The House met at 1330.
Mr Allen: In his answer to my leader’s question on Monday on the elimination of government funding to food banks, the Minister of Community and Social Services seemed strangely untroubled by the effects of his action. News that some emergency food services in Toronto and elsewhere were already being forced to reduce their activity as a result of his move, despite increasing demand, did not move him in the slightest.
The minister calmly proclaimed that he had taken the money away because he wanted to put it into his long-term reforms of social assistance to help people get off welfare and become independent. A good objective, but surely the minister can see that what he is saying is that the hungry should now go hungrier so that at some unknown point in the future they may enjoy full stomachs. This is the old strategy of making the poor pay for the solutions to poverty contrived by the well-off.
If the minister is confessing that he does not have enough money to pay for programs to end hunger in Ontario, why does he not also confess that his government remains one of the few governments in the western world without a net wealth tax? Why is this government not using the wealth of those whose economic activity earns them booming millions and whose economic activity spins off the growing poverty in our time and place?
A one per cent wealth tax could raise as much as $2 billion, it has been calculated, in Ontario alone. The solutions to hunger and poverty in Ontario should be paid for out of our wealth, not at all by our poor.
Mr McLean: My statement is for the Treasurer and it concerns his attempt to blame the opposition for his government’s failure to control its own agenda.
During yesterday’s debate on the Treasurer’s resolution on interim supply, he blamed the opposition for delaying passage of his resolution. He blamed the opposition for not rubber-stamping a resolution that would result in the expenditure of $8.4 billion. He has tried to blame the opposition for a one- to two-day delay in the issuing of welfare and family benefit cheques to the needy and the poor.
The Treasurer should have introduced his resolution on the first day of the current session; instead, he chose to wait in the hopes that we would give it speedy passage without any meaningful discussion or input. When this failed to happen, he tried to blame the opposition just so his government could earn a little interest at the expense of the poor and the needy in Ontario.
He likes to blame the opposition for his government’s failure to control its own agenda. This is the same Treasurer who has introduced or increased 32 taxes since 1985. This is the same Treasurer who has increased the per capita debt for every man, woman and child in Ontario to $4,159 from $2,300 in 1985 and increased the debt of the province from $28 billion to over $41 billion. This is the same Treasurer who blames the opposition for not rubber-stamping legislation that could see the expenditure of $8.4 billion without any meaningful discussion. Shame on the Treasurer.
Mr Adams: I have often spoken in this House on the diversity of agriculture in Peterborough riding. I frequently point out that the riding is a microcosm of Ontario in many respects, with a farming community which includes dairy, beef, hogs, chickens, sheep, goats, vegetables, bees, a variety of cereal crops and so on. But I think this is the first time I have spoken about Peterborough as an international centre of buffalo farming.
The farm of Dr Willoughby “Wild Bill” Belch in Peterborough is a mecca for buffalo farmers around the world. Bill has 250 animals which he raises for meat and breeding stock. He is a supplier of breeding stock across North America and around the world. Last year, some of his animals were exported to West Germany in a chartered jumbo jet to start a herd in that country. The animals had to pass the most stringent quarantine regulations.
Last winter, Peterborough hosted the seventh annual Canadian Bison Association convention.
I am advised that buffalo meat is better than beefalo meat, which is produced from buffalo-cattle crosses. Bill Belch says that for quality and taste there is no comparison. He says the only problem with buffalo is that they are rather wild, but that it is worth a little extra trouble to sit down to a real steak.
Another special contribution of Peterborough to the economy of Ontario: world-class buffalo ranching.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I would like to read from “For the Record” in the Globe and Mail today: “A 30-year-old Scarborough man has been charged with sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl early yesterday. Police said the girl was not seriously hurt in the incident...” and it goes on.
I understand the need to have concise reporting; I understand the need for the police to try to distinguish between people who are seriously physically hurt when a rape or a sexual assault takes place. But the kind of language that diminishes the effect on a 10-year-old child of a sexual assault, by saying she was “not seriously hurt,” when we have no idea how serious that impact will be on that child for the rest of her life, is not helpful kind of language.
It is not just the Globe and Mail that does this. I am sure a number of us do it unconsciously from time to time. It certainly happens in the judiciary, as we see from time to time. I raise it today to say that I did not want this to pass, having noticed it myself this morning, to say that we all have to be much more careful about how we deal with things like sexual violence in terms of its long-term impact on individuals and not to have facile kinds of statements like this being brought forward in our papers, in our courts or even here in the Legislature.
Mrs Marland: The year 1990 has been designated by the United Nations as International Literacy Year, a time for worldwide action to help wipe out illiteracy.
We used to think there was no such problem in Canada. After all, every child has the opportunity to go to school. Now we know better. In 1987, a survey revealed the shocking information that more than one in five Canadians cannot read, write or do simple arithmetic well enough to cope with a workaday life. They cannot read their child a bedtime story, understand the directions on a bottle of medicine, fill in a job application or even travel on subways or buses, where they have to read street names.
The feeling of isolation and alienation has a human and social cost. Forty per cent of the inmates in Ontario jails are functionally illiterate. More than three quarters of illiterate people in this province were born here and went through the school system here. Illiteracy costs business at least $4 billion a year in accidents, errors and lost productivity. It also jeopardizes our ability to compete internationally. In Korea 98 per cent of the population is functionally literate; in Ontario only 76 per cent.
Everyone including government, business and the educational system must work together to eliminate this problem. We can conquer illiteracy, and we must.
FERNDALE PUBLIC SCHOOL
Mr Dietsch: It is with great pleasure that I rise today to bring to the attention of the members of this House a large number of visitors, some of whom are sitting in the gallery. Two hundred students representing grades 7 and 8 classes from Ferndale Public School in St Catharines have made the trip here today to tour the Legislature and learn more about its history and its legislative process.
The school has an extremely active and extensive civic affairs program which creates a better understanding for its students with regard to the workings of the different levels of government. The program is in its first year as part of the history credit. It includes such things as mock council meetings and excursions to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, which 104 of these students present today are looking forward to in June.
The school’s principal, Al Unwin, and a group of teachers including Sandie Timco, Mai Mellikov, Tom Austin, Peggy Thorne, Dennis Goring and Sue Salvas are accompanying the students on today’s tour, which earlier today included a visit to SkyDome.
In closing, I would ask that my colleagues offer our visitors a warm Queen’s Park welcome, and I commend Mr Unwin and Mrs Thorne, their co-workers and the students for the development of and participation in such a valuable program.
Mr Kormos: Back in mid-February down in Welland and Thorold, the communities were struck by a really incredible ice storm that had disastrous effects for large numbers of people. Among those impacts was the loss of hydro services, not just for hours but indeed for days. People and families suffered during some of the coldest weather of the winter without heating being available to them and with their fridges and freezers no longer working, losing large amounts of food. It was beyond mere inconvenience. It was a costly and risky experience for large numbers of people in Welland and Thorold.
The people from those communities have asked me to express their gratitude to the many Hydro workers, people like Jim Brown, Charlie Dixon, John Harper, Ron Holmes and Dave Smythe, who worked long and hard, hour after hour, getting the hydro services returned to normal as quickly as they could. At the same time, they recognize that this was a very costly experience for the Welland Hydro-Electric Commission. It is going to result in an unforeseen cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. That cost is necessarily going to have to be passed on to hydro consumers who can ill afford any more rate increases.
While they have asked me to express their gratitude to the workers who put the hydro back into operation as quickly as possible, at the same time they have asked me to express their concern to this government in the hope that some assistance, some aid, will be made available to them to offset the impact of this particular disaster.
Mr Jackson: I would like once again to bring to the attention of the Minister of Education the inadequacy of the provincial funding set aside for the kindergarten initiative in his government’s announcement in the 1989 throne speech.
The Metropolitan Toronto School Board has determined it would cost $47 million to launch full-day senior kindergarten. This startup cost includes money for portables, renovations and classroom equipment. It represents almost half of the $100-million capital fund announced for both junior and senior kindergarten programs for the entire province. In addition, it would cost this board $24 million in annual operating costs.
More school boards would embrace this program if the province would provide the necessary funding for salaries and accommodation, but it is clear that the Liberals are not prepared to do this.
The Waterloo County Board of Education has voted to ask the provincial government if it can opt out. When fully implemented, junior kindergarten would add $28.7 million to its budget. The Perth county and Carleton boards have also questioned whether they can afford this program.
The province has raised expectations about early childhood education without providing the dollars. Property taxpayers simply cannot afford another round of double-digit tax increases. We agree with Metro Toronto School Board Chair Mae Waese, who said:
“Trustees have to weigh the ever-increasing demands for more services and programs against their responsibilities to contain taxes. With financial assistance from Queen’s Park, this program would be feasible. But without any funding, it becomes a very tough decision for all of us.”
Mr Faubert: I know that on Monday colleagues from all parties spoke in this House on this matter, but I feel I would be greatly remiss if I did not add my voice to the tribute to Agnes Macphail and recognize that the 100th anniversary of her birth occurred last weekend.
When Agnes Macphail was one of the first two women elected to this Legislature in 1943, I had the privilege of meeting her many times, as my mother worked as her secretary here at Queen’s Park. After school, my brother and I would walk down from De La Salle up on Avenue Road to visit my mother in the Legislature and we would go to her office to pick up the gallery pass.
Miss Macphail would always spend a few minutes talking to us before going into the House, and I will always remember how her severe appearance contrasted so dramatically with her private personality and how warm a person she was to us or how she lectured us in a friendly way when we told her that the two most impressive speakers in the Legislature at that time were Joe Salsberg and Alex MacLeod.
Other speakers have referred to her record as the first woman elected as a member of Parliament and the first Canadian woman delegate to the League of Nations, how she was considered such a radical for her day and how she argued so passionately for a department of peace or that the priority of members should be people rather than party, or that minority governments are a good thing because they are the ones that force governments to bring forward forward-thinking legislation --
The Speaker: The member’s time has expired. I am sorry.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr Conway: In International Literacy Year, Ontario faces the critical challenge of meeting the needs of many of its people for training in the basic skill of literacy. It is important to remember that literacy not only opens the door to personal development, but it is also the base upon which all future education and training opportunities are built. To effectively meet this challenge, it is vital that we provide a wide range of flexible and creative programs that can be tailored to meet the needs of individual learners. This can only happen through effective partnerships among governments, educators, community groups, unions, employers and volunteers. Action at the local level by these partners is a key to increasing literacy across Ontario.
I am pleased to announce today that the Ontario government will provide a total of more than $2 million to fund 94 literacy projects in workplaces and communities across the province; 25 incentive grants totalling more than $1 million will go to organizations that are involved in the delivery of literacy programs in the workplace. These organizations include community groups, colleges of applied arts and technology and school boards. The grants will help these organizations develop greater expertise in delivering literacy programs through projects such as training literacy instructors, producing curriculum materials and exploring innovative ways of providing literacy training in the workplace.
In addition, incentive grants for workplace literacy totalling $175,000 will go to 10 employers to help provide effective training for employees in basic skills. Each employer has made a commitment to continue operating the program beyond the two-year period in which it is eligible for funding.
A further 59 projects are receiving grants totalling $754,000 from the province’s International Literacy Year fund and the access fund. The International Literacy Year fund will assist community groups with projects to develop and support the literacy field in Ontario. These projects include training literacy instructors, developing relevant resource materials, building partnerships through conferences and promoting public awareness about literacy. The access fund grants will improve services for people with disabilities by assisting in the development or purchase of special learning and resource materials and special equipment. As well, some of the grants will support the improvement of access to the buildings and rooms where literacy training is currently being offered.
There is a growing awareness that people will keep coming back to education and training throughout their lives. As we move into this era of lifelong learning, we must all ensure that Ontarians have the skills they need to be full participants in our province’s future. I believe that these literacy grants are an important step in making this possible.
Hon Mr Kwinter: On behalf of my ministry, I am pleased to announce that the 1989 report on small business in Ontario is now available. The report details emerging trends and provides statistics on growth and job creation in Ontario.
There are now more than 300,000 small businesses operating in Ontario. Between 1978 and 1987, small business created almost 75 per cent of all of the new jobs in the province, and in a one-year period, 1988-89, more than 160,000 new companies were registered or incorporated here. The number of people who were self-employed grew by 14 per cent. Across Canada, in the private sector, small firms now employ more people than firms that employ over 500 people.
The report was produced for the committee of parliamentary assistants for small business. This committee is chaired the member for Oakville South. The publication provides the basis from which the committee can analyse small business issues and concerns. At the same time, by keeping a finger on the pulse of this important sector, it allows ministry staff to fully understand small business needs and, as a result, serve our clients better.
The book details the world of the Ontario entrepreneur. It finds that a quarter of new businesses are headed by women, that the average age of a self-employed business person is 44 and that half of all new business ventures are started without outside financing. This year’s report also finds that approximately 50 per cent of all new ventures are incorporated and that these incorporated businesses generate higher earnings and employ more people than unincorporated businesses.
In addition, the publication provides new data on business failure in Ontario, reporting that slightly less than half of all startups fail in the first three years. This is much lower than the generally acknowledged 80 per cent failure rate.
The report also highlights the economic impact of small business and gives a comprehensive picture of the importance of this sector. For example, at the end of the 1970s, small firms accounted for about half of all new jobs. In 1987, firms with fewer than 100 employees accounted for 90 per cent of new jobs in Canada. In Ontario, the equivalent number is 75 per cent.
The role of government in the small business sector is also analysed. The report traces provincial government programs directed at small business from their inception in 1984 to the present. It describes the advocacy program, small business development corporations, new ventures, counselling programs, as well as the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology self-help centres.
Last year, my former parliamentary assistant, the member for Mississauga West, initiated a tour of seven cities in the province to seek out the views of small business owners on training. Not surprisingly, the preliminary findings show that small businesses that have invested in training have enjoyed significant benefits such as lower staff turnover and better staff-management relations.
In the four years since we first issued this report, we have found that the school system has been one of its biggest users. The report will be used by educators at all three educational levels as reference material for several new courses in entrepreneurship. It will also be used by policymakers, journalists and speechwriters and will continue to play an important role in generating awareness of small business.
One of the interesting findings in the report was that the most successful entrepreneurs spend at least an hour a day reading. May I suggest that this book might be an excellent choice for all members in their reading hour?
Mr R. F. Johnston: I would like to start off by responding to the Minister of Colleges and Universities, Skills Development, and Education, who is taking what could be seen as the dripping-tap approach to funding these days. Little dribs and drabs come out now and then, and gradually, I suppose, the glass will fill some time before the election. That is the way it seems to be happening here.
On this matter to do with literacy, it is happening the same way. We had our major announcement from this minister some months back, at the beginning of this important year in literacy worldwide, and we thought perhaps that was it, that was all we were going to see from the minister at that point. But we should have known better; that we would see certain parts of it come back in different forms several times before the election and that we would also see new things brought out a bit at a time.
I am pleased with the dribs and drabs that have come down today. They are not drab, even though they have come out in little dribs. I just want to put this in context, though. Although this year there seems to be an infusion of some dollars into things other than just straight workplace literacy, last year this government froze all its community grants, did not increase donations to any new groups in the province or to any of those that were existing and only made moves in this workplace literacy side of things.
This actually raises some very important questions about what the government’s intentions are. The lack of co-ordination around literacy matters these days is mind-boggling; the lack of priorities as established by the government is also something which is very unclear. You will note from the minister’s statement that those groups delivering literacy programs in the workplace include community groups, colleges, school boards and private employers themselves. The government itself does not seem to have come to grips with just who is supposed to do what, but instead is giving out these little bits of money to each of these groups to take it from their particular angle, rather than having an overview of this.
I would just say to the minister that we look forward to his next set of announcements. I think it is particularly helpful that access money was brought into this for disabled individuals who are illiterate. That is a useful addition. The other matter, the larger overview of literacy programming and co-ordination, is something which presumably we will see before the election comes as well.
Mr Laughren: I want to respond briefly to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology concerning his statement on the state of small business in Ontario. One of the lines in his statement states that “the publication provides new data on business failure in Ontario, reporting that slightly less than half of all startups fail in the first three years. This is much lower than the generally acknowledged 80 per cent failure rate.” If 50 per cent fail in the first three years, perhaps that is what the report means when it states that entrepreneurship needs to become known in high schools, which can prepare young minds for the thrills and demands of entrepreneurship. I am nervous that this is the kind of thrill the minister has in mind.
I did want to comment on one part of the report. It has to do with the whole question of a training levy. The report appears not to come down in favour of a levy but simply to discuss it. For those who do not know, the report of the federal Advisory Council on Adjustment by Mr de Grandpré suggested that there be a payroll levy which employers would pay, and if they spent the money on training, it would be refunded to them. It would be a very neat way of providing more training for paid employees.
I am not happy that the report does not conclude that this is the direction we must go because it does state that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that the training effort increases as firms grow bigger, rising from 66 per cent in firms with fewer than 20 employees to 80 per cent of those with more than 50 employees. There seems to be a relationship between size and training, which perhaps should not surprise us.
I would encourage the minister to take a serious look at the whole question of a levy for training purposes, particularly in the small business community.
Mr Jackson: I would like to respond to the Minister of Education’s third announcement in as many days, which I have enjoyed the privilege of hearing about for the first time in the House. This is quite unlike the Liberal government. Normally, we pick up the Toronto Star early in the morning and we can generally rely on getting these announcements.
However, one star paper, the Windsor Star, will be covering extensively these three educational announcements this weekend with the government’s coming Liberal convention to deal with the issues of lifelong learning, this cradle-to-grave infatuation with education that our Premier seems to be fond of. But he does not seem to be as fond of funding the education. I see by the most excited look on the Treasurer’s face that there is good reason why he has not freed up the coffers in order to provide sufficient funding for these educational programs.
But this weekend’s Liberal convention is going to be an interesting backdrop.
The Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt, but there are too many private conversations.
Mr Jackson: Perhaps it is because they have already seen the agenda for the Liberal convention this weekend and they know that this government is positioning itself with these series of paper election announcements. We have seen them before. We saw them before the 1987 election, we saw them before the 1985 election and here we have them trotted out again in preparation for another election.
Mr Breaugh: Before the 1977 election, before the 1975 election.
Mr Jackson: Yes. I am only off a decade.
The fact remains that the minister should be considering some valid questions at this week’s convention. He should be considering the fact that the Ottawa Board of Education is cancelling the summer semester for its adult high school program because of lack of funding. If he really has the commitment to literacy and improvement of these programs, he would provide the necessary funding.
The minister is conducting secret discussions on the future of adult and continuing education in this province. The Ontario Teachers’ Federation and the trustee groups cannot get a straight answer from his government, let alone find the new regulations for adult and continuing education, and yet we have a wonderful statement about literacy.
In the throne speech announcement of 1987, when the government made reference to reduced class sizes, computers and new textbooks, its transfer payments clearly established budgets for each of those items. Yet in this last year with transfer payments, they mysteriously disappeared. What is it that this government is trying to hide? Is it still trying to hide the fact that it cut back its learning materials program? Are those really the soft underpinnings of today’s announcement about this government’s real commitment to literacy?
I leave the minister with those questions because I know that he will be wanting to raise them at this weekend’s convention in Windsor and, quite frankly, I think the city of Windsor is looking forward to having all these Liberals in order to tell them about these concerns.
Mr Sterling: I want to reply briefly to the statement of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. Because my time is limited, I want to refer him to page 79 of his report, where it says that small businesses will pay a disproportionate share of the higher level of payroll taxes. It also says that the effect of the employer health tax, along with other tax increases, will raise payroll taxes this year 25 per cent in 1990, as compared to 1989. That is the kind of friend of small business we have in this government.
I also want to point out that on the next page, page 81 of the report, it says that unemployment insurance premiums, the federal payroll tax on small business, decreased in 1989 to 2.6 per cent of the payroll tax. What we have is that combined payroll taxes in this province now amount to 8.7 per cent of the payroll in this year, compared to 5.9 per cent in 1983.
What great friends of small business the Liberals are. Are they not just creating a tremendous atmosphere for small business in this province? I only ask small business to take the hour to read this book and it will find out indeed what great friends the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology and the other gang of thieves are for the small businessman in Ontario.
The Speaker: I think the member for Carleton will certainly consider his words more carefully. The member for Carleton wishes to withdraw?
Mr Sterling: I would like to withdraw the word “thieves.” I do not know what other synonym would be appropriate.
The Speaker: If I could have the attention of the members, I have just been advised that we have a visitor in the lower east gallery, a former member of Parliament, the Honourable Martin O’Connell. I know you would want to join in welcoming him today.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources, and the Minister of Energy as well, concerning the statements that have been made by the chairman of Ontario Hydro about what he expects hydro rates to be, heading into the 1990s. Mr Franklin is talking about rate increases. Last week it was 12 per cent, now he is talking about 15 per cent. That is a 25 per cent increase in the space of one week of speculation.
I wonder whether the minister can tell us why the government has not given the Ontario Energy Board the clear power and authority to set Hydro’s rates so that we will not have Hydro all on its own setting its own rates. Why not give the energy board the same power it has with respect to Consumers’ Gas, the same power it has with respect to other utilities? Why not give some power to the energy board to finally begin harnessing Ontario Hydro?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I think the honourable member is well aware that we have in past years been asking the Ontario Energy Board to review the rate proposals that Ontario Hydro makes and to advise on its analysis of the factors in the costing that Hydro has proposed in coming to its conclusions about those rates.
I think the honourable member is also aware that there is a review of the mandate of the Ontario Energy Board, and one of the issues under review is the role that the energy board should have in relationship to Ontario Hydro. I would also suggest that there is an appointed board of Ontario Hydro that takes very seriously its own responsibilities for provision of secure, reliable power at reasonable cost.
Mr B. Rae: It was no less an authority than the member for Niagara Falls who, when he was in opposition, pointed out to this House on many occasions that if you heated your swimming pool with an electric heater, you would get a reduction because of bulk use. In fact, the volume of your use would give you a reduction. If you used your stove to boil an egg, you would not get a reduction.
I would like to ask the minister, why does she not, as Minister of Energy, submit to the energy board the clear need for the energy board to give a break to the small consumer, to give a break to the people who use less energy and who conserve energy, rather than to the people who consume too much energy? Why not change the rate structure?
Hon Mrs McLeod: The honourable member again may be well aware that one of the issues we are very concerned about is energy efficiency in this province. I think it is a concern that is being accepted as an important responsibility by Ontario Hydro. In fact, one of the factors that affects rate increase proposals for 1991 is the inclusion of incentive funds to encourage energy efficiency. Quite clearly that is a focus we have. One of the encouragements we would make to consumers is that they carry out the energy efficiency measures that would in fact bring about a reduction in the cost of energy through that saving in consumption.
The honourable member will also be aware that we have recently introduced a discussion paper on global warming. One of the factors as an Energy ministry that we are concerned about in that paper is energy efficiency measures, and a review of rate structures that can be effective in bringing about energy efficiency is one of the focuses of that paper.
Mr B. Rae: The fact remains that the Ontario Energy Board does not have the power to set rates, and the fact is that this government has no position on bulk use any different from the position of the Ontario Tories for 42 years. They have not changed an iota of energy policy either with respect to the energy board or with respect to the question of bulk use.
I would like to ask the minister a final question. Does she not now see the need for some clear rate relief for lower-income people? I can tell the minister that the people in her riding who are going to be getting a 10, 12, 14 or 16 per cent increase – and we do not know how long Ontario Hydro plans to hit us with this -- are going to have a very hard time. The only kind of conservation they are going to be able to practise is to heat their homes less, to live in far greater difficulty and to have to go without other things.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr B. Rae: Does she not see the need for rate relief for low-income people and for talking to the Treasurer about the need? If he is not only going to collect the GST --
The Speaker: The minister. Order.
Mr B. Rae: -- why collect the GST through the rate structure?
The Speaker: Order.
Mr B. Rae: We should be giving people a rebate for it.
Hon Mrs McLeod: I certainly concur with the honourable member that the question of the cost of electricity is an extremely important one for residential users, as it is for industrial users, in the province of Ontario. But I do think that the honourable member perhaps confuses somewhat the issue of the rate increase proposed by Ontario Hydro to cover the costs incurred in providing electricity in Ontario with the imposition of a goods and services tax by the federal government, which in fact, if carried Out, would bring about a doubling of the cost of electricity in the proposed increases for next year for residential customers. That has to be a very great concern. I think the fact that electricity would be taxed for the first time is an issue that we should all be raising in light of that concern.
Mr B. Rae: I have some questions for the Minister of Revenue concerning the secret negotiations that went on for several months with regard to the tire tax, the tax being paid by car renters. I am interested in how the Remo rate of 8.3 per cent was established.
It is clear from the correspondence which we have received that the minister’s senior manager of legislation started out by saying -- he is writing to Mr Kenmir of the Associated Canadian Car Rental Operators -- that the minister had indicated that his initial calculations produced a figure of 8.1 per cent to 8.2 per cent that would be applied. Mr Kenmir wrote back and said, “Our calculations may have been understated, and a more realistic figure of 8.3 per cent would appear to be the correct figure to use.”
You will be surprised to hear, Mr Speaker, that upon receiving that new figure, the government bargained hard and came up with a figure of 8.3 per cent --
The Speaker: And the question?
Mr B. Rae: -- which was the figure suggested by the industry.
On 17 July 1989, the rate was set and the agreement was made. I would like to ask the minister this question: Can he tell us how his ministry arrived at the 8.3 per cent figure?
The Speaker: The minister.
Mr B. Rae: Can he tell us what was the legal authority for these negotiations?
The Speaker: The question was well put.
Hon Mr Mancini: The matter was well explained yesterday.
An hon member: Remo explained it.
Hon Mr Mancini: Remo explained it very well yesterday. The member is right.
I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition, the industry was provided with three alternatives to collect the tire tax. Every alternative provided to the industry was fair. Confusion, unfortunately, surrounded one of the alternatives because the industry did not indicate on its forms the differentiation between the eight per cent sales tax and the 0.3 per cent which was to apply only to the tire tax. Because of that confusion, that option is no longer available to the industry.
The tire tax will be collected with the other two alternatives, as has been described in a circular which was provided to the industry. Nothing was done in secret. The circular is made public to anyone who is interested, and the Leader of the Opposition is not correct in his assumptions.
Mr B. Rae: If it was not done in secret, why was an announcement not made with respect to what the arrangements were? Why was it that when our staff phoned the ministry we were told that we could not get the agreement and that we would have to apply under freedom of information to get this agreement? That is what we were told. We were told that yesterday by the people who are responsible for tax policy.
I repeat my question: Can the minister tell us what the basis of his calculations was when he made this secret deal, how much money he has collected and what the legal authority is for the deal which he arrived at?
Hon Mr Mancini: You do not need a freedom of information request to obtain a circular that was sent to the industry and anyone else who was interested. This circular is one of hundreds that is sent out by the ministry in order to --
Mr R. F. Johnston: Hundreds?
Hon Mr Mancini: Maybe thousands, I say to the member for Scarborough West, who is vitally interested in this.
The circular was a follow-up to letters that had been exchanged between the ministry and the industry, explaining the three options it had. It was pointed out on the back of the circular how the matter had to be dealt with. It was clearly pointed out in letters how the industry would be able to collect the money, and because of the confusion that has arisen, it is now down to two options. Nothing was done the way the honourable member suggests, and this information has been available for months. The honourable Leader of the Opposition knows that.
Mr B. Rae: I am inclined to just let the minister talk rather than ask another question. But my question remains this: How much money has the minister raised under this tax in comparison with other methods of payment? How did the minister arrive independently, his ministry, at the rate which he established, I presume, of 8.3 per cent? What process of calculation did he go through in reaching that magic Remo rate, what is the basis for it and what is the legal authority for his rate? If it was so great, why did he pull it yesterday as soon as we made it public?
Hon Mr Mancini: I will tell the Leader of the Opposition why it was pulled yesterday. Because confusion -- if he will have his colleague to his right keep quiet, I will just tell him; those people there do not want to hear the answer, but I know you do, Mr Speaker. The industry was clearly told in correspondence that the eight per cent sales tax had to be clearly separate from the 0.3 per cent tire tax. The industry did not make that distinction clear. Members of the opposition confused the matter even more by saying it was an 8.3 per cent sales tax when in fact an 8.3 per cent sales tax has never existed.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: My question is for the minister responsible for francophone affairs. The minister is probably aware of a resolution that was tabled in this House late last night with respect to the position of our party in connection with Bill 8.
That resolution is in two parts. The first part of the resolution very clearly states and reaffirms the support of our party for the expansion of French-language services throughout Ontario.
Hon Mr Scott: There is nothing as desperate as a desperate Tory.
Mr Brandt: Second, the resolution calls --
Hon Mr Scott: Oh, Robarts and Davis are gone. You should be ashamed of yourself.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: With respect, it was the Attorney General who was asking for questions on Bill 8 yesterday. He is getting a question on Bill 8 today if he will listen.
Hon Mr Scott: I am getting angry. I apologize.
The Speaker: Order. Would the member take his seat?
Mr Brandt: I am glad I got an apology.
Hon Mr Scott: Mr Speaker, I apologize for the interjection. I am so angry.
The Speaker: Order. New question, through the Speaker, please.
Mr Brandt: The second part of the resolution dealt very simply with the concept of an all-party committee to travel the province to get input in connection with the implementation of Bill 8. Is the minister, and the government of which he is a part, prepared to support that particular resolution?
Hon Mr Beer: I appreciate very much the support of the leader of the third party for the principle of Bill 8 and, as he has said, for the extension of French-language services in the province of Ontario.
As I have said before on this specific issue, I believe there are a number of mechanisms available within this House to deal with the issues that are raised in the motion. I do not think we need a special committee to look at this. I have said often that, as the minister, I would be delighted to discuss the issues of the administration and the implementation of Bill 8 during estimates. I think that would give us an opportunity to look in detail at those various issues. So my answer is that I believe that is the process we should follow and that at this time we do not need a special committee.
Mr Brandt: I would like to advise the minister that I have had conversation with Mme Soucie, who is the president of I’-Association canadienne-française de l’Ontario, as the minister is aware, as late as this morning. I have had previous conversations with her in connection with some of the valid concerns being expressed by ACFO in connection with the implementation of Bill 8 as well as with other groups and organizations that have still other concerns that the minister is aware of.
Given the fact that the standing committee on estimates would not give the opportunity for any input from the public, would not allow for any kind of democratic input with respect to concerns that have already been widely spoken of in this province, would the minister shift from his position which is to hear only submissions before the committee dealing with estimates and deal with an all-party committee that would travel the province and take legitimate input on the question of Bill 8?
Hon Mr Beer: I believe that when honourable members gather in committee to review the estimates of a particular ministry, there is in fact a very democratic opportunity to look at the operation of that particular bill. I think that at this time, with the number of issues on the national scene that revolve around language, we should make use of the various approaches we have now in this chamber. The views that individuals are expressing -- certainly we are receiving them in letter form and going out in public meetings, and I think that all can be brought to bear.
As I have said on many occasions, if members believe that there are problems with the implementation and administration of the bill, we can deal with that here in this Legislature through question period, through estimates and through the various debates that we have. That is the most appropriate forum at this point in time.
Mr Brandt: With respect, for two and a half years our party has stated its position in connection with the need for input and discussion in connection with Bill 8. There is in fact a great deal of misinformation, as the minister is aware, with respect to this bill. If I could get the attention but not the verbal input of the Attorney General --
Hon Mr Sorbara: You don’t deserve his attention.
Mr Brandt: Well, the member says I do not deserve attention for asking for some input from the public in connection with an extremely important bill. I ask again, is the minister prepared to simply listen to the views of many who have expressed a wish to have some input on Bill 8, aside from the estimates committee, moving to an all-party travelling committee which would deal with this question?
Hon Mr Beer: I think there are many questions and issues around language policy, around Bill 8, around the future direction of the province and the country with respect to these issues.
I would remind the honourable member that in his motion he talked specifically about dealing with the administration and implementation of Bill 8 and I would say again that that is the proper purview of the estimates process. I think that, as we go about dealing with this issue as political and community leaders, we all know what the principle of Bill 8 is and we know indeed what it covers, and that in our own public discussion in town hall meetings and the like, we can discuss and address these issues.
This is a sensitive time in our country’s history. The federal government is launching a series of consultations, but we are responsible for Bill 8 and that is best dealt with within the Legislature in the normal democratic workings of this --
The Speaker: Order.
CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Brandt: I have a question to the same minister in his capacity as Minister of Community and Social Services. I want to make the minister aware that for six months now it is my understanding that he has been advised there are some 10,000 children waiting for treatment for mental health in the province of Ontario. Earlier this week he indicated in a statement in response to that particular suggestion that he was waiting for the Maloney report, I believe, before he was going to act.
My understanding is that this report is not going to be ready until June of this year. Is he prepared in fact to do absolutely nothing whatever between now and June, to leave those 10,000 children without services until such time as he receives the report?
Hon Mr Beer: I will reiterate very clearly to the honourable member what I said in answer to the question earlier this week. Indeed we are not waiting. As I explained to his colleague the member for London North, I met with the executive of the Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres and we laid out a number of things that we are going to be doing jointly.
I made very clear the fact that the report of the Maloney committee would be available in June and that it is going to be very important in terms of the future direction that we take. I also set out very clearly that in resolving the issues that face the mental health area, we have got to involve all of those involved in children’s services.
If the honourable member would speak with those active in other organizations dealing in children’s services, I think he will find that there is a growing consensus that we cannot isolate different compartments of children’s services, but we have to work together. There is much that is going on and more will follow the Maloney report, but I think it is very wrong to suggest that nothing is happening.
Mr Brandt: I want to advise the minister that there is also a growing consensus and a very real concern among those who are providing services for children in the mental health field that the budget difficulties they are experiencing at the moment and the uncertainty they are experiencing with respect to their funding is of growing concern to them.
The minister last month received a letter from Windsor and Essex county, and in that letter there was a list of some of the children who require assistance at this time. Let me read to the minister, if I might, from that list: a child, aged two, sexually molested by her father; parents separated, child vomits and displays hysterical behaviour when father visits. Another example from the same letter: child, aged three, exposed to family violence, attacks parents and uses excessive profanity, violent tantrums.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr Brandt: These are but two examples of the many, some 300, that are in that particular report. When is the minister going to provide the assistance that is necessary to provide the help that these children need?
Hon Mr Beer: As the honourable member will know, we have over the past number of years increased significantly the funding to this area. As with many, the demands continue to grow. I think it is interesting, though, that it would be he who would talk to us about the funding that we are putting into the broad area of social services when it is his colleagues in Ottawa who have now capped the Canada assistance plan program and who will be cutting some $160 million out of the programs which we would have been using in our programs, including those that are directed at children’s mental health.
One of the reasons that we placed this program within the purview of the Ministry of Community and Social Services was so that we could have access to those funds. We have demonstrated up to this point that we are moving dollars into this field. We would like to do more. It would help tremendously if the honourable member would speak to his federal colleagues and urge them not to cut the basic program of CAP, the Canada assistance plan, which is dedicated to helping those who are least able to help themselves.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: On behalf of my party I would be delighted to speak to the federal government as soon as I have the time available after speaking to the municipalities, which are concerned about the budget cuts they are experiencing from the Treasurer of this province. As soon as I am done with those discussions, I will take up that other commitment.
Let me say to the minister that in that same letter he received from Windsor-Essex there were three 15-year-olds all of whom have attempted suicide over the past short period of time. There is a growing list of children and young people in this province who frankly have nowhere to go. The number that has been suggested to the minister, and which I believe to be very accurate, is that some 10,000 children are going underserviced or without any service whatever and are on six-month to one-year waiting lists. I suggest that is far too long.
There are many programs this government can cut. This is not one of them. What is the minister going to do about it?
Hon Mr Beer: I think we are in fact doing a number of things about this. I would underline again that we will only resolve these issues when we bring all the players together, when we recognize that the issues facing those dealing in children’s mental health and children’s aid societies, all of those active in that area, are common and there is a recognition among the players and by this government that we will resolve this by working together and by continuing to put the money where it is most required.
But I must insist that if we are truly going to attack this problem, it is time that the federal Conservative government came back to the table and began to put some money into children’s services in the same way we are doing.
The Speaker: Order. New question, the member for --
The Speaker: Order. It might be time for a recess if we are not careful.
The Speaker: Order. What a waste of time.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. Just about a year ago in March 1989, when the Premier announced plans to solve the greater Toronto area’s garbage crisis, the Minister of the Environment was conspicuous by his absence. Just last week when the Premier announced the creation of an urban park in the Rouge lands, the minister was there, but unusually for him, somewhat inconspicuous.
Can the minister tell us whether this low-key approach reflects the fact that he is ashamed that within the Rouge lands there is a site that has been identified as a potential landfill site and that he has refused to designate that site under the Environmental Assessment Act? Is that why he is not very conspicuous on the Rouge issue?
Hon Mr Bradley: If I were there to take the credit for the announcement that was made, the member would say I was taking credit for it. As I indicated in the House on many occasions, there were some interesting discussions that took place throughout this piece, putting together all the components of the announcement. I indicated, when the member for Mississauga South asked me a question in the House earlier in the week, that I thought I would like the announcement the Premier was making at that time. I indicated that I thought I would be pleased with that announcement, and indeed I am, because I think it is the kind of announcement that has been looked for by the people in that specific area.
I know that the Save the Rouge Valley System group, which I met on a number of occasions and which other members of the government met on a number of occasions, put forward, I think, a very compelling case for as much as possible of the area it asked for to be encompassed by a green belt. I certainly am pleased that announcement was made. I listened to the people who were there as well, who were speaking on behalf of the residents in the area, who expressed a good deal of enthusiasm for the announcement the Premier made on that occasion.
Mrs Grier: I did not hear any reference to the question I posed. We have in this province a rather peculiar practice of allowing logging and mining to continue in parks, but I think this will perhaps be the first occasion when a landfill site or a garbage dump will be considered a nonconforming use in a park. I am not surprised the minister is ashamed of the fact.
Why will the minister not today rule out that site as a possible candidate for a landfill site? Why does he not complete the great announcement that he says he shares in by doing his part to protect the Rouge Valley lands?
Hon Mr Sorbara: Are you volunteering Etobicoke for the site?
Hon Mr Bradley: The member for York Centre makes a very good point. I suspect that no matter what site Metropolitan Toronto or any other community would choose for a landfill site, the member, by nature of being a member of the opposition, would be opposed to it.
I recall very well my years in opposition and that is the role of the opposition: to criticize, no matter what is put forward by the government. So it would be unfair of me to ask the member where she would like garbage from any community in the province to go, because of course that would put her on the spot to say where it should go. “That’s not the opposition’s job,” she would say.
The member is well aware that there will be an environmental assessment of this in terms of the Ministry of the Environment, and other commenting agencies of government will comment on it. There will be a hearing with the Environmental Assessment Board taking into consideration all the environmental concerns related to this, and Metro has put forward --
The Speaker: Thank you. That is a fairly complete answer.
ONTARIO HYDRO LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr Runciman: My question is to the Minister of Energy. She is probably aware of the results that have just been announced of the vote by the Ontario Hydro union, with close to 96 per cent rejecting the contract with an 85 per cent turnout. I wonder if the minister would be good enough to advise the members of the House and the public what steps she and Ontario Hydro management are taking to prepare for what looks like an increasing possibility of a strike come Sunday.
Hon Mrs McLeod: As I have indicated before, in the House and to the public through the media, my role as Minister of Energy is to work with Hydro to ensure that any eventualities are being considered and that contingency plans are being developed to deal with eventualities that may develop.
I do feel compelled, though, to recognize that there is, even with this recent vote announcement, a collective bargaining process that Hydro and its union are engaged with, and that there is still a focus on the collective bargaining table and on resolution of this issue. But certainly, as Minister of Energy, I have been working with Ontario Hydro to ensure that it is putting contingency plans in place in order to deal with any eventuality, should there not be a successful resolution at the bargaining table.
Mr Runciman: The electrical consumers of this province require a more detailed answer than that if the minister is going to be fair. The nuclear generating stations are going to be shut down initially. They provide something like 50 per cent of the power in this province. The minister herself, I think, has suggested that Ontario Hydro does not have the ability to take up that shortfall. We could be faced with blackouts, shutdowns and serious disruptions within the Ontario economy.
I do not think most of us have the confidence in the management of Ontario Hydro that perhaps the minister has. We can only look at the shutdown of a nuclear facility this winter during a peak period, at running out of oil in the Kingston area during that same peak period, and at the Lambton station now, shut down for annual maintenance turnaround during a possible strike time. I think the minister should give us more specific answers. The people of Ontario deserve more specific answers with respect to what she is doing to prepare for the possibility of a strike.
Hon Mrs McLeod: The people of Ontario are certainly going to be concerned about the specific impact of any possible work disruption and disruption in the delivery of electricity service, should that occur, and they are going to want to know what they can expect, whether as individual residential customers or as industrial customers. I am very much aware of the kinds of concerns electricity users will have in contemplating any possibility of a work stoppage. But when the member asks me to give specifics, he makes, first of all, several assumptions in asking for them. In referencing the fact that there could be a shutdown of nuclear stations, he makes an assumption, first, that there will be a labour disruption, and second, that this is the form it would take.
Unless we are in the situation and know what we will be confronted with, I cannot give the member specific information about impact. I can tell him that Ontario Hydro, which manages very effectively the provision of electricity service to people in this province, has been working with its individual utilities, the municipal utilities that actually deliver the power in those communities. The municipal utilities are working with their individual customers to determine their needs and how to manage the impact.
Mr Miclash: My question is to the Minister of Culture and Communications. As the minister is aware, the Dryden regional office of her ministry was recently closed. What I would like to ask the minister today is what she can tell the residents of Dryden about the future of cultural services in this region.
Hon Ms Hart: I can appreciate the member’s strong interest in the service that has been given to Dryden and to other parts of the north by my ministry. I have also heard and seen the uneasiness of the cultural community about these changes that have been taking place. They have brought them to my attention. It does not even take that to know that there would be a potentially negative impact on client service.
We have a consultant in Thunder Bay, as the member would know. That consultant will be spending days in Dryden on a regular basis. I want to say to the member for Kenora that I am watching this very carefully because my top concern is that the clients, the people who are interested in the services of the ministry, get the best possible service in Dryden.
Mr Miclash: What I am concerned about is what the minister is prepared to do personally to safeguard the services that were previously provided by this regional office in Dryden.
Hon Ms Hart: As the member for Kenora will know, the two ministries used to be one, the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture. In the process of dividing the two ministries and their regional offices, a report was made to both ministries and action has been taken to divide the offices in the way in which it is hoped -- although, as I say, we will be watching it -- the best possible service can be preserved. The high level of service to cultural clients is, as always, the priority of this minister and the ministry.
Mr Mackenzie: I have a question of the Minister of Health. We have with us today in the visitors gallery, a number of ambulance officers, health care workers and representatives of their union, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. They are here today, quite frankly, to try to get the attention of the government.
Given the decisions of the Ontario Public Service Labour Relations Tribunal in the Collingwood and Owen Sound disputes that these employees were indeed crown employees, is the minister now prepared to meet with the union to ensure that units currently coming into a strike situation in the province do not have to face the frustration their colleagues in Owen Sound and Collingwood experienced?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member knows I am very aware of the recent decisions, so I want to inform him that the ministry will fully comply with the decisions of the tribunal. It is my understanding as well that the Owen Sound ambulance service employees will be back at work as of 29 March at 8 am -- that is the information I have -- and that the service will operate as a crown agency and negotiate with the Human Resources Secretariat.
Mr Mackenzie: I hope the minister’s answer means that the judicial review will be dropped. She will understand that I was talking about those units now coming into a strike situation. Is the minister ready to meet with the union to negotiate a province-wide agreement with all ambulance officers represented by OPSEU in the interest of more efficient service for all Ontario citizens without the kind of disruption we have experienced to date?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am pleased to inform the member that the Attorney General’s office is making application for judicial review of the tribunal’s decisions on both McKechnie and Owen Sound. I would tell him as well that the ministry is constantly monitoring the delivery of ambulance services and makes adjustments to the services as needs and resources are available.
Mr J. M. Johnson: My question is for the Minister of Health. As the minister is well aware, a commitment was made to the people of Guelph and Wellington county almost three years ago for much-needed capital construction, including upgrading and expansion at Guelph’s two hospitals, Guelph General and St Joseph’s. As a matter of fact, the minister even participated in the sod-turning at St Joseph’s in 1987.
Now we find that the Minister of Health has completely reneged on her commitment. There will be no funding for Guelph General Hospital or St Joseph’s Hospital. However, instead, a brand-new hospital will be built with the same funds some time in the future -- perhaps. What will become of St Joseph’s and Guelph General hospitals?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am pleased to say to the member opposite that I recently reaffirmed the commitment the ministry made of over $58 million to the people of Guelph to provide for acute care services and long-term care services. I sent a letter to both of the hospitals informing them of our decision to establish two committees to see that the process is expedited so that we can meet the needs of the people of Guelph. I want to acknowledge as well the leadership of the member for Guelph in helping the community come to the decision to actively pursue planning for the needs, not only for today but for the future as well.
Mr J. M. Johnson: The minister is completely missing the point as usual. Both of these hospitals have been told on numerous occasions that funding would be forthcoming. They undertook ambitious fund-raising campaigns and had plans and site surveys drawn up, putting much time, effort and resources into these capital construction projects. This government made a promise to the people of Guelph and Wellington county just prior to the 1987 election. The minister reneged on that promise.
This government has no credibility with the people of Guelph and Wellington county. Why should they believe the government now? How are they to know this is not just another empty campaign promise, a commitment to be broken just like the last one?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member opposite could not be more wrong. I would be happy to share with him correspondence I recently had with both Guelph General and Guelph St Joseph’s, informing them of our commitment to meet the health care needs and requirements of the people in the community of Guelph and restating our commitment of over $58 million to see the development of those facilities. We are moving expeditiously to establish the kind of community-based committee to see that those are planned appropriately and as expeditiously as possible.
Mr Daigeler: My question is to the Minister of Education. Recently my colleagues and I met with parents who represent trainable mentally retarded pupils in Ottawa-Carleton. The parents and board representatives appreciate the progress we have made in education for TMR students. However, they expressed concern about older students who are at the lower- to mid-functioning level of achievement. Some of these students could derive significant benefits from attending school beyond the age of 21. May I ask, therefore, whether the minister has looked at this matter and whether he has any plans to permit school boards to provide education beyond 21 years of age for special needs students?
Hon Mr Conway: I want to thank my honourable friend the member for Nepean and others in the Legislature for raising this issue with me. I can tell my honourable friend and the House that I have been looking at this particular issue in education. The issue has been raised not just by members in the Legislature, including my friend from Nepean, but a number of parents and educators have also raised the matter with me. I expect in the not-too-distant future to be bringing forward amendments to the Education Act which will, I hope, address this particular concern, among others.
Mr Daigeler: I am pleased that the minister seems to have some rather firm plans on permitting the proposal that I have just mentioned. Can the minister perhaps be a little bit more specific about his plan as to when in fact he might introduce those changes?
Hon Mr Conway: Ministers are always a bit nervous to indicate specific timetables. Looking at the Attorney General, I am reminded I could say the early fall, but I can tell my friend the member for Nepean that we have been looking in the ministry at a number of changes to the special education provisions of the Education Act. I am aware of the current difficulties for the group of individuals to whom the honourable member has made reference and I would very much hope to have the amendments before the assembly in the fall sitting of this year.
Mr Allen: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment, who was here just a moment ago and seems to have disappeared. Is he in fact nearby and in the House, hiding around a corner?
The Speaker: You may proceed. I think he can do two things at once.
Mr Allen: I have got a bigger job for him than just walking and listening.
The residents of Hamilton, and especially Hamilton West and Hamilton Mountain, are understandably nervous about the continued failure of the minister to take action on the illegal Mount Hope tire dump which lies nearby. The minister ignored the dump for years. After recent weeks of heightened concern, the minister is still playing games with the owners, the Musitanos.
It is a clearly illegal dump. The only actions, however, that the area residents see are a few guards and a dog named Joey keeping an eye on things. When is the minister going to use the clear powers he has under the Environmental Protection Act to clean up illegal dumps and safeguard the residents of this area from the potential threat of airborne toxic chemicals produced by a tire fire?
Hon Mr Bradley: As the member knows, this site and all of the other major sites in the province have in fact been visited by representatives of the fire marshal’s office and by representatives of the Ministry of the Environment to determine the particular situation. There have been orders, it is my understanding, that have been laid on this particular site to which he makes reference.
There is, as has been indicated, 24-hour security at the site. It has been present for some period of time now. This is independent security in addition to what was there before. The fire prevention authorities have issued two orders requiring compliance with the fire code, a point which perhaps the Solicitor General might be able to expand upon if the member gets a chance to chat with him.
The owners have applied for a certificate of approval, but I recognize it is the old dilemma of local residents who naturally would prefer to have no such site around and yet, on the other hand, if there is such a site they would like it so that there is a minimum risk to the people in the area. That is what the officials of the fire marshal’s office have gone through. It is my understanding that the owners of this particular site have agreed to comply with this and when the new laws come into effect, it will --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Allen: It does not sound like much more than the old ring-around-the-rosy that was being played with the Musitanos in a low-key, behind-the-scenes kind of way before the Hagersville fire.
What we have there now, of course, is Pal Joey, but what more is happening? What assurances do we have that the minister, after he plays this game of charades with the Environmental Protection Act, the Fire Marshals Act and the Ontario fire code, is in fact going to take any action that is any different than he did before?
There have been no clear assurances. The charade goes on. Why the charade, why the delay, and what assurances have we got that the minister is going to act the moment he has some legislative action to take further action on?
Hon Mr Bradley: I think, unfortunately, the supplementary was written before the answer to the question was anticipated. I remember I used to have to do that as well, I say to the member for Hamilton West, where the supplementary was written out as well.
I can simply repeat to him -- and I know of his own personal concern in this regard, and it is quite genuine -- that the fire authorities have in fact been on the site. The ministry officials have been on the site. I would not characterize his evaluation of the efforts that have been made in the past the same way he would, but I can say that with all of these circumstances, with the passing of the amendments to the fire code and with the passing of the amendments to the Environmental Protection Act, it will be very clear that the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of the Environment have the right to go in and take whatever action is necessary.
I recognize as well that there is a concern that the tires are there, and so it is the old dilemma that people are going to face. I think they would like the tires to disappear from the area completely and have it out of sight, and that is understandable for the people, but what we want to do --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Pollock: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. As the minister is well aware, the government will not fund any project that has been started before the official approval has been given. However, on 8 March 1989, the then Minister of Tourism and Recreation told the people of Marmora and area that he was giving them a letter stating that they could proceed with their arena project. He also told them that their application was in order and he could see no reason why they would not be getting the funding. He stated that he might not be the minister in January 1990 when grants were announced.
The people of Marmora and area did firmly believe that they were getting provincial funding for their arena, which they deserve and are entitled to. Would the minister explain to this House why they did not get that funding?
Hon Mr Black: I appreciate the opportunity to address the concerns raised by the member for Hastings-Peterborough. I should tell him, first of all, that he is absolutely correct in identifying that we do not approve grants after the fact and that once construction has started on a building we are unable to approve grants for that particular project.
I should also indicate to him that we have had discussions with the representatives of the town of Marmora and understand their concerns and how interested they are in having funding approval for what I agree is a very worthwhile project in that community. Unfortunately, we are not able to fund all the applications that we received for funding for recreational projects in this given year and we have encouraged the people of Marmora to once again continue their attempts to pursue that arena project.
Mr Pollock: That arena was condemned in November 1988. They missed the hockey season in 1988-89, they missed this last hockey season, and if they do not get the funding soon, they are going to miss the next year’s hockey season. That is three years without an arena.
I would just like to mention the fact that Dummer township, in October 1983, had its arena condemned and in September 1984 it had an official opening for its arena. They just missed one year of hockey. That is the track record of the previous government. Why can these people not get the funding? After all, they are entitled to it.
Hon Mr Black: I think we could spend some time addressing the track record of the previous government in a whole range of issues and that is some time that we perhaps could spend profitably. I am sure that I could identify for the member and for his colleagues many areas in which their track record is less than it should be.
However, to come back to his immediate concern, which is the people of Marmora, we are going to look very carefully at proposals from the area of Marmora. We are going to work with that community to try to address its needs and to try to assist it. I thank the member for his concern and interest in the project.
NORTHERN FILM LIBRARY SERVICE
Mr Campbell: My question is to the Minister of Education. In December 1989, the Ministry of Education announced that its northern film library service, which has been based in Sudbury for many years, would end in its present form this year, on 15 June 1990. This service is well known to teachers and principals across northern Ontario who have ordered films from the library and had them shipped to their schools for use in classrooms and assembly. Can the minister tell the House and the people of Sudbury what assurances we have that this service will continue to operate in northern Ontario?
Hon Mr Conway: I thank the member for his question and his interest in a matter that I know is of concern to my colleague and other members from the Sudbury area. I can assure my honourable friend that we intend at the Ministry of Education to provide the service, though in a different form. We are divesting the service as a matter of course. Discussions are under way with a number of school boards.
If my memory serves me correctly, the Sudbury District Roman Catholic Separate School Board has tentatively agreed to accept the divestment of the French-language film component of that northern film library service to that particular board. I do not believe discussions with the Sudbury Board of Education have reached a positive conclusion, but we continue to look to other partners in northern Ontario for an eventual divestment of the English-language film section. I can assure my honourable friend that we intend to maintain the service in northern Ontario.
Mr Campbell: I want to thank the minister for his response, because not only is the library service itself of concern, but the future employment of the film library’s eight employees is at stake. Will the minister tell the House what plans his ministry is currently undertaking to relocate those employees within the Ministry of Education or in other jobs in Sudbury, perhaps in consultation with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, which is opening its headquarters in Sudbury this summer?
Hon Mr Conway: My friend has raised a very valid concern. I know there are a number --
Mr Laughren: What about Dryden?
Hon Mr Conway: My learned friend the member for Nickel Belt is intervening. I just want to say through my friend the member for Sudbury to my friend the member for Nickel Belt that I take very seriously the concerns of the public servants, who have done a very good job over the years in the ministry providing that northern service. We are expecting that their future job requirements will be met through a variety of means. Discussions are well under way at the ministry’s human resources branch to place these individuals and I am confident that we will be able to do so.
I want to say again that the member who has raised this question has made very rigorous and vigorous representations that that be done and I have indicated to the deputy minister at the Ministry of Education that every effort must be made to ensure that they are provided for in this divestment.
Mr Villeneuve: To the Minister of Agriculture and Food: The Ontario government in recent months has blamed Ottawa for just about every problem that occurred here in Ontario, in spite of the fact that his ministry has been chopping funds to agriculture. Can the minister tell us whether the Ontario government and his ministry support the position put forward by Canada and the Honourable Don Mazankowski on 14 March supporting article 11 of the GATT?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I am quite happy to say that yes, I do and yes, we do in the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. In the last few months I have been bringing the message to Ottawa that it is very important that Canada present a strong position on article 11, that the GATT discussions that are happening now in Geneva, the Uruguay round, clarify and strengthen article 11 so that our commodity boards can manage the imports coming into this country so that we can satisfy the supply of basic foodstuffs for the people of Ontario.
Mr Villeneuve: The minister may be aware that the Premier in the past has threatened to ignore the GATT and pull out. Changes do take place in the GATT. Is the Ontario government ready to abide by international trading rules or is the minister ready to put our food industry at stake? Does he intend to call his election promises, as he did on free trade, and veto the GATT decisions if he does not like them, the same as he did on free trade?
Hon Mr Ramsay: What a delicious question to talk about today. As I am sure the member from across the way knows, being a leader of a ministry in a provincial jurisdiction unfortunately just does not cut it in international trading negotiations. Obviously it is the country of Canada at the federal level that is involved in federal negotiations, international trade negotiations, but also, as a province and as a country, we believe in adhering to international law as we do to any law. Our tactic at the moment is to present what Mr Mazankowski has presented, and that is a very strong position in the international trade negotiations that are happening this year, so that we strengthen and clarify article 11.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BOARD
Mr Morin-Strom: I have a question for the Minister of Labour with respect to plans from the regional office of the Workers’ Compensation Board to move its handling of claims for workers from Sault Ste Marie and the district of Algoma from the Sudbury office to the Thunder Bay office.
The minister must be aware that Thunder Bay is as far from Sault Ste Marie as Toronto is and this would totally defeat the whole purpose of having regional offices to serve people closer to their home communities. The minister has received communications on this over the last several months from my colleagues from Algoma and Sudbury East and myself. I would ask whether the minister will now ask the Workers’ Compensation Board to reconsider its decision to hold meaningful consultation with workers and their representatives in the Sault and to relocate all appropriate Workers’ Compensation Board services closer to the workers, right in Sault Ste Marie in the district of Algoma.
Hon Mr Phillips: I guess I would first recognize that the Workers’ Compensation Board is going through a number of organizational changes, all of them, I might add, with the approval of its board of directors, which in the end is responsible for the administration of workers’ compensation.
I am aware of the correspondence that has taken place. Based on reading that correspondence from the Workers’ Compensation Board to various individuals in Sault Ste Marie, I would hope that the residents of Sault Ste Marie are satisfied that they will continue to receive excellent service in Sault Ste Marie. I understand from the correspondence that there is a portion of the services that are currently offered in the Sudbury office that will indeed be moved to the Thunder Bay office, but I understand from that correspondence that there will be little, if any -- virtually no -- requirement for anyone to travel to Thunder Bay. So based on my understanding of the response, I would hope that the people of Sault Ste Marie are satisfied that they will receive a high level of service from workers’ compensation. I would encourage them to continue to discuss it with workers’ compensation if they have any further concerns.
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time for oral questions and responses. Motions?
Mr Cousens: Mr Speaker, I am standing in my place and would like to introduce a motion that leave be given to introduce a bill.
The Speaker: I will call for introduction of bills in due course. I will draw it to the member’s attention when I come to it.
Mr Daigeler: I am submitting a petition signed by 14 people in my riding, at their request, even though I do not support the intent of this resolution. However, it concerns the question of Bill 8.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
SELECT COMMIYIEE ON ENERGY
Mrs Sullivan from the select committee on energy presented the committee’s interim report on climate change.
Mrs Sullivan: The select committee on energy has been very energetic in undertaking the first phase of its mandate. It has engaged the Royal Society of Canada to assist in the scientific and economic evaluations which we will require further on in our work and we are pleased to be associated with the expertise and the independence that this body will provide.
In our first phase of public hearings, the committee heard from national and international experts in climatic modelling, in the atmospheric sciences, in ecology and energy policy, as well as from representatives from the governments of Canada, Indonesia and the Netherlands.
We learned that while there is not full certainty of the time and rate of climatic or precipitation changes, nor of the specific regional impacts which may accompany global warming, none the less we believe strongly that the need for co-ordinated action between the public and private sector in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases is urgent.
In the next phase, the committee will further examine the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the production, generation and use of energy in Ontario. We will refer, in our examinations, to all sectors which use energy here.
The report further outlines some of the issues which we will consider in the next phase. I want to thank the members of the committee for the extensive work that they did in preparation for the public hearing phase and in the preparation of the report.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND PRIVATH BILLS
Mr Callahan from the standing committee on regulations and private bills presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bills without amendment:
Bill Pr8, An Act respecting National Capital Children’s Oncology Care Inc;
Bill Pr44, An Act respecting The Royal Canadian Legion;
Bill Pr49, An Act to revive 393598 Ontario Limited;
Bill Pr58, An Act to revive Gursikh Sabha Canada.
Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:
Bill Pr47, An Act respecting Lake of the Woods District Hospital.
Your committee would recommend that the fees, and the actual cost of printing at all stages and in the annual statutes, be remitted on the following bills:
Bill Pr8, An Act respecting National Capital Children’s Oncology Care Inc;
Bill Pr58, An Act to revive Gursikh Sabha Canada.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker: I have to ask the House for unanimous consent to revert to petitions. There were so many members on their feet, I missed the member for Hastings-Peterborough. He would like to present one petition, and I am sure the members would agree.
Mr Pollock: I have a petition, signed by 1,248 people, which reads as follows:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“We, the Hastings County Federation of Agriculture and residents of Ontario, want a stop put to landfill sites and to have steering committees look at the use of energy-from-waste systems that promote the 4Rs -- the programs of, first, reuse; second, reduce; third, recycle; and fourth, recover -- and recovery of energy.
I would like to pay tribute to Betty McCarroll and John Lyle for their efforts in collecting this petition. I have affixed my signature.
The Speaker: I will now call for introduction of bills, but I also inform members that they can make a motion to introduce a bill at this particular time.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
UNSOLICITED FACSIMILE TRANSMISSIONS ACT, 1990
Mr Cousens moved first reading of Bill 118, An Act respecting Unsolicited Facsimile Transmissions.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Cousens: We are increasingly seeing the use of facsimile machines as part of business, and more and more people are relying upon them as a way of communicating with one another. It is almost like the phone call that you get that you do not want to get. It is a recording. Someone interrupts your supper or your sleep or your own personal activities with an unsolicited phone call.
The problem with unsolicited facsimile transmissions is that they can tie up the machine that you have allocated for a specific purpose and you end up having the cost not only of the lines being tied up and the cost of business time being lost, but also the use of the paper and other expensive materials that are part of it.
This is a bill that, hopefully, will address this as a concern to business and will be presented in due course to the Legislature to give the members a chance to read it.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of the whole.
INSURANCE STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1990 (CONTINUED)
Consideration of Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance.
Mr Cousens: When the committee adjourned last we were discussing and debating Bill 68, and I was in the process of making some preliminary comments to the bill following the earlier presentation that had been made by the New Democratic Party. I had completed the first five points of my presentation. With the permission of the House, and knowing how this committee operates, I would like to be able to continue with that at this time.
The Chair: You had adjourned at that moment. I was about to ask for questions and comments to section 1, but since you were not finished, you may proceed.
Mr Cousens: When we begin again in the House to look at this bill, we are dealing with one of the worst pieces of legislation this Legislature has looked at in the last four years. We are seeing a piece of legislation where the minister has come in with 30 amendments, and probably more to come, and he probably has not even added up the number of amendments he has altogether.
We are dealing with a piece of legislation that is in response to a statement made by the Premier of this province on 7 September 1987 when he said, “I have a very specific plan to lower insurance rates. The Premier of this province did not and does not have such a mechanism to reduce automobile insurance rates.
There is no doubt that the people in Ontario have had a problem with automobile insurance rates in this province for some period of time, there is no doubt that action needs to be taken and there is no doubt that every member in this House would have a solution for it. but I have to tell members that there are a number of people, other than the 94 Liberals, who have a different opinion. We will do everything we can to make sure that the Liberals who are here and who will be voting on it will have every chance to reconsider their positions.
What might happen is that this government might come along and try to close off discussion and force an end to the debate through the use of its majority so that there cannot be a full and complete dialogue about this bill. I have that feeling because the other day when we came into the House there was not any doubt that the Minister of Financial Institutions was in a hurry to try to get the bill passed in one day. That is just impossible.
The minister has 30 amendments. There are hundreds of clauses in this and there are many points that have to be made. He has not understood the points we have tried to make up until now. We hope that through the dialogue that takes place in the committee of the whole House the government will come to its senses.
As we looked at this bill last week, I touched upon a number of the points. Just to give myself a position in my speech, the first one had to do with the fact that the Premier had reneged on his promise of lower automobile insurance rates.
Hon Mr Elston: You mean to reorient yourself.
Mr Cousens: This minister should be on a comedy show rather than running one of the most important ministries. His interruptions and interjections I enjoy, but the fact of the matter is they just tie up the House even longer and will cause us to debate those specific points. If he wants to, I would be pleased to have the back-and-forth dialogue, but rather than tie up the time of the House in antics, I would rather get on with what we are really here for, and that is to deal with Bill 68.
First, I want to make some preliminary remarks on the bill and on the point I am really making, as to why I and a number of others in our caucus cannot support it and why I think the people of Ontario should rise up from their television sets and out of their seats and throw those guys out of office. That is what I am looking for. I think on this bill alone you are going to lose two or three or four seats. You are losers. What you are doing is losing control of the government, losing control of everything and you are interfering and meddling.
The Chair: The member for Markham will address the Chair.
Mr Cousens: This bill is an example of that.
The first point I made is that the Premier, with his fantastic sense of humour, in Cambridge on 7 September 1987 said he had a solution to it. It is now proven with the 30 amendments coming in to Bill 68 he did not. That is my first point and I can make that one again and again, and I will make it again and again.
The second point is that the government’s bungling of automobile insurance has cost taxpayers dearly. The other day I went into just how it has cost taxpayers dearly.
My third point was that the government plans to implement threshold no-fault car insurance, despite damaging criticism levelled against it in the Osborne report. How odd it is that the Osborne report singled out as the one way not to go, this mechanism now being considered by the Ontario government.
My fourth point, the government would have the public believe that lawyers are driving up the costs of claim settlement. When you really start looking at the facts and the data and realize the bafflegab that we have had from the government, what it has done is slammed notable professions and really has not come forward with a background of information that justifies the action it is now taking.
My fifth point had to do with the wording of the threshold that is part and parcel of this bill, and the fact of the matter is “the threshold” are key words that people in the province of Ontario will begin to know, maybe even memorize when they have been through it, because any injury they have or we have will be tested under the following words: is it a “permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function caused by continuing injury which is physical in nature”? Last week I did go into how there are so many holes and problems with that definition or how in fact in Michigan, where a similar definition is being used, we are talking about some 1,200 different cases before the courts now in trying to resolve that matter.
I continue now with my sixth point. When we start looking at this new insurance commission we are talking about very limited powers. I suspect that before too long, once this insurance commission has been established, the government will be coming back to re-establish new terms of reference for it. This insurance commission that will be established with this bill will replace the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board and the Ontario superintendent of insurance. The honourable Minister of Financial Institutions has said that the new commission will have broad powers of intervention and enforcement and will also be responsible for protecting the interests of consumers and regulating rates.
However, the new commission will do nothing but review and approve rates. Insurance companies will continue to set the rates. It is not clear if there will be any rate ceilings. Why does the government not have a look at some of these matters? Maybe this is something that will be looked at as we debate this bill. That is just a small point among many, many others.
My seventh point has to do with the fact that there is no cost saving for consumers under the new system. There is no cost saving for consumers under the new system. The minister has said that drivers in urban areas can expect their rates to rise on an average of eight per cent next year, and drivers in rural areas should see no increase on average. What does an eight per cent increase on average mean for some people in Toronto?
Mr Kormos: It means 50 per cent.
Mr Cousens: I thank the member for Welland-Thorold. It does mean 50 per cent for some people and it may mean just one or two per cent for others. But you are talking about a wide range of increases and you come along and take the average, who knows how that average has been calculated. I would be most interested in seeing how the government can rationalize and explain away this eight per cent increase on average next year.
When I hear the minister indicating as well that there should be no increase on average in rural areas, that begins to raise the spectre of questions as well. Rather than paying a projected 30 to 35 per cent increase next year under the existing conditions we have under present-day law, the new system will generate, as the minister says, a saving for consumers: rates will rise by eight per cent on average.
I guess the question really is -- as a business person, I ask the question -- how can you ever call a rate increase a saving? It is a saving relative, I suppose, to the increases you can have otherwise, but it is not a saving. You are still going to be paying more. And when the truth comes out, people will realize they are paying more for less.
Yet the government, in its grandiose way of describing what it is doing, says it is going to have a saving for the automobile insurance payments in Ontario. That is not true.
The government should start using the words wisely and well and become straight in the way in which it presents the facts. When it comes along as a government saying, ‘There is a saving for you,” people think there is going to be a saving, there is going to be more in their pocket when they are finished paying than there was otherwise. But, no, there is still going to be more out of their pocket; they are still paying more; they are not going to have any more to spend on anything else.
What happens a year after this? Has the minister gone into the future with his little crystal ball and tried to determine what it is we will see in the years 1991 and 1992? What I would like to know is how he predicts the future rates to go. Is he relying on regulatory powers yet to be formed? That is something this legislation does not make clear.
What we have really seen here is an eight per cent premium increase on average for drivers in urban areas, and that is just an average. There has been no cap on the individual rate of increase that people can experience in Ontario. So it is virtually all over the map. Why is it that it has to be this way?
Let me tell members how it has to be. The next point I make, point 8 of my 10 points, is that the new system allows for continued cherry-picking. It is not the Niagara Peninsula we are talking about, where you actually grow cherries. We are talking about the kind of cherry-picking where those companies that want to pick up certain policies will pick up the policies of corporations and businesses where there is the least outlay of risk. If they can reduce their risk by insuring only those people who are guaranteed all kinds of benefits, then those are the people who are going to be insured by the insurance companies. Why not? It means less to pay out.
You do not have to pay as much out when you are dealing with someone who is with a big corporation, because the big corporation provides so much in the form of services to their employees. The company benefit programs are part and parcel of the benefits that this government is looking at in this heinous legislation. In this way, insurance companies are going to be facing more of a risk with those people who are not with large corporations, where individuals do not have accident benefits provided for in their employment.
The minister says he is not in favour of a two-tier system of risks, but may I suggest to the members that we are seeing in Ontario a whole new form of insurance being formed which is becoming a very important part of insurance, and that is the Facility Association, the insurer of last resort. The Facility Association is the insurer when you cannot find an insurance company to insure you and your car, your family and your car, your kids and your car.
We would be in big trouble without it, but the Facility Association certainly has the largest way of gathering money out of people because of what it charges for insurance coverage. It is not a competitive scene. What happens is that a person who wants insurance goes to an insurance company and says, “Look, I want to get insurance on this car. My wife and I will be driving it to work and back,” and away we go. They search through the Yellow Pages and then they apply to all the companies. They go to all the brokers in town and they say: “Look, I have got a good record and I just run a small company. I am sorry, I have a few tickets here but, look, can I get coverage?” What they say is: “I’m sorry. We are just not able to insure you.” More and more they are going to say to people: “No. You can’t be insured by the insurance companies. You’ll go to the Facility Association and the Facility Association will look after your needs.” Then they are out of the competitive scene. They are into a situation where the prices are extraordinarily high, much more dear and expensive than if you went through the regular insurance channels.
What has happened just in the last short period of time, as insurance companies are being more and more selective of whom they will insure and whom they will not insure, those who are not insured end up going to the Facility Association, and what we are seeing are some very interesting statistics. From 1 November 1988 to 31 July 1989 the number of people insured by the Facility Association increased by 103 per cent, compared with 71.3 per cent a year earlier. In other words, they are growing faster than the insurance industry itself. What a way to gain and grow. Once you get the government meddling in it, coming through -- oh, you guys love this. I look at my New Democratic friend the member for Welland-Thorold.
When I talk about government getting bigger and spending more and more money, your face just smiles like a Cheshire cat. But your solution is just going to cost more and more, and I do not want to associate myself with the solutions that you have, because there is no one rich enough to do it, certainly not the NDP.
The Chair: Order, please. The member for Markham will address the Chair.
Mr Cousens: They are going to have the public purse pay for it, so we are dealing with two villains, those guys smiling away, looking for more, and then these fellows ripping off the public with their Facility Association. I have to say that they are encouraging the building up of cherry-picking. If it was promoting agriculture and farming in Ontario, I would be far more supportive, but instead, what do I see? I see a kind of selective process that eliminates people from the choice of the insurance coverage that they want to have and need to have. They are forced into the Facility Association, which is far less than competitive.
Next is point 9, as I move rapidly towards my conclusion. The introduction of the new system will cost consumers $773 million. Not all of that is in the first year, but we are talking in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars that are now going to be spent on insurance that were not spent before. If only the consumers knew that when they were electing the Premier and his sweet Liberals in 1987, when he had a solution to solve the automobile insurance rates, if they knew it was going to cost a heap of money out of our pockets, when we do not have the money -- we could be using it in deficit reduction, we could be using it on education, we could be using it on many other things. If the people of Ontario had known that this government was going to be digging into their pockets again searching for more money -- and I mean “searching” because the pockets are getting thinner and thinner, especially the way the Liberal’s 32 tax hikes over the last five years have taken more and more away from us and we are getting less and less government.
But here is another example of it. We are talking about $773 million more being spent on insurance that is going to come out of the pot. Let me just break it down so that it is on the record, so that Hansard will record just where that breakdown takes place: $480 million is the amount the insurance companies will save in compensation payouts for pain and suffering, so the insurance companies buy this one. No wonder they like it -- $480 million they are saving through this program.
The next one: $150 million is the amount that insurance companies save in compensation payouts for economic loss under the new threshold, and $95 million is the revenue the government will forgo by eliminating the three per cent tax that drivers currently pay on insurance policies written in Ontario. That $95 million is every year from now on, without fail; $95 million that they have thrown away that taxpayers would now receive through the tax. That three per cent is paid for by drivers in paying for their insurance policies.
Some $48 million is the amount that insurance companies will no longer have to pay OHIP` for medical services provided to innocent victims of car accidents. It all adds up to $773 million. Some of that comes out of the moneys the insurance companies previously had to pay and another part, the smaller part, comes out of the pockets of taxpayers.
You could build a lot of homes in my riding for people who need homes. You could build another couple of intersections and a grade separation and do an awful lot with the $150 million or so that the government has just thrown out on this one. When we start saying that there is no money to do certain jobs in our communities, to build schools for our children, to get rid of the portables and factors like this, here is another place where the government has just thrown the money away.
Another factor to the cost of this system to consumers is that no-fault insurance will cost employers substantial amounts of money. The legislation requires employees to exhaust all medical, surgical, dental, hospitalization, sick leave and income-continuation benefit plans before being allowed access to the schedule of no-fault benefits. Is that not something? Is it any wonder that people are concerned about what will happen to them if they have an automobile accident?
The teachers are a classic example of this. Where a teacher will have accumulated a certain number of days for sick leave and has a car accident, rather than being able to apply to the fund for assistance while recovering from the automobile accident, instead the sick leave he or she has accumulated as a teacher will be reduced for every day that the teacher is sick. Then when he is well and back to work again what will happen, if he is taken sick and has a heart attack or something else, is that his sick leave will have been completely eaten away, possibly, by the nature of the sickness he had.
The fact of the matter is, the system is costing consumers. It is costing all of us, and yet the government does not stand up and admit it.
My 10th point has to be the fact that the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus has presented responsible alternatives under the leadership of our critic responsible for Financial Institutions. The member for Leeds-Grenville does not have anything like the staff that the Minister of Financial Institutions has. We have not spent anything like the $20 million or so that they have, studying answers. The member for Leeds-Grenville is able to work with one researcher from the party.
Hon Mr Elston: How much are you spending on those misleading ads in the Financial Post?
The Chair: Order, please. Members will have a chance to make all the comments they want one after another, not all at the same time.
Hon Mr Elston: I would like to apologize for interjecting.
I was merely requesting information on how much the PC party had paid for the ads in the Financial Post when it has a $4-million deficit, that is all. I am sorry.
Mr Kormos: You should apologize for this legislation, now that you are on your feet apologizing.
The Chair: Order, please. The member for Markham only.
Mr Cousens: There is an awful lot more to be said, in fact, but I wanted to just put on the record that there is a tremendous commitment that has been shown by our party for a responsible solution that provides a balance between what we really need to provide, some regulatory control to solve some of the problems which we all acknowledge exist in the automobile insurance industry, and a responsible track that allows us to balance off the needs and requirements that should take place in a free-enterprise environment.
When I hear the minister talking, I realize that maybe what he needs to do is read the papers and watch the news to see what is happening in eastern Europe, where people are finally becoming free of the yoke of socialism and the control of government. Now what we are saying is that the members of the government do not know how to listen, they do not know how to respond, they do not know how to react to people who have points to make.
Fortunately, the people of Ontario have at least elected 17 Conservatives to stand up and make the point, and in the next election it could be reversed.
Mr Mahoney: You might get 18.
Mr Cousens: The government members could be sitting over here and that could mean a lot of the yowling voices that are here yelling and screaming but doing nothing would have a chance to criticize something else.
Mr Cousens: The Ontario PC party has called for a number of key points.
Mr Kormos: The New Democrats are going to form the next government.
An hon member: Maybe you are on drugs.
Some hon members: No.
Mr Mahoney: Not today, no.
Mr Cousens: I think there has been a very provocative statement made.
The Chair: Yes. All members should stop making interjections, whether they are in their seats or not, and only the member for Markham has the floor.
Mr Cousens: Maybe the member should apologize to the other member for the statement that has been made.
Mr Callahan: You called them socialists. You should apologize.
Mr Cousens: No, they will accept being socialist, but the chairman did not hear the remarks that were made by the member from Mississauga. I think it is unacceptable for a member to say of another that he is on drugs, and I think that is what he is saying.
Mr Faubert: Like to know what he is smoking, that is all.
The Chair: The member for Markham may proceed.
Mr Cousens: I think you have to be very careful. The Liberals make very light of this legislation and of the commitment that others have to it. I suppose when they are just allowed to come in here and interject and make statements and points but never stand up and speak, it really begins to tell me and many others that the Liberals are just falling in line like a pack and doing what the Minister of Financial Institutions or the Premier wants them to do. They have ceased to think for themselves and ceased to realize that there are other ways of handling the automobile insurance situation in Ontario, and that is to my point.
Our caucus, through the member for Leeds-Grenville, has suggested that, first of all, we abolish this rate-setting bureaucracy that we have, just dissolve it; second, that we should establish a rate review system comparable to that of Alberta. Alberta has established a way of handling this. We are saying: “Look at it, analyse it, assess it. Could it be a way in which we could handle it here in Ontario? Will we retain something of the balance between business and industry and government?”
We have asked for the appointment of an insurance ombudsman. We happen to have an Ombudsman in Ontario right now who is extremely busy understanding how the insurance industry is different from the kind of issues that are dealt with by the Ombudsman. Certainly the insurance field would require someone specialized and very skilled in this special field. So we have suggested that there be an insurance ombudsman appointed. It would also give all of us a chance when we have someone who has been referred to Facility insurance when in fact the other insurance companies have turned him down without cause. Then he would have recourse to go and say, “Hey, why is it that I am not being considered’?” It would force some accountability in the decisions that are made by large corporations.
We are dealing with a country made up of many people. We have nine million people in Ontario. Why are we not willing to serve them and make sure that their interests are properly responded to? By having an ombudsman, we would be in a better position to respond to the concerns and problems that they might have.
The member for Leeds-Grenville has also suggested that there be wide-ranging tort reform measures. In our amendments that we will be bringing forward in this bill, there are a number of issues that tie into that. It has to do with this government’s desire to beat down and beat up lawyers. They have said, “Let’s remove their QC,” and they have said, ‘Let’s try to control this or that.”
Now, in this kind of bill, one of the issues that has been raised by virtue of the way the bill has been presented publicly and privately is that in looking for tort reform, they are saying, “Well, the lawyers are making too much money.” What they are really failing to address is, in having tort, they are protecting the rights of an individual to be able to have some recourse to issues and concerns that he has.
I really believe that in the presentations that have been made by our critic for Transportation, the member for Lanark-Renfrew, who has been calling for more driver education on the roads and better forms of licensing, there are a number of things that could be done that would help us all with regard to the way people drive and how they drive and just what they are doing with their cars. In fact, driver education has to be given a far greater emphasis so that we are able to see that the people who sit behind the wheel of a car understand that it is not just a right but a great responsibility.
Finally -- not “finally,” because there are many other recommendations that have been made previously, but just stricter enforcement of highway and traffic laws would be a way of helping to make sure that people on the roads are safe.
We are talking about a complicated bill. With Bill 68, as it has been presented to the Legislature, we are talking about 56 pages of fine print. It ties into the Insurance Act. It is not something that anyone can quickly pick up. Politicians end up picking up on a few key points. I think that is part of what I have wanted to say in my presentation this afternoon and the previous day: There are just so many aspects to this that for us to come along and quickly try to deal with it and get it out of the way is to fail to understand the ramifications that Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts Respecting Insurance, will have on life in Ontario.
These are a few introductory remarks, and I hope that the Chair will allow members to participate in this debate. I look forward to doing so.
The Chair: Before we proceed with the next member, may I remind members of two standing orders. Members are always referred to by the name of his or her riding, never by name. All remarks are always addressed directly to the Chair and not through the Chair, and no “you” and second-person singular or plural.
Do other members have general statements to make on section 1?
Mr Kormos: Mr Chairman, I have made my brief introductory remarks, but I understood you to indicate there was going to be an opportunity for members to respond to or question the member who just spoke. That is what I understood your ruling to have been mere moments ago.
The Chair: In committee of the whole, members can speak as many times as they wish. They can make responses, questions, comments; there is no limit.
Mr Kormos: Thank you. I am going to be very brief because I do indeed want to respond to -- oh, oh.
Hon Mr Elston: In fairness, Mr Chairman, last week when we started this off, the intention that was expressed was that there be brief introductory remarks by members who wished it. Now the gentleman again is abusing what was given, I think, as a very liberal interpretation of where we were headed. Now he wishes to speak again. Mr Chairman, it is obvious what is going on here, but of course I am leaving it with you.
Mr Pouliot: Mr Chair, the rules are there. You, with your wisdom, sir, have taken this opportunity to spell it out. Our side, the opposition, did understand very, very clearly, and we intend to adhere meticulously to what the rules of the House say. I find it somewhat appalling that the minister would try, at this late stage in due process, to use it for a matter of convenience. We can speak as long and as much as we want.
The Chair: In the habitual process of clause-by-clause in committee of the whole House we may permit short, brief introductory statements. What we usually do is that members can discuss, at length, clause-by-clause. We have not even started section 1 yet. What I would like to do is start with section 1. Whoever wants to make comments may do so with no limit of time; questions and comments, clause-by-clause. This is what we call clause-by-clause.
Mr Philip: Mr Chairman, I was a member of the committee. I have a statement I want to make on the nature of this bill, having had the hearings, and I would like my opportunity to make a statement similar to the statement that the member for Markham has made; maybe not as long as his.
The Chair: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale can make his comments.
Mr Philip: Thank you, Mr Chairman. I take this opportunity to rise and to reflect on the extensive hearings that we have had on Bill 68, which is An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance.
It is usually the case that when you look at the title of a bill you can tell the contents of the bill, and I suggest that perhaps the title of this bill is not entirely as descriptive as several titles that perhaps I could suggest. I would suggest that perhaps a more appropriate title to this bill would be An Act to provide the Transfer of $1 Billion of Funds to the Automobile Insurance Industry. That would be an accurate title of this bill, because that is exactly what this bill does.
Another title, of course, that might be appropriate to this bill would be An Act for the Expropriation of Property without Compensation, because that is what this bill does. It takes the sick benefits that working people have negotiated through their collective bargaining or that professionals have negotiated with their employers through their skills and the talents they have to offer, and expropriates that money, takes it without compensation whatsoever and transfers it to the insurance companies. We know, of course, from the hearings and from reading the bill that if one is injured and has a health insurance program, one must eat into that health insurance program before getting any kind of compensation from the insurance company.
Another title that we could use for this would be An Act for the Provision of Welfare Payments to the Insurance Companies. That would be a perfectly appropriate title for this bill and perhaps the best title, for after all, those poor impoverished insurance companies, which in the last quarter made only $314 million, surely need the help of the taxpayers of Ontario.
That is what this Liberal government is doing for them. They are saying: “You poor poverty-ridden companies, you’ve only made $317 million in the last quarter. Therefore we want to transfer close to $1 billion out of the pockets of the people of Ontario into your coffers.”
Mr Kormos: The highest profits in eight years.
Mr Philip: The highest profits in eight years, my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold tells me.
What we have is a massive tax giveaway of $140 million or so, $823 million in reduced benefits, using the government’s own actuarial figures. What we have is a system in which the taxpayers have already paid some $20 million for study after study; yet if we look at the two major studies, they recommended that the kind of legislation in Bill 68 should not be considered as appropriate by this government.
The government’s own commission made a similar recommendation. Mr Kruger and his commission, which the taxpayers of Ontario have paid for, were completely ignored by the government, as it has gone off on its own trip.
It is appropriate in any bill that --
Mr Philip: The member for Lake Nipigon says that I should confine myself to no more than 45 minutes and I will try to do that.
I approach a bill or any piece of legislation with a series of questions. I find that these questions can tell exactly --
Hon Mr Elston: Certainly orchestrated.
Mr Philip: If the minister wants to speak, I will be happy to sit down and let him speak, if that is the case. Then I would appreciate having an opportunity to address the House without his interruptions.
Mr Kormos: It is remarkable. He was never in the committee.
Mr Philip: Yes, it is remarkable that this minister refused to appear in the committee to answer our questions, refused to appear on the committee to answer any of the questions or any of the concerns of the people who came, but now he wants to interrupt me and other members of the House who did appear in the committee and who did listen to the public.
I ask you, Mr Chairman, to please tell him at least to have the courtesy to listen to what the members who were on the committee -- they did appear, were there and listened to the public -- heard from the public. He is hearing it no doubt for the first time, since he did not have the courtesy to come and hear it when these groups did appear.
The Chair: Order, please.
Mr Philip: I do not know where the minister was. He was probably on Bay Street or in London, Ontario, with the insurance company friends, but he certainly was not in the committee listening to the concerns of members of the committee or members of the public.
As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted by the minister, I approach this bill, as I do any other piece of legislation, with some fairly basic questions.
The Chair: Order, please. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.
Mr Kerrio: Right. I can’t hear what he is saying with the minister interrupting.
The Chair: Order, please.
Mr Philip: Even the minister’s own colleagues are telling the minister to be quiet.
The Chair: Order from members of all sides. Order, please.
Mr Philip: There are a number of questions that you have to look at in examining any kind of legislation. They are simple questions, the kinds of questions that anybody with any experience in auditing or public accounts or any concern for the cost to the taxpayer would ask.
The first question is, what is the cost of this legislation? Another question is, what is the problem that this will solve? A third question is, what are the side-effects of this particular course of action? Another question is, are there less expensive ways of dealing with this problem? And another question is, are there other methods of dealing with the problem that have less side-effects?
I come from a business background but I approach any business question with the same kind of questions, and I think the business of government should be approached in the same businesslike manner.
So what is the problem? The problem, the minister will tell you, or indeed any member who listens to his constituents will tell you, is one of cost. Insurance premiums have been going up at an astronomical pace in Ontario. Indeed, the Premier was so concerned about it that he said he was going to solve the problem and that was his promise in the last election.
The Chair: Order, please. Only the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale has the floor.
Mr Philip: I heard the Premier. I even saw him on television, because I watched the news that night and I can remember the Premier’s promise. He said, “I have a specific plan to tower automobile insurance.” Obviously the Premier thought that there was a problem of cost. Why would he want to go to the public promising to lower costs if there was not a cost problem? We can probably all agree then that there is a cost problem.
Second, there is a problem of access. Some people are being denied access to insurance. So there is an access problem. Third, there is a fairness problem. Many of us as MPPs can tell of case after case of people who will come to us and say: “I have been mistreated by the insurance company. I have been treated unfairly.”
Those are the three problems that I guess we have to look at. Is there a problem? Yes, there are three problems. The Premier at least agrees on one: There is a cost problem. There is a problem of access -- some people are being denied insurance or cut off by insurance companies -- and there is a problem of justice or fairness.
Does this bill solve those problems? We listened to the testimony that was presented and it was fairly clear that those who knew the business and who examined this bill said that it would not solve these problems. We heard from Ralph Nader, a well-known consumer expert, and he said not only would this not solve those three problems but this was the worst legislation he had seen anywhere in North America. So it does not solve the problem. It does not solve the three problems.
The next question that you have to address yourself to is what the cost is. The average person out there in the public asks that before he makes any purchase, “What is the cost?” I asked that question day after day in the committee. I said, “What is the cost of this bureaucracy that you are setting up?” Would you believe that they did not even know what the salaries were going to be, let alone the number of people they were going to employ? They did not even know the salaries or the salary ranges of the people they were going to hire. They could not answer that question.
The minister is nodding his head. I can hear him from here. He says that he did. Obviously he should have come into the committee and told us, because when I asked those questions, the parliamentary assistant could not answer them. He could not tell us the cost of the bureaucracy. He could not tell us how many people were going to be required. He could not tell us what the positions were going to be paid.
Mrs Sullivan: It does not matter.
Mr Philip: One of the Liberal members says that it does not matter. I am sorry, but the official opposition happens to feel that the cost of government is an important issue, that the cost of a program is an important issue. If the Liberals then feel that they can go out and spend money as though it comes off trees -- it does not; it comes out of the pockets of the ordinary taxpayer. Indeed, under the Liberal government we have had a less progressive tax system than under even previous Conservative governments. So it comes primarily out of the pockets of the small businessman, the middle-income earner, rather than the very rich.
The other issue is, are there less expensive methods of dealing with the problem? Of course, when we challenged the minister -- and indeed his predecessor the member for Wilson Heights -- to look at what other provinces had done, to do a specific analysis of what had been done in other provinces or even to go to Quebec and see what had been done in Quebec, he refused to do so.
Mr Kormos: You mean like what the Liberals do in Quebec.
Mr Philip: What the Liberal government does in Quebec. The minister would not even examine what was done in other provinces. No, he trailed off or his predecessor trailed off to the United States to find out what programs were going on there. I want to talk about that at some length later on.
Are there less expensive methods of dealing with it? We would suggest that there are. If you talk to anyone who has come from some of the western provinces and has bought an equivalent amount of coverage here, he will tell you how much less expensive it is in those provinces.
The question is, are there side-effects that come from the legislation that outweigh any benefits? We have seen, first, that there are not very many benefits. Certainly if you are a consumer, there are not very many benefits. We have heard testimony after testimony that you get less benefits under this than you would under the existing system, and we have heard that you will pay more insurance premiums under this than under the previous system. So one has to ask, are there any benefits from this? One can conclude certainly from the hearings and from the examination that we did that there were no benefits at all, or if there were, they were very minimal.
What are the side-effects? I think I have outlined some of the side-effects. I talked about how it is an expropriation of the sick benefits that people have bargained for under their collective bargaining agreement or negotiated under their contract with their employer.
I have indicated, I think, that there are also problems in terms of compensation, that under this system people will receive less compensation for the average accident, including some fairly serious accidents, than they would under the old system.
What we have then is a system that is not going to make things better and that is going to cost a lot. We do not know how much. We know about the $1 billion that is a direct giveaway to the insurance companies out of the pockets of Ontario consumers, but the government itself has not costed the added bureaucracy that it is setting up here, so we do not know what that cost will be and we may be sure that it will be an ongoing cost.
This bill sets up a massive bureaucracy, but it does not even deal with some of the basic problems that my constituents are concerned about. There is nothing under this legislation that guarantees that drivers are going to get insurance coverage. Members will recall that at the beginning of my speech I said there were three basic problems, and that is one of the basic problems, high premiums.
Inability to get insurance is the second problem. It is not just my opinion that this will not resolve the problem of inaccessibility of insurance: no less people than Justice Osborne of the Supreme Court of Ontario and Don McKay, the general manager of the Facility Association, have said this. If this legislation is passed, more and more drivers, good drivers, conscientious drivers, are going to be forced into the Facility Association, and that means that more and more are not going to be able to afford insurance.
The Liberals are promoting legislation that will force more and more people to be in a situation where they will, in desperation perhaps, commit an act that is illegal and one that certainly is going to produce a lot of tragedy, namely, driving without insurance. People are going to be forced into facility associations, not because they are bad drivers; there are going to be good drivers forced into it. They are going to be senior citizens, they are going to be business people, they are going to be unemployed people, they are going to be ordinary working people.
These are the people that Mr Justice Osborne and indeed Don McKay, the general manager of the Facility Association, said are going to be forced into the Facility insurance.
The Liberal members like to refer to this as no-fault, but of course that is not the case. What we are talking about in this is what has been recognized as threshold insurance. Threshold insurance has been tried elsewhere, and it has been or is in the process of being abandoned. The latest is --
Hon Mr Elston: That’s not so.
Mr Philip: The minister is interjecting that that is not so. Of course, it just goes to show that his research is not only inadequate inasmuch as he does not know how much this program is going to cost, but it is also inadequate in that he does not know what is going on in the United States. Only recently the state of New Jersey has decided that this type of insurance, threshold insurance, is simply unworkable. It does not lower premiums, and innocent victims do not get compensated.
The truth is that when we look at this type of insurance -- threshold insurance, not no-fault -- broken bones are going to be excluded from compensation. Broken legs, broken arms, fractured limbs, fractured skulls, broken backs are going to be excluded from compensation under this kind of system. That is what this Liberal government is putting in for us. All the pain, all the suffering that victims of accidents are going to have, the loss of enjoyment of life and leisure for the rest of their lives, will not be compensated for as a result of this government taking away the right from ordinary citizens.
What we have in Ontario is the absurdity that this government is adopting solutions to problems that were tried in American jurisdictions in the 1970s and did not work there and are being thrown out by the Americans because they do not work in the United States, and experience has shown them that.
Threshold insurance means that if you are injured, you will be required to sue in order to prove that you have the right to sue. How absurd, how absolutely absurd that in order to have my day in court I must go and prove that I have reached this arbitrary threshold, a fairly high threshold which the government will set, and in order to prove that I meet the threshold, I am going to have to sue in court. Then if I am successful in proving that I meet the threshold, I am going to have to go through yet another long series of delays and legal cases and days in court in order to come up with exactly how much compensation I am allowed. So I am going to have to sue in order to sue.
Hon Mr Elston: You don’t understand.
Mr Philip: The minister says that I do not understand.
Well, I understood what was presented to the committee hearings because I was there. He was not. I understand because I read the briefs. He did not. I understand what was in the bill, and I was able to ask questions of his parliamentary assistant, who was there, and he could not answer the questions.
The fact is that I came out of one of the hearings and this fellow was scratching his head. He was not a member of the committee. He said, “The Liberals of David Peterson are so deep in the pockets of the insurance industry that they’re spitting lint.” Those are the words of one of the observers at the committee.
Mr Faubert: Yes, he was the member for Welland-Thorold.
Mr Philip: The member for Welland-Thorold might have thought it was a very good description.
Mr Kormos: Why doesn’t Frank Faubert get into the heat of the debate here? On a point of order, Mr Chairman --
The Second Deputy Chair: Order, please. I can remember a very distinguished gentleman by the name of Mr Stokes who presided as Speaker in these excellent chambers. He would often point out by saying, “There is nothing out of order.” I would love to do that and I will, but giving the honourable member the benefit of the doubt, what is his point of order?
Mr Kormos: There is a point of order and I know that once you hear me out you will recognize it as well, Mr Chairman. The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere does not participate in the debate, does not know anything about the auto insurance legislation, is ashamed to speak out on behalf of it, yet he wants to make these interjections. If there is anything that is out of order, the whole Liberal caucus is out of order. They are trying to pass legislation that is going to --
The Second Deputy Chair: I would like to thank the honourable member for attempting to bring to my attention a point of order. Just as I presumed, it was not a point of order, but of course we all know you accomplished what you wanted to do, and that was to stand up and make your point. Could we allow the honourable member’s colleague the opportunity of continuing with the debate?
Mr Philip: Any time somebody points out to the present member for Scarborough-Ellesmere that he rarely stands up and says anything constructive in the House other than interrupting other members, I think that is probably a legitimate point of order.
Mr Faubert: On a point of order, Mr Chairman --
Mr Kormos: He doesn’t know what the legislation is all about. Here you go. Watch this.
The Second Deputy Chair: That is right, I know. We will have to hear from the honourable member for Scarborough-Ellesmere. I was gracious enough to hear the honourable member for Welland-Thorold. I think it is only fair to hear the honourable member for Scarborough-Ellesmere.
Mr Faubert: The point of order is that he is imputing motive and that is contrary to the standing orders.
Mr Kormos: Which standing order?
Mr Faubert: Standing order 23(d).
Mr Kormos: Is that his hat size or his IQ? I do not know.
Mr Philip: I do not know what the significance of the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere’s point of order was. I did not refer to his IQ, nor did I refer to his age or whatever.
The Second Deputy Chair: Standing order 23(d), “In the opinion of the Speaker, refers at length to debates of the current session, or reads unnecessarily from verbatim reports.” It says reading at unnecessarily great length. That is what it seems to say.
Mr Philip: What was I reading from? These are my own handwritten notes. One is allowed to read or refer to one’s own notes. If one reads my notes and then reads what in fact the speech was, one will see that my notes are very much abbreviated compared to what my speech is, unlike the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere who always comes with a prepared speech that he reads from. He had some difficulty, I know, when he happened to have a wart on his finger and therefore could not follow along. None the less, he does read.
Mr Kormos: But his Crayolas are in great shape.
Mr Philip: His colleagues thought it was very funny, so they obviously know the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere.
Our committee heard from more than 200 delegations. Delegations and briefs were presented to the committee. Over 90 per cent were against the legislation. Those opposing the legislation included consumer spokespersons, psychologists, doctors, lawyers and victims of automobile accidents themselves. Those supporting the legislation with very few exceptions were those representing the auto insurance industry. North America’s best consumer expert, Ralph Nader, appeared and said this was the worst legislation ever.
At first the government refused to make public the 39 studies on auto insurance that it conducted at public expense; 38 of these had been completed long before the hearings had begun. Finally, embarrassed by the constant questions from the opposition members on the committee such as myself, the member for Welland-Thorold, the member for Leeds-Grenville and other members of the committee, they had to release the information. When did they do it? After the deputations had appeared.
That is why the member for Leeds-Grenville quite correctly challenged them on this. He said, “Look, we want at least an opportunity to have one or more of those previous deputations that appeared comment on the research that should have been made public had the government not wanted to hide it.” By the combined efforts of the two opposition parties then, we shamed the government into at least allowing one actuarial analysis of the data.
What did the data show? The data showed that the Minister of Financial Institutions obviously had very good reason for hiding his own research, because the minister’s own data, his own actuarial studies, showed a transfer of close to $1 billion from the pockets of ordinary --
Mr Pouliot: A billion?
Mr Philip: A billion, with a B; $1 billion from the pockets of ordinary citizens to the automobile insurance companies.
What did we have? We asked for the minister to appear to deal with these figures and the research, to answer questions. Where was the minister? The minister was running around the province making his own statements. Here and there, every once in a while, a couple of days before, he would go in along with the insurance lobby that would buy large, three-quarter page ads. They did not want to be accused of putting in full-page ads-they at least have some political smarts -- so they put in three-quarter page ads.
Mr Kormos: That is how they spend drivers’ money.
Mr Philip: All of the drivers in Ontario, of course, were paying for these propaganda ads that were clearly lies and that we showed were lies in the committee, but the minister was not prepared to come and answer questions on the advertising of the insurance industry. One of the Liberal members of the committee happened to fall into the trap of using their figures. Then she did not know where they got them.
We finally had the minister come into the House having the audacity to say. “Well, all of this is wrong.” If it was wrong, why did he not come out, meet with the committee, meet with the people who were accusing him of these things and answer their questions? No. He had the time to go from city to city a couple of days before the committee met and had hearings and make his pronouncements.
Finally, one of the statements the minister made really hit the committee. He said that in the greater Metro Toronto area -- I think it was that; maybe it was just the Metro Toronto area he was referring to. But the greater Metro Toronto area is well known to the Liberals because that is the cash cow they charge extra taxes to, and no other government has ever done that, so they are very familiar with the Metro Toronto area. He said that in the greater Metro Toronto area there will be premium increases of between 8 per cent and 50 per cent.
I want to refer back to the earlier objectives. I said there were three possible objectives for introducing insurance legislation and one of those objectives was to lower premiums. The minister in the middle of the hearings -- not before the committee but out there in Windsor, Woodstock or someplace he decided to go to and make an appearance, never on the same day as the committee because somebody might ask him to appear before the committee, but a couple of days before or a couple of days after he would go into these places, and he said that it will cost between 8 and 50 per cent more.
One has to ask: Where is the Premier’s promise? Where is the concrete plan to lower automobile insurance? What do we have this bureaucratic legislation for if we are still going to get 8 to 50 per cent more?”
Two other matters are particularly of concern. In the first place the Minister of Financial Institutions refused to appear before the committee to respond to the issues of the various deputations. The Liberal members even used their majority to defeat a motion I introduced that would demand that he be there for the final days of the debate-or request it; we did not even use the word “demand.” We said “request.”
I guess one must ask, if the legislation is so valuable, why would the Liberals be hiding the minister during all of the deliberations on this? I remember the days, the 42 years -- I was not there for all of them-of the previous government. At least, to their credit, when they had an important piece of legislation, the minister would be sitting beside the chairman answering the questions. He did not pass the buck to a parliamentary assistant.
I can remember sitting day after day when Mr McMurtry was in excruciating pain because of a back problem he had, but he would limp in with his painkillers and answer the questions of the members of the committee. That, to me, is a parliamentarian. That, to me, is a man to be respected. That, to me, is a man who is not shoving his responsibility off on a parliamentary assistant.
Mr Kormos: Don’t get carried away.
Mr Philip: Well, I am not saying that about any of the present Tory members. My colleagues are afraid I am being too laudatory of a man who was, I think, a good parliamentarian and is –
The Second Deputy Chair: While we have a break, I just want to say to my honourable colleague, who has had many more seniorities in this chamber, but following the debate, as we have from last week, there was an attempt, as I understood it, by members to be brief. I have noticed --
Mr Kormos: On a point of order --
The Second Deputy Chair: I am speaking, I say to the honourable member for Welland-Thorold. I do not know in terms of brief by interpretation under Black’s Law Dictionary; I do know there is another more senior member than myself who will be taking the chair in about 10 minutes, and he always seems to be a little more adamant about one’s brevity. So I am just cautioning you so that all members might have the opportunity of speaking briefly to the bill in front of us.
Mr Kormos: On a point of order --
The Second Deputy Chair: A point of order from the member for Welland-Thorold.
Mr Kormos: In assistance to the chair --
The Second Deputy Chair: This had better be good. That is all I can say.
Mr Kormos: I can tell you, Mr Chairman, that we grappled with the problem of how long people should be permitted to make these brief introductory remarks. We all agreed that they would be brief, and that is why my comments were some hour and a half, and no longer. I think it would be less than fair to deny any other member that same period of time. An hour and a half was brief compared to the eight hours I had planned for the introductory remarks. I certainly do not want to see -- there are 19 members of the official opposition.
The Second Deputy Chair: I think you have made your point.
Mr Kormos: Thank you, Mr Chairman.
The Second Deputy Chair: I will take it under advisement.
Mr Kormos: It is always a pleasure to do business with you.
Mr Philip: I agree with your concern, Mr Chairman. I was a member of the Speaker’s panel with you for a number of years when we studied these matters. I think you will recall that the relevant issue on “brief’ is related to the seriousness of the legislation and -- some of us, myself in particular, would argue -- to the amount of money being spent.
This legislation sets up a very expensive bureaucracy. It is a transfer of close to $1 billion from the pockets of taxpayers to the pockets of the insurance companies, and therefore “brief’ in this sense may be a little longer than “brief’ in the sense of something costing the taxpayers maybe $100,000. I am sure that “brief’ is also in the context of the length of hearings. We had a number of very learned, comprehensive, specific and highly technical briefs. So I am trying to be brief in that context and I am sure that my fellow member of the Speaker’s panel will understand my arguments in this regard.
I would also be a lot briefer if I did not get constant interruptions from members of the opposition. I said “opposition”; I guess I am projecting into the future. After October that is probably how I will have to refer to those who are left on the Liberal benches.
A second disturbing matter is that this bill sets up a massive bureaucracy and the government has no idea yet what it is going to cost. We know what the previous bureaucracies, which did not help, cost. We know as a matter of fact of one leading public servant who was asked if they would consider leading up this massive bureaucracy and the person said no. It simply was not something this particular person could live with. I admire somebody who does that.
More and more we see evidence that the Liberal Peterson government has been using its massive authority in choosing to take care of the interests of large corporations and turning its back on the ordinary citizens. In this case the insurance industry, which was the largest single contributor to the Liberal campaign, is the beneficiary of this. I do not know what effect that had on the Liberal government. I do not know why they wish to do that, but I suggest that this bureaucracy that is being set up will be judged eventually by the insurance industry itself as unworkable.
These are the authors of the bureaucratic rent control system that does not work and creates a problem for both tenants and landlords. The same authors are setting up another massive, unworkable bureaucracy that is not going to work for consumers in the case of insurance; I suggest to members that in the long run it is not going to work in the interests of the insurance companies either.
I remember that very specific plan the Premier promised and I am saying to members that we have waited for three years and we have not seen the specific plan. If we look at this bill, this bill is not a specific plan that will lower automobile insurance.
Over the last two years we have seen how the Peterson Liberals have allowed auto insurance premium increases of 18 per cent. They have now introduced a scheme that not only allows premiums to climb by at least 26 per cent above the 1987 level, but in some areas, such as the Metropolitan Toronto area, by the minister’s own admission there will be increases of 5 per cent to 50 per cent.
Ontario drivers will be paying more and getting less. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader described the Liberal scheme as selling half a loaf of bread for more than the original cost of the whole loaf. The Liberal scheme will not provide adequate benefits for accident victims. In fact their so-called no-fault, which we call threshold and anybody who examines it will understand it is threshold, would limit the right of 95 per cent of car accident victims to sue. A victim would have to be dead or close to it before he or his family could sue. Those with less severe injuries would be eligible for set benefits regardless of who caused the accident.
While other no-fault plans also limit the right to sue, accident benefits are high enough to properly compensate the victim. Indeed, under many of those, the victim still has the option to sue if he does not wish to accept the no-fault provision. I believe that all this bill does is give one bonanza to the insurance companies, which want to keep benefits as low as possible. Indeed, if we look at the actuarial tables and figures -- the research that finally the Liberals had to table -- we can see that this is exactly the case.
Remember that the new commission to be set up under the Liberal plan will not have the power to set rates but only to review them. This is just another major concession to the insurance industry and a cost to the consumer, in terms of taxes, for a bureaucracy that has no teeth.
As if this is not enough, there is a further $143-million giveaway to the auto insurance companies in the way of tax concessions. Auto insurance companies will no longer have to pay $46 million to $48 million for medicare annually, or $95 million for the three per cent tax levy on the insurance. It is a massive giveaway of our tax money, without any proof that it is going to lower the insurance.
The Provincial Auditor, and indeed Auditors General around the world, are now looking at that very thing. They are saying that if a government decides to spend money, it should have concrete proposals, it should have objectives that are measurable and it should be able to prove, within a reasonable proof, that it expects to meet some kind of objectives. We have not had any proof, even any attempts to prove, by the government, during all of these hearings, that this massive giveaway of tax money would in fact lower premiums.
The proposed plan was attacked by dozens of groups and individuals. We heard attacks from crash victims, from lawyers, from health care workers, from labour leaders, from consumer groups. The insurance companies were among the few that applauded it. In fact, they could not even get the brokers on their side, because many of the brokers -- I had a call from one today saying: “I hope you defeat this bad legislation. It’s going to simply mean more headaches for me. I’m already getting complaints from people who are my customers and I’m going to have even more under this system.”
What we have is a scheme that, while the Liberals said that they listened to reason, their arrogant track record since forming a majority government in 1987 gives us very little cause for optimism. We had all of these deputations that appeared. They presented concrete evidence that this was bad legislation, that the drivers of Ontario deserved more. The Liberals said they were listening but in fact turned their back on them.
It is a matter of record that the automobile insurance industry was the only major witness behind this legislation. What the Liberal scheme means to the average consumer is that sick benefits of workers have been expropriated without compensation, taken away from people who have negotiated them in lieu of wages, in good faith, taken away and given to the insurance companies without any kind of compensation.
When we look at some of the more totalitarian regimes that are now falling apart, we are shocked that that kind of thing would happen, and indeed it was not so long ago that a former Liberal member of this House introduced a bill called the Right to Own Property. Well, sick benefits are property. They are the property of working people, and to simply take sick benefits and transfer them, take them away from the ordinary people and transfer them --
Mr Faubert: That’s not true and you know it.
Mr Philip: Mr Chairman, I believe there is a rule against calling a member a liar and I believe the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere has just broken that rule. Would you rule on that?
The First Deputy Chair: I confess that I did not hear the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere say anything on the record, nor did I hear any remarks, but I would remind the member that the chair has indicated that we would like to have some brief opening remarks to facilitate matters. The member has been speaking at some length. I would appreciate it if he would conclude his remarks, because I do think that we have another member who served on the committee who would like the opportunity to make some brief opening remarks. Then I think it would be appropriate, if the minister chooses, for him to do that, and then we would move to clause 1.
Mr Pouliot: Whoa, whoa, whoa.
The First Deputy Chair: I am going to remind the members that, at this point, you are operating at the pleasure of the Chair. I am quite prepared to hear some brief opening remarks, we began this process the other day, but we are in a somewhat tenuous position here. We are not going to restrict anybody’s ability to speak to each and every clause of the debate, but in order for us to be in order, we should have before us a matter to be considered.
The brief opening remarks are a courtesy to members. I would remind you of that. We have had fairly extensive brief opening remarks now. I would ask the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale to conclude his remarks. I would then like to see if there are other members on the committee who wish to make some brief remarks, and then we will proceed to clause 1.
Mr Philip: Perhaps the Chairman was not in his chambers watching the debate and therefore would not be aware of the interesting exchange that the former person in that chair and I had, in which I reminded him that brevity is defined, and indeed It was --
The First Deputy Chair: Thank you. Order, please. Take your seat. Are there other members who wish to make some brief opening remarks?
Mr Philip: I am making some. I am challenging --
The First Deputy Chair: No, you are not.
Mr Philip: Mr Chairman, you have made a ruling. I am trying to respond to your ruling, and I am asking for the indulgence of the Chair. I have only spoken for half an hour, and it is not uncommon on a major bill to allow a member at least an hour and a half for some opening remarks. I would ask the Chair to show some respect for the members of this House.
The First Deputy Chair: The Chair is considering what has just been said and is having some difficulty with it. The Chair is probably at fault here. The Chair sought a means whereby members could express some interest before the debate on the bill began and suggested to the House that some brief opening remarks were in fact part of our practice here, even though they are not really provided for in the standing orders. I suppose I could have allocated some time for each of the opposition parties and the critics and the minister to do that, because that would be our normal practice. It seems unwise to proceed much further than that, because I cannot really find a place in the standing orders where that is provided for.
The members would be aware, of course, and it has already been indicated by, I think, more than one member that they wish to address each and every clause of the bill. That is certainly appropriate and we will do so, with unrestricted debate. One cannot muster an argument that we are in any way inhibiting the debate.
My concern is, I should like to have something before the House for the House to consider. At the moment, I do not have anything, so I would appreciate a little co-operation from the members. I offered to provide an occasion when you could make some opening remarks. I asked for some brevity; I did not push the point. I think at this point in time, where we have had a substantive amount of debate so far, it is not unreasonable for the Chair to ask for some co-operation and to ask members to conclude their remarks.
I am mindful that we are just at the beginning of a very long process of clause-by-clause debate on the bill, so there will be ample opportunity for any member who wishes to to participate in the debate. I do not think it is unreasonable to ask the member to conclude his opening remarks now, mindful that in a few moments’ time, when we do have something proper before the House, you will have virtually an unlimited opportunity to debate whatever you want.
Mr Philip: I require a few more minutes to conclude my opening remarks. I would point out to the Chair, as I was trying to point out to him before he interrupted me earlier, that the previous Chair and I both agreed that the brevity relates also to the seriousness, and indeed to the amount of money that is being spent. I have used up half an hour of the House’s time. We have had extensive hearings on this. We are dealing essentially with some of the research on the bill. I would ask for another 10 minutes to conclude --
The First Deputy Chair: Order, please. I am quite happy to extend a few more moments for the member to conclude his remarks. What I am unhappy with, and what I will not take, is that I will not sit in the chair and have members argue with me. If you want me to, I will be as abrupt as members would like, but I cannot argue with you from this position, so I do not intend to. But what I do intend to do is that if members choose to argue with the Chair from this position, that member will not be heard while I am in this chair. So it is your choice. You can moderate your language if you like; you can argue with the Chair if you like, but not for very long. I have asked you to conclude your remarks. Please do so.
Mr Philip: I would like to deal with the points I was dealing with before I was interrupted by some of the members from the other side. Sick benefits, which workers have bargained for, and indeed which they have collectively bargained for in places like Oshawa and other communities around this province, are being expropriated without any kind of compensation. Premiums are increased while coverage is being reduced. Most innocent victims will lose 60 per cent of their benefits. Safe drivers will have premium increases, while high-risk drivers will get a break. Drunk drivers will be treated as well or better than their victims. That is the testimony we heard from the various people who appeared before us.
Auto insurance companies will save some $823 million a year, and that is not counting the direct giveaways from the taxpayer. Compensation for pain and suffering will be eliminated for most victims, and we know that. That is what is in the bill. And indeed, children, homemakers, small business people, union members and teachers will be discriminated against by in fact not being paid for the pain and suffering which they endure as a result of an accident.
What we have here is a bill that is a massive sellout of the average consumer, and indeed of those people who believed the Premier, who promised that he had a specific plan to lower automobile insurance. This does not lower automobile insurance. This cuts out a lot of benefits that people already had. This will mean that you pay more, you get less and the only beneficiaries of this horrible legislation, as we found out in all of the hearings that we went through, are the insurance companies, the sponsors of the Liberal Party and the Liberal government in this province.
The First Deputy Chair: There are other members who want to make some opening remarks. The member for Leeds-Grenville.
Mr Runciman: Thank you, Mr Chairman, for the opportunity for some opening remarks. I appreciate this precedent-setting initiative, although I am sure it is aggravating to certain members of the assembly, but I will try to condense my comments. As you have indicated quite clearly, we are going to have opportunity in the clause-by-clause to deal at length with the specific sections of the legislation.
I do want to talk about a couple of things that I have not had an opportunity to discuss. The minister was chastising me in the House the other day when I asked him a question in respect to a letter distributed to the media but sent to the Premier by the president of Kingsway General Insurance, expressing concerns about the advisability of pressing ahead with this legislation when there are some very serious doubts about its constitutionality.
The learned QC Gordon Henderson, a former senior partner of the Attorney General’s, has indicated in a legal opinion that he believes that the matter of the bill should be referred to the Supreme Court for an opinion on its constitutionality, and the president of Kingsway was expressing his concern, as an insurance company executive, that if indeed two or three years down the road the legislation is found unconstitutional, what are the implications for the insurance industry, and not only for the insurance industry but for consumers and for taxpayers in this province? He made it quite clear that if indeed that does occur at some point in the future, the liability falls upon the shoulders of the government of Ontario.
Quite clearly, a similar situation developed in the province of Quebec when it moved to a pure no-fault system, where a challenge was entered into and it was determined to be unconstitutional and the government was faced with the bill as a result of that court decision.
It has some pretty significant implications for all of us in this province. The minister scoffs at the suggestion. He makes light of it and suggests that a director of Kingsway, who also happens to be aligned with the Committee for Fair Action in Insurance Reform opposing this legislation, had some way somehow pressured the president of Kingsway into writing that letter and sending it to the Premier.
I want to say that the gentleman who was named in the House -- the minister later got up and apologized for giving incorrect information in respect to his responsibilities in that particular firm -- was very much disturbed by the comment made by the minister. I also want to say I got a call from the president of that insurance company, who also was very much disturbed and said that that gentleman had no input whatsoever and in fact was not even privy to the contents of that letter.
So I think when the minister gets on his feet, as he does day in and day out when he is asked a question, and chastises members of the opposition for not having the facts straight, the gentleman himself should make sure that he gets the facts straight completely -- completely -- before he makes that kind of comment in the Legislature of Ontario, before the television cameras, before the media. It has an impact in questioning the intent of a number of individuals and it is regrettable indeed, but I think it is indicative of the way this government has dealt with the insurance issue from day one. It is a sad litany of disaster after disaster, at considerable cost to all of us as taxpayers of this province.
I have gone through this at length and I am not going to spend a great deal of time on it today, because the members have all heard my views in respect to the millions and millions of dollars that have been wasted, essentially, by this government through -- the most despicable waste of money, I guess the most offensive waste of money, has to be with the failure to follow the recommendations of Supreme Court Justice Coulter Osborne. That most extensive study of the insurance industry in the history of North America came out with recommendations quite different to those which the government finally adopted. That significant study cost us all as taxpayers $1.4 million.
The minister will get up and say, “We did take a few things out of that report, we didn’t completely ignore it,” but the bottom line is that the significant recommendations of Osborne were indeed ignored. The warnings expressed by Osborne in respect to threshold no-fault were indeed ignored.
We can move on. When the recommendations of Osborne came down in February 1988, the Premier looked at that. It did not fit in with his scheme of things, apparently, so he lobbed the ball into the court of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, a group of Liberal worthies who have been at the public trough for a period of time, at a cost of at least $11 million to the taxpayers, and I want to say that I will give them credit. They took a look at threshold and reached, for the most part, essentially the same conclusions as Justice Osborne. They were very much concerned about threshold no-fault and its impact on innocent accident victims in Ontario. Like Osborne, they came to the conclusion that any benefits gained by moving to threshold no-fault were going to be gained on the backs of innocent accident victims in this province.
Again, I want to talk a bit about that letter and the whole question of another letter that we were made aware of as members of the House, inadvertently, I believe, by a member of the executive of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario, and that was a comment made in respect to the changes that the minister was bringing in the $600-a-week payments and the other one in respect to disability payments. The insurance industry, quite clearly, was made aware of those changes before the House.
Then we saw a press release from the brokers association, a congratulatory letter to the minister that was dated October 1989. This is before we got into the hearings on Bill 68, so the insurance industry was privy to these changes, the intent of the government in respect to the amendments to Bill 68, prior to the hearings being conducted, prior to us touring the province, hearing all of the moving testimony that we heard, and then he makes these announcements.
This has been a staged exercise in respect to: “Okay. The opposition want us to go through this public hearings process. We’ll give them that process, but nothing’s going to happen out of it. We’re not going to listen to the testimony. We’ve made our decision, but we’re going to stage the public relations aspect of this so that we go through the exercise. Then a couple of weeks later the minister is going to say, ‘Yes, we did listen; indeed we listened, and as a result we’re bringing in a couple of amendments.”’
Clearly, that was the intent of the government, by the letter from the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario congratulating the minister on those initiatives before the hearings even started.
I believe the members of that committee on the Liberal side were misled by the minister and perhaps by the parliamentary assistant to believe that those changes were going to be brought forward in the last days of the hearings in the clause-by-clause conduct. We had a couple of members of the committee indicating to us: “Look, we are going to see changes made. We are going to be bringing in amendments which will indeed address some of the concerns that have been expressed.” But that did not happen.
The Liberal members should be embarrassed. Perhaps being Liberals in this province they just do not know how to be embarrassed, if they look back at their history in government over the past five years.
In essence, I think the privileges of the members of this House, the privileges of the members of the standing committee, were violated by the government and by this minister in respect to the way he has dealt with this issue; in respect to taking into his confidence the members of the insurance industry who benefit by this legislation in a significant way, but not taking into his confidence the members of this Legislature, the very members of the standing committee of this Legislature who were trying in a serious way -- at least, most of us were -- to deal with the concerns being expressed to us across this province and in hearings here in the city of Toronto.
I have said before, this is an odious piece of legislation, a cynical and fraudulent exercise designed to mislead consumers and to scapegoat the legal profession for this government’s continuing mismanagement of the insurance question.
I have talked about my personal distress in respect to the way the Liberal members of the committee acted during the hearings process-or failed to act might be a better description. We heard some significant testimony, some very moving testimony.
Mr Neumann: What about the way you acted. I saw you on television one night.
Mr Runciman: I want to indicate I am being chastized. Since the viewers do not understand this, I am being heckled by a member of the Liberal Party, one of the gentlemen who is chafing at the bit who would do virtually anything to get into the executive council and is willing to compromise his principles1 as a great many members of this Legislature on the Liberal side apparently are prepared to do.
I want to say I was very much moved by the testimony we heard in that committee. Perhaps over the nine years of my service in this House I have not been moved in a greater fashion than I was during those hearings.
The witnesses appearing before us, people who had no axe to grind, no vested interests, people who had suffered serious accidents in this province, were genuinely concerned about the interests of innocent accident victims in the future if this legislation goes through. But what happened? Again, as I said, the Liberal members very disappointingly failed to heed any of this testimony.
Mr Neumann: We behaved with more dignity than you.
Mr Runciman: Again, I want to say that I indeed lost my temper on one occasion and I want to put this on the record since that is being brought forward here.
We had significant documentation placed before us near the end of the proceedings, actuarial studies and reports; I think some 35 reports. This was after we had heard all of the witnesses. The government dropped this in our laps and said, “Here it is.” I had made a plea to the Chair, “At least let us have one witness reappear before the committee to respond to all this documentation.” I suggested that I would give up my questioning time, 15 minutes, if we would allow this expert witness, Professor Jack Carr, an economist at the University of Toronto, to make some comment to the committee in respect of the reports tabled with us.
We made an agreement. I gave up my questioning time. The member for York Mills agreed to my giving up my questioning time so Professor Carr could testify. We went around the table. The member for York Mills had his questioning time and then the Chair called for Professor Carr to come forward. The member for York Mills then interjected and said: “No, 1 do not think this is a good idea. I do not think we should do this.” After we had a clear agreement, after I had specifically given up my questioning time, the member for York Mills tried to renege on that deal.
As I said earlier, this was a very emotional time for those of us in the opposition who cared about what we were hearing and wanted to do something about what we were hearing. To have that sort of intervention on the part of the member for York Mills, I did indeed lose my temper and use some language which I am not proud of as a legislator. But the Liberal members of that committee should not be proud of their actions or lack of action in that committee. They failed to heed completely the expert testimony, the overwhelming testimony, in opposition to this legislation. They know this is wrong for the province.
We have members of this Legislature on the Liberals’ side; I see one sitting on the back bench who has some concerns; we know the member for Windsor-Walkerville has expressed some concerns publicly, and a number of others have indicated their concerns about this legislation and its impact, but I do not see anybody standing up publicly. I do not see anybody standing up in this Legislature. Maybe it is happening in their caucus, but I seriously doubt it; I seriously doubt it when I hear the kind of comments, the rubber-stamp mentality, coming from the member for Brantford and others in this Legislature daily in respect to this issue.
I was most disappointed in the member for Hamilton Centre. She has had some experience and training in respect to dealing with head injury victims. I was optimistic at the outset of those hearings that she was going to play a very active role in drawing out those concerns and make some meaningful input into the deliberations, the final outcome of the committee and the final report, but that did not occur.
We see this all the time. I have been through this exercise as a government backbencher, a member of cabinet, a member in the official opposition and now in the third party. I am not sure if the next step is out the door or back over there, but I am going to be optimistic. I have seen this situation where the desire to gain a cabinet seat is all-encompassing, it overwhelms logic, it overwhelms common sense and it overwhelms the desire to do the right thing.
I want to say to members -- I have said this before-that when they reflect back on their legislative careers and on legislation like this, they are not going to have much to be proud of, when they did not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up at least in their own caucus and very strongly express their concerns and doubts about this.
Mr Chairman, if you want to give me a signal, I would like to leave the minister some time. I know he would like to respond to some of the comments.
Hon Mr Elston: If I might, Mr Chairman --
The First Deputy Chair: I just want to remind members that the member for Leeds-Grenville has the floor to make some brief introductory remarks. When he yields the floor, it is the Chair’s intention to offer the minister the opportunity to make some brief remarks, and then we are going to move to section 1. I would ask you to conclude in your own good time, and then we will go on in that way.
Hon Mr Elston: I think that would be appropriate. I just want to note that it would be nice to let the former member for Essex North, Dickie Ruston, who is in the gallery here, have a few remarks. It would be interesting if we could acknowledge his presence here. He says that the New Democratic Party and Progressive Conservatives members are making, as usual, the same general contribution to the level of debate as he always understood them to be able to contribute in this House.
The First Deputy Chair: That is all entirely out of order, but there is a reason why he is smiling and I am not. The member for Leeds-Grenville.
Mr Runciman: I thank the minister for that valuable, profound contribution. We are getting used to that sort of input from him.
Mr Chairman, before we get away from that, I do not want to offend you in respect to the decision you have made in terms of allowing members to have this opportunity. If you feel I am getting to what you believe is the appropriate time, just let me know and I will be glad to give the minister the appropriate opportunity.
We had a letter distributed today from the Committee for Fair Action in Insurance Reform, which I believe is an open letter to the Premier, indicating that it has on a number of occasions offered the Premier and the minister the opportunity to debate publicly, I gather, this whole question. Up to this point, the offer has not been taken up. What they are suggesting is that, with the upcoming Liberal policy conference taking place in Windsor, the Premier use the influences of his office to ensure that a debate takes place on the floor of the policy convention with FAIR and other interested parties and the Premier-or perhaps the minister, but better yet the Premier, the guy who got us into this mess -- representing and giving the government view of the issue, because we certainly know that a lot of grassroots Liberals in this province are very concerned about the legislation.
We have had some interjections here from the member for Sudbury. I gather his own riding association has expressed concern, and his reaction was: “Let them eat cake. Who are these people? They are only my riding executive. What do they know?” It is like the Premier. I think this whole arrogant attitude flows down from the top guy, who refers to a mayor of a municipality in this province as “a bit player.” When he is dealing with a very controversial and sensitive issue, he makes comments like that, and I think that sort of contempt for other opinions, contempt for other views -- ”We are not willing to listen; we are not willing to take heed of any advice you may be willing to offer” -- extends even to Liberal riding associations, and you have Liberal members like the member for Sudbury dumping on his own riding executive.
I do not know what that says about the prospects for the member for Sudbury in the future. Maybe his view is that he is going to not only publicly dump on his riding association executive, but he is going to make some effort to have a coup and remove them at the next annual election. I am not sure what his intentions are, but I think it is unfortunate that this kind of attitude is prevalent in the Liberal back benches and is very clearly expressed by the member for Sudbury by his interjections in this House during debate on Bill 68. They are certainly not useful in respect to talking in any substantive way in respect to the legislation.
Much of the unfairness of this legislation stems from the very restrictive threshold. It is the most stringent threshold in North America, and I think some of the actuarial studies indicated that about 96 per cent of innocent accident victims in this province are going to be barred from access to compensation in excess of the no-fault benefits incorporated in this plan. I talked about the question of the constitutionality of this legislation, and certainly it deals most specifically with that particular question.
Also, I do not want to spend a great deal of time on the threshold. We are going to be doing that later, and of course that is a major concern of many of the witnesses appearing before us, those from the Head Injury Association of Canada and other interested groups, in respect to the very severe restrictions being placed upon innocent accident victims by this very tough indeed threshold, which seems to benefit no one other than the insurance companies in this province.
I want to talk briefly about the cost to taxpayers. I was taken to task by the parliamentary assistant last week when I brought these figures forward, but they are figures provided by a respected economist -- I mentioned his name earlier, Professor Jack Carr -- the $143 million in tax breaks through the OHIP subrogation agreement, the tax on premiums of $143 million, $480 million in compensation payouts which the insurance industry will no longer have to make, the $150 million in economic loss payouts which the industry will no longer be responsible for.
I want to say Professor Carr based those figures on the 90 per cent figure not being able to break through the threshold, but the actuarial studies done by the government indicate that it is going to be 95 to 96 per cent who will be unable to break through that threshold. So the total figure that we were using in committee hearings, a $773-million windfall to the insurance industry, is low, and in all likelihood, when you calculate in the new figures based on the actuarial studies done by the ministry, we are looking at probably in the neighbourhood of a $1 -billion windfall to an already rich and powerful industry.
Another element in respect to the taxpayers getting it in the neck is the question of dispute resolution and the bureaucracy the government is going to have to establish to deal with this legislation. The amazing thing is that when I brought this question up early in the hearings and asked the deputy minister in respect to the cost, really there had been no real effort to quantify the cost. We talked about the dispute resolution mechanism embodied in this legislation and other elements of the bureaucracy that are going to cost us all, and there was simply no idea. Near the end of the hearings the parliamentary assistant was guessing when he took a look at the costs of the operation of the insurance board and the superintendent’s office, etc. He said, “Maybe it will be in the neighbourhood of $11 million to $12 million a year,” I think were the figures he used.
That scares the bejabers out of me, and it should scare a lot of taxpayers in this province. We are diving into this thing. As usual when they are dealing with insurance, they really do not know what they are doing. They are forging ahead and all of us are going to pay the price at some point in the not-too-distant future. Obviously the government is hopeful that it can get over the hump of the next provincial election without this thing coming back to haunt it, but it is eventually indeed going to come back to haunt all of us. Most of us do not believe we are ever going to be in a traffic accident or are going to be impacted upon by this sort of legislation, but if indeed it does happen to members or a member of their families, they are going to very quickly locate the weaknesses of this legislation and its devastating impact on them and members of their families and on families right across this province.
I talked about the windfall to the insurance industry and I have said that the Premier has been more accommodating than the Holiday Inn. The offensive part of this, of course, is to see the Premier in bed with the industry. We have also talked about the industry, and I know the industry; we have worked with the industry. I have been the insurance critic for a number of years. I have a lot of friends in the industry, and of course we have crossed swords on this particular issue. But I think one thing they are failing to heed when they are dealing with this government is that it would flush that private-sector industry down the toilet in the flick of an eyelid if it thought it was in its political best interests.
They really do not care that much about the private sector. We can look at a host of things that they have done over their five years in office. I have said to my industry friends, “Look, be cautious, because if this doesn’t sell publicly and politically you’re going to be in very difficult straits indeed if these guys are still the government of Ontario when that day arrives.”
I want to say that the brokers in the small insurance companies have to be very much concerned as well, because it is not going to be that much of a difficult exercise to replace brokers. Look at centralized selling; look at using the host of ways that will indeed put small brokers and small insurance businesses in this province out of business. Another kick in the pants to small business and industry in this province. I have been very concerned about that.
In wrapping up, I think the most damaging element of this, of course, is its impact on the most needy in society, the poor and the unemployed, the people who are really going to be hit hard by this legislation. These are people who cannot afford or do not have access to collateral benefits. They do not have access to salary continuation plans and to a host of other benefits that many of us do have. As a result, they are going to be presenting a much higher risk to an insurer. When an insurer is looking at an application from someone who is a less fortunate member of society and he notices quite quickly that the individual does not have collateral benefits which take precedence over the no-fault benefits in this plan -- I want to point that out -- that individual poses a higher risk to that company. What is he going to do? He is going to refer that individual to the Facility Association.
What does that mean to that individual attempting to become insured? It is going to mean perhaps double, triple the cost for his insurance policy. It is the really needy in society as well, the less fortunate, who are being hurt by this initiative undertaken by the government.
Over the next days and weeks I am going to have, hopefully, ample opportunity to expand on my views on each and every section of this legislation and express my very legitimate, serious concerns about this legislation and its impact on the people of this province.
The First Deputy Chair: Does the minister have any brief opening statement that he would care to make?
Mr Wildman: Would it be in order for me to make some comments on behalf of the electors of Algoma?
The First Deputy Chair: Not at this point, it would not.
Hon Mr Elston: It has, to say the least, been somewhat disappointing, and I understand your tolerance for brief opening statements and I appreciate your exchanges earlier on today with some members who wished to go even further than we have. This is the second day of this bill being in committee of the whole, after we had a full day’s debate receiving the report, both of which are highly unusual, and to this point we have not yet gotten to stage I. I realize that this is generally not where we start talking about the bill in principle, because we have moved beyond that in the process which we are at.
The speeches, I think, have been in line with the expressed intention, both in the House and outside, to the opponents of the legislation and to the press and otherwise, that everything will be done to preclude the passage of this bill and that people will prevent it from coming on. I only wish to indicate to the people of the province that we wish to move and we wish to put this in place so that we can ensure that there will be savings for the people under this insurance plan, so that not only the insurance plan but the comprehensive nature of the other elements of this plan, about which the opposition never speaks, will be implemented to the fullest so that we can reduce the accident rates.
I would be pleased just to conclude my remarks by indicating that this is a positive step forward, that in fact there are benefits in this legislation, that in fact they will contribute over the longer term to savings to the people of the province and allow us to have affordable insurance in place and preclude those people from making decisions, such as that they might have, to drive without insurance, the types of examples which were raised earlier by the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.
This is a good piece of legislation. Let’s get on with it. I am pleased to see that we now move to section 1.
The First Deputy Chair: Members have indicated that they wish to comment, at the very least, on a clause-by-clause basis, and we certainly can accommodate that. We have an indication of several amendments from the government. We have not yet received any proposed amendments from anyone else. I would remind members of the standing order requesting you to make such amendments known where it is possible.
On section 1 of the bill, any comments?
Mr Kormos: Prior to doing that, the Chair might recall that last time we were talking about this, the minister had talked about a number of amendments and a number of amendments were tabled. Some objection was made because at least one of the amendments that was referred to was not tabled and reference was made to the two-hour rule. I am wondering now, in view of the fact that we are not talking about hours but days, whether we could clarify, clear the air in that regard. Are there any more amendments, especially the one that the minister referred to but did not table last time we were here? I think that is important.
Hon Mr Elston: The amendments about which we spoke were enumerated. I read them out in terms of section by section, enumerating them for the Chair and for the table. They were all accounted for. There were 30 pieces that really dealt mostly with a lot of technical language cleanup, and here we are back to where we were at the start of the committee of the whole debate.
The First Deputy Chair: We are now on debate on section 1. Are there comments, questions on section 1?
Mr Kormos: I wonder whether the minister could start by explaining what this section is all about. Why is there a need to define “accountant” under an insurance act?
The First Deputy Chair: Before we proceed much further, we are on section 1 of the bill. I will point out to you what might seem strange to some people. Members are quite free to comment, to ask questions, to give their opinion on a matter. The Chair is in the unusual position of making sure that each member who wants to do such things has the opportunity to do so. But the Chair, of course, cannot force anyone to answer or to comment in return. The Chair will provide the opportunity for each member to make whatever comments he wants and will look to whoever might be responding to such things, but if he does not want to respond, there is nothing the Chair can do that will make him respond.
Hon Mr Elston: The opposition parties said they would talk about every clause. “Accountant,” as the honourable member well knows, is merely to refer to people who can do audits. I will tell you that this is another of their time-wasting activities.
Mr Wildman: Perhaps the minister could tell us what section of the Public Accountancy Act he is referring to here.
Mr Kormos: I appreciate that the Chair cannot force anybody to answer a question, but the Chair can surely inquire of a person whether he intends to answer the question. I am interested in the last question and I saw the minister shake his head. I know that my friend the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale said he heard the minister shake his head, and I appreciate that could happen as well. But I saw the minister shake his head in the negative. Am I to take that as meaning that he does not know or that he does not want to? I think that is a question of the minister.
Hon Mr Elston: He can take it any way he wants.
Mr Kormos: I am interested as to why this particular
definition is contained in the Insurance Act. What relevance does it have to any of the other amendments? If it is merely curing a defect that was present in the previous act, so be it. But why is it relevant or significant to have “accountant” defined under the Insurance Act? That is a question to the minister.
It is almost tautological to say, “Well, it means what it means.” Surely the minister has some explanation as to why this is a part of the amendment contained in Bill 68.
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable member has indicated that he wishes to waste a lot of time and he is attempting to do that with these questions. We have dealt already in the hearings, which were extensive, more than five weeks of committee hearings where we not only passed section 1 but in fact got all the way past section 50, up to about section 55 -- the honourable members of the opposition are again wasting time and are contributing only to a delay in the passage of the bill. That is their game and I guess we will have to go through this series of questions with them, but it is really highly unusual to ask questions such as that after having reviewed all this material in the committee stage beforehand.
Mr Wildman: Just in response to the minister’s latest
comment, I would say that from our point of view, we do not consider it a waste of time to try and stop this legislation. As a matter of fact, we consider that part of our responsibility because we all know that this legislation, if it is allowed to pass, will in fact not mean lower rates but will mean increasing rates and will not be the kind of protection that the people of Algoma expect me to require of this government in terms of auto insurance. If the minister considers this a waste of time, perhaps he also considers it a waste of time to meet his responsibility to the people who have to buy auto insurance in this province.
Hon Mr Elston: We are meeting the responsibility to provide a new plan, a reformed plan, for the people of the province which will provide good coverage through auto insurance at reasonable rates. Now that the honourable gentleman, as he most of the time is and as his career here in the Legislature has shown, is up front about what the opposition is doing -- ie, preventing the passage of this legislation, in fact will never co-operate in dealing with any of this stuff -- it is nice that the people of the province know what these last two days of games have been about as far as the opposition people are concerned.
Mr Runciman: I would like to make a comment in response to what the minister is saying. He has suggested that we had carefully reviewed this legislation during the committee hearings process. I know that a number of us were very offended, to say the least, by the way this was handled by the ministry, the government and the officials represented at the hearings process.
The minister said we had every opportunity. I want to say that we did not have every opportunity at all. We had a number of actuarial studies which were conducted by the government, studies that it had completed much earlier on in the game prior to our conducting hearings and certainly in the midst of our hearings, which could have been provided to the committee, which would have given us a clearer indication of expert views on its impact on the consumers of this province.
They failed to provide that information until the last day of public hearings. If the minister calls that co-operation, if he calls that assisting the committee in making wise decisions and assessments of this legislation, 1 have to take strong issue with that. I think quite the contrary. I removed myself from the committee during the last two days of clause-by-clause because this minister had in his hands at the end of December 1989 rate submissions by the industry.
Hon Mr Elston: They didn’t come to me. They’re not mine.
Mr Runciman: It was gazetted that the industry was required to have its preliminary rate filings in by the end of December 1989 and its final rate filings in by the end of January. We were in the middle of hearings. This minister was out making public statements about rate increases. I think it is a backhanded slap in the face to members of the committee who were conducting hearings and trying to reach some conclusions in respect to this legislation and its impact on the people.
The minister had that kind of important of information and was unwilling to make it available to us. That offended, I think, all of us, certainly on the opposition benches, and it should have offended the Liberal members of the committee as well. I would like to see the minister respond to that. I am sure he will take the opportunity to do so. Perhaps we can continue this debate, because it is something that has bothered me.
I have been very much agitated about the fact that all of that information was in his hands, not all of it perhaps in terms of the actuarial studies -- I am not sure what the time line was on that -- but certainly some of those actuarial studies were done well before the hearings process got under way. Some were completed during the process of those hearings and could have been made available to the committee, could have made available to people like Professor Jack Carr for a careful assessment, and others who appeared before us as committee witnesses. That could have had a significant impact on their testimony because they would have had the relevant information before them in order to make a careful assessment of the legislation and its impact.
The government, through its own efforts, tried to obscure the real cost of this from the people of the province, tried to obscure the very negative impact of this legislation, the fact that the threshold might impact on up to 95 or 96 per cent of innocent accident victims in the province rather than the 90 per cent figure that had been used up to that point or during the committee hearings process.
The fact was that the minister, in this House and in public forums, had said, “We are looking at a zero to eight per cent increase,” and then went out saying, “There could be increases of 20 to 25 per cent, for some drivers,” people with Jaguars, etc., that sort of thing that he was talking about, making those kinds of comments, those kinds of public statements in the middle of a public hearing process. Again I say now, as I said then, that it was an insult to the members of the committee and the members of this Legislature and, in my view, a breach of the privileges of members of this assembly.
When the minister stands up and says, “We had ample opportunity to review this legislation,” he is very much incorrect. We had anything but every opportunity to really appreciate and have an opportunity to explore the very significant implications of this, because the government and that minister sitting over there refused to provide the information until the last moment.
They provided the actuarial studies on the last day of public hearings. They provided them only after I had made a submission under the freedom-of-information act. Finally, on the last day, when they could minimize the damage to themselves in terms of the public impact, they brought this in and dropped it on our desks.
Then they tried to refuse the opportunity for an expert witness to have a lousy 15 minutes to respond after he had had about half an hour to review the documents, and he was given a tough time by the member for York Mills who harassed the opposition members on that committee on a daily basis. Talk about obstructionist tactics. They were certainly exercised by that particular member on a daily basis.
To refuse that individual a measly 15 minutes to try to have some input into the implications of all of those actuarial studies I think speaks volumes about the intent of this government; the intent of certain members on the Liberal benches of the committee; the directions they were receiving from the minister and from the parliamentary assistant.
Their intent was not to assist us, not to give us the insights required to make a judgement based on the real facts, the real implications of this legislation. No, not that at all. They had their own political agenda. They followed it very carefully. “Hide the facts until we are forced to reveal them and at that point, when we are forced to reveal them, we want to do what we can to minimize the damage.” They followed that agenda pretty carefully.
When the minister gets up here today and say we had every opportunity during the hearings process, I want to say that gentleman has a lot of gall.
Mr Wildman: The member is a little hairier than the last time we spoke.
I just want to comment on what the minister said in response to my earlier remark. I will not comment directly on what my friend the member for Leeds-Grenville has just said because I was not party to the committee deliberations, but I did keep track of it through the media and Hansard.
I make no apologies whatever for my earlier remark. The fact is that we in this House all know that this government received a very strong mandate from the people of Ontario, based partly on the commitment by the Premier of this province, the leader of the Liberal Party, that he was going to lower rates.
I do not have to repeat the comments made by the member for Leeds-Grenville just a moment ago when he said that during the very time that the committee was looking at this bill, he was going around talking about rate increases, not decreases; not keeping them at the same level, but increases.
If this government insists on passing legislation without proper amendment that is actually going to result in lower rates, then this bill should be withdrawn. If the government does not want to withdraw the bill, then we will do everything in our power to delay its passage, because this government was given a mandate to lower rates, not raise them.
Mr Kormos: I appreciate that it is difficult for the minister to be confronted with questions because, once again, he was not present during the course of the committee hearings. We all had a great deal of sympathy for the member for Guelph, the Liberal MPP who was the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Financial Institutions, because he got thrust out into the front line. He got sent to the eastern front while the minister stayed behind in the bunker hiding out, trying to dissociate himself as much as he possibly could from this legislation.
He was not there during committee. Obviously, he did not want to answer questions then, and he is showing a real reluctance to answer questions now. But the other day I made reference to a little notation in the Canadian Underwriter magazine, the magazine that writes for and about the insurance industry, the March 1990 copy. Lo and behold, it indicates that the insurance industry in Canada showed record profits for the last eight years. It had a profit of $317 million in the third quarter of 1989 alone. That covers all types of insurance, including automobile insurance.
There has been a whole lot of talk about actuarial studies and, quite frankly, a whole lot of misleading talk about studies, the ones that were finally released on 6 February. The government sat on those; the government kept those a secret. There was a parallel study being undertaken by this government which shows how it had no intention of ever regarding or paying heed to the recommendations of the Kruger Ontario Automobile Insurance Board after its study of threshold insurance, the three threshold schemes from the United States that were presented to it.
I should mention that those three threshold schemes that the 0MB studied and rejected were less onerous than the threshold scheme that the minister is trying to tell people and has told people -- this scheme that he is talking about right here and now -- is one that is made in Canada. So be it. If he keeps on insisting on that, we will let him have his way on that one. But he has to be reminded now and again that indeed, if it was made in Canada, if it was made in Ontario, it was not written here at Queen’s Park. It was written in the boardrooms of the insurance industry and they are the only people it helps.
Though the minister and his people for a long time have been telling a whole lot of people that the effect of this legislation is that more money is going to be spread out among more people, that just was not true, because those secret studies that we finally forced out of the government on 6 February -- after the committee had heard from all of its witnesses and after any of those witnesses had an opportunity to examine those same studies and comment on them-the government’s own actuarial studies show that some $823 million less is going to be paid out by the insurance industries in one year for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, and the net reduction in payout by the insurance industry is going to be $823 million. If you add the taxpayers’ subsidy of the insurance industry under that, you have a payday of $1 billion in the first year alone. This legislation creates a $1-billion payday, $1 billion for the insurance industry in the first year alone, and every penny of that $1 billion stolen from taxpayers, stolen from drivers and stolen from injured victims. That is the saddest of all.
We are talking about an industry that was not doing so badly to begin with, and I just cannot understand how the minister has talked about fixing the profitability of the insurance industry when it showed record eight-year profits, in the last third quarter, for the quarter alone, that third quarter, of $317 million in profits.
I know that the insurance industry invested some money in these Liberals during their candidacies in the 1987 election in excess of $100,000 by way of campaign contributions, but a payback of $1 billion for $100,000 and change probably reflects really usurious interest rates. The question that was asked time and time again of the parliamentary assistant, the member for Guelph, the Liberal, the fellow whom the Minister of Financial Institutions made go out there -- and he is the one who told the press after we had been up in Sudbury that the committee, the Liberals, got hammered.
He was, of course, referring to, I hope, the submissions that were made to the committee by people in the community. He is the one who admitted that the government has not been faring so well and indeed, there have been more than a few Liberal members who have had their own riding associations prevailing upon them, saying: “Dump this bill. Dump this bad legislation.”
We have a whole lot of other Liberal members who will not appear in this House to participate in any discussion of the bill, either because they do not know what it is about or because they are ashamed to be associated with it. We have an industry that is incredibly profitable, obviously incredibly powerful. Its ethics are questionable, because it obviously thinks nothing of buying a government or, perhaps more appropriately, it is sort of like a lend-lease deal rather than an outright purchase.
Mr Faubert: Make that statement outside the House.
Mr Kormos: I think I have touched a nerve there. I do not know whether the fellow who is doing the heckling from the Liberal benches is one of those beneficiaries of the insurance company largess or not. I know that some of the people who sat on the committee got donations -- at least they were the donations that were recorded, the ones that we could determine from looking at the records.
Hon Mr Elston: Oh, come on now. That is not -- you know very well.
Mr Kormos: The minister says, “Come on.” Patti Starr was not courting the New Democrats and spreading her wares out among them.
The Chair: Would the member address his remarks to section 1.
Mr Kormos: I should ask, Mr Chairman, when we are talking about -- I started with subsection 1(1). Are we going to deal with this subsection by subsection, or with the whole section in total?
The Chair: The entire section.
Mr Kormos: I am sorry then, because I was still on “accountant. It “means a person who is licensed under the Public Accountancy Act.” I wonder then, if we are talking about subsection 1(3) where it talks about “class of risk exposure,” could the minister tell us why that amendment is included in this package and what impact it will have on the overall operation of the Insurance Act. I am referring to the definition “class of risk exposure.”
Why is that a new facet of the Insurance Act and one that has to be included in Bill 68? That is to the Minister of Financial Institutions, if he cares to answer it. I know the Chair has already said the Chair has no power to compel a minister to answer a question put to him during the course of committee of the whole discussion. I guess that is only appropriate but the silence of a minister in response to a question speaks volumes. I know they do it occasionally in question period too. They will not -- not occasionally. Holy cow, we have been sitting here and trying to ask the Minister of Financial Institutions about insurance problems and he will weave and bob and the whole works rather than answer a very specific question with a very specific answer.
I am wondering if he could help us out with this “class of risk exposure,” which is going to be paragraph l3a in the Insurance Act if indeed this bill is passed. You also will know, Mr Chairman, that the parliamentary assistant, the member for Guelph, is the one who has had to stickhandle this insurance bill because the minister recognized the political danger in being too intimately associated with it, because as has been said, “Insurance companies cannot vote; drivers can.
He is in really close, really tight with the insurance industry. He has lost some of his rapport certainly. Drivers’ victims, potential victims, trade unionists, workers, senior citizens -- senior citizens, we know, are going to get forced into the Facility Association in numbers never before imagined. Mr Justice Osborne of the Supreme Court told us that. Don McKay, the general manager of Facility Association, told us that. We are talking about the Facility Association, which has virtually more than doubled in size in the last 12, maybe 18 months. That is not with bad drivers; that is with good drivers. These people, a whole bunch of them being seniors, are forced into the Facility Association, paying premiums of not just hundreds of dollars but literally $1,000, $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 or $5,000. Those are the kinds of premiums being paid to the Facility Association.
As I say, the minister declined to appear at the committee. His parliamentary assistant told the press, and indeed told the committee in response to questioning during the Sudbury sitting, that there would not be any fundamental changes to the legislation. That was remarkable, because I asked him again, “Are you mistaken about that?” I said: “Mr Ferraro, we’re halfway through the committee process. Are you really telling us, because the government controls the committee with its majority and controls the legislative process with its majority, that there will not be any changes to this legislation before you’ve even heard all of the participants in the” --
Hon Mr Elston: Pardon me, Mr Chair. He asked me the question. A point of order.
Mr Kormos: Oh, I am sorry; I did not hear. The minister has jumped to his feet. I see that.
Hon Mr Elston: He has been babbling on now for about 15 minutes. He has asked me to answer a question about “class of risk exposure.” I am willing to respond, except he has been speaking about everything other than section 1 or subsection 1(3), and to be quite honest, as I understand it, once the question has been put, although we know that his whole essence, his whole reason for being is to prevent Bill 68 from even being considered or even talked about, I think it at least would be helpful if he would allow me to respond to his question.
He has gone off and made wild accusations. His exaggeration proneness is again being exposed to the public of Ontario. But I would not mind if I could, if he would allow me to respond, dealing with the issue of “class of risk exposure.”
The Chair: Does the member for Welland-Thorold want the minister to answer his question now?
Mr Kormos: That is fine. I will mark my spot so I can get back to where I was when I start again.
Hon Mr Elston: It will not take him long to mark his spot because any place he lays his finger on his notes will probably be where he starts again.
We have to have “class of risk exposure” limited to the auto insurance coverage so that in fact we can do the things that are required to review the classification of risk and the rules associated with rate schemes and other things under the Insurance Act. We have to have that as part of our act. Otherwise we would not have the ability to allow the new commissioner, who will have very broad and very extensive powers to intercede on behalf of consumers, to ensure that first of all there are fair rates, and second of all that they are dealt with fairly by the companies and get their compensation under the expanded no-fault benefits, and in fact that the system works properly.
This is a necessary requirement to allow the people who are going to be looking after the interests of the consumers of the province to do their job, although these people want us to be prevented from implementing expanded, new, broad, consumer-oriented protection powers and authorities that will assist us in getting fair rates for insurance coverage in the province.
Mr Kormos: That is a crock. That is just incredible. One of the things that has not been talked about a whole lot lately, certainly not by the government, was that it had the audacity to call this the Ontario motorist protection plan. In fact, who it protects are the insurance companies because it basically takes away any risk from their operation. It does not protect drivers. It does not protect motorists. It does not protect victims. It does not protect workers. The only people it protects are the shareholders of the auto insurance industry.
We talked the other day about how even the stock market tout sheets -- something with which the minister is probably far more familiar than I -- are touting auto insurance companies. They are saying: “Buy, buy buy. This stock is going to become more and more valuable because the scheme the government is trying to ram through” -- they did not say “ram through” -- ”is going to make insurance company profits, automobile especially, just out of this world.
The other thing that is interesting, and we talked about this the other day -- I still did not get an answer to this one -- is that the same magazine, but a different issue, Canadian Underwriter, February 1990, broke down -- this one deals with automobile insurance companies, specifically with Ontario automobile insurance companies. Mind you, the information in this little report comes from the Insurance Bureau of Canada. That is the big gun for the insurance industry.
That is the one that has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, of drivers’ premium dollars, on outlandish ad campaigns since the last general election and then on those quasi-full page ads in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and I guess the Winnipeg papers and so on -- or Windsor papers, rather. They might have done it in Winnipeg as well, hoping for full coverage, because they obviously do not care what they do with drivers’ money. In any event the Insurance Bureau of Canada wrote down what it interprets as losses by the auto insurance industry in Ontario.
Mr Justice Barr appeared before the committee talking about Bill 68 and how bad it was. Mr Justice Barr is a retired trial judge of the Supreme Court. He remarked that when he started practising law back in 1955, some of the same companies that were crying about losing money now, were crying about losing money back in 1955. These companies are veritable Mother Teresas, obviously, in the way they carry on in a business that they insist they have been losing money on, not just for years but for decades.
We always have to be sceptical about that. The real proof is, why would a company stay in business if it continued to lose money year after year after year and cried such big tears and so loudly about it? What we have learned as a result of the government’s multimillion-dollar Ontario Automobile Insurance Board is that when insurance companies say “loss,” what that means is “profit.” We learned that and that is the case. In 1987 the automobile insurance industry in Ontario said it lost $142 million. They said they were in the red to the tune of $142 million.
Irene Bass is the accountant for Mercer. That is why I am speaking about this under consideration of section 1; we are talking about accountants here. She is an --
Hon Mr Elston: She’s an actuary.
Mr Kormos: And an accountant. I talked to Ms Bass at length. They imported her from Manhattan, from Mercer, one of the biggest insurance interests in North America and perhaps in the world, but so be it. They paid her a whole lot of money to analyse the cooked books of the insurance industry. Again, if the government had not thought the books were cooked, why would it bother bringing in Irene Bass to analyse the cooked books? So even the government knew that the insurance industry exaggerates losses and hides profits.
Ms Bass, a very capable person, found by digging through the books that when the insurance companies said they lost $142 million, it meant they made $55 million. That was sort of give or take, because she thought there were some hidden figures that even she was unable to uncover. So we know the insurance companies lie like rugs when it comes to telling people whether they made a loss or whether they made a profit. Some people have called them menteurs à triple étage, and rightly so.
What the Canadian Underwriter magazine says -- and this again is information that comes from the Insurance Bureau. Just think about it for a minute. The insurance industry has a whole lot at stake here. They have a $1-billion pay day. A billion bucks is in store for them in the first year alone, a billion bucks seized from the taxpayers of Ontario, seized from the drivers of Ontario and stolen from innocent injured victims. It is compensation rightly theirs that they will never receive and which this government is taking from them so that the carpets in the insurance companies’ offices can be plusher, the cars their executives drive can be bigger and the profits they make can be more than they ever dared dream of.
The one thing we did not hear about when the insurance companies were talking about their incredible losses was the cutbacks on executive salaries in the insurance industry. We did not hear about the perks being eliminated for the president and other executive personnel. We did not hear about any corporate jets being sold off. We did not hear about --
Mr Morin-Strom: The offices being abandoned there.
Mr Kormos: That is right, “Sell this office tower because our accountant told us to move into a low-rise.”
That is what this is all about when we are talking about section 1 and accountants, at least in this first amendment, an “‘accountant’ means a person who is licensed under the Public Accountancy Act.” We did not hear from the accountants for the insurance industry saying they recommended to their bosses that they had better start taking these cost-cutting routes because they were losing money. Of course they are not losing money; they would not stay in business if they were losing money. It is a sucker’s game to believe that. You have to be damnably stupid to believe they are losing money, and you have to be even stupider to think other people are going to believe you when you start proclaiming that.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada, with its cooked books, its lies, its dishonesty and its $1-billion pay day in the offing, says this about the auto insurance industry in Ontario. I am not afraid to read this, because of course this says that the auto insurance industry lost money last year.
Let’s take a look at this for just a minute. The Insurance Bureau of Canada said -- and IBC and Jack Lyndon are almost one and the same. When Jack Lyndon talks, the Minister of Financial Institutions listens; there are just no two ways about it. In any event, for the nine-month period ending 30 September 1989, for every dollar of premium collected by the auto insurance industry in total in Ontario, 92 cents -- and this is the neat part, this is the really slick part, and this is what accountants will tell you insurance companies use to hide their profits -- 92 cents was paid out or reserved to pay claims.
That is the big gaffe. That is how we have had it explained that the insurance industry generates phoney losses, reserved to pay claims. It does not mean they pay that money out. It does not mean they stop earning interest on that money. It means that they just write it out in a book as a reserve and they can generate overly large reserves and artificial losses.
But even with their approach to accountancy -- because that is what we are talking about, accountancy -- 92 cents paid out or reserved to pay claims, 21 cents was paid out for operating expenses. Now 21 cents of every premium dollar is awfully high. That was brokers’ commissions and company overhead. That is not a very efficient industry. That is not an industry that has cut off or trimmed the fat when it is still paying out 21 cents of every premium dollar for brokers’ commissions and company overhead. You are talking about an incredibly inefficient way of delivering an insurance product. That is something we have been telling these guys, the Liberals, for a long, long time now.
So for every dollar collected, 92 cents is paid out or reserved to pay claims, 21 cents paid out for operating expenses because of their inefficiency and high overhead costs, brokers’ commissions and company overhead, three cents paid to the provincial government in premium taxes -- that is what this government wants to take away. They want to unload that obligation on to the taxpayer. They want to relieve the insurance industry of its tax obligations and unload it on to the men and women who work hard in our factories and in our businesses, who work hard to live in homes and send their kids to school, who have a modest lifestyle.
Okay, so 92 cents paid out or reserved to pay claims, 21 cents paid out for operating expenses, three cents paid in premium taxes, and 14 cents was earned in investment income. Now we are looking at the other side, not the payout but the take-in. Now catch this: The net result is that auto insurance companies lost two cents for ever dollar collected in premiums.
The reason why it is important to go through that is, first, they have been able to generate an artificial loss of two cents on every premium dollar, because do not forget, their 92 cents per premium dollar payout also includes reserves. But even if we take -- for the briefest of moments, no matter how difficult it is; use your imagination -- the word of the insurance industry itself, even they are only saying they only lost two cents on every dollar.
What this government is doing is forgiving them the three per cent premium tax. It is giving them premium increases of eight per cent to 50 per cent; that is what the minister said. The minister said that we are going to see premium increases of up to 50 per cent here in Ontario once this bill is passed.
‘Why is the Minister of Financial Institutions, why is the Premier, why are the Liberals so intent on giving away the whole farm? If they really insist on believing the insurance industry, merely forgiving the three per cent premium tax will more than compensate for the two cents lost on every dollar. But they insist not just on forgiving them the three cents on every dollar premium tax, they insist on making the taxpayer foot the bill for medical treatment for injured persons for whom an insurance company should be liable and responsible. And they insist, the Liberals, the Premier who promised back in 1987 that he had a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums -- and I have talked about this before, and far be it from me to call the Premier a liar, but I say that people across --
Hon Mr Elston: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: Which section or subsection of section 1 is the member on? He does not relate it to anything at all. He mentions the word “accountant” once in a while and then rambles and babbles on for a while. Could you call him to order so that we can get on with the work of the House?
The Chair: May I remind the member for Welland-Thorold to stick to the discussion on section 1?
Mr Kormos: Certainly, Mr Chairman.
So far be it from me to call the Premier a liar, but I say that when people across Ontario talk about the Premier’s promise back in 1987 that he had a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums, and then when they reflect on that and look at Bill 68, a very specific plan to increase profits for the auto insurance industry, do I have to tell the members what people are saying about the Premier?
No matter how hard I have tried to dissuade them, they still insist to me that the Premier must have lied in 1987. I say, “No, maybe it was just carelessness on his part.” People say, “No, do not stick up for him, because he promised he had a specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums, and all he has given us is Bill 68, a very specific plan to increase profits for the auto insurance industry,” increase profits by taking the money from the pockets of taxpayers -- $141 million to $143 million in the first year alone.
We are talking about the most highly subsidized auto insurance industry anywhere in the whole world once this legislation passes. The taxpayer is going to be subsidizing private corporate auto insurance industries, many of them from the United States. Many of them are our American friends, if you can call that type of relationship that an insurance company has with its victim -- be it the driver, the accident victim, the taxpayer -- if you can by any stretch of the imagination describe that as a friendly relationship.
So one really has to wonder, what has the insurance industry got on the Premier? What has it got on the Minister of Financial Institutions? What has it got on the Liberal caucus that makes it so beholden to the auto insurance industry? What type of leverage is the insurance industry really employing here that it would get people to protect their interests, the insurance company’s interests, so effectively and thoroughly and completely at the expense of good, hard-working people?
Hon Mr Ward: There seems to be an amazing lack of progress on the bill at this stage, and I wonder whether or not it is appropriate that perhaps the committee rise and report, because I would like to advise the House of some changes in the order of business for tomorrow.
On motion by Mr Ward, the committee of the whole reported progress.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon Mr Ward: On a point of information, I wish to advise the members of the Legislature that, given the obvious lack of progress on the bill under consideration before us today, I have tabled with the Clerk of the House a motion pursuant to the standing orders to allocate time for the balance of the consideration of committee of the whole and third reading, and I wish to advise the House and all members that it is my intent to call that motion for consideration tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 1757.