The House met at 1330.
The Deputy Speaker: Before we proceed, I would like to ask all members to join me in welcoming the third group of pages to serve in the spring session of the 34th Parliament, 1990:
Natasha Allard, Port Arthur; Susan Cargill, Muskoka-Georgian Bay; Nicholas Chan, Wentworth North; Tricia Fuerth, Essex-Kent; Priya Ghandikota, Oriole; Meghan Graham, Wellington; Jennifer Grandy, Parry Sound; Sean Haberle, Leeds-Grenville; Celia Hatton, Hamilton West; Michael Johnson, Scarborough-Agincourt; Tamara Kordiuk, Parkdale; Mélisse Lafrance, Nipissing; Jennifer Logan, Durham West; Anne Marie MacDonell, Windsor-Walkerville; David Mariai, Willowdale; Karen McGlone, Lincoln; Thomas Medland, Simcoe West; Christina Milan, Renfrew North; Paul Pacitto, York Centre; Grant Poulsen, Mississauga North; Natasha Poushinsky, Essex South; Justin Rodney, Huron; Mark Wilson, Lambton; Yee Fun Wong, Riverdale.
Please welcome the pages
The Deputy Speaker: Furthermore, I would like to read a ruling that has been overdue, dating from a request on 23 April.
On Monday 23 April 1990, the member for Ottawa West raised a point of order as to whether the participation of the member for Welland-Thorold in the debate on government notice of motion 30 constituted such an abuse of the privileges of members that the Speaker would intervene and call upon another member to speak.
In his argument, the honourable member raised the privilege of freedom of speech and made reference to citation 77 in the sixth edition of Beauchesne’s Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, which states that, “Freedom of speech does not mean that members have an unlimited or unrestrained right to speak on every issue. The rules of the House impose limits on the participation of members and it is the duty of the Speaker to restrain those who abuse the rules.”
First, let me say that the privilege of freedom of speech is the most important privilege of members. Section 37 of the Legislative Assembly Act provides that, “A member of the assembly is not liable to any civil action or prosecution, arrest, imprisonment or damages, by reason of any matter or thing brought by him by petition, bill, resolution, motion or otherwise, or said by him before the assembly or a committee thereof.” However, while a member enjoys this immunity necessary to perform his or her parliamentary work, the privilege of freedom of speech is subject to the power of the House to regulate its own internal proceedings by establishing rules of procedures or standing orders.
The statement in Beauchesne cited by the honourable member is accurate as far as it concerns the House of Commons of Canada. The rules of that Legislature specifically provide for time limits on most speeches in the House and its committees and, therefore, do not permit “an unlimited or unrestrained right to speak.” The situation is different in Ontario. Except in very limited circumstances, our standing orders do not impose time limits on speeches. I remind the House that our rules were only very recently extensively amended, and there was a conscious decision by the House not to impose general time limits on members’ speeches.
In such circumstances, the Speaker is not in a position to impose time limits on members’ speeches or otherwise restrain or prevent members from speaking to a matter at length, provided that there is otherwise no breach of the rules or practices of the House.
The member for Ottawa West also cited a case at the House of Commons at Westminster. On 2 February 1881, Speaker Brand terminated a debate on his own responsibility --
Mr D. S. Cooke: Are you doing this by recollection?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Yes -- after a continuous sitting from 31 January to 2 February 1881, lasting 41.5 hours, during which Irish members had deliberately protracted the debate on the motion for leave to introduce the protection of person and property bill for the purpose of obstructing the business of Parliament.
An hon member: Bunch of Irish nationalists.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
In this instance, Speaker Brand declined to call upon any more members to speak, even though Irish members still wished to continue the debate and proceeded to put the question after saying that the “dignity, the credibility and the authority of this House are seriously threatened, and it is necessary that they should be vindicated.” It is important to note, however, that his action was supported by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and that the following day a resolution was adopted augmenting the Speaker’s powers.
In 1882, closure was embodied in the rules. Therefore, the precedent as cited is not useful to us in this House. Although the situation upon which the point of order raised by the member for Ottawa West was based is now a moot point, I felt that it was important that I make this statement for the future guidance of the House.
Mr Farnan: Did the Premier lie to the people of Ontario when in Cambridge, just three days before the last provincial election, he said, “I have a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums”?
We all know what happened over the past three years. Prices continue to escalate and Bill 68 does nothing to guarantee either affordability or accessibility with regard to auto insurance.
Premiums will continue to go up despite the government’s massive subsidy of the auto insurance industry. It is becoming virtually impossible even for good drivers to get auto insurance, and more and more drivers are being forced into Facility insurance at exorbitant rates. The only thing reduced is benefits, and these have been radically reduced.
Yes the people of Ontario are looking at the facts, and they are asking questions: “Did the Premier keep his promise with regard to auto insurance? Can the word of David Peterson be trusted? Did he know what he intended to do when he made that promise on 7 September 1987?” If he did know, then surely the facts must lead the public to conclude that the Premier lied to them simply to win votes by means of promises he did not intend to keep.
The people of Ontario are left with the fundamental question, “Can we trust the word of David Peterson?” Based on his track record on the auto insurance industry, the answer is no, no, no. At least the voting public will have learned how much stock to put in the promises of the Premier which he will make in the upcoming provincial election.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to advise the member that his language was very close to being unparliamentary.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I will invite the member to be more cautious next time, please.
VANDALISM OF JEWISH CEMETERIES
Mr Cousens: On behalf of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, may I express to the Jewish communities in this province and throughout the country our shock and revulsion at the vandalism which has taken place in some of their cemeteries.
We were appalled by recent reports from France and England about the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, but we are even more horrified to realize that the same thing is happening in Canada. Three times over the last few weeks, cowardly vandals operating under the cover of darkness have committed acts of hatred against this minority group.
We deplore what has happened. At the same time we must take positive steps to educate people and try to eliminate the prejudice that leads to such actions, for if one minority is threatened, we are all threatened. Acts of hatred and prejudice demonstrate lack of self-confidence when persons must establish their self-worth by attacking others.
We do not know the culprits. Perhaps they acted out of ignorance or were influenced by the prejudices of others. Whoever they are and whatever the cause, we must make sure that the full weight of society’s disapproval comes down on them. Such behaviour will not be permitted.
It has been said that it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice, but that does not mean we should stop trying; after all we finally did succeed in smashing the atom. We must do the same thing with racial prejudice.
Mr Sola: Don Laughton has been named Mississauga’s citizen of the year for 1990. I would like to congratulate the four-member committee for this excellent choice. It is nice to see the Gordon S. Shipp Memorial Award given to this exemplary citizen of my riding, Mississauga East.
I first met Don two years ago at the official opening of the Dixie-Bloor Neighbourhood Centre where he serves as president and English-as-a-second-language instructor. Since then, we have met at various and numerous committees and meetings.
Actually, it is hard not to run into Don in Mississauga, as can be seen from his activity in the following institutions, to name but a few: Community Living, the United Way, the Canadian Autistic Society, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Parkinson Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Dixie-Bloor Neighbourhood Centre, Bethesda United Church, St Luke’s Bethesda Refugee Committee and Bethesda Concert Series.
Community Living is a perfect example of Don’s commitment, serving as a volunteer for 14 years, 11 as a board member and three as president. His dedication to helping refugees goes beyond belonging to committees. He has taken many under his roof and has sponsored many more.
A lifelong resident of Mississauga, Don grew up on his family’s farm in the area, where he learned that you get out of life what you put into it.
As the Mississauga News aptly put it, “Volunteerism is a way of life” for Don Laughton.
Miss Martel: It is a sad fact that Ontario has to send people to private clinics in the United States to attend drug rehabilitation programs. So much for the rhetoric of the Minister of Health, who claims care should be available as close to home as possible. The millions of dollars spent in the US should be used to provide treatment programs and facilities in Ontario. The need is evident.
In Sudbury, Pinegate Addiction Service runs an adult program which operates at full capacity but is badly understaffed. The service provides day and outpatient treatment programs in a non-residential setting in the city. A Significant Others program is also offered weekly to teach spouses, adult children and friends how to deal with and help chemically dependent family members. The target population is adults with actual or potential dependencies.
In 1986 and 1989, Pinegate submitted funding proposals to the district health unit, but in that time the Ministry of Health has not called for proposals to be submitted so permanent funding has not been provided.
Pinegate has run the adult program for three years with moneys from the Sudbury-Algoma Hospital Foundation. This funding expired 31 March 1990. The Ministry of Health provided one-shot funding for a worker for one year to keep the program going. When this expires, the service will close due to lack of permanent funding.
If we are going to stop sending people to the US for treatment, then programs and facilities are needed in Ontario. The adult program at Pinegate should be supported on a permanent basis.
GREATER TORONTO AREA RAPID TRANSIT
Mr Cousens: There has been an uneasy silence since the announcement by the Minister of Transportation regarding transit initiatives for the greater Toronto area. We know that a number of projects have been announced and that a transportation committee has been established to set up an implementation schedule.
However, there are a number of things that the public does not know and has a right to know. For example, who are the key decision-makers on this committee? What is their frame of reference for determining which projects are undertaken first? What are the criteria for private sector involvement? What plans are in place should Toronto become the host city for Expo 2000, which is to be announced some 17 days from now, or for the 1996 Olympics, to be announced 113 days from now? How much weight is being given to these events?
The minister’s hesitation in clearly defining his priorities is leading to confusion and frustration. There have been signs of serious infighting between certain municipalities in competing for their community’s projects.
Tomorrow I will be making a brief presentation to the ‘TTC board of commissioners. There are a number of concerns which my party is committed to addressing as we chart a course for transportation in Metropolitan Toronto and the greater Toronto area.
The public will be underwriting these expensive ventures. They have a right to be kept informed on a regular basis and to be given an opportunity for input. Our party will continue to work towards ensuring that this will be the case.
Mr Ballinger: On Friday evening I was extremely pleased to be invited to attend the annual volunteer awards night in my hometown of Uxbridge.
Well over 300 volunteers and staff were in attendance to pay tribute to some very special people who were being honoured by their peers for their outstanding contribution to their community.
I would like at this time to pay special recognition to seven volunteer firefighters who were collectively honoured for their many years of competent service in the protection of the citizens of Uxbridge.
Each of these volunteer firefighters has held down regular jobs as well as meeting the demands on a daily basis that come with the responsibility of working as volunteer firefighters.
Fire Chief Norm James has been a firefighter in Uxbridge for 38 years; Harvey Acton, an old friend, for 36 years; Murray Taylor, 29 years; Pete Catherwood, 29 years; Jack Gordon, 30 years; Bob Noble and Earl Yake, for 20 years.
At a time when society’s demands on governments at all levels are increasing, it is great to represent a riding such as Durham-York where there are still many volunteers like the seven I have just mentioned who have put the needs of their community first and foremost time and time again.
I salute those volunteer firefighters for providing such an essential service and I am sure the awards they received from both the federal and the provincial government will be displayed proudly and hopefully recognized by them as outstanding achievements.
Mr Hampton: The government’s auto insurance charade continues. Over the past 12 months the government has been telling consumers in Ontario that, all other factors being equal, the annual insurance rate increases are limited to 8% or less, and insurance companies cannot suspend individual auto insurance contracts without a valid reason. But what is happening out there to consumers of auto insurance shows that, once again, the Peterson government’s actions fall far short of its promises.
Recently, an elderly gentleman from the community of Rainy River came to me with his 1989 insurance policy and his 1990 insurance policy. He has a 30-year, clean-driving record. He drives a car that is over 10 years old. But in his 1990 insurance policy the insurance company tried to increase his rate by over 50% -- no explanation, no reason, just that the 1990 policy was going to be over 50% greater than in 1989.
The consumer and my constituency office objected to the increase and, after a long list of apologies, the insurance company reduced the rate. But these kinds of increases and abuses are going on all across the province of Ontario. The minister in charge of insurance has very little to say about it; in fact, he wants to ignore it. We have little to show us that the third new government attempt is going to be any better; in fact, it could be a lot worse.
Mr Brandt: Tomorrow the Association of Municipalities of Ontario will make its annual submission to cabinet. Traditionally, this is when cabinet listens to Ontario’s municipalities and works with them to deliver the best programs possible.
There has been, however, a drastic change over the past five years. What was once a good working relationship has turned into a battleground where the province is passing on program after program to the municipalities. The government is saying, “You must deliver courtroom security, pay equity, social assistance reforms, the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement and a dozen other provincial initiatives, and you must pay for them out of your own pocket.”
The latest setback for municipalities came in the budget. The two new crown corporations for water and sewers and property assessment will charge municipalities for their services. Local governments have no choice now but to raise taxes or cut programs. Taxes are going up in Essex county by 25% this year because of inadequate provincial transfers. In London, the Premier’s backyard, half of the entire tax increase is directly attributable to the offloading policies of this government, and in some areas blue box programs and road repairs are being cut as a direct result of these provincial problems. The taxpayers at the local level cannot afford any more taxes.
Mr Kozyra: It is an honour for me to rise in the House today to announce that the city of Thunder Bay has just been chosen to host the 1995 World Nordic Ski Championships. Thunder Bay’s bid for this major winter sports event was approved on Saturday by the Fédération internationale de ski congress held in Montreux, Switzerland.
More than 500 athletes from 30 countries are expected to compete at the World Nordic Games, which will involve 10 days of ski-jumping, cross-country skiing and nordic combined competitions at the world renowned Big Thunder National Ski Training Centre.
The government of Ontario is delighted to join forces with the federal government, the Canadian Ski Association and the good people of Thunder Bay to bring the ski championships to this province. The Ministry of Tourism and Recreation will provide up to $5 million in support of the event. In turn, the games will promote Ontario as a major tourism and sports destination and will bring $35 million in economic benefits, including more than 125 person-years of employment to northwest Ontario.
The games will leave a legacy of improved facilities for Thunder Bay residents and visitors. They will contribute to the athletic and personal development of our athletes, but they will also add to the skills and experience of a great many coaches, officials, administrators and volunteers. We can count on those very people to help make the event a milestone in amateur sport in the province, and that, in turn, will encourage Ontarians, particularly northern residents, to participate in recreation activities.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
ENVIRONMENTAL PURCHASING POLICY
Hon Mr Ward: This government shares with the people of our province a profound concern for the wellbeing of our environment. We want to make decisions and choices that will help ensure a legacy of clean air, clean water and clean land for our children. Recent decisions by our government have reflected that concern: protecting the Temagami wilderness, preserving the Rouge Valley, committing ourselves to reducing waste disposal by 25% by 1992 and 50% by the year 2000, creating an internationally renowned blue box program, adopting a waste-cutting program for the civil service.
Today we are unveiling a new weapon in the battle to protect our environment: our government’s purchasing policy. Each year, the Ontario government purchases more than $2 billion worth of goods and services. That represents enormous purchasing muscle. My ministry, the Ministry of Government Services, has a leadership role in setting the policy that determines how that money is spent. We believe the purchasing policy of our government represents a powerful tool for promoting waste reduction, reuse and recycling, conservation and the development of environmentally beneficial products and industries.
Today I am very pleased to announce a new environmental purchasing policy for Ontario, a policy that makes our province a leader in the field. To protect our environment, to promote the wise use of resources and to provide a role model for the broader public and private sectors, supplies, equipment and services purchased by our government will now support the 3Rs of waste management -- reduction, reuse and recycling -- and the conservation of energy and water.
To implement this initiative, specifications and selection criteria for the purchase of supplies, equipment and services will take into consideration the 3Rs and minimize the use and disposal of environmentally harmful materials. Ministries will now give consideration to suppliers who recognize our environmental concerns in the provision of their goods and services. Suppliers whose products or services meet our quality standards, are priced competitively and are also environmentally sensitive will enhance their opportunities to win government contracts.
We want to use our purchasing practices to encourage and support those suppliers of goods and services who advance the intent of our policy. We will move ahead in this regard with some carefully planned measures.
First, we will establish mandatory standards for designated products which contain specified levels of recycled content from post-consumer waste. Second, we will eliminate overspecification and unnecessary restrictions on goods and services that hinder the implementation of this policy. Third, we will use, where applicable, product specifications that are consistent with the national guidelines in minimum recycled content specifications issued by Environment Canada under the Environmental Protection Act, section 8.
To further support our new environmental purchasing policy, our government will designate goods and services which further the 3Rs of waste management and the conservation of energy and water. An interministerial steering committee on procurement, chaired by my ministry, will have responsibility for making recommendations to the government on the designation of mandatory environmental standards for these goods and services.
In support of this new purchasing policy, we will build a list of goods and services that lend themselves to the application of environmental considerations; we will establish and maintain minimum acceptable specifications for designated goods and services in conjunction with other jurisdictions; we will build a list of suppliers who are capable of providing designated goods and services and we will establish and maintain collective purchasing agreements for designated goods and services that must be used by all ministries.
Our new purchasing policy is effective immediately. It will be implemented as quickly as reasonably possible. Our ability to buy green immediately will be directly related, in many cases, to the availability of products.
Private industry in Canada has already begun to recognize public concerns about the environment. Many forward-looking businesses supply products and services for environment-conscious consumers which may well be appropriate for purchase by our government. For example, there is a wide range of products available that can substitute for products harmful to the environment, such as those made from or containing CFCs or such as toxic cleaning compounds. Appliances and fixtures are increasingly available to conserve water and energy, from energy-saving lightbulbs to water-conserving washroom fixtures. Waste-reducing products on the consumer market include double-sided photocopiers and packaging-reduced goods. Products that encourage recycling include recycled fine papers, retreaded truck tires and re-refined lubricating oil for cars and trucks.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Ward: I am especially pleased to note today that my own Ministry of Government Services is already well involved in environmentally sound practices. We are actively promoting the use of recycled products in the Ontario government workplace. Our collective purchasing section has established contracts valued at nearly $7 million in 1990-91 for the supply of recycled paper products such as printing stock, envelopes, photocopy paper, hand towels and tissue paper.
In addition, we have introduced a line of environmentally sensitive products for use in our offices. These items are being distributed under the name “Greenline” through our office products centre, the central supply service for the government.
Today, some 70 Greenline products are available, with many more to come. The Greenline includes a wide range of paper products, such as bond paper, envelopes, memo pads and folders, all containing at least 50% recycled paper. Another Greenline product provides an excellent example of waste reduction: The use of rechargeable toner cartridges for laser printers will eliminate the need for truckloads of bulky plastic cartridges that would have to be hauled away for disposal.
Another example of waste reduction will curtail the use of polystyrene cups here in the Legislative building and in government offices at Queen’s Park and in Downsview. Starting this week, some 11,500 government employees will receive these recycled glass coffee mugs bearing a message promoting recycling. By eliminating disposable cups in those offices, we will save some 2,000 cubic yards of garbage each year.
Since we launched our waste management program last October, the practice of workplace recycling in Ontario government offices has expanded from Metropolitan Toronto to provincial buildings across the province. Province-wide, government employees will divert some 1,500 metric tonnes of waste away from disposal this year.
Our list of examples goes on. We are now recycling phone books and directories. We are setting a good example of reuse with our surplus office furniture and equipment. This year, our surplus assets management section will redistribute $2 million worth of these goods. We are even embarking on a pilot project in the largest government cafeteria in the Macdonald Block to collect food waste and sell it as livestock feed. Every little bit helps.
Our government is pushing ahead on the largest fronts and the smallest fronts in this most important battle of our times, the battle to protect our environment. It is my hope that, through our actions, we can demonstrate to the public and to the corporate sector the wisdom and profound importance of environmentally sound policies and practices.
ST JOHN AMBULANCE
Hon Mrs Caplan: Today, I would like to pay tribute to St John Ambulance on the occasion of its celebration of St John Week in Ontario. This week, 70 branches throughout Ontario will be participating in events marking the Order of St John’s sterling history of service and dedication.
St John is renowned as the oldest charitable organization in the world. The order’s symbolic white cross has been present in Ontario since 1884, when its first recorded class was held at the Royal Military College in Kingston. Since then, St John in Ontario has trained about 2.5 million people in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, better known as CPR, and health care. The Volunteer Brigade of St John has helped more than three million residents in Ontario, from healing blisters to saving lives.
St John’s volunteers sprang into action in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel and at the Mississauga train derailment, and they have even assisted at forest fires in northern Ontario. There are more than 7,000 such unpaid volunteers in Ontario providing emergency first aid services at community events across the province. Last year, nearly 3,000 St John certified volunteer instructors trained more than 190,000 Ontario residents in first aid and CPR. That is a remarkable achievement.
The Ministry of Health provides training grants to St John to assist in its training program. This year, the ministry grant is $347,000.
Marching with the times, St John Ambulance now has an industrial training program to reduce on-the-job accidents.
I am sure the members of this House join me in commending St John Ambulance on its long, proud history and its contribution to the people of Ontario.
ST JOHN AMBULANCE
Mr Reville: The New Democrats enthusiastically join in the tribute paid to the St John Ambulance and the more than 7,000 volunteers who work tirelessly in our communities and now in our plants. But I noticed that 10 minutes were left in the time allotted to ministerial statements and I cannot believe that the Minister of Health did not stand up and say something about the Ajax and Pickering General Hospital, where elderly people are being hosed down in broom closets because the government has not got on with the expansion that is so desperately needed.
I do not know why they do not use the time that they have allotted; perhaps tomorrow.
ENVIRONMENTAL PURCHASING POLICY
Mrs Grier: We welcome the statement today by the Minister of Government Services and we think it is high time that this government had an environmental purchasing policy for Ontario. We had, of course, read about today’s announcement in the Toronto Star and we were well aware of it before it was announced in this House.
I think it is significant to remind the government that it is not exactly a world leader in this regard. Over 20 United States jurisdictions have developed procurement policies favouring recycled goods and material. In 1987, 60 per cent of the paper purchased by New York state contained recycled material. In Maryland, the policy is that 40 per cent of the state’s paper purchases contain 80 per cent recycled content. I am very glad that Ontario is finally getting around to putting in place an environmental purchasing policy.
I hope we will not spend years and months reinventing the wheel and may perhaps be open to learning from the experience in other jurisdictions as we begin to build the list of services and goods that the minister has said will have to be built before the policy becomes totally effective.
While the minister says that the purchasing policy is effective immediately and will be implemented as quickly as possible, there are an awful lot of things in this statement that yet have to be done, such as building a list of goods and services, establishing and maintaining minimal acceptable specifications, building a list of suppliers and establishing and maintaining collective purchasing agreements.
All of the preparation could have been done over the last five years that this government has been in office. They are very slow in getting around to doing this and I regret that, having finally got around to doing it, they have not included in the statement any specific target. We do not know from the minister’s statement today how much waste is going to be reduced by this policy. We do not know the time frame within which he hopes to reach a certain target.
This is a voluntary action on the part of the government. We in this party agree that voluntary actions to reduce waste are necessary, but we also feel that it is essential to put in place a regulatory framework so that all agencies, businesses and industries will be required to reduce waste. We sincerely regret that this government refuses to put in place that framework and seems to be relying entirely on voluntary participation. Not everyone perhaps will be as environmentally sensitive as the Minister of Government Services. I am glad today that he at least is.
ST JOHN AMBULANCE
Mr Eves: I would like to rise and join in commending the St John Ambulance society which has worked very hard in this province for over 100 years, and I would like to join with the minister and the member for Riverdale in extending our commendation to it.
It is always a dangerous thing to do, I can see, agreeing with the member for Riverdale, but I think that his advice to the Minister of Health is well taken on this occasion and that perhaps she should spend her time in ministerial statements in the next few days addressing the very real problems of the Ajax and Pickering hospital and also addressing the problems of some other volunteer organizations, such as the Red Cross and the Victorian Order of Nurses, that have to come to the minister on bended knee every year to ask her to bail them out so that they will not go bankrupt, so that they will not have to stop delivering their services; if the minister would kindly address their budget problems once and for all.
ENVIRONMENTAL PURCHASING POLICY
Mr J. M. Johnson: I would like to congratulate the Minister of Government Services in taking this initiative and suggest, as the member from the opposition has suggested, that the government should have been doing it for years.
I am a little puzzled at the comment in the second section where the minister says, “To provide a role model for the broader public and private sectors, supplies, equipment and services purchased by our government will now support the 3Rs of waste management -- reduction, reuse and recycling.” Why not now? This is rather late to be starting. I guess it is better late than never, but the government should have been working at it.
On his first page, the minister says, “Each year, the Ontario government purchases more than $2 billion worth of goods and services.” That certainly represents an enormous, as he calls it, purchasing muscle, but it also represents a lot of spending. Maybe he should take into consideration the first R of reduction and not spend so much money and not buy so many services that use resources.
The minister sent over the news release and he also sent four pages to go along with it. Maybe he could emphasize reduction, and that would solve some of the problem. Anyway, he is to be congratulated for doing something even now, and certainly the 11,500 government coffee mugs will be of some benefit to employees. Maybe he could send them to the 130 members as well.
Mrs Marland: I would be more impressed had this statement been on recycled paper. It does not say it is on recycled paper, so I have to assume it is not.
The one thing I would like to say to the minister on this subject is that this paper is imperial. I understand that the government has now thrown out the requirement for metric. Is that correct? There are a lot of trays all around the constituency offices and government offices in this province, which all converted to metric, and now we are back to imperial. I think it has been an interesting exercise and one which obviously the minister has done with some wisdom and without any fanfare, because nobody has heard about it officially.
I think that perhaps, Minister, when you get an opportunity to speak later on this afternoon, you might like to hold up the mug that I saw sitting on your desk. I recognize that in the speech you were supposed to say, “These recycled glass coffee mugs,” and I am sure you were supposed to hold it up. I am just helping you out here because --
The Deputy Speaker: The member will address the Speaker, please.
Mrs Marland: Sorry, Mr Speaker. I thought the minister would not want to miss that opportunity.
From the standpoint that I attended a three-day meeting in Washington as one of two representatives of this province at a North American meeting on the subject of the environment, I think it is very significant that this government is just now looking at energy-saving lightbulbs. We had a very enlightened presentation by the government officials in Washington who now are demonstrating the use of energy-saving lightbulbs. I am glad that if this government cannot lead, at least it can follow.
I also want to say, on the idea of collecting food waste from the government cafeteria and selling it as livestock feed, perhaps that is chicken feed at best. But I also hope that the Premier will get an opportunity to say that he really was not serious when I said that I was going to start eating everything so it would not be wasted and he said that he thought I ate everything now. I would like to tell the Premier that I am now a prime star candidate on the Nutri System, so he will not be able to say that much longer.
SOLID WASTE REDUCTION
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of the Environment and it concerns waste reduction. I regret that the minister was not here to hear me applaud his colleague the Minister of Government Services on taking at least a step towards waste reduction. I am sure the minister is aware that in a Gallup poll published today, 85 per cent of the population does not think that governments are doing enough to ensure a clean environment and I am sure he knows that high on the list of concerns is the whole question of what is to be done about our garbage.
This House last December supported unanimously a resolution of mine calling on the government to get serious about waste reduction. On 17 May again all parties supported a private member’s bill, the member for Hamilton West’s, putting into practice the tone of that resolution of last December. But when I asked the minister on 17 May whether he would support regulations to reduce garbage, he replied that he found it a little difficult, when there is voluntary action, to come in with a sledgehammer and hit people over the head and say, “Now you have to do this, you have to do that.”
Does the minister really believe that voluntary action is going to be successful in reaching the target he has set himself of reducing by 25% the total garbage going to landfill and incineration by the end of 1992? What assurance can he give us that voluntary action will reach that target?
Hon Mr Bradley: What we have seen in Ontario in terms of the response that people have had to various programs which have been designed to divert waste from either incineration or landfill is rather phenomenal. We have seen the kind of response that many people would not have predicted in terms of public participation in these efforts. Many of them have originated from individual groups and organizations within communities and some of them within the municipal councils themselves, and they are having a very significant impact on the amount of material that would go to either landfill or incineration in this province.
It is difficult. I know the member would like to regulate, and there are times when one has to regulate, but with the financial incentives that this government has put out for municipalities and for others to participate in reduction, reuse and recycling in this province, I think we are really going to achieve this. As I have said on numerous occasions in the House, many other jurisdictions are looking at what we are doing in Ontario with a view to emulating it because they see how successful it is.
The member is familiar enough with the environmental scene -- I know she has been concerned about it for a number of years, as a municipal councillor and now as a provincial member -- to know that if one talks to people in schools and people in various service clubs and organizations, all of them are making efforts to contribute to a solution to this problem. I certainly commend the people of Ontario for doing so.
Mrs Grier: The minister is at best guilty of painting an overly rosy picture of the situation. I agree that there has been a phenomenal response from individuals who want to reduce the amount of garbage, but there has not been a phenomenal response from industry and business. I do not share the minister’s conclusion that the response from individuals has had a significant impact on the amount of garbage going to landfills.
Let me show the minister graphically if he does not quite get the words that I sometimes use. The minister’s target is 25% reduction by the end of 1992, and 2% is what the minister’s voluntary effort has achieved. We are now one and a half years into the minister’s four-year program of reaching 25% reduction. How is he going to get from here to there using voluntary effort?
Hon Mr Bradley: I never use this word in the House because I am not one who does, but the socialist approach to things, which is overly regulated -- I know the Conservative Party would find that attractive perhaps -- is constant regulation and telling people what they must do. We see an evolution away from that around the world. In various jurisdictions we see people moving away from that to areas where we see some enthusiastic response to incentives that are put out there.
Mr Wildman: Why do you let Nixon stomp on you like that?
Hon Mr Bradley: Let me tell the member for Algoma, for instance, that we have two million households in Ontario that are on the blue box program. We have already achieved that and it is increasing all the time. We have already achieved at least a 14% diversion of waste in terms of the household waste we see.
The member will be aware that the new thing that is really taking off in Ontario, again on a voluntary basis, is composting: either a community effort or individual efforts on composting. This is working some rather significant reductions. In addition to that, through our industrial 3Rs program we provide incentives, suggestions and technical assistance to people in the business, commercial and industrial fields who are attempting to reduce, reuse and recycle. That is beginning to have a substantial impact and will grow like a snowball this year.
Mrs Grier: When the minister falls back on saying that regulation equals socialism equals something his government would not do, I think it shows how devoid of policies this minister is. We can say to people, “Don’t park on a certain street.” If we find it does not work, we put a regulation to make sure that desirable social objective is achieved.
What the minister is admitting, and what I want him to admit, is that with the target he has set himself -- it is not my target, it is his target, 25% reduction by 1992 -- he has no clear and specific policies that will get him to that target. I want to know, in addition, whether he has contingency plans so that when he has not reached the target by 1992, he will then begin to regulate. Is he preparing those contingency plans?
Hon Mr Bradley: Once again, the member is dwelling very heavily in this specific area of regulation. Certainly she and I would agree. I would not quarrel with her on the parking situation that she mentioned and the need to regulate in that regard.
I think, though, to be hypothetical, if you had a situation where people voluntarily did not violate that and were enthusiastically not violating that, then of course you would not have to regulate. There are instances where people are really enthusiastic about this, and I actually believe this is going to work. I am much more confident that the people of Ontario are prepared to respond in this way on this basis with enthusiasm than the member is. I have a lot of confidence in the people out there.
I know there are people in the business field, for instance, who are making a good business now out of the 3Rs, who are being very innovative, who are investing many thousands upon thousands of dollars in this particular business. We are seeing a reduction taking place, we are seeing a lot of reuse and we are seeing a lot of recycling. I wish the member would be as enthusiastic as the people of this province in this regard.
DEREGULATION OF TRUCKING INDUSTRY
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question to the Minister of Transportation, regarding his efforts last week to completely pass the buck to the federal government on his responsibility and the responsibility of the provincial government for the problems the truckers are experiencing in this province and across the nation.
A few years ago his government said, when the national government was negotiating free trade, that one-sided free trade would be totally unfair and would result in lost jobs in Ontario. Is it not true that through the deregulation of the trucking industry at the provincial level by his government, truckers lost protection and that jobs have been lost to the United States, and that is one of the bottom causes of last week’s demonstration?
Hon Mr Wrye: No.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I think people across this province know better than that. We saw the efforts by this government a couple of years ago. Publicly they said they were opposed to free trade, but here in the Legislature they threw up their hands and they could not get the deregulation bills on trucking passed quickly enough.
Our critic at the time, the member for Sault Ste Marie, predicted exactly what was going to happen. “The bill’s key test,” he said in the Legislature, “was a proposal to replace the present entry test in the Ontario trucking business from an examination of the need for additional services to an examination of the fitness of the applicant.” In other words, even if we did not need the competition in trucking, we got it in Ontario.
The minister knows there is a double standard as well. Truckers here in Ontario who go to the United States are not facing deregulation in every state; it has not been done state by state. Therefore we have to play by one set of rules over there, and the truckers who come here to Ontario play by a completely wide-open system.
The minister promised action. Is he prepared to revoke his deregulation bill so that our truckers are protected?
Hon Mr Wrye: What I am prepared to do and what we have been doing is continuing to lobby both at the federal level and at the state level for the kind of level playing field that I think all members of the House want. As recently as a week ago, my senior officials met with senior officials in the state of Michigan and raised once again the fact that the liberalization of the regulatory environment in Michigan, while welcome, does not go far enough. As well, we have continued to discuss these matters with the federal government.
But my honourable friend, I think, would want to acknowledge, and I would have thought would have been the first to acknowledge, the significance of the federal involvement in all of this. I just want to read, if I might, a short section of an article in last week’s Windsor Star, which obviously my good friend the member for Windsor-Riverside missed. It is about Bill Bondy, the owner of Bondy Freight Lines. My friend will know Bill quite well.
He said: “The issues raised by the truckers leave out the real problem with the Canadian industry -- the value of the Canadian dollar. A strong dollar coupled with deregulation to cripple the industry....
“‘Unless the dollar drops to levels of the mid-70s, the industry will continue to suffer,’ Bondy said.”
Mr Pouliot: What about the gas tax?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Wrye: That combined with high interest rates, combined with the huge spread in the Canadian and American interest rates, and not the issues my friend raises, are the real issues in this matter.
Mr Farnan: This government has cosied up to Mulroney on free trade, on the goods and services tax and now on the trucking industry. Reports indicate that 5,000 jobs have been lost in the last 18 months. David Bradley, the vice-president of the Ontario Trucking Association, guesstimates that this could be 12,000 jobs by the end of this year. We are losing Canadian jobs and Canadian companies to the United States.
What assurance will the minister give to the Waterloo region, one of the most significant centres of the trucking industry in this province, and what assurance will he give to the province as a whole, that he will not continue to sacrifice jobs in the trucking industry by his continuing cosying up to the Mulroney government?
Hon Mr Wrye: I am always amused when I hear from that side comments about cosying up to the Mulroney government on free trade. I always try to reflect back to those days in 1988 when we waited for Ed to speak out on free trade. We waited and we waited, but nothing ever happened.
The honourable member would want to know that this government has recognized, notwithstanding that many of the issues are federal, the importance of the jobs that are being lost. Indeed, under the direction of the Premier, we set up a trucking industry adjustment committee over a month ago on which Mr Bradley sits.
I note that an editorial last week, and I am sure my friend the member for Cambridge would not have seen it, said: “So far, only the Ontario government has recognized these high stakes. The province has already formed a trucking industry adjustment committee, including representatives of the industry and government, to examine the problems.”
So we are taking action to see what can be done in this jurisdiction and to press the federal government to improve the economic situation and the economic climate for truckers in the province.
Mr Harris: l am troubled that the Premier either was not or did not feel that he was in a position to report today on his talks with the Prime Minister over the weekend.
The Deputy Speaker: To whom is your question addressed?
Mr Harris: Given the seriousness of the constitutional crisis, Premier, I believe Ontario must provide clear, united, nonpartisan leadership to help resolve it --
Mr Ballinger: What do you think we have been doing for the last six months?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Harris: -- and I have only one question for the Premier today. There are three party leaders representing 130 members of this Legislature, all of whom love the nation, all of whom want to work to ensure that it remains strong and united after 23 June. I believe it is imperative that all three party leaders meet immediately to enable Ontario to speak with that strong, united, non-partisan voice. Will the Premier convene immediately a meeting of the three party leaders to see if we can work together on that?
Hon Mr Peterson: The answer is that I would be very happy, if the member would like, to meet and I could bring him up to date on what is happening. As he knows, there are a number of meetings the Prime Minister has convened with the premiers to try to determine where the common ground is. If my honourable friend is interested, I think I can tell him more where I think the differences exist at the present time.
The strategy in dealing with this is in the hands of the Prime Minister at the present time. He chose to have this series of meetings with the premiers. It is a distinct likelihood, I suspect, although I cannot speak with authority on this matter, that there will be a meeting of the first ministers in the not-too-distant future to finally resolve the question.
I know my honourable friend has more supplementaries and I would be happy to respond to those, because there are lots of things I would be happy to share with him.
Mr Harris: Thank you, Premier. I do have the opportunity for supplementaries. I actually was hoping that it would not be necessary.
I truly believe it is important that we meet on this issue. I suggest to him that I do not think this is the time to dredge up all our solutions over the last three years; I think we are beyond that now and I think he would agree with that. He obviously did not feel that it was appropriate to share, by way of statement, the discussions. I accept his view on that and I do not question that.
However, in view of that, I would think it is important that we meet immediately. I tell him that I am prepared to clear my schedule today; I am prepared to leave right now to start those discussions. I am sure the leader of the New Democratic Party, who I understand is in Ottawa today, would be prepared to join us at the earliest possible time. I understand that would be this evening. Should the Premier wish to wait until this evening, I would be prepared to do that if he feels the three of us should be together for the first meeting. I just do not believe that we have any time to waste in this Legislature and I am offering that in a very non-partisan way on behalf of my caucus.
Hon Mr Peterson: I would be happy to meet with the honourable member and the Leader of the Opposition as well. As the member knows, the resolution to this matter will not be among the three of us; it is going to be among the various provinces which have different views on this question at the present time.
I repeat what I said earlier to my honourable friend: I think they are narrower than most people would imagine in this circumstance, particularly on the question of the Senate veto and on the question of the distinct society. I have not had any reports as of this moment on the meeting of Mr Bourassa and Mr Mulroney. I still think there is some flexibility in the system, but it is not going to be easy. I agree with my honourable friend that there is not a lot of time in which to resolve this question.
One of the things that has characterized the debate in this province is that in this House I think there has been, with very few exceptions, a great deal of commitment to this country and great sensitivity for the other regions and the other provinces -- Quebec, but the other regions as well. I think that overwhelmingly at the top of everyone’s personal and political agenda has been how to build a stronger and more united Canada. It has not been an easy debate; it is not an easy debate for any one of us. It has been divisive, it has been tough on a number of parties, particularly our party and the New Democratic Party; perhaps less so on the member’s, even though there are divisions. We understand that.
But this is probably as important a debate as we will ever be involved in our whole political lives. I do not want to be overly dramatic, but I believe that the decisions that are made by the first ministers -- and the legislatures, because it is all of us together -- will probably have more influence on the future course of our country than, shall we say, the ordinary debates in which we are involved.
I welcome my honourable friend’s ideas or suggestions. I am sure he probably has a number of contacts across the country and friends with whom he could talk and try to persuade that, in the final analysis, we have to put the national interest at the top of every single person’s agenda. We also know that it is going to take some reach, it is going to take some accommodation and an enormous amount of sensitivity. But I would be very happy to meet with my honourable friend if he would like to discuss the matter, and certainly when the Leader of the Opposition is here perhaps the three of us can sit down and think through the matter.
Mr Harris: I agree with the Premier: I do not believe there is anything more important that I see on the horizon that we as political leaders in this province can be involved in. So I assure him that is foremost on my agenda. As I said, we are prepared to clear our schedules completely. I commend the Premier for agreeing to the suggestion and I indicate to him that I have not been able to have discussions this morning with the leader of the New Democratic Party. I would encourage the Premier to do that. I indicate that I do believe it is important that he, as Premier of this province, is able to speak with a unified, strong, non-partisan voice while representing all 130 of us. I am prepared today, right now or as soon as possible, to work towards that.
Hon Mr Peterson: I appreciate the constructive view of my friend opposite, and may I say that I enjoyed that relationship of trust with his predecessor, the member for Sarnia. I did take him into my confidence on a number of occasions, and it was a confidence extremely well placed, just as I have done with the Leader of the Opposition in the past.
I agree with my honourable friend. It is important. Because Ontario is the largest province, I think it behooves us to be as sensitive as we can to the others, to try to speak with a united voice. May I just say in a very personal way that I have always felt that I had the confidence of my colleagues in this enormously complicated debate, because I know at the end of the day of the enormous generosity of all the members of this House and how much they love their country.
Mr Eves: My question is to the Minister of Health. The minister undoubtedly will be aware that Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a chronic care facility in the city of Toronto, estimates that it will have to close some 50 beds next month due to the limitations put on its funding as a result of the Treasurer’s budget on 24 April. Despite the fact that they were promised 100 new chronic care beds in the minister’s announcement of May 1986, and despite the fact that they have over 1,200 people on their waiting list for chronic care beds, they may in fact have to close an additional 50 beds. How can the minister justify a situation in the province where a chronic care hospital such as Queen Elizabeth is faced with closing 50 beds when it has 1,200 people on its waiting list?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member, I am sure, will remember the discussion that we had in this House last year around this time, and through the course of last year, when we acknowledged that, as part of a traditional approach to hospital funding, during a transitional time there were some special challenges being faced by the chronic care hospitals in the province, that the ministry was very responsive to this and was working with the hospitals to resolve those issues during this transitional time. I would tell him that we have not received a budget plan and proposal; however, we are expecting to do so shortly, and we will be monitoring this situation and working with the hospitals to resolve their issues.
Mr Eves: Officials from that hospital, and in fact from the Ontario Hospital Association, estimate that there are about 3,000 people on the waiting list for chronic care beds in Metropolitan Toronto.
We also have seen the situation very recently with elderly and chronic care patients at the Ajax and Pickering General Hospital, another hospital that the minister promised 70 new chronic care beds to, on 14 May 1986. Included in those expansion plans were shower stalls. These people are now being hosed down in a closet that is used to store maintenance supplies. That is the way that the elderly and chronic care patients in our province are being treated. Does the minister agree with that treatment? How can she justify that over four years after she made these commitments for these new chronic care beds?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The situation that the member refers to is clearly unacceptable. In response to a question from the member for Durham West just a few weeks ago, I identified Ajax-Pickering hospital as a priority not only for the region, as identified by the district health council, but for the ministry as well. I am pleased to tell the member that in fact the ministry officials met with the hospital as early as last Friday and that we expect the matter to reach conclusion of the planning process and an announcement to be made within a very few weeks.
Mr Eves: This construction, according to the hospital spokespeople she is talking about, whom she recently met with, was supposed to start in November 1989. They claim it is the ministry dragging its feet at every step of every approval process for the last four-plus years, that this is the reason why these people are still being showered with a hose in a maintenance closet. I do not find that acceptable. A nurse who has worked there for some 17 years says it happens every day. I find it very undignified that we have to treat people this way. Where has the minister been for the last four years, why did she not meet her November 1989 deadline and why are these people not being treated in a more humane manner four years later?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member opposite that I think he is aware, as I am, that one of our priorities is both the comfort and the convenience of patients in the hospitals across the province. As an important part of our capital planning framework, we have identified infrastructure renewal and an opportunity to respond not only to the occupational health and safety issues, but to the comfort and convenience of patients.
I would say to him that the ministry officials have met with the hospital officials. We have been working diligently on this since March 1990. The Durham district health council is very much involved, and in fact there has been an agreement to do everything we can to fast-track this process since Durham is part of a region in this province which is experiencing rapid growth, has a very young population and experiences some special challenges.
DISTRICT HEALTH COUNCILS
Mr Hampton: My question is for the Minister of Health as well. On several occasions in this House when the minister has been asked about the funding of particular health care proposals for particular communities, she has responded that district health councils rank priorities and forward them to the ministry and the ministry then funds the priorities that have been identified by the health councils.
How does the minister explain that the district health council for Kenora-Rainy River has ranked an intensive care unit for the hospital in Fort Frances as a number one priority for the last two years, her ministry has refused to fund it, and yet other projects that were well down on the list -- and some of them not on the list -- have been funded? How does she explain it when the district health council ranks a priority for her, puts it as number one, her ministry ignores it, and yet she tells us in here time after time that the way to go, the way to proceed, is through the district health council, “Put your proposal to them, have it ranked, and then it will be funded”?
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, I am very aware of the situation in Kenora; my colleague the member for Kenora has been very diligent in making sure that I am aware of the situation. I want to say to the honourable member that the district health councils have been undergoing a renewal of their mandate and that the ministry has established areas of provincial priority. We have been working very closely with the district health councils in areas such as dialysis. In fact, we have seen tremendous expansion of services in the Kenora area. In other areas of priority we have moved forward, and we continue to consult with the district health councils to provide us with helpful advice as we move forward to ensure that the people of northern Ontario and right across this province receive the most appropriate care.
Mr Hampton: One of the doctors who sits on the Kenora-Rainy River health council had this to say about the ministry’s work. He said, “In northwestern Ontario the government is funding its political priorities while the real health care needs, as identified by the district health council, are ignored.” That is what the doctors who sit on the health councils have to say.
Let me give the minister an example. In 1979 the hospital in Dryden submitted a proposal for the redevelopment of that hospital. In 1984 funding was received for the phase 1 development, but since then the minister has ignored that hospital. She has placed them on hold, with a population of 15,000 and growing. At the same time that she has ignored them she has funded other projects that have not in any way been recommended or, if they were recommended by the district health council, have been well down on the list. How does the minister justify that? She says the system is rational.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Hampton: How does she justify that when the health councils do not recommend these projects and she funds them and others do not get funded?
The Deputy Speaker: The question has been asked.
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member opposite is not only incorrect; he is absolutely wrong in the approach that he has taken. We have a capital framework which has been applauded by all of our partners in health care across this province as a rational and important approach to capital funding. We have established priorities in the areas of innovation, specialty care and infrastructure renewal as well as meeting the demographic changes of this province. I can tell him that we seek advice from district health councils and that we have moved in a manner which is consistent and fair, and is seen to be consistent and fair, as we meet the needs of the people of this province.
GREATER TORONTO AREA RAPID TRANSIT
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. Like many people, I am looking forward to Toronto being the host city for Expo 2000 and for the 1996 Olympics. Time is rapidly approaching. In 17 days we will learn where the host city will be for Expo 2000. In 113 days, we hope to learn that Toronto is the chosen site for the Olympics. How involved has the minister or his ministry been in supporting these bids, and what specific action is he committing to undertake to help make it happen?
Hon Mr Wrye: I thought I heard the honourable member’s statement earlier today, and right within that statement was an indication of the kind of commitment that I have put forward on behalf of the government. I think a commitment of a $5-billion improvement to the public transportation system in every part of the greater Toronto area is a commitment which is quite unprecedented, not only anywhere in Canada but anywhere in North America. That is a firm commitment on the part of the government.
The implementation committee, as the honourable member knows, is moving forward and is working very well together. I expect that by the fall we will have a game plan in place for the staging of all of those projects. In the meantime, I can advise the honourable member that on a number of these projects the preliminary work is already under way so that from the time the implementation committee reports there will be no undue holdups in getting the projects under way, because, as my friend says, many of them will have to be ready for 1996.
Mr Cousens: It is the undue holdups that keep worrying us. Typical of the concerns that people are having in and around the greater Toronto area, is a cartoon in our local media this weekend having to do with road improvements which shows a picture of the minister made up as a turtle, and then the driver is dressed as sort of a rabbit. It could be any one of us there, really quite angry. But the minister is the turtle. Everyone else is in a hurry to get something happening, and the old rabbit says, “Would you please get a move on?” Compliments of A. Mair of the Markham Economist and Sun.
Mr Neumann: You know who won the race, don’t you?
Mr Cousens: I am not a turtle. If the member really wants to talk about being turtles, he should stop talking about my haircut.
I think there is something going on around here. Words are cheap. Here is the minister who is going along saying, “Well, something’s happening.” We want to know what is happening. We want to see the Olympics come. We want to see that Expo 2000 is a success. We know that they are important events for Ontario and we want to see that there is a significant amount of weight and importance from the minister and his ministry to help make it happen. What commitment is the minister prepared to make to make it happen in time for the people to enjoy the roads and services they desperately need?
Hon Mr Wrye: I noted from the cartoon, if I could see across the aisle, that the turtle was still ahead. At the end of the day, I say to my friend, it was the turtle who won the race. I have been called worse.
I can only say to the honourable member -- and I know his great concern about the matter -- that we have a very, very ambitious agenda. We are, as of today, on target with that agenda. We will be able to move forward in dramatic fashion, in a fashion never before seen, certainly in Ontario, never before seen in North America, to put in place the finest rapid transit system anywhere on the continent. That will demand the co-operation of everyone in the months and indeed in the years to come.
I can say to the honourable member that I have been extremely encouraged by the tone of the early discussions of the transit implementation committee, by the willingness of all of the partners on that implementation committee to get on with the job, and I expect that to continue.
TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE
Mr M. C. Ray: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. The minister will know that the city council of Windsor recently approved the site plan for the proposed new Ontario government tourist centre in downtown Windsor at the Detroit-Windsor tunnel exit. Could the minister advise when construction will begin on this project which has been delayed now for over three years?
Hon Mr Black: I am pleased to respond to the member because I know of his ongoing interest in the tourist information centre in Windsor. That interest began when he was a councillor in the city of Windsor and it has been ongoing and supportive ever since.
I want to say to the member that I was pleased, as he was, to know that the Windsor city council has in fact approved the site plan. We are pleased that a spirit of co-operation is in place and we are working together now. I will be consulting with my colleague the Minister of Government Services in the next few days to see how quickly we can move this project forward.
Mr M. C. Ray: “In the next few days” is the surprise. I thought that there had already been serious consultation between the Minister of Tourism and Recreation and the Minister of Government Services. Do we have the assurance of the minister that he will do everything in his power to impress upon his colleague and his other colleagues in cabinet the importance of this project, not only for Windsor-area tourism, but also for tourism generally in this province because this is a major port of entry to Canada for millions of automobile passenger tourists in this province?
Hon Mr Black: I want to say first of all to the member that there has indeed been ongoing consultation, as he would know, with several ministries of this government in an attempt to move that project forward. However, we were not able to make that happen until such time as the city of Windsor had in fact approved the site plan. Now that has happened, we will be renewing our efforts to bring the project to fruition.
I also want to say to him and to all members of this House that we are very conscious of the important role that Windsor plays in terms of being an entry point for visitors from the United States to Ontario. We are very anxious that this project should proceed and we are going to be working to make sure it happens at the earliest possible opportunity.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I am sure we will get the tourist centre at the same time we get the courthouse and the hospital the Liberals promised, during the election.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question to the Minister of Housing.
The minister will be aware of the buildings that have been mentioned in questions in the Legislature twice now, the Parkdale buildings at 96, 109 and 166 Jameson Avenue. The tenants in those building went to court. They received a temporary injunction to stop the unnecessary luxury renovations, but the injunction was a temporary injunction. They now have to go back to Toronto city council and ask for $50,000 to put down as a bond to get a permanent injunction.
Is that the kind of rent review system and protection of tenants that the minister supports, where tenants have to go to city council and, out of property tax dollars, get the financing to protect themselves because Liberal rent review legislation is so weak and ineffective?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would obviously disagree with the editorial comment by my colleague that our legislation is weak and ineffective. I think the facts clearly point out that it is very effective for a very, very large number of tenants in this province. The honourable member will also be aware of the fact that an application has been made for a rent increase but no rent increase has yet been granted.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The fact of the matter is that the landlord is replacing appliances, making major renovations, walking into units without the approval of tenants when they are not home, carrying out major renovations that have not been approved by the tenants and will go to rent review. The minister knows that as well as I do. The only option the tenants have had is to go to court and get an injunction, because this government’s rent review legislation does not protect them.
What is the minister prepared to do? If he is not prepared to change the rent review legislation, as we have suggested and the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations has suggested, is he at least prepared to bring in a program that will properly finance tenants so that it will not be on a matter of whether they can afford it or not but every tenant across the province will have access to the courts for the protection, because obviously the minister is not providing the protection?
Hon Mr Sweeney: My honourable friend is well aware of the fact that under the landlord and tenant legislation, for which the Attorney General is responsible, there is a prohibition from landlords simply walking into a tenant’s suite, as he says, any time they feel like it. This has to be an agreement between the landlord and the tenant as to when they can go in. There are remedies under the legislation to deal with that particular situation.
Mr Villeneuve: To the Minister of Health, Mr Speaker. I wrote the minister about a year ago concerning a kidney transplant patient in my riding having serious trouble paying for his drugs on his part-time job -- over a year ago, and nothing has been done. What is the policy of this government, to force people into welfare to get adequate drug treatment coverage? Is that this government’s policy?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I think the member knows that the Ontario drug benefit program provides prescription drugs to people over the age of 65 and those in financial need and receiving social assistance from the province. He knows as well that there are some particular programs that this government has announced in the area of cystic fibrosis and thalassemia. As well, all drugs provided on an inpatient basis within the hospitals are presently funded.
We are always reviewing the drug benefit program to determine how it can be improved. We established the Lowy drug inquiry. I expect to have those recommendations in very short order, but at the present time he should know that there is no universal approach to all drugs in this province and anyone on an individual case-by-case basis who has problems can apply to the Ministry of Community and Social Services for assistance.
Mr Villeneuve: Even though a transplant followed by treatment is much cheaper and preferable to the use of a dialysis machine, this patient still has to pay a very excessive amount of money to cover his drug costs. The Lowy inquiry made recommendations to the minister over a year ago. We cannot use that as an excuse any more. My constituent needs a real answer. Because he is a kidney transplant patient and needs heavy, heavy medication, can the minister confirm today that she will provide support to these particular patients, kidney transplant patients?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I can tell the member opposite that if his constituent meets the criteria of Comsoc for financial social assistance, that financial assistance is available so that no one in financial need is denied access to the drugs. At the present time, the criteria for the Ontario drug benefit program are for those people over the age of 65 and those who are receiving financial social assistance benefits in the province. With the few exceptions that I mentioned around some drugs available in special disease cases through hospital programming, I can tell him that that is the situation that exists today.
Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and concerns the province of Ontario land registry information system, better known as Polaris. As the minister will know, there has been a Polaris pilot project up and running in Oxford county for some time. In his answers to previous questions raised by myself and others in this place, the minister has informed us of the progress of the government in bringing this important technological advance on stream province-wide. Will the minister tell the House whether his ministry has yet been able to negotiate an agreement with those who will be working in partnership with the province to bring this project to reality, and, if not, why not, and when he thinks he will finally be successful?
Hon Mr Sorbara: Actually, I have some very good news for my friend, as he knows, because he is very interested in this question. My friend from Oxford has in fact helped me to understand Polaris more directly by conducting a tour of pilot projects that we have down in the Woodstock area.
Very recently, we have entered into negotiations with Real-Data Ontario, known as RDO.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Sorbara: That was after careful scrutiny, the most careful of scrutiny, between two proposals, one from Real-Data Ontario and another from its competitor. After careful scrutiny, we have chosen Real-Data Ontario as the negotiating partner and we expect that within a few weeks a detailed agreement will be reached, so progress, very important progress, is being made.
Mr Tatham: The Polaris pilot project in Oxford county has shown just what sort of potential this technology holds for the municipalities of this province. One of the concerns that has repeatedly been drawn to the minister’s attention concerns the ultimate availability of this information and technology to the municipalities. By way of supplementary, would the minister please tell the House what specific plans he has for ensuring that the sort of co-operation that has existed between his ministry and Oxford county will in fact be passed on to other municipalities once the private sector partners are involved?
Hon Mr Sorbara: My friend from Oxford has hit on a very important aspect of this strategic alliance; that is, the alliance between my own ministry’s land registration division and a private sector partner which will join forces with the ministry and actually create the database so that we can have a databased land registration system far more quickly than were we to do it alone.
The availability of that sort of information to municipalities forms one of the cornerstones of the agreement that we will be negotiating. Obviously, our responsibility is to make sure that all those users of this sort of data utility have access to the information contained in the data utility and they have access to it at a reasonable cost. The municipalities will be one of the prime users of that information, and we are going to make sure as we design not only the computer programs but the delivery of those data that they will be available to them at a cost that is reasonable.
Mr Allen: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. I have asked the minister several questions about the continuing bad record of his government and ministry with regard to pay equity settlements relating to community-based agencies, particularly in the context of divestment of a service from government-sponsored to community-based operations.
Once again an institution for the developmentally handicapped, the Prince Edward Heights institution, is being divested. The staff is in the first stage of pay equity, as the minister may know, and if the pay equity settlement is not followed by the new board, the salary gap between the equivalent government workers and those in the new community agency will leap from around 20% to slightly over 30%, something contrary to policy that the minister has been trying to implement regarding that very gap problem.
Why is the minister not prepared to assure these workers, under the Crown Agency Act, which provides for such things, that all their benefits, rights and privileges, including the pay equity settlement, will be honoured by the new board?
Hon Mr Beer: As the honourable member is perhaps aware with regard to that transfer, in working both with the new agency and those who had been working at the existing facility we have said that their various rights and privileges would be respected. The actual terms of that will be worked out in the first contract, but certainly we have an interest to ensure that in fact they are treated fairly and properly and are remunerated at the levels they are currently receiving.
Mr Allen: The minister speaks in terms of fairness, and yet he seems to speak continually on this subject with a forked tongue.
Let’s shift the scene, for example, to Frontenac-Kingston and the children’s aid society there, where he is in breach of the Pay Equity Act. The Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal has ruled that the government is the employer of the CAS staff in that place and that the minister must complete a pay equity settlement with that staff. Once more, he is running away from his own legislation, not only refusing to negotiate pay equity in its completeness but challenging the tribunal’s decision and refusing to pay the amount ordered by the tribunal while the challenge is heard, as required by the act. Why will the government, as the funder of these agencies, not acknowledge that it is the de facto employer and follow the requirements of its own pay equity legislation?
Hon Mr Beer: As the honourable member would know, in terms of the question of the employer, we have community-based boards and agencies which in fact look after the dealings of those various societies or agencies. In our view, we fund those agencies, which then in turn set up their own policies with respect to the individuals whom they would hire. It is for that reason we are reviewing the situation. As the honourable member knows, that is currently being discussed and is on appeal. We feel that it is important to maintain that community element to the direction of these boards and agencies and that they in fact are the employer of record.
INVESTIGATION INTO MUNICIPAL ELECTION
Mr Sterling: I would like to ask the Solicitor General if he is involved in the investigation of Mayor Jim Durrell, who is the mayor of the city of Ottawa. There are allegations of his breaching the Municipal Elections Act and I wonder whether the Solicitor General or the OPP are involved in the investigation of those matters.
Hon Mr Offer: It is a matter which I am not aware of but certainly will look into and report back on.
Mr Sterling: As the Solicitor General knows, Mayor Durrell happens to be a commissioner of the Ottawa police, which is undertaking an investigation of this matter. Does he think it is right and proper that the police should be examining or investigating an alleged breach of the law by one of the commissioners of that very same force?
Hon Mr Offer: I cannot comment specifically on the issue, as I have undertaken to provide that information to the member and report back, but in dealing with investigations generally I think we would all recognize that it is both right and proper for police officers to be involved in any investigation of any matter for which it is their responsibility to so investigate, and to act accordingly.
Ms Poole: My question is for the Minister of Transportation. On Saturday the Toronto Star carried a story stating that the Ontario government is considering a plan to raise the minimum age for licensed drivers to 18 from 16. As a member of the government, I was quite surprised to hear this. According to the Star, under this proposal 16-year-olds still could get a driver’s licence as far as a learner’s permit is concerned, but they would be severely restricted. I would like to ask the minister whether this story is indeed true.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Wrye: I can tell the honourable member that my eyebrows raised just a touch as I read the article in Saturday’s Star. I believe in answer to a question earlier from my colleague from Nepean I indicated that we had no plans to raise the driving age from 16 to 18, but rather that we were taking a look at and had plans to introduce a form of graduated driver’s licence such as is in place in states such as Maryland and California. That is still the plan and we are currently reviewing the options that are available to us in terms of the graduated driver’s licence.
Ms Poole: I am certain my 15-year-old son, who will be reaching that magic age next year, will be delighted to hear that. I am not sure I am, but he certainly will be.
The other part of the article that surprised me was that an assistant deputy transport minister had said that inexperienced drivers, young drivers, usually still in their teens, are greatly overrepresented in our accident statistics. I am unaware of any study which shows the difference in accident statistics from a 16-year-old as opposed to an 18-year-old. I wonder if the minister would enlighten me whether any such study exists.
Hon Mr Wrye: Each year we compile statistics, very detailed statistics involving all accidents in Ontario, and one of the factors we look at is age. I can share with the honourable member a very discouraging statistic that shows that one out of every six persons who is licensed at the age of 16 will have an accident at the age of 16. That number in the middle-age bracket drops as low as one out of every 20. Very clearly, those statistics are somewhat alarming and very discouraging.
It has been the experience of other jurisdictions that by putting in place a driving licence which is somewhat limited in its application, the so-called graduated driver’s licence, which may limit the right of younger drivers in their first years to drive at certain times of day or with numbers of people or on certain roads, those statistics can be improved in a range of 10% to 15%. I think all members of the House would want to see that kind of improvement. Indeed, the honourable member would particularly. That is the proposal we are looking at presently, and we hope to come forward in the next short while with firm legislative changes.
Mr Wildman: I have a question to the Minister of Natural Resources regarding the reports in the press that the government has decided against transferring timber licences to a proposed buyer for the G. W. Martin Lumber mill in Harcourt. About 125 workers will remain out of work, as they have been for the last 10 to 12 months.
Can the minister assure the assembly that this decision was not the result of political pressure put on her or any of her cabinet colleagues from owners or principals in mills in the area who wish to obtain those timber licences?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I appreciate the honourable member’s question and I would provide an absolute assurance that our decision in this case was reached after a great deal of deliberation and was reached solely on the basis of our concern about our analysis of the wood supply situation in the Algonquin district. We have a very clear description from our district manager and our forest resources group that the wood supply situation in the Algonquin district has been under significant stress for many years as a result of a continuance of what would be described as essentially high-grading practices, that the forest is in need of significant renewal and that we have undertaken to carry out an analysis of future wood supply needs and the availability of crown wood to meet those needs and have decided not to reallocate those particular crown licences until that study is completed. That was the sole reason for our decision in this case.
Mr Wildman: The minister’s reply seems to indicate that there are in fact too many sawmills for the amount of timber in the area. If that is the case, or if the minister is indicating that the wood supply is stressed, why is it that the ministry did not follow the suggestion of Peter Hattin, who was running the G. W. Martin mill prior to its shutdown, that all mills in the area should have to slow down production rather than denying one mill any timber?
Hon Mrs McLeod: The honourable member may well be aware that there are a significant number of mills operating in the Algonquin district. I think there are in total some 200 mills. Many of those mills are operating with what is essentially a private wood supply rather than primarily with crown wood. All the mills in the area are operating at below capacity because of the restricted availability of wood.
The indication was made to the G. W. Martin manager that we would in fact be prepared to issue a mill licence so that the mill could be operated once again using private wood sources and that we were withholding the crown licences and would not be reallocating the crown wood which had formerly been allocated to that particular mill until our study was completed. Our study will look at the needs of the total area as well as -- and I would stress this -- crown wood availability, which is what we of course have to manage and distribute.
I want to point out, of course, that this mill was part of the larger groupings of G. W. Martin Holdings. All those mills were closed and had been closed for a period of over a year. The Ministry of Natural Resources has worked very co-operatively with the people of G. W. Martin in order to ensure that, with the exception of this one mill, all others are now operating either as individual enterprises or through a consolidation. It was only in this one particular ease, because the mill was not in fact operating now, that we felt it would not be responsible for us to make commitments of crown wood with a transfer of ownership, with starting the mill up again, when we could not ensure without a study that the crown wood would continue to be available in those volumes.
CLOSING OF CAMPGROUNDS
Mr Villeneuve: My question is to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. As the minister knows, the parks season is now open. We have four parks in the St Lawrence area that are not open because of closures earlier this year. A request has come from the standing committee on public accounts regarding whether it is in the mandate of the St Lawrence Parks Commission Act for it to close parks.
Can the minister report to this House whether it is his opinion that the mandate includes the closing of some of our St Lawrence parks?
Hon Mr Black: Mr Speaker, as you know, the St Lawrence Parks Commission has responsibility for the operation of the parks in that area --
Mr Villeneuve: That is right: operation. That is right.
Hon Mr Black: I am sure the member wants to hear the answer or he would not have asked the question.
We believe that includes the decisions as to which parks should be open at which times and which parks may not be open at other times. That is a responsibility that has been given in legislation to the St Lawrence Parks Commission. The people on that commission are people who live in eastern Ontario, who have concerns about eastern Ontario and who act responsibly in trying to make decisions and ensure that the taxpayers’ money is well spent. We believe they are doing a very fine job of that.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND PROTECTION OF PRIVACY STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1990
Mr Elston moved first reading of Bill 169, An Act to amend certain Acts Relating to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Elston: Mr Speaker, I do have another bill, which I have misplaced at the moment. I will have to stand that one down meantime.
CITY OF OTTAWA ACT, 1990
Mr Chiarelli moved first reading of Bill Pr60, An Act respecting the City of Ottawa.
Motion agreed to.
MUNICIPAL FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND PROTECTION OF PRIVACY STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1990 / LOI DE 1990 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR L’ACCÈS À L’INFORMATION MUNICIPALE ET LA PROTECTION DE LA VIE PRIVÉE
Mr Elston moved first reading of Bill 171, An Act to amend the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 1989.
M. Elston propose la première lecture du projet de loi 171, Loi portant modification de la Loi de 1989 sur l’accès à l’information municipale et la protection de la vie privée.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
The Deputy Speaker: Any further introduction of bills? If not, orders of the day.
Hon Mr Ward: The first order. Also, Mr Speaker, there has been agreement that the time should be split among the parties, so I would seek unanimous consent to do so.
The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to do so?
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INSURANCE STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Elston moved third reading of Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance.
Mr Ferraro: It is with great pleasure that we finally come to this position where, indeed, I can put on the record some final and short comments pertaining to the process and, indeed, to Bill 68. Initially, I want to, if I may, thank the minister for the faith and the privilege that he gave me in helping to participate in the process. He has been criticized on many occasions for the fact that he has left the carriage of the bill, to a large extent, in my hands and I just want to say publicly to him that I am grateful for that faith and that confidence.
As well, it would be wrong of me if I did not thank the members of my ministry, the staff, the people who have nursed -- certainly in my case -- me along through a very, shall we say, trying and challenging experience. I said a couple of weeks ago, and I say it to my friend from Algoma, that I describe the whole process of Bill 68 as a very penitential experience and, indeed, it was.
I do not know if God lets politicians into heaven, but if he does I am sure members of my own government on the committee have garnered quite a few points when he is going to consider the final decision. I want to, as well --
Mr Ferraro: I mentioned them, but I also want to thank the members of the opposition. They were on some occasions outrageous. They were on some occasions very challenging, but I would say, quite succinctly, they were certainly committed to their points of view.
To the members of my party who were on that committee, they endured some very difficult presentations and deserve all the credit that I can give them from the fact that they not only participated, but participated in a very positive way. I am grateful, as I am sure all members of our party certainly are.
I want to talk briefly about why we have to deal with Bill 68, why it is here, and to dispel to some degree some of the myths created by members of the opposition and others pertaining to the fact that we were not listening, that through the whole process we had our minds made up, that that was it and that no changes came about. That is categorically wrong.
Members will know, I am sure, that the reason we got into this whole debate on auto insurance in the province of Ontario was precipitated in large part by the cost factor. As everyone will know, in 1986 the average insurance premiums rose by 24%, followed in the subsequent two years by rate controls by the government.
Obviously, we not only had a problem dealing with the price, the affordability, but the availability situation became serious. We had price controls on and insurance companies pulled in their horns. Even to this day some people are in the Facility Association who should not have been there. I would like to think, and I believe, that with the passage of Bill 68, many of these wrongdoings and wrongs would be put right.
Members of the opposition said that we tried to ram this legislation through, that we have not talked about it. I would point out to the members that, certainly in my case and I am sure in the case of many people in this House, we talked about auto insurance in the province of Ontario in 1985 during the election; in 1987 during the election. We had a number of reports later; Osborne, the auto insurance board hearings. As everyone in the House will know, it culminated finally in first reading for Bill 68 on 23 October last year. Second reading, the House will know as well, occurred on 14 November 1989.
During that period of second reading, 26 members spoke during five days of debate. There were 20 days of public hearings in five cities: Toronto, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Windsor and Ottawa. There were four days for clause-by-clause consideration, one day for debate on adoption of the report from the committee, two days in committee of the whole and 18 days debating the motion for time allocation. I would say, quite clearly, the allegation that we are ramming this through is totally unfounded.
During the public hearing debates, in particular, we had without question a lot of people who made presentations. They were sincere presentations; they were certainly enlightening. But in my view, the vast majority of people who made presentations, or certainly a majority of them, will be better off under Bill 68 than under the present legislation. Indeed, many of their concerns and apprehensions, in my view, were somewhat unfounded.
I am mindful of the fact, and I am sure most reasonable people are, that there is never going to be a perfect piece of legislation. There is going to be a requirement, an adjustment period required, and we are going to hear some horror stories. Hopefully, with the new insurance commissioner and with the new legislation and tougher regulations in place, we will be able to address them in a quick and reasonable fashion.
Let me be a little more specific in regard to, as I indicated, some of the changes that were made to the bill from its inception.
I will digress a little bit. I want to say again to the House that it is regrettable that much of the discussion, first, got into a debate dealing with litigation and lawyers, and that was where predominantly a lot of the opposition came from. I understand that, but to suggest that the judicial system, that the process of tort was the main reason for Bill 68 -- and indeed that is where most of the opposition came from, mindful of the fact that we are still allowing tort in serious cases -- to me was unfortunate.
I point out that auto theft alone amounted to a cost to insurance companies which passed that cost on to the insureds of this province, the 6.2 million people, of half a billion dollars last year alone, which is in excess of the legal costs that lawyers would get dealing with tort actions. I mention that because, again, most of the discussions unfortunately were centred in that area, and it is a much broader problem. Subsequently, we had to deal with it in a much broader perspective, and deal with it I think we did.
To be a little more precise -- and I apologize, I really do. I feel badly that some members, particularly of the opposition, have had to resort to innuendo and mistruths and accusations, accusing not only members of my party but I think in a direct way all members of the House of having vested interests and of being in the pockets, if you will, of insurance companies. In my own case, in the last election I received $700 from insurance brokers.
I received as well at the same time over $2,600 from lawyers. So if indeed I am in the pockets of the people who support me legally during an election, obviously I am somewhat misdirected.
The opposition said we did not listen to the public. The bill that is before us today for third reading has a variety of changes, and indeed most of those changes are a direct result of what we heard and indeed what the committee heard. I have a long list of changes, but if I might, I will just pick out a few.
We have section 242k that provides for a biannual review of the no-fault benefits schedule, to some degree a quasi-sunset review on its own. Section 208c forces insurers to be fairer in their underwriting practices. Section 231 a was a change that the cyclists of this province told us they wanted in order to provide them better protection. Indeed, we have accommodated them, again as a direct result of their presentation and solicitations during the public hearing process. Subsection 86(2) gives better protection to those in the motor vehicle accident claims fund, a situation that has developed as a result of the insurance crisis that in our view will be alleviated substantially as a result of the passage of Bill 68.
I could go on pointing out a number of other changes, particularly in this regard, but I would end this part by dealing essentially with one more, and that is section 208a. This amendment requires insurers and brokers to give motorists fair and full notice of their intentions to change or not to renew a contract. I do not mind saying that this particular amendment was supported by just about everyone on the committee, and indeed was put forward initially and very strongly by the member for Welland-Thorold. So obviously when the member for Welland-Thorold speaks, to some degree we listen. Let’s look at those changes that matter most or that perhaps people can identify with more readily, and those are the changes dealing with the no-fault benefit schedule. Indeed, we have made some substantive changes as a result of the input during the public hearings and elsewhere.
The first one is that the weekly indemnity for loss of income has been increased from $450 a week to $600 a week, an increase of, I believe, 329% over the present no-fault benefit schedule. The $600, as most members of the House will know, is the equivalent of approximately $39,000 of income in the province of Ontario, and that figure, I am told by Statscan and by my capable staff, will encompass approximately 85% of the wage earners in the province of Ontario. So a substantial portion of people will be covered in a very direct and positive way, and indeed a tremendous increase over the original no-fault benefit schedule amount of $450.
The monthly cap on the long-term care benefits was originally $1,500. We were told by many presenters that indeed it was insufficient; that if someone needs a long-term care benefit, $1500 a month will not satisfy his needs. Indeed, the people involved in the accidents who need that care would be at a loss for appropriate attention. We reacted by increasing it -- in fact, doubling it -- to $3000 a month. So indeed we have listened on this occasion, as well, in particular dealing with the long-term care benefit amount.
Persons injured in the course of employment will now be eligible for no-fault benefits if they elect to sue in court. The no-fault insurer will pay no-fault benefits, pending a decision of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal over entitlement to workers’ compensation. In other words, the injured will get ready and quick access to rehabilitation, something that many doctors, therapists and psychologists say is a necessity if people are to get the appropriate rehabilitation they need.
Changes have been made to the way income replacement benefits are calculated for small businesses and farmers, something we talked about during clause-by-clause. They will not be required to deduct ongoing expenses such as rent when calculating their income. Of course, this will increase the level of benefits that are paid to them. I know my friend the member for Wellington, who has been an advocate of that particular area, will be pleased with that change.
Psychological services and physiotherapy are now specifically recognized under the medical rehabilitation benefit.
The term “psychological adviser” has been specifically recognized for the purposes of providing a statement that medical rehabilitation services are necessary and furnishing a certificate as to the nature of an injury.
The provision that insurers do not have to pay for services provided by OHIP has been modified to require payment where the services are not reasonably available. This will prevent insureds from being forced to wait or travel to a different locale to receive necessary services.
As well, a provision has been added to include payments for damage to clothing as a result of the accident. Some of these are minor changes, but indeed important changes none the less. I could go on and on with the changes, but my time is somewhat limited.
My friend the member for Welland-Thorold had a telethon the other day. Let me dispel concern that has been expressed to me by some people, which is that if you are heading to Florida or the United States, you had better not get in an accident, because you will not be covered. You will be standing in a foreign country without any protection. That is pure horsefeathers, totally unsubstantiated.
Under the Ontario motorist protection plan, there will be no effect on the rights of Ontario drivers. In fact, the only change will be that Ontario residents insured here will be able to collect increased no-fault benefits even if they are injured in the United States.
I also heard my friend the member from Welland-Thorold, kindly referred to as the Jimmy Bakker of the back benches, say that you will have to use up all your income replacement and sick leave benefits at work before no-fault benefits kick in. That is an unequivocally wrong statement. No-fault benefits will pay up to 80% of the pre-accident income, but most income replacement plans cannot touch that. So even if a plan is in place, no-fault will top up the existing plan. In the case where an insured admittedly has the option not to use sick leave benefits, the entire 80% will be applied to the income replacement. When permitted, in eases of collective bargaining agreements and so forth, that individual can indeed take leave without absence so that the sick leave benefits will not have to be utilized.
I could probably spend an afternoon, quite frankly, with a filibuster of my own trying to dispel many of the pieces of misinformation and innuendo as alluded to by members of the opposition. I respect their right to give their point of view. In my view, and I say it to the 6.2 million drivers and potential drivers in Ontario, this is a very comprehensive, important and dramatic change in the way we do the business of auto insurance in Ontario.
Again, most people will not fully understand it, notwithstanding all they read about, or if they were watching the debate here in the House, if indeed you could call it a debate. They will not really understand it until, God forbid, they get into an accident themselves or when they renew their insurance.
But I say to the people of Ontario without hesitation again, that they should remember why we are in this in the first place, and that is the price problem. If the government of Ontario did nothing, if Bill 68 were not passed, not only will we have an availability problem but, on average, and most rational people will accept this, everyone’s auto insurance premium will go up at least 30%. As it is, with the passage of Bill 68 -- and you take the government to task -- on average, we will be looking at 8% increases in the Metropolitan Toronto and Hamilton-Wentworth areas and 0% increases everywhere else. Again, those are average increases.
Finally, I want to address something that has bothered me personally, quite frankly, not to the extent that I am losing any sleep, but to the extent that being a member of Parliament often puts different thoughts in individuals’ minds. The one thought that bothered me was: “Well, you have got a very large majority. There are 93 Liberals, and indeed the opposition has much smaller numbers. Indeed you are arrogant, you are not listening and you are going to do whatever you want.”
Being an advocate of the underdog and indeed, being an advocate of the underprivileged, it bothers me when I hear that type of remark made. I acknowledge, and certainly this government acknowledges, and I know my colleagues would be supportive of this, the fact that we have been given a very large majority, a trust that we appreciate in the belief that indeed the people of Ontario wanted change, that they wanted us to do what is, quite frankly, not arrogant, although the perception, the optics of it are that because we have such a large number, no matter what we do, it is arrogant. I do not believe that in dealing with Bill 68 my government has been arrogant.
I would say in conclusion, finally, that if the optics and the perception are that we have an overwhelming majority, 93 members, and that by allowing all the debate we have on this issue and having come up with time allocation we are giving the perception of being arrogant, of being too forceful, that is unavoidable and, unfortunately, a reality. But the greater shame, in my view, and the greater reality perhaps, is that by not doing finally what we were elected to do, by not passing legislation that is in the best interests, in our view, of the people of Ontario, we are letting those people down, and there is a greater shame in not fulfilling the mandate we were elected to fulfil.
I say to the members of the House, to the people of Ontario, to the insurance companies and all the drivers and the passengers, I truly believe that Bill 68 will result in a fairer, more affordable, more equitable and indeed better way of driving and acquiring insurance and, God forbid, dealing with those who get into an accident.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): I would like to thank the honourable member and remind everyone that under the time allocation proceedings, if I might refer it to you, as of Wednesday 9 May 1990, after the first paragraph, “That one further sessional day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill,” that is, the bill before us, Bill 68. “At 5:45 pm on such day, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further amendment or debate.”
I wanted to bring that to everyone’s attention because, of course, we have the opportunity for questions and responses. But, if members will recall, we ran into similar difficulties a couple of weeks ago. If we go into questions and responses, it then takes away from, or is added to, that time that each party is allocated for this afternoon’s discussion. Does the parliamentary assistant follow me?
Mr Ferraro: We have agreed, Mr Speaker. There is no question.
The Acting Speaker: Then upon direction of the House, is it agreed that the time shall be divided as is and that there will be no questions or responses? That is what I wanted to clarify.
Mrs Marland: Yes.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you very much. The member for Cambridge.
Mr Farnan: It is very important that we realize the situation right here. We must get the facts straight. And the fact is simply this: The insurance industry bought this legislation from the Liberal government. There is hardly a Liberal member in this House who has not received funding from the auto insurance industry, and hardly a member of the committee that dealt with Bill 68, all of them, again, receiving funding.
Not only did the Liberal members receive funding, but the auto insurance industry during the last election actually put a piece of literature into the mailboxes of every riding in which a New Democrat was running and had the opportunity to win the election. The auto insurance industry put this into every household. Basically, they distorted the facts. They sank a great deal of money in printing and mailing costs to get this literature into the homes of every household and, in so doing, to ensure the election of the Liberal government.
I say, in all due respect, that it really does not matter to the auto insurance industry whether it is the Liberals or the Conservatives that form the government. Members will be well aware that the Conservative Party in power took very good care of the auto insurance industry, and premiums escalated just fine during that period of time. But when it became clear that the Conservatives were on their way out and that they would be replaced, it became very important to the auto insurance industry that they be replaced by an equally willing puppet. Therefore, they put their trust in the Liberals, who they were sure they could trust, because once you take off the blue tie and put on the red tie, nothing else changes. They will continue to look after their friends in the business sector.
Indeed, this was an investment by the insurance industry, a very nominal investment on its part, literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. But when you think of the payoff, when you think of what they are getting today, they are getting in this legislation more than they even asked for. The auto insurance industry investment has come back in spades.
Ontario drivers will be paying out more and getting less. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader described the Liberal scheme as selling half a loaf for more than the original cost of the whole loaf.
This Liberal scheme will not provide adequate benefits for accident victims. In fact, their so-called no-fault plan would limit the right of over 90% of car accident victims to sue. A victim would have to be dead, or very close to it, before he or his family could sue. Those with less severe injuries will receive benefits that are inadequate. While other no-fault plans also limit the right to sue, accident benefits are high enough to properly compensate the victims. Under this Liberal plan, benefits are inadequate and will deteriorate over time because they are not indexed to inflation.
This is a bonanza for the insurance companies, which want to keep benefits as low as possible. No wonder the insurance industry is delighted with this Liberal proposal. No wonder they are happy with the investment that they have made in the Liberal Party. No wonder that today they are already signing the cheques for the next election to ensure the return of Liberals who will do the bidding of the auto insurance industry.
Members should remember too that the new insurance commission to be set up under the Liberal plan will not have the power to set rates but only to review them -- another major concession to the insurance industry, and it will cost consumers dearly.
If this not enough, there is a further $143-million giveaway to the auto insurance companies. Auto insurers will no longer have to pay $46 million to $48 million for medicare annually or the $95 million for the 3% tax levied on insurance -- all of this to get an agreement from the insurers not to raise rates any higher than 8% in 1990. We are talking about a history of escalating rates over the last three years since this government obtained power.
On 7 September 1987, the Premier -- in Cambridge -- said, “I have a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums.”
What sort of plan is this? Premiums have taken off, benefits are now being cut. We are being told that premiums will continue to rise, and not just by 8% in the Metropolitan Toronto area. You can talk to the people at the Cambridge market. What is happening with their auto insurance premiums in 1990, if they can get auto insurance? They are going out of reach.
What will happened to rates in 1990? They will continue to escalate, and the pressure to increase rates will resurface in 1991.
There are two very basic things that we look for in auto insurance. We look for affordability and we look for accessibility. As far as affordability goes, this government has reneged on its responsibility. The Premier said he would reduce rates, and the people of Ontario, this very day, must be asking themselves, “When the Premier makes a promise, a very specific promise, can we trust the Premier? When the Premier says, in front of witnesses, ‘I am going to reduce rates; I have a plan to reduce rates,’ can the people of Ontario believe him?” This was a very specific promise and we know the opposite is true.
So there is no affordability within the system, and there are no regulations that will keep some sense of order on the insurance company, because there is no power to restrict. The insurance commission can only review the increased rates and not interfere with them.
The reality of the matter is that the people of Ontario dearly want to trust their politicians, but the people of Ontario, in reality, are becoming even more cynical, because unless you can correlate the word of the politician with his actions, then the people of Ontario have to say to themselves, “Where is the trust in this relationship?” When any politician faces the public and says, “This is where I stand; this is what I will do when elected,” the people have the right to expect that is indeed what will happen.
When the Premier, who should be the role model for all politicians at the provincial level, stands in front of the populace and says, “I have a very specific plan to reduce rates,” and then does exactly the opposite, then of course the people of Ontario have the right to be cynical, to distrust, not to place their confidence in a premier who would make such statements and fail to deliver upon them.
I suspect there is a collective wisdom in these chambers that we are about to embark on another election, and during that election the Premier will be dressed up in red and he will go around the province flipping hamburgers and it will be the same approach: You can talk to Dave; open, accessible Dave; honest Dave. The Premier will make promises, but what trust can the people of Ontario have in this man with his tie undone and his sleeves rolled up as he flips the hamburgers and makes his promises? What trust can the people of Ontario have when a promise like this, so clearly stated, is broken totally and absolutely?
We are coming to the payoff. If this legislation is enacted, the auto insurance industry’s investment in the Liberal Party will result in millions of dollars in increased profits, and these profits come from the lower benefits for accident victims as premiums continue to escalate.
The old axiom of “He who pays the piper calls the tune” is very much in evidence throughout this whole process. The people of Ontario see it very clearly. The Liberals have been greased financially by the insurance industry, and in return we have the legislation today emanating from the Liberal government majority that will in turn grease the auto insurance industry. It is very straightforward. The auto insurance industry looks after the Liberals, the Liberals look after the auto insurance industry, and the group that pays the price for this particular bondage between big business and the Liberal government is the driving public of Ontario.
It is a sad day for Ontario, but rest assured, Mr Speaker, there is a political price to pay. As you will notice, they are not wearing their red ties today because they are probably a bit embarrassed by this legislation. But when they go to the people, rest assured, one of the facts that the people are going to remember is this legislation, the promise of the Premier, the misplaced trust and the abuse of the drivers of Ontario.
Mr McLean: The day has finally come that has been dreaded by many, many people in this province. When we look back over the last almost three years since the Premier made his very welcome announcement with regard to his specific plan, we have certainly seen what has happened since that announcement has been made.
I want to take the opportunity to say a few words with regard to Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance. I have a great number of reservations about anything this government dreams up when it comes to insuring motorists in Ontario. We can just look at the government’s record with respect to insurance and we can clearly see that this matter has been bungled to death. It has been through committee hearings and many questions could not be answered in those hearings.
For example, this government has reneged on the Premier’s election promise of a specific plan to lower insurance rates. That promise evaporated and all we got was more insurance premium increases.
For example, this government’s meddling in auto insurance has hit taxpayers in the pocketbook extremely hard. This government had commissioned two very expensive studies for automobile insurance in this province. Then what did they do? They totally ignored both of them. The government established the expensive Ontario Automobile Insurance Board and then turned around and interfered with or completely ignored the work of this same rate review board.
For example, this government plans to implement threshold no-fault insurance in Ontario despite very pointed criticism of this system in the Osborne report, which it commissioned.
For example, this government is trying desperately to find scapegoats to take the heat over its own failures. We witnessed this government blaming doctors for not using an imaginary hotline to find hospital beds. Now we can witness the same government trying to convince the public that lawyers are driving up the cost of claim settlements.
On page 363 in volume I of the Osborne report, we can see the progression of motor vehicle accidents related to claims through the courts. We can clearly see that in 1985 there were 232,207 third-party liability claims reported, but only 4,383 of these cases went to trial and only 3,755 proceeded through to judgement. This is just 1.6% of the claims. That was through the system as it has been in the past.
Another example is the narrow wording of the threshold, which I think will cause the members some discouragement with regard to the very important bodily function, the definition of “physical” as it relates to the physical component of chronic pain. I am also concerned that the so-called generous benefits of the government’s new system are not as generous as they would have us believe.
The level of no-fault benefits has not been adjusted since 1978 and they will now be increased up to $600. When I look back over the concerns that have been related to me with regard to automobile insurance in this province, all I have to do is just look at some of the correspondence that we receive about people who have had claims.
An example is the gentleman not too long ago who had an accident with his truck. It was valued at $2,000, and he would have to spend $2,000 to replace it. Do you know what the insurance company is going to pay him, Mr Speaker? They want to allow him $1,200 to replace that truck that cost $2,000. That is the insurance company’s attitude today. I do not find that to be very satisfactory at all and I am sure that the members on the government side would not find it satisfactory either.
A long time ago, I received a letter from Marilyn Graydon in Penetanguishene. I took the opportunity to write to the office of the superintendent of insurance on behalf of this young person. Mr Wilbee indicated, “I am told that a cheque of $2,821 covering the period of 5 May 1989 to 14 July 1989 was issued to you by Royal on 24 August.” That was the last date that that person received any money from the insurance company.
She had been off work all year because of her injuries. She had to let her house go because she could not afford the payments. So what happened? Not very long ago she wrote me again, indicating that the company has not settled her claim, has not dealt with her lawyer and has not paid her any more money.
What are we to do in cases such as this of these young people who are in accidents and are not being looked after with regard to the claims that they have? Is no-fault going to be the answer to that? I am not so sure, but I do have to say that the insurance companies appear to be controlling what is happening here in Ontario and the government today is going to give them more opportunity to do that.
I have a letter here from a physician who has been a physician for over 30 years. He says, “I feel I must protest that the proposed system is discriminatory and grossly unfair to many innocent victims.”
Another person’s letter reads:
“As a lawyer, the present civil right of accident victims to obtain full compensation for their losses will be eliminated in all cases but a few. Unless an accident victim’s injuries meet the enormous special test of being seriously and permanently disabled, that victim will completely lose the right to claim for the injury itself with the associated pain and suffering.
“It does not appear to me to be fair, right or proper that a person loses that right that they should have in this society. In my opinion, the benefit to be obtained from this is illusionary. Most accident victims do not need rehabilitation benefits, as OHIP pays most of the medical benefits.”
It goes on to talk about job retraining: “This government has spent millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to investigate the insurance problems in Ontario. The recommendations of the Justice Osborne and Kruger commissions have been totally ignored.”
Can you imagine hiring a consultant for your business or any business, Mr Speaker? They give you the report that you have paid for, some $8 million. All of a sudden, you totally ignore what you paid that consultant for. I find it very, very hard to believe that a government would authorize two full reports such as that and then totally ignore both of them.
We look at other accident claims that people have brought to my attention. Here is a letter to the Treasurer of Ontario:
“I am against the no-fault auto insurance that is being proposed. The innocent victims of accidents have to have some access to reclaim loss of pay, suffering, mental and physical, and the right to sue up to a certain amount.”
This is what people are telling us in our ridings, that they do not agree with many, many things on this insurance policy. I have had many letters sent to me.
“Ontario government’s proposed motor vehicle insurance plan: I am opposed to this legislation. It takes away many of my rights and it denies me access to the courts. I will not recover full compensation. Please amend this legislation.”
Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: This is third reading of a most important, hazardous and dangerous bit of legislation that these Liberals have ever tried to ram down the throats of people in Ontario and there are not even enough Liberals here to constitute a quorum.
The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.
The Acting Speaker: A quorum is present. Continue with the debate.
Mr McLean: I was just getting warmed up when the honourable member for Welland-Thorold came in and noticed there were six government members in the House, which is very unfortunate.
Moving right along, I want to say that the people who have brought their concerns to me are very legitimate. It is not only coming from my riding but it is coming from right across this province. The stories that I read in the letters I receive are not very supportive of this legislation. As a matter of fact, the majority of the people in this province wish the government would withdraw this legislation.
However, a lot of the insurance agencies and the members are at the stage where they are dumfounded to find out that there is no alternative. What they are saying is: “Let’s get the legislation passed. It is bad legislation, but we have no choice.” The government has 94 members and it is going to put this legislation through, regardless of the many hours spent by the member for Welland-Thorold and the member for Leeds-Grenville.
We will be paying dearly for the aspects of this bill for many years to come. We look at the stated positions this government has taken. I have often said it is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That is exactly what it is. It is not a fact at all when I see the newsletter the minister sent out saying that the opposition or people who are opposed to it should have an alternative. We do have an alternative, as did the Osborne report. There were alternatives to what this government is doing. Some $8 million worth of studies were done to certainly tell the government what they felt was the most appropriate thing to do with regard to this automobile insurance.
Government interference in people’s lives is not the way to run a government. In years to come the government will look back and say, “Should we have allowed the insurance companies their 30% or 35% increase and continued with full coverage which we have enjoyed in the past, or were we wise in bringing in this no-fault legislation to stop people from suing?”
In a couple of cases that really set the agenda of why there were changes needed. They were necessary. When you get very large court cases of $6 million, they are not right nor acceptable. However, there has to be a happy medium whereby the public is also satisfied and willing to pay for coverage it is going to get.
What is going to happen now? Are we going to have to buy another policy to cover in case we want to sue to reclaim some of the losses that we have? Are we going to be able to do that? What we are doing here is not allowing people to sue. As I indicated earlier in my remarks, only about 1.6% of the claims actually go before the courts. So there has not been a very big percentage. Why the need for a great change?
It is certainly nice to see the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay finally come into the Legislature and listen to his colleagues’ speeches this afternoon. He will be able to go back to his constituents now and tell them what the facts really are and the truth about Bill 68. So I am really glad to see he is here.
Mr McLean: He should also note that members are not usually allowed to speak in the Legislature or make any noise unless they are in their own seat, which the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay is doing.
However, I just hope that he does not get into an accident after this legislation is passed. As I have said before, this is not what we wanted, it is not what the official opposition wanted, it is not what the people of this province wanted; but it is what this government wants to pass and is going to pass. I say “Shame on you” for passing legislation which the people of Ontario do not want.
The Deputy Speaker: Does anybody else wish to participate in the debate? The member for Cambridge? You have already spoken; only once, please. Who else wants to participate in the debate?
Ms Bryden: I am very pleased to participate in this debate to let the people of the province know what a very bad deal they are getting in this insurance bill, Bill 68. It is a complete sellout to the insurance companies, and they know it on the other side of the House. They are not ashamed of making a sellout to the insurance companies.
The Premier promised that he had a very specific plan to bring down insurance rates. He has not done that. This bill will not bring down insurance rates. This bill will enable the insurance companies to charge what they like, with a certain amount of review by a board which will probably have the strength of a wet noodle.
This bill will allow the insurance companies to pick and choose whom they wish to insure. If they do not accept a person, that person will have to go to the Facility Association, which will cost him maybe three or four times as much as his previous insurance. This bill will allow the insurance companies to decide what the terms of the policies will be, within the limitations of the law. But those limitations are not very broad.
We have not really seen the regulations, although I believe a draft was presented to us over the weekend. But we have not had any opportunity to debate it. In the 45 minutes that each party will have today, there will be no opportunity to debate those regulations.
We are being asked under closure to buy a pig in a poke. We have not had an opportunity to debate most of the amendments from the government. They can bring in any amendments at any time they want and we will still have to accept them when the guillotine falls at 5:45 tonight.
This is not democracy. This is government by a majority that has no consideration for what the people want or for what the people have said in their committees and in their hearings and for what the people have said when they voted for a Premier who said he would bring down auto insurance rates.
I am really shocked as to what is going on in this House and I am shocked that the Liberal Party is making that its form of government. That is what we are facing. It is not the only bill they are doing this sort of closure on. We might as well abolish the Legislature if they are going to have this kind of power to bring in legislation that is not properly debated, to bring in legislation where the facts and figures we have asked for in committee were not presented and to bring in legislation where we have not had a chance to examine the draft regulations. We still need to get a look at those.
The legislation is particularly unfair to women who have had somewhat lower rates in the past, particularly on account of their driving record, but who will still have no guarantee that there will be any consideration of their past driving record. Their rates will be set according to what the insurance companies think the traffic will bear.
Mr Kormos: As high as possible.
Ms Bryden: That is right. Many of them have come to me and expressed great concern about their situation. Many of them are on fixed incomes if they are seniors, and it is not just the women in the seniors’ group, but all of the seniors’ groups are very concerned about whether the insurance rates that they will be asked to pay under this bill will be affordable with their fixed incomes and their limited increases to those incomes. They are living in fear until this bill goes through and they find out what the rates are, and I think their fears are well justified. In the past, some of the insurance companies used to give a discount to seniors on account of their long driving record.
Mr Kormos: British Columbia does -- 25%.
Ms Bryden: That is right, British Columbia does give such a discount. But no such discounts are provided for in this legislation, nor is there any reason why the insurance companies should give it, because there is really very little cap on the amount they can charge. We still have not really seen the bodies that are being set up to, presumably, monitor rates. As I say, it will be like a wet noodle tapping the insurance companies on the hand if they do not like what kind of rates are being charged.
It is a bill about which all of us should say, “Send it back and start from scratch again.” Maybe the government should be looking at public auto insurance. It is the only way to get cheaper insurance. It is the only way that the drivers have some say in what the insurance is, because it is based on their records and it is based on what the government decides the rates will be in order only to make the administrative costs. There is no profit involved.
Mr Kormos: That saves drivers millions of dollars a year alone, the mere fact that there isn’t profit.
Ms Bryden: Yes, we are throwing away a good, practical solution that three other provinces already have; and Quebec, to some extent, has a system that is also less.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Ms Bryden: We are throwing away a system that has worked in other places, that has brought lower insurance rates in other places, in favour of a system that is simply a sellout to the insurance companies in this province. I am surprised that a Liberal government -- if it is small-l liberal -- is giving away millions of dollars to the insurance companies. It looks like they are rewarding the insurance companies for paying into the contribution coffers of the Liberal Party. If that is not corrupt government, I do not know what is.
I would like to urge everybody to vote this bill down and then we can start from scratch.
Mrs Cunningham: I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this piece of legislation that has certainly been on the public agenda now for many, many months. It has been on the public agenda since the irresponsible promise during the last election that the Premier had a specific plan to reduce the rate of auto insurance in this province.
Mr Neumann: Maybe we will find out what the Tory position is on this issue, because we have not yet, now that we have someone capable speaking. The third party has never said what its position is; maybe we will hear it today.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please, the member for Brantford.
Mrs Cunningham: All I can say right now is that the public of Ontario, especially families, is going to be very much concerned down the road when they see what this piece of legislation will really do to them, especially innocent accident victims.
Mr Neumann: Why don’t you tell us what your alternative is?
Mrs Cunningham: Mr Speaker, I can tell you that what is happening in the province is that for twice the price -- and the auto insurance premiums will go up, we know that, over a period of time; initially, they will stay down, but they will go up over a period of time -- they will probably get, to be very general, half the coverage. But for those families that will not get the benefits, they will really be suffering significantly.
Mr Runciman: The member for Leeds-Grenville never told us what your position was.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please, the member for Brantford.
Mrs Cunningham: When the government found that in fact it did not have a specific plan, it decided to study the problem. This is a government that will be remembered as the government that studied everything and did nothing. When in fact they did take action, as on this piece of legislation, innocent victims of accidents will suffer significantly.
Right now in Ontario, when someone is injured in a car accident under the present system, basically the public is paying a significant amount of his health insurance, his workers’ compensation, his rehabilitation and his retraining. We as citizens right now are paying the costs for victims of ear accidents as they try to become rehabilitated and go back to work. In the future, we will be paying a whole lot more. Some have said that we will be paying as much as $700 million more.
As the government tried to study this, initially by Slater and then by the Osborne commission, headed by Mr Justice Osborne of the Supreme Court of Ontario, and then by the government’s own Ontario Auto Insurance Board, headed by Mr Kruger, the various studies were undertaken at a cost to Ontario consumers of an estimated $13 million. What was the government told?
Mr Justice Osborne told the government that we have one of the best systems of automobile insurance and compensation in the world, and that Ontario should be exporting its system rather than seeking to import a failed American system.
Mr Kruger told the government that so-called threshold systems do not lower premiums other than perhaps in the first year of the system and that in fact premiums in threshold systems thereafter escalate. This was the information that the citizens of Ontario paid for, that the so-called threshold systems do not lower premiums other than perhaps in the first year of the system and that in fact premiums in threshold systems thereafter escalate. So as long as the government knows what it is getting into down the road, it of course can feel somewhat more responsible for its actions, and certainly the public will let it know.
In summary, the experts have studied the problem and told the government that the answer was to improve the present system so that it would work better, but to maintain the present system. For those members in the House who want to know exactly what we would do, that is what we would do. I can tell them that would have taken some work. It would have taken the input that was made before the committee on behalf of solicitors, on behalf of the head injury groups in Ontario, on behalf of recipients, unfortunately, of benefits where they have had to claim. There are many persons in this province who could advise the government as to how it could have improved the present system. They tried to do that during the committee hearings. The government did not listen. As usual, they had their mind made up.
Since I have been elected to this Legislative Assembly, I have said that the committee system does not work. There ought to be a better way of getting good information from the public of Ontario by a government which is prepared to listen and take the best free advice it can get to fix things.
Mr Neumann: Come on, Dianne. Opposition is more than opposition. Present an alternative.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: I can only say right now that there were specific suggestions before the committee for improvement. In fact, our party did respond and I myself personally have made specific suggestions for improvement.
Mr Neumann: You can do better than your colleague the member for Leeds-Grenville.
Mrs Cunningham: I can tell members right now that there are three gifts of consumers’ tax dollars to the insurance companies with the consent of the Peterson government, lean speak because I was part of this many years ago, part of the deliberations in 1968 as we took a look at a sunset clause.
First of all, OHIP currently receives lump sum payments per annum from automobile insurance companies pursuant to OHIP’s agreement with the insurance companies. I always wondered who was footing the bill for accident victims in hospitals so I took it upon myself to pursue this particular question.
Mr J. B. Nixon: Read the legislation, look at the regulations. There are no gifts.
Mrs Cunningham: If the government would like to argue the point, I suppose it could do so. I have not heard them argue it at all. This particular agreement is now abolished.
Mr J. B. Nixon: You haven’t listened.
Mrs Cunningham: I have been listening and I have looked at the notes. It is abolished under the new scheme, and the cost to Ontario taxpayers is about $50 million each year. The member can write it down and argue the point, but that is the government figure, and we have talked to the government officials within the last two weeks.
Second, the statutory right of the Workers’ Compensation Board to subrogate, to recover funds paid by the Workers’ Compensation Board on behalf of injured workers in motor vehicle accidents, is abolished under the proposed scheme. Actually, although there is a period of time for not only the Workers’ Compensation Board to subrogate but also school board to subrogate right now, even with the present legislation there are problems with this whole issue of subrogating and the fact that there are time frames and programs that will not be covered during this process at all now. We know it is not working now. We know that it is not working on behalf of young people who subrogate in school boards across Ontario to recover some of the moneys. In spite of Bill 82, that happens.
Hon Mr Black: School boards’?
Mrs Cunningham: Yes. If a young person is injured, and the school board provides care beyond its required duty, under Bill 82 the school board can in fact subrogate and get the money back from insurance companies. They have not been very successful at that, and it is not working. We need to do something about that. Right now with the present system, the public of Ontario, which is watching these proceedings today, has to understand that the taxpayers are footing the greater part of the bill now, as they are for health care.
Hon Mr Elston: They are not.
Mrs Cunningham: They are.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: In fact, right now the taxpayers of this province are paying a very large part of health care costs, of education costs and of rehabilitation costs. I would venture to say that probably as much as 80 per cent of them now, and the little bit that the insurance companies pay is some 3 per cent. The OHIP is $50 million. The statutory rights of the Workers’ Compensation Board, they have given up that to the tune of $51 million.
Third, the 3 per cent provincial tax on premiums received by the insurance companies is abolished. This amounts to a gift by taxpayers to the insurance companies of about $95 million. All of this money that has been spent --
Mr Neumann: You can do better than read notes. Mrs Cunningham: These are my own notes. If the member does not like that --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Will the members please respect the standing orders. One member at a time.
Mrs Cunningham: I think it is really sad that the members in this House have been so lobbied by the Premier or by the minister, who does not look the type but obviously is. He has really had the opportunity to brainwash people who have not done their homework, and that is why they are talking the way they are.
Down the road, during the public hearings, the head-injured people came before the committee and said that the definition will exclude some 95 per cent of their own people. Let’s think about it. We will read it right now.
Mr J. B. Nixon: They didn’t say that.
Mr Neumann: Somewhere in there you must have your own notes.
Mrs Cunningham: I aam reading their own notes, if you do not mind, Mr Speaker. Ray Rempel is the executive director of the Ontario Head Injury Association. In this special edition newsletter of the Ontario Head Injury Association to its members on the subject of no-fault insurance, Mr Rempel, who has a head-injured son, stated:
“Have you wondered why the insurance companies have been eerily silent throughout this whole debate? My dog only barks when she perceives hunger. She wags her tail when she sees a gravy train approaching. The insurance companies are wagging their tails. They are admittedly very comfortable with Bill 68.
“Why are the insurance companies so happy?”
They are happy. In fact, I do not want to say anything too negative about the insurance companies. I would like to direct my criticism to the government that, much to the delight of the insurance companies, gave it all away on behalf of the taxpayers of Ontario. It is us who are going to have to pay for rehabilitation, education and training, and for health care.
If in fact we are paying for it, why will the insurance companies not lower our premiums? If we do not have the same benefits from insurance policies across this province, if the taxpayers are going to be footing all these bills, why is the government not standing up and saying, “We will lower your premiums by 20%”? That is what they should be saying. As a matter of fact, what they are saying is that for twice the price they are going to get half the coverage.
I hope that no one in this institution today, in this Legislative Assembly, or any of his friends or neighbours or family members will ever have to ask themselves the question, “Is my child, my mother, my husband or my neighbour permanently physically disabled?” I hope they never have to ask that question, because if after a period of time they are permanently physically disabled they have the right to sue, and that will be about 3% of the citizens in the province of Ontario who have sustained injuries in car accidents. That is all. We have lost our rights in this democracy to sue for what we rightfully deserve and what we have in fact paid for.
What happens to the rest of them? The rest of them will have to go before some committee and somebody will decide –
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Standing orders call for one member at a time. If other members want to take exception and talk for or against, they can take their own time away from the current time.
Mrs Cunningham: It is really too bad that the members who are heckling this afternoon are so ill-informed and I really hope that they will not personally suffer as a result of Bill 68 that will be thrust upon families across this province because of a stupid and irresponsible election promise. That is the only reason that we are stuck here debating this afternoon.
If the innocent victim cannot cross the very restrictive threshold, which is permanently physically disabled, then the innocent victim will be entitled only to certain stipulated no-fault benefits. Can members imagine what those certain stipulated no-fault benefits will be? I speak through experience, after being through the court system for over five or six years with the right to sue. Nobody can in fact define what is fair. In Ontario right now it may be too long, but at least in this family the innocent victim will have a chance for fairness and what is deserved. Under the system right now, that will not happen for some 97% of the victims of car accidents across this province.
I think that is a shame, especially at the same time when the innocent public that is sitting out there right now thinks that it is okay, that it is all right to see premiums go up 0.5% next year. They think they have a real deal. What they do not know is that they will have very little coverage if anything serious happens to a family member.
I can say right now that we had an opportunity to correct what was wrong with the present system and to fix it and to be able to stand up and be counted across this province and this country and to say, as Chief Justice Coulter Osborne said, we had one of the best insurance schemes in North American and one that in fact we should be exporting. Now it is not better.
Mr Neumann: Now it is better. What else did he say about premiums?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: The minister has announced that some drivers will face premium increases in the 30% to 40% range because of the new scheme for collision coverage on consumers own automobiles. Consumers will now deal directly with their own automobile insurance companies with respect to collision damage. This will mean that insurance companies cannot recover collision losses from the insurance companies of negligent drivers. In the result, good drivers operating late-model automobiles will pay higher premiums in order to subsidize bad drivers operating wrecks. So really, if we are talking about fairness, this is another issue that could have been corrected separate from Bill 68, that could have been dealt with separate from this legislation as part of the ordinary house-cleaning responsibilities of this Legislative Assembly.
I would just like to close by saying a couple of things that are very important.
Mr Neumann: Don’t sit down too soon; we want to hear your position.
Mrs Cunningham: My position on this piece of legislation has never been any different, and that is that we have another example of Peterson government mismanagement. Bill 68 is an assault on victims, and for those members who cannot stand any more, I think they should just take a look at what is happening with the FAIR committee, the Committee for Fair Action in Insurance Reform. They did in fact get out and try to inform the public so that members of the public came before the committee to give the government members some good advice, for which they did not take the opportunity.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Cunningham: Right now rates in fact will be up, not down. We had a chance with the Chief Justice Coulter Osborne report to make a few changes. We do know that in fact we are giving up $143 million on tax breaks to insurance companies, $480 million on pain and suffering savings and $150 million in economic loss. It has been a giveaway. And in the end, the specific plan to lower -- of course, we do admit now that we did not have a specific plan to lower automobile premiums. We know that, and we know that in the short term they will go up slightly in some parts of the city. Just last week we heard in London, Ontario, that one insurance company in London, outside of Metro, outside of Hamilton-Wentworth, had a plan to increase at least a percentage of its drivers’ premiums by some 17%.
I think it is a sad day in this House right now that we see an election promise that is not to the benefit of the citizens of Ontario, that we see a process that has not been one where the public has had a fair chance, a fair opportunity to express its concerns. We see a committee, like all other committees that I have sat on since I was elected some two years ago, that has been given its marching orders.
We now know that the real victims in this province will probably be the young children who in fact are just disabled enough that they may never work or complete their education and in fact they will have to be at the mercy of some committee of government, for which we will all pay, for their just reward, and their just reward will never take the place of what they had.
Mr Neumann: Tell us what your alternative is.
Mrs Cunningham: The alternative I have spoken to very clearly. The Liberals had that opportunity; they did not take it. Perhaps we will defeat them in the next election and fix things up. This would be one plan that we would absolutely wipe out if in fact our government or the NDP, or two of us could get together if in fact we are not successful, and absolutely give it to them. That is what we should have done a long time ago.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Members can only speak once. Do any other members wish to participate? The member for Welland-Thorold.
Mr Kormos: Mr Speaker, I cannot tell you how impressed I am with the public attention that has been focused on this issue from all across Ontario. Drivers and taxpayers, and, oh yes, victims, have focused their attention on this legislation, this Bill 68, this government’s broken promises, the deceit inherent in telling the people of Ontario in September 1987 that the Premier of this province had a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums. Oh yeah? We know now that this Liberal scheme -- oh, it is going to affect premiums, oh yeah, because premiums are going to go up by as much as 50%. The Minister of Financial Institutions made that promise, and that is one promise I can tell you he will not break.
And we know that those drivers who are forced into Facility Association, not because they are bad drivers, not because they have convictions for impaired driving or over 80, because the insurance industry, as predicted by Don McKay, the general manager of Facility Association, and as predicted by Mr Justice Osborne of the Supreme Court of Ontario, the insurance industry, once Bill 68 is passed -- and I suspect that people who are watching are going to see Bill 68 pass this afternoon, notwithstanding the opposition of the New Democratic Party and the opposition of the Progressive Conservative Party. People watching are going to see Bill 68 passed. They are going to see the drivers and the taxpayers and the victims of Ontario sold out by this Liberal government in favour of huge, quite frankly, obscene profits for an auto insurance industry that I tell you, Mr Speaker, happens to be doing just fine, thank you, just fine.
I have told members this before and perhaps it is timely and I will mention it one more time. This is the last chance I am going to have to talk about Bill 68, until the election, because there is going to be an election in 1990 here in the province of Ontario. There is going to be an election in the fall of 1990, I can tell you that, Mr Speaker, and what the Premier and his Liberal gang are going to learn is that, notwithstanding all the support in the world that they might get from the big developers and from the Patti Starrs of the world and from the DelZottos of the world and the Marco Muzzos of the world, notwithstanding the support they get from those gangsters, they are going to learn that drivers can vote, insurance companies cannot, notwithstanding that the auto insurance industry in the province of Ontario in the years 1987 and 1988 contributed almost $250,000 to the Ontario Liberal Party. I suppose the question that might be asked of the auto insurance industry is, did it really think it bought itself a government with those contributions or did it merely think that it rented it for a short while?
Let me tell you what this auto insurance industry in Canada did in 1989, because the casualty property insurance industry across Canada in 1989 enjoyed record eight-year profits, the highest profits in eight years, profits of some $317 million. Yet this is the same industry that is crying poverty. Mind you, they have been crying poverty since the l940s and 1950s. The very same people, the very same insurance executives and boards and companies that were telling the public in 1955 that the auto insurance industry was unprofitable in this province, said the same thing in 1965 and 1975 and in 1985 and they are saying the same thing now in 1990. They have used that to force premiums beyond affordability for the vast majority of Ontario drivers and beyond fairness for all Ontario drivers, and there is simply no doubt about that.
The government is presenting legislation that, as I say, is, sadly, going to be passed. During the course of debate, we looked long and hard for 29 honest Liberal members who would vote for their constituents rather than for the big auto insurance industry and its profits. I know there is going to be a whole bunch of Liberals who are not going to be here this afternoon. There is going to be a whole bunch of members of this Liberal caucus who are not going to want to be seen by their constituents as voting in support of Bill 68 because they know what the political repercussions will be. There is going to be a whole bunch of Liberals who are not present for this vote this afternoon.
It is not good enough to merely absence oneself from the House. That will not wash. If those Liberals who are avoiding being here today think that is going to earn them recognition as somehow somebody who did not support Bill 68, they should think again, because the public in Ontario knows that the only meaningful vote this afternoon is a vote in opposition to Bill 68, because a vote against this legislation which is intended and designed as an attack on drivers and taxpayers, and, oh yes, innocent injured victims, is a vote against an insurance scheme that gives the private corporate auto insurance industry more than it has ever dared ask for.
Remember 1987 through to 1988, Mr Speaker, when the insurance industry proposed its so-called smart no-fault insurance in its presentations to the Honourable Mr Justice Osborne, conducting his inquiry on behalf of the provincial government? The insurance industry itself did not dare ask for what the Liberals in Ontario are handing over to it right now. The Liberals called their scheme smart no-fault. If that is the case, this has to be called stupid no-fault.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Kormos: This has to be called stupid no-fault if what the Liberals are giving the insurance industry now is at the expense of taxpayers, drivers and victims. We are talking about a $1-billion payday, $1 billion the first year alone, $1 billion in new profits for an auto insurance industry that is doing quite well, thank you. The auto insurance industry in this province is doing well enough that it can contribute almost $250,000 in two years to the Liberal Party.
And drivers wonder where their premium dollars are being spent? They do not have to look hard. They just look to the same people who were the beneficiaries of Patti Starr’s largess and they find that the insurance industry was there as well. The only thing the insurance industry did not do was provide fridges and paint jobs. Perhaps that is all for the better, because it is harder to track down cash than it is a Frigidaire and some Sherwin-Williams.
We are talking about legislation that has been meaningfully opposed by the vast majority of communities across the province, residents of those communities and organizations which represent the members of those communities. Trade unions, labour councils, the police associations, firefighters’ associations, teachers’ associations, trade unionists and non-unionized workers alike know that Bill 68 is bad legislation and it is bad news, unless one happens to be an insurance company executive.
The insurance industry appeared before the standing committee on general government, and as I told the members before, once again repeated its cries of poverty. But we did not hear about any insurance company executives who faced wage or salary reductions. We did not hear about any insurance company executives who had their perks taken away from them. We did not hear about any of the plush carpeting in those executive suites being replaced by a more mundane indoor-outdoor, did we? We heard from members of the public across Ontario who said no to Bill 68, who said no to the Liberal sellout of drivers, taxpayers and victims.
You know what, Mr Speaker? In the final 17 hours that we spoke about this matter before the Liberals imposed their -- well, it is a Tory-designed, it is a Brian Mulroney-designed closure motion, we received 900 phone calls from people across this province. Phone calls were coming in from 6 in the evening until 11 in the morning, phone calls from Liberals who said, “My party membership card number is this and you can tell the Liberals, ‘No more.”’ There were phone calls from Liberal supporters who said, “All my life and all of my parents’ lives a Liberal supporter, but never again.” We received letters from members of the executive of riding associations, like letters from Herman Turkstra in Hamilton, a leading Liberal in that community who says, “No more.
We are seeing Liberal incumbents having their nomination meetings contested in numbers that have never before been experienced by incumbent members of this Legislative Assembly. We see Liberal cabinet ministers having their nominations contested, in itself virtually unprecedented. The fact remains that among the Liberal ranks themselves there is a virtual exodus of members and there is a dissatisfaction with the performance of sitting Liberals from their own membership, never mind from other parts of the community.
We talked about people like John Bates, the president of PRIDE, People to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere. We talked about John Bates and his contribution to this debate and his concern about murder and mayhem and bodily injury and property damage on our highways and roadways, and about his concern about the fact that this government is doing so precious little to concretely deal with impaired driving and highway safety. We talked about that. We talked about the concerns of PRIDE and John Bates, its president, and other executive members, and we talked about the fact that they tried to make contributions to the committee process but they were simply dumped on by the Minister of Financial Institutions.
They were not alone. They were in good company. Ralph Nader, members will recall, was criticized in his absence by the Minister of Financial Institutions. Why? When Ralph Nader appeared, the minister was not anywhere near, was not anywhere around to look him in the eye and say the same things he would say in Ralph Nader’s absence.
Nader, among other things, told us that the United States and American jurisdictions had so long looked to Canada, and especially Ontario, for leadership in good legislation. Are they getting it in Bill 68? Not by any stretch of the imagination.
The Ontario Head Injury Association: Mr Rempel and his son appeared and they delivered among the most poignant, touching and moving of considerations. They talked about the need to include psychological injury in this threshold so that people who suffered psychological injuries, people who suffered head injuries in motor vehicle accidents, would be permitted to pass the threshold.
But no, those people are part of the 95% of all innocent injured accident victims who are going to be denied the right to any compensation for pain and suffering or for loss of enjoyment of life; 95% of all innocent injured accident victims are being denied rights by the Liberals in Ontario, by the Premier and his gang and the auto insurance industry. They are being denied any right to compensation for pain and suffering and for loss of enjoyment of life.
Not only are they denied the right to compensation, but the courthouse doors have been bolted and barred to them. They have been told that they cannot use the courtroom, that they cannot look for remedies or relief in a court of law.
Not only are the Premier and his Liberals in the process of denying fair and adequate compensation to the vast majority of innocent victims, but they are also telling them that they as victims, as injured victims and as innocent injured victims, are not going to be permitted to use our courts of law to seek redress and to seek remedies.
I tell you this, Mr Speaker, we in the New Democratic Party do not get donations from the auto insurance industry; we do not owe it a single thing. We are not afraid of them and we are not going to knuckle under to their demands. We are not going to succumb to their pressures.
One of the refrains one hears so often from members of this Liberal gang is, “You New Democrats take money from trade unionists.” Members have heard people say that, have they not? We do. Trade unionists support New Democratic candidates in the NDP with their contributions, and I tell members this, we are proud to be here representing the interests of unionized workers along with seniors, students, the unemployed, farmers and small business people; we are proud to be here representing the interests and the welfare of those people.
Are the Premier and the Minister of Financial Institutions proud to be representing the interests of the corporate auto insurance industry? Why are the Premier and the Liberals so beholden to the auto insurance industry? Why are they prepared to deliver $1 billion? Why are the Liberals prepared to deliver $1 billion in the first year alone of new profits to that corporate auto insurance industry? It is an industry that has demonstrated its disdain for the injured and for the victim and for the client and the consumer year after year after year. It is an industry which this government’s own minister -- the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology -- has spoken of in the following terms, when he spoke of the auto insurance industry and its shabby treatment of people here in the province.
But I tell members this, and they can count on this, that we in the New Democratic Party are opposed to Bill 68 and the threshold today -- because it is threshold that is what this insurance is all about, it is threshold which means it is designed to ensure that people are not compensated, it is not designed to ensure that people are compensated. We are opposed to Bill 68 and the concept of threshold and the concept of denying innocent victims the right to compensation today, and we will be opposed to it tomorrow and next month and next year as well.
The New Democrats -- and as I say, I am fearful that the Liberals here are going to force this legislation through -- when this legislation passes this afternoon will remain opposed to it and we will be doing everything we possibly can to seek its reversal. We are committed to eliminating threshold from any insurance scheme in Ontario. If this legislation passes this afternoon, we in the New Democratic Party are committed to removing threshold from any insurance scheme when we form the government in this province.
I tell you what else we are committed to, Mr Speaker, we are committed to a public, driver-owned, non-profit auto insurance system, like the system in Manitoba -- the one the Tories run there now; the Conservative Party as the government in Manitoba is running a public, driver-owned, non-profit auto insurance system -- like the driver-owned, non-profit, public auto insurance system in Saskatchewan, which has been operating since 1946 when Tommy Douglas, the Premier of that province, and the CCF introduced public, driver-owned auto insurance, and the Conservatives run it in Saskatchewan on this very day. We are committed to a public, driver-owned, non-profit auto insurance system like the one we see in British Columbia where the NDP government in 1973 created an insurance system that was fair, affordable, that did not discriminate on the basis of gender, that did not discriminate on the basis of age and that makes bad drivers pay more. That is what happens in British Columbia. Bad drivers have to pay more. In British Columbia good drivers pay less. In British Columbia senior citizens receive a 25% discount because they are senior citizens and they deserve that much.
We are talking about a public, driver-owned auto insurance system like British Columbia’s where the elimination of profits alone saves drivers millions and millions of dollars each year, where the discriminatory practices that drivers, young and old, male and female in this province have endured for too long will be eliminated, and where there is public accountability, where the books are open, where we do not have to try to deal with branch offices of American-based corporations like so many of the auto insurance companies right here in Ontario are.
We advocate public, driver-owned auto insurance, no two ways about it, and we are committed to establishing a system of public, driver-owned, non-profit auto insurance right here in the province of Ontario when the New Democratic Party forms the government of this province.
We believe so strongly in the provision of no-fault benefits, of course we do; we have advocated them for decades. We have been as critical of this government as anybody could be about the inadequacy of the no-fault structure as it exists right now, the fact that no-faults were not indexed and similarly are not indexed in Bill 68, the fact that the no-fault benefits prohibit an innocent victim from seeking economic loss that is in excess of the maximum amount provided for under the no-fault component of an automobile insurance system.
The problem is, there is nothing new about no-fault insurance. It has been in effect in this province for well over a decade now, just as no-fault components of the insurance systems in the public jurisdictions like Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia have been in effect there for long, long periods of time. The Liberals did not invent no-fault. It has been in this province for over a decade.
What the Liberals do bring to Ontario is this concept of threshold, this concept that some people, some innocent injured victims, will get some compensation, whereas the vast majority will not. Every penny saved by virtue of not paying 95% of all innocent injured victims’ compensation is going to be turned into profits for the auto insurance industry. In the first year alone, some $823 million of compensation is going to be denied victims so that the insurance industry in Ontario can pocket it. Add to that the $143 million of taxpayer subsidies that are going to take place in the first year alone. Add to that premium increases of up to 50% for the vast majority of drivers and we are talking about a windfall for the insurance industry that it has never dared dream of.
We are talking about an auto insurance system that we advocate, one that is public, driver-owned, non-profit, one about which there is accountability in the government, one about which there are savings for drivers, one about which there is no discrimination. But do members know what happens? The insurance industry in Ontario, the private corporate industry, is looking at profits that are so bountiful, so obscenely huge, that it will stop at no lengths to try to peddle this system, this so-called no-fault system, in reality, this threshold system. We know where it comes from. It comes from the United States.
But the sad reality of it is that the threshold contained in Bill 68 is more onerous, more draconian, more rigid, more cruel, more unfair than any threshold in any American jurisdiction at the very point in time when American jurisdictions are saying no to threshold, when states like New Jersey are abandoning their threshold experiment, recognizing that it does not save premium dollars and that it does not protect victims and that it does not provide fairness. What it does do is provide enormous profits for the auto insurance industry at the expense of drivers, taxpayers and victims. At a point in history when American jurisdictions are abandoning threshold, this Liberal government wants to adopt it. Well, the insurance industry sure is pulling this Liberal government’s strings, is it not? This Liberal government is so deep in the back pockets of the insurance industry that these guys are spitting out lint. They are.
Then we have to tolerate and put up with things like the Queen’s Park Report, spring 1990, from the member for Mississauga West. This has been repeated so many times. It is the PR garbage that the Liberals are passing around the province of Ontario that, oh, so sadly, is being paid for from beginning to end by the taxpayers of Ontario. That is what is going to happen.
The Minister of Financial Institutions did not appear. He was a no-show during general government hearings -- a no-show. The Minister of Financial Institutions wanted to distance himself so far from this legislation that he would not even show up for the committee hearings. Did he show up in committee of the whole in the Legislature? I ask you, Mr Speaker, you were here: Did the minister show up at committee of the whole right here in the Legislature? Of course not. You saw that he was not here.
The Minister of Financial Institutions has his little PR flacks putting out their fluff and their propaganda, trying to peddle a bill of goods to the public of Ontario. But it is not washing, because it remains that surveys done throughout this province show that there is overwhelming opposition to Bill 68 and this Liberal auto insurance scheme. That opposition comes from the ridings of people like the member for Sudbury. Why, the member for Sudbury’s own riding association told him to vote against this bill. If he is a no-show today, it does not count. If he is here today and he votes for Bill 68, he is voting against his constituents and for the private, corporate auto insurance industry.
The fact is that this government did not want to debate auto insurance. This government did not want to debate Bill 68. The Minister of Financial Institutions and the Premier did not want to discuss the issues or argue the points or defend their position. Where are the Liberal backbenchers today? Where are they with their praise for Bill 68? Do they dare put themselves on record? Not by a long shot.
We are talking about a government from which the stench of corruption has become unbearable, about a government whose alliances are with the big development industry and the profiteers; yes, and in some cases the outright crooks. We are talking about a government that has abandoned the voters and the taxpayers and the drivers and the victims so that the Premier’s buddies in the auto insurance industry can make big, obscene profits. We are talking about a government that even refused, that simply refused, to talk about public auto insurance as an option, because it was afraid of that debate too.
So I tell the people in this province that when the Minister of Financial Institutions stands up to deliver some more of the PR fluff, like the stuff they have been distributing at taxpayers’ expense, recognize that it is not a debate; recognize that it is not a response to the issues; recognize that it is an avoidance, it is a flight from the reality of the inadequacy of Bill 68 when it comes to the real people in this province.
This government may well learn something come September 1990. What it will learn, if it learns anything, is that insurance companies cannot vote. But drivers can, and drivers will. If this. government thinks it can avoid auto insurance as an election issue, it has got another think coming -- because the people of Ontario are not going to tolerate corruption in their government; Liberals who are the associates, as I say, of the Patti Starrs and the DelZottos and the Marco Muzzos and the big developers and who will sell out the voters of Ontario for big profits for the insurance industry. Oh, the Minister of Financial Institutions can stand up and read his prepared speech and read some of the PR fluff that has been generated by his hack writers, but it will not count because the fact remains that the minister would not, nor would any members of this government, participate in the debate about this insurance bill. He knows that and the people of Ontario know it. The government would not look to the options.
We will be voting against Bill 68 because we are not afraid of the insurance industry. We will vote for the seniors, the workers, the unemployed, the small business people and the youth of Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): I feel like the honourable member and myself have travelled down Route 68 together over these last few weeks.
Mr Runciman: Like the member for Welland-Thorold, I have spoken at length on this issue for the past number of months it seems, on and on, and today is the culmination. It is not a joyous day, to say the least, in respect to innocent accident victims in this province. I think all of us who have fought this legislation tooth and nail for the past number of months are somewhat sad about the passage of this legislation today and the serious, negative impact it is going to have on innocent accident victims in Ontario in the years ahead.
We have something like 200,000-plus auto accidents in this province per year, with over 6,000,000 drivers. I think the 1987 statistics indicated in excess of 120,000 injuries as a result of those 200,000 accidents. What we are talking about, based on the government’s own facts determined by actuaries, is that these innocent accident victims are going to lose close to 50 per cent of the benefits that now accrue to them under the current system of automobile insurance compensation, a system of compensation that has been described as definitely the best in North America and perhaps the best in the world. That is what this government is dismantling through this legislation, Bill 68.
It is an unfortunate day, a sad day, and one which the government, at some point, will regret. If indeed we can see some changes take place with the upcoming provincial election, hopefully this can be cut off before it does too much harm to too many individuals, families and innocent victims in this province. Our party is committed to substantive changes and certainly to ensuring that many more people will retain access to the courts when they suffer injuries as the result of the actions of an irresponsible driver on the roads and highways of this province.
We believe quite deeply in the ethic of responsibility, that those responsible for their actions should pay, and we believe that innocent accident victims should retain the right to take that at-fault driver to court. As I said, 95% to 97% of innocent accident victims will no longer have that right under Bill 68. That right is going to be lost to them as a result of the Liberal government’s no-fault legislation.
We have talked about this ad nauseam and it has had little or no impact on the Liberal Party, on the Liberal cabinet nor, perhaps more important, on the backbenchers in the Liberal ranks, 70 or 80 of them who have certainly not heeded the concerns expressed by members of the opposition parties and, perhaps more important, have not heeded the concerns expressed by their own constituents, thousands and thousands of people who have appealed to the Liberal Party over the past number of months in respect to this legislation.
From my own perspective, I guess, the people who were not heeded were the people who took the time to appear before the standing committee studying Bill 68, the overwhelming majority of whom were opposed to this legislation and many of whom had no vested interest, nothing whatsoever to gain by passage or failure of this legislation. But they appeared before us because of a very genuine, sincere concern about what the future holds for innocent accident victims in this province if this no-fault legislation passes through the House, which it appears it is going to do today.
We talked about the multitudes of people who are going to suffer, not just innocent accident victims but other specific groups, like small, independent business people who are not going to be covered for non-economic loss, who could indeed see the loss of businesses, homes and life savings as a result of this legislation.
What the government and its insurance company cohorts will say to those individuals is simply: “Buy additional insurance. Cover your tails by buying additional insurance.” They say that quietly out of the side of their mouths, while at the same time, out of the other side of their mouths, they are saying: “What we’re going to do is stabilize your rates, folks. The most they’re going to go up is an average of 8% in urban areas and perhaps 0% in areas outside Metropolitan Toronto and the Hamilton and Burlington areas.” Out of the other side, as I said, they are telling people to buy additional insurance to try to cover their tails in the event of serious accidents and non-pecuniary losses.
We have talked about farmers, who are going to be in a similar kind of situation. This is going to be based on net income, and we know that many farmers in this province have very little, if any, income. Most of it is plowed back into their operations. They indeed are going to be on the receiving end in terms of the negative impact of this legislation when it goes through.
Teachers are another group. We could talk about all sorts of groups in society who are going to suffer negatively. I want to mention teachers because there has been a bill of goods sold, or attempted to be sold, to teachers in this province in respect to how the legislation is going to impact on their sick leave benefits. They said, “Look, you don’t have to draw down on sick leave,” but the reality is that under the government’s legislation, the maximum payout is going to be $600 per week. We know that the majority of teachers in this province are earning significantly more than that. If indeed they are a single-income family and they have a mortgage payment to make or other pressures applied to them, they are going to be required, in order to meet their commitments, to draw down on that sick leave. That is a reality. They are going to have draw down on that sick leave. As a result, they are again coveting the tail of the insurance industry and having a negative impact on protections for their own long-term future by having to draw down on sick leave.
We talked about other protections that are built into bargaining agreements with the unions and so on and, in the private sector, with management as well, where we have salary continuation plans. Salary continuation plans are going to be hit first under this legislation. If you happen to be unfortunate enough to be in an accident, what happens is that you are going to have to be hit with your salary continuation plan before no-fault can kick in.
So again, what is happening is that we are seeing these sorts of protections that are built in, perhaps through negotiations, through discussions with management when you are hired on, perks that go along with your employment or have been fought for over many years of hard bargaining and improvements in a collective agreement -- what we are hearing now is the government saying, “Okay, those are going to kick in, but we’re going to protect the tail of the insurance industry and they will take second position in respect to provision of payments and making payouts.”
Those benefits to the industry, and a multitude of others, are going to total, it has been speculated by some, close to $1 billion for the insurance industry. We know about the 3% tax on premiums which is going to be dropped. We know about the OHIP subrogation agreement which is going to be dropped. We are talking about a direct taxpayer’s benefit to the insurance industry in the neighbourhood of $143 million.
The other sums total between $600 million and $650 million. There are various estimates; we have heard higher. We want to put on the record how the insurance companies save those, because I am sure the minister will be disputing that and saying that consumers are going to reap the benefits of this. But in effect, it is indeed a gift to the insurance industry from innocent accident victims. They will be required to make this gift each and every year under this legislation.
I put this on the record: Under the present system of auto insurance compensation, the innocent victim of a motor vehicle accident has the right to compensation for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, out-of-pocket expenses, full loss of wages or salary, compensation for family members who are obliged, for example, to take time off work in order to assist the innocent victim.
The current compensation system has no-fault benefits. All drivers, regardless of fault, are entitled to certain disability benefits, limited as they are, as well as medical and other rehabilitation expenses not covered by OHIP. The disability benefits are at a low level of $140 per week. Of course, we and others have felt that they should be increased, including Justice Coulter Osborne, who recommended that in his most comprehensive report.
What we are talking about here, as I have said, is a significant windfall to the insurance industry. The minister will try to gloss over that and talk about how, in his view, the consumers are going to be the beneficiaries of these changes, but the reality is something quite different.
Another element which I hope the minister may want to respond to is the impact on the Workers’ Compensation Board. That has not been talked about at length. It is certainly not a sexy part of this issue, but again, we have heard various estimates, and I think the one from the WCB is a $46 million per annum cost that the board is going to be faced with because of its loss of the right to recover funds on behalf of workers injured in motor vehicle accidents. That is going to be abolished under this scheme.
What that does, of course, is apply additional costs to those businesses and industries operating in this province, an additional assessment. We saw truckers stopping at the borders this past week trying to hold up traffic in protest against what is happening in this province. The impact of additional red tape, taxes, legislation brought in on those people by this government, the most antibusiness government in Canada -- and that is from the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who talked about this Liberal government. This kind of legislation, which is going to hurt small business people especially, is just another nail in the coffin of our ability to be competitive in this province. The minister can smile at that, but he has smiled throughout this debate. He has not paid heed to any of the very valid concerns. He and his cronies have snickered away on their very comfortable perches.
We had an announcement, a leak, last week about Commercial Union insurance -- I am working by memory here -- a six-star driver in the Hamilton area, I believe, looking at an increase of 17.4% under this new scheme. This is someone who has not had an accident for six years, no charges, etc, just for the benefit of the member for Algoma.
I talked about the Minister of Financial Institutions being on a comfortable perch. I gather he was in Paris, France, when that announcement, that leak was made. I do not know whether he was there at the taxpayers’ expense. He may want to elaborate on that when he takes the floor a little later on. I know that I have not been in Paris, France, at the taxpayers’ expense. I suspect most of us in this Assembly have not been that fortunate. But we want to talk about the millions being wasted, the millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars being wasted by this Liberal government in respect to this legislation.
We have talked about the windfall of the insurance industry approaching $1 billion. Now we are talking about at least in the neighbourhood of $20 million, perhaps more, tax money lost by the ineptitude of this government in respect to its dealings with auto insurance in this province.
The establishment of the automobile insurance board, the extensive periods of time that it devotes to two issues assigned to it by the Liberal government -- and which issues, once they were reported to the Minister of Financial Institutions, were in essence flushed down the toilet, at a cost, as I said, of significant millions, but not until after this group of Liberal worthies was well ensconced in very plush surroundings in North York. Certainly no cheap seats for those folks, only the best quality of furniture, the best of cars, the best of all sorts of things that go along with being a supporter of the Liberal Party in Ontario.
They are well looked after, and that is why they can sit in their seats and snicker here today, and that is why they could snicker in the past while we dealt with this legislation. That is why they could snicker when we have had very seriously concerned witnesses appear before us and testify before us about the negative impact on innocent accident victims, and why we get snickering and smirks and laughs from the Liberal members, including the Minister of Financial Institutions.
I think it is reflective of this whole government, the arrogance, as I said in the past, that starts in the front bench and ripples all the way to the back row. We have seen it when we have dealt with this legislation, the fact they are unwilling to listen to the people of this province on this very, very important issue.
We are talking about people who are going to be hurt by this legislation. I have said this before, but I do not think I can say it on enough occasions. Innocent people in this province are going to be very seriously hurt by this legislation.
Perhaps the most difficult element of this is the less fortunate people in society, the unemployed, the single-parent families, the people who have very modest incomes indeed and who do not have the opportunities for additional benefits. They are not represented by organized labour, they are not on management staff of industries and business. They do not have the perks that go along with those opportunities in society. What is going to happen to them under no-fault legislation? They are going to be shut off, shut out, like so many people in society. This is bad legislation that hurts people.
Hon Mr Elston: It is a pleasure finally to be able to come to this stage of this legislation where we can wrap up and have a vote to ensure that we proceed in a positive fashion and deal with the problems which have been created not just yesterday or the day before, but over a whole series of years.
Remember the days of a former administration. The Progressive Conservative Party for a number of years held sway in this province, and there was a gentleman from Leeds-Grenville who was a member of the Legislature in those days. He was the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and had the authority to deal with issues surrounding auto insurance in the province of Ontario. Like so many things, he was able to go along blithely ignoring the problem and, in fact, hoping that it would go away.
Lo and behold, for that gentleman, fortunately enough, it did go away. He was asked to leave, along with his buddies, so that somebody could come into this Legislative Assembly who had the authority and the will and the ability to move forward with new policy directions which would provide an assistance to the people of the province.
We have been a very active administration. We have been dealing with the issues as they came forward in a way which showed balance and which showed a progressive concern for the problems of the people of Ontario. This problem was a result of an inability, perhaps also an unwillingness, to understand the fundamental problems which had been created by requiring mandatory insurance for all who have automobile drivers’ licences in the province.
We do not argue with the need for having mandatory insurance. We know that people must be protected as a result of problems created by accidents in this society. There is no question that as long as we have automobiles, passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles driven on our roads, there will invariably be accidents of one sort or another.
So many compelling pieces of information were brought forward to us that told us time and time again that accidents on a huge number of occasions have been caused merely by a moment’s inattention, by a concern that was generated by the activities of a youngster in the back seat of a car that was being driven by a parent who responded to a momentary need and, as a result, an accident occurred; or a response to something outside the vehicle that took a person’s attention away from the road and in fact there was no ill intention on the part of the driver who caused the accident.
We also know that the congestion on our highways is such and the volume of traffic such that there are accidents as people move from one lane to another. We knew that when we heard from those people that accidents could not be prevented totally in the province and that, as a result, the cost and the systems had to be borne to pay for the medical treatments and the long-term care provided for those people who were unfortunate enough to suffer injury. We knew that.
We know as well, unlike the socialists, the New Democratic Party, that you cannot get something for nothing. I do not accuse my friends from the Progressive Conservative Party of trying to sell us something for nothing. They just forget to tell us the price tag associated with their options. They do not want to talk about their prices. Those people in the official opposition, however, believe they can sell people a product that they say offers something but charge no cost.
They are all nice people. I do not have any concerns about the personal attributes of any one of the members of this Legislative Assembly who sit with the opposition parties. They have their own particular points of view, they have their own needs, and the members from the opposition parties who have spoken here today have a need to show that they are on guard for the opposition to this legislation. But those people have not come forward with a plan which addresses the cost of insurance that we were required to address; nor have they told us what they would do to manage the high incidence of accidents in this province.
We have put together, as a government, not only a response to the insurance question but also an overall strategy to deal with the hurt and the problems associated with driving automobiles in the province. We started off on 15 September of last year talking to people not only about insurance product reform but also about a new initiative and series of activities undertaken to decrease the accident rates altogether.
How many people have we talked to, certainly among the members, who have come forward to me and said: “Minister, your crackdown on speeders on the 400-series highways has had an effect. We have seen them out there. We have been stopped by them”? How many people have been stopped and reminded that they had not been wearing their seatbelts as required by the statute law of this province?
In the early days of the crackdown, in October of last year, the regional municipalities of Halton and Waterloo went through a series of initiatives which found that more than 1,000 drivers in each of those municipalities were not wearing their seatbelts. We found that if we required the people to wear their seatbelts, we could save between 80 and 90 lives in the province, if people would just abide by those rules.
We found that if we required more safe design of highways, we could also reduce the cost to our society and to the drivers of our province, if we implemented those changes. And we have moved not only on the enforcement and on the design area, but also on putting together new traffic systems which will allow the reasonable flow of traffic in high-volume areas in a way which will allow for safer use of our highways.
We have done a whole series of initiatives which will ensure a response not just on the insurance side of this problem, but fully right across the board through the co-operation of over five ministries. With the active support of the police in this province and others, we will reduce the accident rates in this province.
But more than anything else, we recognize that there will be a need to assist those people who are unfortunately affected by the results of accident injury. We know that, just as the people from the Progressive Conservative Party were unwilling to deal with the issue of affordable insurance, we have moved forward to provide a balance between the benefits which are provided to the people who have accidents and the costs of purchasing those benefits.
You do not get something for nothing. There is no free ride. There is no Utopia that is offered to us from time to time by the members of the official opposition. They offer us their solution, a mind-boggling inability to escape their socialist rhetoric to the extent where they believe themselves now when they speak, but they are the only ones.
When people analyse what is being done with respect to this new product legislation, they will understand the balance this offers to the people of the province. We have a threshold no-fault system provided here by this legislation. There is no question about that. We have been up front in telling the people it is a threshold no-fault system, that it is being delivered by private industry, that it is being put forward as a balance between benefits and cost.
We have taken the system that was here previously, that exists as we speak today, and we have improved upon it by taking the no-fault benefit regime which is now in front of the people of the province and saying that $140 a week for people is inappropriate.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I have been trying throughout the afternoon to get the standing orders respected. It is not because it is 5:30 that we should stop doing so. One member at a time, please.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Elston: The opposition, particularly the New Democratic Party, has had a hard time letting the Liberal Party put forward the real facts around this policy. I do not expect them to allow us to speak freely and openly at this point. Why should we expect them to change their tack? Why should we expect them to respect the democratic process? They have not done it to this point.
They have had somebody who likes to talk a lot and who likes to confuse the factual material upon which this material is based. They have supported the types of advertisements placed in the paper by some of the advocates who do not support this particular piece of legislation, and that is their way. That is what they think they should be allowed to do without being called to account. But I am calling them to account because there are things that have to be told about this legislation that they have been unwilling to provide to the people of the province.
First of all, the weekly benefits moved from a meagre $140 per week all the way to $600 per week or 80 per cent of the gross, whichever is most appropriate. What is more we have moved so that we have supplementary medical and rehabilitation services benefits available to a limit of $500,000 when it previously was $25,000. We have instituted long-term care, up to a limit of $500,000, to assist people who are injured in accidents, a monthly benefit rate of $3,000 where previously that did not exist.
The member for Leeds-Grenville spoke about how people were disadvantaged if they were seniors, if they were on low incomes, if they were homemakers, by not being included in our legislative amendments. He is wrong. We have included in the no-fault benefits for the first time, seniors, the unemployed, students, and we have included a higher benefit for the unpaid homemaker. We have provided, for the first time under the no-fault benefits, $50 per child per week to a maximum of $200. We have provided an increased death benefit. We have increased those no-fault benefits substantially to look after the problems associated with minor injuries caused by accidents in this province.
They have not spoken about that. They have decided not to tell the people that this regime has vastly improved those because they are afraid to put forward the full story so that the people of this province can understand what is being proposed here. But I will not shrink from putting forward the story, and I am in the process of showing how this is a benefit to the people of the province.
I will not tell the people of the province, as the opposition parties are trying to, that they can get those benefits without cost. There is a cost of a product and we must pay the price for a product. There is no question about that. Something for nothing is something that those people will try to sell to the people of the province. We are a realistic party.
When we go forward further we have taken into account, unlike the allegations that are made by the opposition, not only the material that has been worked on by Slater, Osborne, Kruger and others, but also the material that was brought forward at the legislative committee hearings.
Much has been made of the fact that I put a great deal of reliance upon the shoulders of my friend the member for Guelph, that as my parliamentary assistant he shepherded through this committee stage a very complex piece of legislation in a way which was not only responsible but which was responsive to the questions and inquiries that were made and which was understanding and sympathetic to the people who brought forward their material for us to review.
I will not tell the people of the province that we agreed with all the representations of every person who came in front of the committee, because from time to time we must disagree with the positions being brought forward. We disagree with the NDP because we do not want to have public auto insurance, and we do not have that. We will disagree on that. We cannot agree with the members of the Progressive Conservative Party who stand for no change. We cannot agree with everybody, as the opposition members try to make people believe it does.
At the moment, those people are holding themselves out to the lawyers of the province as great white crusaders, the great handlers of the lawyers’ cause. Those people are holding themselves out for the short term as the champions of the opponents. Those people who think the New Democrats are championing their cause should beware. Those people have consistently talked about other things than the type of program which they say they are supporting now. Their people have consistently talked about pure no-fault delivered publicly. I agree with that. On public auto insurance they have been consistent.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Elston: It is not only on public insurance that those people have done that, but they have been consistent in saying it should be pure no-fault. But it is pretty interesting, their consistency. As I said before, I agree they were consistent. They want public insurance and they want to try to make everybody believe that they support their cause, but they will not and they cannot.
I should move forward to talk about some of the other misconceptions which have been left as a result of some of the material put forward even today. I am concerned that people would have the types of misunderstandings which they have conveyed on the floor of the House after so much opportunity has been given for them to really understand what this product is all about. These people stand up at one time or another and say that the product is too expensive, and then they go on to say that there should be a three per cent premium tax placed on the cost of premiums, so that we do not give a break to anybody who is paying the auto insurance premiums across the province.
Whether it is a reimbursement to OHIP or a three per cent premium tax on top of the premiums to be paid by the people, it would be passed through. There is not any question that those people do not understand that we have done a couple of things which provide consistency with the way in which we fund our health insurance plan. One part of that consistency is that we as a society will bear the costs of the provision of services to people who are in our hospitals and otherwise to provide them with the care they need. We have done that in a way which is consistent with our overall plan for the Ontario health insurance program.
With respect to the three per cent tax, if they are suggesting that they are going to go out and add another three per cent to the cost of premiums, let them do it. We are not doing it. We will not do it.
Mr Kormos: In BC they pay 4% and it is still cheaper.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, please.
Hon Mr Elston: There are a number of things I could say about the way in which this debate has been conducted. There are a number of things which ought to be said to the people of the province, however, about the product. There is no question that this is a threshold system. I talked about the no-fault benefit side and how it has been increased. There is no question but that the test we are implementing is a very strict test, so that serious and permanently injured people will be able to have access to the court system.
That would cause some trouble if there were no way at all that people had of trying to deal with disputes about the provision of the no-fault benefits, which are seen to be a very good level of benefits indeed. But there are alternative forums to deal with disputes about the amount of money to be provided to people who are victims of accidents. We have provided that in an alternate dispute resolution mechanism which will allow independent parties to assess whether or not an injured victim is getting his or her just compensation.
We have not taken away the right to a forum which is independent. No, they will not be going into the court system necessarily, although there are opportunities to sue upon the contract of insurance if that is the route that is to be opted for. But we have provided for the people a quicker way of getting access to the money they need to try, as best they can, to get over the results of an accident. Between 10 and 30 days will be the response time for the people who are providing the benefits out of the insurance companies.
We have put in place an independent insurance commission that will be able to take action on behalf of the individuals who need compensation.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Is that like the rate review board that you set up?
Hon Mr Elston: Mr Speaker, I seem to have hit a raw nerve.
Those people in the New Democratic Party do not seem to be able to listen. They do not seem to be able to want to hear the truth. They do not want to hear the truth.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please, the member for Windsor-Riverside.
Hon Mr Elston: They do not want to hear about the broad series of powers under this legislation which will allow the new commission and commissioner to intercede on behalf of those people who feel they are not being dealt with fairly by the insurance companies. We agreed with many of the propositions that were put forward in reports by Osborne and Kruger and others who said there must be a better performance.
Mr Laughren: Bunch of bandits.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Will the member for Nickel Belt please withdraw that statement?
Mr Laughren: Yes, Mr Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Start off with the truth. Tell us about the history.
Hon Mr Elston: The member for Windsor-Riverside has been very helpful in his interjections, because it shows just how lacking in a basic understanding of this he really is. He has, like his fellow colleague the member for Welland-Thorold, tried to prevent us from putting the factual basis of this product on the floor of the House. That seems to be the best of their opportunities. They do not want us to debate this. They never did and they do not now.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, please.
Hon Mr Elston: But let me say this: We have moved forward with this report on a whole series of fronts. These people would confuse the public by saying this is all that we are doing, that we are not trying to take down the accident rate. I have already gone through the things we have done to try to manage the dislocation caused by auto accidents in other spheres.
I have tried, although it is very difficult to speak with the members of the New Democratic Party barracking they way they are, to show what the product itself looks like, the balance between those who are going to have access to the courts for serious and permanent injuries and those people with less serious injuries who will be able to go to different forums if they have disputes about the level of benefits.
It is all there to provide an independent resolution to disputes. It is all there, in a fairness which I think will become more clear when we are able to put forward the whole story and not just the snippets that have been provided to this point by the opposition party and by the opponents who have advertised in the newspapers at the expense of taxpayers.
Mr Kormos: You really haven’t --
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, please.
Hon Mr Elston: We will be able to tell the people much more clearly what this bill is about in the upcoming weeks ahead. But let me say this: The key to this entire activity is the balance between the costs so that people will be able to afford the product, so that people will be able to find there will be an availability of product that they can have access to, so that there will be benefits which will be available at a time when they are needed to try the best we can to put people through a whole series of dislocations that are caused by auto accidents with the least amount of dislocation that is possible. That is what this is about, to have a timely and reasonable response to those accident needs.
I want to take just a couple of minutes to say this about my colleagues on my side of the House. I had some words earlier about the dedication of the member for Guelph, my parliamentary assistant. He has shown a great resolve and has shown in fact that he has had a sympathetic ear for the people who have come forward and he has brought back recommendations from those hearings which allowed us to make changes which have been enumerated. We have made changes not only to the benefit levels but also to deal with certain specifics like the dislocation that could have been caused to cyclists and others.
That member was ably supported by the Liberal members on that committee who listened patiently while the barracking continued from the member for Welland-Thorold and the member for Leeds-Grenville as they went through charade after charade of concern, as they wasted the time by taking over the floor of committees and others. Those people are a credit to the legislative process because the Liberal members of the committee have heard and have listened and have brought forward their concerns to us so that we could make some changes. They have been patient, because they also had to be here while those people took over the floor of this Legislative Assembly for day after day after day, who put forward allegations which could not have been further from the truth. They have tried to lay at the feet of the members of our Liberal Party certain attributes which were so erroneous as to be able to be made only in this House. They have done things in an attempt to discredit the members who worked so hard for the Liberal Party on this particular piece of legislation which are a discredit to the legislative forum. I feel about that very strongly.
In the end, we have an obligation on the government side to bring forward a response to a legislative need. We saw the problem. We analysed the problem. We took the advice which was contained in the Slater and the Osborne and the Kruger reports, which many people on the opposite side have said we did not take account of. We moved it together with all the material that we were able to muster and we brought forward this balanced presentation.
It is not, as I said at the outset, only insurance product reform. It is reform of our traffic management systems. It is enforcement of our speed limits. It is enforcement of seatbelt laws and others.
It is the implementation, at the behest of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, of the ghost car program, to ensure that there is fairness in the system of repairs. In putting all of those things together, we have a package that is balanced and we have a package that is affordable and we have a package that addresses the needs of the people of the province.
I have one last message. This system will see good drivers in this province getting the best rates, and the bad drivers will not be treated as well, although that is the allegation of those people. People who are convicted of criminal offences like impaired driving or dangerous driving in fact are penalized more than ever because they will not receive their weekly benefits. They will be asked to answer the charges laid against them in the criminal courts under the Highway Traffic Act, and they will have to pay higher premiums.
That is how this system works. It is a fair system. If those people would bring forward all the facts and not just the material which they have used to this point, they would find that this is the balance that the people of the province wish.
The House divided on Mr Elston’s motion for third reading of Bill 68, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ballinger, Beer, Black, Bossy, Bradley, Brown, Campbell, Caplan, Carrothers, Chiarelli, Cleary, Conway, Cooke, D. R., Daigeler, Elliot, Elston, Epp, Faubert, Ferraro, Fleet, Fontaine, Fulton, Grandmaître, Henderson, Hosek, Kanter, Kerrio, Keyes, LeBourdais, Leone, Lipsett, Lupusella, MacDonald, Mancini, Matrundola, McClelland, McGuigan, McLeod, Miclash, Miller, Morn, Neumann, Nixon, J. B., Oddie Munro, Offer, O’Neill, Y., Patten, Phillips, G., Polsinelli, Poole, Ray, M.C., Reycraft, Roberts, Ruprecht, Scott, Smith, D. W., Sola, Stoner, Sweeney, Tatham, Velshi, Ward, Wong, Wrye.
Allen, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Cunningham, Eves, Farnan, Grier, Hampton, Hams, Johnson, J. M., Johnston, R.F., Kormos, Laughren, Mackenzie, Marland, Martel, McCague, McLean, Philip, E., Pollock, Pouliot, Reville, Runciman, Villeneuve, Wildman, Wiseman.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I wish to advise the House that His Honour awaits to give royal assent.
His Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario entered the chamber of the Legislative Assembly and took his seat upon the throne.
Hon Mr Alexander: Pray be seated.
The Deputy Speaker: May it please Your Honour, the Legislative Assembly of the province has, at its present sittings thereof, passed a certain bill to which, in the name of and on behalf of the said Legislative Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour’s assent.
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: The following is the title of the bill to which Your Honour’s assent is prayed:
Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance.
Clerk of the House: In Her Majesty’s name, His Honour the Lieutenant Governor doth assent to this bill.
His Honour the Lieutenant Governor was pleased to retire from the chamber.
The House adjourned at 1805.