores. They have been trying to get the fines up. It is not working. The next step was the one he sold this legislation on. He can close those stores. Why does he not tell the Attorney General to do it?
Hon Mr Peterson: I can tell my honourable friend that people who break the law will be prosecuted. It is that simple. I cannot justify people deliberately flouting the law any more than she can. Obviously, the full weight of the law will be used where it is appropriate.
Mr Dietsch: My question is for the Minister of Health. She will know that personnel from her ministry toured the St Catharines General Hospital on 6 November and that on 24 November a group of concerned citizens presented me with a petition containing 5,138 signatures which I have laid on her desk.
Those signatures represent people who are deeply frustrated about the poor physical conditions of the chronic care at the St Catharines General Hospital. I quite frankly support the chronic care and emergency projects that are in the works at the St Catharines General Hospital.
Could the minister please indicate what will be done to improve conditions which our chronically ill patients must endure while they wait for the promised solutions to the poor physical conditions of the St Catharines General Hospital?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to thank the member for St Catharines-Brock for his question and acknowledge both his concern and his interest. I understand that ministry officials have recently been at the hospital and are very aware of the situation, and I want to assure him that the ministry is reviewing alternative situations and alternative solutions.
As the member knows, we have undertaken long-term care reform with the Ministry of Community and Social Services and we want to ensure, as a part of this, that we are reviewing alternatives to institutionalization for seniors, to make sure that appropriate care is provided in the appropriate location. That does not minimize the need to look at maintaining the buildings appropriately, and for that we are using a good deal of common sense in the approach that we are taking.
Mr Dletsch: The expectations have been high since the first announcement in 1985 and again the government announcement on this project in 1987. The community has done its part in raising its funds and would like a clear indication as to when this very senous situation will be given the attention that it deserves.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I understand that the ministry staff will be meeting with the Niagara District Health Council and the Shaver Hospital for Chest Diseases early in the new year. We are, as I said, taking a commonsense approach to existing buildings. I believe that maintenance of facilities must be a priority and I want to say to the member very, very clearly that whatever must be done will be done, to ensure that the people of this province who are in our institutions have the kind of services they require to meet their needs.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. I have to say that his semantic squirmings in the face of the questions from the leader of the third party earlier were very disappointing to those of us who had expected better from this minister.
The minister, I am sure, will recall that in the early 1970s there were a number of landfill sites across the province that were proving to be disastrous environmental problems. As a result, the government of the day was forced by the opposition parties to bring in the Environmental Assessment Act and to subject all municipal landfills to the requirements of that act.
Can the minister explain why now, 15 years later, as we enter the last decade of the century, he is leading us backwards, away from the Environmental Assessment Act and putting landfill approvals under the Environmental Protection Act? Is that the kind of government we are to expect in the future from this minister?
Hon Mr Bradley: The member will well recognize that the number of facilities which now go under the Environmental Assessment Act, particularly on a long-term basis, is far greater than was ever the case before, and there are so many cases across the province of Ontario where long-term solutions are in fact doing so.
The member will also know, because she is very familiar with the Environmental Protection Act as well, that each individual site that is looked at under an Environmental Protection Act hearing for instance, looks at the hydrogeology of that particular site, looks at all of the environmental impacts of that particular site, and I am sure that the board, when it rejects or accepts any particular site after a very exhaustive hearing is held, will take into consideration all of those environmental factors. In fact, the long-term solutions to the area she mentions, the greater Toronto area, will be subject, as there is plenty of time to do so, to the Environmental Assessment Act, and the board will look at a variety of alternatives.
The member will know as well that we in the provincial government are strongly pursuing diversion of much of the waste, 25 per cent by the year 1992 and 50 per cent by the year 2000, which would normally go into either a landfill site or an incinerator. I want to assure the member there will be an Environmental Assessment Board hearing, there will be intervener funding for any who would oppose any --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mrs Grier: I did not ask the minister about the long-term plans. I was asking about the contingency sites which are going to be in use for five, six, seven years, maybe longer, and which in themselves are going to cause environmental problems and are not going to be subject to any hearings that would require the proponents to look at alternatives. Further, we now understand that Metropolitan Toronto is looking at sites beyond the GTA. They are looking at sites in Marmora and Lake townships, in Plympton township and in Orillia.
Is the minister going to let sites that are beyond the GTA be exempt from the Environmental Assessment Act and is he going to in effect establish a double standard in this province whereby a site that a municipality is looking at for its own use is going to be subject to an environmental assessment and a site that may be being looked at in that municipality by Metro Toronto is only subject to the EPA? Is that what he is going to do for Metro Toronto?
Hon Mr Bradley: The member will know that we have two categories: the interim sites which are for a relatively short period of time and the long-term sites which are for a longer period of time. The member will know that we are in a situation in the greater Toronto area where the regional chairmen have got together, the regional councils have got together to make these decisions. People like our friend Richard Gilbert -- and I know the member is very familiar with Mr Gilbert -- have talked about the GTA, in fact was one of the people who suggested the GTA to solve the problem.
The member must recognize that when the GTA makes its decisions on interim sites, it is not necessarily going to choose every site. They are going to select what they believe to be best site that would go to a hearing. The hearing board can reject it, based on all of the environmental considerations that are placed before the hearing board. They can in fact reject, accept with conditions or accept entirely. The hearing board will have that appropriate authority. They will be looking at any site that is put forward by the GTA or any other site that is put forward and will be making a decision based on all the environmental considerations.
CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. People in Ontario would be surprised to know how many children there are on waiting lists across Ontario for mental health treatment, for children’s mental health centres.
Last year there were 6,000 on waiting lists, and that is over three times the number that were on waiting lists back in 1984. Many centres are now reporting that they do not even keep a list of those who are to go on the waiting list because they just know there is not that much hope of getting them on that list. It could be an estimate of another 4,000 on top of the 6,000 who were already on lists who are waiting to be served.
I would like to ask the minister a question that would bring it closer to home. Could he tell us how many children are on waiting lists for children’s mental health centres in York region?
Hon Mr Beer: The honourable member raises an issue that we are very concerned about and have been discussing with the Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres. Indeed one of the things we are doing with them is trying to determine exactly how many people are on waiting lists.
As the honourable member is perhaps aware, sometimes, quite understandably, parents will place their child’s name on a number of lists, and we both recognize that we have some problem in recognizing the exact number, although even if there are only a few more, we want to make sure that we can deal with those young people.
In terms of the specific numbers that are being discussed for York region, I do not have that figure with me.
Mr Cousens: I have. There are 90 children on waiting lists for Blue Hills Academy, 27 at Kinark and 34 in the York Centre for Children, Youth and Families. There we have 151 on waiting lists, and the chance of the minister saying it is plus or minus a large number because they are on duplicate lists -- those are good numbers and reflect a very serious state of affairs in York region and also in other high-growth areas in the province.
It is a sorry state of affairs for those children who are on waiting lists for an extended period of time. As long as they are on waiting lists and waiting, they too are suffering. Children who are not cared for are going to be the problems of the rest of society later on. What specifically will the minister be doing to reduce the waiting lists in those three institutions I just mentioned and Kerry’s Place in York region? Can he tell us what he will do specifically to solve their problem of large and growing waiting lists?
Hon Mr Beer: I rather suspected that the honourable member had some figures, and I think what I would say to him with respect to those who are in our home area is the same as we are going to do for those who are on lists in all parts of the province, because this is not a problem that is unique only to York region, nor indeed just to fast-growth areas.
As I mentioned before, we are working with the Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres and looking at a number of initiatives that we can take which will have an impact in cutting down the waiting lists. I would hope that through that work and early into the new year, as we look at a number of things that include funding as well as other elements of their program and how to deliver and manage the system, that we can begin to make a real impact on that area. I think we have to recognize that this is an area where we are under a great deal of pressure throughout the province, but particularly in fast-growth areas.
Mr Elliot: My question is to the Minister of Correctional Services. I appreciated the statement he made today. Due to certain media reports last week, several of my constituents have expressed a concern relative to that statement. They are fearful that Metropolitan Toronto’s problems are being transferred to Milton. Is this in fact the case? Is the minister dumping Metro Toronto’s problems on Milton?
Hon Mr Patten: I would like to thank the member for Halton North for his question. I know he has a concern related to his community, because the Maplehurst Correctional Centre is in his riding. But I would like to say to the member categorically that indeed the reverse is true: It is the Metropolitan Toronto West Detention Centre that has been handling all the remands from the growth area and the very purpose of the extension at this particular time is to provide an opportunity for people from the areas of Peel and North Halton and Dufferin who are awaiting their day in court to be closer to home. It is as a result of that growth area that this is taking place. Secondarily, of course, it does help the rest of the whole system in relieving some of the pressure.
Mr Elliot: The Maplehurst Correctional Centre has a long history of being a good neighbour. Those of us who visit institutions like Maplehurst on a regular basis know of most worthwhile volunteer initiatives, insightful recycling thrusts instigated in part by inmates and other good things that are happening now. Are these desirable initiatives in jeopardy because of today’s announcement?
Hon Mr Patten: No, I would say categorically to the member that my expectation is that these good relations will be enhanced, that the good work of the volunteers and the voluntary organizations and the relationships in the community will continue to take place, indeed at a higher rate.
I have looked at some of the programs and have been impressed not only by the volunteers in the community who have participated with a number of the people under our supervision, but also by a number of the projects that the inmates themselves have had in the community such as snow removal or the natural resource works program of inmates who participated in the harvesting of trees and forest cleanup in the area. I suspect that will take place.
I would also add that in the area of treatment -- I hope my good friend, the member for Cambridge (Mr Farnan) is listening at the moment -- and in the area of literacy that he had identified, we have a very strong voluntary program related to literacy in that institution, as we do in many others throughout the province.
Mr Kormos: I have a question for the Attorney General. I am concerned. We have just learned that Cameron Durham, the police officer involved in the shooting of young Sophia Cook, has been charged and indeed he was charged with the careless use of a firearm.
This young lady is paralysed from the waist down as a result of being shot. That paralysis is likely to stay with her for the rest of her life and the charge that is laid is the most trivial of all firearms offences in the Criminal Code. Indeed, it could be proceeded with summarily. Even if it is proceeded with by indictment, the maximum penalty is but two years. What a gross injustice to the victim and members of the community to lay such a trivial charge.
How can the Attorney General justify this cream-puffing of charges when it comes to charging the police officer as compared to any other person in the community?
Hon Mr Scott: As the honourable member knows, charges are laid on the advice of the crown law staff, which was given at a very senior level in this case, and reflects all the circumstances of the investigation. It is of course absurd to say that an injustice has occurred as the trial has not yet taken place. When it does, I will be glad to respond to any questions the honourable member has about the propriety of the proceedings.
Mr Kormos: Need I remind the Attorney General that in the matter of the Lawson shooting the provincial judge at the preliminary hearing appears to have been critical of the cream-puffing of the charge there, indeed asking counsel to comment on why he should not consider more serious charges?
I ask this of the Attorney General: Can he suggest for even the briefest of moments that if it were a black kid with a gun who shot a police officer who was strapped with his seatbelt in his car, that kid would be charged with anything less than criminal negligence causing bodily harm or even attempted murder? This is something for a jury to unravel and deal with, not for the Attorney General, as I say, to cream-puff and diminish in the process of charging.
The Speaker: Are you asking if the Attorney General agrees with you? The Attorney General.
Hon Mr Scott: I just reject the insinuation -- it is more than an insinuation because the honour-able member has the nerve to make it explicit -- that is inherent in that question.
Mr Villeneuve: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. He was here a short time ago.
The minister will be aware of the recent events in the village of Westbrook where blasting in the local quarry apparently caused the depletion and contamination of area wells. Over 150 people have been without a safe source of drinking water since September. The minister cut off supplies of bottled water to several households with no concern for the quality of water in their wells.
Will the minister reinstate bottled water to these households until water samples taken over a period of time show that they are safe for human consumption?
Hon Mr Bradley: It is my understanding -- I have a note on it here -- that everyone who had good water before the quarry incident and now has a well problem is being supplied with clean water at this time. As the member may know, in all of these circumstances, if there is an impairment to the water as a result of this quarry situation, the blast that took place at it, what we attempt to do is that those people who had good water before, and it was affected by this, would continue to get it.
I can tell the member that I have instructed my staff in the region to doublecheck to make certain of that, whether those whose water remains adversely affected by the quarry blast are no longer eligible for provision of clean water. I want to have our staff check each one of them. It is a good question from the member. We are trying to evaluate that at the present time.
Mr Villeneuve: I appreciate the concern the minister expressed and I hope this does come about in the very near future. In that same light, in the Kingston office, the minister’s ground water people have been very preoccupied with this problem and have not been able to review many of the requests for approval of disposal systems.
I am glad the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) is here to hear this as well, because in the Kingston office we do need additional staff, particularly in the ground water area, to provide approvals that are presently pending, many of them over six months.
Hon Mr Bradley: I recognize, as the member points out, that with the degree of economic activity taking place in the province at the present time, an almost unprecedented degree of economic activity, there are far more applications coming to our ministry for approval than ever before. I could say it is not simply the Kingston office -- he is interested in that office as it deals with his part of the province -- but in other offices we are scrambling to meet all those obligations.
I will certainly make known my views on the staffing requirements of our ministry to all the appropriate colleagues that I have in cabinet and I thank the member for his assistance.
Mr Reycraft: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. For three or four weeks now I have been receiving complaints from farmers in Middlesex that hydroponically grown lettuce is being dumped on the Ontario market.
Specifically, their concern is that farmers in Quebec and the state of New York are being subsidized by their respective governments and are therefore able to sell the lettuce on the Ontario market at a price that is actually below the cost of production.
I want to ask the minister if he is aware of the situation, and if he is, what is being done about it?
Hon Mr Ramsay: Yes, I am aware of the situation. The question is most pertinent at this time. My staff, with Agriculture Canada and Ontario Food Terminal staff, are investigating complaints about this situation at this time. I would like to inform the member that there is no evidence of unfair price competition at this time, of any direct subsidies by any provinces or any states causing this at this time, as we look at lettuce marketing at the Ontario Food Terminal.
Mr Reycraft: Whether or not the lettuce is being dumped on the market, it is obvious that market conditions are extremely tough at this point in time. I would like to ask the minister what the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is doing to help our producers compete in this very difficult market.
Hon Mr Ramsay: Our marketing branch at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food is constantly working with Ontario producers to find new markets and enhance market opportunities for Ontario producers. I would also like to say that in the next week at the outlook conference in Ottawa I will be bringing up in discussions with my fellow agriculture ministers from across the country that we have to strive to work towards a more level playing field in provincial subsidies to our food producers in Canada.
Mr Farnan: My question is to the Minister of Correctional Services. Over the last couple of weekends of 18 November and 25 November, in the movement of inmates between Whitby Jail and Mimico Correctional Centre we had the extraordinary situation of inmates, 21 on one occasion and 18 on another, being moved by a school bus with a civilian driver and with only one correctional officer in charge of the inmates. The inmates had no restraints, no handcuffs and no leg irons. I ask the minister, is this his idea of providing protection for the public of Ontario and of adequate staffing within his ministry?
Hon Mr Patten: Yes, it is. The member should know that these people are on temporary absence or on very short-term weekend confinement. Those individuals are not your mass murderers. They are not people who have been violent with anyone before. They are people who perhaps have been under the influence while driving and are working full-time. They work during the week and may also be attending a course as well as getting some kind of treatment during the week.
The idea of a bus is that it saves us about 50 per cent of the cost of having a special van with special security for certain people. In this instance, it helps to save money in this area.
Mr Farnan: Perhaps the minister should simply buy tickets for the GO train for these inmates. I suggest to the minister that they are intermittent. However, past practice with provincial bailiffs requires one driver, two bailiffs and a secure vehicle. If the mandate of our correctional officers is care and control -- I emphasize control -- how can the minister justify this totally flippant attitude and approach to control of inmates in Ontario? It is indeed a disgrace.
Hon Mr Patten: I really cannot understand where the member is coming from. In one sense, he suggests that staff are totally responsible. The institutions, I will assure him, have a committee that examines the particular classification for transfers and the nature of the activity for individuals. This program is of serious interest and I know the member for Cambridge believes that to be true as well.
Perhaps I need to reiterate again that 87 per cent of the sentenced inmates in the Ontario correctional services are already in the community; it is only 14 per cent, and some of those are in certain categories of minimum security, temporary absence, intermittent, etc. They do not require the same kind of security as they might if you were dealing with someone who is psycho-logically disabled or someone who perhaps had been charged with a violent offence.
Mr Brandt: I want to revisit the question I asked earlier of the Minister of Health in connection with OHIP premiums. If there are those individuals who choose not to pay for the doublebilling period of January through April 1990, could the minister again very clearly advise the House what the position of her ministry is in connection with the continuing provision of health services to those who refuse to pay.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I have just received a copy of the news release the third party is sending out today. I want to say to the leader of the opposition that I think it is irresponsible and that I take objection to the fact that he is using scare tactics to say to the people of this province that he is playing politics with the delivery of health care. That is unacceptable.
Mr Brandt: I would hate to play politics with the Minister of Health, who invented the word. I have to tell the minister that she has a responsibility to tell the people of this province -- forget my press release. Why does she not indicate very clearly what the position of her ministry is. I will be sending out another press release tomorrow, trying to figure out what it is she said in this House today. That in itself is difficult enough. Answer the question.
Hon Mrs Caplan: The leader of the third party has created confusion where there should be none. I will be speaking to my deputy to see how we can correct the wrong impression of confusion that he has caused. I want him to know very, very clearly that I consider his actions as being inappropriate and irresponsible.
The Speaker: Order. Once again we are trying to be patient while you are finishing your discussion. The member for Essex-Kent has a new question.
The Speaker: Order. Would the member for Sarnia and the Minister of Health --
Hon Mr Scott: It’s not me, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: Not this time. The Minister of Health and the member for Sarnia, you are wasting a lot of time.
Mr McGuigan: My question is to the Minister of Labour. There has been a growing concern about young teenagers working in gas bars and convenience stores at night. Many of these are under 14 years of age. They are able to be hired at a lower minimum wage if they are under 18. What is being done or has been done to ensure that employers provide safer working conditions for all staff under these circumstances?
Hon Mr Phillips: It is an extremely interesting question and one the member advised me he would be raising, so I have begun to look at this issue. It is interesting that at one time it was prohibited to employ individuals under the age of 18 past midnight. It was then changed to just prohibit employing women under the age of 18 past midnight. Then, I think in 1974, that prohibition was taken out. Currently there are relatively few prohibitions, as the member has noted, on working late at night.
Frankly, we have had relatively few complaints about it, but none the less it is an issue that I think is of some importance to all of us. I would like to assure the member that this is one issue I am going to look at as we look at our review of the Employment Standards Act. There are certain prohibitions about age in working in things such as mines, construction and factories, and prohibitions about working during school hours.
The member has raised a very interesting point both in terms of the minimum wage and the age. I would like to assure the member that is something we will be looking at during the review of the Employment Standards Act.
LIVESTOCK IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM FOR NORTHERN ONTARIO
Mr Wildman: I have a question of the Minister of Agriculture and Food. When will the provincial government re-establish the livestock improvement program for northern Ontario, which expired 31 March 1989, to help farmers in the north with the additional costs incurred by them in the purchase and transportation of quality breeding stock to improve their herds?
Will the program, when it is announced, be retroactive to 31 March 1989 and will farmers who purchased animals before that date but did not qualify for funding from the old program because they did not have the requisite documentation before the deadline be eligible?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I should be in a position soon to announce the continuation of that program. The member brings up some interesting questions as far as retroactivity is concerned and I would be pleased to get back to him on that.
FARM TAX REBATE
Mr McCague: I have a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
“The members of Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association had been assured by the government that no changes to the farm tax rebate program would be forthcoming until farmers and farm organizations had the opportunity to voice their concerns and suggestions.
“After these reassurances, the government went ahead with changes on an interim basis which impact in the nursery industry in a very negative fashion.
“We request that the program be left as is until after a proper review and consultative process takes place.”
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
ONTARIO MIDWESTERN RAILWAY COMPANY LIMITED ACT, 1989
Mr Lipsett moved first reading of Bill Pr45, An Act respecting Ontario Midwestern Railway Company Limited.
Motion agreed to.
BRANTFORD AND SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY INC ACT, 1989
Mr Neumann moved first reading of Bill Pr54, An Act respecting the Brantford and Southern Railway Company Inc.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INSURANCE STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance.
The Speaker: The member for Mississauga South (Mrs Marland) adjourned the debate.
Mr Harris: The member for Mississauga South was planning to speak today and is momentarily expected here. I might ask the indulgence of the House for maybe 30 seconds to see if I can ascertain that.
The Speaker: I guess that is a request of some sort. I was going to say a reasonable request, but I am not sure. That is a request from the member.
Is there unanimous consent to wait 30 seconds for the member for Mississauga South to return?
The Speaker: The member for Nipissing has further information for us.
Mr Harris: Yes, I do. I thank the House for the indulgence. I am informed that with the deterioration of the highways over the last five years the member for Mississauga South is not here and I would suggest that we continue in her absence.
The Speaker: Thank you. Does any other member wish to participate in the debate?
Mr Philip: I am pleased to participate in this debate on the government’s latest ventures in the auto insurance field. Basically, Ontario motorists face two problems when it comes to purchasing automobile insurance. The first problem is the problem of price, and any of us who have listened to our constituents know exactly what I mean by this. We have constant complaints of constituents, and indeed members of our own families, having astronomical increases in their insurance, even though they have been accident-free.
The second problem is one of availability. Any member of this House who has listened to his or her constituents knows that people have come in from time to time, many of them more frequently recently, complaining that their insurance has been cancelled or transferred to another firm or some other variation of that.
As the Consumers’ Association of Canada has pointed out in examining Bill 68, this bill does nothing to solve either of these two problems, the problem of availability or the problem of price. Rather than solving these major problems, the bill creates even more uncertainty.
Private no-fault has not been successful elsewhere. Why should it work here? As the Consumers’ Association of Canada has pointed out, having carefully studied this bill, the likelihood of uniform treatment of each claimant and of efficient delivery of disability benefits in the time frame promised by the minister will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. This bill is nothing more than a sellout by the Liberal government of the consumers to the auto insurance multinationals.
As the consumers’ association stated in its release, the benefits proposed under Bill 68 are grossly inadequate. They are inadequate for the following reasons.
A major problem with Bill 68 is not only that the benefits are inadequate but that the benefits are not indexed to cover inflation. Under Bill 68, the disability income benefits of 80 per cent of net earnings to a maximum of $23,400 compares very unfavourably with the 90 per cent to a maximum of $36,000 which was recommended by the consumers’ association. Death benefits are $25,000 under the bill, compared to what the CAC recommended -- $100,000 for head of household or spouse.
For medical rehabilitation and long-term care, the Consumers’ Association of Canada recommended an unlimited dollar amount with no time limit. Bill 68 provides $500,000 with a 10-year time limit for supplementary medical rehabilitation care and $500,000 for long-term care.
While the seriously injured would likely be above the threshold and qualify to sue for damages, this would not be the case for those unable to prove that someone else was at fault. Therefore, the ceiling on benefits for younger victims may prove to be totally inadequate. What we have then are people who are going to be injured in this province and simply not provided with adequate finances to provide for the rest of their lives when they are seriously injured.
Many employees in this province have bargained with their employers for various types of disability insurance. Anyone who knows anything about the collective bargaining process knows that a dollar is a dollar. Every dollar you get in benefits is a dollar out of your wages. What this bill does is to remove money from the pockets of those people who have bargained for benefits from their employers, benefits in terms of disability packages in lieu of wages. They have forfeited wages in order to get disability benefits, and this bill robs them of those disability benefits.
If you happen to have bargained in good faith over a period of years for disability benefits, or indeed if you even have private disability insurance through a professional association, the auto insurance companies, under Bill 68, may not have to pay any disability benefits to you. They would do so only if your private disability benefits are less than $450 a week, in which case, under the program, the insurance would simply make up the shortfall.
If Bill 68 becomes law under these conditions, people who do not drive at all but who pay for disability benefits will in fact be subsidizing the insurance companies. Indeed, those who do drive and have paid for disability benefits through their collective bargaining agreement, through loss of wages, will also be subsidizing the insurance companies. Thus, in a sense, there are going to be large numbers of people out there, people who are not motorists, who are going to subsidize the insurance companies under Bill 68.
This is not a statement of a political party. It is the consensus reached by the consumers’ association, an association which is independent of political parties and which has members of all political persuasions as members of its nonpartisan association.
We in the New Democratic Party have shown over and over again that the insurance systems in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba work, are less expensive and are fairer to the consumer. This government, despite all of the studies it has undertaken at a cost of millions of dollars, fails or refuses to look at these schemes. The Liberal members and their ventriloquists, the insurance companies, have argued that government run and operated plans are monopolistic and that the consumer should have a choice of companies.
Anyone who listens to his constituents knows that the consumer does not have a choice of companies. The consumers’ association correctly points out in its brief that the distribution is such that in Ontario “there is very little competition in auto insurance.”
This bill provides for the auto insurers, who are already monopolistic in their approach to the Ontario consumer, to have even more control over what goes out the other end; namely, the payments that they make.
Let me just give a couple of examples of the arbitrary system that now exists in the auto insurance industry in this province.
This is a draft of a letter which I have just prepared to send to the superintendent of insurance. It is a complaint provided to me by a Mr B.
“Mr B is extremely upset at the cancellation of his insurance by” -- and I mention the insurance company. “At no time has he incurred an accident which was of his making. Mr B admits that there have been three accidents; two related to his automobile and one related to his wife’s automobile. In each of these cases, the other driver was charged and the other driver’s insurance company was forced to pay for the damages. Mr B. feels that he is being penalized even though at no time was he found to be at fault, nor did he or his wife contribute to the accident. I find it absolutely inconceivable that” -- company X -- ”would act in this arbitrary manner.”
That is a letter I have just sent to the superintendent of insurance. I am sure he will reply in his usual fashion; not because he is not concerned about what is happening to the consumers but because the government has not given him any kind of authority to deal with it in a substantive way.
Let me give another example. This is a letter I am sending to the minister.
“Enclosed find photocopies of documents related to a complaint by the abovementioned constituent. (Mr C) has been a customer of (company X) for more than 10 years. Recently, he was short in cash and therefore sent only $275 in his monthly payment. (Mr C) owed $498. He assured the company that he would pay the balance in a few days.
“Instead of accepting this and charging what-ever interest would be appropriate, the company cancelled his policy and refunded his $271.41. The company now states that it will reinstate his car and truck only if he pays $1,800 in advance. Being a working-class person, (Mr C) does not have $1,800 which he can pay in one month.
“It appears that the company is being deliberately difficult in the hope that it can cancel his insurance or that he will move to another company. He has gone and looked at other companies, and, of course, he cannot find other companies that will insure him, except at a very substantial increase in rate.”
The Liberal government argues that Metropolitan Toronto area residents will receive only an eight per cent increase this year as a result of this legislation. That is a far cry from what the Premier (Mr Peterson) promised. The Premier promised in the last election that he had a concrete way of lowering auto insurance in this province. Instead, what we have seen is one gigantic increase after another.
This is the latest in the Liberals’ attempt to say, “We are not going to lower it, but we are going to allow them to raise it only eight per cent.”
When we ask for the Liberal government to give us some substantiation of the eight per cent, some concrete proof that it will go up only eight per cent, it is unable to do so -- and so we have yet another empty promise, a promise which at eight per cent, of course, is a direct contradiction to the Premier’s promise of lowering rates. But even with this, the Liberals cannot come up with proof that insurance is going to go up eight per cent.
Not only is the Liberal government allowing the insurance companies to charge whatever they want, it is completely ignoring the latest scheme for raising rates, which is the corporate flip. We have heard of raising rents through the corporate flip and we have seen it here in Ontario as a way of getting around rent review -- now we have the corporate flip in insurance.
This is a letter which my constituent received, and it is not even a personal letter. It is called Ontario Insurance Service on Eglinton Avenue East and it says:
“We regret to advise that Scottish and York Insurance Co Ltd is unable to offer renewal of your automobile insurance on its expiry. To ensure that your insurance is continued without interruption, we have taken the liberty of replacing your policy with Victoria Insurance Co of Canada. The coverages, limits and deductibles remain unchanged from your former policy and although the premium has increased, we believe that it is very competitive.”
As my colleague has pointed out in this House, what we have here is two sister compames, two pockets of the same body, if you like, and what they do is one company cancels the insurance, refers people to the sister company and the sister company then says, “Yes, we will take you on as a client because we are such good corporate souls, but we are going to increase your insurance substantially.”
I have my constituent’s premium notices here and I can tell members that it is a substantial increase and that she is very, very upset at what has happened to her. She finds it very difficult to understand how the Premier can promise that he had a way of lowering insurance and the insurance companies, through the corporate flip, are in fact manipulating the system like this and are being allowed to get away with it by this Liberal government.
On numerous occasions I have met with constituents who have informed me that they were hit by a driver whose licence was suspended. We have raised this issue in the House, and now of course we have the Provincial Auditor’s report that has just been released and that shows just how inefficient this government is in even keeping the most reckless and irresponsible drivers off the road -- a problem which of course cannot help but increase the cost of insurance.
On page 167 of the auditor’s report, tabled just last week, he gives an instance which is mind-boggling, to say the least. This is the auditor speaking: “We concluded that an individual had three licence numbers under three different legal names. The driving records indicated 11 convictions for impaired driving, blood alcohol exceeding 0.08 and refusing a breathalyser test. There were also four convictions for driving while disqualified.”
This government allows this kind of thing to happen, these kind of people to be on the roads, and its system does nothing to deal with it. In British Columbia. where the New Democratic Party instituted a proper system of insurance, the brokers distribute the licence plates and the decals and the cost of renewing licence plates is eliminated.
But, more important, this also guarantees that nobody can drive a car on the streets and highways in BC without auto insurance. Indeed, there is some check on who is driving, and a person whose licence has been suspended, and therefore whose insurance would naturally be suspended at the same time, is not out there with a new licence under an assumed name or a changed name.
This legislation instituting private no-fault is just the latest in a series of schemes which the Liberal government has instituted after millions of tax dollars spent on one study after another. The Liberal government should apply for grants under the Ontario student assistance program -- it does more studies than any graduate school student. In the recent election, the Premier (Mr Peterson) told the people of Ontario --
Mr Carrothers: Well, that’s pretty funny.
Mr Philip: The Liberal members say it is funny. I do not think their constituents find the way in which they sold out to the insurance companies very funny, and they will tell them that in the next election.
In the last election, the Premier told the people of Ontario: “Give me a large majority and I will stop free trade. Give me a large majority and I will save you money on auto insurance. Give me a large majority because I have a specific way of lowering automobile insurance.” His plan to reduce auto insurance rates has been about as successful as his so-called plan to stop free trade. The next thing, of course, we will hear is, “Give me a large majority and I’ll stop the Wilson sales tax.” We will see just how successful he would be if the population of Ontario were foolish enough to give him another large majority.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Philip: This is just the latest in a series of bumbling misadventures by a government whose polls tell it that the public is upset about skyrocketing auto insurance rates. We remember the millions spent on the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board. We do not hear much about that from the government any more. It said this was the salvation, this was going to solve the problems. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the board concluded that the kind of scheme proposed in this bill, in fact, would not work. Its own board said this scheme would not work.
So now, instead of talking about how wonderful this auto insurance board is, the Liberals no longer mention it. It is the silent, unwanted visitor in the closet. That should come as a surprise, that the auto insurance board, having looked at it, says that this bill, the contents of this bill, the scheme proposed in this bill will not work. After all, the Osborne report also concluded that this scheme was unworkable. Threshold no-fault has been rejected by both Mr Justice Osborne and the government’s own auto insurance board.
The taxpayers have spent millions of dollars for studies and boards, and when these bodies tell the government that this kind of scheme will not work, it does not want to hear what these boards and people say; or should I say, it rather would like to hear what the auto insurance industry says.
The problems faced by consumers are, as I say, twofold; one is one of price and the other is one of accessibility. If we look at what this bill does, we can understand why the insurance companies are so much in favour of the legislation and why all the consumers’ groups are so opposed to it.
Thanks to the Premier, the insurance protection that people historically felt they had under the existing insurance scheme, flawed as it was, will disappear, and instead, what the bill does is take away benefits that they have even under the existing damage scheme. If you are a motorist in Ontario, thanks to the Premier and thanks to this Liberal government, your rights and those of your family to recover damage in almost all cases, if you are interested in a motor vehicle accident in Ontario, are being jeopardized.
Only in extreme and limited cases where you are tremendously seriously injured will you and your family be able to recover damages for injuries or the full loss of income. You will soon be taking a very serious financial risk in riding in your motor vehicle in Ontario, thanks to the Premier. Even buying additional insurance at substantial cost will not fully protect you.
Under the proposed plan, recovery in most cases will be limited. You will get nothing for your pain and suffering. If you are an employee, you will be unable to recover full loss of wages, as I pointed out before. If you are self-employed, you will be unable to recover loss of profit and losses associated with disruption of business. You can lose your business and recover absolutely nothing under this legislation. You will be unable to recover for many serious physical injuries, including broken bones, scarring, torn muscles and the pain and suffering that accompanies all these and other injuries. You cannot obtain a recovery for any emotional or psychological injuries, such as depression, shock or anxiety created by an accident, and no matter what you earn, the most you can recover is $450 a week. Many will receive a lot less. That is what the Premier and the Liberal government is putting in in Ontario.
What we will have is a situation where many innocent people will be injured in this province and not receive adequate compensation for their injury. What will you receive?
Unless you are among the very few who are seriously or permanently injured, the at-fault motorist will receive the same disability benefits as the innocent victim. If you go out and get drunk, drive a car over somebody, and you are injured equally to the person you have hit, you are going to get the same benefits as the poor, injured party that you, through your irresponsible action, have put into the hospital.
That $450 a week is the poverty line income for a family of four in Metropolitan Toronto, so you are going to get poverty-line benefits out of this scheme.
Under the new plan, you will be able to recover medical and rehabilitation payments up to $500,000, but if you are covered by OHIP, you will rarely, if ever, require this coverage, and as such, the coverage is largely illusory. This leads into another important point that I would like to make, because not only is this scheme introduced by this Liberal government unfair to the motorist, unfair to the person who may need coverage in the case of an accident but it is blatantly unfair to the taxpayer.
Although it may be hard to tell precisely the increased cost to the taxpayer because of the many other costs that, under the proposed plan, are hidden and that will be paid from general revenue tax funds, it is fairly clear that there are certain substantial costs which we can put a price tag on.
The insurance industry’s annual payment of $44 million to OHIP will be waived -- nice gift to the insurance companies from the taxpayer. Whether you drive or not, your taxes are going to give $44 million of tax money to the insurance companies.
The government proposed to waive, for this year only, the three per cent tax payable by the insurance companies on insurance premiums, which this year totalled $95 million, another giveaway to the insurance companies by the taxpayer.
The cost of administering the proposed new insurance review board we do not know yet, but that will be borne by the taxpayer. The cost of government studies on these issues, which we know have already come to millions and millions of dollars, again, will be borne by the taxpayer.
This legislation does not accomplish more accessibility to the consumer. It does not accomplish a reduction in premiums to the motorist. What it does accomplish is one more colossal bureaucracy, one more colossal give-away of tax dollars to the insurance companies, one more attempt by the Liberal government to try to fool the consumer into thinking it is doing something, one more attempt to try to get the consumer to forget about the Premier’s promise to lower automobile insurance in the last election.
This is unfair to the taxpayer because it is going to cost him a bundle. It is unfair to the motorist because it is going to give him less coverage than he had before. It is unfair, particularly, to the injured, because they are going to suffer the most with inadequate compensation under this. The only thing that this bill does is, it gives a massive giveaway to the insurance companies. The giveaway will come directly from the consumers and indirectly through each and every one of us who pay provincial tax.
This bill should be defeated. It is just the latest in the litany of unworkable schemes by this Liberal government. It is no wonder that the only people who are in favour of it are the insurance companies and that organizations like the Consumers’ Association of Canada are so violently opposed to this scheme. That is why the New Democratic Party is proud to stand on the side of the Consumers’ Association of Canada and not on the side of the insurance companies, as the Liberal government has done.
Mr Kormos: It is, as usual, a pleasure to hear the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale with his usual analytical skills and candour address this particular problematic legislation, and it has been problematic for all of us here in the Legislature.
What is interesting is that the Liberals are not participating in this debate. New Democrats speak, Conservatives speak. Do the Liberals speak? No. We do not hear from Liberals. We hear from more New Democrats, more Conservatives. It is not as if there are none of them to talk about it. There are piles of Liberals sitting here. Do you know what the problem is, Mr Speaker? Some of them probably do not understand the legislation because they have been listening to the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston), and when you listen to the Minister of Financial Institutions, that is the last place in the world you are going to get an accurate analysis of this legislation.
Some of them are ashamed to stand up and indicate that they really do support this, because it is unsupportable legislation. We are talking about a $650-million windfall for the auto insurance industry in the first year that this legislation is effective. We are talking about a government that has broken its promises, as the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale has told us; a government that has broken its promises not just once but twice, thrice. I mean, how many times does a cock have to crow?
We are talking about a government that proposes legislation that is indefensible, because what it is doing is paying a marker. It is paying a chit back to the insurance industry, which invested over $100,000 in these members in the last general election, and by God, they are getting every penny of that back with interest, with big interest. Now these guys over here on the other side will betray the public, will betray the drivers of Ontario, will rob from them to pay the insurance industry.
Mr Philip: I would be happy to respond to everything except the question, how many times does a cock have to crow? I do not know the answer to that question, but I am sure the member for Welland-Thorold, in his usual, researched way, will find the answer to that question, and perhaps after the next speaker he can share that research with us.
I think what the member for Welland-Thorold, though, correctly points out is that this government ran ads in the last election saying that it had a specific program to reduce auto insurance rates. It spent millions of tax dollars coming up with one scheme after another, one study after another. It has wasted its tax money. It has not come up with a scheme to reduce auto insurance rates. In fact, what it did do, though, was it came up with a body that it set up at considerable cost to the taxpayers. That body studied the proposal that we have on Bill 68 and said that it was not working. So even the government is paying for research that it is not using, and it is doing exactly the opposite of the advice that it is paying so much money to obtain.
I say to members that there must be some reason why the Liberal government would ensure -- ”ensure” is not the word -- assure the auto insurance industry this kind of profit and turn its back on the consumers. The member for Welland-Thorold talks about the $100,000 that the Liberal coffers received from the auto insurance industry in the last election. I would not say that the Liberals sold out for $100,000. I would find that hard to accept, that someone would be that immoral. I think it is simply government rigid ideology, that it is not prepared to face the facts and deal with it in a way that does work, and that is the reason why it is wasting our money, our time and our tax dollars.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Le deputé de Stormont, Dundas et Glengarry.
M. Vil leneuve: Merci bien. Il me fail plaisir de participer au débat sur le projet de loi 68 cet après-midi.
Mr Speaker, I come from an area very similar to yours, as I have said many times. In eastern Ontario, some of our constituents have had the misfortune of having an accident in the province adjoining immediately to the east of us, Quebec, a province that for some period of time has had no-fault insurance. It is very concerning to me when these things occur. The rumour that I get back is, “Well, it’s too bad he had his accident on the east side of the Ontario-Quebec border.” There is a totally different way of treating accident victims when the accident occurs in a province which has no-fault insurance.
This legislation is in many ways quite similar to the one they have in the province of Quebec, where heaven forbid that you have a major accident with bodily injuries that could be life-threatening, or even a lesser one. There seems to be a certain atmosphere when someone has an accident under no-fault -- and I emphasize “no-fault.”
Regardless of who caused the accident, no one really has to pay the bill. It is totally different from the concept we have had in the past. Thank goodness, this government has agreed, after considerable pressure, to bring it to a committee of the Legislature. Let’s hope that amendments can be brought to this particular act that will recognize, to some degree, the individual who caused the accident. No-fault insurance sounds great until you happen to be on the other end of an accident which was no fault of yours but yet you may be crippled or maimed or certainly out of work for a period of time.
This government came to office very shortly after the Premier made a promise. As a matter of fact, I think we have recorded it many times, and I think it bears recording again. On 7 September 1987, three days before a general election in the province of Ontario, the Premier said that he had “a very specific plan to lower insurance rates.” That has been documented time and time again. It was said in Cambridge and, would you believe, a member from Cambridge was elected. However, that is now history.
Since that time we have had, with that statement and pursuant to that, an increase of 4.5 per cent on 1 January 1988, an increase of 4.5 per cent on 1 August 1988 and an increase of 7.6 per cent on 17 April 1989. In about a year and a quarter, we have had a 16.6 per cent increase.
We can just wait until the premiums come due to Ontario’s public next. I can assure the House that we will have some gnashing of teeth and some very, very serious repercussions. We are going into a time when, again, it is no-fault insurance, and that from the experience, particularly, in a province such as Quebec, which has a lesser degree of traffic concentration than we have here in the greater Toronto area or even in other places in the province of Ontario. It is an area and a concern that I certainly have had brought to me from constituents who have had firsthand experience at having been, unfortunately, in major accidents in the province of Quebec.
The government’s bungling on automobile insurance has cost taxpayers dearly. The $7 million that the insurance commission cost prior to its dissolution and the untold millions, probably in the area of $50 million plus, that were spent by the different insurance companies getting prepared to meet the so-called requirements, as was set out by the now defunct automobile insurance commission. These are costs that will be borne by the driving public of the province of Ontario and no one else.
A report of the Honourable Mr Justice Osborne, entitled Report of Inquiry into Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation in Ontario, has cost very dearly. The 147 recommendations aimed at improving the delivery of accident compensation have been disregarded. The government established the insurance board in February 1988, and I recall well the Minister of Financial Institutions saying that the board would be almighty and that this government was going to abide by the board’s recommendations and decisions. But would members believe that somehow or other a message came to this very same minister and within the month the minister had totally reversed his position, the automobile insurance board no longer existed and indeed the government had done what was for it politically expedient?
The government established a number of criteria in this legislation. As I said before, thank goodness that, pursuant to pressure from both opposition parties, this legislation will at least have the opportunity of receiving input from numerous groups. I will enumerate some of the groups that have expressed concerns to myself, and to our party in general, concerning some of the anticipated requirements, regulations and otherwise that this government is planning in Bill 68.
The government plans to implement threshold no-fault car insurance in Ontario, and this is almost a situation that was not to be. The increases in premiums have been in the area of 16 per cent, and once we are three years down the road following the initial increase of 1 January 1988, many people will not be able to afford to drive in Ontario. We will find many people, particularly our young people, being forced to be insured by the Facility Association, the mechanism that is prohibitively expensive for many, if not most, Ontario drivers.
The government plans to implement threshold insurance as soon as Bill 68 receives royal assent. The Osborne report says, and I quote, “I have concluded that aside from the provision of a modest degree of additional stability for automobile insurance, cost/premium decreases would be modest were we to proceed to threshold no-fault and those modest cost savings would be imported on the backs of over 90 per cent of injured Ontario motorists who now have the right to seek noneconomic compensation.”
Further in the Osborne report, “Having looked at a great number of compensation systems, in the final analysis, it seems to me that while our system is far from perfect, Ontario should be an exporter, not an importer of compensations systems.”
Further from the Osborne report: “Threshold no-fault should be rejected because it is relatively inefficient and unnecessarily arbitrary. There will either be no or minimum savings on transaction costs if threshold no-fault is initiated.”
Further in the Osborne report, volume 1 outlines the progression of motor vehicle accident-related claims through the courts. The report shows that in 1985 there were 232,203 third-party liability claims reported. Only 4,383 of these cases went to trial and only 3,755 proceeded through to judgement. That is less than two per cent.
Many of the different policy initiatives which comprise the Ontario motorist protection plan could have been implemented long ago and do not require threshold no-fault.
Higher fines for speeding and other traffic offences would certainly assist, and I believe the government is starting to move in that direction.
Campaigns to increase the use of seatbelts and daytime running lights have proven that they reduce accidents.
Consideration of licence restrictions on new drivers: Certainly that has to be explored. I happen to come from a rural area where possibly at 16 we have good drivers who can go on our public roads with farm vehicles, farm pickup trucks. If some restrictions apply, I think we can live with that. I think it has to be looked at because we have had some very tragic fatal accidents in the area that I represent and they did involve young people inexperienced in a number of situations, other than not having a long driving experience record, which have contributed to the snuffing out of young lives.
Better identification and treatment of repeat drinking driver offences: That certainly does not include simply a change of name.
Increased funding for highway median barriers and paved shoulders: I can assure members I travel on Highway 401 quite extensively. I also travel on some of our other provincial highways. Shoulders in many areas leave a great deal to be desired and I think in many instances can cause a loss of control of vehicles and subsequent accidents that need not occur.
Improved freeway traffic management: Certainly on Highway 401 we have areas that are still unsafe because of the very rutting of the road, which I need not address very long in this Legislature because I think we have all experienced it. Particularly at this time of year, when there tends to be slush and/or snow on the roads, it can be very treacherous and a situation can come about when a driver who is not accustomed to those particular conditions and circumstances can lose control of a traffic vehicle very quickly.
Not long ago the Attorney General (Mr Scott) announced increased availability of structured settlements, improvements to the method of time period for which prejudgement interest is calculated and increased availability of advanced payment for all personal injury claims. The Attorney General promised these initiatives, on 9 February last, exclusive of any no-fault system being introduced. Again, these reform measures are not ground-breaking. They were derived from the Osborne report and the Ontario Law Reform Commission Report on Compensation for Personal Injuries and Death. Certainly the fact that the Osborne report has been totally disregarded is an alarming situation to say the least.
The Solicitor General (Mr Offer) announced an additional 115 Ontario Provincial Police officers would be hired and assigned to targeted areas with high traffic accidents and compliance problems. We understand that some Ontario Provincial Police officers have been reassigned from traffic duty to drug and other duties. From the people I have spoken to, I understand those who were removed from the traffic assignments have not been replaced. So we have a vacuum in our Ontario Provincial Police total workforce, in our total policing force, that needs to be looked after.
It was announced that an extra 25 police officers with fully equipped cars would be assigned to the greater Toronto area, where traffic law compliance and accidents are the most acute; that an additional 90 provincial police officers will patrol Highway 401 and the entire 400 series of highways throughout the province of Ontario, and that there would be continued operation of the Reduced Impaired Driving Everywhere campaign. These are very, very great initiatives, but they have not come to fruition, and we wonder if they will come to fruition because we are speaking of saving lives here on our highways in Ontario.
The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Sorbara) announced an increased use of the ministry’s ghost car program. I know we drivers from time to time exceed the speed limit on Highway 401 and we keep an eye on the mirror. However, that ghost car does surprise us from time to time and it is probably not a bad idea as all. It keeps us all a little more honest and there is nothing wrong with that.
The narrow wording of the threshold will lead to many problems. This was touched upon in the previous report referred to. It is very narrow on such things as permanent serious disfigurement or permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function caused by a continuing injury which is physical in nature.
The Minister of Financial Institutions is leaving everything up to the courts to interpret, and that concerns me in that we really do not know where the courts will finally place the blame or draw the line. What is permanent? In political life permanency might be a year, whereas in the teaching profession or in another profession permanency might be 20 years, and so it goes. So what is permanent? What is a serious impairment? For example, by whose standards are we judging the seriousness of an accident? Those of the victim, the courts, the insurance companies or a party totally independent of all of these? What classifies as an important bodily function? I will not comment on that particular part of the anatomy as it applies to politicians. However, there are other people who are very concerned about this, and certainly the courts again will have to decide.
Threshold expressly prevents anyone suffering psychological, mental or emotional injuries from seeking legal redress. It is a hard, fast amount that these people will be receiving pursuant to having used up any of the benefits which may be forthcoming from a position, a job which they hold.
Persons injured in an automobile accident face increased litigation: one case to challenge the threshold, another case to settle the damage. The wording of the Michigan threshold, upon which Ontario’s is to some degree based, has led to numerous conflicting legal opinions. To date there have been over 1,200 different interpretations of the threshold as it relates to injuries suffered in automobile accidents in the state of Michigan.
The new Ontario Insurance Commission is a toothless tiger with very limited powers. The insurance commission will replace the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board and the Ontario superintendent of insurance. The Minister of Financial Institutions has made the statement that the new commission will have broad powers of intervention and enforcement and will also be responsible for protecting the interests of consumers and regulatory agencies and rates. That is what this same minister said about the insurance board which in one fell swoop he dissolved pursuant, I am sure, to some pressure from the Office of the Premier, bringing to fruition the predictions of the former Minister of Natural Resources, who is the member for Niagara Falls (Mr Kerrio), back in his riding not long ago.
The new commission will do nothing but review and approve rates. Insurance companies will set the rates, and it is not clear if there will be any specified rate ceilings or any other criteria by which to set rates, ie, driving record, age of the driver. It is a nondiscriminatory law, supposedly; however, there are times when you wonder at the fairness of this so-called nondiscriminatory law.
There is no cost saving for consumers under the new system. The Minister of Financial Institutions has told us that drivers in urban areas can expect their rates to rise on an average of about eight per cent next year. If you add that to the 16.5 per cent, we have got 25 per cent minimum; and the eight per cent, I would suggest, coming from a Liberal government, is a conservative estimate. Drivers in rural areas would see no increase on average.
Rather than paying a projected 30 per cent to 35 per cent increase next year under existing conditions, the new system will generate a saving for consumers, it is stated. Rates will rise by eight per cent on average. How can that be a saving to consumers? In my farmer’s mathematics an increase is an increase, and we have already had 16.5 per cent on average. So in less than three years we will be at at least 25 per cent, and likely closer to 30 per cent or 35 per cent, increases in premiums for less coverage.
The eight per cent premium that is anticipated by the government for drivers in urban areas is just an average and the government has not placed a cap, a limit or any restrictions on increases.
The new system allows for some discrepancies. Insurance companies are currently engaged in the practice of cherry picking, and that is writing policies for clients who present the lowest risk of outlay. That is where some of our younger drivers and some of our drivers who have had a minor or a relatively serious accident will be referred immediately to the facility coverage. They then will have no recourse but to decide to either pay the high premium or park the vehicle. It is going to be that simple.
We will have groups of unhappy potential drivers and drivers who have been asked to either go to the facility or discontinue driving. We will have them at our constituency offices pounding on our doors, and I am not sure what I as an elected person at Queen’s Park will be able to tell them. I am looking for some direction from our Liberal colleagues across the way.
As a matter of fact, Mr Speaker, there are so few of them in this House right now, could you possibly have a count to see if we have a quorum?
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh) ordered the bells rung.
Mr Villeneuve: Prior to a number of government people re-entering the Legislature I was talking about the likelihood of companies doing some cherry picking and indeed choosing only the very low-risk drivers for them to insure and sending anyone who looks like he or she might be a high risk to the facility. I can assure the members that I really do not know how I will be able to cope with this other than to go to the Minister of Financial Institutions and try to obtain from him the reasoning as to why some young parent can no longer afford to drive his car to work and to feed his family. We are talking of pretty serious stuff here.
Companies would be much more eager to insure those individuals whose employers provide some maintenance programs. In this way, insurance companies would avoid the risk of paying out the $450 a week of income maintenance programs, under the regulations, to those who have suffered injuries.
I will try to summarize to some degree what the bungling of Bill 68 has cost Ontarians as motorists and as residents. Consumers will pay -- and get this figure; it is astronomical -- approximately $773 million for the adoption of no-fault insurance to provide them with less coverage and no opportunity or very limited opportunity for litigation.
Here is the breakdown: $480 million, the amount insurance companies save in compensation payouts for pain and suffering under the new threshold no-fault insurance; $150 million, the amount insurance companies save in compensation payouts for economic loss under the new threshold insurance; $95 million, revenue the government will forgo by eliminating the three per cent tax drivers currently pay on insurance policies underwritten in Ontario and, finally, $48 million, the amount insurance companies will no longer have to pay to OHIP for medical services provided to innocent victims of car accidents. A total of $773 million is the bottom-line cost to Ontario drivers.
No-fault insurance is not only opposed by yours truly and our party. I will list for members some of the organizations that have to this point attempted to get the attention of the government in opposing threshold no-fault insurance. Some of these groups are as follows: The Academy of Defensive Driving, and I think this goes back to the syndrome that I spoke about that happens in Quebec. An accident is an accident is an accident over there. They say, “It’s too bad it happened, but really it does not affect me whether I am at fault or not.”
Other groups are the Barrie and District Association for the Physically Disabled; the Canadian Paraplegic Association; the Canadian Trauma Consultants; the Centre for Educational Development; Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the MADD association from Windsor; the Ontario Motor Vehicle Accident Victims Association; People to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, the PRIDE people; Students Against Drunk Driving, SADD from North Bay; the Head Injury Association of Ontario; Young Drivers of Canada, and the Consumers’ Association of Canada. I can assure members that whenever the committee work begins, we will really and truly see the number of individuals and groups that will oppose this legislation as it presently drafted.
Innocent victims of car accidents will suffer under this new system as well and, as I said, it will cost them $773 million for less coverage. The following scenarios are real-life hypotheticals of what might happen under the new system compared to the present.
A factory worker earning $800 a week suffers whiplash injury when his car is rear-ended. His neck injuries prevent him for working for one year because of the heavy lifting and manual work involved in his job. Under the present system, he would receive $10,000 for damages for pain and suffering and $41,600 damages for lost income, which is $800 a week times 52 weeks, a total of $51,600.
The interesting thing under the proposed system: Nothing for damages for pain and suffering -- the injuries do not meet threshold definitions as serious; $23,400 damages for lost income, which is $450 a week, the maximum under this proposed no-fault plan, and the benefits for 52 weeks, a total of $23,400 and a minus of $28,200 which he had available to him under existing legislation.
I can go on and on. However, I think that basically says enough.
I want to quote a bit from Ted Rachlin’s report, and I know many other members have quoted from it. However, I think it is well worth a few quotes when this highly knowledgeable barrister says the following:
“No-fault insurance is very appealing to most everyone. However, the label is terribly misleading. Most people think of no-fault insurance as insurance which pays all people fully without regard to fault. There is not much room for quarrelling with that type of insurance.”
Of course, I know the Premier and many of his elected candidates in 1987 used this extensively, leading up to a certain special date on 10 September 1987. If, at an acceptable premium, insurance can be made available which will fully compensate all injured persons without regard to fault, that is great.
However, it always seems that we hear of someone being in a bad accident, we feel terrible, we feel very sorry. But when we ourselves or one of our immediate family winds up in that particular situation, that is when it strikes home. That is when the MPPs’ phones will be ringing and their doors will have numerous people knocking on them, saying: “What have you done? I am now paying 25 per cent more in my premiums and I have basically no coverage.”
It is a situation that I hope this government recognizes as it goes to committee. Thank goodness, because of pressure brought by the opposition, it is going to committee. I certainly want to hear from the people in Ontario who are concerned, the groups throughout Ontario who know this will not be the answer, nor will it be providing reduced premiums to the public of Ontario. It will not alleviate their situation at all.
I hope this government is not simply paying lipservice, as it did in Sunday shopping and many other pieces of legislation. I hope they are listening and willing to adjust this legislation, to amend it at least to meet some of the major concerns we have out in Ontario.
Mr Kormos: The last speaker raised the history, the antecedents to this legislation. The questions to be asked are: Did the Liberal government tell the truth about Sunday shopping? Did the Liberal government tell the truth about Workers’ Compensation Board legislation? Did the Liberal government tell people the truth about this auto insurance legislation? Did they tell the truth on any of those occasions?
The minister of obfuscation, the minister of legerdemain, Ananias sitting over there in the front row would have us believe that this little package of legislation is something that descended upon him like manna. It did not descend upon him. It was thrust into his hands, along with marching orders. He was told, “Get this legislation passed as quickly as possible.” Who told him that? The auto insurance industry, because this legislation means profits it never dared dream of. This legislation means that drivers in Ontario are going to be gouged as never before. We know that and we are not afraid to say it.
Do the Liberal members here participate in the debate? No. Why? Because they cannot justify their support for this horrendous, horribly crippling, cruel, sadistic legislation. This is immoral legislation. This legislation is the big payback for the $100,000 and change -- that is all that is recorded at least, and it beats fridges and paint jobs any day of the week -- that these guys got from the auto insurance industry in Ontario.
Mr Ferraro: I will not comment on the critic in charge of animation and burlesque, save to say that he moves along from seat to seat when other members are speaking. There is no truth to the rumour that he has more seats than a toilet manufacturer.
I want to say, however, with regard to the member who quoted some statistics, I think he indicated, and rightly so, that there were 121,000 bodily injury claims in the year 1987-88. He narrowed it down to 3,000 and something that actually went to court. The percentage he quoted was something like two per cent. I think the member would want to further elaborate that while the percentage may be small, I am sure he would want the people of Ontario to know that the aggregate amount of that two per cent was $1.8 billion in costs in insurance claims.
The other point I want to make that has been mentioned by the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr Villeneuve) and by previous speakers is that indeed Osborne and Slater recommended against the threshold system. No one is denying that fact, certainly no Liberal is trying to hide that fact at all.
We would point out, however, that in their determinations they made a number of assumptions. The first assumption was that bodily injury claims and accidents were going down or levelling off, and of course the OAIB tribunal actually pointed out that they were going up.
Second, if we took a threshold insurance program in isolation then, yes, we would recommend against it but, as you know, Mr Speaker, this government has decided to take a comprehensive approach to dealing with the insurance problem and, in that regard, we are dealing with not only a threshold system and product reform but with consumer protection and tort reform and indeed with education for our consumers and road safety as well. So in this regard we will indeed keep many of the member’s constituents away from his door.
Mr McLean: I would like to comment briefly on the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry’s statement. The speech he just gave was excellent. It brought out a lot of the good points that have been brought out in this Legislature with regard to Bill 68, the insurance bill. It is a bill that I had the opportunity to speak on not too long ago, to try to relate some of the indications that were in that bill, and my colleague brought out many of those.
On the weekend, there was an interview with an insurance agent on television -- I know the member is aware of it -- who did not want to be seen by the public. He wanted to relate some of the concerns that the insurance industry has with regard to the brokerage firms and with regard to the overall insurance here in Ontario. This morning, I had the opportunity to chat with an insurance agent, and he indicated to me very strongly that, yes, there are some concerns with this insurance. He is looking for amendments to this insurance. So the agents are not satisfied either.
I think the Osborne report was one that would have been well worth the government’s while to look at. I had the opportunity this morning to chat with a lady in Penetanguishene who has $2,500. She has been off work seven months and the insurance company is not looking after her properly. Some of the issues that my colleague brought out are those very types of issues.
The public out there should have the opportunity to have full and open hearings right across this province with regard to this insurance, as the member so ably stated. I hope that the government will see fit to do that. The key is when the insurance agents themselves say that, yes, there are some faults with Bill 68. I hope the government will see fit to make it correct.
Mr Villeneuve: First of all, my colleague the critic in the official opposition, the member for Welland-Thorold, discussed the truth, and the truth is sometimes quite elusive. Politicians are known to be able to twist it, but the Premier said in September 1987 that he had a specific method of reducing insurance premiums.
Mr Kormos: Was he telling the truth?
Mr Ferraro: Yes.
Mr Villeneuve: The truth of the matter, and whatever the truth is -- The parliamentary assistant said yes. Again, that is another method of twisting it because 16.6 per cent increase in one and a quarter years, plus another minimum of eight per cent in less than two years, is that reducing --
Mr Villeneuve: The parliamentary assistant tells us it is reducing. Well, it is reducing one thing; it is reducing the coverage. It is lowering the amount of protection that you have. However, it is certainly not reducing the cost and that is what the Premier told us he would be doing.
Mr Ferraro: He said “lowering.”
Mr Villenenve: To the parliamentary assistant, he tells us that the cost of claims, about 25 per cent of the cost of the claims of these two per cent accidents was a very, very healthy figure. We are not quarrelling. Some of the settlements, I believe, have been or appear to be exorbitant. We never know the whole story. At least there is a chance to air and vent the situation, bring it to the courts of law. This will be eliminated in 95 per cent of the cases.
To my friend the member for Simcoe East (Mr McLean), my colleague, the agents are concerned. The agents will receive disgruntled drivers whenever they receive the statement that they have to go to the Facility. From the agents’ office they come right to the MPPs, and that will be our problem.
Miss Martel: I am pleased this afternoon to start to participate in Bill 68 which, if the truth were told, is probably the latest in a series of long government failures to deal with the problems of auto insurance in this province in particular. I think you have to take a step back before you deal with the specifics of Bill 68.
Hon Mr Conway: Some people would say Barratt was a step back.
Miss Martel: No, I do not think so, but we will see what happens at the Liberal convention. In any event, you really have to look at this in a broader context to understand how this fiasco goes on and on and on and how this government has done absolutely nothing, zero, zilch to deal with the real problems out there, which are problems of affordability, accessibility and fairness. This horrible little piece of legislation does not come close to addressing any of those concerns. In fact, this horrible little piece of legislation does not do anything to address what are the real concerns of people out there, the concerns that members heard, I am sure, on the doorsteps in 1987, the concerns that I heard on the doorsteps, the concerns the parliamentary assistant, I am sure, heard on the doorsteps and the concerns that we hear again and again and again, like the eight cases I have with me here today.
So the problems continue. The government has not done anything since 1987 to deal with the problems, and this particular bill is going to cause even more problems added on to the ones we already have. It does nothing to talk about the real issues of accessibility, affordability and fairness, and I say to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr Black) “Come on back in. Let’s go through it.”
I want to go back and take a look at some of the history around the problems in auto insurance because really we have seen this government on a number of occasions in this House in the two and some years that I have been here -- it has been a history of bumbling efforts on the part of whichever minister was in charge of Financial Institutions to try to fix, to try to repair, to try to amend, to try to Band-Aid over some of these terrible problems the consumers are facing when they try to get auto insurance and try to hang on to auto insurance and try to pay for auto insurance in this province. It is just interesting that what the government has done has not resolved any of this.
Let’s take a look. If you go back to 1986-87 -- that was before I was here or my good friend the member for Welland-Thorold, Mr Speaker, but certainly you were here at the tune. You will recall. I am certain, that our former colleague from Welland-Thorold, one Mel Swart --
Miss Martel: No, Welland-Thorold. He had brought to the attention of this House and to the public of Ontario all through 1986 and a good part of 1987 before the election some of the horrible problems that consumers were facing: problems like discrimination when they went to the auto insurance industry and tried to get coverage; problems of families who had perhaps one bad driver or one driver with a bad record and the whole family was being penalized; problems in terms of outrageous, enormous, inflated, exaggerated rates as the insurance industry in this province just kept hauling in the millions and millions of dollars and putting it to consumers again and again. He raised those cases in this House.
Hon Mr Bradley: Where is Mel now?
Miss Martel: I should say to the honourable Minister of the Environment that I saw the good former member in Winnipeg. He spoke highly of the minister; not so highly of his colleague the Minister of Financial Institutions, however. He was hoping for a little bit better. He was hoping for a resolution to the problem and he has not seen it.
Hon Mr Conway: Was he supporting tomorrow’s candidate?
Miss Martel: I will not say who he was supporting on the basis that I might incriminate the man. However, he spoke well of most members of this House but he did not speak well of this government’s plan to try to reform auto insurance because he knows, as we all know, even though he is not in this place any more, that what the government has proposed will do nothing to resolve the problems that he raised again and again and again in this very Legislature.
Hon Mr Conway: Who do you think Bob Rae supports?
Miss Martel: I have no idea.
In any event, here we were in 1986 and 1987, before I got to this place, and the good former member for Welland-Thorold was raising these cases again and again. Finally, because the crisis was becoming so exacerbated, so extreme, so heightened, the former Minister of Financial Institutions, the member for Wilson Heights, currently Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter), finally was forced to the wall and forced to do something.
In April 1987 -- I remember it well; it was the same day we were having an all-candidates debate for the nomination in Sudbury East -- I remember that the minister stood in his place and announced two things to try and start to resolve some of the crisis in the automobile insurance industry. Number one, he promised there would be a cap, a freeze; no more rate increases. Number two --
Mr Kormos: That was a lie.
Miss Martel: I will not say that was a lie. I am not sure. I assume that at the time maybe he did think there would be a freeze, with no more increases in rates, etc, but in any event he promised a cap on rates.
The second thing he promised in this Legislature in April 1987 was to establish an automobile insurance board. The purpose of the board, we were told and we assumed, if the government was quite serious about getting a handle on what was happening around automobile insurance, was to try to sit down and look at rates and determine what was fair and reasonable and what consumers should be paying for automobile insurance, not the inflated, exaggerated rates they had been forced to pay, that were being sucked out of them by the insurance industry in this province, but in fact a good realistic study of what rates should be, how rates should be lowered -- because it was obvious to everyone that the public was being gouged -- and in fact to put in place a mechanism where fair rate increases would be allowed, with participation from all sectors, not only of the industry but from the consumers, government members and the interested public, to put in place a mechanism that would allow for fair rate increases, not the constant gouging knife in the back that we were getting via the automobile insurance industry.
I remember that announcement. I heard him on TV. It really looked as if he was going to stomp all over the industry that day. I was quite impressed. As someone who had not been in this House before and did not know the man personally, I was quite impressed by what he had to say. I thought: “This is it. It’s about time. The Liberals are finally going to kick the little red wagon of the insurance industry and we are going to have fair rates in this province.”
I thought it was a good thing at the time. I must admit frankly that I did, because I thought that for the first time this government took seriously what my former colleague the member for Welland-Thorold had to say and in fact was going to respond positively.
What happened? Nothing. From April until September 1987, nothing happened. There was no legislation introduced in this House. There was no move to try to get some controls on the automobile insurance industry. Instead we went into an election in 1987, and boy, was the Liberal Party ever supported by the automobile insurance industry. I remember in my riding getting those little advertisements, those little pamphlets, in the mail from the automobile insurance industry that said, “In a pig’s ear my premium is paying for it.”
They were advertising on why we should not have a public plan in this province, the taxpayers picking up that tab on behalf of the automobile insurance industry, which was certainly supporting the Liberal Party as my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold has already pointed out. There you go. Nothing was done. But certainly the automobile insurance industry was big in that election supporting this government and trying in whatever way it could to defame and misrepresent the facts about public automobile insurance and New Democratic Party support of it.
In any event, I guess the best part of that election was three days, just a mere three days, before the election in September 1987. There was the Premier in Cambridge and there he was proclaiming the Cambridge manifesto on how this government had a specific plan to reduce rates. It could not have been any clearer than that. This government had a specific plan. If elected, if the good people of this province cast their ballots in favour of the Liberal Party, they could rest assured that the Liberals had a plan to lower rates, put their minds at rest, reduce some of their terrible premiums and bring some fairness into the whole system.
A lot of people believed that, just as a lot of people believed the member for Wilson Heights in April 1987 when he said he was going to put a cap on rates and when he said he was going to establish the rate insurance board.
I think the interesting thing -- I looked at that again and I thought: “Finally I think this government might be serious. Mind you, it is three days before an election, so it seems a little bit opportunist to me, but in any event it looks as if this government is going to wrestle rates to the ground. The Premier is going to save us. My God, thank you. We’re on the road.”
What happened? We got back here and the House opened early in November and the apparent solution to all our problems came in the form of Bill 2. You will remember it, Mr Speaker; you were here.
Bill 2 did two things. It put a supposed cap on rates and it established for the first time in this province this rate review board that, we thought at the time, was supposed to at least take a serious look at the industry and its rates and put into place a mechanism to provide fairer rates for consumers.
What happened was that even while this bill was being debated, even while this bill was not in place, the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) of the province went ahead and allowed his good friends in the auto insurance industry to recognize a 4.5 per cent increase in rates even after his colleague the present Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology had told us in April there would be a cap, a freeze, no increase on rates. Well, here we are; the bill is not even through, even though the Liberals have a big majority, and we have a 4.5 per cent increase.
We wonder why people are cynical about government. We wonder why people did not believe the Liberals. They certainly did not believe them after that point in time, when they said they had a specific plan to lower rates. How could they believe the Liberals? We had a 4.5 per cent increase in rates and the bill had not even been passed. There we go again with the Liberal government catering to its friends in the insurance industry and looking after them well because the insurance industry looked after the Liberals well during the last election, and of course hoping to cement a solid alliance for the future.
In any event, we had two more rate increases from that point. The first was that we had another one in 1988, another 4.5 per cent rate increase.
When the few people who were not cynical before finally saw that, that was the end of that. We have a whole population in the province who cannot trust the Liberals whenever they have to say anything about auto insurance. If they go back to Cambridge and contrast what the Premier said there and what they are seeing now, it is no wonder they do not know what to believe or who to believe, or if their rates are ever going to decrease as promised by the Liberals in 1987.
The second increase came with Bill 10 and that allowed a 7.6 per cent increase. I suppose most consumers in the province felt a sigh a relief, if the truth must be told, because the auto insurance board had come out several weeks before that and had talked about a 30 per cent increase; this from a board we thought was going to look at rates seriously and provide fairer rates, provide a mechanism to lower rates, because all of us thought the rates were so exaggerated that something had to be done.
There we were with a horrible classification system that would have increased rates exorbitantly, for example for seniors and for young women. It did not do much about bringing down rates for young males but it brought the rates for females up. The classification system and that rate increase were all part and parcel of that Bill 10. It was probably just as well a good part of the classification system was done away with be cause it was not fair by any stretch of the imagination.
I have to say that since the announcement of the specific plan to lower rates, we have now had three rate increases in the province. We have not had an end to any of the injustices or unfair practices that were raised in the cases by the former member for Welland-Thorold.
Getting to Bill 68, which we are discussing in this House today, I have to say in all honesty that it really is another event in a long history of pathetic events by this government to try and respond to consumers’ concerns around auto insurance. The concerns, as I have said to members before, are really this: affordability, accessibility and some kind of fairness. Anything we have had before has not addressed it and this bill does not address it.
This bill is really a double-edged sword because what it does is leave all those important matters that I talked about, fairness and accessibility, unresolved. Second, it puts in place a supposed no-fault system that really has some horrible flaws and that is really going to strike badly and harshly at a large number of people in this province.
I want to spend some time going through what, in my opinion, are some of the major flaws of the legislation presented before us today.
The first of the flaws concerns the levels of benefits. I do not doubt for an instant that $450 is a heck of a lot better than the measly and grossly unjust $180 we saw under the old schedule. There is no doubt of that in my mind, but anything would look good after $180 a week because that was certainly far below the poverty line in this province.
But the $450 maximum that is contained in this particular schedule, that is, the schedule under Bill 68, is not a whole heck of a lot better when you realistically look at the cost of living in major urban centres in this province, when you start to take a look at the cost of food and lodging and you start to all roll that in. It is pretty difficult to ask people in major urban centres to live below the poverty line and try to feed their two kids and their wife.
The thing that surprises me is that the government has not moved forward -- it would have been a positive step -- to provide actual income replacement; that is, to cover your actual losses so that the standard of living you were accustomed to and the bills you had, your mortgage, your car, etc, could still be paid without putting your financial security, your house and everything else in jeopardy.
It would have been a positive step had this government moved to that. It would have been even a little bit better if the government might have moved to the schedule that was most recently put in place under Bill 162. It is a horrible, ugly little piece of legislation as well, but the one positive aspect of it was that at least there was some sense there that people could not live on $480 a week and that you had to come a little closer and be a little more realistic about their actual losses and what they had to face in the outside world in terms of bills and the cost of living and everything else.
Even in that bill this government had enough sense to move to a $40,000 limit so that would increase the weekly amount of benefits, and then to a limit or a maximum that is a certain percentage of the average industrial wage.
In any event, the point is the $450 that we see here as the maximum is actually what the Ministry of Labour moved away from in another piece of legislation that compensates workers who are disabled, albeit at work, but certainly that compensates.
Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: lam sorry, the member for Sudbury East, and my apologies, Mr Speaker, but would a quorum not be nice? Lord knows, there are enough Liberals.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz) ordered the bells rung.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): I am advised a quorum is present now.
Miss Martel: Let me get back to this question of benefits. I refer members back to some of the benefit levels we have already in place for people who are suffering from disabilities, albeit at work. The important point to note is, why are we going to penalize people because they are hurt away from work? They suffer the same loss of income. They suffer the same kind of damage, permanent or otherwise. They suffer the same financial loss and yet we could not in this particular piece of legislation even move forward to a level that we would have found acceptable for people who are hurt at work.
I quite frankly find the difference or the discrimination between people who are hurt at work and people who are going to be hurt in car accidents, and the levels of benefits we as a society are going to provide them with to be grossly unfair and unjust and certainly -- the bottom line -- discriminatory.
I think it would have made far more sense for some of the members of this cabinet, particularly the Minister of Financial Institutions, to perhaps go back and look at what his colleague the Minister of Labour had to say around the whole question of income replacement and what was fair and what was not, and how profoundly he spoke about the need to increase those levels so that people would not be living in poverty even if they were hurt, so that when they were hurt they could expect that they would retain, as much as possible, the level of quality of life they had beforehand and would not be forced to sell their house, their car and everything else they owned to make ends meet.
I surely say to the minister that when this goes into public hearings, he should take a good look at what the realities are around this province. He should take a good look at what he is asking people to live on, with $450 maximum a week, especially in Metropolitan Toronto, especially in major urban centres.
If we would not ask injured workers of this province to do the same thing, why would we ask it people who are going to be hurt through no fault of their own across the province because they are so unfortunate as to be caught in an auto accident instead of being hurt at work.
I think it has to be clearly pointed out that we should not be asking one group in society to have anything less than another when both are disabled, both have families to provide for, both have houses they would probably like to keep and both should be guaranteed by the system that is in place that if they get hurt, they will have enough money to continue on. I think this minister has to take a serious look at that whole question of benefit levels.
Second, around the question of benefit levels is the far broader question of indexation of those benefits. We have not had a change in the benefit levels in this province since 1978. Those benefit levels that are in place now under the present auto insurance scheme are $180. Year after year, they have never been increased and prorated to the rate of inflation in this province. Because that was such a big part of the problem of why those benefits were so bloody inadequate at the end, one would think that the government would logically turn around and decide, “Yes, it is about time we indexed the benefits.”
If, in my mind, the benefits are not adequate enough as they are, and they certainly are not, the least we could have done is to have indexed them, so that as costs rise in this province, people will necessarily expect that so too will have their benefit levels tied to the rate of inflation.
It is not only me who has suggested that. I go back to Mr Justice Osborne’s report presented in February 1988. He said the same. He pointed out how unjust the situation was going to become again if the government put benefit levels in place, but provided no mechanism for their increase on a rate that was tied to the rate of inflation in this province.
I suggest to the minister -- his parliamentary assistant is here -- that when they go through the public hearings, they should take a serious look at that. We moved four years ago to index benefits in terms of workers’ compensation. There was a disability scheme set in place, albeit for workers hurt at work in this province. We saw the justice then of indexing those benefits and we certainly should be looking at this seriously now.
Third is the whole flaw around the need to have employer-paid benefits used before an individual can actually claim no-fault benefits. The bill demands that victims of auto insurance accidents, if they are hurt and if they have plans that are already provided by their employer, go to the employer first. I say to the minister, why would we be shifting that kind of burden back on to the victim, back on to his own plan, back on to the sick days he has accumulated? Why would we be shifting that burden instead of obliging it goes. So what is permanent? What is a serious that is what we pay premiums for.
Why should we turn around, go back and have to hold responsible my sick days if I am a teacher? My mother is one? Why should she have to use up all her sick days if she gets hurt in an auto accident when she pays premiums in this province to have that kind of coverage? What are we paying premiums for? What are we paying such high premiums for if we cannot expect any kind of coverage when we get hurt? Why is it right to ask teachers or union members or all those groups that have that kind of coverage in place to go back, drain it all and then if you are still off, go and see your friendly auto insurance broker? There is something wrong about that. There is something horribly unfair. There is something that is just totally stupid in my mind in expecting and requiring people to do that.
Look at the example I gave of my mother the teacher who has banked 40 days, for example, of sick time, and my mother the teacher gets hurt. Because she has an employer-paid plan, she has to go and drain all that away. She may not have a permanent injury and will go back to work within four months, three months, two months even, but in the meantime she has drained all of that sick time. She starts to accumulate again, but requires surgery next year and is going to be off for three weeks, four weeks or five weeks. She will not be reimbursed for any of that. She will have no sick days to draw from.
I point out again, why are we telling people to do that? Surely the auto insurance industry has the new commission will have broad powers of beyond gouging us in the back, taking us to the cleaners, making millions of dollars and being beholden to no one.
This whole question of the need to use other benefits first, whether it be workers’ compensation or employer-paid benefits, that whole requirement in this bill to force everyone to shop somewhere else, if you are fortunate enough to have another plan, is really incomprehensible to me. If we have any sense of fairness, surely we are not going to require people to have that burden shifted somewhere else when that burden should be back on the insurers of this province. They should be picking up the shot. They should be paying for it. It is about time, when we go into hearings, that they be forced to do so.
Associated with that problem comes another one, because not only will there be groups of people who are going to be forced to go back and rely on their own plans first, but there will be a whole group of people out there who, when they go and shop for insurance, are going to have that hanging over their heads.
If, in fact, you are not fortunate enough to have an employer plan, you are not fortunate enough to be able to draw on that if you have to, you can bet your bottom dollar that any insurance broker is going to look at that and say: “We do not want to touch you. We do not want to have to pay out. We would rather insure people who have a benefit plan somewhere else; we can tell them to go to that benefit plan and suck it dry before they come to us. We would rather do that. We do not want to insure you.”
What is going to happen is brokers in this province setting up the categories of high-risk people, people who do not have, normally, plans somewhere else from their employer, and they are going to start to find all kinds of excuses why they cannot provide auto insurance to those people.
Mr Speaker, you do not have to listen to me and you do not have to take my word for it, but let me tell you whose word we do have to take in this regard. What I am going to read to you comes, actually, from the Facility Association and the general manager. He said exactly the same thing I am trying to get across today; that, in fact, when you put this kind of proviso in, what you are going to do to insurance companies is to allow them free rein, to allow them to go out and give all kinds of excuses to not insure people because they do not have these plans, because, in fact, it would be far easier for them to suck another plan dry than to actually have to come back to the auto insurance industries and request some no-fault benefits.
What Mr McKay said -- and I think it is really important around this particular discussion -- was this: “The increase in no-fault benefits will create a new class of borderline risks, and if the legislation proceeds as it is presently drafted, it is likely that underwriters will use avoidance tactics on such classes as seasonal workers, small self-employed contractors, unskilled labourers, workers in the hospital sector and a host of similar occupants. Occupational underwriting will be the watchword and the Facility Association will be the recipient of those who do not meet underwriter guidelines.”
Mr Speaker, there you have it. What more can you ask for from someone who surely is in the know about what is going to happen in this industry if this particular bill passes with those kinds of provisions intact? Surely we cannot expect that, given the problems we already have in trying to provide accessibility and affordability and fairness in the system, to put in place a bill which in effect makes it even more unfair to people and gives the insurance industry even more reasons to cut out people, to try and force them into the Facility Association, surely this is not the time to be moving to that kind of scheme?
Certainly, if it is the opinion of someone of Mr McKay’s calibre, who has, I would suggest, watched the insurance industry for many years now, that this is the kind of thing we are going to produce, when you say to people you have to use up your employer benefits first, then surely he must have something there. It is imperative that the minister and the Liberal members on that particular committee take a look at that and take a look at his expertise and what he has to say. He is not yelling in the wind for nothing. He is not paid to do that; he does not have to do that.
But there is a point that has to be made there, and if you are going to try and make the system a little fairer, then you cannot allow for mealy-mouthed clauses like that, which in fact are going to penalize people even further.
Fourthly, I want to talk about the long-term benefits. That is found in section 8 of the draft regulations which are associated with this bill. There is a particular problem in terms of long-term care costs, and that is around the monetary limits.
Members will recognize that in fact there is a limit of $1,500 a month or residential care, whichever is the lesser, if you have to have long-temi care due to the nature and degree of your injury. I have to wonder if this government has any idea about the cost of health care in this system in view of what it is asking people to accept in terms of health care costs. It is beyond belief, it seems to me, that the minister would expect that for a person who is now a paraplegic as a result of an accident, who has suffered a head injury, for example, who wants to be looked after at home, and the means are there to provide care at home, can by the same token be expected to get the kind of quality care required for $1,500 a month.
Just work it out. If you are looking at care over a monthly basis, 40 hours a week, you are going to have all of $8.65 to offer someone to provide the kind of professional care you are going to need at home. If you try and spread that out over seven days -- because if you are that disabled, surely you are going to need care on a long-term basis over the long haul, which is seven days a week, at least eight hours a day -- that kind of care is going to cost you $6.18 an hour, seven days a week, eight hours a day.
Where, realistically, logically, can you purchase that kind of care for those kinds of bucks?
I say to members, what are the minister and the government going to do? Because people are going to be unable to purchase that kind of care and they are going to be unable to supplement that $1,500 because the benefits for their loss of income are so low, those people are going to have no choice but to be institutionalized. They are going to have no choice but to move in there because they are not going to be able to afford the kind of quality care that they require and they are not going to be able to supplement that $1,500 to provide that kind of care and stay at home.
Surely, in this day and age when we have the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer) and the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) promoting care in the community, this works backwards. This is absolutely contrary to the kind of system and the kind of care we are trying to set up in this province and it certainly is contrary to the kind of care necessary that we saw as northerners when we went about this province on the health care tour.
If we are talking about institutionalizing people in northwestern Ontario, they go out of every community in northwestern Ontario and they have to go to Thunder Bay. I do not think that is the kind of vision we have. It is certainly not the kind of rhetoric we have heard from both of those ministers around community care, but if they keep this kind of provision in with those kinds of very minimum benefits allowed for health care, they are going to force no other choice upon people but that; that is, to go into institutions.
As the committee goes through its hearings, it should also take a good, hard look at what the cost of care is. I know this government is not paying much for home care workers, but still, even that is not going to cover the kind of care and the kind of needs that have to be purchased in order to ensure that people can stay at home. I would suggest to those members on the committee that they take a good, hard look at some of the monetary limits they are setting on people because when they try to talk about community care they are not providing the financial and monetary mechanism to make it work.
First, I want to talk about the government handouts to industry in this particular bill, and there are a couple of areas. It is bad enough that as a society we feel we are being gouged. When we look at this particular bill and see what is happening, we have to really wonder how the government could ever say with any kind of truthfulness that it was intent on reducing rates and providing fair and accessible auto insurance.
Members should just take a look at the handouts to their friends on Bay Street. The government is removing the three per cent premium tax paid by industry this year. Merry Christmas. What a break.
Mr Kormos: How much?
Miss Martel: I do not know how much. The total subsidy is $143 million. I am just getting to the total subsidy.
But we are looking at a three per cent tax, when the rest of us are being taxed to death in this province and they are getting a tax holiday, and we have to wonder who this government is supporting. It is surely not the consumer on the street who is watching the rate increases go up and up or the consumers who are expecting another eight per cent increase when this bill is passed; and if it not passed before December, they are going to get it anyway.
There is another handout around the area of cancellation of the annual payments which are made to OHIP by the insurance industry to cover the cost of medical treatment. Of course that cost is being removed because of the new employer health levy which we have seen implemented in this province. Again, that represents a significant part of the cost that we consumers pay as premiums.
I am watching that money as someone who has to buy auto insurance in order to drive in this province, that money that should have gone into medical care -- which I agree with -- now going into the pockets of the industry and I have to ask: Do they not have enough in their pockets now? When is the gouging going to stop? Why the write-off? Why the break? Why the Christmas presents?
Surely if the government was going to come good on some of its promises around reducing rates, it could have said to its friends in the auto insurance industry, “Given that you don’t have to pay these kinds of costs now into the health care system, surely it is about time that you reduce rates for those people you provide coverage for.” Surely, since a big portion of that premium they pay goes into health care costs and now that is removed, they have every obligation to turn around and rebate some of those people, lower the rates, make the system more fair. But that is not going to happen because this whole thing, as my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold has said, has been written by the auto insurance industry and it sure knows how to find a buck and make a buck.
In the same way of helping the auto insurance industry, I want to take a look at what the effect is going to be on the Workers’ Compensation Board. This is a bit of a different twist, which I do not think has been raised by anyone in this House, but certainly the impact this bill is going to have on the WCB and premiums and, in the end, workers’ benefits and rights is going to be fairly dramatic.
I would like to take a moment just to explain this to members of the House, hoping that once it is on record the minister will take a good look at this problem. I know the board has also done a letter on this. I have not been able to get a copy of it. But certainly, the ramifications of this bill on the board and hence, on workers, is going to be quite significant.
Right now an injured worker who is hurt in an auto accident in this province is left with two choices, providing that when he was hurt he was in the course of his employment. Let me give an example. We have a salesman who was going to a residence on an appointment, perhaps trying to sell life insurance. While he was in the course of his employment, while he was driving over there, he, of course, was covered under workers’ compensation. What can happen if he is hit, for example, by a Mack truck, is that he has the right either to claim workers’ compensation benefits or he has the right to elect to sue and not claim benefits. Those are the options a worker has under a particular section of the act if, in fact, he is hit by a third party.
What happens is this. The WCB provides the two options. First, the worker decides to claim compensation benefits. The worker can still get his benefits, but the Workers’ Compensation Board also has the option, if it thinks the particular case at hand is a good case and it could get a settlement for that particular worker, whereby legal staff at the board will take that case to court and it will sue on behalf of the injured worker. If it gets a settlement which is higher than the amount of compensation paid to the worker, then the board will do two things. First, it will take some of that money and replace the costs it has paid out to the worker. Second, if there is any difference -- a surplus, in this case, this is what it is called -- that surplus will also be paid to the worker, so he will get compensation and any extra money that is left as a result of the settlement in courts.
The other thing that can happen is the injured worker himself can decide to sue. In this case, he or she does not claim compensation but decides to take his or her case directly to court. If that injured worker gets less money through a settlement in court than he or she would have received through compensation, that worker is also entitled to go back to the board and asked to make up the difference with compensation benefits. This is providing that there has been a bit of an agreement reached or some discussions with the board beforehand.
But the worker has the choice. If he gets less, he can go back to the board and the board can supplement, make up the difference, using compensation benefits, between what he got through a settlement and what he should have got under compensation.
So those are the two choices. Let me tell members what the problem is when we look at Bill 68. The bill removes the right to sue unless the victim suffers some serious bodily injury or unless death has occurred. The WCB, where it previously would have gone to court on a good case, to fight in order to recover its costs and to make a payout to the worker, cannot now do this.
Second, the injured worker, who at first had a right to claim benefits or had a right to sue, now has that right taken away from him as well if he does not suffer serious bodily injury or death. He will now, of necessity, have no choice but to claim compensation benefits.
Third, under many insurance claims, the worker cannot claim no-fault benefits in any event. If there is an option that he can claim workers’ compensation, he has to do this. Now you have the three problems. But, in fact, because the board can no longer go in and sue and recover, and the worker can no longer go in, sue and pay for his own way, they are going to have a heck of a lot more people out there who are going to be having no other choice than to receive compensation benefits.
That is going to cause a tremendous problem for the board, because the board is going to have to make the payouts for the employers who are going to see their rates increase and, by God, when the employers see their rates increase they come here howling, howling to the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips), howling to Dr Elgie at the Workers’ Compensation Board, and you can bet your bottom dollar that what the board will do next is try to look for new and innovative ways to try to reduce workers’ compensation benefits. For those of us who thought Bill 162 was bad, it is going to be a tea party compared to what we are going to see if this particular piece of legislation goes through.
The parliamentary assistant was asking me how many cases, so I want to go through with him some correspondence I received from a law firm by the name of Ross and McBride. I can certainly give him a copy of this if he does not have it. Using information supplied to them from the Workers’ Compensation Board, they went through what this was going to mean in terms of actual dollars.
I do not want to go through all of the figures. I can certainly send a copy to the parliamentary assistant, and I will do that.
Their summation was this, though: “Under the proposed legislation, there will be no ability by the worker to elect accepting catastrophic injury cases. The reason is that no-fault benefits will not be available whenever workers’ compensation benefits are available. The result is that virtually all of the workers who either elect private civil action or elect workers’ compensation and have the board commence action on their behalf will be forced to accept workers’ compensation. The board will not have any subrogated claim for the workers’ compensation payments made.”
The amount of money that they have stated, based on the cases and the figures they obtained from the Workers’ Compensation Board, equals some $59.3 million. That $59.3 million, which, before, the board would have picked up from the auto insurance industry -- it will not be allowed to pick it up any more. That is going to mean a big break, certainly, for the auto insurance industry. You would think that would necessarily mean a reduction in our premiums, but, of course, it will not. What I am far more concerned about, given that I am the critic, is that this is going to mean some real hardships for workers, because if the Workers’ Compensation Board has to dig up $59.3 million from somewhere, you can bet your bottom dollars when the employers get through with it and get through with their howling, it is going to come back to workers and the board is going to find new and innovative ways to cut people off, reduce benefits, reduce rights and on and on.
I say to the minister, I will certainly give him a copy of this, but I hope the board gets in touch with him as well, because I can tell him, there is going to be an awful lot of agony and heartache if this particular provision goes through. That is the kind of thing that is going to affect the board and, ultimately, injured workers in the province.
Finally, I guess the most important part of this whole question for me is what the bill does not do. I go back to the three points that I made early on when we talked about the crisis in auto insurance in this province and how I had hoped in 1987, when the former Minister of Financial Institutions got up and talked about auto insurance, that this government was finally moving to resolve it. Those questions are key, and they really are the question of accessibility, the question of affordability and the question of fairness.
The bill does not provide any of those things. If we look at affordability, we all know that in urban areas, at least, we are going to expect an eight per cent increase. Come hell or high water, if this bill is not passed by December, on 1 January we are going to have another eight per cent rate increase on top of the 7.6, 4.5, 4.5 that we have had since the cap went on in 1987.
If members wonder why people are cynical, they should just take a look. The government cannot make promises and then start slapping these kinds of increases on people. It cannot justify it. Certainly, in the minds of the public out there, I know that people who are calling my office are saying: “What is this? We were told, three days before an election, by a Premier we thought was serious that he had a specific plan. There is no plan here. All that we know is, every time we get billed by the insurance company, it goes up and up and up and there is no end in sight.”
It is difficult for me when I look at this particular piece of legislation and recognize the breaks that are given to the insurance industry -- and I have already outlined them -- to see that, by the same token, we cannot even expect that the government can say: “We are holding the line. There will be no increase. We will not have an increase, because we had one of 7.6 several months earlier. We are going to toe the line on this piece of legislation and we are going to recognize that, given all the breaks that were given to the auto insurance industry, surely, it is about time they lower some of their rates and stop gouging the public.”
That does not happen in this bill. It does not provide any better accessibility to auto insurance in the province. It is beyond me why, as drivers, we are required by law to have auto insurance and can be charged if we do not, and then the auto insurance industry does not have to provide auto insurance and can put up all kinds of barriers and blockades and everything else and give all kinds of reasons why it does not have to provide it and why you should go, as a citizen of this province, down to the Facility Association and pay rates that are three and four times higher than you should be expected to pay.
Truly, it is about time this government said to the insurance industry: “Hold on guys, the party is soon to be over. If we expect the good citizens of the province of Ontario to have insurance, then we expect you to provide it. We don’t care what kind of whining and moaning and gnashing of teeth you come up with; you’re going to start to provide accessible, affordable insurance to people,” because, by law, they have to have it; surely, by law, insurance companies should have to provide it.
I know the cases that were raised in here this afternoon by my colleague the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. I have just a wonderful case of a man who was with the same insurance company for 17.5 years. He paid a premium of $235. He had two windshield claims and an accident in 1975. They decided after the second windshield claim, which was about a year and a half ago, that they would jack his rate up to some $502 from $235. Now, luckily enough for him, he was not asked to go somewhere else, as in the examples that were given by my colleague, but surely that is not accessible, that is not affordable and it certainly is not fair.
Finally, around the question of fairness, many of those problems that my former colleague from Welland-Thorold raised in this House, problems around discrimination, problems around families who could not get insurance because they had one young driver who was a bad driver -- all those questions of fairness are not resolved in this legislation.
It may be that the minister, in the other two companion bills which are coming, will resolve some of those questions, but I will say that they certainly are not resolved here. After some two and a half or three years of these problems being raised again and again in this House, it is about time the government moved to do something about them, but that does not appear in this legislation, and people are not going to expect the system to become any fairer.
For those kinds of reasons -- the fact that the bill does not do anything about affordability or accessibility or fairness, and the fact that our rates are going to be increased yet again, contrary to a Liberal government promise three days before the last election -- I really cannot support this bill, Mr Speaker. I look forward to the public hearings on this particular piece of legislation, and I thank you for allowing me to participate today.
Mr Kormos: The member for Sudbury East talks about the pig campaign and none of us will ever forget that. It cost drivers in Ontario hundreds of thousands of dollars, because where do members think the auto insurance industry got the money to advertise all those little pigs?
Some of us play with our kids -- “this little piggy went to market; this little piggy went home.” These little piggies came to Queen’s Park and formed the Liberal government and, boy, are they quick to get to the trough. I mean, they had no hesitation taking the over $100,000 from the auto insurance industry in 1987. Boy, oh, boy, these little piggies stuffed their pockets with that money so fast. There was no hesitation in takings tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars from Patti Starr.
Boy, these little piggies stuffed their pockets as much as their pockets could hold and then they put more in their back pockets and held it in their hands until it was falling out. And they do not stop at that. I mean, these little piggies will spend $6,300 of taxpayers’ money on Christmas parties, and these little piggies will take $143 million of taxpayers’ money and give it to the auto insurance industry in the first year alone. These little piggies are lined up at the trough, and it is crowded there, but there is always room for one more friend, one more pal, one more buddy.
The auto insurance industry is a good buddy of this government. They are close. They are -- need I say? -- intimate. So we have insurance legislation here that is written by the auto insurance industry, that is designed to make it an additional $650 million in the first year alone. That is obscene, because that $650 million that these little piggies are stealing is from the drivers and taxpayers of Ontario. That is obscene, Mr Speaker.
Mr J. B. Nixon: I am looking forward to the committee hearings on this bill, because I think we will spend a lot of time just getting at the truth about what this bill is all about. The problem I have with the speech of the member for Sudbury East is that she deals with a lot of situations which just do not have any bearing on reality.
She says, for instance, that injured victims will be obliged to take their sick days before they are entitled to benefits under the automobile insurance policy. Not true. Members should look at section 231b.
She says that quadriplegics will be restricted to $500,000 in long-term disability payments. Not true. They will definitely be over the threshold and entitled to sue for an unlimited amount. She says that the excluded-driver provision that the member for Welland-Thorold was after is not dealt with in the bill. The excluded-driver provision that we wanted in legislation is in that legislation, and if the member for Welland-Thorold were here, he would say: “Yes, you’re right. The Liberal government is doing the right thing.”
I will tell members the problem I have with the delivery of the speech from the member for Sudbury East is that we are dealing with -- I cannot say it -- things that are said that just are not so. We are dealing with things that are more akin to her ideology than any fact or piece of legislation that is before this Legislature. So I am looking forward to --
Mr Kormos: Mr Speaker, a point of order.
The Acting Speaker: Be brief.
Mr Kormos: Yes, I will. The member is grossly misinformed and should familiarize himself with the legislation.
Mr Ballinger: That’s not a point of order.
Hon Mr Sweeney: That’s not a point of order. Sit down.
The Acting Speaker: Order, order. I agree with the honourable members. It is not a point of order.
Mr J. B. Nixon: My point simply is that the member for Sudbury East and the member for Welland-Thorold are spewing utter garbage into this House. It is rhetoric totally misrepresenting what is in the bill, that is all.
Mr Haggerty: Following the comments made by the member for Sudbury East and and the member for Welland-Thorold, I want to bring something to the attention to the Legislature that has been overlooked, and that is the matter of questioning and looking at legal cost.
I have a document before me of Moll versus Robertson and the disbursement of account. There was a settlement before the Supreme Court of Ontario for $95,000, and the legal fees were $85,000-plus. By the time they paid for all the professional services such as doctors’ reports and the other ones, the witnesses before the Supreme Court, they ended up with nil.
I think the intent of this bill, Bill 68, will correct some of the unjust costs to the injured person, such as that of the solicitors who charged them such an account. I bring this to the attention of the Legislature. I think this bill will reduce some of the legal costs.
You still have the right to sue under this new bill, particularly in what you might say are more serious cases of injuries due to automobile accidents, but I must remind the Legislature that there is another cost here and it is the legal costs. That has been overlooked. I know the member for Welland-Thorold has no particular interest in this area, but he does make comments on fair insurance.
Mr Ferraro: I wish to thank the member for Sudbury East for her comments, particularly in regard to some of the facts and figures that she indicated pertaining to the Workers’ Compensation Board. Admittedly, while the minister and, I am sure, the staff have undertaken to study that matter, I might say personally that I have been only briefly involved in that particular relationship. So the facts and figures indicated by the member will indeed be something that I personally will look at in greater detail.
First, I want to reiterate what my friend previously said in that regard. In the cases of serious and permanent injury, the WCB still has the option of taking the matter to court on behalf of the injured worker. Second, I wish to say that in those cases where there is not serious or permanent injury, it is precisely for that reason that the Ontario government has increased, from $25,000 to $1 million, the amount of supplementary medical care and rehabilitation and long-term care.
This government fully believes that, along with having access to the WCB, in those particular cases where there is no lawsuit, it is important to get that individual back into the mainstream of life and back into the workforce, because it is a proven fact that the vast majority of accidents in the province, the vast majority of the 203,000 accidents that we have, for the latest year, 1987-88, are caused by a moment’s inattention, not by criminal negligence. In that regard, we want that individual to get back into the mainstream of life and, at the same time, keep premiums at a reasonable level for the rest of the six million insured.
Miss Martel: Let me thank the member for Guelph (Mr Ferraro) for his comments. I will certainly pass on to him some of the figures I have been given, which were provided to us by a legal firm. We have tried to confirm some of those figures with the Workers’ Compensation Board and have not been able to up to this point in time alone.
It is too bad that, as usual, the member for York Mills (Mr J. B. Nixon) has made his comments and then rushed away. It would be nice if he would stick around and participate in the debate for a change and present his evidence and the facts that he knows, since he has gotten up and made some comments that I do not know what I am talking about. He has yet to participate in this debate, he has yet to go through clause-by-clause on this, he has yet to talk about it. He seems to do that on a fairly regular basis, which is really unfortunate. I come to this House to participate. I am willing to take some heat, but I find it too bad that he had to run away as soon as he made some comments.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Miss Martel: If I had been getting extremely philosophical, or whatever the word was that he used in terms of what my party’s belief is on this, I would have spent the entire time talking about government-owned auto insurance. Members who were here will recall quite clearly that I said not a word about government auto insurance.
I talked a great deal about the promises made by this Liberal government and by the Premier of this province before the last election when it was convenient for him to make all kinds of outlandish promises in order to get elected and how this government has yet to deliver. Then I spent a great deal of time talking about the problems I saw with this bill and why in fact I could not possibly support it, both because of the contents and because it does not provide for some real concerns I have, those concerns of accessibility, affordability and fairness.
If I wanted to get into all the rhetoric that was best portrayed by the former member for Welland-Thorold when he talked on this issue, I certainly could have, but I restricted myself to my knowledge of the facts and what I feel needs to be changed in this particular bill if it is going to be half decent. We will not be supporting it anyway because it certainly does not address those concerns that I think consumers are most worried about in this province.
Mrs Cunningham: I am pleased to be able participate in the discussions this afternoon around the proposed Ontario motorist protection plan legislation. I guess I am speaking as I did in the past, having tried to get answers to some questions, with a fair amount of concern about the legislation, especially with the interpretation of the legislation, on behalf of those members of the public who have written to me trying to get exact answers to their questions.
I will be very much looking forward to the public hearings on this legislation because almost everyone who has raised concerns, whether they be the members of the opposition represented here over the past few weeks or some members of the Liberal government, would think that there still are questions that should be answered and improvements that can be made to this legislation which will be very much important to fairness when it comes to doing business in Ontario.
I say that quite bluntly because most consumers go into the insurance companies and purchase insurance and are usually pretty clear as to what their benefits can be and will be. One thing that no one is ever clear about or would ever truly expect is that disabling accidents can happen to them or to members of their family. Therefore, I think it is incumbent upon us to be very clear about the legislation and what it really means. During the hearings I intend to ask the government questions about the materials it has put out so far because I think they are misleading and I think they need to be clarified, and of course we can improve upon them.
I am wondering just why we have gone to the expense, though, of preparing these documents when in fact we do not have legislation at this point in time. It should be a guide with questions and answers that all of us can benefit from rather than facts about issues that are not clear to the public.
The Premier promised a very specific plan to lower insurance rates in the last election, and I think that the question all of us have now is, could they honestly have been lowered, given the work of the commissions that this government asked to look at the insurance challenge? I think we have been told that probably, with the expectations of the public, the rates could not have been lowered. We certainly have been advised by Mr Justice Osborne that with this new plan they will not be lowered. I think for most of us we would be very surprised if they could be. If they are, I think the question the public should be asking is, at what cost?
I think the costs that have been brought out in examples before this House in the last little while are rather significant because the costs are really to the innocent victims of automobile accidents. It is only at the expense of the victims and their families that we could lower the premiums. I think members of the public, if they clearly understood what the benefits were and what they will not be in the future, would be more willing to take a second look at any changes in this legislation as it effects the remuneration and benefits that they thought they purchased when they bought their insurance policies.
I should say from the very beginning that I am very much aware that there were some problems with the existing legislation and I would have guessed that we would have been looking for honest and fair ways to solve those problems. It is true that insurance companies do get some silly claims and some trivial matters that cost them a lot, but there are a lot of legitimate claims as well. In fact, the majority, I am sure, of all accident claims are extremely legitimate. I guess maybe what we should be talking about is to what extent.
Osborne of course talked about reforms to the existing system and he gave us examples of where we could have been dealing with them. I think the public is asking, “What will I get from my auto insurance policy and what will it eventually cost?” I am sure that members of this government and the staff have not looked into this question, what will insurance eventually cost? If they want to do their homework, they can get the answer to that question before the public hearings because those of us who are involved will definitely be asking the question.
Will people be able to get insurance? Certainly this is mandatory. In a free enterprise system there may be some people who will not be able to get insurance, and that means they will not be able to drive a car. Has that question been looked at in great detail? Does this new Ontario motorist protection plan look into that question? I did not see anybody dealing with it. Yet that is a real issue of everyday life. No one is talking about that.
What about pain and suffering? It lasts a lifetime and cuts down on the quality of family life and individual life. It does deserve compensation and yet it has been ignored. It must be revisited.
Why are the Liberals or this government going ahead with the no-fault plan as put in this format? I hope that the idea that they have bought into -- open public committee hearings -- will mean that they will not go into this plan blindly because truly most of us, in fact all of us, have received much communication from the public. We have numbers of letters, probably hundreds of letters. I know I do and I know that they were also sent to my colleagues who represent London, the Premier, the member for London South (Mrs E. J. Smith) and certainly the member for Middlesex (Mr Reycraft), because I have been copies of those letters and I am sure they have been given copies of the letters that were sent to me.
I feel that this no-fault insurance plan, as presented, is extremely arbitrary. Why does someone need severe disfigurement, whatever that is, or a lasting physical disability to be able to sue? The question is, what about lasting mental damage and what about psychological trauma, the kind of damage that does not allow one ever to take a job or to continue on with his work? It has not been dealt with. It is my understanding that it is being considered and I hope it is being considered seriously.
What about a family whose father or mother, son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife will never be the same person that he or she once was? They certainly deserve more than $450 per week if that is what they were earning at the time of their accident or if that was their potential if they are a young person.
I suppose my final question is, is this government listening to the people? I will reserve judgement on that. I have been on committees where they did listen to the people. I was quite surprised, and I certainly commend them for it. Everyone will know that was the welfare reform, as it was referred to, and that we are looking at the implementation of stage one. Those of us who were heavily involved will be looking at that report for further implementation.
I have, however, also been on committees where the government has totally ignored the wishes of -- and, more important, the suggestions for improvement by -- the public. I am wondering right now, once the implications of this legislation are put before the public in a very positive, hopefully honest way, so that its questions can be answered, what the public response will be and what the government will do with that.
The question I get most often in the letters that are sent to me -- and we have certainly documented the questions -- is, why should everyone pay for bad drivers? Why does their insurance not pay for all the damage, pain and loss the irresponsible driver causes? Income replacement and pain and suffering are the other two questions that the public asks me most frequently.
There is a compendium to the documentation that was sent out. It talks about the bill itself and how it establishes a new mandatory insurance policy. Really and truly, “mandatory” means if you can afford to pay for the insurance then you can drive a car. I think the government ought to be very careful when it talks about “mandatory.” It does not mean that everybody can continue life as it is. Nobody can tell me what it means. I have no idea what the rates will be. If you cannot afford it, you cannot drive. Maybe there is nothing wrong with that, but it does not mean that everybody gets to drive a car. If the insurance rates are increased significantly -- and they may be, because we know that no-fault does not reduce -- perhaps there will be more people not able to drive cars.
It “provides no-fault benefits in the form of supplementary medical, rehabilitation, long-term care and income replacement benefits and maintains the ability to sue in case of serious injury or death.” That is quite a substantive paragraph. I should tell members that right now insurance companies pay very little of the medical costs of people who are injured in automobile accidents. Even when people go to court, there are very few instances. Only very few insurance companies are able to pay out on medical claims.
A few years ago -- and I do not know the date, but I will find out -- there was a deal made with the government of Ontario. Certain insurance companies were party to that particular agreement. If you have an insurance policy with any one of those companies, you can be assured that really right now the public is paying for the medical attention that is given to people who sue or do not sue for rehabilitation and care in hospitals across this province. So right now a very substantive portion of the costs of an automobile accident is already paid by the public.
I should also tell members of the House, if they are not aware, that right at this time a great part of the cost of the rehabilitation of young people and older people is paid for by the government of Ontario. The insurance companies are not paying for the rehabilitation in certain institutions across this province. I dare say I could be corrected. I would say in a vast majority of institutions across this province the public is paying now. So to make people think that some insurance company is going to pay, where the public is already providing those rehabilitation services, is clearly incorrect.
The other thing I would like to say, when we talk about long-term care, the public are also paying for long-term care now, even when people sue. The only persons who get long-term care in a settlement right now are people who can pay for workers in their own homes. Otherwise, if the government does not go after that claim, they do not get the money, and I am advised that very few times does the government ever go after it and in very few institutions will the insurance company ever have to pay. That is the way things are now.
I should tell you also, Mr Speaker, that these are really promises that have to be made very clear to the public, and what it means to the province of Ontario. Because right now we are paying a substantive portion of health care, health support, hospital care, rehabilitation surgery, and I know whereof I speak. There is no way insurance companies’ OHIP payments are asked for in claims; there in fact was an agreement with the province.
At any time that I am making incorrect statements, I would be happy to be corrected and look into them further. The only reason I do not feel particularly sensitive about that issue is that I too am looking forward to the public hearings so I can get my questions answered, because it has not been easy to get responses from the government in order to respond to our letters at this point in time.
I should go on to tell you, Mr Speaker, that in this same compendium they talk about “maintains the ability to sue in cases of serious injury or death.” I just have to say that it is going to have to be awfully serious before anybody can sue. There is going to be an awful lot of people involved in the question as to whether somebody can sue, and I can tell you that the medical profession better start training lawyers as well, because the only people who will be asked for evidence are physicians because somebody has to decide what a serious injury is.
I have here a letter from the Ontario Head Injury Association, which says: “As you know, there is an increasing groundswell of opposition on the issue of the government’s no-fault auto insurance as proposed in Bill 68. Rightly so.” I know that the government is working with this association. I commend them for it, and I hope that we will get significant amendments to this bill before it goes before the public hearings.
“The Ontario Head Injury Association is an organization which represents a very high proportion of present and future users of third-party auto insurance. We are appalled at the restrictions that will preclude access for future head injury victims to insurance money” -- and I know the government is just as concerned about this. “This action most definitely will restrict those people who sustain a head injury from recapturing the quality of life that they enjoyed before their accident.
“People purchase insurance to assist them to recapture a portion of what has been ‘taken away,’ not to ensure bottom-line profits for insurance company shareholders.” That is what our greatest concern ought to be, and no one has made that clear.
I am being urged to make certain that the government grant full public bearings on this piece of legislation and I was happy to respond to that particular letter and to inform the group that there will in fact be public hearings, hopefully important ones.
The headlines speak for themselves. These are all experts who have been making speeches or passing observations on the different portions of that bill, and the headlines speak for themselves:
“Innocent Victims Will Be Losers Critics of No-Fault Insurance Say.” “New Plan Vicious Mean Seminar for Lawyers Told.” “Ontario’s No-Fault Insurance Barbaric Says Michigan Lawyer.”
So many times I had heard about this Michigan plan and I therefore went to the state of Michigan and travelled about, and I am happy to see the minister listening carefully because I know he will take my comments seriously and be prepared to respond to them during the public hearings.
Hon Mr Elston: If you want to be in Michigan, move to Michigan. This is an Ontario plan.
Mrs Cunningham: Mr Speaker, I have to tell you that sometimes the comments to those of us who are very seriously trying to represent the members of the public who elected us are somewhat insulting and really --
Hon Mr Elston: Well, some Michigan lawyer who says we are barbaric is not of much interest.
Mrs Cunningham: The minister is heckling that if I want to go to Michigan, I should live in Michigan. It is easy to do those kinds of things when he does not want to listen. All I am saying is I would very much appreciate it if the minister would listen to some of the work that some of us have done when we are trying to represent the public. I went to the state of Michigan and I asked questions. I visited some seven or eight institutions where people are benefiting from their insurance plan, and in fact there a lot of problems with that plan. I am sure the minister knows about it and I am sure he will respond to that and those questions.
Hon Mr Elston: What about the problems with our plan?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: Well, what about the problems with our plan? I had already spoken to that before the minister came in. There are many problems with the tort system, and we are quite willing to live with a few amendments to the present plan but not to the extent that this legislation goes. It is unfair, and I have to agree with the members of the New Democratic Party when they ask who this government is representing.
The minister is certainly not representing his constituents with this plan. I would not want to go so far to say that he may be representing insurance companies. I do not think that is true. But he had better stand up and be counted and prove it because, at this point in time, that is exactly what it looks like.
I will wait on that one. I will give them the benefit of the doubt. We had public hearings and some of us have been together in public hearings before and have been extremely disappointed at the results of those public hearings. They did not listen before except on one bill since I have been elected to this House and I am waiting for them to respond to another.
This is the Michigan plan that this government felt was so terrific at one point in time, but I gather that the minister has found fault with it as well. “Car crash victims will have to be paralysed in order to sue for damages under Ontario’s proposed no-fault auto insurance scheme, says a lawyer from Michigan, which has a similar plan.” If it is not similar, it is up to the government to prove it is not. I am sure as heck not going to go to all that work. You are the minister. You do your homework and be prepared to answer the questions during the public hearings.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: “I thought our law in Michigan was barbaric, litigator Sheldon Miller told a seminar sponsored by the Advocates’ Society, an association of Ontario lawyers. The threshold you are considering will take away the rights of almost everyone but quadriplegics and paraplegics.”
Hon Mr Elston: That’s what the Tories always do. They bring people from the States. You guys are in love with the States. Bring the people up from the States. You want us to be part of the States anyway, Dianne. Mulroney and the Tories gave us away on free trade. You just keep on doing the same thing.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please, the Minister of Financial Institutions.
Mrs Cunningham: It just throws them to the wolves.
“Car Insurance Policy Change a Nightmare for the Disabled.” I totally object to having to go to the numbers of meetings that I have gone to where the form letters are sent back to members of the disabled communities by ministers of this government about the auto insurance plan. For heaven’s sake, this is important to them, as it is to everybody else. They should answer the letters when they are sent to them and put a little personal paragraph in and try to tell them the truth. Members should see the responses that we are getting.
“No-Fault Insurance Proposal Faulted in Hamilton Petition,” which all of us have looked at and read, I hope. “No-Fault Is No Joke,” and it is no joke, although when you take a look at some of the members in this Legislative Assembly, members of the government, you wonder if it is not just a joke.
The easiest thing in the world to say to someone is, “Under the old plan supplementary medical care and rehabilitation, you only got $25,000.” Mr Speaker, do you know what you had to do to get that $25,000? You had to hire a lawyer and you had to almost go to court, but you did not get the $25,000 without working and spending an awful lot of money to get it.
Hon Mr Elston: But you don’t have to under this plan, do you, Dianne?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: Mr Speaker, what do you think you are going to have to do to get $500,000? Do you know how many years people wait for $25,000? Literally years now. How long do you think you are going to have to wait for $500,000? It is up to the government to answer that question, I will tell you right now.
Hon Mr Elston: Read the bill. The companies have 10 to 30 days to respond.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: The minister can stop laughing. The funny thing about this particular minister is he will not be laughing after the next election -- we will make sure of that -- not because of his ability to work hard, because he does work hard, but he takes this stuff too lightly for my thinking. This is not a joke, and I am very, very disappointed in someone I have high regard for, even though he takes it as a joke. But I do not think the public will. I am only one vote and he does not live in my riding so he should not look to me to get elected next time.
Hon Mr Elston: It is not a joke. I have been answering all your questions. You haven’t read the bill, Dianne. If you would read it --
The Deputy Speaker: Would the Minister of Financial Institutions please --
Mrs Cunningham: I am really getting to him. He has not shut up since I have started talking, Mr Speaker.
Hon Mr Elston: That’s because you haven’t said anything correct. I can’t let the record show all of this stuff.
The Deputy Speaker: Would the interjections please stop? Standing orders provide a certain amount of time after the speech for the comments of other members, not during the speech. The member will, of course, always address her remarks through the Speaker.
Mrs Cunningham: I am trying just to look at you, Mr Speaker. It is much easier to do that and very pleasant.
This is a letter from someone I consider somewhat of an expert. “I have been a supporter of the Liberal government on both a provincial and federal level for the past 15 years.” I want to tell you, Mr Speaker, threats would not worry me if I were a Liberal right now either; they really would not. I do not think we are all here because we should be worried about winning the next election. That is not the point that I would support.
But I would like to go on and say this: “However, as a result of the provincial government’s plans to introduce legislation to amend the Insurance Act to deprive individuals of their rights,” -- that is what we are really talking about here, depriving individuals of their rights -- “I am seriously reconsidering my political allegiance.” They still have a chance, all right?
“I feel it is incumbent on you” -- this is to me. You can imagine the kind of letters I am getting as a result of this government’s action. People do get mixed up every once in a while. It is hard to forget some days that the Conservatives are not still in power at Queen’s Park, so I get these letters.
Mrs Cunningham: I will tell the member it will not be long. “I feel it is incumbent on you, as a member of the opposition, to advise the general public of the impact of this legislation and of the detrimental effect it will have on them.” Incumbent upon me. I guess he has given up, because he showed me a copy of the responses he did get from the Liberals he wrote to. So it is up to me now, and that is what I am trying to do.
“It is also incumbent on the opposition to seriously criticize the approach which this government has taken in attempting to sell this legislation to the public.” And sell it it is, I must say, but they have not bought it. They are attempting to sell it, but the public has not bought it.
Mr D. W. Smith: Has the writer got a QC after his name?
Mrs Cunningham: Just hold on. Public hearings, open mind, no marching orders. I think we learned our lesson on that two summers ago. Okay.
Listen to this one, Mr Speaker. “Their efforts to link these amendments to the increased punishment of speed limit infractions on the 401 is appalling,” and it is. We are talking about automobile insurance, what you get for what you pay for. We are talking about people’s lives and families’ lives. Because the government knew that this piece of legislation was so bad, it linked it to everything else to confuse the public. People saw through it. The press did not even write about it. All you had to do was go to that press conference where it was announced and you could see this feeble attempt to confuse people. “The two have absolutely nothing in common.”
“This legislation takes away, arbitrarily and without justification, the right of injured persons to pursue their remedy in the courts. To deny the right to an innocent victim to be fully compensated for his loss of income and for pain and suffering in all but the most catastrophic injuries is a step backward by a government which purports to be a champion of the rights of the individual.” They do, and that is what they say: “Individual rights. We’ll take care of you. We care about the family. Let’s take a look at community-based services. We care about front-line workers.” All of those things the rest of us care about as well, but this government especially purports to be a champion of the rights of the individual.
“Furthermore, to take that step in light of two expensive studies commissioned by the government,” -- the last week we know how much this government loves expensive studies and consultants’ report, do we not? -- “which clearly indicated that a no-fault scheme would not result in premium savings to the public, is indicative of the government’s total disregard for the public it purports to serve. This is clearly a government that does what it wants when it wants.”
I am sure, given that particular threat or particular threatening observation, because the person is so distraught, that this government will try to change its image. I think if I were to look at a comparison of the tort system in proposed legislation, the effects on the innocent victim that were presented at a seminar -- by the way, I think by rather objective people; in fact, most of them happen to be Liberals unfortunately, but a lot of people were Liberals last time around and I am sure they will change very quickly. It is very disappointing to know where they put their vote. I am sure of where the vote is going next time, at least in my particular constituency.
Here is the first example: a 35-year-old homemaker, no children at home. In the proposed plan, the total received would be $14,430. If anyone wants the details of this, I would be happy to leave them. I do not think that to go on reading this line by line helps anyone. What we are talking about here are all the medical expenses in the proposed plan, no allowance for pain and suffering, receiving $185 a week for 78 weeks and they get $14,430.
Under the old tort system, “Receives no-fault benefits of $70/wk for 12 weeks,” because that is all they really needed it for; “payment for all medical expenses” paid for separately, not part of the system; “damages for pain and suffering,” which was the big one, “$20-$25,000,” and goes on to receive $23,340 compared to $14,000. So we are looking at something in the proposed plan of cutting the settlement in half.
For a 35-year-old, married, part-time employee under the proposed plan, in the case I have, the total received would be some $12,000 and under the old system some $38,100. We go on under the proposed plan and the total received -- this is a 35-year-old employed carpenter’s helper earning $400 a week, married, with two children -- is that he would have some $24,900 compared to $54,000. I guess I could go on and on.
What we are saying is that the proposed plan would give them at the very most in all of these cases, which are legitimate cases that have been followed through, some 15 of them -- what they really get, if they get anything at all, is about one third to one half of what they could get under the present system.
I have to tell the government that if you deserved what you got under the present system, and except in a very few cases that have been brought to our attention by members of this government none of us has been told otherwise, I think it had better tell us what was really wrong. We hear about it but I have not seen it documented; I am not sure if you have, Mr Speaker.
Most of us hear about the extreme cases. I can tell members how some of them are reported and what the families really get. We have read some 14 of them where the headlines are “$9 Million to This Family,” “$14 Million to This Family,” “$6 Million to This Family.” What they are really looking at are structured payments of $500,000 to some $2.2 million that are reported in the press as $6 million, $9 million and $15 million.
Therefore, the public has been deceived by what has been settled in the past. I am not arguing that there may not have been some that were inappropriate, but I think attitudinally the public thought there was a lot more wrong with the former system than there really was. What we should be doing is taking a look at what was wrong and fixing it, not just revamping this whole system so that it is open-ended and the only people who can really benefit from this and can sue, where appropriate, are people who are very badly injured, and not those -- at this point in time anyway from any of the discussions I have had with the ministry people -- who has been damaged mentally and cannot work as a result of his injury. They cannot even sue.
I have said it before and I will say it again: Physicians are going to be relied on heavily. Instead of providing the medical help and assistance and care and research that we have trained them for, they will be spending far too much of their time involved in whether someone can or cannot sue.
I have to tell members that given the information we have so far, nothing justifies this total overhaul of the system.
I really hope the government will take very seriously the letters it gets on behalf of constituents for a couple of other reasons. I am sure all members are aware of some of the real problems in this new system that have to be looked at. I think an example of one of the citizens who contributes rather significantly to the quality of life in our community would be the example of the school teacher. School teachers have substantial sick pay plans. Sick pay has to be used up before the no-fault insurance pays anything.
Suppose the injury keeps the teacher off work for six months. He uses up his six months accumulated sick pay and gets nothing in no-fault benefits. After he gets back to work, he misses time because of the flu, a heart attack or any of the many illnesses we all must be concerned about. He has used up all his accumulated sick pay because of an accident that was someone else’s fault and he gets no pay during his absence from work due to sickness. That is an example. It is a reality and the teachers will probably come and tell us about it.
What it does not say in this inclusive document is that if you use that sick time up in the last few months of your full-time employment, or if you are forced to retire because of your accident, you give up your retirement gratuity as well. It is only based on the number of sick days you have been able to accumulate. The government has some problems there that it is going to have to deal with.
Everybody knows about students and home-makers. I will just deal with the homemakers because like a student, a homemaker is entitled to a weekly benefit of $185 only if as a result of her injury she is unable to perform all or substantially all of her normal activities, and like a student, she will have to be virtually bedridden to qualify. What about the homemaker who is unable to perform half of her normal activities? This is not unusual. She gets nothing under the plan. She has to hire someone to help with the housework or with the children. She cannot claim that expense from anyone. If she is put in hospital and her husband has to stay home from work, she cannot claim.
I think that whole issue, if the government wishes, can be clarified. It is certainly the information I have. I expect that if I have made any wrong statements today someone will advise me, because it is certainly the information I have been giving my constituents. At the same time, I have been asking them for positive responses to this piece of legislation because I think there probably is some advice that they, given their own experiences, will be able to advise the government on.
Mr Speaker, I am looking at the time and I will take your guidance on whether I should continue now or whether I should ask for you to consider adjournment of the House. I have a number of other points to make.
The Deputy Speaker: You want, rather, to adjourn the debate, do you not?
On motion by Mrs Cunningham, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1758.