The House met at 1330.
NORTHERN ONTARIO PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE
Mr Laughren: New Democrats are fighting for improved passenger rail service in northern Ontario. It is time this government stopped passing the buck and acted to ensure that efficient, reliable passenger train service is available to northern Ontario citizens.
Last week’s scheduled change in Via Rail’s Dayliner service between Sudbury and White River, the Budd car, serves to underline the federal government’s neglect of this vital service. Seasonal property owners in the Sudbury basin will no longer be able to travel to and from their camps over the weekend. Many tourist operators were not even informed of the scheduled change in advance, leaving them scrambling to make alternative arrangements so that guests would not be stranded.
The Minister of Northern Development and the Minister of Transportation know that the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission is fully capable of delivering a dependable, responsive passenger rail service. In the past, they have suggested that I contact the federal minister to discuss a transfer. I suggest that they direct ONTC to contact the appropriate agencies and begin negotiations immediately to take over passenger service on the CP Rail line between Sudbury and White River. Indeed, they should consider extending service from North Bay through Sudbury right to Thunder Bay. This would give the north a transportation alternative as well as encouraging tourism.
Passenger trains are a lifeline to many communities in the north. We should not leave these communities to the mercy of the federal government and its Via Rail cronies. This government should act now to ensure that northern Ontario has a rail service that we can depend on.
Mr Sterling: Today I received a copy of a brochure of assistance to small business in Ontario from the member for Oakville South, the advocate for the government for small business. I was amused to see that there are no less than 27 programs outlined in this document as giving help to small business.
A small business in my riding, a high-tech business, did $9,000 worth of work for the Ministry of Transportation. They went to the bank to borrow against this receivable. The bank normally gives 70% credit against a receivable of a customer. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and the Royal Bank will only give 30% against a receivable from the Ontario government.
Why is that? Because the Ontario government takes 10 to 12 weeks to pay its bills. This government, by its own business practice, is forcing business to borrow at high interest rates, partly caused by its spending practices, and not giving the businessman a fair shake in borrowing against a receivable.
I wish this government would cut out the smoke and mirrors, the flim-flam with regard to these so-called programs for small business, and just pay its bills on time.
Mr Adams: I do not believe in a hierarchy of government in Canada with the feds at the top and the municipalities at the bottom. Rather, I believe in three important, competent levels of government, all working together in the national, international and global interest.
That is why I am glad when the province takes an initiative, such as the banning of CFC-producing products, a step which has truly global implications. That is why I was proud when the province, in the national and international interest, reached out to twin with the province of Jiangsu in China and organized trade and business missions to Italy and other countries.
That is why I was proud when the city of Peterborough, out of global concern, established its own roundtable on sustainable development. I am proud too that Fleming College reaches out beyond Canada to twin with Chuo College in Japan, that our local university, Trent, attracts more than 50 nationalities and that our community’s Jamaica self-help project reaches out to a developing country.
I am proud too of the special links which Peterborough has developed with Grodno in the USSR.
No government should feel it is locked in to a particular level. Let’s continue to think nationally and globally while acting locally. At this time, in particular, let’s continue to support the Premier in working for a better and stronger Canada through the Meech Lake negotiations.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BOARD
Miss Martel: Over the last number of weeks, I have tried to demonstrate that, despite all of the changes at the Workers’ Compensation Board, the quality of service to workers has not improved. In particular, I raised the matter of the new telephone system and stated how frustrating it is for workers and representatives alike to deal with an answering machine. I have received more complaints in this regard and I would like to raise them today.
In Welland, the Niagara District Injured Workers office is open only on Tuesdays. If Don Comi and his staff cannot get through to the board that day, messages must be left on the machines. Several weeks ago, when he got tired of not having his calls returned, Don phoned the chairman’s office to complain. He was told that if the problem continued, he should contact Gerry Potter or Chris Hornberger at the WCB office in Hamilton. The problem did continue and when he called Hamilton to talk to these contact people, the switchboard operator refused to give him the number or transfer his calls to Ms Hornberger or Mr Potter. So much for the influence of the chairman.
In Owen Sound, Doug Brown of Steelworkers Local 7466 has the following problem. Many local union representatives who are handling compensation have limited access to a telephone at work. They have to speak to a WCB employee the first time they call, if they want to get a problem resolved. But as reps continue to reach answering machines and not human beings, the board has become even more inaccessible than before.
There must be a better way for the WCB to communicate with injured workers and their representatives.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr Villeneuve: Last week, the federal and Ontario governments signed an agreement on assistance to producers of grain and oil seeds. At the same time, the provincial minister expressed hope that financial assistance cheques would be out by late summer or early fall, coincidentally about the same time as there will be an election campaign here in Ontario.
That is not good enough. Ontario farmers are paying huge interest rates on loans from banks or to suppliers at present. By September or October, their financial situation will be considerably worse. The minister must get the money to them now and stop worrying about making the banks happy.
At the same time, we have a problem in other areas. In addition to grains and oil seeds, the federal government has allocated $40 million to assist other sectors such as horticultural crops and fur. Our apple producers, for example, in the south Georgian Bay district, have suffered severe drought losses in previous years and have yet to receive any form of financial assistance.
In April the ministry received the final report, Recommendations of the Farm Tax Rebate Program Review Committee. The minister did not even want to make that report public because it proves the Treasurer was wrong to cut the program. Here again, the producers are waiting for new rules in midyear. Nothing has happened. We are playing politics. It is about time Ontario farmers got some action and not only lipservice from this government.
Mr D. W. Smith: The Lambton Industrial Training Committee is an organization committed to helping Lambton county workers upgrade their skills or explore new skills. This committee is part of the Ontario network of community industrial training committees and is sponsored by the Ministry of Skills Development.
On the evening of 25 May 1990, I had the pleasure of attending a graduation ceremony to honour 34 students who had completed a course in automotive upgrading. In our ever-changing society, I am sure this training will help auto mechanics become familiar with the theories and practice of automotive electronics. The excellent instructor, Ron Brown, certainly made the 10-month course enjoyable as well as informative for the participants. As a result of its success, this program will be offered again in the 1990-91 year.
The Lambton Industrial Training Committee is composed of dedicated volunteers, including representation from large and small employers. This group of individuals identifies what skills are needed by Lambton employers and co-operates with the federal and provincial governments, educational bodies and employers to arrange for the sponsorship of programs to meet those needs.
A strong, competitive economy is reliant on a skilled workforce. Training planned by the Lambton industrial training committee will prepare our workforce for the challenges ahead. Graduates of these training programs can take pride in their accomplishments.
NIPISSING AREA TEACHERS
Mr D. S. Cooke: The Ontario Teachers’ Federation has advised all Ontario teachers not to accept employment with the Nipissing Board of Education, the Nipissing District Roman Catholic Separate School Board or the Department of National Defence schools. Any teacher accepting employment with one of these boards will be in violation of clause 18(l)(c) of the regulations made under the Teaching Profession Act and in breach of the federation’s code of ethics.
This employment boycott has come about because of the failure of the Department of National Defence, the North Bay CFB Board of Education, the Nipissing Board of Education and the Nipissing District Roman Catholic Separate School Board to reach an agreement satisfactory to all parties regarding the divestment of the DND North Bay school, its students and its teachers. Similar divestments of Canadian Forces bases in Ottawa and Kingston were successfully negotiated with the assistance of a mediator appointed by the then Minister of Education, the member for Wentworth North.
Despite an urgent letter from the Ontario Teachers’ Federation requesting mediation and ministerial intervention, the present minister has taken no action. The Ontario Teachers’ Federation has not yet had a reply to its letter of 24 April. The jobs of the teachers and the Canadian Forces base North Bay school are at stake. As a result of the minister’s failure to act, education in the entire North Bay area is now in jeopardy. We encourage the minister to do his duty and get involved in this dispute immediately.
ONTARIO LOTTERY CORP
Mr McLean: My statement is for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. It concerns the recent announcement that the Ontario Lottery Corp will begin negotiations with five Toronto advertising agencies to form a so-called advertising and advertising-related services creative pool for Lotto 6/49, Encore and Provincial and special-event games.
The Ontario Lottery Corp president is quoted as saying: “We have established the resource pool to develop a broad base of creative and communication support services. The corporation can then match the appropriate service with the most suitable assignment.” This sounds like another example of the minister and his government developing another in a long list of make-work projects. The minister is paying five advertising agencies to do the work that could be handled by one. This is certainly not a government that has serious concerns about efficiency or sound economics.
I recently noted that the minister had advertised for a co-ordinator for government liaison to do his work and to run interference for him. Now he is negotiating to have five advertising agencies to do the work of one. Do members not think the lottery profits are undoubtedly being wasted on these projects and could be better spent on what they were originally intended for, the promotion and development of physical fitness, sports, recreation and cultural activities and hospitals and, if Bill 114 passes, the environment?
Mr Ballinger: I am very pleased today to pay tribute to Ed Grimshaw, a resident of Stouffville in my riding of Durham-York. Ed Grimshaw will be inducted as the new president of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association at its 57th annual meeting to be held in Toronto on 23 June, certainly a great achievement for a homegrown Stouffville boy.
The Ontario Minor Hockey Association is the world’s largest minor hockey organization and covers all of southern Ontario, excluding Metropolitan Toronto. More than 80,000 boys who play hockey are governed by this important body that Ed will now head up.
Ed Grimshaw is no stranger to minor hockey in Ontario. For 25 years he has been the anchor on the executive of the Stouffville Minor Hockey Association as a volunteer.
During his 25-year involvement, Stouffville minor hockey produced its share of Ontario championship teams and on three occasions sent local teams to Europe on hockey exchanges and hosted many of its own tournaments over those years.
Keith Acton of the Philadelphia Flyers learned most of his professional hockey skills while playing in the Stouffville Minor Hockey Association.
Ed Grimshaw will bring a wealth of experience to Ontario’s minor hockey system and the more than 80,000 boys registered will be better served with his selection as president.
I want to convey my personal congratulations to Ed and wish him the very best for the upcoming term as president of the OMHA.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mrs Caplan: Later this afternoon, I will be introducing the Health Professions Regulation Act, 1990, and 21 health profession acts for first reading.
The purpose of this legislative package is to provide maximum protection to the public in the provision of health services and to create an environment in which the health professions can work together as co-operatively and effectively as possible.
The review of Ontario’s health professions legislation has been one of the most extensive and detailed consultations ever undertaken in this province.
Beginning in 1982 the review team, under the direction of Alan Schwartz, was given a mandate to examine the existing health professions legislation in this province and to survey regulatory legislation in other jurisdictions to see what concepts, if any, might be applied to Ontario. The review team also consulted directly with the health professions organizations of this province and sought the views and opinions of Ontario consumer representatives and associations.
I am very pleased that Mr Schwartz is able to join us today and, at this time, I would like to recognize the contribution he has made over the past eight years which has led to the development of this legislative package.
The health professions legislation review was created at a time when there was a recognized need for change to the existing legislation. People were asking for a more open investigative and disciplinary process within the governing bodies. There were large numbers of new or emerging health professionals who were practising in Ontario but who were not recognized in the province’s dated health professions legislation. Our existing patchwork of legislation, with eight different acts regulating 19 professions, made co-ordinated policy direction in health difficult. And, perhaps most important, it was recognized that in the existing legislation there was no means to ensure the continuing competence of professionals or to promote quality assurance in health care.
During the course of the review, the review team received several hundred briefs from professional associations and consumer and public interest groups from across the province. Each submission was analysed, circulated and recirculated to ensure a full and complete discussion of all the interested stakeholders.
Once this unique, albeit lengthy, consultative process had been completed, the review team submitted its recommendations in the form of draft legislation, and I in turn tabled those recommendations in this House on 26 January 1989. Since then, I have met with every major professional group directly affected by the recommendations and with many groups which, while not directly affected, have a stake in how health professions legislation is framed.
To date, there have been more than 350 meetings between ministry officials, individuals and groups since January 1989. These meetings were very productive and I am extremely pleased with the channels of communication which have opened between the health professions and the government as a result of this process. We have achieved a consensus among stakeholders that I consider remarkable, given the complexity of the issues under discussion. The vast majority of groups believe it is time to proceed with new regulatory legislation.
As a result of our discussions, we have made a number of revisions to the original recommendations, changes that make the purpose and intent of this legislation clearer, such as in the area of quality assurance and health care. Further amendment and revisions will be considered during the legislative process in an open public forum.
As I mentioned earlier, the primary goal of this legislation is to better serve and protect the public interest. Secondly, it will help create an environment in which health professions can work together as co-operatively and effectively as possible.
Let me highlight some aspects of the legislation I am introducing today.
Under the Health Professions Regulation Act 1990, 24 health professions will be regulated in Ontario rather than the current 19. The Health Professions Regulation Act consists of one omnibus bill, a procedural code that pertains to all professions, and then there are 21 separate acts which describe the specific scope of practice of each profession and the controlled acts which each profession will be legally entitled to perform.
This is vastly different from the current legislation where broad scopes of practice are given to certain professions and restricted to those professions. These exclusive licences have created inequalities among many health professionals. They have also created obstacles to professionals performing to the full extent of their capabilities and competence. This in turn has caused inflexibility and rigidity in the provision of care, affecting the choices available to health consumers, the options available to health professionals and the cost of making health services available.
As the bills move through the legislative process, I would urge the members to focus on the underlying principles and intent of the legislation. I will be requesting that this legislation be referred to the legislative committee process for public hearings. This government is committed to listening to the views of all those affected by this new legislation, and during the committee process we will work together with all stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues and concerns.
There are some, including clergy and social workers, who have expressed reservations, not about the intent of the legislation but rather the wording of certain clauses. Concerns were raised in particular about subsection 27(4), the so-called basket clause, which would make it an offence for an unregulated practitioner to provide treatment or advice in circumstances in which harm may result.
It is not the policy nor the intention of this government to impede social workers, clergy or others from carrying out their important work. I will repeat that: It is not the policy nor the intention of this government to impede social workers, clergy or others from carrying out their important work. I have therefore removed subsection 27(4) from the legislation being introduced today. It is my intention to introduce wording for a new clause during the committee stage. I will also invite suggestions from interested parties on new wording in order to achieve our objective.
Further, following discussions with the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons and the Minister of Community and Social Services, we have agreed that an appropriate exemption will be created through regulation removing the activities of personal care attendants from the controlled acts. This exemption will ensure that the new regulatory framework presents no barrier that will interfere with the ability of disabled persons to obtain appropriate assistance with the routine activities of daily living.
As well, I want to be certain that naturopaths have every opportunity to satisfy the criteria for self-regulation. Therefore, I am pleased to announce today that naturopathy will not be deregulated at this time. It will continue to be regulated under the Drugless Practitioners Act until such time as the issue can be referred to the new Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council. The council, which will be established under this new legislation, will then determine if the profession should be self-regulated under this legislation.
The creation of this council will be a significant step forward in advising the minister on developing issues pertaining to the self-governance and self-regulation of health professions.
It is my intention to create an interim Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council under the Ministry of Health Act once this legislation has passed third reading and prior to proclamation. Its mandate will be to help smooth the transition from the old system to the new.
Because many of the concepts used in this legislation are highly innovative and break new ground in the area of professional self-regulation, the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council will also participate in a thorough review of this legislation five years after enactment.
An enormous amount of hard work, dedication and commitment has gone into the health professions legislation review and the drafting of this legislation. As minister, I want to thank the members of the review team, consumer groups and members of my ministry staff for their diligent efforts on behalf of Ontario health care.
In particular, I want to thank the health professions who set aside their own self-interests for the greater public benefit. I want to recognize publicly the great amount of time, effort and expertise they have given to the development of this legislation. Many of the members of the health professions are here with us today, and I would like to take this opportunity to offer them my heartfelt thanks.
Let me say that as we begin the legislative process, I am committed to maintaining the spirit of co-operation and partnership that has already brought us so far.
These are extremely complex issues we are dealing with. As we move forward, I will be looking for the continued participation and involvement of the health professions, consumer groups and others to help us with refining these bills to the very best of our ability.
For my part, I will do everything in my power to ensure that we do achieve our goal and develop a legislative package that will meet the health needs of the people of this province and the practice needs of our health professionals.
I am convinced that with this kind of co-operation and partnership, the result will be legislation that will make Ontario a front runner in the development of health professions legislation, not only for today’s regulated professions but also for those of the future.
The Speaker: Are there any other ministerial statements? If not, responses.
The Speaker: Order. I called for responses, but not all at once.
Mr Reville: Mr Speaker, I can see that you have been infected by the joyous mood of today. If we were to listen carefully even for a moment in this chamber, I imagine we could hear the exhalation of breath as all those health professionals who have been working on this for eight years and holding their breath have finally had a chance to take another one.
There is a ginormous -- that is a word meaning gigantic; I learned it from my kids -- a very large sigh of relief out there from about 100,000 professionals who have been saved from being dragged off by the health police for counselling, whether they be rabbis or priests or lay counsellors. That is an encouraging sign. I give all those who were involved in the very aggressive and effective lobby all the credit in the world for having effected that change.
The process is not unlike, in a way, the process that has been preoccupying Canadians on a national scale, the Meech Lake process. This has been an exercise in executive federalism in which 75 health professional groups have been engaged in an eight-year consultation. It is now being made public, and while I congratulate all the professionals on the work that they have done and commiserate with the 51 groups of health professionals who are not going to be regulated and who would like to be, it is now time for the key stakeholder to have a turn at this exercise.
The key stakeholder, as the minister will agree and as I am sure all the health professionals will agree, is the public. There will be a significant opportunity for the public to say whatever it is the public wants to say about matters that are very important to the way in which health care is delivered, to the way in which we can ensure that health professionals are accountable to their consumers and to the public at large.
Some very impressive things have happened during the course of this process. A corner has been knocked off medical hegemony. Five new health professions are going to be regulated --
Hon Mr Conway: Hegemony?
Mr Reville: Hegemony, yes. He should try that out. It is something the member for Renfrew North knows a lot about.
There is a tiny shift in the health-illness paradigm, and that is a good thing. The triumph of western science over holistic responses has been delayed, and I think that is a very good thing. There are many places in the world that have managed to achieve very high levels of health without reliance on “western science” and I think that more and more our society will come to see the wisdom in some of the allopathic approaches. It appears as though the government has seen the wisdom therein, but there is more to be done, particularly in my part of the world. In Riverdale there are a number of adherents of Chinese medicine, which has an ancient and honourable tradition, and we have not yet figured out a way to accommodate the skills and learnings of other cultures. One expects we will have to become much less ethnocentric here in Ontario as we look forward to a future that is not only more eclectic but more tolerant of other approaches that have worked well in other places.
I look forward personally to the extended hearings that are sure to follow this exercise, whether they be this summer or perhaps, following an election, next winter. I know that all those who have worked so hard to get us this far will want to be involved in the process to ensure that the gains that have been made will be preserved, and there will indeed be other comments that all sorts of people will want to make so that we end up with a health disciplines scheme that serves us all as well as it possibly can.
Mr Harris: In the absence of our Health critic, who is busy today still trying to resolve problems in the health care field in meetings in Collingwood -- and he would be disappointed that he is not here today, some eight years later from when this process started -- I want to relay on his behalf and on behalf of our party that we are pleased that the government is finally going to table the health professions regulation 18 months after the draft legislation was released. The passage of this legislation, if and when we are able to achieve that, as the critic of the New Democratic Party has stated, is unquestionably very important. It will be an important landmark in the reform of the Ontario health care system.
I think it would be an understatement to suggest that the particular review has attracted a great deal of interest across this province. There surely cannot be a member of this assembly who has not had a great deal of interest expressed to him in his riding office, in his home in the evenings and on weekends, and many of our spouses at events throughout this province have been involved in discussions. So it has evoked that sense of interest.
I want to express some concerns. There is every indication that over the past 18 months there have been very few changes. We will see -- and we look forward to looking at it -- but it appears that it took 18 months to take out some repetitive phrases, to make some minor language changes.
With regard to subsection 27(4), obviously the 18 months have been spent perhaps primarily dealing with that section. While I am pleased that the government has recognized there are problems with this clause and that it would place all unregulated practitioners in some legal jeopardy, I am very surprised that during this 18-month period we have accomplished nothing more than agreeing that it should be removed. We still must wrestle over the next six months, a year or whatever period of time, with what we are going to do to replace it.
I am concerned and a little surprised that in that period of time, with the amount of advice available to the minister and the resources that the minister has, she is still unable to make it clear to us how she will deal with unregulated practitioners. In cases like this, perhaps sooner rather than now, she may have arrived at the situation that maybe it is time to turn it over to a committee of the Legislature, to turn it over in a non-partisan way to take a fresh new look at it.
There are occasions, federally and provincially, where this strategy has worked far more effectively than all the millions of dollars of resources and expertise that the cabinet and the ministry have. So I support that move. I am sorry that it took 18 months to realize that.
I would like to say that our party looks forward to reviewing the legislation. We look forward to participating in a nonpartisan, constructive way on the committee in trying to resolve some major difficulties that are still out there.
The minister at the end of her statement mentioned co-operation and partnership. That co-operation and partnership has not been prevalent in this government by the Premier, by this minister, by former Ministers of Health in dealing with the health care professionals. If indeed this is a switch in philosophy, a change, I applaud it, and we will do everything we can to encourage it and work with it.
I point out that yesterday the Ontario Medical Association -- and it is no secret that there has been a long-standing feud and very entrenched positions with this government in dealing with the medical profession -- held out the first olive branch and dropped its lawsuit on Bill 94. I encourage the ministry to show likeness in kind in dealing with this legislation and in dealing with future relations with the medical profession, in particular.
Finally, to Alan Schwartz, and through Alan to all of those who have helped him, I thank them for their eight years of getting us to this stage.
Mr B. Rae: I have some questions for the Minister of Financial Institutions.
Our House leader received from the government a three-page list of must-have legislation on 31 May. It includes bills such as the Fraudulent Debtors Arrest Repeal Act, the Artificial Insemination of Live Stock and Embryo Transfer Act, the Unclaimed Intangible Property Act and other pieces of legislation the government says it must have before 28 June.
What the list does not include is legislation which the Liberal government has been promising the working people of this province for five years. This government committed itself in 1985 to ensuring that workers who retired with a pension would have that pension secure against the eroding and corroding effect of inflation. The minister has failed to introduce that legislation. I want to ask the minister why he has done that.
Hon Mr Elston: The list is of legislation that has been waiting for some time. As a result of the holdups that the Leader of the Opposition has orchestrated, we have not been able to prosecute the legislation there. That is a list of bills which we would like to have passed by the end of June. We know right well that group would not co-operate in passing, in addition to that list, pension legislation.
Mr B. Rae: It is not just that the government has promised this legislation since 1985. Since that time we have seen what has happened. Corporations have continued to rip off workers to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Workers see the value of their pensions eroded by hundreds of dollars since 1985. The minister cannot get away any longer with this delay and this caving in to a corporate lobby against pension indexing.
The Liberals have admitted -- even Larry Grossman admitted prior to 1985 -- that working people were getting shafted because pension surpluses were growing and their pensions were not growing in accordance with that growth and with the way in which wealth is being transferred to the corporations on the surplus account. We know that has been happening. The government has admitted that in royal commission after royal commission.
When is the minister finally going to do the thing which he promised to do for the working people of this province five long, inflationary years ago? When is he going to do it?
Hon Mr Elston: As usual, the gentleman makes wild accusations. He has obviously caught the bug that has attacked the member for Welland-Thorold. They make wild and unfounded allegations. That is the way they like to do things.
That is okay, but let me tell the people of the province through you, Mr Speaker, and through the television that we are working on the material which forms the basis of legislation to be brought forward to deal with indexing. People understand very well the types of activities which have gone on in this House that have tied us up for week after week, month after month, but the members opposite have the nerve to stand in this House and say, “When are you going to get on with business?”
There is a lot of work to be done. Those people have prevented the work of this Legislature from progressing in an orderly manner for their own purposes, and that is fine, but they cannot now come back making wild accusations about us not trying to prosecute the business of this place when they are the ones who are confounding the process in a way that does not make this Legislature work very well at all.
Mr B. Rae: The hard fact of the matter is that rich and powerful interests in this province have been resisting the fair indexing of pensions for working people for a decade. Since 1980, when this issue was first placed on the public agenda, the corporate community has been resisting it. This government is doing their bidding, doing exactly what they want by refusing to bring this in.
In 1985 this government promised it. They promised it in 1986, again in 1987 and again in 1988. How can the minister live with himself, knowing full well that he is going to be retiring with a pension that will be protected from inflation but nobody else will? How does he feel about that?
Hon Mr Elston: That fellow who just spoke, the honourable member for York South as he is sometimes known, is full of wild accusations about the way this place is working. We passed legislation in this House in 1987 that dealt with a whole series of issues that brought forward major changes in benefit levels in pensions in this province. He has forgotten that. We have addressed that issue. We have dealt with portability, solvency issues and things like grow-in provisions for people who end up finding their pensions wound up. We have dealt with a whole series of issues and we have made the commitment.
In fact, it is in a legislative form that there will be pension indexing. We have been working as hard as we can by putting out material for consultation, in the context of all the agenda items we have been facing, to bring forward that issue for public consultation and discussion. We did that, as was pointed out by the member for Sault Ste Marie, in a consultation document over a year ago. We had a cutoff date for consultation and from that point on we have been dealing with the issue of auto insurance and other things. We are now putting our efforts behind consulting further to come up with the legislative package, and we will work as diligently as we can.
Mr B. Rae: First it was the sellout to the auto industry; now it is the sellout on pensions.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Treasurer in the absence of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. I am sure the Treasurer is aware of the alarming fact that, as a province, we lost some 26,000 manufacturing jobs between April and December. In a very short space of time, Ontario manufacturing jobs have really been haemorrhaging. The fact of the matter is that there is no strategy in place in the budget that would help or assist or do anything for workers who are affected by this change on this level.
In addition to the pension legislation, which we now realize is not coming forward and which has been abandoned by the government, where is any piece of legislation in terms of reform on employment standards or reform on training, that lives up to the rhetoric which his government has been suffering from for so long and which deals with the degree of industrial change and job loss that is taking place all around us right now?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the honourable member is correct when he refers to the numbers of jobs lost, but it is typical that he does not refer to the jobs acquired. There is a balance. We are not frozen in amber in this province. We are still the most competitive jurisdiction in this part of North America. The results are the achievement of quite an amazing continuation of job growth. We feel that the best defence against the matter that the honourable member is referring to is to see that there are alternative jobs, and that is really the thrust of the budget.
Mr B. Rae: The Treasurer talks proudly about new jobs created. He will know, and I am sure he does, that the average wage in the service industries, for people who work in a whole range of fields, is about $300 a week as compared with $560 a week for people working in manufacturing.
The Treasurer will know that we are asking people to give up jobs as steelworkers and auto workers where they are making a good wage that will provide for them and their families, where they usually have pension and dental benefits attached to it and where they have plans that are associated with that employment, and to take low-wage, minimum-wage and part-time jobs and somehow see that as a substitute.
Where is the Treasurer’s much-vaunted strategy on worker protection, whether it is in pensions or in skills training? Where is any of the stuff that he is supposed to be doing that is going to allow workers to cope with the level of change which is taking place?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member, who is an expert in this, will know that we have some of the best protection in North America for our workers.
Mr D. S. Cooke: No, it’s not. That is not what you promised, but that’s irrelevant.
Hon R. F. Nixon: That is true. In spite of the barking from the socialists, it remains true. I think particularly the honourable member for Windsor-Riverside, who is barking, would be aware of the commitment most recently made by Ford Motor Co to put a new plant in there to the extent of about $50 million. Ford has announced a $500-million expansion in the Oakville area. Toyota, Honda and Suzuki are hiring additional workers for the upping of production.
Frankly, it is strange that the honourable member seems to savour the bad news that he brings without giving any sort of balance to the realism that is a fact in this province.
Mr B. Rae: I do not savour the loss of manufacturing jobs in my riding. I do not savour the fact that at Bilt-Rite, for example, 500 workers are unemployed because the company went belly up. I do not think the Treasurer meant that seriously when he said that I would savour talking to the workers in my riding who are maybe making $10 or $12 an hour. I know that at age 50, 52 or 53 they are going to be out on to the job market and looking for jobs at $6, $7, $7.50 and $8 an hour. I do not savour that. I do not even think the Treasurer meant that seriously. I do not think any member in this House would savour that kind of situation.
What I am saying to the Treasurer seriously is, look, we are going through this change; we understand this change is happening. I am asking the Treasurer this simple question: Where is his legislation? Where is his legislation on pensions? Where is his legislation on training? Where is the new partnership? Corporate incomes are going way up. They have got their golden parachutes saving those folks out there who are doing very well. Where are the parachutes, where are the safety nets, for working people when they are faced with these changes?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I say again to the honourable member that we have the best protection in the legislation of this province that he will find anywhere in North America. Perhaps it should be better, but it is the best. I would also tell the honourable member that we have the lowest unemployment rate in Canada and we are proud of the fact that this has been maintained as a competitive jurisdiction and that there are job opportunities here.
I agree with what the member has said. The problems faced by people over 50 when they have to be trained and retrained for new jobs are very serious. The federal government is participating in programs that have already been announced in this House. The honourable member, if he says we have no programs, is simply wrong.
TRADE WITH EASTERN EUROPE
Mr Harris: I have a question for the Deputy Premier about the same problem, and I do not want to diminish at all the need and the necessity to deal with the symptoms of what is happening in Ontario as we are losing manufacturing jobs. I also take great exception to the Deputy Premier suggesting that Ontario is the most competitive jurisdiction in North America. All the information, expert advice and analysis suggests that it is indeed the exact opposite.
However, in spite of that, I want to ask the Deputy Premier about trade opportunities in eastern Europe, given the rapid and unprecedented democratic reforms that we are seeing in a large number of eastern bloc European countries.
Given the remarkably little attention by this government to pursuing trade opportunities in other parts of the world, including the outright closing of some of our trade offices in the United States at a time when others are expanding theirs, does the Deputy Premier not agree that now -- last month, three months ago, but surely now -- is the time to establish trade offices directly in a number of eastern bloc countries that have already expressed an interest in significantly expanding or beginning trade opportunities with Ontario and Canada?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I agree with the leader of the third party when he talks about the opportunities for investment and trade that are opening up in Europe and are certainly going to be opening up in the eastern countries that have recently achieved their freedom and are just now having elections and organizing themselves along democratic and market-program lines.
The honourable member, having been part of the previous government and an active supporter of it, will be aware that trade offices were opened in those days and they have been maintained. Our position in Frankfurt and Stuttgart, for example, is quite effective. I believe it is the Premier’s personal connection with the President of the state of Baden-Württemberg that has led us to expand our role there.
The honourable member would be interested to know also that there are a number of programs of the type that I would like to refer to in response to his supplementary question that we believe are going to be effective in the future.
The Speaker: Maybe there is no need for a supplementary. Supplementary?
Mr Harris: There may not be because we have nothing in the way of any concrete action. We have assurances that the government agrees and shares some of the comfort that it should be moving in the direction I am talking about, but I suggest to the Deputy Premier that the time for talking about it is long past.
I have spent a considerable amount of time in the past year, particularly the last number of months, talking about simple common sense. A number of people in European countries have suggested to me that we are missing the boat by not moving now and that in fact it might be easier for a province to move than it is for a federal government to move, given some of the situations of relationships that federal governments must maintain.
Mr Harris: I think the Deputy Premier knows what I am talking about. I know the former Minister of Natural Resources has not got a clue.
The Speaker: And the question?
Mr Harris: I would ask the Deputy Premier why they would not commit now at least to establishing a significant presence in these east European countries and in these markets immediately, over the next couple of months, so that Ontario can catch up to some of the others and still be ahead of some of the competition to reap the benefits of the trade opportunities that --
The Speaker: Order. The question was asked.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I certainly do not dismiss the honourable member’s strong suggestion in any way. I simply tell him that the province is well served by the trade offices that are presently in operation. Frankfurt is within easy and ready access of these countries and in fact is quite active in promoting trade in this regard. We have established a second office in Germany.
There are many areas where Ontario may be especially helpful and might be especially helpful in a way that would be profitable to us. In East Germany, for example, when the reunification with West Germany takes place, the environmental laws, which I do not believe are as strict as ours, that apply at present in West Germany are simply going to mean that East Germany will have to close down as much as 75% of its industrial operations. In areas like this the research that has been developed in this jurisdiction in response to our very strict and very rigid and very timely requirements might very much be made useful. It is certainly going to be a problem in East Germany, as it will in all of those other formerly eastern bloc countries as they begin entering into a market economy and participating in the long run in the European Community.
Mr Harris: Other jurisdictions throughout the world have developed strategies and are working on it; they are moving in to capitalize on these tremendous new east European markets while Ontario is still sitting on the sidelines. West Germany, as the Deputy Premier knows, is a huge difference from the markets we are talking about.
East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Romania and many other eastern bloc countries have expressed an interest. They are now crying out for the kind of help we can provide, and they are interested in doing business with Ontario; they are interested in doing business with Canada. They need our help now, and those who are there will be there in the long term, which means opportunities and jobs here in Ontario.
They also know, if this government does not, that when trade crosses the borders, armies do not. This is an important thing that they do understand. So it is mutually beneficial for east and west and it makes great sense.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr Harris: My question is not whether these east European countries have their acts together but whether the Peterson government in Ontario has its act together. My question is this: How long do we have to wait, how far does the train have to pull away from the station before --
The Speaker: Order. Would the member take his seat.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member is behind the times. He should be aware that a delegation led by a senior minister of this government has just returned from Germany. The government examined very carefully the opportunities for mutually advantageous trade with all of the European countries.
Interestingly, I am sure the honourable member would like to know that the President of Baden-Württemberg, Lothar Späth, is going to be coming to Ontario with a number of his officials, and he is going to be joined by the head of the government of Rhône-Alpes, which is a very rapidly growing economic centre and provincial jurisdiction. The head of the government in Lombardy and the head of the government in Catalonia are going to be here talking about the sorts of trade development that the honourable member is supporting. So I appreciate the fact that, really almost without knowing it, he is supporting the very initiatives that the Premier has taken in this important matter.
Mr Harris: Knowing that I must move on to a new minister, I will quickly violate the rules only by saying, nice try.
Mr Harris: I have a question for the Minister of Health about the minister’s new pet health card. One of the main reasons this card was introduced was to eliminate fraud. The minister herself said on 21 March, “The new health card will tighten control over both fraudulent and unintentional use of Ontario health benefits.”
Given that this statement is at total odds with the facts as they are becoming available and as we know them, will the minister tell us what specific controls in fact exist with respect to the issuance of this new pet card project of hers?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the leader of the third party that I stand by the statement I made in this House. This new Ontario health insurance plan registration project is a significant improvement over what exists today. I want to assure him that there are the kinds of post-audit controls in place that will enhance accountability.
Mr Harris: Yesterday the minister said the system would cost taxpayers $30 million and it would lead to savings of more than $1.5 billion over the next 10 years. I wonder if the minister can explain how savings of $1.5 billion will be realized when it is now very obvious that not only would the existing 25 million numbers that are out there all be eligible to go back in and get a card but in fact virtually anybody living anywhere in the world, including non-persons, can have access through the system the minister put in place.
What assurances can she give us that she, in fact, has not opened the door wide to far more than the 25 million people eligible to get these health cards?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The leader is incorrect. In fact, only those people who are previous holders of Ontario health insurance cards, who have an OHIP number, an address and a surname registered, are eligible to apply through this process. Anyone else must register through the ongoing process for new subscribers which is far more rigorous than the one which is available to those who presently have the card.
That was a very important decision that was taken because of the complexity of registering 9.5 million people. We felt it was very important that all those people presently covered not be worried about continuity of coverage. Therefore, the cards will be issued as expeditiously as possible. From the time we receive the four million applications that are coming in for 9.5 million people, we anticipate that within 12 weeks people should have their new cards.
Mr Harris: I am a little astounded by the minister’s answer. She says there are controls with the exception of those who already have a number. It appears from the minister’s answers that there are no controls there because they would have had to have a previous number. In essence, what she is saying is that there are no controls for 25 million, because that is how many numbers are out there right now. Now she tells us there are controls for all new ones; except that, despite what she says, the evidence shows that there are minimal or no controls as well for the new subscribers, given the evidence we have of who is getting these cards.
Surely, aside from the rhetoric the minister has given us, she must have in her possession a report, some paper, that outlines the checks and balances in place. Would she agree today to table with this Legislature whatever report she has that demonstrates there are any controls or checks and balances in this system so that we can take a look at it and assess for ourselves?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the leader that just a few of the pre-controls are as follows. Anyone to be registered through the one-time registration program must be covered under an existing OHIP account. Anyone else must register through the ongoing registration process, which involves more stringent controls. Anyone who has a temporary right to remain in Canada is required to provide copies of immigration papers to verify his or her legal status. A commercial software package is used to verify addresses. Checks against the existing OHIP premium database help ascertain eligible names, quality, residency and legal right to remain. For seniors, checks against the Ontario drug benefit database are carried out for the same reasons. Exception checks are being done on out-of-province addresses. A variety of other reasonableness checks are being applied, including checks for duplicate registration. Every application form is required to be signed. Where there is a desire for anyone to deliberately be fraudulent, that is always difficult to--
The Speaker: Thank you.
FARM TAX REBATE
Mr Wildman: I have a question for the Minister of Agriculture and Food regarding the report from the farm tax rebate program review committee, which he appointed in October 1989 and which interviewed 330 interested parties as well as agricultural organizations regarding the fundamental changes in the farm tax rebate program that was instituted by this government in 1989.
Is the minister prepared to implement recommendation 4, that all land and buildings in agricultural production should be eligible for the tax rebate based on agricultural use of property, not on ownership status, occupation or income level of the owner?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I am pleased to be able to address the question posed by the member across the way. As the member has pointed out, in response to changes last year it was the decision of this government to have a consultative process. We have done that and, as the member has pointed out, a set of recommendations was presented to me for my consideration about six weeks ago. I have taken all those recommendations into consideration and have prepared a report in our internal process here for approvals. I cannot discuss the details of what we are proposing, but I would just assure the member that about three weeks I should be in a position to announce within at the 1990 farm tax rebate program will look like.
Mr Wildman: A simple yes or no would have sufficed. I wonder whether the minister could comment on recommendation 3, which basically points out that the position of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and other farm organizations was correct and that the position taken by the government in 1989 was incorrect; that is, that this program should be seen as a means to tax agricultural land fairly, not as a subsidy to farmers in this province. Is he prepared to recognize that the farm tax rebate program is a form of property tax relief, and not a welfare program for farmers?
Hon Mr Ramsay: As I pointed out to the honourable member, I am not in a position to discuss the details of the report or the cabinet submission that I have prepared. I am sure the member realizes the process. But I think it provides me an opportunity to thank the Treasurer, who gave us $7 million more, which backed up another $140-million program, so we have $147 million going to the 1990 farm tax rebate program. I think that shows tremendous support by the Ontario government for the farmers of this province.
EMPLOYER HEALTH TAX
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Treasurer. He will be aware of my party’s long-standing opposition to the employer health levy. We have, on a number of occasions, raised in this House our concern about the inequities of that particular tax.
I wonder whether the Treasurer could share with us the logic and the reasoning behind the government’s decision to introduce such a tax other than as a revenue grab but, in so doing, to leave out certain independently employed professionals with incomes in the range of $75,000 to $100,000 who are not required to pay this tax when others in our society making far less money are in fact forced to pay the tax. Why would he overlook that particular group of taxpayers and put them in a position where they would not be obligated to pay?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member knows that no individual pays the tax. If he is trying to imply that somehow working people at low incomes pay it, that is simply not correct. It is an employer health tax and the employer is responsible. The honourable member, being at a relatively high income level himself, will know there was an increase in the personal income tax last year; there was another 1% charged. For people with high incomes, over the $75,000 level, there is a surtax. I am not for a moment saying that we have achieved the perfection of fairness and equity that I hope to achieve over my tenure in this office, but we are working towards perfection.
Mr Brandt: The Treasurer has in part missed the point. Self-employed professionals with high incomes who do not have a payroll do not pay. We have in addition to that the inequity of corporations and businesses in this province that have a very high percentage of their gross revenue dedicated to payroll. As an example, I can think of the real estate industry where as much as 80% to 90% of the gross revenue that is realized by those businesses is actually salaries paid out in the form of commissions to sales agents.
A manufacturing corporation, on the other hand, may have a salary percentage of gross revenue in the range of 10% or 15%. Yet the Treasurer applies across the board his 1% or 2% levy for health purposes as though everyone was in exactly the same category in this province. Does he not understand that not only is the tax bad but there are gross inequities which he has to clear up in order to make the tax at least reasonably fair? Is he prepared to do that?
Hon R. F. Nixon: We think it is fair that it is based on the payroll paid, whether it is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or something less than that. The honourable member would know that in fact it covers only 16% of the cost of medicare and that all the industries and people benefit by having a properly financed program, which I will tell him is the envy of almost every country in the world. We believe this method of financing is by no means complete -- it does not pay anything near the cost -- but it does mean that the community as a whole participates based on the payrolls associated with the provision of services and the manufacture of goods.
Mr Daigeler: My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and it concerns the provision of funeral services in this province. In October 1989, the minister will well remember, Bill 30, An Act respecting Funeral Directors and Establishments, received royal assent. The bill contains many provisions to protect consumers and maintain a very high degree of professional conduct by the people in the industry. My concern relates to the timing of the enactment of these provisions.
Given that the bill was passed in October, many are eagerly awaiting its proclamation. Can the minister tell us when in fact the bill will be proclaimed and whether consumers will soon be able to be adequately protected in this field, which is often a very difficult one at the time?
Hon Mr Sorbara: Most of the news is good news. We have now proclaimed the bill. In fact, it came into force on 1 June, although the regulations that will ultimately put the final detail on the project have not yet been completed nor have they been put into force by way of order in council. But the bill itself now is the law of the province of Ontario. I think that is very good news for a number of reasons, not least the specific provisions in the bill which redirect the entire area more towards consumer protection than the traditional approach to the regulation of funeral services in the province. Most important to note perhaps in that regard is the appointment of a new board. Historically, the board was under the Ministry of Health; it is now under the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations and is a board with a balance and a very strong consumer protection interest on it.
Mr Daigeler: I thank the minister very much. Obviously I am very pleased to see that the bill has now been proclaimed.
My supplementary relates to the work of memorial societies. As the minister and many of the people in this House know, memorial societies exist to help people obtain suitable and at the same time inexpensive funeral services. I am wondering whether memorial societies are covered with this new legislation and, in this context, what the minister has been doing or is considering doing regarding the provision of accessible and inexpensive funeral services for people who will need assistance.
Hon Mr Sorbara: In respect of the Federation of Ontario Memorial Societies, I think it just has to be said that they have played a fundamental and critical role not only over the three-and-a-half-year period that we have been working on this legislation and through its consideration legislatively, but continuing on in the consideration of the regulations under it. I think of people like Pearl Davie, Elly Elder and David Jackson from the federation who can take a great deal of credit for the fact that we are where we are with the new Funeral Services Act.
Might I also just mention perhaps to my friend the member for Nepean the consumer protection points that will characterize this new approach under the bill and the regulations. First of all, all funeral establishments will now have to provide a fully itemized price list -- and that price list will have to be made available to the public -- and will be required under the act and the regulations to provide non-traditional and low-cost funeral services. The act continues in that vein, as will the regulations.
Mr Laughren: I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister will know, I hope, that in the last four years the government has collected about $300 million from northern Ontario pulp and paper and logging companies in the form of licences, royalties and stumpage fees. She also knows, of course, that her ministry supplies the seedlings to the forestry companies for reforestation purposes.
Given that this much money has been extracted from northern Ontario through that one area of taxation alone, how is it that when E. B. Eddy Forest Products wanted one million seedlings to plant in about 3,000 acres of land, her ministry told Eddy Forest Products it could not have them because the ministry had no money?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I am not familiar with the specific situation the member raises, but I would expect that the exchange that would take place with E. B. Eddy Forest Products would be in relationship to commitments that were made through the forest management agreements with Eddy and through the funding agreements for regeneration and silviculture that are provided for in those forest management agreements. If that is not in fact the case, or if the situation the honourable member raises differs from that case, I would certainly be prepared to pursue it.
Mr Laughren: I do not know if it differs or not, because the minister’s answer is gobbledegook. The fact remains that Eddy wants to plant about a million seedlings on about 3,000 acres of land. The ministry has said no. How is that possible? Could the minister please assure us that those seedlings will be planted, either at Eddy Forest’s expense or at the expense of the Ministry of Natural Resources? She should not forget she has taken $300 million out of the north in this area alone in the last four years. It is time she put some back in. Will she give us that assurance?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I would again stress the fact that I do not consider the forest management agreements that have been very carefully negotiated with our forestry companies to be in any sense gobbledegook. I think they are contractual arrangements; they are arrangements which provide a basis on which the forestry companies and the ministry undertake to ensure that there is silviculture activity carried out on harvested lands. The contracts are set in terms of the sharing of funding for those activities that are carried out.
In terms of the member’s more general question about the contribution of the ministry to silviculture in relationship to the licensed revenue that is received from the forest products industry, I would indicate that in 1988-89 the revenue from crown dues in forestry was $87.8 million. In 1990-91 we will be spending $138 million directly on silvicultural operations and support. That of course is only one part of our overall forestry budget, but that part alone is significantly in excess of the revenue that is received from the forest companies for that. Therefore, we are supporting the forest activities well beyond those revenues.
TRAVEL INDUSTRY COMPENSATION FUND
Mr Runciman: My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relation and it is related to the collapse of Odyssey and Thomson tours in respect to the payouts from the travel industry compensation fund. My own riding of Leeds-Grenville had over 27 families who were stranded in Florida as a result of the collapse of Thomson, and to this point they have been unable even to file a claim because of the government’s apparent failure to supply claim forms. I wonder what is happening in the ministry in respect to this matter. How quickly are they working on this? When can these people expect payment?
Hon Mr Sorbara: I am surprised that the constituents of the sometime consumer critic from the Progressive Conservative Party have not yet received claim forms, because the forms have been available for some time now through the travel agents. Mind you, this was a massive mobilization of effort. The repatriation of some 3,000 people over a weekend was probably the most ambitious undertaking that the travel industry branch of my ministry has ever undertaken; and getting those claim forms out around the province is now also complete.
I want to tell my friend that if there is a particular agent who does not yet have the claim forms, I want to hear from him about that. I would like the name of the agency, and I can assure him, as I do you, Mr Speaker, that we will make sure the claim forms are available to that agent and to those families.
Mr Runciman: The minister is obviously a sometime minister, because I phoned his office on 25 May in respect to this matter, advised his staff people about the failure of his ministry and the fund to provide forms for travel companies in my own riding. We complained on 25 May. Yesterday they finally received the claim forms in the riding. Trying to call Hal Burns, the registrar for the travel industry fund; we could never get an answer; repeatedly busy lines and never returning phone calls; phoning the staff in the minister’s office and having no action and finally receiving those forms yesterday. This is a complete and utter failure, and I want to see, now that we have the claim forms, how quickly people right across this province can expect a response and quick payment.
Hon Mr Sorbara: What I hear from my friend the member for Leeds-Grenville strains credibility. He and I have been sitting in this place since 25 May and since well before then -- this session started long before that -- and I do not know whether or not he has called my office or whether or not the story he tells bears any relationship to accuracy, but if he had a real problem, he could have walked across the floor and advised me of his problem.
I want to tell him that we anticipate that within 10 to 15 days after a claim has been submitted --
Mr Runciman: What are you trying to say? What kind of cheap shot is that?
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Runciman: I called your office and it should be on record. You just do not know what is going on. Get on top of things. Stop campaigning for Chrétien and pay attention to your ministry.
Hon Mr Sorbara: Now, Mr Speaker, he does not even want to hear the answer; he just wants to shout out and interject. I want to tell him that once the claims have been submitted, obviously they will have to be verified. Our objective is that within 10 or 15 days after the form has been submitted, 75% of the claim will be paid out and the balance will be paid out at the end of a six-month period.
Mr Sterling: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: He should withdraw the comments where he is actually saying that the member for Leeds-Grenville lied.
Mr Faubert: He did not say that.
Mr Runciman: He might as well have said it.
The Speaker: Did the member in any way call the other member a liar?
Hon Mr Sorbara: Mr Speaker, I would never suggest such a thing. I think if my friend the member for Carleton reviews Hansard, he will agree with me that I did not suggest that at all. What I suggested is that what he said strains credibility.
Mr M. C. Ray: I have a question for the Minister of Skills Development. My question concerns the recently published report of the Ministry of Skills Development, which we received last month and which is entitled Ontario’s Labour Market: Long-Term Trends and Issues of the 1990s. That report speaks of the shortages which employers encountered in the 1980s, shortages of skilled persons who are capable of working with new technologies which have been introduced into offices and plants. The report also goes on to say that enrolment patterns in engineering technology and apprenticeship programs mean a potentially severe shortfall of persons in the labour market who are qualified to fill these types of positions.
I would like to ask the minister if he accepts the inevitability of a shortfall in skilled labour, as the report seems to do, or is he going to act to avert a crisis by introducing new initiatives to address this problem?
Hon Mr Conway: I thank my friend for the question. I must beg to differ, however. I would not agree with him that the report accepts the inevitability of permanent shortages in the skilled trades sector. It is certainly not my view that it is at all inevitable. That is why as a government, and right across the government, we have undertaken a whole series of initiatives to, among other things, raise public awareness about the opportunities that this future is going to provide.
I say to my lawyer friend the member for Windsor-Walkerville and to my professorial friend the member for Nickel Belt that part of that awareness is ensuring that as parents and as community leaders they are going to do all that is necessary, at home and in the community, to ensure that their daughters and sons are going to be encouraged and are going to receive the kind of counselling and education that is going to allow them to seize this future, a future of greater scientific and technological opportunity and literacy, at full sail.
Mr M. C. Ray: The answer of the minister would seem to imply that the programs are readily available in the schools, that the structures of worker and educational retraining already exist. What the report suggests is that those programs were not available in the 1980s. What I am asking is when this government is going to take action to ensure that those programs, which we expect to see in the form of recommendations from Vision 2000 and the Premier’s report on education training, will be forthcoming, and when we can see some action to address what is now apparently an urgent problem.
Hon Mr Conway: I have a great regard for my friend the member for Windsor-Walkerville, and we have discussed this in a number of other places. He will know that in his home city of Windsor, for example, the government of Ontario, through the Ministry of Education’s school-workplace apprentice program, is sponsoring a number of students to begin that very creative new opportunity in the city of Windsor.
St Clair College in his community is involved in a whole series of new initiatives to prepare young people from Essex-Kent -- and the not-so-young who are coming back into education for upgrading -- with every opportunity to meet that future in a very positive way.
There are a whole series of other initiatives, whether they have to do with the literacy programs we are undertaking or whether they are what my friend the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology announced with respect to millions of training dollars being made available in the Windsor area for the Ford opportunity that our friend the member for Windsor-Riverside is so quick to discount.
But I will say this: Government cannot act alone. We must act in concert with business and with labour. We must also invite parents and other leaders in the community to ensure that attitudes change, because if attitudes in this province and in this country do not change with respect to the importance and the opportunity and the prestige of, for example, careers in the skilled trades, all --
The Speaker: Thank you. Order. New question.
Mr Philip: I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. My question arises from the minister’s statements of 19 April concerning his intention to review the municipal conflict-of-interest legislation and the Municipal Elections Act.
In the light of the disclosures concerning a prominent Liberal’s -- namely, the mayor of Ottawa’s -- acceptance of campaign funds from a crown corporation of this government, will the minister assure the House that he will make it illegal for any municipal candidate to accept political contributions from any publicly owned or funded corporation or organization?
Hon Mr Sweeney: As the honourable member is aware, that particular operation is being investigated by the provincial police. As the member is also aware, the proposal we have out there being explored is that all contributions which in fact are not used for the election itself would go into a trust account offered by the municipality.
With respect to his latter observation, it is my understanding that every minister of this government has indicated to those agencies that receive transfer payments from the provincial government that it is inappropriate and improper for them to donate to any political party. I would be interested to see what the reaction to that is before we have to actually change the legislation itself.
Mr Philip: The reaction of the corporation under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Tourism and Recreation was to say it thought that was good public relations. That is the reaction, that is on record, that is public knowledge.
Under the present Municipal Act the primary onus is on an individual to lay a complaint or initiate proceedings against someone who abuses the municipal finance process. Is it not time now for the province to show some leadership and establish a systematic, independent audit of municipal expenses so we can catch those people who would abuse the system, who would use public funds for their own municipal election campaigns, and ensure that these people are properly prosecuted?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The honourable member has partially answered his own question in that once officials of the Ottawa Congress Centre were made aware of the fact that this was inappropriate, they accepted that from the minister and indicated they would not do it again.
My honourable colleague might remember that in my previous capacity as the Minister of Community and Social Services I had sent out the same direction to something like 1,800 agencies across this province -- I guess it was about a year and a half ago now -- and in every single case the word back was:
“Thank you very much for clarifying that for us. That is the way we will behave in the future.”
The only point I am trying to make is that when agencies that receive government funds are apprised of the fact that it is not appropriate, in every single case, to the best of my knowledge, they have said, “Yes, that is understandable now, and we will not participate.”
The second point I would make is that the --
The Speaker: If it is short.
Hon Mr Sweeney: The review team under Cy Armstrong, the former CEO from Hamilton-Wentworth who is now travelling across the province, is looking into these very kinds of issues and coming back with recommendations to all of us in this Legislature as to how municipalities ought to proceed in the future and will have that ready for the 1991 municipal elections.
Mr Runciman: I have a question for the Chairman of Management Board. The citizens of Ontario recently expressed concerns about the hiring of 7,000 additional public servants since the Liberal government took power in 1985. This occurred at the same time as people were being asked to pay about twice as much provincial tax as they did five years ago. Now we have evidence that this kind of largess and irresponsible handling of the public’s money has made its way into the halls of this assembly. Can the minister explain the rationale behind his government’s appointment of four additional parliamentary assistants for ministries without portfolio in the last year?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman knows from his days in government that parliamentary assistants form a very valuable part of the support network for ministers and deal on a day-to-day basis with a huge number of agenda items which we like to have under control in the matter of getting input for the government. He knows that those ministers without portfolio likewise have busy schedules, as I know he does as a private member, just as all of us do. Those appointments were made so that we could reach out to the public and get the consultation which this member knows that we would like to have; in fact, they encouraged us to cast our net even further.
The appointments were of the highest calibre. They are renowned among their colleagues, and the member would know that to appoint people of quality is a hallmark of this government’s record in this province.
Mr Runciman: I give the minister credit that he gave that answer without cracking a smile. The reality is that 89 out of 94 Liberal members have extra income. Given that these ministries --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Runciman: I have this Liberal rump, making it difficult for me to pose the question. I guess they are all parliamentary assistants at the trough.
Hon Mr Elston: The Liberal rump is bigger than you are.
The Speaker: Order. Would you place your supplementary now? Thank you.
Mr Runciman: Given that these ministries do not have a deputy minister or significant numbers of bureaucratic staff, given that these parliamentary assistants have not made any major speeches in this House on behalf of their ministers, given that they are not allowed to answer questions and given that they have no role in guiding legislation through this House, what is his possible justification for the payment of over $30,000 in taxpayers’ dollars to these four Liberal members when they have no meaningful or measurable responsibilities in this Legislature?
Hon Mr Elston: I know the member used to be a member of the executive council, and he knows that having a person as a parliamentary assistant was a very helpful adjunct to his office so that he could meet with the very large number of people who want to speak to ministers and ministers without portfolio. We happen to believe that there is a very important issue at stake for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs, so it is important that she in fact have a parliamentary assistant; the same for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons and for the other two secretariats which he mentioned. Those are very important constituencies which we believe must have access in a very quick and orderly fashion; so as a result we have made those appointments.
I might just say that it is interesting that this question is raised by the member for Leeds-Grenville, because he would know that the Tory party has a paid position for a deputy House leader. A deputy House leader is paid for that party when it has 17 members. I understand that those are 17 of the most independent-minded people anywhere assembled, but surely they do not need two people, in addition to paid whips, to manage their processes. Maybe he would like to tell us a little bit about the reason for that.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Callahan: My question is for the Treasurer. Recently the council of the city of Brampton endorsed a resolution by another municipality calling upon the provincial government to allocate certain of the revenues received in gasoline tax towards budgets to assist it in looking after its roads. I recently was astounded to discover that the federal government, which collects some $800 million in this province, does not allocate one red cent to roads. Can the minister tell me what amounts are allocated to municipalities in this regard in terms of restructuring their roads?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the honourable member’s question is important. I am glad he gave me notice of it. Our revenue from this year from gas tax is expected to be about $1.5 billion. From that, we allocate to municipalities $776 million for roads and an extra $641 million for transit, which makes a grand total of about $1.4 billion.
Mr Callahan: In light of the fact that the province is that generous, I wonder, in his next meeting with his counterpart in Ottawa whether perhaps he might advance to him that, of the $800 million that the federal government collects in this province, he might be prepared to assist in that regard as well.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the suggestion is an excellent one. I hate to correct my honourable friend, who has never been known to be wrong before, but the federal revenue from gas tax is not $800 million; it is $1.7 billion. They get more from gas tax than the province does and they do not spend a nickel on roads, except for a minor expenditure of $26 million for certain structures. It is interesting to note that the cost of an interchange where a controlled-access highway intersects with a controlled-access highway is $100 million, exclusive of property. The federal people take more money out of the province in gas tax than we do and really contribute nothing to our road transportation.
Mr Wildman: I have a petition signed by approximately 380 residents of communities from Echo Bay through to Bruce Mines and Thessalon along the north shore of Lake Huron. The petition is in support of property owner Roy Ayers in his request to be granted a zoning bylaw amendment and a commercial entrance off Highway 17 east in order to expand his business and provide much-needed services to the Echo Bay area. Mr Ayers’s property is located in the township of Macdonald and he has a business that assists local farmers in the agricultural community with repairs to their machinery. I have signed the petition.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND PRIVATE BILLS
Mr Callahan from the standing committee on regulations and private bills presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bills without amendment:
Bill Pr73, An Act to revive Ontario Korean Businessmen’s Association;
Bill Pr79, An Act respecting the Township of Guilford.
Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:
Bill Pr4 1, An Act respecting the Ottawa Arts Centre Foundation.
Your committee further recommends that the fees and the actual cost of printing at all stages and in the annual statues be remitted on Bill Pr41, An Act respecting the Ottawa Arts Centre Foundation.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
COUNTY OF SIMCOE ACT, 1990
Mr Sweeney moved first reading of Bill 177, An Act respecting the Amalgamation of certain Municipalities in the County of Simcoe.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Members may recall that back in January I indicated that changes would be taking place in South Simcoe as a result of investigations as to the growth pressures there. This legislation will amalgamate Cookstown and Innisfil into one municipality, Bradford and West Gwillimbury into another, and Alliston, Beeton, Tottenham and Tecumseth into a third. It reflects the input of a transition team composed of representatives of all eight municipalities who are working at the present time and whom I would like to thank.
HEALTH PROFESSIONS REGULATION ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 178, An Act respecting the regulation of Health Professions and other matters concerning Health Professions.
The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will say “aye.”
All those opposed will say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
AUDIOLOGY AND SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 179, An Act respecting the regulation of the Professions of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.
The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will say “aye.”
All those in opposed will say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
CHIROPODY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 180, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Chiropody.
Motion agreed to.
CHIROPRACTIC ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 181, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Chiropractic.
Motion agreed to.
DENTAL HYGIENE ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 182, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Dental Hygiene.
Motion agreed to.
DENTAL TECHNOLOGY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 183. An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Dental Technology.
Motion agreed to.
DENTISTRY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 184, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Dentistry.
Motion agreed to.
DENTURISM ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 185, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Denturism.
Motion agreed to.
DIETETICS ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 186, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Dietetics.
Motion agreed to.
MASSAGE THERAPY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 188, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Massage Therapy.
Motion agreed to.
MEDICAL LABORATORY TECHNOLOGY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 191, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Medical Laboratory Technology.
Motion agreed to.
MEDICAL RADIATION TECHNOLOGY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 192, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Medical Radiation Technology.
Motion agreed to.
MEDICINE ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 193, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Medicine.
Motion agreed to.
MIDWIFERY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 195, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Midwifery.
Motion agreed to.
NURSING ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 196, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Nursing.
Motion agreed to.
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 197, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Occupational Therapy.
Motion agreed to.
OPTICIANRY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 198, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Opticianry.
Motion agreed to.
OPTOMETRY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 199, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Optometry.
Motion agreed to.
PHARMACY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 202, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Pharmacy.
Motion agreed to.
PHYSIOTHERAPY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 203, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Physiotherapy.
Motion agreed to.
PSYCHOLOGY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 210, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Psychology.
Motion agreed to.
RESPIRATORY THERAPY ACT, 1990
Mrs Caplan moved first reading of Bill 212, An Act respecting the regulation of the Profession of Respiratory Therapy.
Motion agreed to.
TOWNSHIP OF PLYMPTON ACT, 1990
Mr D. W. Smith moved first reading of Bill Pr65, An Act respecting the Township of Plympton.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 96, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act.
The Speaker: I believe the member for Hamilton East had the floor.
Mr Mackenzie: I just have a few additional remarks on this piece of legislation. First, however, I think it is important to reiterate that what we have here is a piece of legislation that certainly does not find favour with the vast majority of drivers in the province of Ontario, that does not find favour with the vast majority of truck drivers in Ontario, that seems to find favour only from a handful of the huge and powerful trucking companies, and probably they are the only ones that are going to survive in Ontario.
I cannot for the life of me see why we have a bill before us, Bill 96, that, very similar to Bill 88, the deregulation of the trucking industry, in effect plays into the hands of the American trucking industry and, I suspect, into the hands of the trailer manufacturing industry as well. If we keep to the 23-metre maximum, where we presently compete, we will be better off than going to the larger trucks, where the Americans have a good head start on us. In addition to that, I think it is useful to point out one or two of the arguments we made during the debate we made on Bill 88.
While Bill 88 opens up the Ontario trucking market to Americans, Ontario truckers will not have the same access to the United States. Forty-three states, including the huge markets of California and the northeastern states, except New Jersey, maintain systems of regulatory control over trucking within their borders that make it extremely difficult to obtain operating licences. I would like the minister to also explain how we have any easier or more access to those states where they maintain state control with this particular bill. How does it give us a hand up? For the life of me, I cannot understand or see where that is going to help us.
I think it is also useful to summarize -- well, first, before I do, I want to say that I was contacted by a couple of people -- I am surprised at the people who do watch this place from time to time -- last night who raised the debate we had here in the House yesterday, raised why there has not been more defence of the legislation by the minister. They were, incidentally, not in support of the bill, but their real question to me was, “Why don’t we know about this?” or, “Why hasn’t this been before us?” or, “Why don’t we have some say in it?” I was tempted, I can tell the minister, to say that, “Your say or your comments probably won’t make any more difference than workers’ comments on Bill 162 or Bill 208, or some of the auto insurance, or some of the other bills we’ve had before this House.”
But the facts are that the people had better wake up and start calling their Liberal members of provincial Parliament in this Legislature, because if they do not, before very much longer they are going to be faced with the longer trucks on the highway. I know very, very few people who are in support of that position and I see no benefit to it. I hope there are a number of Liberal members who have got the guts to get up and defend the position of this bill that the minister is putting forward.
In summary, I would like to go back once again to the letters from the Hamilton Automobile Club, which probably summarized better than anything else I have read the reason why this is extremely bad legislation. I think it is also useful to go back to the background, or the switch, or the about-face that this minister has done. Well, he shakes his head. But in that letter, one of the key paragraphs says, and they are arguing their opposition to this legislation and their surprise and dismay at this legislation coming down, “The fact is that the circumstances have not altered one bit since the cabinet made a decision in February of 1988 not to permit the 25-metre trucks on our highways.” I would reiterate that it is the same decision we made in the select committee on highway safety a good many years ago.
“The Honourable Mr Fulton reaffirmed the cabinet’s position in a letter to us dated 20 June 1989.” Well, maybe these letters were not sent; the minister shakes his head. But this is a letter from the Hamilton Automobile Club. “In early October, 1989, you publicly reaffirmed the lengths would not be increased.”
Hon Mr Wrye: No, no, you’re wrong.
Mr Mackenzie: This is October 1989, to the minister. That is going into paragraph 3, but let’s go back to paragraph 1:
“Consequently, we must express a sharp note of disappointment in your announcement a mere two weeks later that you would be considering an increase to 25 metres for trucks in Ontario. This simply underlines the skilful manner in which some of the major trucking companies through their trucking association are able to sound so convincing. We have dealt with them for a good many years and are quite familiar with their patterns of persuasiveness.”
Here we have a minister who apparently, as far as the auto club is concerned, has made a commitment as late as October 1989, who certainly did not indicate his change in a meeting with officials of the club on 9 November 1989 and yet in this House all of a sudden has a bill before us to allow the monsters on the roadways.
Hon Mr Wrye: Not monsters, they’re not monsters.
Mr Mackenzie: Yes, monsters, because that is what people think; that is what older drivers think; that is what most of the drivers on the highway think. In wet and sloppy and winter weather in particular it literally terrifies people.
I have asked the minister a number of times to come up with people who are petitioning him, drivers on our highways, saying, “We need longer trucks on the highways of Ontario.” I am darned sure he has not had any of that kind of pressure, and I have already told him that the drivers of most of those trucks, through their union, the Teamsters, have also opposed the longer trucks. I do not know where he is getting the support, other than from a small group of trucking companies.
The minister was not too happy with having read into the record the comments of the Toronto Star. “I guess we are also very concerned” -- and I am reading the paragraph out of the letter from the automobile club again -- “about the very blatant statement made in the Toronto Star by a trucking representative, ‘We are happy the minister is a friend of the truckers.’ The question millions of motorists will be asking is, “Where does that place the minister as the representative of the motorists and the ordinary citizens of Ontario?”
I want to make it clear, my question is the same as it was when I wound up yesterday. The minister is so obviously a friend of the major trucking companies, and I say that is a very small constituency. Who the blazes is representing the drivers and the truckers themselves in this province and what the heck did it cost them to get that turnaround so quickly from this minister? I think it is a legitimate question, and I think that question should be answered in this House.
Mr Villeneuve: It is a pleasure to participate for a short period of time in the debate on Bill 96. I had occasion in my riding about 10 days ago to see more trucks in one spot than I have ever seen before or I ever hope to see again, and at that same time we saw many truck drivers who were not in good humour at all. It was at the Ontario-Quebec border and there was a very major trucking strike where upwards of 1,000 large trucks were stopped on the highway, along the highway, on Highway 401, Highway 417, Highway 2 and any other road that you would care to think about. I had occasion to discuss with a number of the drivers the concerns that they had then and that they still have. Indeed, they brought the province to its knees. We had many retail stores that were literally running out of supplies. Speaking for the agricultural group, all of what is produced on farms, all of what moves in and out of farms is dependent on the trucking industry, from milk trucks, to livestock trucks, to grain trucks, to trucks that haul fruit and vegetables, and what have you. The trucking industry is most important, is the lifeline of industry and trade in this province and indeed in this country.
The truckers themselves were unhappy with a number of things, first of all their inability to compete with American trucks that were crossing. I was in contact with the minister’s office on several occasions, and I commend the minister for also being in his riding, at the Peace Bridge, I believe, discussing the situation with the truckers in that area, as I was with the truckers who were stopped at the Ontario-Quebec border. They are very unhappy with the costs of operation. For instance, 40 cents a gallon is the provincial share of tax on fuel which they burn, very much higher than the cost in the United States.
I realize it is very much a safety factor, but they are unhappy with the very close scrutiny of the logbook and the fact that there is no tolerance on both speed and weights. I realize that there are laws and they have to be upheld, and if you give a little, you give a lot. However, they are telling me that 300 pounds overweight on a load of some 30 or 40 tonnes brings on a fairly substantial fine. One or two kilometres over the speed limit has been bringing charges to them.
They feel that somehow or other the ministry could have some discretion in trying to at least provide a little bit of tolerance whenever it is obvious that the trucking industry has difficulty to compete. They have to travel to the maximum and I do not believe that they -- certainly the majority of them -- would intentionally be either overloading or speeding. However, these are things that result in additional costs and costs that make it very difficult for this industry to compete. I think we only realized two weeks ago just how important the entire industry is to the province in that business was really affected on basically a three- or four-day stoppage of movement of goods and material across the province.
Safety is the first and foremost factor. I, as do many of the members in this Legislature, travel Highway 401 extensively in both good weather and less-than-perfect conditions. I would say to the minister that if indeed we are going to allow longer trucks, from 48 to 53 feet, we must somehow or other do a couple of safety precautions.
First, there has to be a way to put a skirt around those wheels to prevent the serious splashing and indeed the elimination of any ability to see when you are passing or when they are passing the motorists.
Second, the centre of gravity: We often have loads upwards of 40 tonnes, literally, besides the weight of the tractor and the trailer, sitting with a point of gravity above the height of the normal rooftop of a car, which therefore makes these very heavy vehicles, to some degree, unstable.
Another problem that occurs -- and it will occur even more so with 53-foot trailers, particularly when they are travelling empty in the winter months -- is when there are very strong crosswinds and there is some slipperiness on the highways. I know that the OPP detachment in Maxville, my home town, has told me on many occasions -- and it is in your riding, Mr Speaker -- that there is an area between Vankleek Hill and Casselman, of very open countryside where the wind blows pretty good in January and February, and many times some of these large trailers wind up in the ditch, simply because of slippery conditions and a windy day. Heaven forbid if a car happens to be in the way. That extra five feet will be providing all the more wind resistance, wind push which will create some additional problems.
I have a number of trucking companies within the riding that I very proudly represent -- one of the largest in Ontario, Glengarry Transport Ltd, and several small trucking companies. I certainly thank the Harland Veinotte company for providing me with some information and the concerns that it has. They are headquartered at Morrisburg and I will read into the record some of the concerns that the operations manager provided me with some 12 months ago.
First of all, in 1988 this particular company “invested significant capital into new 48-foot vans. We do not desire that this equipment be rendered obsolete in less than a year,” and that is understandable. They have moved more than 70 per cent of their loads at maximum weight in 48-foot trailer vans and therefore they cannot see why the additional five feet would be added, because to them, when they are already operating at maximum weight, the additional five feet is of no value.
Most loading and unloading facilities were designed for the horse-and-buggy combinations of the turn of the century, not 48-foot or 53-foot semitrailers -- particularly, they specify, in the city of Montreal where a lot of their truckers haul to and from. “Trying to ‘shoehorn’ a 53-foot trailer into some of these facilities is not only impractical, it also presents a serious safety problem. Whole, busy intersections are often blocked in a driver’s attempt to negotiate the entrance to a facility” where he has to deliver or receive goods.
“A move to 53-foot trailers would give more leverage to shippers, who (in my opinion) are already too independent. With so many trucks in the marketplace, the shippers virtually dictate the rates and schedules. A carrier that couldn’t or would not purchase longer trailers would be at a distinct disadvantage.” These people have customers presently who specify 48-foot trailers despite the fact that a 45-foot or less could do the job.
So these are the problems as explained quite articulately by this trucking company in eastern Ontario. As I go back to my discussions with some of the independent truckers, it is of particular concern that their cost of operation is such that they are borderline; by changing the rules and allowing the longer trucks it will make it even more difficult for them to compete.
To the minister I say he must look at the safety aspect. With all of the magnificent engineering feats that we now have there has to be a way to at least reduce the splash that is so often prevalent, particularly in those areas of Highway 401 where there is some rutting that has occurred, probably in part due to heavy trucks and very heavy concentration of traffic, and where water, slush and ice accumulate during those winter months. Those are the areas where as these trucks drive through -- the ruts are primarily in the regular operating lane, not in the passing lane -- and those who try to pass those trucks are at a distinct danger because very often the visibility is nil.
I would think that there has to be a way to at least reduce the splash. You cannot eliminate it totally but I certainly think that with skirts of some sort all the way along the trailer it would then be in a position to prevent small cars from going right under the truck and decapitating people in the event of an accident. This so often happens and is so unfortunate because many of these accidents need not happen. There has to be a way provide some safety mechanism which could both prevent splash and prevent small cars from winding up under these big, heavy trailers.
These are but some of the concerns that I have. I wished I had a tape recorder as I was speaking to some of the more vociferous and angry truck drivers along the highway after about the third day of their boycotting. It may not be parliamentary language but it makes for interesting listening, and I understand why they were very concerned and were expressing their concerns by paralysing transportation in Ontario.
Miss Martel: I am pleased to join in the debate this afternoon. I will not be speaking for a long time; I am sure the minister will be pleased to hear that. There are other of my colleagues who want to participate in the debate, and I am going to be taking myself down to Guelph where I can bash the parliamentary assistant for insurance at a nomination meeting tonight. I am looking forward to that with a great deal of pleasure.
In any event, there are a couple of concerns that I do want to get on the record here this afternoon. This is an important debate. I hope that the widest possible set of public hearings will take place, because in talking to people in my riding, where we have big trucks running through a number of my communities -- slurry trucks in this case, operated by both Inco and Falconbridge -- there are a number of concerns from the public out there. I just have to look around at my own community in the last year and a half at some of the debates that have gone on at regional council, people who have come to my office, who have called, people who have had their windshields broken, who have yet to see a large slurry truck stopped by the police although everyone else on the road is being stopped when they are speeding, and some of those concerns are very profound. So I hope that the hearings the minister has around this issue will not be short and sweet but in fact will give the public every opportunity to express their concerns.
I want to look at four bits of information here this afternoon: first of all, some of the concerns that municipalities will have and do have around this particular piece of legislation; second, my concern around safety and monitoring of compliance -- my colleague the member for Lake Nipigon yesterday spoke at great length and provided examples that came from the auditor’s report during an investigation into the ministry, but there are some things that I want to raise again in that context; third, questions of safety that go a bit beyond the monitoring of compliance that I want to raise, and finally a bit of a comment on what I think has been a reverse of the position taken by this government on this issue.
First of all, in terms of the concerns that municipalities have in this particular regard, I want to go back to a brief that has been put together by the Canadian Automobile Association, an automobile association that in fact represents some 1.3 million motorists in the province of Ontario. They have put together, from their reading of the public and their discussions with people, some of the concerns that municipalities like those in my riding have about this bill and the fact that not only do we have enough trucks on the road now, but they are very fearful about having longer trucks and bigger loads and the destruction that that is going to cause in the end.
Some of their concerns are as follows, and I want to read these into the record: “Larger trucks continually damage municipal roadways and neighbourhoods in the following way” -- and I point out to the minister that in the case of the slurry trucks that are running in my riding, they are going right down through the middle of my community where I live, within about 50 metres of a public school with young kids all over the place. They go through three other communities, right down the centre of those communities. They are having a tremendous impact on households on both sides of the roads. In some cases, the distance between the street where they are moving, 24 hours a day, I should point out, and the household driveway is less than 30 metres. You have young kids and real safety concerns and serious problems in terms of damages that are being caused to households by the households actually physically shaking and the problems arising because of the destruction that is going on in the roadway system. That is a regional road, so the regional municipality of Sudbury is going to be responsible in the end for trying to figure out how it is going to pay for that. In fact, at this point in time it has an ad hoc committee trying to figure out what we are going to do with these trucks moving in our system 24 hours a day.
Some of the points that the CAA has raised are the following:
First, research has shown that for every 1,000 kilograms added to an 8,100-kilogram single axle, another 20% to 25% of road destruction takes place.
You only have to drive through our community on into Sudbury to see the kind of damage that has been taking place in the last number of months since the trucks have been on the road. There are a number of other trucks out there as well, so it cannot only be blamed on the slurry trucks, but certainly the perception of the public in my community is that they are by far and away having the more tremendous impact on the damage that is being done.
Second, the use of longer trucks would require major road improvements, bridge upgrading, sidewalk repair and resurfacing to urban roadways as a result of heavier trucks.
I listened to the minister speak yesterday to say that there would not be a direct correlation between longer trucks immediately becoming heavier trucks, and he used the example of Hostess Potato Chips. I would say to him that Hostess Potato Chips is not the only group out there running munchies around. In fact, there are a number of other big trucks out there that are hauling very heavy loads.
You only have to look in our community to see them hauling slurry to know what kind of concern that causes me and my community. They are already hauling tremendous loads. They already have to do half-loading, because last year, during April, they destroyed a whole part of the road coming just into my community, so the regional municipality had to put a half-load restriction on and had to go in there and have Inco and the other companies pay for the road repair of the damage that was done that weekend.
But in fact while munchies might be one of them and Hostess might be a group that will not make it any heavier, there are in fact others that are going to. That is the concern that I have if in fact some of the trucks that we are dealing with in Sudbury do become longer.
Third, traffic, vehicle and pedestrian mobility and the economy are affected when trucks are involved in accidents due to road and sidewalk closures and subsequent cleanup efforts.
Fourth, hazards are created for pedestrians near curb lanes as a result of wider turning ratios required by longer trucks.
We are already having a problem in the community that I represent, because in fact they are going right down main thoroughfares where there is great buildup in residential areas, where people are concerned about their kids if their kids are out on bicycles or out in the winter if they slip into the streets. There is a real concern, and I do not know that we have made every effort in fact to try to alleviate some of those concerns by putting into place larger curb lanes, better places for pedestrians to move so that they can get away from some of that heavy traffic that is going on at all hours of the day and night.
Finally, one large truck is already equivalent to 20 to 30 cars in terms of traffic flow. This comparison is only going to worsen with larger trucks.
There are concerns about municipalities, about the costs they are going to have to pick up in terms of road destruction, about what that is going to do. What does that mean to them to have even longer trucks going through the municipalities? What do the citizens in that municipality think about having their kids exposed to what they are going to perceive to be an even increased danger? Some of those concerns have to be taken into account by this minister. I hope the municipalities, whether it is the AMO’s representative or others, do appear at the hearings to express some of those concerns that I know we have seen in my community.
I want to just add to that a little bit more in terms of road deterioration and actually quote some ministry sources in this regard. The quotations I am using come from a Toronto Star article dated 20 May called “Highway Scandal.” It came about after a three-week investigation that the Toronto Star did into trucking, violations, monitoring of compliance safety, etc. The ministry’s own staff said this. Elmer Merkley, compliance director for the Transportation ministry, says the following:
“Our structures (roads, bridges) are built to withstand it” -- that is, increased weight allowances. “But, of course, if there is overloading, then there will be deterioration.”
I will be talking about the deterioration and the overloading as I go on a little bit further. It says in this next paragraph:
“I don’t know how extensive it is” -- that is, the overloading -- “but for the general industry it is a hell of a real problem. And if there is a tremendous overload, it can break up the roads real quickly.”
That is a serious concern.
As I move into the next section, on compliance, you will see that that overloading issue is real in the province of Ontario, that in fact what the Toronto Star group found when it was doing this is that there is a real problem that even the industry admits to going on out there.
My colleague yesterday talked about some of the information that the auditor had provided. I want to deal only with the information from this particular article. My concern is this:
There is evidence now that the legislation and regulations that are in place to try to enforce some measure of safety in this province are in fact not being complied with. That is not to say all truckers are out there trying to break the rules, because of course they are not, but there is certainly evidence that there are safety factors that we as a population should be awfully concerned about.
In my humble opinion, making trucks that much longer is just going to increase those problems, because I think there will be longer trucks with bigger loads and there are going to be more trucks out there. I am not convinced from what the minister said yesterday that it is only going to be Hostess, it is not going to be a general problem of heavier loads and in fact there is now going to be less traffic. I just do not believe it -- not with free trade and the deregulation that we have seen in the province. There has been a steady increase in the trend of trucks on our highways and I think that is only going to continue.
Let me go into this article and talk about some of the problems in compliance that we are already having that have to be dealt with before you can even begin to think about putting longer trucks on the road. There are a couple: problems with drivers, for example, using weigh stations as they are supposed to. The group that did this from the Toronto Star said the following: Weigh stations “aren’t open all the time and, when they are open, word spreads through citizen-band radios. When Ontario realized how easily, and how often, truckers bypassed the stations, it started the mobile enforcement units.”
Now you have 358 people who are out there from Transportation driving along those highways trying to pull those people off because those drivers are not pulling themselves off when they are supposed to in order to go into weigh stations and have that load weighed properly.
The way they started off the article was talking about one such ministry official by the name of John Bureau, who in fact on his travels out there, going down the highway, pulled off two dump trucks because even in looking at them he knew there was a problem in terms of weight. He pulled them off, and sure enough on this day both dump trucks were guilty of violating Ontario’s weight limit loads, one by 3,500 kilograms, or 7,700 pounds, and the other by 4,500, almost 10,000 pounds. That is pretty significant.
Mr Pouliot: What kind of fine did they pay?
Miss Martel: My colleague the member for Lake Nipigon asks, “What kind of fine did they pay?” A fine of $53.75, and it is not much of a deterrent, in my humble opinion, for people to get off the road. I think most companies in the province probably consider that a cost of doing business, and I think if you look at what the comments were from the two people who got pulled off, that is exactly the problem.
The first person, who was the truck driver fined, said the following, “‘My company got 50 tickets in the past two weeks for overloading,’ says one, after admitting that the risks of driving an overloaded vehicle scare him.” In the last two weeks, 50 tickets. What kind of problem is out there? What does that tell you? There are people who are violating that.
Now, it may not be the drivers. They may be told by their employer that they have to do that. In the case of the second driver, that is exactly the case. “‘Well, what can we do?’ responds the other. ‘If we complain that the load is overweight, we’re told to go and look for another job.”’
Those are the kinds of pressures on those people out there in the industry at this point in time, but they are real pressures and real concerns and what you have are real violations of regulations and legislation that is supposed to be in place to protect the public in Ontario. We are seeing, just from the article alone, that those are being abused or they are being waived and in fact employers are just thinking that the tickets are a cost of doing business in the province and it is not worth their while to carry the full load when in fact they can only pay a minor amount of a fine and carry an extra load and reap the benefits of that as well.
The problem with the fines was even in fact agreed to by their own ministry official, who said: “The deterrent effect of the fine structure is questionable.... Fines do increase on an incremental scale, but the increments don’t actually kick in until the overweight load is in excess of five tons.”
Just to add to that: “Even so, truck operators often do their best to avoid getting weighed. One veteran driver, who requested anonymity, says he worked for a company that actually wrote on its shipping orders, ‘Bypass truck inspection stations.”’
So there is a problem out there and it has not been resolved and my fear is that it is only going to get worse when we get bigger and longer and more trucks on the highways in this province.
I am just looking at some of the convictions that the OPP laid last year against truck drivers for overloading. In fact, it says in this particular article: “Last year, ministry enforcement officials” -- sorry, this is Ministry of Transportation -- “laid more than 24,000 charge against truck operators for overloading. It had a conviction rate of 100%.”
Well, you cannot get much better than that. Yes, they are out there doing their job, but how many more are they missing? How many other inspectors is the government going to put out there? It is the same as the health and safety legislation. You cannot have an inspector for every workplace in the province. You have got to hope that people are going to regulate themselves, but it is obvious they are not, and you are not going to be able to have one inspector for every truck operating around the province of Ontario because there are 100,000 licences for heavy trucks now. But there is a problem and the minister has got to admit there is a problem.
The OPP said the same thing: “Superintendent Gary Wood, director of traffic for the OPP, says his officers laid 10,000 charges against trucks last year. But this also includes speeding violations and charges for defective brakes.”
Unfortunately, there were no separate figures available for overloading violations, and I would be curious to see those kinds of statistics, because I think that will tell it all.
So there is a severe problem in terms of enforcement right now in terms of monitoring the compliance, and I fear that if they cannot put more inspectors out on the road to do that -- and I do not know how we can afford it in this province in any event -- then they have to take seriously what it means if it is going to make trucks that much longer, carrying that much bigger loads.
Third, just a question of safety: What is really going on on our highways now? I know my colleague the member for Lake Nipigon yesterday talked about some of the statistics. There was one here, in case he did not read it into the record, from a rail union that talked about Highway 17: “All four people killed this month” -- that is in April 1990 -- “on Highway 17 died in collisions with big trucks. If the trucks get bigger, common sense suggests the risks will grow and statistics will get worse.”
They say another interesting thing: “Truck drivers are very safety conscious, but it is not a matter of how safe truckers are. The problem lies in incompatibility of the two main user groups.”
I have to say that I agree with that perception. I know how I feel on the rare occasion I will drive my car from my riding in Sudbury East along Highway 69 and come here to Toronto, or if I go back the other way. I will tell members it is the scariest feeling to be on that highway, because it is not double-laned after you get past Highway 400 and Honey Harbour. You are talking about portions that do have some passing lanes, but they are totally inadequate, and considering the curves and turns and twists on that road, I am absolutely petrified of trying to pass a big truck on that highway. The truck moves over. You do not know how long it is going to stay over there. You know you have got to really gun it to get by. You do not have any idea if they are going to move back in because the turn suddenly becomes too sharp for them, or you have got other access roads on there and people starting to come out and move on to the highway. It is the worst time trying to travel on that road, and I know I am not the only one who is fearful of travelling on that particular highway, and that is a reality.
It is one thing to have huge trucks out there here on Highway 401 or on other southern Ontario highways that are doublelaned, but it is a totally different matter to try to operate in northern Ontario. Highway 17, for example, is a single lane, or in the case of Highway 69, for example, you have only got passing lanes which are totally inadequate to allow the traffic to move. I think that is a serious concern. I think before they allow any kind of a longer truck, which is only going to make more difficulty for us to get by them, they have got to take into account the fact that the transportation system in this province is not adequate.
I am being given the signal to be quiet. I am almost done. One more moment here, I say to my colleague the member for Lake Nipigon. He went for an hour an a half yesterday. I do not know why he is hassling me now.
In any event, just two more things. There is a real perception of safety problems and I do not think the minister is going to be able to undermine that, regardless of the studies from his ministry, from industry or from anywhere else.
I go back into my own riding and use the fear that people have with the slurry trucks. They do consider them to be monster trucks. Whether the minister likes it or not, they do, and there is a fear in the people in the community, a fear for their own safety, for their kids, for their kids getting off school buses and crossing the road. I have yet to see any of them stopped, but I certainly know they are going far and well beyond the speed limit when I tend to follow them, which I do, because they go right through my community, and there is a real problem in terms of perception of safety that the government is not going to get away with. People will, whether they like it or not, perceive that the safety risks are going to be increased when you start to increase the length of those trucks.
Finally, if I just might make this last point, I am concerned as well about the reverse in the position that this government has taken on the issue. The former Minister of Transportation was opposed. Cabinet was opposed to this particular legislation. It has been said that the present minister has been opposed to this legislation as well. I do not know who got to him on the road to Damascus to have him change his mind or change his name from Bill to Saul, but in any event I think the minister might want to explain to us when he wraps up today how it is that this government now accepts this particular piece of legislation. There was evidence, and not long ago, that in fact the government was opposed. I cannot see that there has been any upswing in the general population to accept longer trucks, so I have to ask, where did the change of heart come from and why?
With that, I will conclude my remarks.
Mr Wildman: I rise to participate briefly in this debate of this free trade legislation. I call it free trade legislation because we know that the provincial government, despite its long-touted opposition to the free trade deal, which has amounted to a hill of beans when it came down to the crunch, has brought in this legislation so that it can have regulations for the size of trucks in line with American states. This goes along with the deregulation that this government brought in for trucking in the province to develop what the Americans call a level playing field for the transportation industry in North America.
Ironically, in that area, of course, many American states have not followed through, and as a result, the playing field is tilted in favour of the Americans. The minister may not like that, but I am sure he heard that argument put to him when he was in Windsor talking to the truckers who blockaded the border. Truckers in Ontario are having a very difficult time competing because of the very unfair competition they have to meet from the Americans, and this legislation for longer trucks in Ontario is not going to make the situation any easier, particularly for the independent truckers.
I want to say, though, that as a northerner, someone who represents a very large northern constituency along TransCanada Highway 17, I am very concerned on the basis of safety about the provision for 25-metre trucks. North of Sault Ste Marie, because of the topography, Highway 17 is a very dangerous highway even in the best of conditions. When you couple that with the fact that during the winter we have enormous snowstorms coming off the eastern shore of Lake Superior and the fact that much of the traffic along Highway 17 north of Sault Ste Marie is truck traffic, you can understand my concerns for safety.
Right now, we have so many hills and curves on Highway 17 that with transport trucks at their current size we often have near misses and accidents, because drivers get impatient following trucks that have to climb hills and of course lose speed and they wish to turn and pass. They take chances, often on curves and hills, when they should not.
This is even compounded when many of the truckers, particularly at night, travel in convoys of three, four and up to ten trucks. If you happen to be driving a passenger automobile behind one of those trucks, or even worse, behind one of those convoys, in a snowstorm, you will understand my concern about safety. It is impossible to see. There is absolutely no visibility if you are in a passenger vehicle. If you are in a truck following a truck, you are higher up so you can see better, but with the glare of the lights on the blizzard of snow that the truck produces, it is impossible to see. This situation is just going to be worse if we have longer trucks.
The minister shakes his head. I would like to know how he knows it is not going to be. It is certainly not going to be better.
I know the minister has argued that longer trucks do not necessarily mean heavier trucks. I recognize that the weight regulations are related to axle weights. The number of axles on a longer truck will determine how the weight is distributed. I understand that. But the fact is, and it has been raised in this debate on a number of occasions, we have a serious problem with enforcement. I am not being critical of the minister’s staff, but the fact is it is a bit hit-and-miss. There are too many trucks on the road that are violating the axle weights now, and in my view that is just going to be compounded when we have longer trucks on the highways.
I recognize that many truckers, particularly logging truckers, have problems. It is very difficult to meet the axle weights now if the load is loaded in the bush where there is no access to weigh scales. So it is a guesstimate. It depends on how warm the weather is or how cold the weather is, how wet the wood is in terms of guesstimating the actual weights. I know there is some leeway given, but not a great deal, if one of those trucks has to cross a weigh scale.
Many independent truckers have such a difficult time meeting their payments that they have to work long hours, even with the new logbook regulations. They spend their so-called days off on weekends making repairs to their trucks. Their margin of profit is so low now that some are tempted to flout the regulations, and some do.
Some trucks, too many trucks, are overweight or the weight is not properly distributed on the axles. Perhaps even the safety and mechanical regulations are not adequately adhered to. Fining these people means we have to find them first. Sometimes we do, and I commend the ministry staff for their work, but often we do not.
It is dangerous enough following in a passenger car one of these trucks or a convoy of trucks if they are in top-notch condition, if they are adhering to the weight regulations, the load regulations. It is doubly dangerous if a passenger car is following one of these trucks that is not adhering to the regulations. That situation, in my view, can only get worse.
I will say this in conclusion. Despite the minister’s position, I can tell him clearly that on highways like Highway 17 in northern Ontario, people driving passenger automobiles, particularly at night, in bad weather, are going to face a more dangerous situation with longer trucks because too many passenger vehicles will be driven by drivers who are impatient and who are not willing to wait interminably, driving behind a truck at 30 or 40 miles an hour. They are going to pull out and try to pass a long line of traffic when it is not safe, because the straight stretch is not long enough or there is not a flat enough area. It happens already. It is hard enough to get around a transport safely now on our highways. I am talking about two-lane highways in northern Ontario. If you have to drive farther to get around them, it is going to be even more dangerous.
I cannot see how the minister can in any way argue against that. How he can assure us that it is not going to be more dangerous in passing a longer truck or a convoy of longer trucks on a two-lane highway is beyond me. We should be doing all we can to encourage freight companies to use other methods of transporting their freight.
I will just conclude by saying that one time a woman said to me, after having driven a long distance on Highway 17 behind a lot of trucks -- and there is a lot of truck traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway -- “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a road for trucks?” I said, “We do already; it’s called a railroad.”
This legislation is going to make it more dangerous for the passengers in passenger cars in the province. It is going to make it more difficult for small, independent truckers to compete. I cannot see any reason on earth why this government is determined to pass this legislation, other than as a way of caving in to the federal Tory government and the United States government on free trade.
Mr Morin-Strom: I appreciate the opportunity to be able to speak in this debate on Bill 96, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act. This is a very short bill but it poses very real and potential dangers to the driving public in the province of Ontario.
This bill proposes to add larger trucks to the roads of Ontario, increasing the maximum length of trucks from 23 metres to 25 metres. It was only a couple of years ago that the government moved to increase truck lengths from 21 to 23 metres. This further movement poses additional threats to the drivers of this province at a time when this government has been remiss in its duty to maintain the roads of the province, to see the kinds of improvements we need on those roads so that drivers can feel secure in their driving on the highways.
This is particularly an issue for those of us who represent communities in northern Ontario, because in the north we have no choices. We have to drive on two-lane highways. The kinds of major freeways that exist in southern Ontario, throughout the United States and are accepted as a standard right across the world do not exist in northern Ontario. The Trans-Canada Highway is a disgrace when it comes to the Ontario portion of it.
Most of the Trans-Canada Highway outside of Ontario has been four-laned, but that is not the case in the richest province in this country, the province of Ontario. That highway, which is the only major link for drivers, and in particular for the transport of goods and services across Ontario, connecting with the western provinces, is not a four-lane highway. The kinds of trucks we are talking about are forced to cross our province using that two-lane Trans-Canada Highway, and that poses very real risks to the people of Ontario.
I have received a number of communications expressing serious concern with regard to this piece of legislation. We have got detailed packages of information expressing the concerns of the Canadian Automobile Association and of other associations across Ontario. In particular, the Hamilton Automobile Club has written to me and other members expressing the fact that it has contacted and received information on strong opposition from many different organizations and individuals across the province.
Mr Kormos: Why will the Liberals not listen?
Mr Mackenzie: They never do.
Mr Morin-Strom: This government listens only to its friends in the business community. It is not listening to the drivers of this province, and it is not taking into consideration the concerns of organizations such as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ontario Good Roads Association, the Canadian National Railways, medical practitioners in the province, the Municipal Engineers Association, the Council on Road Trauma, the Teamsters union that represents most of the drivers of trucks in the province, the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association, Transport 2000 and others.
Mr Kormos: Regional Niagara; city of Cambridge.
Mr Morin-Strom: My colleagues and I have all received communications from various interested parties. I would like to read a letter from one up in my area. This is from a small businessman who lives just outside of Sault Ste Marie, in Desbarats, who wrote to express his serious concerns because he uses the Trans-Canada Highway on a regular basis. He wrote:
“Dear Mr Morin-Strom:
“I must really applaud the excellent stand I have seen you take in the House against the murderous desire of our government to put longer trucks on these northern Ontario roads.
“The minister involved, obviously trying to gain the truckers’ goodwill for future votes, is doing so at the expense and the safety of the private car driver.
“I drive regularly between Desbarats and Sault Ste Marie and am able to assess the driving habits of truckers. I can assure you that although at one time they were considered the ‘Knights of the Road,’ that is no longer the case. I have been tailgated, passed on double lines, passed in dangerous places in bad weather, have had my windshield completely covered in mud by trucks passing at far above the speed limit.
“In fact, it appears to me that the speed limit is just a joke to most truck drivers and they never seem to be stopped by the police, no matter at what outrageous speed they are travelling.
“I do not wish to be critical of our police force who, in general, do a fine job, but I do wish as much attention could be paid to the truck drivers as seems to be paid to the private motorist.
“Please keep up the excellent work you are doing in Parliament to prevent trucks from being even more dangerous on the roads than they are now.”
When it comes to our highways, and in particular the Trans-Canada Highway, we need the improvements to that highway before we see a government embarking on creating more hazards for the drivers across northern Ontario. Just to illustrate the kinds of hazards we face, I would like to point out one of the most serious statistics, the statistics on fatalities in Ontario. The most recent annual data on Ontario road safety show the difficulties of drivers in northern Ontario, and particularly disturbing is the fatality rate in the north compared to southern Ontario.
In the last year that data were available, across southern Ontario there were 13.2 fatalities per 100,000 population in the south. That compares to northern Ontario, where fatalities were 19.3. On those kinds of highways, northerners are facing a fatality risk 46% higher than residents of southern Ontario.
The big trucks from western Canada connecting with Ontario and Quebec have to drive those highways across the north, and until those highways are improved, there is no way that this government should be proceeding in putting more risks on to those highways for the driving public.
The kinds of risks with respect to fatalities are right across the north, covering every district, with one exception, the only exception being the Sudbury regional municipality within the city limits of Sudbury, which has a fatality rate comparable with the south.
You can go to district after district. Algoma district has a fatality rate of 21 per 100,000 population, in comparison with a fatality rate of 13 in the south. In Cochrane, it is 16 per 100,000. In Kenora, there are over 52 fatalities per 100,000 people in the area. In areas like Manitoulin and Parry Sound as well, there are rates of over 50 per 100,000 population, areas of very high risk as a result of the inadequacy of the highways in those areas.
That is where this government should be focusing its attention, not on this kind of sellout to the major trucking firms and the opening up of further deregulation across Ontario and the opening up of our doors, in fact, to the larger trucks which already exist in the United States and our trucking firms do not have at this point. In fact, this whole legislation is consistent with where this government has gone in terms of selling out the trucking industry in Ontario and selling out the drivers of Ontario, both the regular driving public as well as the drivers who are earning their living working for the trucking firms in Ontario.
We know that the major union representing truck drivers, the Teamsters union, is opposed to this legislation. It disagrees quite strongly with the minister in terms of what this is going to do for the competitiveness of Ontario industry and the opportunity to be able to keep jobs here in Ontario.
Surely this government has to recognize the kinds of concerns that the government has received, as well as us, from an organization like Transport 2000 Ontario, which has expressed its serious concern about the dangers that this kind of legislation poses for the drivers of this province.
I would ask the minister that this bill go to committee for serious study and public hearings over the summer months. It is essential that the public across this province have the opportunity for input into this legislation so that we can make the kinds of improvements and have the recognition of the kinds of transportation system that we need right across the province.
This kind of legislation, which poses risks without any rewards to the drivers of this province, must be opposed by our party and we will do so now on second reading. We do not need and we do not want monster trucks on our streets and highways. Our highways are dangerous enough today without the government allowing another two-metre increase in the length of trucks in Ontario.
Just a month before introducing this bill, the Minister of Transportation said that he would not allow the extra-long trucks because of safety concerns, but I guess safety concerns do not matter when the Liberals want to make political points at the annual convention of the Ontario Trucking Association. The minister has no excuse for this flip-flop that is a direct threat to the driving public in Ontario.
When we have transport trailers that cannot manoeuvre on approved city street trucking routes, when we have highways that are being wrecked by the massive trucks already on them and when we have a two-lane Trans-Canada Highway as our major national trucking route, how can this government propose that the rolling monsters be even bigger? Surely our lives and our enjoyment of life are more important than just how much additional stuff can be jammed into a tractor-trailer.
I would ask the Liberals to just consider the general public before they act. The Canadian Automobile Association argues that longer trucks endanger the lives of ordinary drivers. The OPP says that they will make a bad situation even worse. People to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, the organization dedicated to make driving safer, says this is just plain crazy.
Mr Kormos: Why won’t the government listen?
Mr Morin-Strom: This minister has to listen. The public has to be heard on this. I look forward to public hearings over the summer on this and ask that the minister listen very closely to what the public says to him at that time.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments on the member’s statement?
Mr Kormos: This government has heard from numerous sources including the city of Cambridge which passed a resolution condemning this legislation, and I tell members the regional municipality of Niagara on 15 February endorsed the position taken by the city of Cambridge. It has heard from municipalities and regions across the province. It has heard from good people like Dr Wilson in Welland who writes to the minister with his concerns, he as a driver knowing full well of the hazards of these monster trucks.
The question to be posed once again is, why will the government not listen, but rather insists on proceeding with legislation that is going to create more fatalities?
Hon Mr Wrye: Mr Speaker, I would like to make a few remarks on the comments by my friends from both parties. I look forward at the outset to the opportunity to hear the debate proceed in committee on this very important piece of legislation.
I must say that I hope all of those who are involved in the trucking industry, whether they are drivers or company owners or anybody else involved in the industry, have an opportunity to read and hear this debate because members of all parties -- I certainly endorse that -- have spoken quite passionately at times about the need for safety, about the need for truckers -- many of whom my friends in the New Democratic Party stand up and support in one breath and then condemn in the next -- to maintain and abide by the speed limits of this province and to maintain and abide by the other laws of the road of this province.
I think if that small handful of truckers who do not abide by the laws of this province would do so a little more, then perhaps, as I believe it was my friend the member for Sault Ste Marie said, we can once again call the truckers the knights of the road.
There are a number of points that have been made and I have tried to gather a few of the highlights which I will deal with in my response, and then perhaps as we go forward in committee we can deal with a number of the other issues.
The first issue, which has been repeated a number of times, is how can there be less trucks if they are going to be longer and they are going to be of less weight. I tried to explain it in the first instance and perhaps I will try once again. I am sure my friend the member for Lake Nipigon who is a very learned individual and put on really quite the performance in this place -- he was a little short on facts, but for style I would give him about a 9.5 out of 10, about a 3.5 out of 10 on his use of facts but very, very high marks indeed for style.
The maximum weight allowed -- I am going to try this once more and I guess I will have to try it a lot of times in committee -- is 63,500 kilograms. The limit is not being changed. The bill is providing a new class of commercial vehicles, a 53-foot trailer, which will not be allowed to come close to carrying 63,500 kilograms. By limiting the number of axles to three -- something my friend the member for Algoma understood -- we are actually reducing the theoretical maximum to 53,000 kilograms.
Who other than potato chip companies will use these new vehicles? Companies such as Canadian Tire, Sears, etc, now carry loads that are about half the maximum weight. With greater volume they will simply be able to fill up their vehicles with additional volume, and in the case of Sears it has already put on the record that it expects to use about 10% less -- I will underline that word, less -- trucks on the road than it has now.
My friends in the New Democratic Party who have carried on at such length about trucks on the road apparently want to ignore that fact. Perhaps in committee they will have an opportunity to discuss how it can be consistent. Indeed, because of those companies that are going to be able to attain less volume and still not go over or even near the maximum weight, we will be able to reduce the number of trucks on the road.
My friend -- I will put it on the record; he is not here -- the member for Simcoe East noted sections 6 and 7 of the bill in which we have a minor amendment of the number of the weight of kilograms in different classes of vehicles. This is simply a minor amendment to bring it into conformity with the Roads and Transportation Association of Canada recommendations.
Very briefly, a number of members from the New Democratic Party have suggested the OPP are against Bill 96. The reality is they are not. Let’s put that on the record. Nobody from the OPP has officially taken a position, any kind of official position against Bill 96. I hope my friends in the New Democratic Party will either acknowledge that fact or will not continue to repeat it. I think, as we go on and we go forward in this debate on a very difficult issue, it would be nice if, as we went forward, we went forward putting facts on the record, not interesting points of view that are not factual at all.
My friends in the Conservative Party particularly, and my friends in the official opposition, spoke about the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the study that particularly the official opposition said raised concerns about the 53-foot vehicles. I am delighted the members of the Conservative Party raised it because there was a study that was brought forward out of that great university in Ann Arbor. As a result of the study, which was some years ago, the Roads and Transportation Association of Canada, RTAC, looked at the study, implemented the recommendations of the study, and as a result of that we have the lower weights, the lower maximums that are provided for in the bill. We have vehicles which, because of the University of Michigan work, will take no additional turning distance. Indeed, we have the kinds of issues, which my friends in the opposition parties addressed as if they have not been looked at, that will indeed limit infrastructure damage, will make it no worse, given the numbers of trucks on the road and the fact that the 48-foots continue to have 63,500 kilograms will not make it a whole lot better, but vehicle manoeuvrability will not be a problem.
Mr Pouliot: Who says?
Hon Mr Wrye: My friend the member for Lake Nipigon wants me to be brief, but I could go on and on and give him some real detail of the University of Michigan study.
Mr Pouliot: Please do.
Hon Mr Wrye: In accordance with the RTAC recommendations -- no, I will not go on and on, but in committee we can.
In terms of northern Ontario, and there were a number of speakers on northern Ontario issues from the official opposition, there was concern that allowing larger trucks is not appropriate because of highway deficiencies. There is no doubt, and I think the speeches are a reflection as much as anything, of the conditions which currently exist and which will not get worse. They are a reflection of an area of the province in which the conditions can be extremely difficult and which call for care and concern on the part of all individual car drivers, and truck drivers particularly, which will ensure that the people of the north can drive every bit as safely.
I acknowledge the comments of my friend the member for Sault Ste Marie on the fatality differential. I do not think, given the very difficult climatic conditions in the north, that matter should come as any surprise. It is very disappointing, very discouraging, but it is not surprising and it is something we must work on. But to then leap to the conclusion that 53-foot trucks will in any way worsen that issue, which has to be dealt with in different ways, or that the statistics from western Canada somehow make the opposition’s case, is just wrong.
The fact of the matter is that the traffic levels along the Trans-Canada through northern Ontario are similar to or lower than traffic levels in the western provinces, where the 53-footers have been in place for several years in following RTAC.
My friend suggests there are four-lane highways, another great myth. The reality is that in major parts of western Canada there are, as you know, Mr Speaker, no four-lane highways. In northern Ontario there is an average daily traffic of 3,700 vehicles, average daily trucks of 629. If you go to the Saskatchewan border you have 1,931 vehicles, but only 50 less average daily trucks. If you go to Alberta you have 280 more: 902.
While it makes for a very good speech -- in the case of my friend the member for Lake Nipigon really quite a performance, really quite sterling stuff -- the reality is, as in so much of this, that the facts simply get in the way of the interesting points of view being made over on the other side.
In terms of inspections some of my friends suggested there were not many inspections. My good friend the member for Sudbury East suggested there were. The reality is we have 360 inspection officers, more than any jurisdiction. When one takes into account the number of trucks compared to other jurisdictions, we still have more than any other jurisdiction. In 1988 we had over 48,000 safety mechanical inspections and in 1988 we had a total of 55,000 charges.
The other issue the honourable members would want to know is that the fines under those charges are not the only sanctions against truckers and trucking companies. Any fines, whether it be weights or anything else, go on the commercial vehicle operator’s registration record. Eventually, the final penalty under CVOR is to have licences pulled. That has not been in place for very long, but I can assure all honourable members that we are at the very serious warning stage with several hundred individuals. We do not intend to tolerate over-weights, we do not intend to tolerate unsafe drivers, and quite frankly we are not far from seeing some of those very unsafe individuals have their licences pulled so they will no longer threaten you or I or anyone else, Mr Speaker, on the roads or highways.
Finally, a number of members in the New Democratic Party have one way or another suggested that there was a change in the point of view of this government, and that is true. I acknowledged it in my opening remarks. The government had taken a position after the memorandum of understanding was brought forward that Ontario would not in the first instance implement the longer-length legislation or the longer-length aspects of the MOU because of concern over the fact that the National Safety Code was in place.
It was after careful review of the position that we had reached in terms of the National Safety Code -- hours of work, facility audits, pre-trip inspections and a number of other things -- that we decided the timing was appropriate, that safety could be --
Mr Laughren: Free trips where?
Hon Mr Wrye: Pre-trip inspections, I say to my friend from Nickel Belt who has been known to want to travel, but we are talking about different kinds of trips.
I want to put on the record a brief comment from the speech that everybody is so fashionably quoting so that we could just have on the record what was said in the speech. I said in that speech in late October to the board of trade:
“On the subject of uniform weights and dimensions, as you know, RTAC completed its study in 1987 and the minister signed a memorandum of understanding in 1988. We are in the process of implementing that memorandum to work towards standards that will be more uniform and still provide greater safety. I recognize that there is considerable interest in the industry regarding extending the overall length measurements in the MOU from 23 to 25 metres and trailer lengths from 48 to 53 feet. While I continue to be concerned about the potential safety implications of changes such as those, I welcome further discussions on the subject.” “Concerned,” but no one said “opposed.”
I realize that those matters are sincerely held for the most part and I certainly want to make it very clear that after careful review the government decided it would move in a new direction that would bring us into a situation where our lengths would conform with those of other jurisdictions, not just, as one of the speakers in the official opposition said, with those in the United States, but those in four western provinces, those in Quebec and those in, yes, I think a majority of states in the union, including those surrounding Ontario.
I am going to close this by putting one other concern on the record. I do so with some trepidation, but during this debate I heard something I did not appreciate from one honourable member; in his speech yesterday, the member for Hamilton East said, and I am quoting from Hansard: “Did the minister somehow or other stop and talk to hundreds or thousands of drivers” -- fair comment -- “the vast majority of whom would have said no to this legislation, or did a handful of trucking company executives get to him and convince him to change what he had made as a commitment to the automobile club just two weeks earlier? I think that is a legitimate question and not a nasty question. It is one that obviously has to be asked. The minister is not listening to the thousands; he certainly was listening to a very small number.”
Then he added, “I ask the minister, what did they offer to get his support?” The answer to that honourable gentleman, who has been around this place long enough to know that an honourable member should never suggest to an honourable member and impute the kind of motives that were suggested here, is that nothing was offered and no further meetings were held. I hope that will be the end of it.
I hope we can proceed with this legislation.
Mr Pouliot: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Standing order 23(i), among others, will attest that talking about imputing motives -- I must, with respect, I cannot sit idly by and have a distinguished colleague who has just walked in maligned. There was nothing wrong in the context and if the minister reads Instant Hansard --
The Deputy Speaker: That is a different opinion.
Mr Pouliot: Nobody is saying that anyone is buying anybody else. We do not do that in this House.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Could I have the attention of the House, please.
The House divided on Mr Wrye’s motion for second reading of Bill 96, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ayes -- 47
Adams, Ballinger, Black, Bossy, Brown, Collins, Callahan, Cleary, Curling, Daigeler, Dietsch, Elston, Epp, Faubert, Fleet, Fontaine, Haggerty, Henderson, Kanter, Kozyra, LeBourdais, Lipsett, Lupusella, Mahoney, Mancini, McCague, McLeod, Neumann, Nixon, J. B., Oddie Munro, O’Neill, Y., Phillips, G., Ray, M. C., Reycraft, Roberts, Smith, D. W., Smith, E. J., Sola, Sterling, Stoner, Sullivan, Velshi, Villeneuve, Ward, Wilson, Wong, Wrye.
Nays -- 13
Allen, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Grier, Kormos, Laughren, Mackenzie, Marland, Morin-Strom, Philip, E., Pouliot, Wildman.
Bill ordered for the standing committee on resources development.
Mr Jackson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: As you will note from Hansard, I was not present in the House for this vote. But I want to advise the Speaker that as I left my office with 10 --
Mrs Sullivan: You should have been here. The rest of us were here. There was lots of time.
Mr Jackson: Mr Speaker, the electronic Hansard reporting on our television screens indicated we had 12 to 13 minutes remaining before this vote was called. I would like you to look into the matter to determine why that happened and why members were not advised accordingly.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to revert to private members’ public bills.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): Do we have unanimous consent to revert to private members’ public bills?
ONTARIO FOOD TERMINAL AMENDMENT ACT, 1990
Mr Sterling moved second reading of Bill 167, An Act to amend the Ontario Food Terminal Act.
Mr Sterling: Many members in the Legislature may not realize it, but by reverting to this bill we are in fact setting a new precedent in this legislative chamber for other committee chairmen to bring forward legislation on behalf of their committees.
This is the second bill which has been carried or brought to this Legislature for second reading by a committee chairman on behalf of a committee. The first effort was brought forward by the member for Waterloo North on behalf of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly, and he utilized his private member’s hour for second reading. That bill was called for third reading as well.
Both of these bills, the bill that the member for Waterloo North introduced on behalf of the Legislative Assembly committee and the bill that I am introducing today, Bill 167, An Act to amend the Ontario Food Terminal Act, had the unanimous consent of all members of the committee. They were done in full consultation with all parties, so there was no effort at any stage of the process to try to politicize the particular debate.
Bill 167 is An Act to amend the Ontario Food Terminal Act, which was first passed in 1946 and which has not been amended since that time. The purpose of the act in 1946 was to set up a wholesale food terminal in the York and Peel counties area because no one at that time was interested in setting up a wholesale food operation. The Ontario Food Terminal, since that time, not only has had the ability to carry on business but has also had the ability under sections 12 and 13 of that act to exclude others from carrying on business in the regional municipality of Peel and the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto.
In 1979 the standing committee on procedural affairs, which was the predecessor to the standing committee on government agencies, recommended to this Legislative Assembly that section 12 of the act be repealed. Again in 1988, the successor to the procedural affairs committee -- the committee on government agencies, which I now chair -- also recommended the repeal of section 12.
Since that time, since 1979, the government, through not having sufficient time in the Legislature or on its list of priorities -- neither the previous government, the Progressive Conservatives, nor the present government -- did not see fit to bring forward this piece of legislation. Perhaps that is understandable because it deals with a relatively small matter in terms of the whole provincial scene which we deal with on a day-to-day basis here in the Legislature.
Therefore, the committee asked me to present this bill on its behalf. I would like to thank the many members of that committee and in particular the member for Port Arthur and the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore for their participation in bringing this process about.
It is my hope that, in the future, committees which deal with matters will not only submit to the Legislative Assembly a report of their findings but, if in fact the committees can come to a conclusion in a legislative form, they will recommend to their chairmen from time to time to introduce legislation on their behalf.
I want also to thank the government House leader, who has put this bill in place in terms of calling it this afternoon when there was no obligation on the government to call this piece of legislation.
I think it introduces a new and exciting concept not only for the chairs of committees but also for the members of committees to believe that they do have an opportunity, when they see it arise, to change the laws in this province. I think it will become successful only if in fact it is done in full and open consultation with the appropriate government ministries that are involved. I was directly in contact with the Minister of Agriculture and Food, who was very supportive of us bringing this legislation forward.
The content of Bill 167 simply does this: It removes sections 12 and 13, which deal with giving a monopoly to one board to run a wholesale food terminal in the three regions -- which I mentioned before. By wiping out sections 12 and 13, what we are doing is saying that competition can exist in York, Peel and Metropolitan Toronto and that we no longer need to give that monopoly to this particular group or this particular location. It probably will serve the public interest to allow competition to enter into that field and that area.
Again, I would like to thank the members of the committee, the Minister of Agriculture and Food and the government House leader for co-operating in this endeavour.
Mr Cleary: The Minister of Agriculture and Food supports Bill 167.
Mr J. B. Nixon: Mr Speaker, I tried to rise earlier but you did not see me.
I just want to say I think it is a great moment in the Legislature, first, when a committee under the guidance of the chairman, the member for Carleton, is bringing a new dimension to the Legislature’s activities, when a committee is actually doing something, bringing something forward to the full Legislature, as so many backbenchers would like to see the Legislature operate. Second, and just as important, I think it is a matter of public policy which the committee, the chairman and the ministry have worked on together to change a small but important principle that no monopoly in this business, particularly the food terminal business, should exist and that competition should exist. There should be a market and people should be allowed, as a matter of right, to engage in that market. I think it is a good thing.
Mr Kozyra: This is rather impromptu because I was not prepared for this coming forth today, but I have a few comments. I sit on the committee and I am very appreciative of the work that the chairman, the member for Carleton, has done on this private member’s bill. I think it is something that is worthy of mention in terms of the fact that it recognizes the changes that have come about in Ontario, specifically around what we call the greater Toronto area and the whole food marketing and dispersing process; the fact that it is an attempt to break through the monopoly and to recognize the growth of the area and the dispersal of these goods to the benefit of all the people; the leadership that the chairman has shown in this, and it has enjoyed the unanimity of all the committee members. I am glad to support not only the specific intent of the bill, but the process it involves.
Mr Velshi: I cannot help but agree with the chairman on this committee. I was on the same committee a year and a half ago. I found that the Ontario Food Terminal has a monopoly to the extent where the leases at that terminal, which are in perpetuity, are being sold for over $1 million each, and one case where one lease was sold for $1.2 million. I think that alone tells us something is wrong there.
I think fully one third to 40% of those leases are also owned by one of the largest food chains in the country. I find that very strange, because if it was meant to be assisting local farmers and local food producers, then something seems to be going wrong there. I think this abuse of the system is only happening because there is a monopoly, and I think the sooner we get rid of section 12, the better we will all be and so will our farmers be.
Mrs Grier: I am just delighted to be able to participate in this debate today and the fact that this piece of legislation is before the House. I want to congratulate and thank the member for Ottawa-Carleton for making it possible for this to happen. I was not aware there was a procedure whereby a committee could come forward with a bill, and I want to thank the government for facilitating the fact that we can debate it today.
Mrs Grier: The Minister of Housing says he is still not sure, but we are debating it and we are going to have second reading. We might even have third reading, and with any luck we will get royal assent. When we do, we will have accomplished two things. We will have made it possible for a private member who has a real concern about something to have that come to a committee, as I did, and have that committee debate it and other members bring their concerns around that issue, and have then the resolution of one aspect of those concerns by way of a bill from the committee be accepted by the Legislature. I think that is an important contribution to making this a place of democracy, debate and, at times, consensus, as opposed to confrontation.
The other thing we will have done will have really been to take a small step towards opening up the process of food, vegetable and flower wholesaling in the greater Toronto area, that area the government has now created.
Section 12 of the Ontario Food Terminal Act was adopted in order to encourage those people who were wholesaling fruit and vegetables to move to a new location provided by the government of Ontario in my riding on the Queensway, a location that is now very familiar to anyone who drives by on the Queen Elizabeth Way.
I think it was probably important at the time the food terminal was established to give the monopoly so that people would feel that if they made an investment in the food terminal, or they made a commitment to go there, they would in fact be protected from somebody opening up another terminal. But as has already been said by some members opposite, times have changed and it is no longer necessary to provide that protection. In fact, I think it is very beneficial to open up the opportunities to wholesale in Metropolitan Toronto. It makes no sense for the small corner grocer in the east end of Scarborough to have to drive to the food terminal in the west end in order to pick up his or her produce every morning. It makes a lot of sense to be able to have a number of terminals if that in fact is what the market dictates.
I was brought to this issue by a constituent of mine who felt himself, and still feels himself, very discriminated against by the fact that there is a monopoly in the terminal, not only the monopoly that it is the only location where fruit and vegetables can be marketed from but the fact that the leaseholders have those leases in perpetuity. As the member for Don Mills referred to, transfer of those leases now occurs at close to $2 million.
So when this concern was raised with me, how a piece of government-owned property could be subject to enormous turnover fees when leases were exchanged, I went back and found a report that had been done in 1979 by the standing committee on procedural affairs. I think it is worth putting on the record the recommendation of that committee, which is what leads us to where we are today.
“It is the committee’s view,” that report said, “that section 12 of the act which gives the Ontario Food Terminal an effective monopoly should be repealed. In the formative years such protection was clearly necessary, but its disadvantages may now outweigh its advantages. In addition, the committee believes that the leases should be changed to eliminate their perpetuity and to restrict subleasing and assignment. This change would likely require an amendment to the act. The committee is also concerned that no one interest be in a position to control a large portion of the terminal’s units and suggests that limits be imposed on the number of units any given wholesale interest may control.”
I think it is important to remember that what we are doing today is implementing only the first of those recommendations, the one that eliminates section 12 and the monopoly clause. The government has not yet come to grips with the perpetual leases and the fact that they effectively restrict the opportunities of small businesses to obtain units in the food terminal and that the Ontario Food Terminal Board has effectively blocked any attempts to expand the terminal and create more units.
Following up on my concern, the standing committee on government agencies in 1988 endorsed the recommendations from the 1979 committee and added some of its own. There has been no action on those other recommendations, so I would hate for members who are supporting this bill today, for which support I am grateful, to think that this is the end of the matter.
We are taking today a very important first step and sending a very important signal to the board of the food terminal. I regard the bill that is before us today as a prerequisite to any further action to change some of the things that are wrong in the operation of the food terminal, and I really appreciate the support and the process that have allowed us to come to this point today and look forward to changing conditions in the operations of the Ontario Food Terminal as a result.
Mr Mahoney: I think I can make my comments in the two minutes allotted. First, I would like to congratulate the member for Carleton for getting this bill dealt with so expeditiously, but I think he would probably agree with me that the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore deserves a round of applause as well for her diligence in working on this particular issue. I also have a constituent, whom she is aware of, who has been impacted by this, and I do appreciate her tenacity in attempting to resolve this problem on behalf of her constituents and subsequently on behalf of others.
The real issue here is the doing away with what I consider really to be a dinosaur, a dinosaur that was created in years gone by that has simply gone on in perpetuity, not only the leases, but the whole atmosphere surrounding the food terminal, the whole concept. While I quite agree that this is only the first step, I think that clearly it is the most important step, because this will now open up to the private sector opportunities to perhaps establish other terminals in other parts of the province, and therefore other units in other parts of the province.
Under the existing structure, there are currently what they refer to as C units under construction, which is a third level of unit available to the marketplace to sell fruits and vegetables. They are extremely expensive, extremely difficult for anyone to get into and really not an appropriate use. I think the days of that particular property finding its best use in the area of a food terminal may also be coming to an end at some time in the future. There is nothing like free enterprise and opening it up and allowing people to look at establishing things in a better, more appropriate manner to make things better in that industry.
So particularly to the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, but to all, I congratulate them for this effort.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I want to join with the members who have spoken and comment on the submission made by the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore and agree that it has been this member who, over the last number of years, has brought this issue to the Legislature several times with former ministers of Agriculture and Food, and the current minister as well, and today the process that is being used, I think, is an extremely healthy one. I want to congratulate the government and the government House leader for allowing this procedure to be followed this afternoon. I think it is a healthy one and demonstrates that sometimes actions by private members can work.
I think perhaps what we should be looking at as House leaders is, there are a couple of committees that logically should have the power to produce their own legislation and submit it on their own to the Legislature and have it called for debate. I would hope that the government House leader might look, with the opposition House leaders, at those types of changes in the rules so that this can happen on a more regular basis.
Hon Mr Elston: Oh, does the member want to talk about rule changes? We’re keen. I have a few.
Mr .D. S. Cooke: I have a couple of other rule changes I would suggest as well, but I am not sure they would be agreed to in the same spirit as today’s bill is being agreed to.
I just want to finish by congratulating again the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore and also the sponsor of the bill. It is a healthy process. It is obviously going to be beneficial. I only wish there was another section to the bill that could establish, before the member for Cochrane South leaves the Legislature, that long-wished-for food terminal in northern Ontario that he ran on in 1977. I do not think it has been achieved yet. I know that the member for Cochrane South would probably stick around if he thought he could be as successful at achieving that as the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore has been on this bill today.
Hon Mr Conway: Mr Speaker, on a point of order.
The Acting Speaker: Point of order, the honourable Minister of Education.
Mr Sterling: You can do it on comment.
Hon Mr Conway: Could I do it on comment? I would just like to be straightened out. I was under the impression that the member for Cochrane South had left the Legislature.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): That is not a point of order. We will chalk that up to comments. That is our third one. Who has been keeping track of comments? Third? Fourth? One more person for comments? Then continuing with second reading of Bill 167? Then turning to the presenter of the bill.
Mr Sterling: I would like to thank the member for Cornwall for bringing the support of the Minister of Agriculture and Food. In summing up the debate, I would only say that if this process is to happen again, it will only happen if committees act in a responsible manner with the kind of legislation they bring forward, and if the government House leader keeps an open mind to the process and shows that the government has more of a tendency to give a committee bill, as this really is, a harder look than private members’ bills have been looked at in the past.
I am happy to participate in the somewhat historic passing of this bill and look forward to entrenching in the standing orders a process that would allow this to happen in an easier and smoother way.
The Acting Speaker: It is hardly my place to make any comments, but having spent some humble number of years also in these chambers, I congratulate the government on this very innovative process.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to proceed with third reading.
The Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to proceed with third reading?
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
House in committee of the whole.
ONTARIO HOME OWNERSHIP SAVINGS PLAN AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Consideration of Bill 105, An Act to amend the Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan Act, 1988.
Hon Mr Mancini: Mr Chairman, with your permission I would like to move to the front row and have staff join me on the floor.
The Chair: Go ahead.
At this point, I would just like to list the sections where members would like to make comments, modifications or have questions or whatever. I have in front of me two government motions to be moved, one to section 5 and one to section 12. Is that correct?
Hon Mr Mancini: That is correct.
The Chair: Do other members have any?
Mr Laughren: I am sorry. I was in a committee and I missed --
The Chair: We are in committee of the whole on Bill 105, and at this point I am just trying to list the sections where members would like to make comments or raise questions.
Minister, if I may recall to your attention, yesterday a point of order was brought forward pertaining to section 10. Were you in the House at the time I made my ruling on section 10?
Hon Mr Mancini: That is in regard to the name of the bill. Is that correct?
The Chair: That is right.
Hon Mr Mancini: My understanding is that you ruled that the name of the bill could stand as is.
The Chair: No, I ruled that this should be looked at today in committee of the whole House, or in committee if it was going to go to committee. I ruled that it was a point well brought forward, but that yesterday in the House was not the time to do it. I was expecting this point to be brought up and resolved today in committee of the whole House, and I would expect somebody to come forward with some kind of understanding to take care of the concern that was raised yesterday on section 10.
Hon Mr Mancini: Mr Chairman, what I need to know from you first is whether or not it is in order.
Mr Laughren: I wonder whether I might --
The Chair: Did you want to address this before I address the minister’s remark?
Mr Laughren: Mr Chairman, I await your bidding, but I would suggest to the Chair and through you to the minister that it is inappropriate to have the bill titled the way it is. I think it is difficult enough for laypeople in particular to deal with legislation and I do not think we should make it any more difficult than it need be.
It is very clear that the bill reads, “An Act to amend the Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan Act, 1988.” When you go through the bill to section 10, it very clearly states that section 50 of the Succession Law Reform Act is amended. It seems to me that is not an appropriate way in which to amend legislation. I do not for a moment think it is a deliberate attempt by the ministry to do anything devious, but I just think, in terms of dealing with legislation in this place, that if we are going to amend more acts than the bill indicates in the title, we have an obligation to state that and it should be stated in the title of the bill.
It is not at all unusual, as I recall -- I do not have one in front of me -- to have a title of a bill that would say, for example, “An Act to amend the Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan Act and other legislation” or “other bills.” I think it is not appropriate for the ministry to think that it can just put a heading in that says “Complementary Amendment” and proceed accordingly. If you allow that, surely we could be amending three or four existing acts of the Legislature if we proceeded that way. I think that this is inappropriate for people who are trying to deal with legislation that is complicated enough to begin with.
The Chair: Minister, if I may remind you of a previous ruling, and I quote from a previous ruling: “The long title sets out in general terms the purposes of the bill. It should cover everything in the bill.” So before we get to section 10, could I have you or your staff prepare an amendment that would reflect that in the title?
Hon Mr Mancini: Mr Chairman, are you ruling that the title of the bill should be changed? Is that your ruling?
The Chair: Yes, sir, according to precedent.
Hon Mr Mancini: And which precedent was that?
The Chair: It was a precedent ruled on Tuesday 12 June 1984 by the Acting Chairman, Mr Treleaven at the time. It has been the usual practice, and I think the point brought up by the member for Nickel Belt is valid. Maybe you and your experts, until we get to section 10, can think of how you would want to meet those standard norms that we have always had.
Mr Lupusella: If I may, I would like to make a suggestion.
Maybe we can put aside this particular clause. We can proceed with the bill while officials of the minister consider the ramifications of the change.
The Chair: We can wait till the end. It does not matter. I am willing to be very accommodating about this. We can look at the other sections. I just wanted to tell you, Minister, right now, to give time to your staff to look into this matter so that we can proceed and do it correctly and completely. Is that correct? Then can we proceed? I repeat, I have government amendments to sections 5 and 12. Are there any other amendments to be listed at this time? If not, shall sections 1 to 4, inclusive, carry?
Sections 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.
Hon Mr Mancini: I thought I might have heard from my friend the member for Nickel Belt before section 5.
Mr Sterling: Don’t tempt him.
Hon Mr Mancini: Don’t tempt him.
The Chair: Mr Mancini moves that section 5 of the bill be amended by adding the following subsection:
“(la) Subsection 5(4) of the act is amended by striking out the word ‘and’ at the end of clause (b), and by adding the following clauses:
“(d) in the case of an eligible home described in clause I (2)(a), (b), (c), (f), (g) or (h), the eligible home has not been converted from rental property contrary to the Rental Housing Protection Act, 1989 or the Rental Housing Protection Act, 1986; and
“(e) in the case of an eligible home described in clause I (2)(d) or (ga), if the co-operative corporation or the real property is a co-operative as defined in the Rental Housing Protection Act, 1989 or the Rental Housing Protection Act, 1986, the co-operative corporation or the real property has not been converted from rental property contrary to either of those acts.”
Hon Mr Mancini: We wanted to be very clear that we were in no way going to encourage any illegal conversions, and that if in fact these illegal conversions took place, this particular government program would not be used in any way to subsidize what was happening. That was a matter that was raised some time ago by my officials and others who were reviewing the bill. I think the amendment is needed. I hope it moves forward quickly.
Mr Laughren: I understand what the minister is saying when he says that he does not want to encourage illegal conversions. My problem with the bill, as it would then stand as amended, is that it would encourage legal conversions. That is the part that is bothering me. We all know that we have all over this province an acute shortage of rental accommodation. I think what this allows someone to do is to convert a rental property to an ownership property and receive benefits under this legislation.
If the minister can assure me and my colleague that this is not the case, then I would be somewhat mollified, but I am concerned at what this will do. It should not need to be said, but it is obvious that the legislation should not encourage illegal conversions. That should go without saying, but what is bothering me is that I am not convinced that it does not encourage legal conversions, and even though they are legal, that does not satisfy me that it is the right direction to go in terms of public policy when we have such a rental accommodation shortage in the province.
The Chair: Any other comments? The member for Carleton.
Mr Sterling: It is more in the form of a question to the minister. As I understand the Ontario home ownership savings plan, it is basically to benefit purchasers of a home, primarily young people and first-time home buyers, which is something that I think should be very much encouraged by the government. What I guess I question in terms of bringing this amendment in is, who will it penalize? Will it penalize the converter or will it penalize the young person who is trying to buy it and is not aware of, nor can be found guilty of, an illegal conversion? I guess I have some problems with matching the intent of what the minister is saying and what the net effect might be on a young couple who sign an agreement of purchase and sale and are not aware of how the conversion took place.
The second problem that the minister may face is trying to establish when a residence actually falls within this definition. Those are questions.
The other question I have is, if a conversion has taken place “outside of these pieces of legislation,” if that is already a fact and then a young couple comes in and buys one of these units, is it going to be penalized as well from not receiving the benefits of the plan, even though I understand the minister’s intent is to work against future conversions? In other words, there is no sense in penalizing a purchaser who comes in now and buys something which we do not approve of or the government does not approve of, but in fact the minister is not really meeting the intent of what he is trying to do, which is to discourage future conversions.
Ms Bryden: I agree very much with my colleague the member for Nickel Belt that it is very dangerous to be putting in clauses that are going to permit the conversion of rental properties to homes that can qualify under the present legislation. We should not be discouraging the provision of affordable housing, and that is what this section that my colleague has drawn attention to appears to be doing. It is all part, I think, of a bill which is a very wrong-headed bill, which gives the minister far too much power to deem this and to deem that and to decide who is the exact owner of the house or who is the exact holder of the deposits that have been made into the home ownership plan.
The whole thing is, I think, very undemocratic in the administration that is provided for in this act, including this section that we are discussing, and I do not like giving the minister these kinds of powers to manipulate this scheme to suit what he thinks the act should provide in the way of benefits. I think the whole act is something that we should not be passing because it is establishing very bad precedents for giving the minister all sorts of discretionary power, and there does not appear to be any appeal from his exercising this power.
In addition, the act provides that any appeals that do come up, or any challenges, are cut off if six years have elapsed since the initial transaction was made, the initial payment of the deposits. Six years is not enough to discover what happened in the ownership changes in a particular investment in this plan. As we all know, these things come out very slowly if there have been any irregularities in the way that the investment has been made by the person who took advantage of the plan. So I think that time extension should be at least 10 years in order that people who have been treated in an improper way, or whose investment has been treated in an improper way, it can come out and there can be rectification made.
On those two points, being asked to pass very undemocratic legislation which gives the minister far too much power and not appearing to discourage the conversion of housing into rental housing, I think we should oppose this section.
Mr Lupusella: I am compelled to rise and make a short statement, considering it is almost 6 o’clock.
I really do not understand the position taken by the NDP on that particular amendment moved by the minister to the act. The minister put forward a clear amendment to stop illegal conversion and, at the same time, prevent people getting benefits under the plan. The member for Nickel Belt raised a concern, that he is afraid, in view of this particular amendment, of a shortage of rental housing across the province of Ontario. I am just wondering if he is advocating illegal conversion and also telling people that they should get benefits under the plan. I really do not understand his position. The position of the NDP is completely ambiguous. They should restate their own position as well.
Mr Laughren: I think I will ignore the silly comments of the member who just spoke. If there is anybody who has fought for adequate rental accommodation in this province, it is New Democrats. Those of us who remember back to 1975, when we fought a major fight over rental accommodation, will certainly not need to be reminded of that.
I would go back to the minister, though, and encourage him to think about what he is doing. I do not know why this section needed to be in there in the first place. Why is there a reference to conversion units in the first place? I would like to know why he bothered putting that in the bill. Why not just state that that is for the purchase of home ownership and conversions are not eligible for assistance under this bill?
Hon Mr Mancini: Mr Speaker, we are very close to 6 o’clock. Could I ask for unanimous consent to possibly sit until 6:30?
Mr Laughren: No.
Hon Mr Mancini: I do not have unanimous consent to do that. I do not have enough time really to adequately answer the questions that have been put to the floor, only to say that the objections raised by the honourable member for Nickel Belt actually refer to section 1.
Mr Laughren: No, no.
Hon Mr Mancini: Yes, they do, and I will explain that later, the next day we have more time.
The comments put forward by my colleague from the Conservative caucus are that he feels that the wrong people are going to be punished and he does not feel that this may in fact plug the loophole that we did not want to be used. He makes a good point, and I would like to have the opportunity to fully answer his questions, but at this time I would like to adjourn the debate.
On motion by Mr Mancini, the committee of the whole House reported progress.
The House adjourned at 1801.