The House met at 1000.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
GOVERNMENT CHEQUE CASHING ACT, 1991 / LOI DE 1991 SUR L'ENCAISSEMENT DE CHEQUES DU GOUVERNEMENT
Mr Morin moved second reading of Bill 154, An Act to prohibit the Charging of Fees for the Cashing of Government Cheques / Projet de loi 154, Loi interdisant de demander des droits pour l'encaissement de chèques du gouvernement.
Mr Morin: The bill I am about to present is of great necessity. This province is in a deep recession. A 9% rate of unemployment and a major loss of permanent jobs have led to an increase in requests for social assistance. A high deficit was created in order to meet the needs of thousands of Ontarians suffering from this harsh recession.
More than one million persons in Ontario are presently receiving social assistance, 39% more than last year. That represents 10% of the population of Ontario. Growing welfare rolls, increased poverty and a continued reliance on food banks are the legacy of this recession.
On January 19, 1989, I brought the issue of charging fees for cashing government cheques before the House. Members of all parties recognized the difficulties low-income Ontarians suffer when attempting to cash their cheques. Cashing a cheque is a simple, routine task for people like ourselves. We have an array of identity cards and sufficient income to ensure our access to a variety of financial services. Low-income persons, on the contrary, face many hurdles in attempting to cash their cheques. Probably the most significant barrier between the poor and banking services is identification. The poor, because of their financial situation, may not have access to traditional means of identification such as a birth certificate, a driver's licence, credit cards, a passport or a social insurance number.
Transients have an even greater problem in obtaining identification and then keeping it, because of their lifestyle.
Insufficient identification may prohibit the poor from opening a bank account. Even if a low-income individual successfully opens a bank account, he or she will be required to wait many days before being able to withdraw funds. Many financial institutions have a policy which provides that non-active accounts be closed. The accounts of many social assistance recipients would not qualify as active because they contain insufficient funds or are not accessed frequently enough.
Compounding the problem is the fact that practices regarding cheque cashing can vary from branch to branch. A bank has its own policies in dealing with individuals who are not branch customers. Also, many financial institutions are reluctant to handle government cheques because of the potential loss due to fraud.
The difficulty faced by low-income persons in their attempts to cash cheques have caused them to turn to third parties such as landlords, friends, corner stores and other businesses, in particular cheque cashing businesses. Why cheque cashing businesses? Because their identification requirements are less stringent. Money Mart, for example, provides customers with an ID card for a $10 fee.
In certain instances, some cheque cashing outlets have taken fingerprints as proof of identification. Cheque cashiers are easily accessible and offer much less intimidating surroundings. The catch is that they charge fees for cashing cheques.
On December 11, 1991, Money Mart was charging 4.9% to cash a postdated government cheque, 3.9% for current-dated cheques. Back in 1985, Money Mart had some 30 offices across Canada. Today, it has 92 outlets in Ontario alone. Obviously, there is money to be made.
But the question is, should that money be made to the detriment of the needy? Should profit be made literally at the expense of those citizens who can least afford to pay fees, namely, low-income persons? I say no.
In January 1992, the maximum total allowances in monthly general welfare assistance will be $646, for a single person, and $1,351 for a sole-support parent with two children. Four per cent of these sums respectively is $25.84 and $54.04. If we multiply this by 12, a single person can lose up to $310.08 and a sole-support parent up to $648.08 a year. This represents an important loss of income to people for whom government cheques are their only source of income.
Think of what those last dollars could buy. Is it fair to allow cheque cashing businesses to continue to operate to the detriment of low-income persons? Social assistance is determined after a thorough examination of a person's welfare and it is allocated to meet very specific needs. It does not include funds for any type of extra expenses.
This is why I feel so strongly about this bill. The fact is that many low-income persons are not receiving the full amount of financial assistance allocated by the province. For the reasons outlined above, they must resort to cheque cashing businesses in order to cash their cheques. It is clear that some of the very few funds this government has to spend are being redirected from the object for which they were intended.
We cannot allow the exploitation of the needy to go on. This bill prohibits the charging of fees for cashing government cheques. That is all. It is very straightforward. It represents a first step in a series of measures which must be taken to ensure better access to financial services for low-income Ontarians, because the cheque cashing issue is just one aspect of a greater problem. This problem is the lack of access low-income persons have to regular banking services.
That is why the bill provides for a delay of six months. Before its implementation on July 1, 1992, the government has time to negotiate an agreement with the Canadian Bankers Association or with any other authority regarding cheque cashing and access to better financial services. An agreement could set out specific conditions under which accounts could be opened and held by low-income persons regardless of the sums involved. It could determine appropriate documents for identification purposes.
The six-month delay also allows the government time to eliminate the practice of postdating all its cheques. Postdating cheques contributes to the problems faced by social assistance recipients anxious to cash their cheques as soon as they receive them. It would allow the government time to undertake any other measure that could improve the present situation faced by low-income Ontarians. For example, the direct deposit program could be extended to all types of government cheques.
This bill protects all government cheques from fees. This is an important point because government cheques represent, for example, between 40% to 45% of Money Mart's business. Not just social assistance cheques, but old age pension and family allowance cheques, among others, are being cashed. It is almost as if the government were subsidizing cheque cashing businesses at a rate of 40% to 45%. This is not acceptable.
This bill concerns an activity not covered under present legislation. Cheque cashing businesses are not regulated. Is it necessary to resort to legislation in order to resolve the cheque cashing problems we have been discussing? Yes, it is. The charging of fees for government cheques will continue as long as it is not expressly forbidden by law.
This bill is entirely appropriate. Not only does it strictly prohibit the charging of fees for cashing government cheques, but it allows government time to seek more creative and effective methods of dealing with a problem that simply will not go away. The growth of cheque cashing businesses illustrates well the need for more adequate banking services that are accessible to all members of society.
Mr Jackson: I am pleased to rise in the House today to participate in the debate on Bill 154, An Act to prohibit the Charging of Fees for the Cashing of Government Cheques, tabled by the member for Carleton East. This, as we know, is the second occasion on which he has tabled this private member's bill, the other occasion being January 19, 1989.
This bill states, "No person shall charge a fee for exchanging, negotiating or cashing a cheque or other order to pay issued by the government of Canada, the government of Ontario or a municipal corporation." It also includes penalties, rather expensive ones, that would be applied against any person who would contravene the bill, which would come into force after a six-month delay period.
This bill is a noble effort, but it is only one way of responding to the problems faced by recipients of social assistance in Ontario, who cannot readily obtain services at banks and who are then forced to go to grocery stores which require a portion of the cheque to be spent on groceries, or to cheque cashing agencies which can charge from as low as 1.5% to as high as 4.9% of the value of that cheque as the cost associated with cashing them.
The aim of this proposed legislation is to ensure that the recipients of social assistance can obtain the full amount of benefits they are entitled to without having to pay to these cheque cashing agencies. The principle involved here is, therefore, one of consumer freedom as well as justice. No one should have to pay for cashing their social assistance cheque.
It would be unfortunate, however, if the blame for the lack of consumer freedom that presently exists in this regard in Ontario were to be laid completely at the door of these cheque cashing outlets. These outlets do, in fact, fill a need in this province, as they do nationally. That need has been created by banks, or rather the failure of banks, which often refuse to deal with recipients of social assistance, sometimes under any circumstances, but the ones most noted are that many social assistance recipients do not have a permanent address or cannot obtain two, three or four pieces of personalized identification, which is the means on which banks are refusing to cash these cheques.
There are also those recipients of welfare who would still choose to deal with cheque cashing outlets for a variety of reasons even if they had access to regular banks. Telling recipients they must go to certain financial institutions and not to others may be robbing them of one of their basic rights, which is a right of specific choice as consumers in our society. The freedom of choice should not be impeded in our society and, therefore, when we look at legislation that purports to limit choices we should be very careful and proceed cautiously.
Welfare cheques are not the only guarantors of dignity of those who must rely on them. Their dignity rests also in their value of independence and their personal responsibility for their own actions. Their abilities cannot be replaced by a centralized government bureaucracy pretending to be a paternalistic Big Brother. I stress that because when I reviewed the debate of January 19, 1989, there was extensive discussion about a welfare recipient ID card, and I consider that to be somewhat repugnant. I notice that was a concern raised by my colleague the member for Hamilton West in that debate, as well as the member for -- I should know; it will come to me in a moment, but it is a member of the government today who was in opposition at the time.
However, the point I am stressing is that the member for Carleton East, who has presented us with this bill today, has only made passing reference to this identification of social assistance recipients, but he did say some form of ID would be considered. I think we are putting the cart before the horse to be getting into that kind of discussion until that has been fleshed out and shared in more detail with all members of this House.
The six-month delay period which is built into this legislation is a significant part of its presentation. Although not spelled out clearly, this time period is specifically set aside for negotiations with chartered banks in Ontario in order to work out some arrangement for improving access for social assistance recipients and people living at low-income levels. Negotiations are under way, and that has been mentioned. These are involving a Metropolitan Toronto community services department and a number of financial institutions.
In a recent article in the paper, we are told there are three unnamed banks negotiating vying for this business. There is no reason the process of negotiations with banks could not be extended to include cheque cashing agencies. I think we have to be very careful of suggesting that we institute penalties and put out of business an entire sector of business in this province, which we are told has 92 outlets that employ over 450 people in Ontario. Rather, from my perspective, we should be negotiating with all parties to resolve all aspects of access for low-income people to a more equitable, fair treatment in the process of cashing their social assistance cheques.
I would like to suggest as well that in the First Report of the Advisory Group on New Social Assistance Legislation, Back on Track, it is stated that all people in Ontario are entitled to equal assurance of life opportunities in a society that is based on fairness, shared responsibility and personal dignity for all. On page 63, under "Direct Deposit," it is further stated, "The client should have a choice about how assistance is delivered, and some people may prefer a cheque." Therefore, recipients should be in the position to make an informed choice about how they wish to have their moneys handled.
I have expressed the concerns I have with respect to the private member's bill. I support the honourable member for Carleton East for his excellent intentions in bringing this bill forward again. However, I believe the process of negotiations that is under way with financial institutions and Metro Toronto social services should be expanded. We should not be eliminating an entire sector from this province as part of those negotiations. We, as a government body, should not impose a legislative framework which in effect creates a monopoly for banks, whose record clearly shows have not been socially responsible in their treatment of cashing cheques for social assistance recipients in Ontario. Therefore, I wish to add to the debate those concerns to help guide the House in its treatment of this bill.
Mr Fletcher: It is a pleasure to rise today to speak on this resolution put forward by the honourable member for Carleton East, a piece of legislation I can certainly support. Bill 154 is meant to ensure that all the dollars government distributes to people through income security programs get into the pockets of those for whom they are intended. This legislation will apply to all levels of government, whether it be federal, provincial or municipal, and it will apply to all forms of government cheques: family benefits, unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, Canada pension and income tax.
The member for Carleton East's primary concern is for the poor and those who rely on social assistance. That concern is also shared by all members on this side of the House. For years, people who have been unable to get their cheques cashed by a local bank have had to turn to a variety of different alternatives: grocery stores, department stores, bars and third parties such as landlords, relatives and friends. The fees charged for these services range from nothing when it is a relative or a friend to more than 50% of what the cheque actually is, especially when it is a bar or some place like that.
Private cheque cashing companies are a relatively recent option, first appearing in 1982. These outlets charge fees averaging from 3% to 6% of the value of the cheque. To a person on social assistance, that 3% or 6% can mean the difference between a meal and no meal. A lot of the funds lost are fees that represent not only a hardship for the individual but also redirect scarce tax dollars from the intended goal of helping the poor to generating profits for the cheque cashers. In effect, the taxpayers are subsidizing the profits of commercial cheque cashing outlets.
Why do people go to these outlets? Obviously it is an alternative because, first, many financial institutions -- and it has already been said by other members -- will not handle government cheques. Why? Because they are afraid they are going to lose money from fraud. They try to protect themselves from forgeries, stolen cheques.
The second and perhaps the most significant is the identification requirements. Again, it has been said that those without acceptable identification find themselves in a catch-22 situation. If you do not have an account you cannot cash a cheque without sufficient identification. If you do not have sufficient identification you cannot open an account. What identification do most banks require? Social insurance number, driver's licence, major credit card. For some people these are items they do not even know exist. Many times the people who do have identification have it stolen; if they do not have a fixed address, they lose their identification.
It is a hardship. Usually the postdating of social assistance cheques means that people receive their cheques several days before they are dated, and if there is an immediate need they cannot get them cashed because of the postdating. Some people prefer not to deal with banks. I can understand that. Every time you walk in the door you get charged for something. If you sneeze you know you are going to get charged a little more. Welfare cheques cannot be seized by creditors. Nothing prevents a bank from taking a payment if it is deposited into account.
There are solutions to the problem. One of the solutions is to try and help minimize the profits of those who exploit the predicament of the poor -- I believe that is what the member for Carleton East is trying to do -- and also to enhance the poor's access to financial services they require.
The first solution of trying to minimize profits has a problem. Prohibiting the charging of fees will not alone ensure that social assistance clients receive the full amount of their benefits. It will simply exclude the poor from access to cheque cashing and may force people to resort to other means that will cost a higher proportion. Without corresponding legislation to make it mandatory for banks to cash cheques and open accounts, those who rely on social assistance may be in even worse shape. This concern is raised, as the member opposite has indicated, by the Metropolitan Toronto community services department. It is also pointed out by the Legal Assistance of Windsor in its letter to the member for Carleton East.
The second solution of enhancing access to financial services may be a better one. As I said before, everyone realizes that when you walk into a bank there is a charge and the charge will sometimes be as much as what people are paying when they cash their cheques at the Money Marts.
A voluntary system of direct deposit has been recommended, but there is a problem with direct deposit of funds, even though it is reliable and eliminates the potential for lost or stolen cheques. This program was launched by the Ministry of Community and Social Services for family benefit cheques on a voluntary basis in July 1991. By the end of August, there were about 38,000 who had signed and these numbers have now increased to 68,000. The banks are saying it is a bit of a headache for them.
The ministry plans to extend direct deposit options to general welfare assistance in the spring of 1992 and to deal with the issue of postdated cheques to allow a client to cash a cheque as soon as it is received. Community and Social Services has requested that municipalities review and, where appropriate, change the data on the GWA cheque dates to match the mailing dates. Several municipalities have adopted this procedure, Ottawa-Carleton being one. Direct deposit does not address the problem faced by those without bank accounts. It also leaves social assistance benefits vulnerable to garnishment.
I agree that Bill 154 is an important starting point, but I believe that before we get to the point where we can really protect the consumer and protect the poor, we have to do something about the corporate ripoff artists known as banks. There is a need for consultation on the kinds of identification that will be needed. Also, we look forward to further discussion. We cannot allow the poor to be exploited the way they have been.
Mrs Caplan: I rise with a sense of pride. My pride is because the member who has proposed this motion, the member for Carleton East, is a colleague of whom I am particularly proud. I know of his pride as he represents his riding of Carleton East. I take great pride in having the member as a colleague. I believe he is one of the most respected members of this House.
This is the second time he has proposed this private member's bill, and it is my hope that this bill will receive third reading and be proclaimed by the government. I would like to point out that the member has done a great deal of work not only on behalf of his own constituents, but on behalf of the people of this province. He has done a lot of research into this issue. We are aware that his bill, which is before the House today for debate, has two very specific objectives, and they are very clear.
The first is to prohibit the charging of fees for the cashing of any government cheque, be that the government of Ontario, the government of Canada or a municipal government.
Second, it addresses a broader issue which I know is of concern to many people. It has been addressed in the Social Assistance Review Committee report. It has been addressed before legislative committees. Sadly, to this point in time, no action has been taken. This second issue is the issue of access to banking services and the banking system by the poor. Unfortunately, in this province alone, we know that the numbers of people on social assistance are at an outrageously high level. That saddens me in particular, and I know it is of concern to every member of this House regardless of their political, partisan philosophy.
We see the numbers of people in this country who are unemployed and who have been devastated by this recession we are in now. We know they want jobs. We know they want the ability to work. We also know they want to have the pride of being able to access the kinds of services within the banking system that every other Canadian, every other resident of this great country who can produce identification, has access to. We know the barriers are often extremely difficult for the poor, who do not have bank accounts because they do not have any money to put in the bank. We know they do not have access because they do not have driver's licences because they do not drive a car. We know they may not have three pieces of identification. Those have been barriers to access to the banking system which, frankly, have not been addressed by those institutions, and that does not excuse them.
This bill has two objectives. As I said, the first is to prohibit the charging of a fee for the cashing of a government cheque. Second, it will require banks and the banking system in this province to do what has been done in other jurisdictions to solve a systemic problem. This has been addressed through federal legislation and in negotiations between the banking system and the federal government. We know it has been addressed in Quebec and Alberta.
Given the reasonableness of this bill by the member for Carleton East, there is sufficient time that it can be addressed before this bill would take effect. I believe that is one of the finest features of this bill, because it does not say, "Do it tomorrow." It will not place any hardship on anyone. I want to congratulate my colleague, because he has the support of the Canadian banking industry. The banking industry has agreed it is willing to work with government to solve these problems, which is the second objective of this bill.
I would like to put in the record just a few comments on the kind of support the member for Carleton East has received, because I have copies of these letters and I think they speak to the significance of this bill.
One is from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, which talks about "hardship caused by operations like Money Mart who prey on people's desperation by taking a cut for cashing inadequate welfare cheques. Mr Morin's initiative is badly needed and we support it fully. Far from being a trivial issue, the elimination of cheque cashing practices is a matter of vital concern to hundreds of thousands of low-income Ontario residents."
This next letter is from the community services department of Metropolitan Toronto: "The private member's bill itself is a starting point for discussion among relevant Ontario ministries, banks and ourselves to flesh out a comprehensive strategy. I am very supportive of your initiative to deal with the serious and frustrating situation and would be pleased to assist you further in your efforts in resolving it."
I have another letter from Metropolitan Toronto, which says: "The community services department has expressed concern for many years over the potential for exploitation of welfare recipients in cashing cheques. Any legislative and/or regulatory system that reduces the potential for exploitation...would be welcomed."
Basic Poverty Action Group sends this letter, written to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations: "This letter is to express our strong support for the proposed Act to Prohibit the Charging of Fees for the Cashing of Government Cheques presented recently by Mr Gilles Morin, MPP, Carleton East. We look forward to seeing your government take this important and relatively simple step. It will make a significant difference for many low-income persons in Ontario."
From Legal Assistance of Windsor: "We urge you to support the efforts of the National Anti-Poverty Organization and others concerned about the exploitation of the poor made possible by unregulated private cheque cashing organizations." More support for the member for Carleton East.
From the Consumers' Association of Canada: "We recognize that service charges or surcharges are an additional burden to those who can least afford them. Therefore, we support Mr Morin's initiative in proposing the Government Cheque Cashing Act, 1991, and trust that it will receive quick passage."
From Dundurn Community Legal Services, writing on behalf of their clients, who are low-income people, many of whom rely on various forms of government support: "On their behalf we are writing to give our support for the bill prohibiting the charging of fees for cashing a government cheque. Money which is intended to assist the poor is instead generating great profits for cheque cashers. This problem was identified by the Social Assistance Review Committee."
The Cheque Cashers Association of Canada has a different point of view, and I can certainly understand that. Its members are the very people who are cashing those cheques. They have responded to a legitimate need because the banks have not responded.
To this association, I say that we legislators in Ontario have an obligation to look at an issue and ask what is in the public interest, what is in the public good. We understand the specific interests of the different organizations and associations, but as we stand and speak and cast our vote, we must do so in what we believe is in the interest of the people of this province. I believe the private member's bill by the member for Carleton East which is before the House today is in the public interest. I believe it is worthy of support. I urge all members to vote for this important piece of legislation. I urge the government to call it for third reading and allow the member's bill to become law.
Mr J. Wilson: I am pleased to rise and give four minutes of comments on Bill 154. I will say from the outset that I will not be supporting the legislation. I want to make that clear, unlike some of the remarks where we could not tell whether the speaker was supporting it or not. During the campaign, I told my constituents I would always tell them how I stand on pieces of legislation.
It seems to me that this is another attempt by the Liberal socialists to outdo the Marxist socialists of the NDP across the floor. They both pretend they have the corner on compassion, but I do not understand how in the world this bill, which is going to put a further 460 people on the unemployment rolls, could be interpreted as compassion. It is another negative bill in our society. We have had too much government for far too long that gets up and presents legislation that says, "You can't do this and you can't do that." It is another hammer on the private sector.
The private sector charges a small fee to cash government cheques. It is not just social assistance cheques; it is 3.8 million federal and provincial cheques that are issued each month by the federal and provincial governments. A lot of people use these cheque cashing convenience outlets. They charge the fee because they take a risk. There is a risk in being an employee in this province, which the NDP Marxist socialists refuse to acknowledge, and there is a risk to doing business. They take a risk, because we know there is fraud in the welfare system, and they take a loss on some of those cheques.
They also take a risk because with the $10-billion deficit, who knows if this government's cheques are going to be good tomorrow? There are all kinds of risks in the private sector. They charge a small fee to do it, and I do not think we should be putting these convenience outlets out of business, putting another 460 people on the unemployment rolls.
I think the bill is self-defeating. It would have been better to have a bill that was positive, that brought forward positive measures that the banks and the cheque cashing convenience outlets could do, rather than another negativism. At this time, I do not think putting another 460 on the unemployment rolls is at all an objective of this Legislature. It is not for the betterment of the public, and for that reason alone, I will not be supporting this legislation.
Mr Owens: I thought McCarthyism was dead; however, I think it reared its ugly head this morning.
I am very pleased to stand in my place and support the member for Carleton East with respect to Bill 154. I share the member's sense of outrage that the people who are most vulnerable in this society are being taken advantage of.
These organizations like Money Mart live a parasitic existence, and if they were forced to live on their own in the free market system that the members opposite seem to advocate, they would never be able to survive. They are living simply because they have the advantage of a closed market system where they cash the welfare cheques, taking somewhere between 3% and 6% away from these people who clearly cannot afford it.
Unlike the columns that have been written in the past by some Toronto tabloids that these members seem to identify with, people do not make $45,000 a year on social assistance. If that were the case, people would be quitting their jobs today.
Two community legal workers at Scarborough Community Legal Services -- and I know the member for Scarborough North is familiar with this legal service -- Nancy Vanderplaats, who was on the interclinic committee for social assistance, and Linda Mitchell, who was on the interclinic committee for Metro housing as well as on the interclinic committee on domestic violence, strongly support this legislation. They contacted me and urged this government to support this legislation. As I say, I am proud to stand in my place to support the member for Carleton East.
There are some suggestions, however, that I would like to make to the honourable member. In terms of the negotiations going on, I would suggest we expand these to include credit unions, caisse populaires and trust companies. We simply cannot restrict the business to the banks. We all know how impoverished the banks are, with I believe $740 million in profits -- somebody could correct me -- the banks have made this year.
The second issue is with respect to universal identification. I have problems with identifying and separating people out of society and giving those folks specific identification.
The practices of the banking industry clearly need to be investigated and changed, and I think the member for Oriole made a good point in terms of poor people having bank accounts. There is no way that people on social assistance are ever going to be able to afford to have bank accounts. Banks are now looking at having $1,000 minimum on deposit before they stop implementing service charges. There are not very many on social assistance, if any at all, who will ever have $1,000 in the bank as savings.
As a person who does not hold a driver's licence, I had to obtain a Visa card in order to have a chequing account, so we need to look into the kinds of practices around the requirement for identification.
In closing, again I would like to state that I support the member in his quest and I share the outrage he has expressed throughout these proceedings. We need to start taking care of the people who are unable to take care of themselves. Simply setting up a private business and supporting this kind of private business through the exploitation of those who cannot afford to take care of themselves is clearly inappropriate. I and my colleagues will be supporting this bill this morning.
Mr Conway: I am delighted to be here this morning to support my colleague, the member for Carleton East, for what I think is a timely piece of legislation. I want to indicate, in supporting this bill, that some of what has been said really attracts my attention.
The member for Simcoe West made the observation that there is the prospect, and I think he is quite right, that there could be some fraudulent transaction and therefore we should be very reluctant to consider this kind of legislation. He even went so far as to say that there is perhaps a concern around welfare fraud. I do not remember his words exactly but it was certainly in that connection. There is certainly welfare fraud; there is fraud throughout the entire community, we all know that.
One of the things about fraudulent transactions that I want to talk about very briefly this morning is what is going on at the congressional bank in Washington. I do not know how many of my colleagues have been watching the stories out of Capitol Hill this summer and fall, but it was discovered that there is a very special kind of bank at Capitol Hill available only to senators and members of Congress, and at last count some 6,000 congressional cheques had bounced.
It is a great story. I do not believe the banking institutions across the United States have moved to shut down that bank. In fact, I am absolutely certain they have not, nor will they. I find it breathtaking that there could be 6,000 rubber cheques issued by elected members of Congress in 1991, but that is the incontrovertible reality.
So I agree with my friend the member for Simcoe West that there is fraud in the land. Sometimes it is to be found in great quantity in places where one would not expect it.
My point is, in supporting my friend the member for Carleton East, who is a very sensible man, a very decent -- to be called a Marxist-Leninist Liberal socialist is to bring hyperbole to a level on a Thursday morning that is unbecoming. I must say that, unlike myself and many members of this assembly, perhaps even the member for Simcoe West, the member for Carleton East has met a payroll. He spent long and distinguished years as an entrepreneur in the private sector so he brings to this not just a good legislative reputation but a very good and distinguished career in the private sector.
What he has asked this Legislature to affirm is a fair and reasonable proposal. I put to my colleagues again: Can they imagine once a month taking their legislative indemnity cheque down to some money mart in this building or on Wellesley Street and being told: "Well, Mr Wilson, that's very good. That's $2,200, less 4.9% or 3.9%"? That policy would last about a month and my friend the member for Simcoe West and all of us would gather together and say: "Discount Her Majesty's payment? You've got to be kidding. What could be better paper than Her Majesty's credit?"
Mr J. Wilson: This bill won't solve that problem, Sean, and you know it.
Mr Conway: I say to my friend the member for Simcoe West that what my friend the member for Carleton East has wisely provided for is an opportunity for the government and the Canadian Bankers Association to work out reasonable arrangements that will protect the interests of the consumer and the taxpayer in this connection.
I cannot believe there is any caterwauling Tory in Simcoe or anywhere else who would honestly believe you could and should discount a provincial or federal cheque in Her Majesty's name to the most needy people in this province or in this country. If they believe, as good, decent Tories in my part of the world do and good Tories in Glengarry, that we must show a particular need and sensitivity to those most disadvantaged in our community, why should social assistance recipients be disadvantaged because they do not participate in the banking and bureaucratic world of the more well-off in this community, including members of the Legislature?
I repeat, members of this assembly would not tolerate for a moment a provision where we would take our indemnity cheques and have them discounted by anyone to the tune of 3.9% or 4.9%.
As usual, the member for Carleton East has brought forward a policy that is sensitive, sensible and liberal-minded, and I would expect it to be supported by all liberal-minded, reform-oriented people who, in their comfortable pew in this Legislature, would want to do no less for the disadvantaged than is done for themselves.
Mrs Cunningham: One of the most interesting parts of my job is sitting in this House over the years and listening to the rhetoric. I will put the question to the member for Renfrew North: Where was he that January when he was in government, January 1989, when his colleague got the bill through? What did he do about it? We voted for it two years ago and it just sat in the back door. Nobody did anything about it. Shame on him. The member should be careful what he speaks to in this House. Let's see what happens to it this time.
To the members who spoke in favour, let's face it, we are talking about welfare recipients right now. The bottom line is that they should keep all the money we give them and nobody takes any money away in a charge, especially as much as 4.8%. That is what we all want. That is why we are supporting this legislation. By the way, if members really believe that, they should not be thinking about video machines for lotteries because that takes money from the poor.
The next question is, why would this government have cut out the debt counselling services for the very people who need it? You cannot speak in favour of one thing one day and come out with policies like that the next day. If you care about --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): Order. Interjections are out of order, particularly when the members are not in their own seats. I would remind the honourable member for London North to please address her remarks through the Chair.
Mrs Cunningham: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I love looking at the Chair, especially when you are sitting in it, but can I have back on the clock those 10 seconds they took away from me by interjecting? All right.
Let us talk about process here. Everybody knows that when this bill is passed it can be sent to committee. When it goes to committee, all the parts of this bill that people have concerns about with regard to doing a lot of consultation with the banks -- I think we have to do that, and the member spoke about this two years ago. When we look at inviting feedback from the banking community we make sure the clients will not suffer any garnishments, because that is part of the problem if we were to go to direct deposit or some other way of doing things.
If we want to take a look at all the options we have to do this in committee, otherwise a client should have the right to use the options the member put forth two years ago and again this morning. There are more options than just what meets the face of things in this bill today. We may have to change the bill if we are looking at public input. We may have to change the fines; we may have to take a look at the day of enforcement.
Given the mess we are in right now, Mr Speaker -- I will address my remarks to you -- we do not even know when we are coming back. We are not able to conduct business in this House because the government has been totally irresponsible in the last four or five days and totally inconsistent in what those members thought about cabinet members' performance and responsibilities when they were in opposition and what they are now, so we have arguments in this Legislative Assembly.
By the way, with due respect, my colleague the member for Simcoe West and I have something of a difference of opinion here. We do not whip people into votes either in the regular conduct of this Legislative Assembly or in private member's hour. He is in fact representing his constituents and I think he would agree with me that if this were to go to the committee his concern should be fully discussed. Perhaps the member would take it into consideration and offer some amendments. That is how this place works and that is how the process works.
In conclusion, anything we can do to help welfare recipients retain all the dollars the taxpayers give them to feed and clothe their families and pay for the roof over their heads we should be supporting in any way. I think the member has given us a responsible option and if we refer this to committee we can make the changes that would reflect the concerns of the members of this Legislative Assembly.
Mr Mills: It is a pleasure and an honour for me to stand here this morning and support the bill introduced by the member for Carleton East. I have great compassion with this issue. In my last life I used to go to work and there was a traffic light outside one of these cashing machines. It used to wrench my heart as I stopped at that red light at the end of the month and saw the people on welfare and social assistance queued up with their cheques in hand to enter this building to get their money discounted.
The member for Renfrew North spoke very well about the security of government cheques. The analogy I use is that it is like betting on a horse that has already passed the winning post. If anything is secure it is a government cheque. It is a great injustice that we have so many people living on the bare requirements to survive who have to give up some of that money just to cash a government cheque which we all know is secure.
Perhaps we should look at a direct deposit system for those social assistance recipients. I know my friends across the road, the ultra right-wing Conservative Party, will get all upset and say that once we have direct deposit it will go on and on and there will be no accountability. That is absolute rubbish. As we all know here, it will not keep on unabated.
We all know that in this dreadful time of recession the only industry that has generated the biggest profits in the history of Canada are the banks. I cannot understand for one minute why the banks every month come up with some wonderful scheme to make even more money. I got a letter the other week that suggested I should pay $2 a month and I can get a photostat of my cheques. If they have all that ingenuity, why do they not apply it to help the people on social assistance? Why do they not use some of that expertise to help the poor of this country instead of racking up millions of dollars in the banks, which those people over there support and think are so wonderful?
I am going to give a little time for one of my colleagues who wants to close. The money intended to go to the poor must go 100% to the poor and it must not on any account generate profits for some entrepreneur who wants to take advantage of those people who are not well off.
Mr Mammoliti: I am very upset at the fact that I see some members here who do not approve of this bill. I want to remind everybody that what the members who disapprove want to stop is that bag of milk and loaf of bread that people on social assistance need. That is what they want to stop. I am sick and tired of the members who are so selfish in thinking this way. This is selfishness. This is profit-making on the backs of people who cannot afford a bag of milk, and they have the audacity to sit there and disapprove of this bill.
I do commend the member who brought this forward and I will be supporting this bill in the vote.
Mr Morin: I would like to thank my colleagues for taking the time to speak out on an issue we should all feel strongly about. I believe this is an issue that not only merits our immediate attention but demands immediate action. This action can only be taken by the government. It is up to this government to rectify past oversights. It has a unique opportunity to set things right.
I would add that this issue rests squarely within the government's philosophy of helping the needy, helping those who cannot help themselves. This issue appeals to the government's social conscience, to all our consciences. We, as elected representatives of the people of Ontario, have not only a duty but the moral responsibility to help the needy. This situation, the charging of fees for cashing government cheques, illustrates clearly the vulnerability of low-income persons in our society. This vulnerability is preyed upon by businesses intent on reaping profits. The freedom to dispose of one's income, which is the argument used by the president of Money Mart to justify his position, is a blatant distortion of reality.
The real issue is the proper allocation of government funds, especially those intended for humanitarian objectives such as helping the needy. The real issue is ensuring that all Ontarians regardless of their income enjoy access to a wide range of banking services. We cannot allow the charging of fees for cashing government cheques to continue any longer.
Mrs Caplan: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I have been looking in the standing orders to see how I might point out to the Speaker and the House that a special guest is in the Speaker's gallery today. The member for Carleton East's son was here to hear his remarks, and I do not know how I can make that introduction to the House.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): I think you did very well. Thank you very much.
Mr McLean, on behalf of Mr B. Murdoch, moved resolution 36:
That in the opinion of this House, recognizing the multicultural nature of Ontario and the contributions of the Scottish community to the economic, agricultural and cultural wellbeing of Ontario, and recognizing that the 6th day of April is a day of historical significance to the Scottish community, as it marks the anniversary of the declaration of Scottish independence made in 1320, this House should proclaim the 6th day of April as Tartan Day.
Mr B. Murdoch: I am sorry I was late. I was out in the alleyway looking after some of my friends and making sure everybody was getting in; when you do things like that, sometimes you are late yourself.
I feel this is a very important resolution. The province of Nova Scotia has realized the importance of our Scottish heritage and has passed something similar. They now observe Tartan Day on April 6. The Scottish settlers who started coming to Ontario in the second half of the 18th century contributed greatly to the wellbeing of this province. Along with the English, the French and our native people, they made it a place we are all so proud to live in today. I might add also the Irish were there, in case anyone in here is Irish. I know we do have a few Irish people here, and I am sure -- there they are over there.
Mr McLean: They just wish they were Scots.
Mr B. Murdoch: They may wish they were Scottish.
Under severe conditions, my ancestors and the ancestors of many other members of this House, using their native Celtic courage, built villages and churches, grist and sawmills, blacksmiths' shops and, of course, breweries; I am sure the Scottish always liked that.
Mr Mills: And still do.
Mr B. Murdoch: And still do, right. Good roads linked these settlements to their farms on the land which they cleared. The Scottish pioneers in Ontario were industrious people. In addition to farming, which was the backbone of Upper Canada, they excelled in business and finance. They were able merchants who engaged in global trade. They exported grain, timber, potash and livestock to the West Indies, England and Scotland. They also imported sugar and rum. We know we always needed that rum.
They also were prominent in the shipbuilding industry, supplying Britain when her need was great to assist with the wars with France in 1793, before our time. Scots in the 19th century exercised skills acquired before migrating or newly learned in North America as millwrights, coppersmiths, sawyers, masons, builders, cobblers, weavers, dyers, tailors, ironworkers and bakers; in short, as mechanics or artisans in all of the callings of which their young communities had need.
They established cheese factories, flour mills, fanning mills, sawmills, paper mills and carding mills. Members will not be surprised to hear that they also started, again, many distilleries.
Grey county is proud to have such a heritage. Today we have a lot of people here from Grey county and from the surrounding counties of Bruce, Wellington and Dufferin. We are pleased to have inherited the industrious ways of our forefathers. We are also proud of the culture which they handed down to us. We want to keep it alive and share it with others. That is the purpose of this resolution.
As members know, we have a colourful and distinctive culture. The wearing of the plaid is a strong tradition and the music of the bagpipes must haunt everyone no matter what their heritage. Highland dancing is an art. To support me, many people of my riding have come to participate today.
We have the Shelagh Milne and Eleanor Brennan School of Dance, which is famous worldwide. They have won many awards and honours. Ann Milne has been Ontario champion 13 times, Canadian champion 12 times, Commonwealth champion, and she has also won the world championship four times. She lives in Owen Sound in my riding. She has also performed for the royal family. Alison Milne has been a Canadian champion, as has Dawn Brennan who, with Shelagh, is here today. I think they are just coming in, so maybe we will introduce them later. Dawn has been a Canadian and world champion. The Owen Sound Highland Dancers have performed at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
I would like to take a moment to recognize and thank some of our Scottish dancers who have come here today: Jacqueline Bruce, Melissa Risebrough, Crystal Baker, Kelly McCoy, Ashley Clark, Stephanie Drysdale, Laura Drysdale, Heather Edwards, Melissa Harron, Bonnie Muzzell, Tianna Marcella and Heather Dixon.
Two pipe bands have also come down from my riding. I am proud to introduce the Hanover Legion Branch 130 Pipes and Drums. It was formed by Jack Harris in 1973 and has travelled extensively. It has played at the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, the highland games in Fergus and the Royal Highland Games in Scotland. They are a teaching band whose pupils have turned into champions. They sponsor the St Andrew's dance every year in November. They are directed and instructed by Pipe Major Jim Curran and they meet every Thursday in the Hanover hall.
I am also delighted to have the Mount Forest Cameron Highlanders with me today. I share this band with my friend the member for Wellington. It is a border town and we both have them in our riding. The band was formed in the winter of 1950 under the direction of Pipe Major Jack Gillespie. At that time he pulled together a group of community lads from the area and began practices in the basement of his home in Mount Forest. The band is still together today and it practises and plays weekly. They are currently under the direction of Alec Watson and Drum Major Jim Arthur. Thanks for coming, guys and girls.
Mr B. Murdoch: We also have women who play in our pipe bands. I wanted to make sure people down here knew that.
I would like to also recognize the people who are partly responsible for the introduction of this resolution. There are four members of the Clans and Scottish Societies of Canada in the members' gallery. I would like to thank them for their contribution to this morning's debate. They are very interested in this resolution and would like to see it passed.
My greatest thanks have to go to my friend Ron MacDonnell, who is from Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry. Without him I would not be standing here properly clothed. I have to thank Ron for that.
I know there are many people on both sides of the House who want to support this resolution and speak on it. I will leave the rest of my remarks till my wrapup.
Mr Sutherland: It is a great pleasure for me to rise and support this motion today. I want to compliment the member for Grey for bringing it forward. I have had the pleasure of watching and enjoying the Shelagh Milne dancers from Owen Sound. They are truly a great credit to the riding of Grey and to this province, and a great tribute overall.
In 1852 my ancestors came from Scotland, settled in Oxford county, in the township of Zorra, cleared the land and established the farm. Oxford county has a very strong Scottish heritage. I think this bill is a very good bill indeed.
I want to say that each year on July 1, as in many communities, in the village of Embro, a few miles from where I grew up, they have the highland games every July 1. It is so appropriate that the Zorra Caledonian Society has for many years been sponsoring the highland games to preserve and promote Scottish heritage, to hear the bands, to have highland dancing going on. That is a great event every year. They have a magic touch because, for as long as anyone can remember, it has never rained on the highland games on July 1 in Embro. We are certainly hoping that luck will continue.
Also in the town of Ingersoll, we have the Ingersoll Pipe Band. It is certainly well known and has played at many events. Internationally, on many occasions it has been down to the Indianapolis 500 to participate in its parade and it participates in many other parades in the riding.
I am wearing a Sutherland tartan tie today and I am very proud to be doing that. I want to thank the office of the member for Simcoe East for supplying that for me, because unfortunately I did not have one available.
I have never been to Scotland. I have not had the opportunity to see where my ancestors came from. I certainly hope to do that.
This bill is important for two reasons. It talks about recognizing the multicultural nature of Ontario. Many people in my community, while very proud of their Scottish heritage, do not see that as part of the multicultural fabric of this province. When it comes to multiculturalism, we know there are many critics; certainly members of the Reform Party are very critical of promoting multiculturalism. When we say "multiculturalism," that does not mean we throw out the past and just bring in the new. Multiculturalism means we allow tolerance and understanding of everyone being able to celebrate their culture and heritage.
In this House we have many members of different heritages and backgrounds who are very proud of that heritage and culture. They want to celebrate that and celebrate many of the significant events that go on. Some of the best moments I have is when I am able to go to different multicultural events, when the German Canadian Club in my riding has Oktoberfest celebrations, and when other organizations have different celebrations.
That is what multiculturalism is really about. The people can bring the finest traditions of their heritage to this country. They can form clubs. They can say they are German Canadian. There is nothing wrong in being a hyphenated Canadian, although some people want to criticize that. They can bring those heritages, those cultures, those traditions and celebrate them in a fabulous manner and be very proud of that.
Some of my other colleagues want to speak to this, but I want again to compliment the member for Grey for bringing this bill forward. It is great day for all of us who are of Scottish heritage. I am sure it will receive a great deal of support.
One final point: There is a big movement in Scotland right now to try to restore the Scottish language. I understand there is some difficulty in how that is coming along, but I certainly hope that maybe some day I will be able to learn a little more about the traditional Scottish language and maybe even say a few words in this House in Scottish.
Mrs Sullivan: I too want to congratulate the member for Grey for his initiative in bringing forward the resolution relating to Tartan Day. I am one of those people who has trouble identifying a nationality. My family has been in Canada for some eight or nine generations, but family lore traces our history to the house of Kelso, which was a Tironensian community which settled in Scotland from Tiron, Picardy, in the Middle Ages. My tartan is Buchanan, actually, but I am not wearing it today. In fact, I am not even wearing a tartan. It is a plaid that is made up. I apologize for that.
But I also want to congratulate the member for inviting the pipe bands from Hanover and from Mount Forest, and the Shelagh Milne dancers who have received international acclaim for the work they have done. When I was a youngster I was a highland dancer and I am now qualified to teach highland dancing. I know the work, effort and the discipline that goes into the work they do as dancers. We all appreciate that.
Mr Harnick: We will be asking for a demonstration shortly.
Mrs Sullivan: I think we are going to see a demonstration, probably after this session is over. Whether it is the Highland fling, skean-dhu, strathspey or the sword dance that is going to be done, people in this House will appreciate the legacy that is brought forward through the dance. I think the appreciation we all have tells a lot about Ontario, because the Scottish legacy is deep in our province. Our towns, families, churches, the names of our children, the livestock we breed, the food we eat, the liquid we drink, the expressions we use and the traditions we share bear a great dependence on the Scottish settlers.
On January 25, as members know, some mean memories every year, in virtually every town hall across the province, try to recall the poetry of Robbie Burns in accents that the poet would never have heard or even dreamt about. No fair is complete without its pipe band, and the swirl of the kilt in the dance competitions at Fergus and elsewhere are very much a part of our life and our heritage.
As I look around the Legislature I could look at almost any member in describing their ridings and think of a name of one or many communities that bear the tradition of Scottish settlers. There is Campbellville near my own area, Dumfries in Brant, Dufferin, Perth, Lanark, Renfrew, Fort William in the north, Glen Eden, Tweed, Dundas, Picton, Northumberland, Caledon, Angus, Fergus, Guelph, Bruce, Lennox, Glengarry, and hundreds of other names. I just thought in the few minutes I had I would put some of them down.
The livestock we see in those counties and in those towns also has a strong basis in Scotland: Ayrshires, Aberdeen Angus, Galloways, Clydesdale horses, the Blackface and Cheviot sheep and Columbians. Now we are even sending breeding stock back to Scotland because the people who have descended either from the Scottish or who have entered into the agricultural industry involving those breeds have improved upon them and made their own place.
When I was growing up my father always had a hard luck story to tell that spoke of discipline and the necessity for responsibility. As I recall, any of the Scottish biographies I have read all begin with the story of a poor young man who is trudging his way to school with a sack of oatmeal across his back. Does that sound familiar? I think it does. One of the things those Scottish stories tell us is about the poverty that many of our early settlers faced, the careful husbandry of meagre resources in a rigorous climate. Those factors have shaped the Scots character at home and in the traditions they have brought to a new world.
They speak of achievement over adversity, and that is a particular claim in the Scots tradition. With a name like Sullivan, I can hardly leave the Irish out of this debate, but I will bring it in in a peculiar way: It is said that St Patrick indeed received his first Christian upbringing in Strathclyde and then took that learning with him to Ireland where he became the apostle. But surely it is the Presbyterian doctrine which the Scottish people brought with them with its emphasis on man's direct responsibility to God and on self-reliance that has shaped much of our own Ontario history, the development of our towns, the governance we share and much of our community code.
The independent spirit of the Scots is also carried all through the generations, from the early settlers to the demanding debates of today. The stubborn views of the Scots are certainly still seen as we enter legislative debate in this place.
One of the very interesting things I learned when I was studying medieval history as an extracurricular activity relates to the great papal schism of 1378. It was the Scots who held out and kept supporting the Avignon popes against all odds. They refused to accept the English and the Roman choice of Pope Urban, stayed with Clement VII, and in fact for several decades after everyone else had abandoned the Avignon anti-popes stuck with Benedict XIII. That stubbornness has shown, that loyalty has shown in many of the dealings that are certainly considered to be part of the Scottish character.
There is something else that is interesting about Scottish history. From its early days, Scotland was a melting pot of the Celts, the Picts, the Angles, the Britons and of the Scots themselves, with little in common but their geography, their newly adopted religion and a fear of invaders. The Scots have always been a feisty people. Lowlanders and Highlanders have had continuing rivalries over the years -- and wars. The music of the bagpipes and the war dances, the sword dances and so on, tell of the spirit of that rivalry between the Lowland and the Highland people. Less than 200 years ago, men from the central Lowlands in Scotland who had to visit the Highlands on business affairs would make out their wills before they crossed the mountains, because their clansmen cared little for the Lowland chiefs.
One of the other areas of Scottish history that it seems to me speaks a great deal about how Ontario was driven through its history was the Arbroath Declaration of 1320, which said, on independence, "We fight not for glory, nor riches, nor honour, but only for liberty." How we have talked about the values, the loyalty, the self-reliance, the independence, the poetry, the dance, the responsibility and tolerance that Scots people have brought to Ontario, we also, in speaking of those things, talk about the liberty the Scots demanded on their Independence Day in 1320.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): Further debate, the honourable member for Simcoe East. McLean is the name.
Mr McLean: McLean is the name. I am pleased to rise today and to speak on this resolution. It is nice to see so many Scots in the gallery today, and there are a lot of people here who probably wish they were Scots.
A few months ago, when I had a visit from people from Toronto who wanted to make sure everybody knew there was an importance in the Scottish clan, that there should be a Tartan Day, I thought the appropriate place to send them was to the office of the member for Grey. He had a spot coming up and I thought it would be appropriate to have it done this fall before Christmas in his private member's time.
I really am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in support of this resolution. Talking about Tartan Day, there are many people who will realize they have seen this jacket in this Legislature before. This jacket is a Royal Stuart jacket. I have this jacket because my wife some time ago made herself a beautiful pleated skirt of a Royal Stuart material and I liked it so well that I said, "If I bought the material, would you make me a jacket?" So my wife made this jacket, which I am very proud of. My tie is the McLean tartan; it is very close but not quite the same.
When we recognize the multicultural nature of Ontario and the contributions of the Scottish community in Ontario, we feel that April 6 would be an appropriate day of historical significance to the Scottish community as it marks the declaration of Scottish independence in 1320. This House should proclaim April 6 as Tartan Day.
The history of Scotland is long and glorious and dates back to Roman times. The resolution from the member for Grey mentions that April 6 is of historical significance to the Scottish community, as I said, because it marks the declaration of Scottish independence in 1320.
As this resolution points out, the Scottish community has made a number of impressive contributions to the economic, agricultural and cultural wellbeing of Ontario. We all know that between 1791 and 1850 the history of Ontario is one of rapid growth. In 1791 there were probably not more than 20,000 people in the new colony of Upper Canada. The different groups included native people, the Canadians and the Loyalists, both native and non-native.
My family came to Canada in 1832, arrived in Oro township, in the county of Simcoe. I am the fifth generation, and I hope my son will be the sixth and my grandson will be the seventh generation of McLeans in Oro township to be farmers.
By the way, most Scots were Presbyterians. A lot of people do not know that, but my friend the member for Markham, who is a Presbyterian minister, certainly let me know that most of the Scots were Presbyterian.
A lot of our people are from Upper Canada, the Glengarry and Grey county area in the early 1800s; actually, Glengarry goes back to the 1700s. When we look at the whole aspect of multicultural life in this country we must not forget our history, our historical background, and we must look to the future with optimism to make sure we maintain our Scottish heritage.
I would like to conclude my remarks by indicating my very strong support for this resolution for April 6 being proclaimed Tartan Day in the province. I would like to invite all members of the Legislature to attend the Orillia Scottish Festival on July 17 and 18 next year, an annual event that attracts between 8,000 and 10,000 people to the city of Orillia for a parade and a Scottish festival of events including the pipes, drums, competitions and highland dancing.
I commend all those people who have taken the time to come to this Legislature to be part of this historical day on which we are trying to establish April 6 as Tartan Day in the province.
The guests from Mount Forest and Grey, thank you for coming. I thank my colleague for introducing this resolution and, by all means, I want to thank these people who initiated this event today.
Mr Mills: I am also very pleased to rise here today and speak to the member's resolution and tell him that I fully support it. But before we get caught up in the euphoria surrounding this day, perhaps we should look back in history and ask ourselves why the highland people came to Canada. They came here originally because they were driven out of their homes by the land owners who burnt their homes behind them. I do not think we should lose sight of that.
There is no doubt that the Scottish descendants made an enormous contribution to the development of Ontario. The number of Scottish place names in the province is clear evidence of this.
We only have to look at our country's history to see how Canadians of Scottish descent have helped build a great country and province. For example, many of the Fathers of Confederation were Scottish and our first two Prime Ministers, Conservative Sir John A. Macdonald and Liberal Alexander Mackenzie, were both born in Scotland.
At the time of Confederation, Ontario was led by Oliver Mowat, who was also of Scottish descent. As Ontario Premier, Mr Mowat showed traditional Scottish grit in asserting provincial rights. He won numerous Constitution disputes with the federal government and effectively destroyed the idea that provinces would be no more than large municipalities.
The list of Canadian political figures with Scottish links is almost endless. For example, NDP leader Tommy Douglas was a native of Falkirk in Scotland, and John Diefenbaker traced his roots to Scottish immigrants.
We cannot forget the contribution of women in politics; Agnes Macphail, who was the first woman elected to the House of Commons, had Scottish blood.
The contribution of Scots to the development of our province has not been limited to politics. Since Ontario was first settled, Scots have played a crucial role in areas like business. In the early 1870s a Scot named Robert Simpson came to Toronto and shortly after arriving he established the Robert Simpson Co in Markham. Today he is remembered by the chain of retail stores that bore his name.
Some of Ontario's great newspapers, such as the Globe and Mail, had Scottish founders. In 1853, when the Globe became a daily paper, its editor was George Brown, another native of Scotland. For years afterwards, the newspaper became known as the Scotsman's Bible in Toronto and across Ontario.
Another field where Scots have made an enormous contribution to the province of Ontario is in the field of education. Many of the great academic figures in Ontario universities over the years have been of Scottish origin. For example, it is widely acknowledged that Professor Harold Innis, who taught at the University of Toronto, was one of the greatest social scientists this country has ever known.
As members can see, Canadians of Scottish descent have played a vital role in building our province into what it is today. We can learn a lot from the constitutional problems we face today. Although Scottish Canadians cherish their heritage, they have always saved their loyalty for Canada. George Brown of the Globe expressed this sentiment after a trip to Scotland in the 1850s when he said in an editorial, "It is Canada for me."
Before I conclude, I would like to make a few comments about my own Scottish connection. Despite my somewhat English accent, I believe I have deep roots in family history to the Scottish Highlands. My second name is Lewis, and this name has traditionally been used by male members of my family. Located in the outer Scottish Hebrides is the island of Lewis and that, I have been led to believe, is the reason for the use of this somewhat unusual Christian name by members of my family for generations.
Once again, in closing -- my colleagues want to speak on this resolution -- I would like to thank the member for Grey for bringing forward his resolution to recognize the contribution of Canadians of Scottish descent to Ontario. I think the idea of having April 6 declared Tartan Day is an excellent one, and I intend to fully support it.
Mr Curling: Let me first commend the member for Grey for bringing this resolution which, of course, I will support. As the resolution states, April 6 will be considered Tartan Day. As we celebrate that, I would like to remind the Scottish people that there are many people today who, if they are Scottish, cannot be recognized because of their name -- some have lost their name through all that kind of process -- and some people who cannot celebrate their culture and be recognized within their culture because of their name.
I will not get into the name of Curling. Members may wonder about the name Curling being so Scottish. First, I want to thank the Scottish people for naming the game of curling in my honour.
I really do not want to start on a completely negative note, but I will point out some discrepancies I see in the Scottish people. They play the bagpipes but I have yet to hear any reggae music being played on the bagpipes and I would like that to be corrected.
As members know, many of the celebrations and competitions held in this province have been well attended. In Fergus they have the strongman competition -- of course, if I participated I would be the winner -- which attracts thousands of people to this wonderful Scottish tradition.
Mr Arnott: It's 40,000 people.
Mr Curling: I gather it is 40,000 people. I have yet to get an invitation. I mention to the members here that my staff awaits that invitation.
We also know of the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, and I have an association there. My former staff member, Frances McCormick, enjoyed great success there in the dance competition in which she performed. I would like you all to know that my participation might be quite subtle but it is there.
Members may wonder what my tartan is, what am I wearing today. This is an emerging tartan, as you can see. Gradually the colours will come out and demonstrate my love and support for the Scots.
Scots and Canadians of Scottish descent have played an important role in Canadian politics. My colleagues have named many of the people: Bishop Strachan, John A. Macdonald, Oliver Mowat, William Lyon Mackenzie King and, of course, the emerging Scot, Alvin Curling.
These days, as we speak about multiculturalism, it is often somewhat condescending to many Canadians. In fact, multicultural Canada encompasses all Canadians from all backgrounds. As we recognize and celebrate this day, it highlights the unique and equal contribution of all Canadians in forming what is our national cultural heritage.
Today, in what we call an experiment in multiculturalism -- I do not think it is experimenting in multiculturalism -- many Canadians celebrate their traditions because of cultural heritage. There are some people also who not only celebrate but conduct themselves in a religious tradition. Sometimes we talk about the traditions which are cultural and traditions which are religious.
I say to the Scots, people who have made a tremendous contribution to this country, to recognize those who are also trying to emerge and to make sure that their traditions and religion are recognized. They should use their strength and the demonstration of their survival to assist those who are finding it quite difficult to establish themselves in this culture.
As a legislator, it is a great honour and privilege to point that out to my Scottish friends, who are great friends of mine and are always empathetic towards those causes. Today I stand in the House and commend the honourable member for Grey who sits on committees with me. I realize it is his strong background that has made him such a great individual.
Mr Jackson: It is with great pleasure that I rise today in support of my colleague from Grey and his resolution to designate April 6 as Tartan Day in recognition of Ontario's Scottish community.
At the outset, Mr Speaker, I would like to commend you for wearing your MacDonell of Glengarry tartan tie in the honoured position, in the Speaker's chair. Your riding of S-D-G & East Grenville is very rich with tradition. I know you make your home in Maxville, which is of course a very proud Scottish-named community.
Tartan Day is long overdue for Ontario, given the many and varied contributions the Scottish people have made to our province and our nation's history. In paying tribute to these people, it is a debt to Ontario and Canada that we owe to the Scottish heritage, and we are doing more than simply acknowledging one cultural group of the many that comprise what is the cultural panorama of Ontario today.
We are reminded that Scotland has a cultural heritage both proud and ancient. At this significant time of the year I am reminded of a historical event; when Oliver Cromwell became the Lord Protector he had forbidden the celebration of Christmas. The Scots, true to their nature, made silent protest by moving their Christmas festivities to the new year, thus creating their own unique version of Christmas called Hogmanay. It derived from the French, which was "au gui menay," or "to the mistletoe go." That became the earliest known Christmas and new year's celebration here in our country.
I would like to remind members, for the record, that Scottish settlers in both Upper and Lower Canada built many of our churches and brought with them a unique way of life which today has become an integral part of that which we call Canadian.
Perhaps the most distinguishing part of Scottish culture, however, is the tartan. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr James Kennedy, president of KLM Planning Partners Inc in Toronto, for lending me his family tartan tie today to wear. I appreciate that very much.
Today's tartan represents clan kinship and territorial ancestry. I am reminded that the Royal Stuart tartan is proudly worn by Her Majesty the Queen and that each province in Canada has its own specific tartan design.
Tartan Day is a way of calling to mind that heritage which includes the many celebrations of Scottish culture, festivals such as Robbie Burns Day, the haggis ceremony, Hogmanay, the bagpipes, kilts and, yes, St Andrew's Day.
Burlington, in my riding, was the home of Canada's first famous Scottish-Canadian, Adam Fergusson, who in 1833 arrived here with his family and built a uniquely designed stone house in our community which stands to this day and is owned by my friend Bob Elstone. Adam Fergusson became Canada's first Minister of Agriculture and, while on the senate of the University of Toronto, established Ontario's first agricultural college, which is today the University of Guelph.
Adam Fergusson also promoted an annual agricultural fair which developed into our modern Canadian National Exhibition, one of the longest-standing exhibitions in North America. Adam was strongly opposed to the revolt of 1837. He then moved to the town of Fergus, named after him and his family and the founder of his clan. The town continues to host an annual Scottish Highland dancing festival in honour of Adam to this day.
Personally, I would just like to say that the maiden name of my wife, Elaine, is Cuthbert, which is a family connected to the area immediately in the vicinity of Celtic Lindisfarne.
We believe these are times for Canadians to reflect about their identity. Truly recognizing Tartan Day is something that we as Ontarians and Canadians can do with pride. I commend my colleague the member for Grey for this fine resolution.
Mr White: I rise with great pleasure to speak on my friend's motion and to state that I am in full support of it and wish to see its passage.
We in Ontario have much to be proud of in terms of our heritage and our accomplishments. We should be particularly proud of the accomplishment the Scottish settlers have left with us. The history of Scottish settlement has been one of loyalty to Queen and country. Despite the problems the English have offered them, English and Scots have intermingled, and the English have fully benefited.
I am a descendant of the clan Drummond. This is the Drummond tartan, and my friend the member for Prescott-Russell is sporting a Drummond of Perth tartan which I have lent him. I believe he will be speaking next.
My friend Mr Gordon Lewis Mills, the member for Durham East, states that he has a clan name as a Christian name, the name Lewis. May I also state that he has a clan name as his first Christian name, the name Gordon. It is a typical way in which the English are blessed; they take all their names from us and then ignore them.
My friend should be aware of the history of how these names are given from mother to son, from father to daughter. Very simply, to give an example from my own family, when my grandmother Katherine Drummond married an Englishman, her children were named with their English surname and their clan name, Drummond. So my father's name was Alexander Drummond White and my uncle, who died in the last great war, was named John Duncan Drummond White. Duncan as well, of course, is a clan name, but always the mother's clan name descended to the children, which is why we have such names as Gordon, Stewart, Bruce, Murray, Duncan, Drummond, Douglas, Donald -- all clan names, all examples, when we see them with English surnames, of the benefits this country has derived from the Scots.
My friend has spoken of the historical issues in regard to Scottish settlement. I would like to say that we have an image of Scots as being dour, frugal, hardworking. They have had to be, because Scots, of course, settled in a country which at the time was hard, demanding and not very giving. Of course, they came from a country that was also hard and demanding, so we can certainly understand why they are frugal and hardworking. We see their descendants as also reflecting those values. We see their descendants as offering blessings to all of us now with our standard of living that is a benefit from their hard work.
Those qualities should be cherished, but the modesty that Scots offer, despite their loud tartans, I think is something which should also be cherished -- that dour attitude.
We have in Canada a great heritage of Scots, a great heritage of Irish, of English, of French and as well, during the last generations, of people from many other countries throughout Europe and the rest of the world. But in speaking of those heritages, we have a Queen from England. We have the Welsh and what they have offered us. We have, of course, the French and their great heritage, and the Irish, who have offered us, at the federal level, blarney. We also have the regular celebration of St Patrick's Day, which is no doubt very close to Irish hearts.
But April 6, Tartan Day, is an important celebration, a waving of the flag, the flag of the tartans of Scotland. I am pleased to see so many of my colleagues sporting those tartans. I would like to leave for the member for Guelph, whose riding is quite close to Fergus, where the Highland Games are, some few moments to comment on those.
Mr Poirier: My name is not McPoirier; it is Jean Poirier, fourth-generation Franco-Ontarian. But I would like to support the resolution of the member for Grey to have April 6 designated as Tartan Day.
As members know, I come from the riding of Prescott and Russell, next to Glengarry county, an area that is very rich in Scottish history. I am sure my good friend the Acting Speaker, the honourable member for S-D-G & East Grenville, shares with me the pride of having so many friends of Scottish background.
It is the ties that unite groups like the French and the Scots that make Canada what it is all about, and this is what gives us so much of the pride we have in being Canadians. We celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day and now we will also be able to celebrate April 6. We celebrate the Glengarry Highland Games, you and I, sir, where we have the pleasure of hearing these bagpipes that are common to many of our cultures -- including the French through Brittany -- with pipe players like Allan Stivell from France, who was and is still quite successful with the bagpipe playing.
I want to make sure my friends of Scottish descent understand that the francophone community will be supporting this. We look forward to celebrating with them. I congratulate and thank my honourable friend the member for Durham Centre for lending me the Drummond of Perth tie, as I left my tartan ties at home this morning. I was celebrating a bit too much, I guess, last night. I also thank Ron MacDonell, our mutual friend from Glengarry, for providing the clothes for our friend the member for Grey, which did a great favour to decency this morning.
I support and I congratulate the honourable member for Grey and I wish to indicate to him that I will be voting in favour of his resolution.
Mr J. Wilson: I am very pleased to stand today in support of the resolution which would declare April 6 as Tartan Day, a great celebration in Ontario and one well deserved because of our Scottish heritage, both in Ontario and also in Canada. With a name like Wilson, I am actually half Irish and half Scottish. I am very fond of both heritages. I apologize for not wearing the Wilson tartan today. Someone told me my tie looks like it was obtained at an Irish wake, and that is very possible.
I also commend my colleague the member for Grey for having the courage, because I discussed this matter on an open-line cable show I had last week and a lot of people said that with the removal of the Our Father, with the worries about Christmas concerts now in the schools and with the police officers no longer swearing an oath of allegiance directly to the Queen, "As politicians, you can't go declaring April 6 Tartan Day."
I said, "If there's one thing Mr Bill Murdoch has, it's a great deal of courage." He has come forward to celebrate his heritage and the contribution made by the Scottish people in our country and in our province. I commend the member for Grey for that, and I am very pleased to support him.
I remind the government that this resolution is only the first step. They must now bring forward a bill so we can actually declare April 6 as Tartan Day.
Mr Fletcher: I rise to let the member for Grey know I am supporting his bill. I am wearing my McFletcher tartan. I thank the member for Grey for supplying it. I know we have a multicultural society, and that is one of the major reasons I can support this resolution.
Mr Arnott: I am very pleased to say I am going to support the member for Grey's resolution today, as would be expected. As the member for Wellington, I am very proud to represent a great number of Scottish people. We have the Fergus Scottish festival in our riding every year. Approximately 40,000 converge on Fergus generally the second weekend in August. In 1992 it will be August 7, 8 and 9. It is a fantastic festival, Mr Speaker. I would not want to get into that debate with you, but you will know it is easily one of the best, if not the best, Scottish festivals in the province each year.
This year the first function is going to be the patrons and sponsors reception. Then we are having the tattoo, which I attended last year and enjoyed very much. The competition day is Saturday. Special events, Scottish sampler, will be on the Sunday, I believe. I would like to take this opportunity to invite all Ontarians to the Fergus Scottish festival.
Mr Speaker, I would also like to thank you very much for lending me this tartan today, since I forgot mine.
In the few brief moments I have, I would like to take the opportunity to speak about my own heritage. The Arnott name is not well known to be Scottish, but in fact it is. We were a very small and insignificant clan, and therefore have no tartan of our own. My great-great-grandfather, Henry Arnott, emigrated to Ontario from Scotland in about 1850. He came from Crieff, Scotland, absolutely penniless, to Wellington county, where he became a householder farmer in West Luther township and worked very hard. I understand he exhibited all the fine characteristics of the Scottish community. He was, I am sure, very hardworking and very thrifty in his industry. Those sorts of things are what made this province the way it is.
My name is Theodore Calvin Arnott. I was named for John Calvin, the Presbyterian reformer discussed earlier this morning. I am very proud of that fact and proud of my Scottish heritage. I am very proud to speak in support of my friend the member for Grey.
Mr Jordan: It is a real honour and pleasure for me to have the opportunity this morning to speak in support of my colleague's bill establishing April 6 as Tartan Day. I think we all realize this morning that the member for Grey is not only a good member but a real people person. The members saw the people who were out this morning in support of the member for Grey and his bill to establish Tartan Day.
My riding of Lanark-Renfrew, located in eastern Ontario, is alive with tradition and proud of its Scottish heritage. On February 22, 1815, a proclamation was published at Edinburgh to encourage settlers to proceed to the British provinces. True to their style, the Scottish settlers persevered. When they arrived, they found stands of timber and virgin land. The land was cleared, neighbours rallied and homes were built as they worked together with the others, the Irish, the English and now the multiculturalism. As a result, we have today the riding of Lanark-Renfrew.
In a sense of humour, I might close with the story of three clergymen sitting around talking about what they did with the Sunday collection. One clergyman, an Englishman, said he just threw it up in the air and when it came down whatever landed inside a circle belonged to him and the rest belonged to the Lord. The Scotsman said he threw it up in the air with no circle; whatever stayed up belonged to the Lord and whatever came down belonged to him.
Mr B. Murdoch: I would like to thank all those who spoke in favour of this bill. It certainly is wonderful that everyone here today has spoken in favour of it and I am sure that when it comes to the vote we will get everyone to pass it.
I certainly want to thank the members for allowing me to maybe break some of the rules. I want to thank the New Democratic Party for not making a fuss about that, because I wanted to introduce the people who were here from my riding. One whom I did not introduce -- he is here also -- is the former mayor of Hanover, Scotty Duncan. He promotes a Scottish tradition wherever he goes. He is sitting up in the gallery. I also have many other people from the Beaver Valley area who are here today supporting. We also have one of our pipe bands from the Beaver Valley that could not make it today, but some of the people who have played in it and have performed with it are here. Also, I have two pipe bands from Owen Sound that could not make it, but some of their members are here also in the gallery to watch this happening.
Grey county is well represented with Scottish heritage. That is what this bill is all about. We want to recognize our Scottish heritage. Hopefully after today, after this resolution has been passed, the government will bring a bill forward and make April 6 Tartan Day so we can celebrate that each year.
Another reason April 6 was picked -- I do not think anyone mentioned it -- is that in 1320 Scotland declared independence from England. That is why April 6 is a special day for the Scottish people.
With that, I want to thank everyone again and thank everyone who came down. I see the people are coming back now. It takes a while for some of them to get through the metal detectors. This is why we had a problem. They did want to take all the metal off them. Then they would be standing here as I would be standing if I did not have my kilt on.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): The time provided for private members' public business has now expired.
GOVERNMENT CHEQUE CASHING ACT, 1991 / LOI DE 1991 SUR L'ENCAISSEMENT DE CHEQUES DU GOUVERNEMENT
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): Mr Morin has moved second reading of Bill 154.
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion the ayes haves it.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for standing committee on finance and economic affairs.
The House divided on Mr B. Murdoch's motion, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ayes -- 57
Abel, Arnott, Brown, Callahan, Caplan, Carr, Carter, Conway, Cooper, Cousens, Cunningham, Curling, Dadamo, Drainville, Eves, Fletcher, Frankford, Grandmaître, Haeck, Hansen, Harnick, Harrington, Harris, Hayes, Hope, Huget, Jackson, Jordan, Klopp, Lessard, MacKinnon, Mammoliti, Marland, Martin, McLean, Mills, Morin, Morrow, Murdoch, B., Murdock, S., O'Connor, Owens, Phillips, G., Poirier, Poole, Runciman, Sterling, Stockwell, Sullivan, Sutherland, Waters, Wessenger, White, Wilson, G., Wilson, J., Winninger, Wiseman.
Nays -- 0
Mr B. Murdoch: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I would just like to thank everyone for voting this way and say that the pipes will be playing at 12:45 on the steps just outside. I would like everyone to come.
Mr Curling: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member was not clear as to what type of music will be played by the bagpipes. I would like to know if reggae will be played this time.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): These are not valid points of order, but they are very informative.
The House recessed at 1217.
The House resumed at 1330.
Mrs Sullivan: Last March, Sandoz Canada received approval from the federal government's health protection branch for a new drug called Clozaril, used in the management of symptoms of treatment-resistant schizophrenia. It is intended for use for patients who fail to respond adequately to standard drug treatment or for patients who have developed intolerable side-effects on other drug treatments.
When the drug was approved in the United States close to two years ago, it was classified as a breakthrough product by the Food and Drug Administration there. Clozaril has been available for several years in Canada under the emergency drug release program. In Ontario, some 90 patients have benefited from the use of the drug.
However, last August the Minister of Health issued a directive that no new patients can benefit from the use of this breakthrough chemical therapy because no funding would be provided. This action was taken despite recorded documentation that Clozaril can help a large number of seriously ill schizophrenic patients leave hospital and begin to lead productive lives: 30% to 40% of refractory schizophrenic patients can be helped with this drug.
Ontario is the only province that is refusing access to Clozaril in this way. That the minister is holding up its use is an intolerable affront to individual patient rights. It is also a serious breach of the minister's responsibility to ensure adequate and full health care services for all Ontarians.
Mrs Witmer: At a time when we are all aware of the depressing state of our economy, I rise today to urge the government to focus on job creation. The layoffs announced yesterday by General Motors underscore the fact that the job of every Ontario worker is at risk and that the economic forecast continues to be gloomy. Therefore I urge and implore this government to concentrate on creating an economic environment which will not only help maintain the jobs we have but also attract new investment and jobs to our province, instead of proceeding with the controversial labour reforms that will only hurt and cripple our fragile economic recovery.
I urge the government to increase research and development expenditures, to improve our training and retraining programs, to provide assistance to businesses that are struggling to maintain jobs for their workers and to help Ontario's industry adjust to new technologies, instead of driving away business and investment with a one-sided approach to amending our labour legislation.
Today I stand in this House and urge this government to make it a priority to provide the people of this province with the tools to compete globally so that the much-needed jobs become available for those who are so desperately seeking them.
Mr Hansen: I rise today to inform the House of a very special occasion. On December 26, Boxing Day, Ontario will be 200 years old. On December 26, 1791, the Constitutional Act was officially put into effect, dividing Canada into Upper and Lower Canada. The date is often forgotten because we traditionally consider September 1792 as Ontario's birthday because that is when the first Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada met.
Celebrations are already being planned for the 200th anniversary of the province's first Legislative Assembly, because this has been known as Ontario's birthday. This year on Boxing Day I will be taking a moment to remember Ontario's past, because it is a very special occasion. I am asking all members of the House and their constituents to take time on December 26 to make a toast to Ontario's 200th birthday.
I would also like to take this opportunity to wish a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year to all my fellow members and their families.
Mr Henderson: As the 1991 Argonaut Grey Cup victory recedes, I know all members will want to know of the other and no less significant Metro Football Championship won this year in a surprise victory by the Richview Collegiate Saints at the SkyDome on Wednesday, November 27.
Their opponents entered the contest unbeaten and heavily favoured. Richview Saints entered the SkyDome as underdogs and emerged as champions. Richview's unexpected passing attack helped them build up a commanding 14-0 lead after 10 minutes of play.
This game was exciting football. Richview embarked on a touchdown run after the opening kickoff, repeated a touchdown march after the subsequent kickoff and mounted a fine ground and pass attack taking advantage of key interceptions.
Congratulations to the Richview Saints and to all their supporters. I salute especially Richview's principal, Bruce Thorburn, coach Roger Reynolds, quarterback Paul Martin, every member of the team and the entire Richview student body who supported these fine athletes.
As we applaud this second Metro Football Championship I want only to note that the champions are represented in this assembly by a Liberal and their defeated opponents come from a riding that made some other choice, which goes to show, it seems to be, that winners know how to pick winners.
Mrs Cunningham: I have a Christmas greeting for the Premier from the student council at the University of Western Ontario.
It was one day in December
when Western U was annoyed,
There would be no money coming
no money from Floyd,
Some students were broke
no money in their fist,
With vain hopes that their OSAP grants
still would exist.
University classes packed,
filled to the gills,
Students clinging for life
from the cold window-sills,
The prof with her microphone
and me far in the back,
I couldn't hear a damned thing
so I settled in for a nap.
When over the campus
there arose such a clatter,
I squeezed out from my desk
to see what was the matter,
In a shiny black limo
but who would I see,
A figure in cashmere;
I shouted with glee.
Wearing glasses and tie,
Hey, I'm not a knob,
I knew right away
that it was old Premier Bob.
Close in behind
in two dozens carts I bet,
Came rolling along
the Premier's whole cabinet.
Much quicker than tree frogs
his ministers came,
And he heckled and shouted
and he called them by name.
"Now Floyd, now Frances
now Shelley and Richard,
"On Marion, on Tony
On Elmer and Howard,
"To the top of Thames Hall
to the top of the hill,
"We'll help good old Western
it will be such a thrill."
From out of his car
fell a dozen large sacks,
And the jolly old Premier,
pulled cash from those packs.
Now there's funding for classrooms
and for new profs too,
For safety on campus
it's too good to be true.
Help for pay equity
and for new books as well,
And into super classes,
I started to yell
When all of a sudden
I started to shake,
The laughter around me
had caused me to wake,
I should have known better;
That was only a dream.
It was silly to think
we'd be helped by this Preem.
He sits at Queen's Park knowing
he should give more,
But if he doesn't help soon
we'll have to show him the door,
So Premier Bob Rae
here's a message for you:
This Christmas don't forget
to give to old Western U.
UNITED WAY CAMPAIGN
Mr G. Wilson: I rise to congratulate the people of the Kingston area for not just meeting the target for the United Way drive this year but surpassing it. The figures are indeed impressive. The target was $1,475,000 and the amount donated by the end of the campaign was over $1.5 million. More is expected.
Of course, this result is especially pleasing at a time of such great need for the services of the 41 agencies in the communities of Kingston and Frontenac, Lennox and Addington counties. To have such success during tough times highlights the generosity of area residents.
One form of that generosity is the amount of time donated by the 36-member campaign cabinet and the more than 4,000 volunteers. The size of this team and its effectiveness are in part a testament to the past campaigns in our area that have not only raised large amounts of money but sharpened the skills of canvassers.
In commending everyone for the hard work and generosity, I would like to mention in particular the cabinet and its dynamic chairperson, Katherine Manley, most of whose waking moments this fall, and too many of the sleeping ones, were directed to this cause. Also tireless in their efforts in the campaign were executive director Peter Lea, campaign director Eyre Bien and labour staff representative Oliver Doyle.
I had the pleasure of attending an early morning meeting of the cabinet towards the end of the drive. Even though reaching the goal was in doubt, the atmosphere crackled with enthusiasm and confidence. It was, I believe, representative of a campaign that shows what good organization and goodwill can achieve in the face of daunting odds, and it certainly has led to a pleasing Christmas for the people in our area.
SERVICES FOR THE DISABLED
Mrs Fawcett: My statement is directed to the minister responsible for disability issues. I want to bring to her attention the plight of the Ontario Action Awareness Association, for which her government has cut funding, resulting in the end of their activities two weeks ago, on December 6.
Their mandate was to promote awareness and abilities of persons with disabilities and to take action on any issue pertaining to persons with disabilities and their families. The association has travelled across Ontario to spread its message, trying to break down the greatest barrier for persons with disabilities, namely attitude, which is achieved only through education.
The association still has a waiting list of more than 100 areas requesting tours and return visits. The Liberal government funded the association from April 1988 to March 1991. After a long delay in responding to their demand, the government funded them for only six months, which they stretched into nine by closing down June, July and August. It seems the minister does not believe the association's president, Beryl Potter, is advocate enough for persons with disabilities. She has only spent 20 years of her life on this. She has not even received an acknowledgement of her November 14, 1991, letter.
When will the minister start acting as an advocate for persons with disabilities by helping groups like the Ontario Action Awareness Association, instead of using the future advocacy bill as a mouthpiece?
Mr Cousens: Today I have the unique pleasure of ripping up an NDP membership card. Mr Joe Seguin of Windsor has sent me his card and authorized me to rip it up on the floor of the House. He says in his letter:
"I am not alone when I say that the provincial government body has fallen well short of not only its goals to improve the standard of living but moreover its promises made to the residents of Ontario during the last election. Honourable members, the fine people of Ontario are not stupid, as you make them out to be, most of us struggling day to day to make ends meet. We pay all taxes due without exception.
"It is time to stop the name-calling and childlike behaviour and act responsibly, with dignity and grace, and deal with the issues rather than taking the position that most grade school children do when they can't get their way. Grow up and stop spending my money like a kid in a candy store.
"I authorize you, Mr Donald Cousens, to tear up my NDP membership card on the floor of the House as a symbol to all government representatives. We the people are completely fed up with the bad policies and lack of responsibility that we have endured for the past 18 months."
I just want to take this special moment because I have never had it before in the House. I now tear up his card. I invite all NDP members to send me their cards and I will destroy them here in the House for them with great pleasure.
Mr Cooper: On October 24 of this year, I brought in a private member's resolution which asked the government of Ontario to promote the use of motorcycles. Several members opposite found this to be very frivolous.
I received a letter from the Bikers Rights Organization in Ontario, which wrote on behalf of more than 600,000 licensed motorcycle riders in this province. They wrote to tell me about the May program.
"In 1988, the Bikers Rights Organization, with co-operation from the other motorcycling groups in the province, began a public awareness program for the month of May. Locally, the program has received great response from the town councils that have been asked to proclaim May as Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month. Through mall displays and rides such as the Bikers Rights Organization provincial awareness ride from London to St Thomas -- over 500 people joined this run last year -- the public is reminded that motorcycles are back on the road and that they have a right to the same privileges as the car driver.
"The Look Twice Save a Life campaign is undoubtedly responsible in part for the reduction of motorcycle deaths since 1988. With such groups...across the province, this month-long campaign is proving to not only reduce accidents but also remove some of the misconceptions about bikers.
"A perfect example of the stereotyping that has caused discrimination towards the motorcycling public was made evident by the member for Simcoe West, Mr Jim Wilson. The referral to gangs invading someone's community and terrorizing the public wellbeing is beyond belief in this day and age. Indeed, the people of Fenelon Falls would be very surprised by this concept, when 10,000 bikers from every walk of life invaded the township during the annual Ride for Sight last June. In fact, the only problem reported by the police was from two local residents who attempted to drive after consuming too much alcohol. During a recession, the cash flow generated by 10,000 tourists was welcomed by the small community."
The Speaker: Before continuing with our routine proceedings, I would invite members of the House to join me in thanking our pages for the extremely fine work they have done on our behalf over the past four weeks. I know I speak on behalf of all the members when I say we are extremely proud of these young people and their contribution to our assembly. On your behalf, I wish them a very merry Christmas and a very happy new year, and hope they enjoy their holidays.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
NON-PROFIT HOUSING / LOGEMENTS A BUT NON LUCRATIF
Hon Ms Gigantes: It is with great pleasure that I report to the House on significant achievements in the production of non-profit and co-operative housing and the generation of tens of thousands of construction jobs across Ontario.
With the hard work and dedication of Ministry of Housing staff, three provincial non-profit housing programs -- Homes Now, Project 3000 and Project 3600 -- will have reached full delivery by the end of this year. These programs were designed to address the housing needs of low-income families, seniors and people with special needs.
Comme le savent les députés, la récession et la dévastation économique qu'elle a provoquée en Ontario ont eu de graves conséquences sur le marché du logement en Ontario. Notre gouvernement a profité de la réduction des prix des terrains et des coûts de construction pour produire plus de logements abordables et maintenir des emplois indispensables dans le domaine de la construction partout en Ontario.
In 1988 the previous government had begun an ambitious non-profit housing program, namely, the 30,000 units of Homes Now. When we became government, only 3,200 of the Homes Now units had actually received funding commitments.
We addressed this problem last spring. The approvals process was streamlined under my predecessor, the member for Windsor-Riverside, and 5,000 units were identified as suitable for rapid turnaround and awarded what we called "quick start" allocations under the Homes Now program. These and other efforts by Ministry of Housing staff and the non-profit and co-operative sector were enormously successful.
Today I am pleased to report that we have more than achieved our targets. Funds have been committed to sponsoring organizations for all the 30,000 units of Homes Now. Capitalizing on the current housing market conditions, our government will fund an additional 1,800 homes within the original budget amount. This means that by December 31, 1991, a total of 38,400 homes will be committed from the three programs.
In addition to these programs, our government announced the Ontario non-profit housing programs known as P10,000 -- they have wonderful titles for these programs -- in this year's budget. The first 3,500 units of P10,000 were allocated this fall, and it is our intention to allocate the remaining 6,500 units before the end of next spring.
In the one-year period between August 1991 and August 1992, we estimate that over 25,000 homes from all existing programs have come or will come under construction, and it is estimated that we will generate over 27,000 jobs in 1992. I repeat: over 25,000 homes and 27,000 jobs -- jobs for electricians, plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers and all those who work in related industries throughout Ontario. In fact, the construction of non-profit and co-operative housing accounts for more than one quarter of the total number of housing starts in the province of Ontario.
In our determination to help people during the recession, we will continue to work to ensure that more and more people have adequate, affordable shelter and we will continue to work to support workers and companies in the residential construction industry.
I am certainly glad to have been part of this effort. I would like to thank my predecessor within this government and previous ministers in other governments for the work they contributed to it.
Hon Mr Cooke: Today I am releasing a package of draft legislation that would make the decision-making process at the local level more open and the standards of municipal office clearer and more stringent. The draft legislation I am releasing for public consultation proposes significant reform in the areas of municipal conflict of interest, open meetings and the disposal of municipal lands.
I believe the current Municipal Conflict of Interest Act is unclear and unfair to both politicians and the people they serve. It is high time the legislation was strengthened and clarified.
Earlier this year, a conflict-of-interest consultation committee was asked to look at a broad range of issues, including what constituted an interest, how legislation should be enforced and how the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act could be expanded to include municipal staff. The committee's consultation included 24 public meetings held across the province last spring. The committee's report, released at the end of September, served as an excellent starting point for the legislation I am releasing today.
The new conflict-of-interest rules would require municipal councillors, school board trustees and public utility commissioners to disclose their assets, liabilities and sources of income upon assuming office.
I am pleased to report that the draft legislation responds to some of the comments and concerns I have received since the release of the committee's report.
In one area, the draft legislation will broaden the committee's recommendations on what is to be disclosed. Specifically, the draft legislation proposes that all assets, liabilities and sources of income be disclosed. But in response to some concerns about the impact of this section, we are proposing that the disclosure extend only to the existence of these assets and liabilities, not their value.
The draft legislation also proposes to limit the number of people obliged to disclose their assets, liabilities and sources of income. For example, disclosure would be limited to the member, his or her spouse, minor children and any companies owned by them. This is narrower than the committee's recommendations for the coverage, which included parents, siblings, adult children and children's spouses.
The draft legislation also proposes the establishment of a conflict-of-interest commission which would act on written complaints from the public. This central enforcement body would be created to relieve the electors of the sole responsibility for taking action against a councillor or a board member they believe has broken the rules.
Under the proposed changes, judges would have a wider range of penalties from which to choose once a breach of conflict has been proven.
The acceptance of gifts and benefits would be limited. As well, post-service employment would be restricted, so that for a period of six months councillors or board members would not be able to use their position or influence to gain employment with the council or board on which they served.
This package also includes draft legislation on open meetings. It is guided by the principle that people have the right to attend all municipal meetings. A limited list of exceptions would allow municipalities to discuss in private issues such as security, litigation and negotiations. The legislation would require council to establish meeting procedures in a procedural bylaw.
The third component of this open-government package is draft legislation establishing minimum standards for the sale of surplus municipal land.
Municipal councils have a large degree of autonomy in disposing of surplus property. There are no statutory requirements concerning municipal sales. In recent years, allegations of impropriety have brought into focus the whole process by which municipalities sell land. The draft legislation would require municipalities and local boards to adopt a fair and open process for the sale of land.
Members may recall that similar pieces of legislation on open meetings and disposal of municipal land were introduced more than a year ago but never passed. The legislation was widely circulated and many comments were received and reviewed in the process of drafting this legislation.
This package of draft legislation is being brought forward because of concerns that existing rules do not protect the public interest. Municipalities that already have rules more stringent than those proposed would be able to continue to apply those rules. This package of draft legislation recognizes the differences among municipalities and local boards. It permits municipalities a degree of local discretion in making additional meetings open to the public.
Governments have many increasingly complex decisions to make on behalf of the people who elect them. The public needs to know more about the efforts being made on its behalf by local governments across this province. Governments need to make greater efforts to show how all decisions are made, so that people can understand the difficult ones.
These are important issues and I encourage the public to comment on them before I introduce the final legislation in the spring.
I would like to indicate my appreciation to the previous Minister of Municipal Affairs, Mr Sweeney, who worked on the disposal of public lands as well as the legislation on open meetings. I also would like to thank the members of the committee who travelled the province to come up with the report a few months ago. The members of the committee are in the gallery today.
Ms Poole: I am pleased to respond to the statement of the Minister of Housing. I welcome the minister's announcement that we are going to be able to fund 1,800 more non-profit homes than originally intended. That is certainly welcome news. Now, with construction costs and the cost of land lowered, is the time to build. I agree with the minister on that.
I hope the minister will also give credit to the previous Liberal government, which provided the groundwork and much of the direction in the area of non-profit housing.
The minister has also stated that this is going to generate tens of thousands of new construction jobs. That is very important, because right now the construction industry is absolutely reeling from both the recession and this government's legislation. When we had Bill 4 hearings, we had people from the unions and the construction industry who estimated that up to 60% of their unemployment was being caused by Bill 4 and the fact that apartment renovation and construction had completely dried up.
I urge the government to look at some of the projects it has already approved and is currently engaged in to check and make sure we are getting full value for our dollar. I do not think we can afford approving renovations for rooming house units at $91,000 per unit. I do not think we can afford to spend $5 million in places like Wawa, which is reeling from the effects of the recession. The people in Wawa need jobs. They do not need 40 units of housing that is going to cost $5 million.
I hope the minister will take a look at some of these issues and take them into account.
Mr Mahoney: I find it interesting that at a time in the history of this government when it is having such difficulty defending some of its own ministers and some of the things they have done -- admitted telling lies and slandering Ontario physicians -- it would then turn around and find it appropriate to tell our municipal leaders how they should behave. It is really quite remarkable.
Instead of worrying about the municipalities, 98% of which already operate under most of these guidelines, 98% of which have open meetings and a full public process for their ratepayers to come in, 98% of which understand the rules under conflicts and obey them -- for a small percentage and issues like Fairbank Park. Instead of dealing with the rot that is setting in in this government, instead of coming clean with the people of this province and admitting they made a mistake and are going to remove that minister, they try to deflect everything and put it into some reannouncement of a reannouncement by the former government.
It clearly shows a complete lack of courage and a lack of understanding of what is important to the people in this province today. They are simply trying to pull the wool over our eyes once more.
What in essence the minister is doing today is reannouncing the review from the spring of 1991. Why does he not give us a bill we can bring into committee and debate and get our teeth into? Instead, we are going to have more consultation, more uncertainty, more confusion and perhaps even more Fairbank Park situations. We are not sure. Now they are simply announcing a review of their review, which was a review of the Liberal legislation that was supported by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
Hon Mr Cooke: It's not true.
Mr Mahoney: The minister says it is not true. Of course it is true. That is exactly what it is. AMO has come out and said it is very supportive of the former Liberal government's legislation and would like to see some movement on it. They want to see some rules they can understand and work by which can be universal across this province and not simply leave it to the good municipalities which understand what is going on.
The other thing I suggest is that the second review, which was their review of our bill which died on the order paper, outlined that there would be some reference to municipal staff. I see no reference to municipal staff. I share the comments from Hansard of the Premier when he was the Leader of the Opposition:
"I find it incomprehensible that the government would be talking about a coherent approach to the conflict of interest within a municipality without being able to answer clearly in the affirmative what conflict of interest rules, if any, should apply to municipal staff. It is difficult for me to understand, for example, how somebody who has a role in planning and development would not be clearly covered by conflict of interest rules and guidelines."
That was the current Premier then. It is not in their current draft, as far as we can see in this release. We suggest they are just wasting our time instead of dealing with the real business of this province.
Mrs Marland: In responding to the Minister of Housing, I would like to place on the record that the Progressive Conservative Party believes it is the responsibility of the provincial government to do everything possible to ensure that Ontarians have adequate and decent housing.
The irony of the statement from the Minister of Housing today is the fact that she is up on her feet announcing how many jobs her announcement is going to provide while she chose to ignore 4,000 people who attended a rally here about a month ago who were complaining about her rent control legislation that put them out of work. These are the same people she is referring to today: the plumbers, electricians, contractors and bricklayers. All the people she is now giving jobs to today she ignored a month ago and continues to ignore with the passage of Bill 121, which puts all the people who presently own rental accommodation out of business in this province. If this government would manage the economy, of course, it would not need to be in the housing business.
While we talk about government being in the housing business, I think it is important to recognize that the grandiose programs of non-profit housing really mean non-profit for the taxpayer but profit for everybody else. We are looking, by 1995, at $1 billion in subsidy for operating costs, not counting the capital cost of building these programs. For $60 per taxpayer we can look after 310,000 core need households, but this government is spending $1,000 per taxpayer where $60 per taxpayer would do. It is not a wise use of government money.
Mr Eves: I want to respond briefly to the Minister of Municipal Affairs' statement. I would like to quote, "Our aim with this open-government package is to make the decision-making process at the local level more open."
That is very interesting, seeing as how the government members were whipped in committee this week to prevent the committee looking into Bill 143, GTA garbage going to the community of Kirkland Lake, whose mayor, Joe Mavrinac, happens to be in the gallery today. I am sure he would be interested to hear about the more open government preaching at the local level, but we who are telling the local government officials what they have to do, do not plan on doing it ourselves. We are closed here at Queen's Park.
Mr B. Murdoch: I would like to speak on this paper the Minister of Municipal Affairs gave us today. I cannot believe he would bring things in like this. He is going to gut the municipal counties and councils in rural Ontario. A lot of people will not even make enough money to do all this red tape he is talking about. I cannot believe it. Then he has the audacity to set up a commission that they are going to have to pay for. I cannot believe this government is again going to download on the municipalities. All the government members seem to be able to do is download all their mistakes on to the municipalities.
Mr Stockwell: A brief comment on the announcement by the Minister of Municipal Affairs: It is literally the same as taking a howitzer to kill a fly. Most municipalities live by conflict-of-interest guidelines and they are well within their bounds. It is very unreasonable, I suggest, to go to all the municipalities and force these kinds of conflict-of-interest guidelines. The member just said there is a significant number of elected officials out there who will not even make as much money as it would cost to operate this commission or the board that is going to investigate them.
It is simply a case of an overreaction by this government, because municipalities do follow the conflict-of-interest guideline rules laid down today.
The other point -- it was made very clear by one of the previous speakers -- is that it seems incredible that the Minister of Municipal Affairs can dictate to local councils how they should manage their affairs when it comes to conflict-of-interest guidelines and appropriate actions they take as elected members, when the Premier has a member in his cabinet -- and he wrote these rules -- who has admitted to lying and slandering a doctor in this province. The Premier wrote the rules and he cannot even live by his own rules.
Government members think they are so mighty that they can suggest to municipalities how they should act. Let's be thankful that our local municipalities do not act like the government members here today, or we would be in one very fine mess.
Mr Miclash: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The Minister of Northern Development and Mines was in Kenora and made a beautiful announcement that Kenora was going to receive the Dash-8 service. This is after she said for a number of weeks that we were not going to receive that service. Today we have heard a difference announcement and I really expected a statement --
The Speaker: To the member for Kenora, he does not have a point of order.
Mr Bradley: I have a question for the Deputy Premier and Treasurer regarding the announcement that was predicted, I think, in this House a few weeks ago when I asked the Premier similar questions about the future of the automotive industry.
The Treasurer has gone through the process, as the member for Nickel Belt, that I and others who represent auto-making centres in the province of Ontario are going through, of looking at the very worried faces of people within the community; in his case the mineral extraction and the forestry industry, in this case the auto industry.
The Deputy Premier and Treasurer has had an opportunity to reflect upon that announcement. Could he inform the House what specific regulations, legislation and policies he is thinking of abandoning, altering or postponing as a result of this announcement, in addition to the Premier's suggestion yesterday that the government would -- I do not mean to be inflammatory in saying this -- capitulate to General Motors on the issue of pensions which he felt so strongly about back in 1988-89? I know he felt strongly about it then. The fact that he has capitulated is very significant in understanding the importance of this. Could the Treasurer illuminate us?
Hon Mr Laughren: First of all, I want to draw some distance between the action of this government on the pension regulation change. That has been in the works for about six months now, because it is fairly complex, and was not directly related to the announcement yesterday. I want to make that clear because I think there has been some misunderstanding about that.
Second, as the member opposite will know -- and he is quite right to draw parallels between communities, because I live in a community that was devastated in the early 1980s with massive layoffs. I know what it puts a community through.
The restructuring General Motors is going through is not directed at the province of Ontario; it is a North American restructuring. There might be some impact in Ontario, and, as the member opposite knows, we do not know what that will be, but I have not heard anyone say that the restructuring, when it does affect Ontario, as I assume some of it will, is because of any particular policies of this government or any particular tax rules we have. As a matter of fact, most observers would comment on the productivity of the Canadian workforce, in this case, the Ontario workforce, and how competitive our health care system, for example, makes producing cars in this province.
Mr Bradley: As a supplementary, the member has appropriately pointed out that the only factor the auto-making companies take into consideration is not any specific government, but it is an important component nevertheless. We will leave to the union and the company that aspect which belongs to the union and company to talk about, in terms of productivity and so on.
What I want to ask the Treasurer, however, is a question I asked his Premier a couple of weeks ago and, I have stated on many occasions in this House, I asked the Premier earlier this week.
Upon reflection now, and recognizing that the general business atmosphere in the province does have an influence on where the actual cuts or closures are going to take place, would the Treasurer indicate to the House whether he is now seriously considering withdrawing the tax on automobiles in the province of Ontario, which in fact may not yield him all that much money but has a very symbolic effect? Would he remove the sales tax on automobiles sold in the province to spur the economy in that sector?
Hon Mr Laughren: I am not absolutely certain whether the leader of the official opposition is referring to the fuel conservation tax or whether he is specifically referring only to the retail sales tax.
Mr Bradley: Both the tax on the auto workers and the other one.
Hon Mr Laughren: I see. I am surprised that the leader of the official opposition, as a former Minister of the Environment, affectionately known as a "crusading" Minister of the Environment at the time, particularly by the business community, as I recall, would even hint that we might withdraw a fuel conservation tax, which of course has an impact on the environment. I am surprised he would even hint at that.
Nevertheless, I do understand, and I do not respond in this way to be at all provocative. I respond in this way simply to put it into perspective. The leader of the official opposition would perhaps do better, in my opinion, to concentrate on retail sales tax rather than the fuel conservation tax. At this time, no, we have no plans to reduce, lower or eliminate that particular tax.
Mr Bradley: Taking into consideration the fact that the Treasurer understands that by spurring the sale of new automobiles in the province he would put on the highways and the roads of this province automobiles which are more fuel-efficient and which have better emission controls, I expect he would be removing that tax and the sales tax. But that is not my question.
My question goes on to talk about hydro rates. Everyone in the province would recognize that for hydro rates, the actual cost of production is one component. The other is the social component the minister's government has embarked upon.
There are many people in industry -- I was looking at a newspaper which talked about foundries, for instance. In view of the fact that we could see a circumstance where foundries, heat-treating processes, electroplating and forge shops and operations of that kind could virtually withdraw from the province -- and some of those operations are part of General Motors operations -- would the Treasurer implore his cabinet and his Premier to abandon the policy of using Ontario Hydro -- I am not saying he cannot use other economic tools he has; I think he recognizes that -- as a bailout for various areas in the province? That policy is reflected in a rate which is going higher and higher, and it is another factor that General Motors and its suppliers must take into consideration when investing in the province.
Hon Mr Laughren: I do see the rather tenuous link between Ontario Hydro rates and General Motors. I remind the member that we did not at any point in time direct Ontario Hydro to engage in any social policy in a willy-nilly kind of way. There had to be a very direct link between Ontario Hydro and the problem we were trying to resolve, whether it was Kapuskasing or the problems at Elliot Lake, because Elliot Lake had become almost a creature of Ontario Hydro.
I must say, when I was looking at the proposed hydro rate increases, I scratched my head and thought, "What in the world is leading to these substantial increases at Ontario Hydro?"
Mr Bradley: Your policies.
Hon Mr Laughren: I point out to the member opposite that I believe almost half of the increase in Ontario Hydro rates comes from the capital cost of the nuclear programs in this province. Finally, because I know the members are getting edgy, surely to goodness the member opposite understands that Ontario Hydro must pay its way and must pay for the cost of those huge developments that have taken place in the nuclear field.
Mr Conway: My question today is for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. I want the minister, as an honourable member of this Legislature addressing honourable members of all parties, once again to help me understand what she wants her honourable colleagues to believe happened two weeks ago tonight in Thunder Bay.
I want to ask the honourable lady again to tell this honourable House what she expects us to believe as to what happened two weeks ago tonight when she, as an honourable minister apparently of sound mind and long experience, went to a public place and completely out of the air, just completely out of a fantastic imagination, plucked a story that just happened to impugn the integrity of an Ontario doctor and that just happened to bear a coincidental relationship to a very active public debate in her own community.
Hon Miss Martel: I would be pleased to repeat again to this House, in the same manner as I have in the last two weeks, the incidents of that night. I had a very stressful day and a number of controversial meetings. At a reception, in the midst of a private conversation with a very small number of people, I made some statements which were unfounded and which were not based on fact. I lost my temper. I regret very much that I did that, but I did. I think I have taken every action I can to respond to that in this House and in public.
Mr Conway: So the honourable lady in this honourable place wants honourable members on all sides to believe that she, just out of whole cloth, imagined in the heat of that moment a story that just happened to impugn the integrity of an Ontario doctor and that just strangely bore a rather significant relationship to a very heated public debate in which she was actively involved for several days in her own community. This honourable lady also wants to have honourable members in this honourable House believe that having made all that up, three days later when the honourable lady found that there was a fairly strong reaction to what she had said, she initiated an apology, saying that it was without foundation. She apologized profusely for all that she had done in the stress and heat of that moment.
Hon Miss Martel: I am not sure what else I can add, other than what I have been saying over the last eight days to the honourable members in this House and to the public. I became involved in a very heated discussion and I lost my temper. I wish I had not, but I did. I was travelling at the time. I was right across northwestern Ontario at a number of events. The moment I got back to Toronto on Sunday morning, I spent a good part of that day contacting those who had been involved, contacting them directly, speaking to them directly, ensuring that they knew the comments I had made were not founded in fact and apologizing profusely for the comments I had made.
Mr Conway: I would finally ask my honourable friend the Minister of Northern Development whether she can appreciate how her friends and colleagues around this chamber, particularly those who have known her over the years -- can she appreciate how in this honourable place honourable members, in the face of all that has happened and what information has come forward, might conclude that an untruth was told but that an untruth was not offered in Thunder Bay; that a truth was told in Thunder Bay and that an untruth has been told at another time and in another place?
Hon Miss Martel: I have said very clearly that the comments I made were not founded in fact. I am not sure why the member does not understand that or does not want to accept that, but that is the fact.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Miss Martel: That is why I contacted those who were directly involved, to ensure that they very clearly understood that. I have offered my apologies. I have done what I think is necessary to respond to the situation, and now I would like to get on with dealing with matters in northern Ontario.
Mr Eves: To the honourable Minister of Northern Development: Earlier I asked the Premier when he became aware of the circumstances. He said he had a brief telephone conversation with the minister, but really the first opportunity he had to discuss this matter with her in some detail -- and in fact did discuss the matter with her in some detail -- was Monday, December 9.
I presume during that meeting the Premier made it quite clear to the minister what his standards and guidelines of conduct were and what the penalties would be for breaching such guidelines. Is the minister now aware of what the penalties would be and what the Premier's guidelines are?
Hon Miss Martel: During the course of that conversation with the Premier we talked very clearly about what I had done. I made him very much aware of what I had done. We agreed we would continue on from here.
Mr Eves: Without being too sarcastic, I am surprised I did not get a weather report of Venezuela, because that has nothing to do with the question that was asked either. The minister should give me a break.
I want to read to the Minister of Northern Development a definition in section 298(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada. "A defamatory libel is matter published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published."
I suggest to the minister that she has done everything in this section verbally instead of publishing it. Would she or would she not agree?
Hon Miss Martel: No, I would not agree. I have said very clearly to all members of this House what I have done and what efforts I have made to rectify that situation, and that I would like very much to get on to dealing with some very important matters that are happening in northern Ontario.
The Speaker: Order. The member for Parry Sound has the floor.
Mr Eves: The honourable minister has said as recently as a few moments ago that she knowingly said something that was untrue and totally without foundation in fact. In fact, she said she verbally did exactly what section 298(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada says you cannot do when you publish.
Section 300 of the same Criminal Code of Canada says, "Everyone who publishes a defamatory libel that he knows is false is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years." What is the Premier's penalty for the same thing that she did verbally?
Hon Miss Martel: We have gone through this many times in this House.
Mr Eves: If it is a newspaper to the public, if you libel and slander somebody, you go to jail for five years. If you are in Bob Rae's cabinet, you apologize.
The Speaker: Would the member for Parry Sound come to order, please.
Hon Miss Martel: We have spent many days on this issue and I appreciate that. I have made every effort I can to respond to the members of the opposition, outlining to them very clearly what happened and what I have done in order to respond. I have done all of that in this House. I have been as public as I can about that and I do not think there is much more I can add to the question the member has raised.
Mr Harris: The minister is right. If the Premier lets her do whatever she wants, then why not do it? If that is the attitude, who cares?
Mr Harris: My question is to the Minister of Labour. In just under three weeks the minister's travelling road show on Bob Rae, Bob Mackenzie and Bob White's labour proposals will begin. Let's face it: This process is viewed by everybody except the bosses of the unions as a sham. It is nothing more than a smoke-and-mirrors attempt to legitimize paying back his union cronies. In fact, the leadership of the Ontario Federation of Labour is so thrilled with the minister's plans that it has organized seminars to help him fight his battle.
How can the minister legitimately call this consultation, when not one proposal from business will be discussed, not one proposal from the ordinary rank-and-file union members will be discussed and not one proposal from non-union working men and women across this province will be on the table to be discussed?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: I would like to respond to the leader of the third party. I am not sure where he is getting his information. It is no more correct than some of the other information that is coming out about the Ontario labour relations process.
First off, I do not know why he calls it The Three Bobs Show. I do not think the Premier is on the road and I do not think Bob White is on the road. The minister is on the road, and I will answer to it.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Mackenzie: We have no objection to a fundamental disagreement in the direction government wants to take between us and the Conservatives, but I would like the leader of the third party to seriously think of the damage he is doing by his slanderous remarks about bosses of the union movement.
Mr Harris: I can understand, when I attribute these proposals to the minister, his thinking that is slander. I would not want to be associated with these proposals. If he thinks that is slanderous, I am sorry.
The minister talks about a philosophical difference between me and my party and him and his party. I agree. But I am not talking about my party. I am talking about business. I am talking about working men and women. I am talking about union members.
Can the minister explain to me two things? First, why was the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology ordered not to send the proposals out to business when it wanted to do so, so business would know about the hearings and have the proposals? That we have confirmed. That is not slanderous. They were ordered. Second, why is it when in the recent poll 89% of union members -- not Bob White, not the bosses who have all the power with him, but the members, the working men and women, the ones I and my party are fighting for --
The Speaker: I am so grateful that neither side is trying to be provocative.
Mr Harris: When 89% of the union members want a secret ballot for certification, why is that proposal not on the table?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: I cannot understand the position of the leader of the third party in his absolute dislike, it seems -- although at certain times he wants to claim some connection with union members in the province. There was no deliberate preventing of any of the documents going out once we had reached the time we were prepared to send those documents out. Anybody can get a figure of 80%, 90% or 100%, depending on how he asks the questions.
The Speaker: The member for Parry Sound, please come to order.
Mr Harris: In spite of the fact close to 90% of union workers want a secret ballot for certification, the minister refuses to put that on the table. He really does not seem to realize and understand that his plans are already having a devastating effect on jobs in this province. The two propaganda pieces he recently released do not even address the loss of jobs or investment or investor confidence. I suggest to him that it is time to put payback time and his ideology aside. It is time for real consultation. It is time indeed, as all his rhetoric says, to bring business and labour together, not to drive them further apart.
I ask the minister again, will he invite business to put its proposals on the table? Will he invite working men and women who are union members -- not the Bob Whites, the union members -- to put their proposals on the table, such as 64% of union members agree that even if a majority of workers at a company want to belong to a union, membership should include only those who want to be in the union? Those are the union members. Will the minister put that on the table, because that is what they believe and that is what they want -- not me, not big business, not non-union members, but union members?
The Speaker: Would the leader conclude his question, please.
Mr Harris: Will the minister put the proposals of working men and women and business on the table before he starts the sham of consultation on only the proposals brought forward by Bob White?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: I would like to touch on what I think were the three components of the leader of the third party's question.
One, I find it a little strange that he would suggest we deliberately deny the role of the elected leadership of trade union members in their locals.
Two, I would like to point out that the requirement for a no vote that is currently in the present legislation came, as far as I remember, from a Conservative government of Ontario and has not been changed in an awfully long time.
Third, in a very serious vein, I would like to suggest it is time the third party took a look at developing a constructive dialogue between business and labour, which we are trying to do, and not lead with all these provocative statements.
The Speaker: Will the member for Oakville South come to order.
Mr Stockwell: You guys have no right to lecture anybody. You've got liars and slanderers in the cabinet and you've got no right to slander anybody. I said "liars and slanderers." Want me to spell it?
The Speaker: Order, the member for Etobicoke West.
Mr Stockwell: I said "liars and slanderers."
The Speaker: Would the member for Etobicoke West in a calmer moment consider the language which was used. I think he will agree it was not parliamentary and I would ask him to withdraw those remarks.
Mr Stockwell: I was just speaking to the point that the Minister of Northern Development admitted that she lied --
The Speaker: Order. Would the member sit down. I would ask all members in the House to come to order.
The Speaker: I would draw to the attention of all members of the House, especially for those members who are new to the House, that when asked to withdraw a remark, it is our practice and procedure and has been for a long-standing time that the member simply indicate if he or she is withdrawing the remark. No explanation is required.
Mr Stockwell: I will withdraw.
The Speaker: I appreciate the member's approach.
Mr Beer: My question is to the Deputy Premier and Treasurer. It concerns the government's financial priorities regarding children.
The minister will no doubt have seen in the paper this morning, "One Million Children in Poverty." The government, in its Agenda for People, set out, in talking about children in poverty, that the New Democrats would "increase social assistance rates to ensure that social assistance provides a real safety net for those who must rely on it in the short term, and that for those who must rely on social assistance, the amounts given permit them to lead lives of dignity and certainty." That is a quote from the Agenda for People.
We know that the one group in particular that has suffered under this government, the one group in particular that the government at each turn in the road has chosen not to help, is children and children in poverty. The Treasurer will know that in Metropolitan Toronto over 140,000 people use food banks, and in Ontario over 150,000 children depend on food banks.
What is the Deputy Premier and Treasurer going to do specifically to assist children in poverty and what is his time plan to get rid of food banks in this province?
Hon Mr Laughren: I will refer that important question to the Minister of Community and Social Services.
Hon Mrs Boyd: I thank the member for his question. He has voiced a concern that a lot of us have and that certainly this government has.
In the past year we have taken the position of doing a number of different measures to try and increase the family income for those people who are social assistance recipients so they will be more able to purchase the nutrition needed. In a debate held a couple of weeks ago, several members of our party indicated our interest in looking at the initiative of a child nutrition program in the schools. The Minister of Education, the Minister of Health, the Premier and I have had discussions about this and this is certainly an area in which we want to go.
We do not believe that the general existence of food banks, as they exist now, is the route to go because they are Band-Aiding a dreadful problem. We believe we need a much more creative process than that and we are working towards a policy decision to support that.
Mr Beer: I am sure all the children who have to go to food banks would be delighted to hear the rhetoric from the minister. We have had now almost a year and a half of this government with little or no action taken to directly help children.
The minister herself announced that there would be but a 2% increase in the basic allowance, well below the rate of inflation. Even when you include the amount for shelter it is still, for the first time in six years, below the inflation rate. What the children of this province need is direct help and assistance, not talk about maybe setting up a nutrition program, not talk about further intergovernmental committees.
Where has the resolve of the New Democrats in opposition gone when it comes to putting real help into the mouths and the hands of children? Will the minister give us a timetable today for when she will end food banks and how specifically she is going to help children who are in poverty?
Hon Mrs Boyd: I find it interesting that a former Minister of Community and Social Services, who was minister at a time when food banks were growing at a great rate, would take this kind of tack.
I am not going to try to give the member a definite date in terms of a timetable. That is not the way we are working on this. We are working together with the communities to try and plan a comprehensive program.
Over the last two years the increases we have made in social assistance, including the Back on Track proposals that came in October 1, are well over the inflation rate. What we have tried to do is stop the slip year program that used to exist. We are planning forward in terms of the cost of living, and it is our belief that over the next year we need the flexibility in our budget that is provided by giving a rather minimal across-the-board raise so we can do the rest of the reports in the program.
The Speaker: Will the member for Oriole please come to order.
Mr Turnbull: My question is to the Minister of Government Services. Last week he announced the establishment of a new $1-million propaganda service dubbed by one of the press pundits as 1-800-NDP-CHAT. One million dollars was found for this exercise in political self-service when other valuable services could have been rendered with this money. For example, $1 million would pay for 103 subsidized child care spaces for one year or the annual cost of educating 160 schoolchildren or 40 heart operations or reforesting 625 hectares of land.
My question to the minister is, at a time when the public service is under tremendous financial pressure, how could he justify spending $1 million in this phone PR scam?
Hon F. Wilson: We made a commitment to the people of Ontario when we took office, a continuing commitment to consult truly and openly. The process we put into effect last Saturday is part of that consultative effort, bringing together 13 consultative processes under one program. It is very cost-effective and very efficient and will give the people of Ontario the opening to the government we promised them. True consultation is a two-way process. It is not enough for a government to continually tell its people what will be and how it will be. They must solicit opinion, they must solicit expertise and they must solicit guidance from the people. We have done this and we have proved it on many occasions.
As far as the cost is concerned, had we done this process under a different guise, all ministries or commissions doing their own process, it would have cost much more money instead of the $977,000.
Mr Turnbull: I presume that the Premier is sharing this example of his government's spending priorities with the first ministers today. In announcing this $1-million hoax the minister said, "Listening to the views and concerns of the people of Ontario is a vital part of how this government creates public policy." I will tell the minister that I am hearing and all the members on this side of the House are hearing from the people that they are concerned about the high taxes and stupid spending of the government. How on earth can he be listening when he is exercising this exercise in self-promotion?
Hon F. Wilson: What can I say? I am sorry the member opposite takes that attitude, but I can understand it coming from the party to which consultation really means, "Don't give them anything they can't take." I will say it one last time. We made a promise to the people of Ontario to consult in an open and thorough fashion and that is exactly what we are doing and what we will continue to do in spite of the brandishments from opposite.
Mr Turnbull: You're not listening to the people.
The Speaker: The member for York Mills, come to order.
Mr Turnbull: You people are disgusting. There are food banks and yet you're spending more on this.
The Speaker: Member for York Mills, come to order, please.
CHILD CARE CENTRES
Mr Malkowski: My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. I have received many inquiries at my constituency office in York East regarding this government's child care conversion strategy. Several for-profit operators have expressed interest in this strategy and want to know how they change the status of their child care centre. Could the minister inform the House when and how this strategy will be implemented?
Hon Mrs Boyd: We need to enter into some discussions with the non-profit and for-profit sectors around the exact guidelines of the conversion. We have indicated what the general outlines will be and have indicated that early in January, I believe the date is January 7, we will be having a meeting with the child care reference group somewhat expanded to include other representatives of the for-profit community so that we can work out how the exact guidelines will go.
I indicated previously in the House that we need to be fairly flexible because of the different circumstances the different child care centres have in terms of this policy. It will be a highly targeted policy, so we will need to be planning with communities in a very careful way about meeting the needs for child care in specific communities.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Malkowski: My supplementary question is, how does this child care conversion plan fit in with the longer-term child care system this government is working towards?
Hon Mrs Boyd: It is important for us as a province to look at a way to rationalize and streamline the provision of child care if we are going to expand it the way this government intends to. We see that the provision of quality licensed child care is essential if we are going to have an equitable policy of employment and an increase in job availability.
Mrs Caplan: Seventy million dollars could have set up six province-wide breakfast programs -- breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Speaker: Order. The member for Oriole, please come to order.
Hon Mrs Boyd: As we move towards that, we are taking the position that we need to spend our dollars, which we agree are not sufficient, in a non-profit sector as opposed to allowing those public dollars to be lost in profits to the private sector.
Mr Mahoney: I am sure the Minister of Northern Development and Mines will be delighted to see the third question in a row going to the Minister of Community and Social Services, and that is where I would like to direct my question. With regard to the minister's announced cuts in credit counselling right across the province, many of us have received correspondence from across the province from people --
The Speaker: Order. Would the member continue with his question.
Mr Mahoney: Many of us have received correspondence from people concerned about the callous treatment this service has received by the minister. I would just like to share with the minister some of the concerns from an individual who is unemployed.
"One of the reasons the Honourable Marion Boyd gave for withdrawing government funding of credit counselling was that it is not a humanitarian service in a real sense. Isn't giving a man back his dignity and self-worth humanitarian?"
A single mother of a four-year-old boy who is on her own trying to raise this youngster, the biggest problems being financial, said to the minister: "You say this is not a social service -- in my eyes this is one of the most important social services going on."
The Speaker: Would the member place a question, please?
Mr Mahoney: Another individual said credit counselling involvement has taken the stress and anxiety out of not knowing what to do and helped this individual get back on her feet. She said to me, "The credit counselling program staff were like lifesavers." I have countless letters.
The Speaker: Would the member place a question, please?
Mr Mahoney: The minister says this is not a social service. She is just ignoring it. Can she please justify how she can say to all those people who are dealing with the stress and anxiety of the financial pressures they are facing in this recession -- how she can justify cutting their hearts out and taking away this very important program from them?
Hon Mrs Boyd: This government certainly agrees that people need assistance in terms of their debt management. We also believe, and indeed so do many others in governments across this country including the federal government, that creditors are responsible frequently, in terms of the way in which they hold out great promises and encourage people to go into debt, certainly credit card companies, etc. There is a need for those creditors to be providing some of these services.
The federal bankruptcy bill, which we expected to be in force by now, certainly provides and requires for that kind of assistance to be given by creditors. We were hoping that the federal bankruptcy bill would be in place by the time this program had to be discontinued, but given the cutoff of Canada assistance plan funds, we have had to cut out all non-mandatory programs under the Canada assistance plan, which the debt counselling is to be funded under. It is no longer matched by federal funds.
We are going to work with those agencies, as we promised at the time of the announcement, to try and replace the service with those by the creditor agencies.
Mr Mahoney: You can imagine, Mr Speaker, when we have credit cards charging 18% to 24%, that they are now going to turn around and become socially conscious agencies and organizations and show a great bleeding heart in an attempt to help these people who have been so desperate. With what is she thinking when she actually thinks they are going to do that, and if that is the minister's goal, why not attack that particular problem and work with the financial institutions and talk to them instead of putting the burden on the backs of the people who are on the verge of bankruptcy?
If the NDP have truly thrown out their social conscience, why do they not look at it from the point of view of cost benefit? Let me share with the House: 20,000 cases in Ontario in 1990-91; $40 million returned to the economy through orderly payment of debt arrangements by credit counselling. That is $40 million.
The Speaker: And the supplementary?
Mr Mahoney: A large proportion of that would come back to the Treasury in the form of taxation revenue. This government had to put in $1.9 million in subsidies last year.
The Speaker: Would the member place his supplementary.
Mr Mahoney: I suggest that if they did a cost-benefit analysis they would find out that the tax revenue was substantially more than the money they invested. On top of that, they would help the people who desperately need the help.
The Speaker: Would the member please conclude his supplementary.
Mr Mahoney: I am sorry, Mr Speaker. If the minister has decided to ignore her social responsibilities, will she at least look at the fiscal responsibilities, reinstate this cost-benefit program and help the people who need her help?
Hon Mrs Boyd: Mr Speaker, I would like to request that you look at the timing of that question and report back to the House.
In answer to the member's question, no, I do not intend to reinstate the service, but we are working with the debt counselling agencies and those who are concerned in order to attempt to have a service provided. We agree that the people who have offered it have offered a good service. That is not in question. Our question is what we can afford to pay and how we can afford to pay for services in this time of recession. Our decision is that we are going to attempt to find other ways to fund this -- through the creditor agencies, as the federal government has suggested.
Mr Mahoney: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The minister requested that you look at the time of the question. When we sit here and listen to the pontificating and the time the members opposite take to make their answers, I find it absolutely unacceptable that the minister requested that you look at the time.
The Speaker: Would the member take his seat, please. To both members, I keep a close watch on the clock. All members are advised that in order to get as many people as possible in question period, members should keep their questions short and to the point --
Mr Mahoney: How about the answers?
The Speaker: -- and the responses short as well.
Mrs Marland: My question is for the Minister of Housing. Last Friday the Cambridge Non-Profit Housing Corp paid $1.2 million, or $228,571 per acre, to purchase a property known as the Wolfe farm. A year ago, that property was appraised at $1.1 million. It is probably the only piece of land in Cambridge to gain 9.1% in this past year of devastating recession.
Jeannie Homes, the company that developed the adjoining neighbourhood, had last right of refusal to that land, but could not compete with "government intervention into the marketplace at prices exceeding current market value," to quote the company's president, Mr Colin Ager.
The Cambridge Non-Profit Housing Corp recently bought another property, on Anglerock Drive, at an even higher price, $358,000 per acre -- a ridiculous amount in the present economy.
The taxpayers of Ontario got bad deals on both these properties. Why are there no controls in the provincial non-profit housing program to ensure that non-profit corporations do not pay more than market value when they purchase land?
Hon Ms Gigantes: I am not familiar with the cases the member is raising. There are definitely guidelines within the operation of our non-profit housing programs to ensure that the cost of land is reasonable and comes within the maximum unit price when built. I will be glad to look into the two cases the member raises and report back.
Mrs Marland: The minister would only have to know about one. In fact, this is happening in a number of the proposals across this province. When the taxpayers of this province will be paying more than $1 billion by 1995 to operate 115,000 units, it is getting to be a very serious concern.
Returning to the situation in Cambridge, there is one other question of many that needs to be answered. We must wonder if there is a need for a new non-profit housing unit being planned there at all. I have an ad here for vacancies in two other non-profit housing complexes in the same area. Another disturbing fact is that because of the end-of-year deadline for government funding, the non-profit corporation was allowed to circumvent the planning process which would have been required of a private developer.
Will the minister promise today to undertake an audit of the Cambridge Non-Profit Housing Corp and will she refer the process by which non-profit corporations acquire and develop land to the Sewell Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario?
Hon Ms Gigantes: I draw to the member's attention that I was able to report earlier today to the Legislature that the cost of lands that have been acquired by non-profit and co-op housing groups over the last year has been so much lower than anybody in this Legislature expected that we have been able to allocate more units under the existing housing programs than we had expected.
I will be glad to take a look at the particular cases the member raises, but she should understand that all the regulations that apply to any kind of housing project in this province apply to non-profit. In many cases, non-profit and co-op housing projects have run into the same kinds of delays and difficulties as private housing projects. We are working to try to straighten out that difficulty, because it is our objective to provide as much affordable housing as possible in Ontario.
GREATER TORONTO AREA
Mr Mills: I am going to ask a sensible question, because it is for my constituents.
The Speaker: To whom is your question directed?
Mr Mills: I beg your pardon, Mr Speaker. My question is for the minister responsible for the greater Toronto area. My riding of Durham East is beset by many of the issues that will be addressed in the long-term strategic planning exercise which her ministry is addressing. There are pressures for urban development on scarce farm lands and green lands, improved human resources and transportation. Can the minister tell me how the GTA progress report will affect Durham East and my constituents?
Hon Mrs Grier: The progress report the member refers to is a report called Growing Together, which is essentially a consensus of discussion that has occurred over the past year, focused around reports initiated by the previous government: the urban concept study; the Crombie commission, which is the federal initiative for looking at green planning in the GTA; and the green land study.
The consensus that has come back from various municipalities and participants in that discussion has identified very clearly the need to take an ecosystem approach to planning in the GTA over the next 30 years, to address the need to manage growth as the population grows to an estimated six million and to identify the opportunities for economic renewal as well as for the provision of human services.
The issues the member raises as being important for Durham East are very much issues that are being debated and will have to be addressed as we look forward to growth-management planning and strategic studies for the greater Toronto area.
Mr Mills: Does the minister see the focus on this as co-operative with the municipalities involved? Would she give me a word on that, please?
Hon Mrs Grier: This has been very much a co-operative effort. I am pleased to be able to tell the member there are now six working groups comprised of both provincial and municipal officials who are looking at the various issues: how to develop without extending urban sprawl, how to apply the ecosystem approach to the preservation of green lands, how to look at the human resources in transportation and economic development that are required across the GTA. As a result of that consultation, we will have a working document early in the new year which can be available to the people in this area, because we very much want to involve not just municipalities but citizens and citizens' groups in the GTA as we go forward to plan the future of what is a very vibrant and healthy area, but an area that will have to make significant changes over the next few years.
Mr Miclash: My question is to the Attorney General. It is about NDP intimidation and abuse of power. He is going to want to listen very closely. There is a very important institution in Fort Frances called the United Native Friendship Centre. The centre is dependent on government support to offer its programs and services.
This week, and I find this hard to believe, the centre received a very disturbing call from the Attorney General's constituency assistant, Ms Mainville, asking that the centre write a letter of support to the Minister of Northern Development.
When the centre refused to be bullied into this goodwill extortion, it received another phone call from the Attorney General's personal assistant, Ms Fisher, here in Toronto. She confirmed that the Attorney General wanted the centre to write this letter of support for the disgraced Minister of Northern Development.
I must ask the Attorney General, why did he instruct his staff to extract this letter of support from the Native Friendship Centre, and does he think this type of activity is proper, given that his offices may well be involved in future investigations of this affair?
Hon Mr Hampton: This is the first I have heard of this matter. Although it has nothing to do with the Ministry of the Attorney General, I will certainly inquire at my constituency office to see if anyone has had any discussions with anyone. I find that hard to believe, but I will give the member an undertaking to inquire to see if the facts he alleges have any truth to them.
Mr Miclash: Is the Attorney General calling me a liar? I believe the people from northern Ontario who called me with these facts. He knows Mr Bruyere; he is not a liar either.
The minister's response just talks of the intimidation and arrogance we in northwestern Ontario are trying so hard to avoid. The real part of the whole scheme to extract favourable letters from vulnerable northern groups is that while the Attorney General puts pressure on the native centre on one hand, he refuses to answer its general correspondence on the other. They faxed me a number of letters that went to the Attorney General's office that were not even acknowledged in terms of correspondence.
I want to ask the Attorney General if he can tell this House and the people of northern Ontario whether he feels the actions of his office and his staff have been appropriate. I tell him they happened. Does he not realize that this action sends a signal to all our groups across the north that they are to be used only for the NDP when the NDP needs them?
I will really ask the ultimate thing for the Attorney General to do right now, to apologize to this group in his riding, this group that worked very hard on behalf of his constituents and my constituents. I want an apology for those phone calls that went to their group.
Hon Mr Hampton: I have already indicated I will make an inquiry with my constituency staff as to what may have happened here, but I think it is only fair that if the member has something in writing he turn it over to me now. I would appreciate it if he would give me a copy of the letter he has read from.
The Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired.
Mr Conway: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I hope you will take some note of the statements made by my colleague the member for Kenora. I appreciate that the Attorney General, as an honourable person, has received that information and is going to undertake to investigate, as I understood his response. But certainly if the allegations made by the member for Kenora have any basis in fact, then I would submit to you that the privileges of all honourable members of this House are very much at issue in this controversy.
The Speaker: The member for Kenora indeed asked a question. A response was provided by the Attorney General. I understood him to say that he would be providing some information at a later date.
Mr Conway: Mr Speaker, on that point again, I do not mean to be difficult, but I submit to you once again that the point that has been made by the honourable member for Kenora is that he apparently has been contacted by constituents who have been contacted by the office of the chief law officer for the province. The office of the chief law officer for the province has been apparently contacting agencies that depend on provincial government transfers to contact the members of the Legislature to bring pressure to bear in support of the Minister of Northern Development. I submit to you that that is improper conduct for any member and I believe it intrudes upon the privileges of all honourable members.
The Speaker: To the member for Renfrew North, while the member for Kenora did not raise a point of privilege and although I do not believe there is a prima facie case of privilege, at the same time I of course am pleased to take a look at Hansard and the information to which the member has alluded.
Mr McLean: Mr Speaker, I do not often rise on a point of personal privilege, but I am doing so today. As I watch my expenses in my office as usual, being the true Scotsman I am, I sent out very few Christmas cards this year. No member received one. I want to wish them all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. You too, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: That is certainly one of the nicer comments I have heard today. I appreciate it.
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
Mr Villeneuve: I have a petition here from the ministers of the Church of Scientology. It is to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario:
"Whereas we are clergy and members of many different faiths in Ontario; and
"Whereas we believe in the fundamental rights of all Canadians, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to have freedom of conscience and religion; and
"Whereas our country and the province of Ontario are bound by this charter; and
"Whereas there are many faiths in Canada, both old and new, and these faiths, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are free to practise on an equal basis without discrimination; and
"Whereas it is not the mandate of government to determine religious nature or interfere in God-given spiritual matters; and
"Whereas the Church of Scientology has been recognized to solemnize marriages in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and the Yukon, is recognized around the world as a bona fide religious body and is long deserving of being registered to solemnize marriages in the province of Ontario;
"We, the undersigned clergy and members, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:
"To instruct the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations to end their discriminatory practices and license ministers from the Church of Scientology to solemnize marriages in Ontario."
I have signed this petition and it is also signed by nine members of the clergy for the said religion.
OATH OF ALLEGIANCE
Mr Harris: I wish to present a petition to the Legislature:
"Whereas the government of Bob Rae has placed our heritage in danger; and
"Whereas we live in a constitutional monarchy; and
"Whereas a symbol of our national unity and identity has been removed,
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:
"To immediately restore the name of Her Majesty the Queen to the oath of allegiance sworn by police officers."
I too have affixed my signature to this petition.
Mr Bisson: I have a petition here from the people of Timmins who are petitioning the hospital board in our area for an area to smoke in. I pass that petition on to the table.
Mr Cousens: This is the largest number of petitions I have ever presented. They came in just today with regard to a very important human rights issue. It came from the Canadian Serbian council. I have them here with my name affixed to them.
"We, the undersigned of the Canadian Serbian community, are deeply offended by the statements about Serbs made by the Liberal MPP for Mississauga East, John Sola, on The 5th Estate and in several newspaper articles;
"We believe Mr Sola's comments to be racist and to have no place in Canadian society. We do not believe he is in a position to represent fairly all of the members of his riding, many of whom are of Serbian origin. Consequently, we believe he should not remain in public office."
I have signed this. I have asked for his apology. He has not given it and so the pressure continues. I present these to you, Mr Speaker.
Mr Harris: I have another petition. I am sorry I did not do the two of them together. The petition reads as follows:
"We, the undersigned citizens of the Bobcaygeon-South Verulam police district, Victoria county, are concerned about the increase of incidents requiring police attention in our community;
"Whereas we feel that the Ontario Provincial Police are not currently able to provide adequate services for these problems;
"Whereas we are concerned both for the safety of the citizens in our community and for the safety of the Ontario Provincial Police officers who patrol this area;
"We feel strongly that our community would be better served by a greater police presence in the form of additional officers to be added to our Lindsay OPP detachment,
"We look to your immediate attention to these concerns."
This is to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and the Legislative Assembly. I too have affixed my signature to this petition and it is signed by literally thousands of constituents of the region who, for some reason or other, wish me to present it and not their member.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING LEGISLATION
Ms S. Murdock: On behalf of the Minister of Labour, to whom a petition was sent, I am presenting one where the undersigned would like to amend the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act, deleting items 6, 7 and 8 of schedule 1 and item 6 of schedule 2 and adopt the Gandz report of 1988. I affix my initials.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
TORONTO ISLANDS RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITY STEWARDSHIP ACT, 1991 / LOI DE 1991 SUR L'ADMINISTRATION DE LA ZONE RÉSIDENTIELLE DES ILES DE TORONTO
Mr Cooke moved first reading of Bill 171, An Act respecting Algonquin and Ward's Islands and respecting the Stewardship of the Residential Community on the Toronto Islands / Projet de loi 171, Loi concernant les îles Algonquin et Ward's et concernant l'administration de la zone résidentielle des îles de Toronto.
The House divided on Mr Cooke's motion, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ayes -- 66
Abel, Allen, Bisson, Boyd, Buchanan, Carter, Charlton, Christopherson, Churley, Cooke, Cooper, Coppen, Dadamo, Drainville, Duignan, Ferguson, Fletcher, Frankford, Gigantes, Grier, Haeck, Hansen, Harrington, Hayes, Hope, Huget, Jamison, Johnson, Klopp, Lankin, Laughren, Lessard, Mackenzie, MacKinnon, Malkowski, Mammoliti, Marchese, Martel, Martin, Mathyssen, Mills, Morrow, Murdock, S., North, O'Connor, Owens, Perruzza, Philip, E., Pilkey, Pouliot, Rizzo, Silipo, Sutherland, Ward, B., Ward, M., Wark-Martyn, Waters, Wessenger, White, Wildman, Wilson, F., Wilson, G., Winninger, Wiseman, Wood, Ziemba.
Nays -- 35
Arnott, Beer, Bradley, Callahan, Caplan, Carr, Cousens, Curling, Daigeler, Eves, Fawcett, Harnick, Harris, Henderson, Jackson, Jordan, Mahoney, Mancini, Marland, McClelland, McLean, Miclash, Murdoch, B., Offer, O'Neill, Y., Phillips, G., Poirier, Runciman, Sterling, Stockwell, Sullivan, Turnbull, Villeneuve, Wilson, J., Witmer.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
CITY OF TORONTO ACT, 1991
Mr Marchese moved second reading of Bill Pr25, An Act respecting the City of Toronto.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
CITY OF HAMILTON ACT, 1991
Mr Christopherson moved second reading of Bill Pr53, An Act respecting the City of Hamilton.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
TOWN OF WHITCHURCH-STOUFFVILLE ACT, 1991
Mr O'Connor moved second reading of Bill Pr81, An Act respecting the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville.
Mr O'Connor: This bill will empower the town to pass a bylaw regulating prohibited dumping within the town.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
CITY OF TORONTO ACT, 1991
Mr Marchese moved second reading of Bill Pr85, An Act respecting the City of Toronto.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
CITY OF WINDSOR ACT, 1991
Mr Dadamo moved second reading of Bill Pr99, An Act respecting the City of Windsor.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
CHURCH OF THE TORONTONIANS ACT, 1991
Mr Harnick moved second reading of Bill Pr104, An Act to revive The Church of the Torontonians.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
FEDERATED WOMEN'S INSTITUTES OF ONTARIO, BAY OF QUINTE BRANCH ACT, 1991
Mrs Y. O'Neill, on behalf of Mr H. O'Neil, moved second reading of Bill PR109, An Act to revive Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario, Bay of Quinte Branch.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
CITY OF NEPEAN ACT, 1991
Mrs Y. O'Neill moved second reading of Bill Pr110, An Act respecting the City of Nepean.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
HOTSTONE MINERALS LIMITED ACT, 1991
Mr Curling, on behalf of Mr Miclash, moved second reading of Bill Pr113, An Act to revive Hotstone Minerals Limited.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
TASMAQUE GOLD MINES LIMITED ACT, 1991
Mr Curling, on behalf of Mr Miclash, moved second reading of Bill Pr114, An Act to revive Tasmaque Gold Mines Limited.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
PITTSONTO MINING COMPANY LIMITED ACT, 1991
Mr Curling, on behalf of Mr Miclash, moved second reading of Bill Pr115, An Act to revive Pittsonto Mining Company Limited.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
SUNBEAM EXPLORATION COMPANY LIMITED ACT, 1991
Mr Curling, on behalf of Mr Miclash, moved second reading of Bill Pr116, An Act to revive Sunbeam Exploration Company Limited.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
PETITCLERC MINES LIMITED ACT, 1991
Mr Curling, on behalf of Mr Miclash, moved second reading of Bill Pr117, An Act to revive Petitclerc Mines Limited.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
CITY OF HAMILTON ACT, 1991
Mr Christopherson moved second reading of Bill Pr118, An Act respecting the City of Hamilton.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
WEST NIPISSING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION ACT, 1991
Mr Harris moved second reading of Bill Pr119, An Act to establish the West Nipissing Economic Development Corporation.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1991 / LOI DE 1991 MODIFIANT DES LOISEN CE QUI CONCERNE LA RETRAITE DES EMPLOYÉS MUNICIPAUX
Ms Lankin, on behalf of Mr Cooke, moved third reading of Bill 151, An Act to amend the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System Act and the Municipal Act / Projet de loi 151, Loi modifiant la Loi sur le régime de retraite des employés municipaux de l'Ontario et la Loi sur les municipalités.
Hon Ms Lankin: I will not make any introductory comments at this time. We will move on with the debate.
Mr Mahoney: I have a number of comments I would like to make with regard to Bill 151 and some different insights to share with members. Having been a municipal politician for almost 10 years, I have had some familiarity with the concerns.
Mr Conway: You have passed on the mantle.
Mr Mahoney: I have passed on the mantle. My wife is the new councillor in ward 8. The seat the Mahoneys held for about 10 years is now back in the hands of another Mahoney. Some people think I was overly influenced by Mayor McCallion at times, but now I can truly say I am overly influenced by the ward 8 councillor.
The role of municipal councillors has changed very dramatically. It has become a job that demands a tremendous amount of effort -- full-time effort in many municipalities -- particularly the high-growth municipalities. The responsibilities are really quite onerous. Until very recent years, unlike members of this august place and members of the federal House, who receive a pension after one election in a time period of five years, municipal politicians historically have had very poor remuneration and very poor services to back them up in doing the job for their constituents, and non-existent pensions.
I could tell members the story of the mayor of Malton, as he is fondly referred to, Mr Frank McKechnie, the longest-serving municipal politician currently sitting in office in the province -- 33 years in municipal office. I think he must be crazy. I believe that if Mr McKechnie were to retire tomorrow, after 33 years in municipal office, his pension would be almost laughable. It would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of a low four-figure amount on an annual basis.
Can members imagine any other job or profession that would require the kind of dedication in hours and the kind of hard work put in by a man like Frank McKechnie for 33 years of his life where he would not receive a pension he would at least be able to live on and enjoy in his retirement years? We are not sure that Mr McKechnie's retirement years are anywhere in the near future. He may go as long as 40 years or more in the municipal arena, but the fact is that the OMERS pension, from the point of view of the elected representative, has been really laughable and unfortunate.
I served also for three years on the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and met with councillors from small hamlets and other cities, municipalities, regional municipalities and counties on a regular basis all over this province and talked to them about their particular situation. Before I address the side of the staff, I want to spend a few moments talking about the men and women who serve us in many ways and in a very fine fashion as elected officials at the municipal level. I am quite proud that my wife has been elected in Mississauga in Peel region and will have an opportunity to carry on the tradition.
Mr Cousens: Conflict of interest.
Mr Mahoney: I have checked that out and it is not, actually.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Mississauga West, please address the Chair.
Mr Mahoney: I verified that with the Honourable Judge Evans and he quite assured me that it is not in any way whatsoever a conflict.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Mississauga West, please address the Chair.
Mr Mahoney: I am just responding to the chirping.
The Deputy Speaker: There will be a period for questions and comments afterwards.
Mr Mahoney: I see. Then he could make it at that time.
At any event, this document affects those people who have worked so long and hard in serving their constituents. I have noticed, having come through the municipal ranks, that there is a tendency for provincial MPPs and federal MPs to dismiss municipal politicians, frankly, out of hand.
Mr Mahoney: I say to the Minister of Labour there is a tendency for them not to understand, unless they came up through the ranks, the hours, the work and the responsibility. Frankly, I found that it was quite common for me to receive phone calls when I was Councillor Mahoney at 2, 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. It does not happen with the same regularity as an MPP because people, for some reason, do not seem to feel there is hands-on. It is removed and it is a higher level.
Mrs Sullivan: Now it's Katie.
Mr Mahoney: Now Katie gets the phone calls. We have switched sides of the bed and I have put the phone on her side so I do not get bothered.
But it is quite true that the media and the members in here who have not experienced the workload -- I can tell them that when I served on council I had to put in 75 to 80 hours a week. I was out every single weekend at various functions, out in the evenings at two or three different functions. It is expected of you, frankly, because your constituents want to talk to their elected representative at the municipal level. They want to feel they have someone to whom they can relate. If you are involved at all in the community, you are expected to be out at all the various fund-raising and charity drives, be it the Mississauga News Christmas Bureau Fund or whatever any of us have.
At a time of year like this when there are many children in our communities who are starving and will not have a Christmas, it is the responsibility in many instances not only of the elected officials but of the staff in those municipalities to add to the already rather heavy workload they have in supporting these community events.
I am pleased to say that in my municipality and during my association in AMO I have found that the vast majority of the men and women who serve as municipal officials right across this great province are honest, dedicated, hardworking, community-oriented men and women, and frankly they should be remunerated on a fair basis for the amount of time they put in.
In some municipalities it is entirely possible for someone to be a municipal councillor and hold another job. In some municipalities they elect members of the fire department or they elect teachers who can teach part-time, half-days or even full days, because the municipal councils only meet in the evening. My executive assistant, as a matter of fact, was elected to a small municipal council and has evening meetings but she is able to carry out her responsibilities and her role in working for me here at Queen's Park and is able to do so appropriately.
The pension benefits that would accrue in that situation would be related to the remuneration and would be tied of course to the cost of living and to a benefit package. In reality, there is a responsibility for these folks to work hard and to spend countless hours. I really have found that people do not understand the extent of that and take it as seriously as they should.
Having spent a few moments on the responsibilities and the role of the elected officials, a role that I understand very well, let me talk to members of this House about the role of the municipal employees, because aside from the elected officials, this is OMERS, and it will accrue to the benefit of the people who toil and serve the people of this province at the municipal level.
The extent of the services is really quite varied, whether it be working in the arenas and the park system keeping the parks clean and keeping them open and accessible, whether it be in monitoring the use of the soccer pitches and the baseball diamonds so that the infrastructure that has been paid for by the taxpayer and put in place, either under contract or by local municipal staff, or whether it be in the area of providing fire services.
I refer members to 1979 and the great train derailment in Mississauga. I was actually the acting mayor when that train went off the track and exploded, because Mayor McCallion was otherwise occupied at a function. I was on the scene, in fact within 300 or 400 feet, when the second explosion took place and I could actually feel the heat of that fire. We were rained down upon.
Hon Mr Mackenzie: You derailed the train.
Mr Mahoney: No, I did not derail the train. I do not think Hazel did either, although there are some who said they saw a middle-aged lady jumping on the train as it went through Streetsville. I am not sure if there is any truth to that.
Hon Mr Mackenzie: They probably thought you were suffering the after-effects.
Mr Mahoney: No, these are not the after-effects of that. This is how I normally act and feel.
I saw the courage and dedication of the firefighters, the police and many of the public works people. We lost an entire parks and recreation building on Mavis Road. It was literally levelled, and the parking lot was destroyed. Fortunately, there were no lives lost, but tremendous risks were taken by our municipal staff. Just to give members an idea of the kind of risk and the reason the staff deserve good pension benefits and salaries, we had to go back in after we had evacuated the city. You will recall, Mr Speaker, that it was the largest peacetime evacuation since I do not know when, certainly in North America and perhaps in the world.
It was an extremely frightening time for people because of the thought of this chlorine gas that could move at low levels in the ground, and the fear that it was getting into the river valleys and perhaps into the sewer system, working its way down through the storm sewers and even into the basements of many homes. It was a very stressful time for citizens. It was incumbent upon the staff, not the ones who were actually there fighting the fire and dealing with the potential of further explosions, but the staff who had to help evacuate the city and keep people calm. It was quite miraculous. They called it a miracle and I guess it really was when you think of evacuating a quarter of a million people and having no one killed and no one even remotely injured in such a traumatic time.
Much of that was due to the dedication and hard work of the staff of the city of Mississauga and the region of Peel. We borrowed staff from Brampton and Etobicoke. They came in through the lines to try to help out, to remain calm, to man the telephones at city hall. The member for Mississauga South will recall this. She was on council when I was there. She and I actually spent time manning the telephones at city hall with all the calls that were coming in. It was an extremely stressful time for everyone.
No one should be thanked more than the staff. Perhaps there were some who got more attention in the media, who got the thanks, etc, but I know Mayor McCallion for one, who was very active and courageous in leading our city through those tough times, would clearly agree with me that the staff in our city and the surrounding municipalities who helped us out were really tremendous. They showed courage over and above the line of duty and worked overtime without asking for any money. They just came and pitched in, brought food to the centres.
We went to the outlying areas as we moved people out of the city in a strategic way. We would evacuate within a certain radius and people would move. They were out of their homes, they had left their pets -- I will get to that in a moment -- and they were literally sleeping in high school gymnasiums and on the floors of plazas in the outlying areas.
Then a member of the staff would come in and deliver a message from central command headquarters and announce it was necessary to extend the evacuation area. I remember one in particular coming to me in a senior citizens' home. She was very white, very ashen and very frightened, frankly, yet she took the time and trouble and showed the courage to get the message to us that it was now time to evacuate the furthest perimeter, which at that time had gone to the west end of our city as far as Erin Mills Parkway, not far from Oakville. It was time to evacuate the entire area. It was an order that had come from command central where the fire chief, the police chief, the mayor, Chairman Bean and a number of others were actively making these decisions on a regular basis.
I was on the front lines, I guess you could call it, along with the municipal staff who worked so diligently and showed such tremendous courage in dealing with this problem. It was because of how calm they were and how responsible they were; that was one of the reasons that this evacuation was done with such great success.
I say to members and to you, Mr Speaker, that one of the more interesting moments was when we discovered that, having been out of our homes and with the entire city empty, it was an extremely eerie feeling to drive around because a few of us stayed within the city boundaries to sort of keep essential services open. We saw streets with overhead wires that did not look at all like the streets we had been on just three or four days before. It was almost out of a science fiction movie. I recall sitting in my car on a high point in the city, looking out to the east towards Toronto and recognizing that there was nobody there. You could see there was nobody there. There were no cars; there was no activity. It was quiet, it was futuristic, almost beyond belief and it was very eerie.
I tell members that because we had to go back in. We found out that people had left in such a panic and in such fear, in many cases -- panic is the wrong word; there was no panic but there was tremendous fear -- and they left their pets behind in many of these vacated homes, all kinds, gerbils, budgies, cats, dogs. They left all these animals behind and they just rushed out, many of them in the middle of the night to the sound of a loudspeaker on a police car or a staff car, a public works car going by announcing that they had to evacuate their homes. Members can imagine the feeling they would get, lying in bed in the middle of the night and hearing a loudspeaker. I am not talking about 1942 during the war; I am talking about 1979 in peacetime in the city of Mississauga when everything would appear to be fine, and getting a municipal staff person or a police officer driving by your home at 3 o'clock in the morning, saying over a loudspeaker: "Attention, please. It is necessary for you to evacuate your homes. Please do not pack all your possessions. Simply get out of your homes as quickly and as calmly as you can."
Members can just imagine the fear. These people would be stopped. People would come running out of their homes in a panic, saying: "What on earth is going on? What's all this?" They would be phoning in frantic desperation to city hall, where the staff were manning the telephones and carrying on as much as they could with a certain semblance of normal business and they would say: "Are we going to die? What's going on? There's this terrible fear. Is there going to be another explosion?"
While the firefighters and the staff in the city of Mississauga were down at command central, which was extremely close to the trains that were all crumpled -- the train cars were all broken and there were holes and in many instances there was even still a fire going on -- they would go down and they would phone and say, "Is there going to be another explosion?" My God, they were really quite desperate. It was due to the calm, efficient approach of the regional police, of the municipal fire departments and of the staff that calm was maintained.
As I mentioned to you, many of these pets were left behind and we had to orchestrate a program, almost like a lift, if members can imagine, to go back into the homes of a city of 250,000 people and identify homes where there were pets inside and make arrangements to feed them. In many instances these dogs, some of them quite large, could get pretty vicious, as members can imagine. We were trying to go in and put some food in there and they had not had food for four, five or six days. We had to orchestrate a move into these homes.
I remember an instance where a man called me at city hall and said a lady was without her medication. It was quite serious and her doctor could not be contacted, and he was frantic. We took this man and actually smuggled him in the back of one of the humane society vans back into his home to allow him to go in. We had to literally cover him up to get him through the police lines, because it was too difficult to explain and the police were being very rigid and not allowing people to come back in. This was peacetime in Mississauga and it sounds almost like Germany in the 1940s. The staff did this and they showed this courage and they took the man through. He was eternally grateful and got the medication for his wife and solved her particular problem. Then the staff had to carry on through the entire city, literally going door to door, finding a way to feed these animals.
I tell members this story because I believe our municipal employees get bashed unfairly quite a bit. So do our civil servants in all levels of government. It seems to be almost a national pastime that if you work for government we can kick you in the shins, yet my experience in my 10 years taught me that while you may have the odd bad apple in the barrel, the vast majority of the people who work in the municipal sector are really dedicated to the people they represent, and they feel that. They feel that they themselves actually represent, even though they are not elected. Their council is there and the council is obviously the one that is representing from an elected perspective. But there are many stories of municipal employees who have been employed by a particular city or town or region or county for dozens and dozens of years, some of them as long as Mr McKechnie, whom I referred to earlier, and some of them longer. You do not do a job like that, I maintain, when you just go to work and you do not like it and you do not get involved and you cannot wait to get off at the end of the day.
I will tell members the story of the commissioner of recreation and parks in the city of Mississauga, Mr Ian Scott, a tremendous friend of mine. Here is a young man who started out sweeping the inside of arenas as a boy growing up in Port Credit going to school and who wound up running the Zamboni, flooding the arena ice. He cleaned out the dressing rooms and worked in the parks department when he got a little older and went to university. He really grew up in the municipality, working for it and working his way through school, and rose all the way to become one of the top commissioners in the city. The city has just had a major restructuring. They have had some changes and they have moved rec and parks in with the fire department and done all other kinds of things and they have brought in a supercommissioner and that type of thing, but Ian has maintained his position.
I can tell members that Ian, when he walks around that city of Mississauga, can walk into any one of the arenas or any one of the soccer pitches on a Saturday morning and the parents know him and the kids know him and the people who work in the facilities know him and they truly love this man. This man also loves the place he works at and for.
So it is more than a job. It is more than even just a career. It is a position that is almost a calling. I do not wish to overexaggerate it or oversignify the importance, but I believe that is true: It is almost a calling.
When I think back to some of the people in engineering, and Angus MacDonald and people like that who dedicated their lives to the city, who would deal with the developers coming in on a regular basis, furthering their plans and attempting to change things, you always had the confidence, as a member of council, that the staff would never let you down. You always had the confidence that the staff were truly on the side of the citizens.
I can recall the number of times that I as a councillor would hold public meetings and these staff would come out. My meeting would usually start at 7 or 7:30. It could be on any kind of issue. It could be a new plaza in a community, and members can understand how the people might not want it. It could be non-profit housing. I had more non-profit housing projects approved in my ward when I was the councillor than any other ward in the city. I very much believed in that. I was president of Peel Non-Profit Housing Corp for a year and I was on the board for nine years, so I was very committed, as an elected official, to doing it.
I remember Peter Smith, the commissioner of housing, coming to me saying, "You know, we have to approve a group home for former psychiatric patients and we have to put it in this location," which happened to be in the middle of a community known as Sherwood Forest in Mississauga. It is a beautiful community of very large, expensive homes. Members can imagine what that first meeting was like, when I stood on the platform and announced to the 300-plus folks from that community that I was in support of this group home for former psychiatric patients that was being built there, and members can imagine the staff, who took the abuse initially.
I want members to know that through the dedication of people like Peter Smith and through the hard work of all the people at Peel Non-Profit Housing Corp we were able to show our community that this was indeed a good project; and there but for the grace of God go any of us. We were able to show our community, because of the dedication of the municipal staff in this instance, that this is really an obligation we have to all of society. These are not people who are mass murderers. These are not people who are even violent, as a matter of fact. If they were going to hurt anyone, they would hurt themselves before they hurt anyone else. We were able to work with the assistance of the staff to show the community that indeed this particular facility was not only needed on a province-wide and on a global basis, so to speak, but that the community could relate to it.
We set up a steering committee that was co-ordinated by a member of staff, again working very hard for its money and not getting the recognition it deserves, and co-ordinated through the office of Peter Smith, who was the commissioner at the time. We set up a steering committee of residents who met with the residents in the homes in this community. Over a period of time, these people began to realize that all the fears they had initially were unfounded.
I was particularly proud to be part of the process, particularly proud of that community and particularly proud of the work the staff put in to help the community understand the significance of this.
I tell members that about two weeks after it opened in this community there was a suicide in the home. The ambulances and fire trucks all arrived and there were some phone calls from some citizens who were quite upset: "We told you this would happen." I said: "What do you mean, you told me this would happen? Do you know that there have been six suicides in your own community in the last year that were not part of this group home?"
I went on, and I have forgotten the numbers about the hundreds and thousands of suicides that take place in our province. We just saw a terribly tragic murder-suicide in the Brampton community, a young mother hanging her daughter and attempting to hang the second daughter. Thank God the rope broke on the second daughter and she lived, but then the mother hung herself.
These are the types of issues that municipal employees have to deal with on a regular basis. It is not just the elected official who has to take the heat. In fact, if the staff are dedicated to doing their jobs, in many cases they help to take the heat with, on behalf of and sometimes instead of the elected official.
That home is there today and that person was quite astounded to find out that there had been these types of suicides going on in the community. It is a real tragedy. Members can see the problems not only in the form of suicide but in violence in our community today as a result of the recession. Many people call it a depression, and I find it difficult to disagree with that analogy. It is a result of the pressure that people are under.
The question I asked today involves in many instances municipal employees, when we talk about eliminating services to credit counselling, when we talk about a government that has decided it is going to take a project that has been shown to put $40 million back into the community through the dedicated work in many cases of volunteers and in many cases of agency employees, such as people who work for the United Way, but in many other cases of municipal employees who work with the people in difficulty.
In question period I talked about the mother of a four-year-old who said, "I didn't bring the four-year-old into this world by myself but I sure have to take care of that four-year-old by myself, and as a result I have tremendous financial pressures." She needs to have an agency and it is set up. It costs $4.1 million a year to run the agency province-wide and it requires $1.9 million in provincial subsidy. The balance comes, in one way or another, either from the United Way or the municipal tax base. In my community it is the Peel credit counselling services. These folks work together with our legal aid system, our welfare system, our mother's allowance, our education and all the facilities that are in place. They are all, in one form or another, either employed by or connected to municipalities, either senior-tier or lower-tier municipalities. They are very dedicated.
Here we have a project that costs the province $1.9 million. This is myopic thinking, frankly. I have not been partisan, I think the members opposite would agree, in this speech up to now and I do not want to get too partisan. But I really believe it is very myopic thinking, regardless of who the government is, to slash a program of $1.9-million provincial subsidy that allows for $40 million to be put back into the economy. The car payments that are behind go back to the dealer. When the dealer gets the car payment, he has to pay tax on it, and that is revenue in the government's coffers to allow it to do other things.
The municipalities do this, frankly, better than any of the senior governments, because we have to look at cost-benefit programs. The government members should ask themselves a question. It does not seem to me to be too difficult to understand. Would they invest $1.9 million as a subsidy in a program that is going to return $40 million back into the economic infrastructure of the province? Hands up, all who would do that. What do members think? No, I do not get any takers on the other side because they have been told they have to go along with this. They should justify to their residents how they can eliminate something that costs $1.9 million of their tax dollars and generates $40 million in revenue to the province. What would the taxes be on that, for goodness' sake? Would they be more than $1.9 million? You are darned right they would.
Bear in mind, the minister says, "This is for the creditors." The people in the municipalities know they are not going to put this on the backs of the creditors. The government members are suggesting it is the creditors who are benefiting. That is the implication in this, that it is the creditors who are benefiting from credit counselling. That is exactly what the minister thinks. That is so much nonsense and such a tragedy at the implication of what it is going to do to the men and women who will suffer around this province that it is almost unthinkable to me that a socially conscious NDP socialist government would implement such absolute horror. It is almost unthinkable, but they have done it.
Now what we are going to find is that these people who are currently on credit counselling are now going to have no one to turn to. I will tell members how the creditors are going to deal with it. They are going to send it to a collection agency. They are going to hound these people. They are going to be pounding on their doors. They are going to be repossessing their automobiles. They are going to be foreclosing on their houses. It is absolutely atrocious at a time of economic misery like none we have seen since 1929. This government is turning its back on the men, women and children in this province who need its help the most.
They need the government's help not because they are bad people; they need its help because they perhaps made some errors in judgement, not because they have gone out and robbed a bank or robbed a Becker's store or something like that. They have tried to pay their bills and they cannot, so what do they do? They go to a credit counselling agency and they say, "Please, will you help me get my life back in order?" These credit counsellors spend tremendous efforts and time sitting down with the people and doing both short-term and long-term budgeting and planning and then they contact all of these creditors, who this minister thinks are all of a sudden going to become magnanimous and say: "Well, gosh, you only owe me a couple of thousand bucks. I'll work it out. Give me $50." They are not going to do that. They do not care. That is what we have collection agencies for. When the bill becomes overdue, it goes there.
What these credit counsellors do is get rid of the collection agency and say to the creditor, to the person the money is owed to, "Look, this individual, this mother of a four-year-old whose husband has run off and left her in a destitute financial situation, this taxpayer, this hardworking person who perhaps through no fault of her own has lost her job, or has to stay home because she cannot afford day care" -- and then this government just scuttles all the private day care.
If members just think about it, this problem snowballs to a point where it is impossible to control it. So this poor mother, who has a cupboard full of debts, all she wants to do is go to the city or the region or the municipal office and sit down with someone there who will understand and who will pick up the phone and call Eaton's or Simpsons or whoever it is she owes the money to and say, "Look, we've got a problem. We're going to get you your money. We're not asking you to walk away from this debt. We're going to save this person from insolvency. We want you to work with us. We are the credit counselling agency in Peel," or the credit counselling agency in York, or the credit counselling agency in Kenora.
This recession is all over the province. We may think it is just here in Toronto, but it is not. As members know, I have been travelling for other reasons all over this province, from one end to the other. I have found that people are experiencing the same kinds of difficulties in the southwest as they are in the north and in the east as they are in the GTA, and they are very serious problems, financial problems and difficulties.
Many times it is the municipal people the strain falls to. It is the municipality, which is the closest level of government to the people, that winds up having to deal with it. What is going to happen is that this single mother of a four-year-old who has been left on her own and cannot pay her bills is now going to get harassed and intimidated by some collection agency and is now going to feel like a second-class citizen because she got herself into a little bit of financial difficulty. It is going to lead to stress. God only can hope it does not lead to the kind of outcome we saw in Brampton the other day. God only can hope that. But when you abandon people, when you abandon people on the seas of financial difficulty, they are going to sink. They are going to drown if we do not help them.
I just find it so hard to rationalize how this government, which has pretended to have the market cornered on social policy and caring for the people of this province, can just callously cut a program. If they do not like the social implications, what about the financial and fiscal responsibility of cutting a program that makes money, that generates money in the province, that puts $40 million a year back into the pockets of the car dealers and the retailers --
Mr Stockwell: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: This is a very important speech and I think we should have a quorum for it.
The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.
The Deputy Speaker: A quorum is present. The member for Mississauga West.
Mr Mahoney: I appreciate the honourable member for Etobicoke West ensuring that there are some folks here to hear what I think are important remarks. For those who just came in, we are talking about the OMERS amendments, Bill 151, to the pension paid to municipal employees, and I was sharing with the House some of my experiences on municipal council and the dedication of the municipal employees. I was talking specifically about many of the employees around the province who work for credit counselling agencies that are funded in part by the regional municipalities or counties or even local municipalities and in part by this province. The point I was attempting to arrive at is that a single mother of a four-year-old who has been left on her own finds herself in financial difficulty.
A gentleman who wrote to me had been working and, due to layoffs, due to the recession, had lost his job and had no income. Yet he still has the expenses. He has a youngster going to school, in university, paying most of the costs, but he has to pay some of them. I understand those burdens. He is at the point where credit difficulties that would have been quite manageable under a scenario where he had a job, when his income was in place, are no longer manageable.
He is now asking: "Where do I turn? Who do I sit down with and talk to? Do I go to my parish priest? My parish priest is a wonderful man but he doesn't know the first thing about credit, never having had to deal with it. Who do I turn to? Do I turn to my elected officials?" We are just human beings. We all have similar types of problems. "Where do I go?" That was his question to me.
This individual was able to go to a credit counselling agency that would allow him to have some peace of mind and some dignity and rebuild his life without feeling embarrassed and without having to grovel.
I suggest that this minister's $1.9-million cut in a program that generates $40 million in revenue province-wide is just so nonsensical and damaging. It probably upsets many of the people in the municipal operations around the province, because many of them are now going to lose their jobs. The whole thing snowballs when we think of it. If a person cannot pay the debt to a local business, then the local business cannot pay taxes to the municipality and the municipality has no choice but to cut taxes, because people are not prepared to accept tax increases these days, nor should they be.
We wind up with municipal people being laid off, and when they are laid off, they are going to wind up in some credit difficulties because they do not have their income any more and have nowhere to turn. They cannot pay their bills. We can see what an unbelievable effect one decision to eliminate credit counselling around this province, a revenue-generating service for this government, has and how it can lead to terrible, traumatic financial consequences for everybody, including municipal employees.
It is absolutely mind-boggling. I wish this government did not stick its head in the sand, saying, "The creditors can solve the problem; they will take care of it." I have already said how they are going to solve it. They are going to repossess what is theirs and not paid for. They are going to kick people out of their homes. This is the time of year when we could expect Scrooge to show up. Is this government going to act like Scrooge?
How does the Solicitor General, a former municipal politician, a former mayor of long-standing, good-quality service to his community, explain to the people in his community, whether they work for the municipality or within the municipality, that he has cut this service and does not really care how they figure out their problems? This was supposed to be the government with the heart. This was supposed to be the government that would carry this message to all of those little people in the community, whom it purported to represent. Those are the people who get in trouble.
The government does not need to help the big shooters, the friends of the member for Nipissing -- although he purports to represent the unions, we know better -- the friends of the Tories, the big businesses.
Mr Cousens: Come on now. What gives you the right to say that? I object to that kind of stuff. What kind of statement is that?
Mr Mahoney: The member can go ahead and object. Is he trying to tell me that all of a sudden Brother Harris represents the workers of this province? Give me a break. I grew up in a labour family.
Mr Cousens: On a point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker: The honourable member, in his enthusiasm to make his point, is in fact casting aspersions on the character of the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. He is trying to read into the intention of the leader of this party as it pertains to his position to support people in labour. For the member to come along and make the statements he just did is disparaging, disrespectful and totally unnecessary. It shows he really does not have any sense when it comes to understanding --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): Order, please. The honourable member for Markham definitely will have an opportunity, as soon as the member for Mississauga West has completed his remarks, to challenge and question. I hope he uses that opportunity.
Mr Ruprecht: On a point of order, Mr Speaker --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): I am sorry, I cannot recognize you, sir. You are not in your seat. The honourable member for Mississauga West.
Mr Mahoney: I am sorry that upset. I guess sometimes truth can hurt a little bit. But let me tell honourable members, I grew up in a union family. My dad, as members opposite would know, was the national director of the United Steelworkers, a job currently held by Leo Gerard. I have no idea how Leo got that job. I do not even know when the vote was. It is very mysterious. He all of a sudden left District 6 on Cecil Street and wound up in the national office. Confusing.
Anyway, he is there and I understand that the men and women who work on the shop floor at Algoma and at General Motors currently are under tremendous anguish. Is it not interesting? Could you imagine, in the days when the Premier was the leader of the opposition, if one week before Christmas the president of General Motors in Detroit held a press conference to announce the shutting down of 21 plants across North America, laying off 74,000 jobs, which will have a major impact on our municipalities, I suggest?
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): Please allow me to remind the honourable member we are dealing with Bill 151, which has to do with municipalities.
Mr Mahoney: That is right, and that could have a major impact on municipalities, because that will affect the car dealerships in the municipalities, which may be put out of business. All of a sudden there are 74,000 fewer gainfully employed workers across North America. We have no idea how many in Canada; we have no idea how many in Oshawa.
I say to the members from Durham opposite, their constituents must be awfully nervous. Yet I did not hear anybody but us -- maybe my colleagues did -- standing up today and asking if there was any concern. I did not hear any private members at the beginning, before question period, standing up and saying: "Why would General Motors announce this one week before Christmas and say we are going to simply cut and slash a whole bunch of jobs?" We all know that line 2 in Oshawa is in jeopardy. We all know that.
Hon Mr Philip: We don't know that. How do you know that?
Mr Mahoney: I read it in the Toronto Star, so it must be true. It appears there is all this fear and unknown feelings going on. Could you not just hear the Premier sitting over here with great indignation, one week before Christmas, pulling out the bleeding heart speech, saying how draconian it is that General Motors would make such an announcement and frighten everyone, and poor children going without gifts. I could hear him saying that, and yet today I do not hear anyone.
I understand the Premier is off solving all the problems of the economic morass that he has exacerbated tremendously in Ottawa today, hobnobbing with Brian and Clyde and everybody. But one would think that somebody from the government would have had something to say, other than Bob White of course. We heard Bob White speaking on behalf of the NDP government.
The member for Chatham-Kent gives him applause. That is fine; we understand.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): Please, on Bill 151.
Mr Mahoney: All right. I know I got a little off topic there, but it is not really, when you think about it. What is General Motors to Oshawa? Could anyone imagine Oshawa without General Motors? Would there be any municipal employees left? What would it do to the tax base? It would destroy the tax base of Oshawa, of Windsor, of St Catharines. My colleague is not here, but could anyone imagine Oakville without Ford?
I say to my colleague from Oakville, the community would suffer tremendously, and so the spinoff -- this is what is not happening. They are seeing major restructuring at General Motors. We have seen major restructuring at Ford and everybody knows about the major restructuring at Chrysler. We know they have had to do that to be able to compete in the global market.
Did it ever cause anyone any curiosity as to why governments do not restructure? Did they ever stop to think about how all we seem to do, whether it is the municipalities -- I say to the Minister of the Environment, why --
Hon Mrs Grier: We have restructured.
Mr Mahoney: She has restructured nothing. She has brought in more red tape and more bureaucracy. She has created a greater mess in this province in the last year and a half than the last successive 10 governments have done; absolutely out of control.
They are going to put Sunday shopping in the hands of people who can take the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. Can members imagine? The Ontario Municipal Board was set up to deal with planning issues. It was set up to deal with issues of concern to people in their communities that have to do with land use, that even have to do with the municipal employees, because without those projects, what is there for a municipal employee to approve, never mind correct, never mind deal with the problems of the infrastructure? What they have done is put in place a boondoggle for lawyers, who are going to continue to make hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to interpret their nonsensical Sunday shopping/common pause day, except for December, when we do not need to pause. It is absolutely laughable, the policies they have put in place. They are scaring people.
Now what we have is a Sunday shopping bill in legislation that the municipal employees are all going to have to understand because maybe they are going to have to enforce it. Do we need more inspectors? I would think we do. How many businesses would there be in Scarborough, I say to my friend the member for Scarborough-Agincourt.
Mr Phillips: A lot fewer than there were before.
Mr Mahoney: There are not many left.
Mr Phillips: They are leaving.
Mr Mahoney: They are leaving. They are going down the highway. But the ones that are there may decide they want to open on Sunday. So what is going to happen? We are going to have to increase the inspection department at a time of decreasing revenues. The revenues are decreasing because the businesses are leaving, but the ones that are left want to open on Sunday. They do not just want to open on Sunday, they have to. They have to open.
I predict there are going to be mass examples of businesses defying this government, saying: "Put me in jail. Take over my business. Here are the keys. You expect me to close? How in God's name can I survive? How can I pay my bills? How can I pay my rent? You're telling me I have to close. I can't service the tourist industry, the people in the border towns."
What are those municipal employees going to do when they are told they have to go out and spend hours and hours investigating whether or not a business is open? For goodness sake, the members opposite should show some common sense and just allow the business community to open if it wants to, allow the people to shop if they want to and, guess what, allow people to work if they want to.
Mr Phillips: Then they can fund this OMERS thing.
Mr Mahoney: They have no chance to fund this OMERS thing because the reality -- I have not even gotten to page 1 yet -- the reality of the OMERS pension plan and the improvements is that we are doing something really good for municipal employees. The reality in my city alone is that there is an impact of $500,000. Who is going to pay for that? The businesses that are closed on Sunday, are they going to pay for that?
We would like to get 60% of our revenue in our city and the same in many municipalities. Anybody who has been involved in municipal government knows there is a goal to get 60% of your tax base, your revenue, from the residential sector and 40% from the commercial-industrial sector.
Mr Stockwell: Etobicoke is better than that.
Mr Mahoney: I would doubt that they are, but if they are, that is wonderful. The reality is that in my municipality about 32% to 34% is all we get and we want to increase that. How are we going to increase that when this government is putting people out of business? What opportunity do we have for any kind of new economic growth when this government is creating a boondoggle that is destroying the economic infrastructure?
What these people think about is their social policy. The Minister of Labour has left. What are the new labour laws going to do to municipal employees' relationships with their employers? Under his law we need an electrician to change a lightbulb. Can members imagine? I can just see the grievances. What Bob Mackenzie and Bob White and Bob Rae are doing here is polarizing labour and business and polarizing labour and municipal government like never before.
Just look at the reality. The municipal government has to deal with labour unions on a regular basis. Under this, the municipal employees -- we all know that from time to time there are radicals within the labour movement.
Mr Hope: No.
Mr Mahoney: There are. Some of them even got elected here. It is beyond me how. We will correct that in a couple of years. But we know there are radicals within the labour movement.
Hon Ms Lankin: Me.
Mr Mahoney: No, I do not think you are a radical, actually, but you have some yahoos over there who are.
Hon Ms Lankin: I was a radical.
Mr Mahoney: You were a radical? Well, you sure calmed down, I can tell you that.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): Please address your comments to the Chair.
Mr Mahoney: As a matter of fact, maybe the member fell asleep. Maybe she should wake up and show us a little bit of that radical fire. Let's get things cooking here.
But do members know where the impact on the relationship is going to come down? It is going to come down on the tax base, on the taxpayer at the municipal level. That is where it is going to come down, and the only option the municipal politicians will have will be to either cut services or raise taxes.
I ask members, what would they do? You cannot deficit-finance in a municipal government. You are not allowed to. You can issue some debt, but you are not supposed to issue it for operating. You are only supposed to issue it for capital projects, as my friend the member for Etobicoke West would remind me, that are approved by the Ontario Municipal Board. So what would you do? Your hands are tied. You either increase your mill rate to collect more taxes or you cut your services.
What services are you going to cut? There was a motion at Mississauga council -- I am proud to say my wife fought against it -- to cut the grant to senior citizens to pay someone to shovel their sidewalk or their driveway. There was a motion to cut it, brought in by the staff, and fortunately there were some people, including the councillor for ward 8, who spoke and fought strongly against that, saying that our senior citizens deserve our support at this time in their life and they deserve this small amount -- what do they get -- $65. But that is how desperate the municipality is getting. They needed to save $150,000 over a tax base of 450,000 people.
Mr Mahoney: That is how desperate they get. Fortunately, they did not cut that, and the member for Etobicoke West probably would have, being the callous type he can be at times. He probably would have cut it. But fortunately they did not.
Mr Stockwell: You've lost me now.
Mr Mahoney: I know, he is on my side, is he not? I had better be nice. Yes, he is a good guy. I withdraw that.
The reality is that the municipal employees in Mississauga brought this in because, guess what? They are facing an impact on this bill alone of half a million bucks.
I know AMO wants this. In essence, they came to us when we were the government and asked us for it. But maybe we should go back to them. Maybe we should find out if they still feel that way, considering the economic climate we are facing.
I highly doubt that anyone over there -- particularly the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who chooses not even to be here during this debate of his very important bill -- talked to them at AMO or talked to them in their municipalities. I asked the Minister of the Environment if she went back to her mayor and her alderman and said: "What do you guys think of this? What's the impact on your municipal budget?" I see the member for Cochrane South did, and I am delighted to see that, but I would suggest that very few of his colleagues did.
I did. I went back to my mayor and said, "What's the impact?" Mrs McCallion told me it is half a million bucks. That is half a percentage point in the mill rate in our city. That is pretty major when you are looking at welfare costs in the region of Peel escalating and 20% of the costs of welfare required to be paid by the municipal level -- a system that I think is antiquated and outdated. I will admit we did not change it when we were in government. This government will not change it when it is in government, but maybe when we are back in government we will change it.
Mr Hope: When you're leader, right?
Mr Mahoney: When I am the leader; the member has it. We will make some changes, because we have a level of government which keeps passing on costs, passing on the burden of delivering services to our citizens, to the level of government that is closest to the people. Let me tell members I know how the people get hold of you when you are in municipal council and what they say to you and how urgently when they phone you in the middle of the night and demand to know why you are raising their taxes. We all know that the largest percentage of that is school boards, but there is still a major impact at the local municipal and regional level, and this bill alone is half a million dollars.
The Treasurer leaves without announcing the MUSH grants, without announcing the grants to municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals. He just walks off and says, "They're going to have to wait until January or February," while he goes and has a Christmas turkey somewhere.
An hon member: Not a turkey.
Mr Mahoney: Not a turkey? All the turkeys are in here. Why are we not telling these people? They are doing their budgets right now. They will be clucking and the government can bet they will. They have completely thrown the waste management system into a mess. They had the thing under control. Many of them were ready to go to hearings. Many of them were ready to approve new landfill sites. Many of them would be dealing with the problem instead of sitting there waiting and saying, "My God." Hazel McCallion referred to the minister, with due respect, saying, "The lady on her white charger came into the arena and said, 'We're going to take over all this waste management. The municipalities don't have to worry about it any more.'"
They are worried about it because it is their land use the Minister of the Environment is messing with. It is their future growth and development that they need to increase their tax base that she is messing with. She just arbitrarily froze any growth around Britannia -- "I know best" emergency powers. What a bunch of nonsense. That has been planned. They know what they are doing in the region of Peel and the city of Mississauga. Even in Markham they know what they are doing, I would suggest to the honourable member. I am sure they do.
But no, the minister knows best. She has all the answers and she is just going to pile all this pressure on to the municipal governments at a time when they can least afford it. Let me tell the minister and every one of them: The municipal councils are not going to sit back and allow their residents to think it is their fault that their taxes have gone up. They are not going to sit back and simply say, "We're doing the best job we can."
Those municipal councillors and mayors are going to tell the people that it is this government that is callously passing on increased costs like $500,000 in this bill, that is going to simply and callously pass on increased responsibilities without any attempt to fund them, that has put the landfill situation into a mess, that is closing beds all over the province -- well, they are. They should not look at me like that. They know they are: callously, no alternatives.
Whatever happened to a serious attempt to get into community-based health care? Whatever happened to long-term care? Why do they not use the example they have in Sault Ste Marie, built by the Steelworkers? Why do they not use the example that was built by my dad and Johnny Barker and the local in the Steelworkers in the 1950s, where they built a community health clinic that is the pride of Sault Ste Marie? Why do they not show some leadership? They are supposedly buddies with Leo and Bob and Shirley and everybody else. They should show some guts and build some more of those facilities and work with the municipalities.
They could cut a deal, I am telling them right now, with the Chinguacousy health board in Brampton, with the auto workers and with the region to build the kind of facility that would deliver community-based, quality health care the same as they deliver in Sault Ste Marie. But they will not do it; they will not even try. They are stuck in their myopic thinking that the way to solve problems is to cut programs like credit counselling. Instead, it creates tremendous problems.
I understand they are new.
Mrs Caplan: Fifteen months is not new any more.
Mr Mahoney: I understand many of them did not even have municipal experience. The former Health minister, the member for Oriole, says 15 months is not new any more and she is right. I stand corrected. But the reality is that they do not act like they have any experience. They are simply making decisions that rebound on all levels of government, particularly on municipalities.
They need the government's help. This is Christmas. There are going to be some terrible times. Look at this headline, "NDP Creating Mountain of Human Misery." "The NDP government is creating a mountain of human misery with its meagre increase in social assistance benefits, poverty groups charge." These are supposed to be their buddies. These are the guys who voted for them.
Mr Curling: So they thought.
Mr Mahoney: I think they did. These are the people who thought that a socialist Ontario would be a good Ontario. Members should just listen to this, and this impacts on municipalities: "Food banks, poverty coalitions and MPPs were outraged by the 2% increase in food and clothing payments for the poor and the 4.5% annual hike in shelter allowances. The increases mean $54 a month for a single parent with two kids." How much are shoes? Any idea? How much are running shoes, winter gloves, boots, a parka? I am not talking about something frivolous. I am not talking about Nintendo games or Ninja Turtles. I am talking about something to keep the kids warm.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): I think maybe the honourable member could talk about Bill 151 as well.
Mr Mahoney: It is. Mr Speaker, do you know how many of these people who are relying on their OMERS pension are going to be out of work? This pension does not matter a damn because they are going to be unemployed, never mind paying into a pension. They are going to be out of work because this government irresponsibly is cutting at the very basis of its philosophy or at least -- what is this, the Agenda for People? -- what used to be its belief.
I thought food banks and poverty coalitions were in support of this government. They are upset about a $54-a-month increase for a single parent with two kids.
Mr Drainville: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I know the honourable member enjoys the mellifluous tones of his own voice, but we are here to debate the bill and I would like it if we could do that.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): I thank the honourable member for his advice. I have already reminded the member for Mississauga West on a number of occasions. I am sure he will continue to address the Speaker and speak on the bill.
Mr Mahoney: That really identifies the problem, I say to the good reverend. The problem is that he does not understand how all this is interrelated. He does not understand that the people who are suffering are the poor they have purported to care for with such glowing rhetoric over the years. I had to sit gagging and choking when I sat over on that side, listening to the hyperbole and nonsense that was being spouted from the mouths of many of the members who are now in cabinet, who are now voting for a lousy 2% increase for those men and women, those single parents, those kids who need clothes.
As the government puts the burden back on the people in the street, where does it think they are going to go? They are going to go right here. They are going to go to their municipalities and say, "The NDP won't listen to me." Members saw the people in the gallery yesterday and heard what they said. I will not repeat it, it was unparliamentary language, but I heard it and it was reported in the press.
The whole point is that what the government is doing is so destructive to the social fabric and infrastructure of the people it purports to care for in this province. It is going to come back on the municipalities and the municipal employees.
Mr White: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe the issue is not the 2% increase in Ministry of Community and Social Services funding. We have a bill in front of us.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): To the member for Mississauga West, Bill 151 as much as possible, please.
Mr Mahoney: Let me perhaps satisfy some of the members' concerns. I will come back to some of the points, see how they relate and see if I can wrap it up and put it in a little package with a bow on it so they might understand better and might see it under their Christmas tree. A lot of these people are not going to see a damn thing under their Christmas trees this year, not a thing. A lot of them are not even going to have food for their kids, for God's sake.
Mr Drainville: All we are asking is that you string two sentences together that have something to do with the bill; that is all.
Mr Mahoney: Municipal employees -- if this satisfies the reverend, I am happy to do this -- and elected officials across this province and at AMO have been requesting that the province update the benefits and financing of the OMERS legislation. Both the range of employees and elected councillors are covered under this legislation.
Members should follow me on this. I know it is difficult for them to understand this. They should watch my lips when I talk. Maybe that will help.
If you follow me on this, Mr Speaker, they have requested this for a reason. They are concerned about their future. They are concerned about their retirement. The reason they are concerned about their retirement is they are concerned about their kids, their families, their mothers and their mothers-in-law, and so they have asked -- I should say hello to my mother-in-law and a Merry Christmas to Edna, while I am at it, but I will do that later.
Mrs Mathyssen: Is she still speaking to you?
Mr Mahoney: She watches this faithfully. She really enjoys this. She particularly likes the member for Durham East over there. I think he comes from the same part of the world she does. I told Edna I would say hi to him.
These municipal employees are scared. The problem is with what the government is doing to this economy. It is not all their fault. I admit that. Mr Mulroney and some past decisions have led to some of the problems. There is no question about that. But with what the government is doing to this economy, these municipal employees say, "I'd better get this topped up as quickly as I can, because I am going to opt for early retirement." The ones who are close to retirement age are saying: "God, I'd better get this indexed because the economy is going to hell in a handbasket. If I'm not careful, if I don't get this indexation through no matter what it costs, then I'm going to find myself finding my dollar shrinking when I go to buy the food basket I need."
Members know the example they use, where they bring out a shopping cart and what it costs and what it will buy. That is what this is all about. These people know that in 10 years' time, with the damage the government is building into the economic structure of this province, their dollar is going to be worth substantially less than it is worth today.
They also know their kids may be coming home to them because they cannot get a job. What about people like my age group, mid-40s, and they have kids who are perhaps late teenagers or early 20s? My oldest boy just turned 21 and he is in university and he is going to be out looking for a job. What is he going to do if he cannot get one? I am not going to let him line up at a food bank, for goodness' sake. What is going to happen to him? I have a 19-year-old taking commerce at McMaster. Will he be able to get a job in the municipality? Will he be able to get a job working for the city of Hamilton?
Will my 16-year-old be able to find a future in this province, when the government is turning over all the power to the labour leaders? Not the men and women in the rank and file; they are not socialists; they know better. They have the same wants and desires that everybody else has in this province. They want to put their kids through school. They want to make their mortgage payment. They want to pay for the car. They have a Visa card that is about to explode. They want to put food on the table. They want to buy something nice for the kids for Christmas. They do not want to own the pulp and paper mill. Does the government know that? They had no choice.
They did not want to buy that. What happens? They go in and ask them to take a pay cut. Do members know why? What happens in Kapuskasing if the pulp mill closes? The municipality loses tens, maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of dollars. It would be millions. Members should think about it and extrapolate it out. The pulp plant closes. The pulp and paper mill closes in Kapuskasing. The steel mill closes in Sault Ste Marie. We are in crisis management where the solution now is that the workers have to buy the company, and how do they do that? They do it with deferred wages. They do it with pay cuts.
In Algoma, my home town, Sault Ste Marie, you have Leo Gerard, the director of the United Steelworkers, leading those people out on strike for four months at a time of unprecedented economic fear. He leads them out on strike and what are we facing? There is enough blame to go around. It is not all Leo's fault. Company mismanagement, I think, has been well documented. There are a lot of environmental concerns with that plant.
What is that going to do for the city of Sault Ste Marie? What is that going to do for Mayor Fratesi and his council and the men and women who work for the city of Sault Ste Marie? What good is their pension if they are put out of work? They have to wait until they qualify, either with years of service and age and the magic formula kicks in, or until they simply reach the age of 65 or until they are in a position to take early retirement. For someone to think this bill is not very clearly related to the economic problems in this province clearly tells me that these people do not have a clue what is going on in this province.
The city of Windsor, the closures, the employees affected year to date -- these are layoffs -- 184 at A&P retail stores. Atlantic and Pacific laying people off? They are doing it all over the province. Last weekend I was in Timmins, Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury, and in our briefing notes we received all the latest statistics and data on the people who were laying people off. In the Sault, Atlantic and Pacific are laying off. Why? Why would members think? There are not enough people buying groceries. They are buying them across the border when they go over to fill up the gas tank. As a result, this government is going to bring in legislation that is going to force those stores in the Sault to close down and have a common pause day, except for December.
Does the government not think that affects the municipalities? Let me tell members, it sure does. Atlantic and Pacific is not being irresponsible or being a bad corporate citizen. They are saying: "The cash register's not ringing. Nobody's buying groceries." One hundred and eighty-four people laid off. What are they going to do, go and work for the government?
I believe that ultimately that may be the hidden agenda. We now have one in 10 people in this country working for the government as it is. I am embarrassed and ashamed to say we have 52% of the population in this government under NDP socialist rule. I believe the absolute stated goal of NDP philosophy would be to have more people working for the government than less. Then what will we have to do? We will have to put more provincial money into pension funds to make sure everybody has a guaranteed annual income. Would that not be a wonderful world? It is called, "Share the wealth." There is nothing wrong with sharing the wealth as long as you do it through some incentive and some opportunities. How about guaranteed annual opportunities instead of guaranteed annual incomes? Would that not be radical?
We have people closing. When they lay off 184 people in Windsor at the A&P store, do members think that affects taxes at the municipality? I wonder where those people live. I presume they live somewhere around Windsor, a fair assumption. I presume a number of them own a home. I presume that if they own a home, they pay taxes. I presume that if they rent an apartment, part of the rent they pay goes to the municipality for taxes. It seems a fair assumption to make. Members can see that the municipality is going to lose revenue in Windsor because A&P laid off 184 people. They cannot pay with what they do not have. We cannot afford to have everybody in Windsor and other parts of this province on unemployment or welfare.
Members can go back to the argument I made five or 10 minutes ago about the Minister of Community and Social Services cutting the credit counselling. Many of these 184 people in Windsor who have just lost their jobs at the Atlantic and Pacific Trading Co may have, probably do have, some credit problems. They are probably going to have trouble paying even the electricity in the house, the heat and the credit card bills. Never mind what they are going to buy for Christmas; they are going to have trouble buying groceries. When they have all that trouble, they are going to have trouble buying and paying taxes.
When they cannot pay taxes, they are going to call their municipal elected representative and ask, "What the heck are you guys doing?" If the impact in Mississauga on the OMERS pension fund of the amendments this minister is bringing in -- let me just take a guess here -- is $500,000, would it be safe to say it is $150,000 or $200,000 in the Windsor community? It is probably more, but let's say it is somewhere in there. When they lose revenue, they lose the ability to deliver the services to the citizens of Windsor. When this government comes along and says, "We're going to force all the stores in Windsor to close on Sunday," it means very simply that it is directly damaging the business community, closing down stores. When that happens, the municipality loses revenue.
So I say to my friend opposite that it is quite clear that the economic impact of some of the government's decisions -- and it cannot deny they have an impact. It cannot deny that its Sunday shopping legislation has an impact on the economy. Whether the government members agree with it or not is irrelevant. If they agree with it, fine. They are the government; they have a right to govern. But they cannot deny that it has an impact. I say to all members opposite to be honest with the people and admit that it has an impact.
If it has an impact on the economy and it puts people out of business, then it costs the municipality revenue. When the municipality loses revenue, how does it pay for this? How does Mississauga pay for the $500,000 the government is handing it here? When I ask that of the minister in the House, he just ho-hos me and says, "Give me a break," and gives smart-aleck remarks back instead of trying to address it. He did that time. He has been a little more civil lately. Maybe it is Christmas cheer, I do not know, but he did that time. He considered it flippant and irrelevant. That is nonsense.
I work for them too. I work for the elected officials in my municipality. They are residents, they are ratepayers, they pay taxes in this province. The former Swedish government was a socialist government that the good people of Sweden had the common sense to turf out on the street. It was there a long time, and guess what? When it left, Swedish people were paying 70% tax; only one tax, though. There were no consumer taxes.
I was in Sweden a few years ago with a young hockey team that I was coaching and that I took over to Europe. The people over there said, "We have everything paid for, but we only get to take home 30% of what we work for." So they threw the government out and they did something really drastic. they reduced the tax burden on the people in Sweden under a democratic government, not a socialist government. They reduced it by 20% and they are hopeful of reducing it further. That is what we need to do here. But what does the government do? It has put in place a boondoggle and opportunities that are going to increase taxes beyond their wildest vision. People today are paying taxes in the neighbourhood of 70% right here in Ontario. When members add up, they should think about it.
I will tell members of the photograph in the newspaper of Paul's Garage. This is interesting. It had one of those mobile signs and it advertised some things. It said on it: "Paul's Garage. Our price includes the PST, the GST, the EHT, the MBT, the MPT, the UIC, the WCB and the CPP." The line underneath the picture said, "We would have included profit, but we ran out of room."
What does that tell members? We have overburdened our business community beyond any reasonable level. We have put a strain on the business community, which says it cannot afford to pay the taxes to the municipalities and yet the people who work for the municipalities are worried about their jobs and their kids' jobs. I do not understand why the members cannot see that. I do not understand for the life of me why they cannot understand. What we have here is called market socialism.
We have a Premier who stands up and says to the municipalities, "Don't worry about your grants." He will not even tell them what the heck the grants are. How do the members think they would feel? The municipalities are like the workers at General Motors, for goodness' sake. They are waiting for the axe to fall. They are waiting for the Treasurer and the Minister of Municipal Affairs to announce in January, February or March that they are going to flat-line grants.
Is that what they are going to do? They are going to flat-line grants at a time when they are passing on, through this bill alone, an increase of $500,000 to my city and millions and millions of dollars across this province, and they will not tell them what it is going to do, which leads me to believe they are not making them sweat particularly on purpose. They are probably coming up with a scheme that is going to put more responsibility -- the Minister of Revenue should probably stay because all this government needs is a Minister of Revenue. All they are good at is raising revenue. They do not understand that to budget every two or three weeks the Treasurer has to find a couple of billion that fell down a dark hole somewhere, yet they expect the municipalities to just absorb this.
Why? I am not against doing this. I think it is time. I think it is fair. I told members about how the dedicated employees in my municipality operated under the train derailment in 1979 and the tremendous work they have done on an ongoing basis representing the citizens. I think it is unfair to bash staff at any level because the majority of them work really hard and are dedicated.
Mr Stockwell: Oh, come on.
Mr Mahoney: They do. The member for Etobicoke West does not agree with me, but they do. There are some malingerers, just as there are some in this place, but a lot of them work hard. What we have to do is get back to a position where we can rationalize it and justify it. How do we rationalize and justify expanding our staff to provide services when A&P in Windsor are laying off 184, when in Lindsay they lost 101 to a local manufacturing company, when a Abitibi-Price newspaper mill in Thunder Bay lays off 400?
Look at the list, Mr Speaker. I do not think I have time to read all of these. You would probably call me to order if you could stay awake. I will not read all of them, but I would say that when Abitibi lays off that many in Thunder Bay, would you suspect just for a minute, in thinking about it and extrapolating a little bit, that it might have an impact on the municipality? Would you think that, sir? I think it is a reasonable assumption.
Everything these people are doing will have an impact. What is really frightening, Mr Speaker, if you could just bear with me -- oh, my God, look at all these layoffs: in Newmarket, 54; in Port Perry, 160; in Etobicoke -- I say to the member -- 116. The list goes on: North York, Hanover, Toronto, Scarborough, Orillia, Cambridge, Guelph, Georgetown, Etobicoke, Ingersoll, Leamington, Chatham --
Mr Stockwell: Leamington?
Mr Mahoney: The member knows Leamington, our House leader's home town.
Mr Mahoney: Up in Ignace, how many have we got? There are 215. Good grief, there is not a lot of work in Ignace. Have members been to Ignace? There is not a lot of work in Ignace. Parts of that area of the province do not even have hydro. Why do those guys not do something and talk to Ontario Hydro? How can the municipalities service? Do they know what they have up there?
They should go in that part of the province and drive on Highway 502 from Dryden down to Fort Frances. They do not snowplow the first half of the highway. The municipality has not got enough money to snowplow the entire highway. These guys in the department of transit do not even know where it is.
The plow comes out of Fort Frances -- I know this because I was there recently -- and it drives about halfway along Highway 502 until it sees the moose carcass. There are municipal people driving this plow. Do members know what they do? They turn around at the moose carcass and go back to Fort Frances. If you are going from Dryden to Fort Frances in the middle of winter, the challenge is to get halfway down the road until you get to a cleared, plowed section done by the people who work in the municipality in Fort Frances -- interesting.
There is not a lot of work up there and yet we have 215 laid off in Ignace.
Hon Mr Buchanan: Municipal workers.
Mr Mahoney: No, they are not municipal workers, but does the member know what? They pay taxes. Do members see my point? The Minister of Agriculture and Food does not understand that when people are laid off they cannot pay their taxes. Does he get it? Is anybody home?
Hon Mr Cooke: The answer is no.
Mr Mahoney: I know the answer is no.
They cannot pay their taxes and when they cannot pay their taxes, guess what is going to happen? The municipalities in Fort Frances, Dryden, Kenora, Ignace, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Chatham, Leamington, Mississauga, Etobicoke, Markham and Peterborough will have to -- I was in Peterborough and I went for a walk on a Sunday morning. They do not even open McDonald's until 11 o'clock in the morning, for goodness' sake, because nobody goes downtown any more. If we had Sunday shopping in Peterborough, I say to the member for Chatham-Kent, think what it would be like in that beautiful little town. I would love to live in that city. It is beautiful, but it is closed. It is closed until noon on Sunday. You cannot even get some breakfast.
Mr Mills: They are civilized.
Mr Mahoney: Civilized and out of business, I say to the member for Durham East. Does the member understand? It is not civilized to be broke. It is not civilized to be out of a job. It is not civilized to have to close your business. It is not civilized to be unable to pay your municipal taxes so that the employees who would benefit from this bill can get a decent pension, a deserved pension, and enjoy their retirement with some sense of economic comfort and stability. That is what this is supposed to do, but how are they going to do it? They are going to lose out.
This list is almost too depressing to keep reading: Kapuskasing, 190 -- God -- Stratford, 140; Aurora, 158; Waterloo, 75; 561 in Oakville and Burlington. What we were talking about earlier: Can members imagine Oakville, or Burlington for that matter, without the Ford plant? Yet we see the recent announcement by the president of General Motors that it is going to lay off 74,000 people. If we were to take a percentage, if we were to recognize that our population is about 10% of that of the United States -- I saw the president of General Motors announcing on television in the news conference that Canada would have to share the pain.
Mr Mahoney: Well, he did. The member should not say no. That is exactly what he said. He said that Canada will have to share the pain. If our population is 10%, presumably our economic clout would be 10%. Are we going to lose 7,400 jobs?
Mr Mahoney: All those people are sitting over there saying no. They must know something I do not know. I get it. Bob White is going to say, "You can't do that." Bob White is going to say: "You can't lay off 7,400 auto workers in Canada. I'm going to prevent it. I'm the head of the union. I'm going to prevent it. That'll fix it." They actually believe that: "It's okay. He'll be the president of the labour congress."
Mr Stockwell: He's getting while the getting is good.
Mr Mahoney: He is out of town. Is the member kidding? He sees what is happening. He wants that cushy job. What does that pay now, $150,000 a year? My dad was a vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress.
Mr Drainville: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: There is no question these figures are lamentable, and the things the member is saying might have some interest, but they do not have to do with the bill before us. It may be because the member has not read the bill. Who knows?
The Acting Speaker (Mr Villeneuve): It is a point of order. The honourable member for Mississauga West, please, Bill 151 is being debated now. Go ahead.
Mr Mahoney: I would ask the member a question. If Triplex Lloyd Automotive Plastics Ltd out of Whitby lays off 383 people, would that have an impact on the municipality? He thinks it would. If it had an impact on the municipality, could it possibly have an impact on the number of employees working at that municipality? I am asking for his direction. He agrees with me that it does. Let him follow me on this. If it has an impact on the number of employees who work there, is it possible they could face some layoffs at the municipality? What choice have they got? Or would the municipality face reduced taxes as a result of this layoff, in one form or another? The people who are laid off would own homes in Whitby, would the member not think? That would be reasonable. If they own a home in Whitby and do not have a job, they cannot afford to pay the municipal taxes. Is this so hard to understand?
Mr Drainville: Yes.
Mr Mahoney: Why? It is totally relevant to this bill.
I suggest that at least this honourable member recognizes the seriousness of some of the figures I have been sharing with him. This is only January to November we are talking about. We are talking about complete closures in some of these cases. We are not just talking about layoffs. We are talking about jobs that are gone for ever. They are not coming back, I say to the member for Chatham-Kent. It is not funny. Why is the member laughing?
Mr Hope: At you.
Mr Drainville: What about section 2?
Mr Mahoney: I will get to section 2 in a minute.
Do members know that the OMERS pension fund is one of the largest pension funds in Ontario, with assets of $11.7 billion? That is a pretty substantial pension fund. I know they make a number of real estate investments. I am surprised the government allows that: my God, putting pension funds into the private sector. If the NDP members had been sitting over here they would have been yelling and screaming, "That's draconian and should not be allowed. Those are government employees' pension funds. They should not be allowed to be invested in speculation. My goodness, building condominiums."
That is what they are doing with it. Can members imagine using this money to build speculative condos that maybe someone is going to buy and actually make a profit on? Oh, my God. It will probably be one of the government members. Can you imagine allowing government pension money to be used in such a sense?
Then what happens? The Treasurer comes out and announces that the government is going to set up some kind of fund that will provide money if you are a member of a union. "We won't fund it from tax dollars; we will fund it from the tax-guaranteed dollars in the pension funds, but you have to be a member of a union, and maybe we'll use it for employee buyouts." That is the mentality. "When there's a problem, get the employees together and we'll buy it."
They have no choice in Kapuskasing but to do that. If they had been honest in Kap, at least, and said that the $124 million they put in was Ontario Hydro money that is going to come back later on in the rates, I would not have been quite so upset, but they were not. They were dishonest and tried to kid people and tell them it is not their money. "It's not really going to affect you. Don't worry about it." Then it is announced that there is going to be a 44% increase in hydro rates over the next three years. Is that not back-door policy?
Members should look at what those hydro rates are going to do to the municipalities. They should think about that. Municipalities do not get a grant in lieu of hydro payments. They have to pay for every time they turn on the lights, and because they run a government they must turn on the lights all through the night in many cases. They have tremendous energy costs. They have to work with their local hydro commission. They do not get a break. They do not get to walk away from this for free. Are members telling me that this bill will not have an impact in that regard? It is $11.7 billion. Would it not be nice if we could assure that it would be self-sufficient and that we would not be looking at the fact that the surpluses -- it is quite interesting; it is in here somewhere -- are going to be split 50-50 but that any deficit will be picked up by the province?
I would take the honourable members back to the debate over the teachers' pension fund. The big issue the teachers wanted from us when we were the government was for a third-party arbitrator to be appointed to resolve disputes.
Mr Stockwell: That's a mistake.
Mr Mahoney: The member for Etobicoke West says it is a mistake. One of the concerns of the day was that we are talking ultimately, in the teachers' pension fund, as in OMERS, about public money. Not all: the 50% contribution, just because they work for the government, is their money. It is not public money. They may get paid by a public agency but it is their money. Unlike my colleague who said earlier that we could cut 30% of them and we would not notice the difference, I do not believe that to be true. I believe that the people who work in municipal government work very hard for their money. It is not all public money. They earn the salary they are paid, and even though it is paid by a public agency it is their money, without a doubt.
The balance is contributed by the employer. In the case of the teachers' fund, it was the province. In the case of the OMERS fund it is the municipality that has to pick it up.
I take members back to that debate. Our argument was, and the Treasurer is here now and he will remember it well, that we should not abdicate our responsibility, as elected officials, as a public body and as a government, to have some control over the uses of that fund. Members should think about this.
Former governments, I say to the members over here, to my right substantially and philosophically, to my left personally --
Mr Stockwell: Oh, I don't know about that.
Mr Mahoney: Oh, the member is. Believe it.
I remember the Tory governments when they used to borrow from these pension funds. They would do it and pay them 2%.
Mr Mills: Right on.
Mr Mahoney: That is what they did. He is right. They would borrow the money and pay them 2%, wink, wink, nod, nod, just let it go, put through an order in council, and they built a lot of the roads in the province with that money, with the money that really belonged to the men and women who worked in this province.
Mr Stockwell: The enemy is that way.
Mr Mahoney: Yes, but those guys did that, and we did some things that were wrong too. I will talk about us, no problem. We did a few things. The biggest thing we did wrong was calling that stupid early election and letting those hot dogs get in here.
Hon Ms Ziemba: That was the best thing you ever did.
Mr Mahoney: I say to the honourable Minister of Citizenship, it was the best thing for her because it got her out of running around delivering all those meals and got her into the cabinet. I know she did great stuff and I congratulate her for her work in Meals on Wheels. She should be very proud of that. The community probably misses her and the efforts she put in in that regard, and I, for one, would like to see her back doing that work, because I think the community needs people like the minister to be really taking care of those people.
Nobody is taking care of them out of this government, for goodness' sake. How the members came in here and conveniently forgot their roots is absolutely beyond me. They come in and all of a sudden they act like a bunch of cabinet ministers, except they make mistakes and they say they are sorry and they slander a doctor and, "Gosh, golly, I didn't mean to do it. I saw a file but I didn't." It is unusual.
Going back to the teachers' pension fund, which relates very much because it was a hot item, a big item of debate. They wanted a third party arbitrator to be able to make the decisions and they did not want our government or any subsequent government borrowing their money at 2%, and I agreed with them. I thought they were right, because what the Tories did in borrowing all that pension money to build roads and sewers and infrastructure in the province -- which needed to be done -- is exactly what this government did with the Hydro fund in Kapuskasing. They told the people, "Don't worry. We will build the road," and, "Don't worry. It isn't your money." It is, and it came home to roost when all of a sudden the former Premier and the former Treasurer and our government were faced with the fact that the pension fund for the teachers was insoluble; that the pension fund for the teachers, to guarantee a pension for all their members, was not properly funded.
We had a choice. We had actuaries coming in saying, "This pension fund could be in trouble. You've got to put some money into it. You've got to increase the contributions, both by the government and by the teachers." Know what? We agreed to do that, and we said to the teachers, "If there is a shortfall we will do this: We will top up the fund to make sure it's in shape and it's in place. We'll put it in place and we'll secure your future." It is a fully indexed pension, that teachers' fund, up to 8%. So it is a pretty nice pension. "We'll put in the shortfall that's required."
We do not have a shortfall in OMERS. It is an $11.7-billion capital fund. Imagine what rate that grows at? Who is a mathematician around here? How much would that grow per day? It would be a lot of money.
The teachers' pension fund, they tell me, is growing by $10 million a day, new money now. That is as a result of the fact that we, as a government, topped it up and made sure we put it in a firm financial position so that all teachers, rightfully so in this province, would accrue the benefit of a secure pension fund for their retirement age. I thought it was a good move.
The great furore and the OTF and everybody who got all excited and involved because we would not give them binding arbitration, this government has now done that and, in essence, what that says is, "We're going to abdicate our responsibility as people who are responsible for the public purse. We're simply going to say that if we can't agree on something we're going to turn it over to some third party who's not elected, who's not responsible to anybody, who can look at it and simply bring a decision down depending on how he or she feels that day."
I find that kind of government irresponsible. That is the kind of government we are seeing here. That is the kind of policy we are seeing here, and there is great risk in the future of mistakes being made. That concerns me a great deal.
One of the other things that really concerns me is that the sheer size of OMERS means that any changes cannot be taken lightly, and the amendments in this legislation will affect the costs of servicing the plan on an ongoing basis. You do not service a plan like this cheaply. You need staff, you need proper accounting procedures, you need documentation, you need office space, you need telephones, you need a little bit of a bureaucracy to be put in place to service this plan. Those costs could be affected and it could affect the size of the liability at stake if the plan fails. Imagine this plan failing. What members opposite are doing is accepting responsibility for that. It is not only the municipal employees who would be in jeopardy if this plan failed, but it is all the taxpayers this province. As a result, I think members opposite are just being a little too flippant and a little too casual about this.
One of the things that concerns me as well is that both the cost of servicing it and the potential cost of a failure would be borne eventually by the taxpayer. The taxpayer is already paying twice on the other provincially legislated pension funds. We talked about the teachers' fund. Local ratepayers are covering the cost of that benefit to the teachers in their property taxes. The members opposite should think about their property taxes. I will speak of my own community, where 62% of our property taxes goes to education. I think the figures are similar right across the province. Sure they are -- they are 50%, 55%, 65%. Take the average across the province; a huge portion of that property tax is to fund education.
This is almost a double taxation if members think about this. They are already paying for the pension fund in their educational property tax bills, in their municipal property tax bills, in their regional property tax bills or their county tax bills. They are already paying for this. Now they are running the risk of paying for it twice in their provincial taxes. There is a provincial contribution. If there is an increase in the cost to administer this pension plan, with the propensity this government has for setting up an increasing bureaucracy, the propensity it has towards increasing red tape and hiring more staff -- and who knows, maybe they will even appoint somebody. What was that job they gave John Sewell? We all know he is an NDP hack. They made him head of some planning commission and he is going to study the Planning Act across the province. It is laughable -- $100,000 a year: "Here you go, John. Thanks for being loyal to the party."
They could do the same thing with this. They want to set up a new commission. Where is that in here, Mr Speaker? There is a new commission being set up, but it is not going to represent everybody. There are a lot of different levels of people. There are some 44 people who have an interest in this, associations, etc, and there are going to be 12 people on the board. So as a result of that, with 12 people on the board -- it is here somewhere -- not everybody gets to be represented. We have a municipal retirees' association which has not had representation.
Do members not think the municipal retirees' association would have a direct vested interest in how this fund is administered? They should think about it. You are 70 years old and you are still supporting a family or you still have some people around, you certainly have your spouse. You are living at home and you still have a mortgage to pay and you are trying to pay your municipal taxes.
We all know the difficulties seniors have been facing in this province in paying their municipal taxes. Now we are passing on an increased cost, and the guy who should be the minister responsible for seniors' issues over there, the member for Durham East, should understand this because I think he is one of the few who would qualify for this pension if he were a municipal employee.
If he belonged to the municipal retirees' association, would he be satisfied that his organization had no representation on the board that administers the decision on $11.7 billion that is partly his pension funds? Would he be happy to sit back and say, "I'll let these other high-powered organizations, these guys who are a little more aggressive, worry about all that and I am just going to sit back and ignore it"? Would the member be concerned about the possibility that his pension fund might be in jeopardy? Would he be concerned about the possibility that the cost to administer that pension fund would not be accounted for, that he had no accountability? I think that is very serious.
There are 12 appointees and 40 associations. The minister will be aware that it is difficult to ensure representation from all these organizations: the firefighters' association, AMO, the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association, unionized municipal employees. I am surprised this government has not put unionized municipal employees in charge of this thing. Maybe that is what they will do. They will reduce the size of the board and let the union take it over. That would fit their philosophy. I say to the Minister of Labour, there is an amendment. He should stand up and introduce that as an amendment to this. Let's turn the whole thing over to the unionized municipal employees.
There are a number of other groups that could be involved. I do not know if the minister has thought about this. What about the idea of having a community advisory group? We have 40 associations that are involved and have a vested interest; we have 12 of them represented on the board. What about setting up a CAC, as we used to call them in the region of Peel, mostly out of Brampton, a community advisory committees or community advisory group or whatever you want; a group that could meet with the members of the board, with the different associations; a group that could talk to the members of the board about the retirees' association, I say to the member for Durham East, even the unionized municipal association. They certainly should not be left out; they should be represented, no question. We could establish a community advisory committee that would meet and talk about issues like the increased costs and the benefits and the impact this might have.
I do not know. It seems to me that if they want to talk about openness in government -- and I just really see that it is not the case. Do members know how many people talk to me every day who say they cannot get an appointment with the Minister of the Environment? I hate to say that publicly, but it is true. She will not see them, she will not talk to them. These are people who are proponents, who have good ideas that might save this government some money, and if they save this government some money, perhaps it could be more fair to the municipalities in the area of the MUSH grants. As I said before, this government has said, "You're going to have to wait till January or February to know what your grant percentage is going to be." Is that fair? These people have to be accountable. They have to deal with the folks phoning them saying: "I can't afford to pay my municipal taxes. I can't afford my school taxes any more."
Mr Speaker, you will remember, when we were in government and the current Premier and all these people were sitting over here, how they used to scream about passing on costs to the municipality and how they used to yell about the pass-down impact on the municipalities of our government and of former Tory governments. What do they do? They get into office and, the very first thing, they just start the same ball rolling all over again.
When we were in office we argued about Sunday shopping, public auto insurance and the Constitution. Now these guys come to office and we argue about Sunday shopping, we argue about a social charter in the Constitution, some cockamamy idea the Premier thunk up on the bus, and then they adopt our auto insurance -- although people in the auto insurance business and the lawyers would tell us it is not as simple as that, that they did not just adopt our auto insurance program, that they are making some amendments to it that scare the life out of the insurance agents -- not the companies, the agents.
Believe it or not, there was probably the odd insurance agent who voted for those guys. I mean, somebody had to. We cannot find too many of them who did. Well, some of them are here; some of them are in this article -- food banks, poverty coalitions, etc:
"Six poverty group members were ejected from the public gallery here for shouting, 'Shame, shame,' when social services minister Marion Boyd announced the hikes in the Legislature."
Mr Drainville: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I appreciate the information the member is trying to impart to the House. The fact that it bears no relationship to Bill 151 is of some concern.
The Deputy Speaker: I believe this is a mistake all of us seem to commit. We circumvent the issue and occasionally come back to it. I ask the member to do that again.
Mr Mahoney: Mr Speaker, I appreciate the fact that you have just arrived. I just went through this exercise with the individual who was sitting in that chair a moment ago. Let me just, for your sake, ask for your opinion on this. I have been waiting a long time to speak to this bill, because of the impact. I talk about the lost jobs in the community and read out the communities that have lost jobs.
You would understand that when Kapuskasing has a complete closure and lays 190 workers off, those 190 workers generally either have families or parts of families that pay taxes to the municipality. Mr Speaker, would you agree that when they are laid off and do not have a job, that clearly addresses the ability of a municipality to fund the indexed pension plan we are talking about in this bill?
I realize the government members cannot take their minds beyond the black and white and what is obvious and put in front of them, and whatever their whip and cabinet ministers tell them to do. I understand they are required to toe the line of party discipline, but they should allow themselves to think a little bit for a change. They will find out that the comments I am making, whether with regard to the NDP creating a mountain of human misery or with regard to all the jobs that have been lost in the poultry industry, the hotel industry, engineering, automotive, steel products, the rubber industry, Uniroyal Goodrich Canada, United Technologies, Wilkinson -- the list just goes on and on.
This financial information is very current. We are talking about up to November of this year. We are talking about the time frame the NDP has been in government here. When you lay off 153 workers in Wallaceburg, as has happened, you take away 153 jobs, and when you take away those jobs, you take away the income to the families that allows them to pay the taxes to the municipality, which allows the municipality to fund the OMERS pension for the people who work for it. Why do they not understand that? It is just mind-boggling to me that they do not understand that.
They refuse to look at the impact this bill is having. The main change in this bill is to allow for indexation of pension benefits. Let's just talk about that. I was at a public meeting one time when we dealt with the teachers' pension fund. I recall a lady standing up at the meeting and saying, "You guys," talking about us, the Liberal government of the day, "are being unfair to teachers."
I and all the people, maybe 100 people in the room, listened. After she had finished and sat down, I said: "I'm sorry you feel that way, but let me ask a question. How many people in this room have a pension?" I do not want the answer from here. I know that none of the government members will unless they were here last time, because they are not getting re-elected. There is no pension for those guys. It is that simple.
I asked that question in the meeting where this teacher lady raised all her objections, "How many of you have a pension?" Maybe a dozen hands went up out of 100. I said: "Thank you very much. How many of you have an indexed pension?" Maybe two of them went up. Do members understand how good an indexed pension can be if you have one? Indexation means that every year you are going to get a raise while you are on pension. That is pretty good. Why would anybody not want that? But the reality is that the vast majority of the people in this province do not have an indexed pension and the vast majority of the people in this province do not even have a bloody pension.
We had better recognize that if we are going to pass on indexation to the municipal employees in every municipality in Ontario, with full indexation in their pension plan, we are truly giving them long-term security for their retirement.
I do not have a problem with that, frankly, but what we have to address more appropriately is the broader term. This is why my comments relate to the overall economic morass and the situation this government has put us in. The Premier goes off to Ottawa to beg Brian Mulroney to allow us to use the registered retirement savings plan moneys we have put away for our retirement to buy a house.
Why does the Premier not do something this government can do? Why does he not get this government off the backs of business? Why does he not tell the Minister of Labour not to bring in his labour reforms? Why does he not show some confidence in the business community instead of going off with a plan that he cannot do anything about? He is requiring Brian Mulroney, for God's sake, to agree to this. Guess what is going to happen? He is going to submit the request that we allow all the RRSP money that is sitting around, not just for first-time home buyers -- I sure hope Mulroney goes for this. I think that would be fabulous. If we could kick-start the construction industry, we could get jobs going again. We could get some economic development in our communities, and that is where we need it.
Mr Sutherland: You support the Premier.
Mr Mahoney: But the member and I know what is going to happen. What does the member think Brian Mulroney thinks of the Premier? Come on. The member should answer that.
Hon Mrs Grier: He is terrified of him.
Mr Mahoney: He is terrified of him? Give me a break. He just thinks --
Mr Mahoney: I do not much care whether the member enjoys it or not, because I am not really talking to the member. I am trying to talk to the people of this province who need to understand how serious this problem is. While he is passing on increased costs to the municipalities, the Premier goes off with his hat in hand. He might as well go to Washington.
Members should think about this: Bombardier bought out UTDC and everybody said: "Boy, that guy at Bombardier must be nuts. What's he going to do? Is he going to go up to Thunder Bay and build snowmobiles?" When was that, Mr Speaker? Help me. About six weeks ago, the president of Bombardier negotiated a deal and took the province off the hook. Everybody was saying: "Boy, what a good deal. We finally got that camel that was designed by the Tories, perpetuated and propped up by the Liberals, and now the NDP have got rid of it, and it's a terrible burden on the taxpayers of this province."
This morning President Bush and the US Congress announced a program of $131 billion to build new subway cars, buses and railcars to kick-start the economy in the United States. The estimates are that UTDC may benefit, along with some bus companies like Ontario Bus Industries of Mississauga, the second-largest bus manufacturer in North America, I might add. President Don Sheardown, one of the fine business people of this province, has led that company to prosperity and greatness.
Mr Drainville: On a point of order, Mr Speaker --
Mr Mahoney: But this relates to the income these people can pay to their municipalities. He does not understand.
Mr Drainville: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I have to say again that this is Bill 151, An Act to amend the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System Act and the Municipal Act. I would ask the honourable member if he could possibly speak about the bill. There are many sections and there are many people here who would love to hear his particular opinions on those sections.
Mr Mahoney: This is quite interesting, Mr Speaker. I have just been handed a note you might be interested in. One of our guards at the desk in the west lobby whose name is Mr Knatchbell is serving his last official shift today.
An hon member: Bring him in.
Mr Mahoney: We should bring him in. He is serving his last official shift and he is finished at 8 o'clock tonight. He is going to be retiring. I just thought we should thank him and congratulate him. I would like him to come in. I feel like Ed Sullivan.
Here he is. All right. We hope you enjoy your retirement. I hope you enjoy your retirement and your pension, sir, and may God bless you and yours, and have a wonderful Christmas and a great new year. I am going to miss you. I did not know you were leaving today. You will probably go home and turn on the TV and watch the proceedings here. When you get home and turn on the TV, I will likely still be talking.
That is quite delightful, but there are a lot of municipal employees who are going to be retiring, just like our friend, who are going to be looking for some security and a comfortable future.
Mr Christopherson: What a sancmahonious speech.
Mr Mahoney: This is not sanctimonious. I do not see how you can say that.
Mr Christopherson: Sancmahonious. Sancmahoney.
Mr Mahoney: Sancmahoney. No, I am talking about something that affects tens of thousands of people across this province and their ability to enjoy their retirement years as municipal employees, as dedicated workers who have worked in the member's city and my city for many years. I am talking about a bill that will have a major impact on the municipal tax base. I am talking about a bill that will have an impact on the ability of that municipality to pay its bills, and everything that relates there. If you allow the business community to disappear any more than it is already disappearing in this province, municipalities are not going to be able to afford it, because their income base is going to be eroded to the point where they simply -- can members imagine? The municipalities will have to go out of business. They will have to lay everybody off, never mind a pension. They will be lucky if they get unemployment insurance.
When I sit in this House, whether it is in question period or during debate or whenever it is, and I see members opposite smirking and smiling, I understand why. Many of them have jobs now that pay a lot more than they had before. I do not know what a library technician makes, but I do not think it is as much as an MPP. It might be. Maybe it is.
Hon Mrs Grier: Don't be such a snob.
Mr Mahoney: I am not being a snob. I think it is great that they are getting this for a nice four-year term, that they make a few bucks. I think that is great. But what they have to do is think about the municipal employees, who work so hard and are so dedicated, and the fact that this plan has a tremendous impact on them.
They are worried about it. The government is doing nothing to ensure that they have input, that they have an opportunity to discuss it, to be involved. As I said, there are 40 associations involved in this issue and they only allow 12 of them to be represented. Is that open government?
That is like trying to get a meeting with a cabinet minister. I do not know why you would want it; they will not be able to tell you anything. But there are people who actually think those guys are important and they would like to see them, and they will not meet with them. They dangle out a little housing project here or there, I say to the Minister of Housing. They should get serious and meet with these people. They have some good ideas. Why would they be afraid to talk to them? But they are. I assume they are getting their orders from the corner office. I guess Agnew and Piper and the boys are nervous. They do not want to leave them alone in a room with somebody from the private sector for fear they say something or tell a lie or make a slander or do something like that.
I guess they have reason to be afraid. I would be nervous if I were the Premier and I were sitting down there and one of the most competent members of my cabinet slandered an Ontario doctor. One of the most competent members did that. I would personally be nervous about leaving some of the others alone in meetings with people from the province.
Mr Miclash: They might ask for letters.
Mr Mahoney: They might ask for letters.
The proposal in this bill is to allow for increases of 70% of the CPI and to cap them at 6% annually. So what we are talking about here is an indexation with a maximum cap of 6%. The member opposite said I have not read the bill and I do not know the bill. I do my job as best I can and I understand the impact of this bill. I have told members about the impact in my own municipality being $500,000. That is assuming that there are not increased costs in administering this bill and this pension fund, and that is assuming that the economy does not fall completely off the table and the $11.7-billion capital fund is jeopardized in some way. That is assuming there is no requirement for the province or the municipalities to come up with a plan to rescue this plan, which is exactly what we had to do, I say to my colleagues in the Conservative Party. We had to rescue the teachers' pension fund because of the irresponsible use of that fund by the Tory governments of the day, borrowing that money and paying it only 2% and 3% interest and putting it in a position where it was no longer economically viable. We had to rescue that and we took criticism that I thought was very unfair. I think the teachers, I say to the member for -- which riding is it? It is where the dump is going -- Norah's old riding.
Mr Cousens: Whitevale.
Mr Mahoney: Whitevale, is that where the dump is going, in Whitevale?
This guy was going to lie down in front of the bulldozer, I thought. I thought he had all this worked out. He had a deal with Premier Bob that the dump was not going to go there. That affects municipal employees, Mr Speaker; think about that. Who do members think picks up and gets rid of the garbage? In some municipalities it is contracted out, but in many it is the municipality that will pick it up. It is the regional municipality in many cases that deals with the disposal and the ongoing management of the waste management site. Now it is going to be provincial people, I presume, or perhaps a new level of government called GTA Inc that this minister is going to set up. They will deal with the collection and disposal of the garbage.
Those are municipal employees who are affected by this bill. I would bet that before I started speaking most of the members opposite had no idea of the ramifications that this bill has on every aspect of their government and their lives. They should think about it.
The Ministry of Energy, how does it affect it? If the municipalities cannot afford to pay the exorbitant rate increases that are being imposed on the people of this province and the businesses of this province and the municipalities of this province, if they cannot afford to pay those, then the revenue for Hydro goes down. If the revenue for Hydro goes down, there is a direct impact that says that they cannot expand the grid and they are going to have difficulty providing services to the business community and to the residents of this province. Their only option will be to increase the already outrageous increases even more. So it clearly impacts.
Pick another ministry; pick Environment. We have talked about that. If the Minister of the Environment does not get a grip on herself and her ministry -- they are a cult, I suggest, with respect. Those around the minister and protecting her are the greatest part of that cult. They probably have Kool-Aid for lunch. They talk in their own language. It probably took the minister six months -- I will get to Housing in a minute -- just to understand what bureaucratese they were talking. I understand that. I worked at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology for a while and they talked about SBA and ODC and NODC and EODC and PA and all of that kind of stuff.
That is probably what the minister was doing, spending the first six months immersed in learning the language they are talking to her in, and as a result she probably now understands it, or she thinks she does, in any event.
Hon Mrs Grier: On the contrary: They now speak differently.
Mr Mahoney: That is a good note; I like that one.
But the Ministry of the Environment has a tremendous impact on the municipal job scene. They are going to lay people off there too, I can tell members that. In my municipality, regional and city, in the city of Brampton, all around Peel, in Durham, in Oakville, up in Kenora, in Thunder Bay and Windsor and London and Ottawa, all over this province, I say to the minister from Ottawa, they are going to have to lay people off because they do not have the infrastructure financially to be able to deal with it and they are just passing on increased costs.
The Ministry of the Environment has a terrible impact. It does some good things. The municipal-industrial strategy for abatement program: The minister will know and probably acknowledge the good work we did in that area when we were in government. The blue box program: I was proud to be a member of the council of the largest city at the time to implement the blue box program. I believe that prior to that Kitchener was the largest city that had done it. We did it and that blue box program is tremendously successful because we put in a tremendous amount of effort in doing that.
Mr Mahoney: I have just been given a note that indicates that the pages who are with us today are actually leaving at 6 o'clock. It has occurred to me that these young men and women are going to be future municipal employees and perhaps we should give them a round of applause.
The Deputy Speaker: Yes, I will do that. On your behalf, I would like to say a few words to the pages. I am told these debates are telecast as far as Port Severn, which is the most northern point in Ontario. It is right on our Hudson Bay shores, which to me is very close to the North Pole. So if Santa Claus is listening, because he happens to reside in the riding of the Minister of Transportation, I hope he will fill your sacks right up to the brim, because you work extremely hard, you have been extremely good, and I wish you, on behalf of all my colleagues here, a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Thank you very much.
Mr Bradley: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to ask you a question, if I can. I know it is not question period, and there are some interesting questions that could be asked in the question period these days, but if the House sits next week, will the people at least who reside in Toronto be able to sit with us next week? Is that correct?
The Deputy Speaker: I would be extremely pleased to answer your question, but in my role as Speaker I simply do not have the responsibility to make a decision on behalf of the people who are responsible for that, if I can make that clear.
I want to thank you again, pages. I think you can go now. Thank you very much for your help.
Mr McClelland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I am not sure which rule it is, but I know you sit in the chair independent of any particular caucus. As the pages are about to leave, if they could just wait for a moment, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, I would like to express our personal thanks and gratitude for not only the job that has been performed by the pages but also the spirit they bring to this place and the refreshing attitude all of them have. They have been a delight to work with and to engage in conversation and we enjoy their company. On behalf of the Liberal caucus and my colleagues in this party, we want to say thank you and wish you well in all your future endeavours and ask that you would, when you are in the area, come back and visit us from time to time. Thank you for all you have done for us. Have a great Christmas, and good luck in everything you do in the future.
[Report continues in volume B]