The House met at 1333.
INTRODUCTION OF MEMBER FOR VICTORIA-HALIBURTON
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): I beg to inform the House that the Clerk has received from the chief election officer and laid upon the table a certificate of a by-election in the electoral district of Victoria-Haliburton.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers):
"Mr Claude L. DesRosiers
"Clerk of the Legislative Assembly
"Room 104, Legislative Building
"Dear Mr DesRosiers,
"A writ of election dated the 7th day of February 1994 was issued by the Honourable Lieutenant Governor of the province of Ontario and was addressed to Catherine Boyd, returning officer for the electoral district of Victoria-Haliburton, for the election of a member to represent the said electoral district of Victoria-Haliburton in the Legislative Assembly of this province in the room of Dennis Drainville Esq, who since his election as representative of the said electoral district of Victoria-Haliburton has resigned his seat. This is to certify that, a poll having been granted and held in Victoria-Haliburton on the 17th day of March 1994, Chris Hodgson Esq has been returned as duly elected as appears by the return of the said writ of election, dated the 28th day of March 1994, which is now lodged of record in my office.
"Warren R. Bailie
"Chief election officer
"Toronto, April 5, 1994."
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): Mr Speaker, I have the honour to present to you and the House Chris Hodgson, member-elect for the electoral district of Victoria-Haliburton, who has taken the oath, signed the roll and now claims the right to take his seat.
The Speaker: Let the honourable member take his seat.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): On March 25 past, the government announced with great fanfare that it was going to help fight youth unemployment in Ontario this summer by creating summer jobs. This is being touted as something which will have a real impact on the problem of summer youth unemployment. I want to set the record straight on this by sharing some important facts.
There are approximately 335,000 university, 930,000 college and 702,000 high school students in this province. That means there will be roughly two million students looking for work in Ontario this summer. The government says it will create, at best, 24,000 jobs this summer. In other words, this government's summer job program will create, at best, less than 1.5% of the jobs Ontario students need.
There are fewer and fewer part-time jobs available for students in Ontario, and that's because more and more people who cannot find full-time work are resorting to part-time work. With an overall unemployment rate at 11%, part-time work has in recent years become very attractive for Ontarians who are desperate for any kind of work they can find.
To add insult to injury, this government has increased tuition fees by 42% for college and university students since coming to power, this from the party that promised to freeze and even eliminate tuition fees. This means that, at a time when students will need still more money to go to college and university, they will very likely find themselves shut out of the summer job market. University tuition fees will increase to over $2,200 in September, which, it is important to understand, represents only one fifth of the total cost of $10,000 required to attend university out of town in Ontario today.
Viewed in the overall context, this government's summer job program is at best a feeble effort. What it means is that hundreds of thousands of Ontario students will not find work again this summer.
RUTH ATKINSON HINDMARSH
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): I join with all members of the Ontario Legislature in paying tribute to Ruth Atkinson Hindmarsh, the grand lady of the Toronto Star, who died last week at the age of 101. She was also the grand lady of Oakville, an incredible lady.
Grand and gracious, kind and gentle, above all, Ruth Atkinson Hindmarsh was concerned about people, especially society's less advantaged. We all remember Mrs Hindmarsh as a very lovely lady. She was kind, courteous and always considerate of others.
She was six years old when her father took over management of the Star and, from that time, her life centred on the paper and later on the Atkinson Charitable Foundation. Mrs Hindmarsh was a director of the Star and president of the Atkinson Charitable Foundation.
She and her husband were not only members of the Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital's first board of directors and influential in building the facility, but also generous in their financial support.
She insisted her family, rather than buy gifts for her on her birthday, make donations to the Oakville Humane Society.
She and her husband were active in the St John's United Church, where her great-grandfather, Charles Culham, was a founding member. She was also a member of the White Oaks chapter of the IODE.
As one of her grandchildren told me on Saturday, "People will never know all the things she did." She was an incredible lady, an inspiration to us all and we will all miss her.
Mr Paul Wessenger (Simcoe Centre): I rise today to draw the attention of this House to the plight of mobile home and land-lease community home owners. As I have stated numerous times, people who lease land for use as a site for their mobile home or land-lease community home are currently being denied statutory protection equivalent to that afforded to other tenants. Many mobile home owners face the loss of their home equity without compensation by the closure of mobile home parks by owners.
There's no logical reason to provide some tenants with a greater legislative protection than others. There surely can be no logical explanation for exposing the equity of the residents of mobile home parks and land-lease communities to greater risk than the average tenant, especially when we consider that the people living in mobile home parks and land-lease communities are usually lower-income earners, many of whom are elderly.
Mobile home parks and land-lease communities provide necessary forms of low-cost housing in Ontario. The 23,000 residents in such communities in this province deserve to have addressed their concerns about security of tenure, weak tenant bargaining power and unreasonable restrictions. My private member's bill, Bill 21, seeks to do just this.
Progress in this regard, however, was halted in committee by my opposition colleagues. The practices of my Tory peers in particular shamelessly demonstrated blatant insensitivity to the plight of these tenants. This lack of cooperation will not soon be forgotten by mobile home and land-lease community home owners.
I would ask the individuals concerned to reconsider their opposition and cooperate in order to provide the additional protection these home owners need.
Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): The Minister of Community and Social Services continues to keep lives on hold. One week he claims he's freezing social assistance rates; the next week he announces that people who live as spouses will receive $27 a month less this year than last. Blood from a stone, I say.
Day after day the minister reminds us that the budget isn't here yet and continues to state that more than $13 million must come from programs mandated by the Child and Family Services Act of this province. Even though reminded last week in Young Voices, a report from the Premier's Council, that the children and youth of this province are coping with serious -- very serious -- issues on a daily basis, he and his staff continue to raise the spectre of user fees for children's services. It's residential services that are on the block this year; that is, the payment for lodging and food for children in group homes and mental health treatment centres, children suffering from mental illness and behavioural difficulties.
I ask, should we really be thinking about placing a user fee on families in Ontario because they have sick children, because they have children with difficulties? Has this government lost all compassion? Is this NDP government redefining justice?
BURLINGTON DAY AT THE DOME
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): A telltale sign that spring is here is when the birds return to Ontario. Among the most famous in North America is the Toronto Blue Jay.
Last night's opening day victory by the Jays was to say thank you to their fans, and tonight at 7:30 will be the fourth annual Burlington Day at the Dome. Burlingtonians will then say thank you to the team that has won two world championships in a row. The Jays will host the American League western division champs, the Chicago White Sox, in what we know will be a thrilling game that will see the Jays off to their third world championship.
As the proud sponsor of Burlington Day at the Dome, I am pleased to announce that proceeds from this night's event will go to help support the work of the Burlington Association for Community Living, which assists adults and children with intellectual handicaps, and will promote its annual fund-raising bikeathon on Sunday, May 1.
We will also have an on-field presentation to John Olerud with Special Olympian and bikeathon chair, Jodi Kaczur, and the Bike-A-Saurus mascot.
The Burlington Association for Community Living helps handicapped individuals become winners in their own personal lives, and this event is just one way in which we can help it keep its crucial bases covered.
I thank all of those who will come out to the Burlington Day at the Dome this evening for a fun-filled time for their whole family and the satisfaction of knowing they have been up to bat for the needy individuals in the great community of Burlington South.
J. DONALD BAXTER
Mr Paul R. Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): Today I rise to bring to the attention of the members of the Legislature the passing of one of our own. J. Donald Baxter died Monday, March 28, 1994, at Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital. He was 83.
He was elected in the provincial election of 1948 and sat in this Legislature from 1949 to 1951. He defeated James Hepburn in the election of 1948 and was followed by Norris Whitney.
He was a councillor in the village of Bloomfield. He was a member of the cemetery board and also a member of the hospital board. He was a member of the Baxter family, which was notorious in Prince Edward county for having one of the largest canning factories, Baxter's canning factory in Bloomfield, Ontario, which eventually became Cobi's, which is the last canning factory that we have in Prince Edward county.
His funeral was held on Thursday, March 31, 1994. I, on behalf of all the members of the Legislature, send along my condolences to his family and his wife, Helen.
I want to say that he did return once to this Legislative Building, from the time that he was defeated to the time that he died, and he said that he was very honoured to have been a member of the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario. He remarked how interesting it was that he could run his fingers through his name there, carved in the granite, I believe it is, on the walls in the downstairs part of this building.
I just want to say that he was a very remarkable man and will be sorely missed by his community.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): During the days of the leadership of Stephen Lewis, the NDP used to worry aloud about the loss of valuable farm land to development, complete with alarming statistics revealing the number of acres disappearing per day.
Indeed, the present leader of the NDP, now-Premier Robert Rae, stood on farm land in north Niagara in August 1990 and proclaimed for all to hear that an NDP government would address this issue urgently and comprehensively by putting an end to the loss of farm land in the fruit belt of the Niagara Peninsula.
To save the farm, however, one must save the farmer. Faced with escalating costs, low prices, ever-increasing competition and difficulty in obtaining financing, farmers in the Niagara region face a financial crisis.
The NDP promised to ease the desperate situation by implementing a policy of conservation easements which would allow owners of the land to continue to farm in a viable fashion while preserving valuable agricultural land located in a favourable climatic zone for the use of future generations. This would be a significant step in the development of a revitalized Ontario tender fruit industry.
Now in the fourth year of its office, the NDP knows that it is time for its government to translate its talk into action. The time for conservation easements for Niagara farmers is now.
Mr Chris Hodgson (Victoria-Haliburton): I'm honoured to take my seat in this Legislature as a representative for the people of Victoria-Haliburton. I intend to carry out my legislative duties to the best of my abilities, using the interests of my constituents as my guide and my conscience.
Throughout the by-election campaign, I had the opportunity to meet thousands of people from all walks of life. The most prominent issue on their minds was the fragile state of the economy. People all across my riding are looking for a sign of hope from their political leaders. Their confidence has been shaken, and it is the responsibility of the provincial government to restore a sense of hope and a vision of prosperity which will inspire job creation.
The program that I campaigned for during the by-election was a road map for economic renewal based on restoring common sense in the political process. Government must serve and work for the people, not the other way around. They must have the courage to prioritize government spending in a way that demonstrates to the taxpayers that their money is being spent wisely. As the members of a compassionate society, we have an obligation to help people who are truly in need.
On March 17 I was chosen to work on behalf of the people of Victoria-Haliburton and I intend to do that. I truly thank them for the honour and privilege. I would also like to thank my family, and especially Marie, for their support, and thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
HANSARD REPORTING SERVICE
Mrs Karen Haslam (Perth): I stand up today to acknowledge Hansard's 50th anniversary celebration.
As a familiar name given to the official reports of debates in Parliament throughout the Commonwealth, Hansard derives from Thomas Hansard, a printer who in 1811 became the first person officially sanctioned to publish reports of debates in the British Parliament.
It was on February 23, 1944, that the first transcript of a complete sitting of the House was produced. The report was prepared by shorthand writers and typewritten with onion-skin carbon copies made for distribution to the Premier, each cabinet minister and the party leaders. The final page bore the signatures of the four Hansard reporters testifying before a notary public "that the foregoing is a true and accurate record of what has been said in the session."
Today, a staff of about 50 transcribes the tapes and edits, formats and indexes the debates on computer. The cassettes, recorded in five-minute segments, are transcribed on networked personal computers. Copies of any part of this original transcript are available to members on request as soon as that segment is completed.
After name verification, reference checks, quotation matching and other research to ensure an accurate record, the final version of each afternoon sitting is dispatched to a commercial printer by modem about 9 pm, only three hours after each sitting adjourns.
Ontario Hansard has progressed from being distributed as a few carbon copies on onion-skin paper for a select group to today's transmission via computer and electronic media, available to anyone in Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): I invite all members to join me in welcoming to our chamber this afternoon, seated in the Speaker's gallery, the member of Parliament for Scarborough Centre, Mr John Cannis. Welcome.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Last Wednesday, the member for Parry Sound (Mr Eves) rose on a question of privilege concerning remarks made in Tuesday's question period by the Minister of Housing (Ms Gigantes) that the member for Mississauga South (Mrs Marland) was "attempting to stall, delay and impede" Bill 120. The member for Parry Sound indicated that the remarks, which were made in the course of a response to a supplementary placed by the member for Mississauga South, amounted to a breach of privilege and a contempt of the House and imputed pejorative motives to the member for Mississauga South. The government House leader (Mr Charlton) and the member for Bruce (Mr Elston) also spoke to the matter.
I have had an opportunity to review and consider our Hansard for last Tuesday and Wednesday, together with our precedents, the parliamentary authorities and standing order 23(i), on the imputing of false or unavowed motives to another member.
By way of response to the member's concern, I will say at the outset that it addresses a matter of order rather than a matter of privilege. I say this because an allegation by a member that another member is imputing motives or using unparliamentary language should be brought to the attention of the Speaker by way of rising on a point of order instead of a point of privilege. I refer members to citation 485(1) of the sixth edition of Beauchesne, which reads as follows:
"Unparliamentary words may be brought to the attention of the House either by the Speaker or by any member. When the question is raised by a member it must be as a point of order and not as a question of privilege."
On a related matter, the proper time for a member to rise on a point of order is immediately after the event to which it relates has occurred. The Speaker, in turn, must then deal with it immediately. As Speaker Cass indicated on page 89 of our journals for April 20, 1970, a point of order "must be raised the moment the alleged breach of order occurs and dealt with immediately." In the case of the remarks made in the course of last Tuesday's question period, the member for Mississauga South rose immediately after they were made, and the matter was then dealt with immediately on the basis that it posed a question of order. Question period then resumed.
On Wednesday, I indicated that I would review the remarks in light of the submissions that were made. It is clear from Tuesday's Hansard that when the minister made the remarks quoted at the outset of this ruling, she did not make an association -- adverse or otherwise -- between the conduct attributed to the member for Mississauga South and the purported motive for that member's conduct. The very wording of standing order 23(i) requires such an association to be made for there to be an infringement of the rule on imputing false or unavowed motives.
In the absence of any indication in Tuesday's Hansard as to what kind of imputation, if any, was being offered by the minister, and since all members are presumed to be honourable, I must find that the remarks did not offend our rules.
If I have any lingering reservations in so finding, it is because the remarks could be construed to be provocative, and as I have suggested on a number of occasions, greater respect could be shown in this House for the spirit of our rules respecting unparliamentary language. In this regard, let me quote from a ruling of Speaker Edighoffer, who made the following remarks (at page 62 of the journals for December 7, 1987):
"The Chair must appeal to members not to approach their work with a view to trying to go as far as they can without breaching a standing order or a rule of this House. Especially as it pertains to unparliamentary language, there is no fixed list of what is parliamentary and what is unparliamentary."
In closing, I thank the honourable member for Parry Sound, the government House leader, the honourable member for Bruce and the member for Mississauga South for rising when they did last week.
MEMBER FOR VICTORIA-HALIBURTON
Hon Bob Rae (Premier): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: Perhaps I might have the permission of the House to simply welcome the new member for Victoria-Haliburton.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Agreed? Agreed.
Hon Mr Rae: I remember with some emotion my first day in this Legislature, as well as in the House of Commons, both of which I entered at a by-election.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Sitting in the back row?
Hon Mr Rae: In answer to the inevitable heckle from the member from Etobicoke, yes, I did sit in the back row. If I'd been any further back, I would have found myself in the Ottawa River on my first day --
Mr Gregory S. Sorbara (York Centre): Not a bad idea.
Hon Mr Rae: -- where many people would still like me to be.
Let me say to the honourable member that in my only meeting with him, I enjoyed his company a great deal. We were spending money in what is now his constituency and I was very glad to be doing so. His experience as the warden of Haliburton will come much in handy as we discuss issues that are of great importance to him and to his community. I know that all of us in the House, on an entirely non-partisan basis, would like to share with him our sense of opportunity.
I must say that listening to his comments today, I think there are things he said that all of us can readily agree with. We might disagree on some of the ways in which we implement his particular dream and the preoccupations of his constituents, but certainly I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him personally on his victory, to congratulate the Conservative Party for its win and to say that I look forward very much to working with the new member.
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Hodgson's family, who I know are in the gallery. I can only imagine the pride and joy which they share on this day. It's one we all share with him and with them.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I would join with the Premier in welcoming the new member for Victoria-Haliburton to this Legislature and say that I know it is important for all of the constituents of Victoria-Haliburton to once again have representation in the House.
It was indeed a tough and a well-fought campaign, with very strong local candidates; I'm sure the new member would agree to that. I'm sure we would all agree that we were appreciative of the dollars that the Premier spent in Victoria-Haliburton on behalf of all the constituents of that riding.
I too, as do all the members of my caucus, look forward to the contributions that the member will make in this House on behalf of the constituents of Victoria-Haliburton.
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): Obviously, our party and our leader, who cannot be here today, are absolutely thrilled, on behalf of Mr Hodgson, to say that we look forward to working with him as he represents the electoral district of Victoria-Haliburton in the House, and to say that Chris especially is a family person who took this task very seriously when he went into the campaign. He's noted for his ability to work. He has a track record in his riding and he's very much looking forward, as we are, to the contributions he will make as the member representing Victoria-Haliburton.
I thank all of you, Mr Premier, the leader of the Liberal Party, for your welcome. We've welcomed him unofficially and now we're doing it officially.
Mr Chris Hodgson (Victoria-Haliburton): I'd like to thank the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and our deputy leader. What the Premier of the province has said brought back some memories. He's got a good memory; it was an excellent day. I look forward to working together to bring more things to our riding and to work with all the members of the House to improve the lives of all people in Ontario.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Minister of Finance. Minister, we have now reached the first anniversary of the social contract. It's a year later, and in spite of all the chaos that social contract has created, we do not yet see a lot of evidence that the taxpayers are going to realize all of the savings you promised.
We have certainly seen a number of cases over the last weeks where employers have been forced to hire temporary staff to fill in on the Rae days that are being taken by the permanent staff. We've had the example of corrections staff where they've had to bring in contract staff in order to replace the permanent workers who are on their Rae days. We are hearing from ambulance operators who are telling us that they're being forced to hire temporary staff to cover the Rae days that their permanent workers are taking. We know about Metro Toronto spending $800,000 to cover child care workers while they are on their Rae days.
I would ask you today, Minister, if you can tell us, exactly how does the hiring of temporary workers to cover the Rae days actually save the taxpayers money, and can you tell us how many employees are being replaced to cover those Rae days and exactly how much that is in fact costing the taxpayers?
Hon Floyd Laughren (Minister of Finance): I appreciate the question from the leader of the official opposition, because perhaps it can remove some of the chaos that resides within her own mind concerning the social contract.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Order.
Hon Mr Laughren: Can't I use the same language the leader of the official opposition uses, in response to her question?
What needs to be clearly understood by people is that for a transfer agency out there, whether it's a municipality, a hospital, a school board or an ambulance operation, the transfers from the province to those agencies or partners have already been reduced, so the taxpayers of this province have seen a reduction in our transfers to them and subsequently a reduction in provincial taxes flowing from that so that we did not have to raise taxes this year.
That doesn't deal with the question of, what if that transfer agency then hires someone to replace someone who's off on a social contract day, to use the more appropriate term? The fact is that it's not in the best interests of any organization out there to backfill that way. They still have to make up the difference. So if they manage their affairs in such a way that they have to replace people who take social contract days, they're hardly managing their affairs in their own best interests.
Mrs McLeod: I thought the question was, where is the real saving and what's the real cost? I'm not sure I heard a response to the question, so I'm not sure the Minister of Finance has done anything except add to the chaos. I would suggest to the minister that if he wants to find out about the chaos that has been created, and it is not in my own mind, all you need to do is talk to any public sector employer, any public sector employee, talk to any two hospitals, any two school boards in the same community, any two municipalities, and you'll find out what sheer chaos you've created.
But I suggest to you that if you can't answer the question about what the costs are and the savings are for your transfer partners, the school boards and hospitals and municipalities, you might at least be able to answer some questions about whether you've achieved your real savings, your own savings targets in your own operations.
We've been told by government officials that your own social contract savings will be off target by at least $250 million. The question then is, is that in fact the total shortfall or is there more to come, more that's going to be revealed on how far short of your targets you are? When are you going to give the public a full accounting of how many hundreds of millions of dollars you've fallen behind in reaching your own social contract targets, and what will that do to the deficit in your next budget?
Hon Mr Laughren: I've made a commitment --
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): Do you understand the question?
Hon Mr Laughren: Yes, I understand the question. I know you're commenting on what you think my intelligence level is, but that's quite appropriate coming from you.
I've already indicated that there will be some slippage on the social contract savings because of some things we did with the municipalities, Ontario Hydro and so forth. But we will, by and large, achieve the vast bulk of our savings, because we've reduced our transfers to our agencies out there and we are restructuring the public service in this province, which was long overdue and which no other government had the nerve or the courage to tackle. That's what we've done that you never did.
Finally, I must say that I will continue to repeat, as often as I need to, that our taking $2 billion in savings through the social contract was preferable to what the leader of the official opposition said she would do, which was to cut services by another $2 billion. That's what she said.
I would just say to the leader of the official opposition that we will achieve the vast proportion of our savings, keeping in mind it's $2 billion a year for each of three years. Those are very substantial savings to the taxpayers of this province.
Mrs McLeod: I'm more than happy to not only speak to my commitments but to answer to them. I'm trying to get the Minister of Finance, on behalf of the government, to speak to their commitments, their savings and their costs.
This minister talks about restructuring.
The Speaker: Order, the member for Durham East.
Mrs McLeod: I suggest to the minister that he is carrying out his restructuring in some rather interesting ways, because it seems that at the same time that employers are being forced to bring in part-time staff to cover the Rae days and you're trying to hide the fact of $250 million in missing social contract savings, you are spending more taxpayers' money to set up new offices with 50 employees to implement the social contract. My understanding is that this new social contract empire includes a secretariat, something called a productivity savings office, and that it is going to cost taxpayers at least $2.5 million for salaries alone. It seems that only the New Democrats would build a new bureaucracy in order to bring about spending cuts.
Minister, why do you refuse to tell the taxpayers of this province exactly what you have saved and what the social contract has cost? Is it because the savings just aren't there?
Hon Mr Laughren: I've said many times, and I said it in my first supplementary today, that there would be a full accounting of the social contract savings in the 1994 budget. But I would just remind the leader of the official opposition, because I don't think it should be a luxury that she enjoys to be able to stand up day after day and criticize without ever having an alternative of her own, that she said was opposed to the $2 billion in tax increases in last year's budget. She's opposed to the $2 billion in savings in the social contract. That's $4 billion right there. Presumably, the leader of the official opposition would have either increased the deficit by $4 billion this year or slashed and savaged services in health and other public services to the tune of $4 billion in this province in the very year we are now in.
The Speaker: New question.
Mrs McLeod: Mr Speaker, I hope the minister is not under any illusions that the social contract is not resulting in a loss of service, because if that's his belief, he is living in a very different world than people across this province.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Since the minister has demanded alternatives from the opposition party, I am more than happy, in a second question to the Minister of Health, to talk about a set of recommendations and alternatives that we've proposed to the government.
Minister, my question to you is on the issue of cancer care in the province of Ontario. You will be well aware that last January we presented the report of our task force on cancer care. In that report we made a number of recommendations to you, as government, for actions which we believe need to be taken immediately to deal with a pending crisis in cancer care.
We understand that you are about to announce a cancer care strategy. We are encouraged by this, because one of our key findings in our task force work was that there does need to be more coordination to make sure that cancer care patients are getting the very best care they can. Our key recommendation to make sure that coordination was in place was that a provincial agency be established to manage cancer care.
I ask you today, as you look towards an announcement of a cancer strategy, are you prepared to act on that key recommendation and will you establish a cancer control agency as part of an overall strategy to be announced this week?
Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): The Leader of the Opposition points out that shortly I will be releasing the cancer strategy that has been the product of a great deal of discussion: round tables around the province, discussion with the providers of care, with the survivors of cancer and with their families. I appreciate the fact that the member realizes we need a coordinated plan for cancer, something that during the previous government was not even contemplated or embarked upon.
In response to her specific question, no, I am not prepared today to discuss some of the findings of our discussion and, no, I am not prepared to precede the release of the strategy by giving the details to the member today.
Mrs McLeod: I must take exception to the minister's suggestion that there were no plans in place for coordinating cancer care in the province prior to the New Democrats coming into office and would remind the minister that there was in fact legislation being prepared to put in place a cancer control agency. The plans for that kind of coordination have been in place for some three and a half years now.
Having said that, I again appreciate the fact that following our task force report it became apparent that the government was prepared to move ahead on this very urgent issue. But, Minister, I want to also draw to your attention that there are other very urgent issues we raised in our task force report, and they're issues that need to be addressed immediately.
You will recall that last November I asked you about the length of time it takes to get approval for cancer drugs that are not now on the drug plan. I specifically asked you about the eight weeks that cancer patients have to wait for approval to receive the drug that's known as GCSF. I know you're aware that patients who need this drug need it immediately, they need it urgently, they don't have eight weeks to wait. When I raised this question with you on November 30, you told me you would look into the situation, that you would take steps to fix what is truly an intolerable situation.
I ask you today, because this is such an urgent situation, what have you done to follow up on that commitment, and why are cancer patients still waiting an average of eight weeks to get approval for this drug?
Hon Mrs Grier: I would dispute the eight-week wait. My understanding is that in fact there is significant coordination and implementation of the recommendation and our view that that was too long a wait.
In response to what has happened, let me assure her that we have appointed within the ministry a cancer coordinator, Dr Les Levine, who has been working with the treatment centres and looking at the improvement of the situation. If in fact there are instances of an eight-week wait for approval of a drug, I would entirely agree, as I did with the member the first time she raised this, that that was too long, and I will look into it and make sure steps are taken to make sure that average is significantly reduced. It is my understanding that in fact it has been.
Mrs McLeod: I have already said that I appreciate the fact that Mr Levine was appointed in order to bring about a coordinated cancer care strategy. That is not a response to the more immediate and very urgent issue of shortening the waiting time to get funding for those urgently needed cancer drugs.
When I asked the question at the end of November, you indicated very clearly that you would seek confirmation as to whether that was the waiting list. You cautioned me not to take it on advice of a doctor in a public hearing that nine weeks was in fact the average.
We understand from ministry staff today that the average wait to get the approval for drugs under section 8, the special approvals, is indeed eight weeks. We understand that there are simply not enough ministry staff to even begin to process the number of requests for approval that they're getting.
I am shocked and disappointed that four months after you committed to confirm that this is a problem and to deal with it, there is still no assurance from you that anything has happened and that the waiting list is still an average of eight weeks.
I say to you that this is a very simple, a very straightforward and a very human problem. These people need the drugs, they need them immediately, they need to be able to combat the infection, and in fact there is cost-effectiveness if they get the drug because it means they don't have to be hospitalized.
I ask you again, will you commit to fixing the approval system so that patients can get the drugs they need when they need them?
Hon Mrs Grier: There is no question that that needs to be done, has to be done, and has been done. If the ministry is informing the Leader of the Opposition today that there is an eight-week waiting period for some drugs in some cases, then that is certainly something I need to know about and to investigate, because I agree with her completely: That is too long.
When she says there aren't the staff to process the applications, I take issue with that, because that has not been a difficulty. I will certainly take the information she has given me and confirm with the ministry that that is no longer the case. It ought not to be.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is for the Minister of Housing. I have obtained a confidential memorandum from two senior managers of the City of Toronto Non-Profit Housing Corp. This memo tells the corporation's board about the status of the Jarvis-George development project.
The memo predicts the project will come in almost $1 million over budget, possibly as much as $1.5 million. Construction prices are 16% more than the maximum unit price for Toronto. Fees for lawyers, consultants and architects are over budget by more than $250,000.
Here we are 16 months after the auditor reported that these same problems were widespread in the non-profit housing program, and they're still happening. The Ministry of Housing must approve these cost overruns and other irregularities. Minister, why is your ministry turning a blind eye to this evidence of gross mismanagement?
Hon Evelyn Gigantes (Minister of Housing): The ministry is not turning a blind eye to gross mismanagement. First of all, the ministry does not turn a blind eye to any difficulties that arise in the social housing program. Second of all, I cannot indicate, with her, that this is a question of gross mismanagement.
I would be prepared to respond to the member's question by providing a full answer with full details about the project, perhaps tomorrow, if that's suitable.
Mrs Marland: Of course the Jarvis-George project cost overrun will mean a larger mortgage than anticipated. This confidential memo also tells us, and I quote, "The Ministry of Housing regularly approves mortgage adjustments of this nature, even if total capital costs exceed maximum unit prices."
In another revealing statement we learn, and I quote again, "Cost overruns on Cityhome's own projects have always been covered by mortgage increases approved by the Ministry of Housing."
The Housing ministry's practice of looking the other way has to stop. Minister, will you give us your commitment today that you will not allow these practices to continue?
Hon Ms Gigantes: The member is suggesting that there is something unusual and impossible and unethical going on in the social housing program, which is simply not the case.
There are cases of housing developments where, because of environmental problems which have arisen, or because of delays in the approvals process, or because of OMB hearings that have been required, because of neighbours' questions about a development, for a variety of reasons, there are projects in the past some of which have taken two, three, four and, some, five years to develop, where costs have arisen which are above the maximum unit prices, and certainly those have been discussed openly with the public accounts committee. They have been discussed openly in this Legislature since I have become minister.
But to suggest that there is anything unethical going on here, which is what I think she is trying to do, is simply nonsense. What is done in each case is that a review of the project is undertaken to decide whether the merits of the project warrant the investment that has been made and whether that investment should be continued, as opposed to just shutting it down and writing off costs.
Mrs Marland: I am wondering if I should raise my point of order now about the minister accusing me of saying that something was unethical when in fact I didn't say anything was unethical, or shall I leave it and let it go for today? Obviously, for this minister, who doesn't have the answer, she has a great deal to say.
Let me tell this House about another statement in the memo that is puzzling and disturbing. Bear in mind, this is not my memo. It's an internal memo in one of the organizations that this minister supports very strongly.
The authors write that even if the ministry does not approve a mortgage adjustment for the project, Cityhome doesn't need to worry. Listen to this:
"Cityhome, as a developer of properties for other groups, has made earnings on a number of those projects. For example, Cityhome undertook the development of 11 Coatsworth for Stephenson Senior Link and earned approximately $1 million on the land and construction. Another $1 million was earned on the development of the 48-unit seniors' project for the MTHCL at Coxwell-Hanson. The accumulation of these amounts in Cityhome's unrestricted reserves is a possible source of funds to pay for the potential contract losses."
Obviously, this sounds like Cityhome made $2 million in profits from acting as a developer and can use that money in any way it wishes. Minister, is this the case -- that's one question -- and, if so, why is this program called non-profit housing?
Hon Ms Gigantes: The member is asking me to confirm statements in a memo which she says exists. I don't know whether it exists or not. But I can just say to her that when a non-profit organization such as Cityhome decides it will act as a development consultant, which it has a perfect right to do, and earns a fee for that, no matter what it may be called and no matter what piece of paper or so-called memo the member may have access to, it is still reserves of a non-profit organization, because Cityhome itself is a non-profit organization.
To suggest that there is something wrong with this process betrays an enormous naïveté and lack of understanding about how non-profit organizations work, what they do in order to generate fees, because many of them do this kind of development consultancy to the very great benefit of other non-profit organizations and to the benefit of the public of Ontario.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): I'd like to address my question to the Premier. Considering your past history, which you spoke about earlier in welcoming the member for Victoria-Haliburton, I would ask if you still believe in freedom of speech and those people you defended when in opposition, and I suppose at times in government, the right to freedom of speech or in fact just demonstrating against the government of the day, allowing these people to have their say in a democratic society, which we are so lucky to live within. Do you still believe in that, Mr Premier?
Hon Bob Rae (Premier): I wonder if the member could be more specific in his question.
Mr Stockwell: Just to quickly recap, Mr Premier, do you believe in free speech? I assume that everyone in this Legislature would believe in free speech and the democratic principles. If you still believe in freedom of speech, why are you banning these signs from rural Ontario? These signs are being put up on private property in agricultural areas by the owners of these properties, putting these signs up in demonstration against your government's policy to unionize farm workers.
I ask you, as a person who in opposition was, and as a Premier is, a defender of democracy, a defender of freedom of speech, why are these signs being removed from agricultural private property as an expression of those people who own these properties?
Hon Mr Rae: I've seen the sign he is looking at. For those of you who haven't seen it, it has a picture of me, looking very, very grim, facing one way, and a picture of a benign-looking donkey facing the other way. It's one of the few times that my picture and that of -- no, I won't say it. I'll leave it alone.
I would just say to the honourable member that I've seen that poster. I believe it's downtown at the corner of Bay and Gerrard streets, and I think I saw it in the member for Huron's riding the other day when I was visiting him there, so I've certainly seen the sign around. Apart from that, I'm not aware of any limitations on free speech that would be in order. I don't think they would be in order at all.
Mr Stockwell: To me, this cuts to the basic rights of a democratic society. Although this particular billboard is not a billboard the government would agree with, I'm sure, it does allow for freedom of speech and basically the fundamental reasons we are here in a democracy. These signs were put up, Mr Premier, I say to you directly -- I mean, I don't find this the least bit funny. This is very, very dangerous.
The sign police are out in the agricultural communities telling private property owners they may not be allowed to keep these signs up on their property. They can put up a sign that says "Eat at Moe's" or "Bowl All Night," but they can't put up a sign that talks about freedom of speech and the very essence of the democratic society we live within.
Mr Premier, as a person who embraced Salman Rushdie some months ago and defended his position for freedom of speech, I would ask you directly to intervene in this matter and allow people in the province of Ontario the right to say what they want for freedom of speech and allow them to put signs up on their private property asking governments to change policies, change principles and change legislation.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the member conclude his question, please.
Mr Stockwell: I appeal to you directly. Call off the sign police and let this democracy be maintained.
Hon Mr Rae: I don't support any activity that would restrict freedom of speech in this area. I never have. I don't support it or condone it. Having said that, there may be issues, and I'm trying to think of which ministry it might be, involving some questions of signage. There may be some issues involving highway safety or whatever the reasons may be.
I would say to the honourable member, first of all, that I personally am a very strong supporter of free speech. I have absolutely no objection to people putting signs up as long as they're in conformity with the basic zoning bylaws or other laws that are in place. I can only assume that's the policy overall that governments have followed. If there's an issue here that has to be addressed, I'm sure it will be addressed by the responsible ministries, but I certainly don't object to any signs going up anywhere at all. I don't mind signs going up.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Finance and it has to do with the economic outlook for Ontario.
Minister, I gather the budget will be presented in the next two to three weeks, according to what you've said previously in the House. A cornerstone of your economic outlook was that we would be seeing some fairly significant job growth occurring in 1994. In fact, I think when you were before us in January, you predicted that we would see job growth of around 88,000 jobs in Ontario in 1994.
As you will know, Minister, you issued a report about two weeks ago indicating, at least after two months into the year, that rather than job growth we've seen some fairly significant job loss. It was very much a surprise to us and I suspect to yourself.
My question to you is this: As we look ahead at the budget and your economic outlook, have you revised your outlook for job growth for 1994, and if you haven't, how can you explain that we've seen about 10,000 fewer jobs in Ontario in the first two months of the year and how do you explain how we are going to get to the very significant job growth you predicted in the economic outlook in the remaining months of the year?
Hon Floyd Laughren (Minister of Finance): The member for Scarborough-Agincourt is correct in that the budget will be coming down in the next short while -- within the month or so -- and it's also a fact that it depends on whether he's talking about a calendar year or a fiscal year. I'm not sure what he was getting at in his question.
But it's also a fact that in January, for example, of 1994, there was a sudden blip on the scope on jobs, in which jobs have been increasing every month and suddenly there was a rather abrupt and strange drop, something like 41,000 jobs in one month. Now that, since then, has come back up in the month of February, and there was positive job creation in the month of February. So I think that most of us in government and private sector forecasters scratched their heads over that January figure but feel that the recovery is still ongoing and that there will be positive job creation in 1994, as there was in 1993.
Mr Phillips: I won't get into a long debate with the minister about numbers, but I do think that if you look at your own report, after two months we see 10,000 fewer jobs in the province than we saw a year ago. You have been predicting that we would see significant job growth and a declining unemployment rate. There's something going on in the economy, Minister, that indicates that your forecasts may be off.
The second part of your economic outlook indicated that we would see low interest rates for the foreseeable future. In fact I think you predicted continually declining interest rates. Certainly as I look at this document -- the minister's shaking his head, but this document predicts interest rates continuing to decline and indicates that you base your housing start projections on a declining interest rate.
This is my second part of my question. I think there are some significant questions around your employment numbers. What impact will what appears to be a rising interest rate rather than a declining interest rate have in terms of your economic outlook and therefore, of course, on the budget that you're presenting, I gather, in two to three weeks here in the Legislature?
Hon Mr Laughren: I noted with some interest comments made by the Governor of the Bank of Canada, speaking earlier today here in Toronto, in which he indicated that it was still his belief that the federal government's projection on interest rates would be achieved, which is in the 1% to 3% range, and that we have been forecasting an inflation rate somewhere between 1% and 2% until the tobacco tax debacle come down around our ears, which meant that the inflation rate dropped even more for 1994.
With the recent events in the money markets, of course, and interest rates getting bumped up again, there's no question that if the trend in interest rate increases were to be dramatic in the future, that would have a dampening effect on the recovery of the economy. There's no question about that.
But I would remind you that as the Governor said today, given the capacity for expansion within the economy, we should not be concerned about the rate of inflation going out because of the capacity that's still there in the industrial sector, not just in Ontario but all across Canada. So we're still anticipating positive job growth and economic growth in virtually every sector and virtually every measurement of economic growth in Ontario this year.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD
Mrs Elizabeth Witmer (Waterloo North): My question is for the Minister of Labour. Minister, urgent action is necessary to deal with the WCB's unfunded liability. As you know, it has now ballooned to $11.6 billion and the number continues to grow.
Indeed, if we recall, the auditor, in his 1993 provincial report, urged you to develop a plan for dealing with this problem as quickly and efficiently as possible, and in another recent report, the Canadian Bond Rating Service identified the WCB's unfunded liability as a cause for serious concern which could raise the province's debt rating level.
Minister, you must act now to reduce this massive unfunded liability. Given the fact that the Premier's Labour-Management Advisory Committee for reaching a joint labour-business solution to the crisis reached an impasse on Friday, will you tell us today what action you now plan to take to deal with the unfunded liability?
Hon Bob Mackenzie (Minister of Labour): The member, I'm sure, will be anxious to hear our arrangements to deal with the unfunded liability. I can tell her that we are working on it right now, and I can also tell her, though, to put this in the proper perspective, that the 1993 increase is the lowest in 10 years in the unfunded liability, and that the increase was $1.2 billion in 1991, was $6.8 billion in 1992 and with this following year at $5.4, it is going down. It's not acceptable, but it is going down, and we will be dealing with it.
Mrs Witmer: It's obvious that the Minister of Labour doesn't have any plan for dealing with the problem, and I'd like to follow up on a comment that was made by the Premier, who said he'd like to send the bill for the WCB to the Liberals.
I think we need to remember that the financial crisis at the WCB is in part due to the expansion of coverage that was introduced by the previous Liberal government through Bill 81 and Bill 162. These bills index benefits, they change compensation for permanent impairment and they alone added more than $3 billion to the unfunded liability. So yes, we should send the bill to the Liberals.
However, I ask you, Minister, are you going to be proceeding with policy changes to expand the scope of coverage such as compensation for chronic stress? Are you going to continue to add to the financial woes of the WCB which are contributing to job loss? Will you give the employer and employee community in this province your commitment that you will not introduce any more policy changes at this time until you deal with the unfunded liability?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: I want to assure the honourable member that we will try to deal with both the unfunded liability and other problems that we've been aware of at the WCB for a good many years, and that is the approach of this government, and I think very shortly the member will see some of the steps we're prepared to take.
Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): You are killing jobs. How can you say that? They won't locate here.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Order, the member for Simcoe West.
Ms Jenny Carter (Peterborough): My question is to the Minister of Health. Over the years there have been concerns about waiting times for cardiac surgery. In the late 1980s, there were problems in Ontario with access to cardiac care. Today in the 1990s, people are still concerned. There has been concern in my own riding of Peterborough. Minister, can you tell me where we are at in terms of managing cardiac care in the province?
Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): I'm delighted to have an opportunity to address this question because it's one, I think, in which a lot of us have very real concerns, but in Ontario waiting times for heart surgery have decreased since the late 1980s to an average of just over a month for bypass surgery. We know this from the results of the first study of the system that has been done by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and was released just last week. These results show that waiting times across Ontario have dropped, the resources are used effectively and that patients who need urgent treatment receive priority treatment.
In the past, doctors had no common definitions or criteria for rating patients and so we established the provincial adult cardiac care network in 1991 to manage the waiting list. The study that was released shows that it has in fact done its job, that we've improved the system, we're using our resources more effectively and that hospitals, doctors and the ministry are working together to improve the system.
Ms Carter: With regard to the study that you mention by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, my constituents will want to know about the outcomes of this study. Does it tell us anything about the value of different procedures so that we can use our resources more wisely? What does it mean for patients and their families?
Hon Mrs Grier: I think it's important for all members of the House to be aware that in this study and in many others, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences has proved its value because we are in this province now for the first time examining the outcomes of the procedures and the services that we provide.
As the member has stated, people in the past have not known whether in fact we ranked well or poorly with the procedures and the treatments that we provided. What the study that ICES has just released means is that we can now assure the people of Ontario that they can be confident that they receive outstanding cardiac care in Ontario. It showed that there is still some room for improvement, but we will work to make those changes.
I know as well as anyone how stressful it can be when somebody is on a waiting list for cardiac surgery and I hope that this study will reassure people that we have a system that we can all be proud of and that this kind of a success story will show us the value of having an institute and of doing outcome studies as we struggle to spend every health care dollar as effectively as possible.
Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a question for the Premier. When you and your minister announced that you were reorganizing the trade and investment activities of the Ontario government, which included the closing of 17 foreign offices, your Minister of Economic Development and Trade announced that the new strategy calls for greater coordination and cooperation of activities by the provincial and federal governments. Your minister went on to report to this House that she had led a trade group to the International Auto Exposition in Frankfurt and in cooperation with its federal counterparts, Ontario, for the first time, operated exhibit space for seven Ontario-based automotive companies.
On March 22 to 25, the largest trade show ever held by Canada outside of Canada was held in Mexico City. The show was attended by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Minister for International Trade Roy MacLaren and Industry minister John Manley and had over 400 Canadian exhibitors. Of those 400 exhibitors, 184 of them were from the province of Ontario.
Mr Premier, could you tell this House why there was no official Ontario presence at this show?
Hon Bob Rae (Premier): I can tell the honourable member that because the government concluded that there was so much representation, including representation from the federal government, from the Prime Minister and others, there was simply no need.
Mr Kwinter: I have heard the Premier make comments and say things, but that has to rank as one of the silliest comments that I've ever heard him make.
Mr Premier, given the importance of international trade to this province and given the fact that Mexico is the third-largest market for the United States and has the potential to be a major trading partner of Canada, do you not think that your government was irresponsible in not coordinating the presence of the Ontario participants by at least having identifying logos on each Ontario company's booth so that visitors to the show could see that nearly half the exhibitors at this major show were from Ontario? And do you not think that you could also have had a booth promoting Ontario as a place to do business, as well as booths for the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, both activities that have a very, very high potential in Mexico? All of this could have been done at very little relative cost but would have presented Ontario as the major economic force that it is in Canada.
Mr Premier, do you not agree that this was a missed opportunity, and does it reflect the indifference that this government has to international trade opportunities in the future?
Hon Mr Rae: I go to countries overseas, I suppose, as frequently as any Premier in the history of the province, for which I am roundly criticized by many, including the honourable member from St Catharines, who's the first to criticize. We have a delegation representing Canada overseas, a major exhibit in Mexico City, we have three federal cabinet ministers, one of whom, the Minister for International Trade, represents the constituency of Etobicoke North in Toronto, and now we have a member of the Liberal Party opposite saying, "Why didn't you send more cabinet ministers from Ontario to duplicate what is already being done?"
I will continue to represent the province and to be aggressive. In fact, just at lunchtime today I was meeting with people, discussing what we will do. But I would say to the honourable member that we have to be effective and intelligent in the use of public dollars, unlike some other things which have been done.
AGRICULTURAL LABOUR POLICY
Mr Chris Hodgson (Victoria-Haliburton): I have a question for the Minister of Agriculture --
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Order. The member for Victoria-Haliburton with his question.
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): That will be your last applause.
Mr Hodgson: I have a question for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. In rural Ontario, and in particular Victoria-Haliburton, we have a number of concerns over the threatened unionization of the family farm. In my constituency, they cannot understand why your government is proceeding with Bill 91. Can the minister please tell us why the government again appears determined to unionize our family farms?
Hon Elmer Buchanan (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): First of all, I'd like to welcome the member for Victoria-Haliburton, who's kind of a neighbour of mine in terms of his riding. Certainly, welcome to this House.
I think perhaps what the member should do is a little bit of research on the family farm. What he calls a family farm from his riding and my riding is usually a small farm that's run by the family members. Very seldom do they actually have a hired person on the farm. In some cases there are dairy farms, very few, that do have hired people on a regular basis.
There's no attempt by this government whatsoever to unionize the families who actually work on these farms. The member has absolutely nothing to be concerned with. He should look at this bill, which was put together by a task force which included farmers and labour as well as government. Those recommendations have been accepted and will be dealt with when Bill 91 comes before this House.
The Speaker: Supplementary, the member for S-D-G & East Grenville.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): It's obvious the NDP don't understand teamwork.
The Speaker: Order. The government benches are asked to come to order so the member for S-D-G & East Grenville can ask his question.
Mr Noble Villeneuve (S-D-G & East Grenville): It's quite obvious that Bill 91 is not fully endorsed by government members as well. When this legislation first came forward from the Minister of Labour -- and that, in our opinion, is the wrong ministry to start with -- it was supposed to be separate from Bill 40. Indeed, in other than a few very specific reasons, it is an extension of Bill 40, which is very dreaded by the entire rural community. The message came through loud and clear during the by-election in Victoria-Haliburton.
If this government intends to proceed with legislation for which there is no demonstrated need, and there is no demonstrated need for Bill 91, will this government at least honour its commitment for separate legislation under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs? That's what this is all about.
Hon Mr Buchanan: There's a lot of information out there in the public. Not all of it is accurate when it comes to Bill 91. I know that we're going to have a discussion about an opposition motion this afternoon dealing with Bill 91 and I hope that in fact everyone can stay with the facts as to what Bill 91 is about and what the government intentions are in terms of amendments to that bill.
There is not, I repeat, a lot of fear in rural Ontario about this bill. If there are any fears out there, they're based on misinformation and stories from people who either do not understand what the bill is about or do not talk to farmers and rural organizations as to their input to this bill and their further input in terms of what amendments will be brought forward.
I don't think any farmers have any reason to be concerned, certainly not the family farm, whether it's in Victoria-Haliburton or down in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
Mr Gordon Mills (Durham East): My question today is for the Minister of Education and Training. Over the past couple of months I've received hundreds of letters from my constituents requesting support and help in getting a new building for St Stephen's Secondary School in Bowmanville.
The community support for this school is overwhelming. The school began with 50 students. It now has 450 students and by September this year will have 500 students.
My question, Mr Minister, is this: Is there anything in the works at this time to modernize the facilities at St Stephen's Secondary School in order to accommodate all the students?
Hon David S. Cooke (Minister of Education and Training): I appreciate the question by the member, who has talked to me about this particular school accommodation question many, many times. I would just tell the member that at this point all of the school boards have set their priorities for submission to the Ministry of Education and Training in terms of what they think should be funded, what their priorities are and what the needs are.
Obviously, overcrowding, age of school buildings, all of those issues are taken into consideration when the regional offices are making recommendations to the ministry. That's where the issue stands at this point and, as soon as decisions have been made, I can assure the member that he will be the first to know.
Mr Mills: Thank you very much, Mr Minister. The Catholic community in Bowmanville definitely needs a permanent, up-to-date school facility which will provide the students with the same opportunities that are provided to other students. Can you tell me whether or not Bowmanville will indeed be provided with a new building for St Stephen's Secondary School?
Hon Mr Cooke: The ministry has to rank all of the capital requests from all the school boards in terms of need. The member will know that the school boards submit close to $2 billion worth of requests for capital each year and there's about $300 million allocated. The ranking is being done now, and as soon as those decisions are made the member will of course be informed, but the information that he and the school board have provided us has been very helpful.
AGRICULTURAL LABOUR POLICY
Mrs Joan M. Fawcett (Northumberland): My question is for the Minister of Labour. I'm going to try a different minister here and see if we can get an answer.
Minister, two weeks ago you said you would be bringing forward some housekeeping amendments to deal with the concerns that farmers right across Ontario have about Bill 91, the agriculture labour legislation. Farmers not only in Victoria-Haliburton but in Northumberland and right across Ontario have been telling you about the problems with Bill 91 since it was introduced last spring. Nine months later we are still waiting to see your amendments.
Minister, where are these amendments, if in fact there are any? Will the amendments finally implement the agriculture labour task force recommendation to give farmers a separate agriculture labour act instead of putting them under the OLRA, Bill 40?
Hon Bob Mackenzie (Minister of Labour): We've had an agricultural labour-management advisory committee looking at the bill, looking at the suggestions that have been made. They have brought in some recommendations. We will be dealing with those recommendations very shortly.
Mrs Fawcett: "Very shortly." "In the future." Farmers, Minister, are very suspicious about your motives with Bill 91. The minister will be aware that farmers are counting on some kind of legislation to give them protection from strikes, since the NDP took the agriculture exemption out of the Ontario Labour Relations Act with Bill 40.
Bill 91 doesn't give farmers the protections they need. There are no amendments in sight, and the minister won't even give a commitment as to what the amendments will contain. Maybe, just maybe, this is because Bill 91 didn't make it on to the NDP's A or B of issues to be dealt with before this next election.
Minister, farmers are looking for changes to Bill 91 that do more than prevent strikes from taking place. Will the minister's amendments include provisions for a quick-response mechanism to ensure that any illegal labour disputes are stopped immediately?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: I have seen very few pieces of legislation where there has been more consultation and more involvement of the OFA, of the labour movement and of the ministry. I think that the recommendations that will be made certainly will meet the criteria for a good number of the farm community. There may still be some out there -- I'm not sure -- who don't like the bill. But I can tell you we've consulted closely and we are listening to the complaints and the recommendations that are being made.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Energy; it's on the town of Tillsonburg, which has a wonderful name, I might add. Tillsonburg has an alternative to the blue box program that has been running a successful recycling depot since 1991. This depot is currently diverting 12% to 14% of the town's garbage from the landfill site. This diversion rate has generally been more successful than any of the other municipalities around the province of Ontario. Tillsonburg diverts anywhere from 5% to 13% with curbside blue box programs.
My question to the minister is, why are you forcing Tillsonburg to abandon the waste depot program that is working well and forcing the taxpayers of Tillsonburg to spend $170,000 a year, which they don't have, on a blue box program, with no guarantee that it will improve its diversion rate?
Hon Bud Wildman (Minister of Environment and Energy): I would compliment the member on the name of Tillsonburg and indicate that I wasn't aware he had such a close connection to that community. He is quite correct that the municipal council has expressed some concerns. Ministry staff have met with council to discuss its concerns about the new 3Rs regulations that will be coming into effect for all communities over 5,000 people in the province.
Tillsonburg is committed to waste diversion. We indicated to them that we were prepared to talk to them about alternatives to the blue box. At one point they did suggest perhaps a blue bag program, which is somewhat different, as the member knows, in terms of the way it operates and the need for separation and so on. But if Tillsonburg has other suggestions that would make it possible for them to comply with the 3Rs regulation when it comes into effect, the ministry would be happy to discuss it with them.
Mr Tilson: I'm pleased to hear that, because that isn't what the town of Tillsonburg has been saying. The town of Tillsonburg has simply said that you are refusing to exempt it from the blue box program, and in fact the funding --
Hon Mr Wildman: It could be exempted.
Mr Tilson: Well, that's what they're saying. The Premier has visited Tillsonburg and has made such a commitment to look at exempting Tillsonburg. They have passed a resolution, as you have indicated, supported by municipalities from all over Ontario, to amend the 3R regulations to give the municipalities more latitude in the methods used to achieve the desired objectives for a reduction of waste being sent to a landfill site.
Will you make a commitment, will you confirm the commitment that was made by the Premier, to exempt Tillsonburg and any other municipality across Ontario that has shown through example that it can achieve reduction without implementing more expensive blue box collections? In other words, will you give the municipalities the opportunity to consider options?
Hon Mr Wildman: The member has misinterpreted what I said. I did not say that Tillsonburg could be exempted from the 3Rs regulations when they come into effect. I'm sorry if he got that impression.
We are prepared, as he suggested in the last part of his question, to discuss options that municipalities might use in order to comply with the 3Rs regulation. But the member knows that this government is committed to a 50% diversion by the end of the decade, in comparison to 1988.
We have committed additional funding over the next two years for the blue box program to assist municipalities where funding was running out. We are committed to ensuring that the private sector will contribute more of the share to the cost of the blue box program and other 3Rs projects.
We are prepared to talk about options, but there is no wavering from our commitment to waste diversion and the application of the regulations. Frankly, there is no wavering on the part of the population of this province, which is wholly committed: three million households already on the blue box program.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): The time for oral questions has expired.
Mr Steven Offer (Mississauga North): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I require your direction with respect to standing order 33(a). You will know that the last part of that order indicates, "The minister may take an oral question as notice to be answered orally on a future sessional day but where any reserved answer requires a lengthy statement, the statement shall be given under 'Statements by the Ministry and Responses.'"
On March 30 I posed a question to the minister of Management Board on a matter dealing with a retreat taken by the social contract secretariat. The minister at that time undertook to respond to me on that matter and on the matter of a facilitator being paid $1,800 a day for this particular matter.
To date, the minister has yet to respond to this question, which I believe should be very easily ascertained by him and his office. I'm wondering if this is not really a breach of rule 33(a) and if in fact my rights as a member posing questions in this Legislature on matters which are known to the minister have not been prejudiced by virtue of the fact that the minister has refused to respond to my question on this date. Now we are moving into, I think, the fourth sessional day having passed without a response to this matter by the minister.
Hon Brian A. Charlton (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): On that point, Mr Speaker: Methinks the member's head is full of too many dreams. I've made a commitment to the member that I will get him an answer to his question, but the member is well aware that he directed the question to the wrong minister. I've explained that to him and I'm awaiting the full details of the answer from the ministry where the operation is located. When I have that information, I will provide it to the member.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): First, to the member for Mississauga North, he will know that the standing order does not specify a particular time within which the minister who has made the undertaking in the House must comply. He has quite properly brought the matter to my attention and at the same time to the minister who is responsible. He has stated that he will provide an answer as soon as possible, and perhaps that will satisfy both sides of the House.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, do hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the Legislative Assembly urge the Minister of Health to respond forthwith to the issues raised in the Liberal task force on cancer care, including the urgent need for radiation equipment, addressing shortages in trained personnel and providing adequate information and non-medical services for patients."
I support this and will add my name to the petition.
Mr W. Donald Cousens (Markham): A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas traditional family values that recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman are under attack by Liberal MPP Tim Murphy and his private member's Bill 45; and
"Whereas this bill" --
Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): Where is your bill?
Mr Cousens: No, I withdrew my bill. You should realize there were some problems with it and try to find the balance. We have great concerns about this bill, and I'm pleased to read it into the record.
Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): Shame.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the member present the petition, please.
Mr Cousens: "Whereas traditional family values that recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman are under attack by Liberal MPP Tim Murphy and his private member's Bill 45; and
"Whereas this bill would recognize same-sex couples and extend to them all the same rights as heterosexual couples; and
"Whereas the bill was carried with the support of an NDP and Liberal majority, but with no PC support in the second reading debate on June 24, 1993; and
"Whereas this bill is currently with the legislative committee on administration of justice and is being readied for quick passage in the Legislature; and
"Whereas this bill has not been fully examined for financial and societal implications;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Ontario Legislative Assembly to stop this bill and future bills which would grant same-sex couples the right to marry and to consider its impact on families in Ontario."
I have affixed my name to this bill.
Mrs Irene Mathyssen (Middlesex): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on behalf of my constituents from Twin Elms in Strathroy. These are leased-lot residents, and they petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:
"Whereas Bill 21 has received second reading in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario; and
"Whereas Bill 21 will provide needed protection to owners of mobile homes in mobile home trailer parks and owners of modular homes in land-lease communities; and
"Whereas many owners of mobile homes are threatened with eviction and loss of their investment in their mobile home by the action of their landlord;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To proceed as expeditiously as possible with third reading of Bill 21."
I have most certainly signed my name to this petition.
Mr Hugh O'Neil (Quinte): I've been asked to present this petition for some of the people in my riding. It says:
"Whereas we, as a God-fearing people, are opposed to the victimization of persons on grounds of sexual orientation; and
"Whereas we, however, believe that attempts to establish and/or promote homosexual relationships as viable alternatives to heterosexual-based families do not conform to God's will for society; and
"Whereas Canadian law, as established by the Ontario Court of Appeal (Haig v Canada, 1992) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation;
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to enact legislation to prohibit homosexual persons from adopting or raising children."
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I have a petition to the Parliament of Ontario:
"Whereas all individuals of Ontario must be treated within the spirit of a free and democratic society;
"Whereas the individuals must be treated by government in a manner consistent with the Ontario/international Human Rights Code;
"Whereas the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services, Mr Christopherson, is not conducting himself in a democratic manner as a servant of the people of Ontario;
"I, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
"To instruct the Solicitor General, Mr Christopherson, that his duty in a democratic society is to serve the individuals of Ontario. Should the Solicitor General be unable to comprehend the democratic duties, please have him replaced with a more competent person, with a person more willing to fulfil his or her democratic duty in serving the people of our democracy, to provide fair and reasonable information and reply in a positive manner to positive questions."
That petition is signed by Henry Freitag, Penetanguishene, Ontario.
Mr Mark Morrow (Wentworth East): I have one signed by 2,297 residents of Wentworth East:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas all students are entitled to the same educational resources regardless of where they live or which school board they choose to attend;
"Whereas most Catholic schools board and rural boards do not have the assessment base of the public or the urban boards;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to act now and restructure the way in which municipal and provincial tax dollars are appointed so that Ontario school boards are funded equally and equitably."
I affix my name to that.
Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which reads as follows:
"We, the undersigned, do hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the Legislative Assembly urge the Minister of Health to respond forthwith to issues raised in the Liberal task force on cancer care, including urgent needs for radiation equipment, addressing shortages in trained personnel and providing adequate information and non-medical services for patients."
I heartily concur with this petition and I have affixed my signature to it.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I have a petition from Hope Lutheran Church in Kitchener, Ontario.
"To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
"Liberal Bill 45 will change the meaning of the words 'spouse' and 'marital status' by removing the words 'of the opposite sex.' This will redefine the family as we know it.
"We believe that there will be an enormous negative impact on our society, both morally and economically, over the long term if fundamental institutions such as marriage are redefined to accommodate homosexual special-interest groups.
"We believe in freedom from discrimination, which is enjoyed by everyone by law now. But since the words 'sexual orientation' have not been defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and therefore could include sadomasochism, paedophilia, bestiality etc, and since sexual orientation is elevated to the same level as morally neutral characteristics of race, religion, age and sex, we believe all references to sexual orientation should be removed from the Ontario Human Rights Code and Liberal Bill 45.
"Therefore, we request that the House refrain from passing Bill 45."
There are several hundred signatories, and I'll affix my signature to the petition.
M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : J'ai ici une pétition de mon collègue le député de Lac-Nipigon. Il ne peut pas présenter la pétition comme ministre de la Couronne, alors je vais la présenter pour lui.
The petition is addressed to Ontario Premier Bob Rae, Solicitor General David Christopherson and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas we want you to know that we are strenuously objecting to your decision on the firearms acquisition certificate course and examination; and
"Whereas you should have followed the OFAH advice and grandfathered those of us who have already taken safety courses and/or hunted for years; and
"Whereas we should not have to take the time or pay the cost of another course or examination and we should not have to learn about classes of firearms that we have no desire to own,
"I/We, the undersigned, petition Premier Bob Rae, Solicitor General David Christopherson and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"Change your plans, grandfather responsible firearms owners and hunters and only require future first-time purchasers to take the new federal firearms safety course or examination."
The petition is signed by a number of people from Marathon -- Mr Currie, Mr Joseph, Mrs Bush etc -- and I table the petition.
Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): I have 16 petitions signed by people in Alliston, Brechin, Collingwood, Port McNicoll, Orillia and Bradford which I would like to read.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas serial killer trading cards are being imported into and distributed throughout Ontario and the rest of Canada;
"Whereas these trading cards feature the crimes of serial killers, mass murderers and gangsters;
"Whereas we abhor crimes of violence against persons and believe that serial killer trading cards offer nothing positive for children or adults to emulate or admire, but rather contribute to the tolerance and desensitization of violence; and
"Whereas we as a society agree that the protection of our children is paramount,
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the Ontario government enact legislation to ensure that the sale of these serial killer trading cards is restricted to people over the age of 18 years and that substantial and appropriate penalties be imposed on retailers who sell serial killer trading cards to minors."
That brings the total over the last week of 1,479 signatures submitted by Catholic women's leagues, the women's institutes and business and professional women's clubs, and I am proud to submit my signature as well.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I have a petition here. It is:
"Periodic health exams save money and lives. Prevention and screening costs less than treatment and cures. Prevention and screening may save your life or the life of a loved one. The government wants to delist this important service. Say no.
"We, the undersigned, believe that all Ontarians should be covered for preventive health and periodic screening procedures. Money will not be saved by delisting preventive health exams."
That's signed by Mrs Anne Wright and Frederick Wright, 216 Shannon Street, Orillia, and I've affixed my name to it.
Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): I have a petition that was presented to me last Thursday night by the residents of Sutton-by-the-Lake, a land-lease community. I have the petition here which reads:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas Bill 21 has received second reading in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario; and
"Whereas Bill 21 will provide the needed protection to owners of mobile homes in mobile home trailer parks and owners of modular homes in land-leased communities, much like Sutton-by-the-Lake; and
"Whereas many of the owners of mobile homes are threatened with eviction and the loss of their investment of their mobile home by the action of the landlord,
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To move, as expeditiously as possible, to third reading of Bill 21."
It has been signed by many, many constituents, and I support this and hope that the opposition members tying this up will move it forward quickly.
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a petition:
"Whereas the government of Ontario has permitted the construction of a casino gambling establishment in the city of Windsor, citing as reasons the attempt to assist border communities hit hard by cross-border shopping, free trade and the proliferation of gambling casinos in surrounding provinces and border states; and
"Whereas the government of Ontario has indicated its intention to permit the establishment of a second casino in the province by a first nation of Ontario; and
"Whereas the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin on Manitoulin Island has publicly declared that it would like to see the first native casino in the province built on Manitoulin; and
"Whereas many Christian denominations across Canada have taken the lead in opposing legalized gambling in all its forms, calling it a regressive tax on the poor and a magnet for criminal activities and warning of the selfishness of gambling; and
"Whereas many church ministers in Windsor, where the first provincially sanctioned casino is slated to open some time in 1995, fear the opening of this casino will lead to gambling addictions and related family and social problems, requiring them to meet the social needs of gamblers and their families; and
"Whereas Manitoulin Island is already known to have a higher rate of social and health problems than the provincial average, including a rapidly increasing crime rate for its population size, especially in the areas of spousal and family abuse brought about, in part, by alcohol-related problems and poverty, both of which could be exacerbated by the establishment of a gambling casino, the premise of which is to make winners of a few at the expense of the majority of losers;
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, respectfully ask the government of Ontario to reconsider the establishment of gambling casinos anywhere in the province, and that the government of Ontario turn down the request by the UCCM to build a casino on Manitoulin Island."
This is signed by many of my constituents.
Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas several patients from the town of New Tecumseth are forced to travel great distances under treacherous road conditions to receive necessary haemodialysis treatments in Orillia or Toronto;
"Whereas the government has done nothing to discourage a patchwork dialysis treatment system whereby some patients receive haemodialysis in-home and others travel long distances for treatment;
"Whereas there are currently two dialysis machines serving only two people in New Tecumseth and one patient is forced to pay for her own nurse;
"Whereas the government continues to insist they are studying the problem, even though they've known about it for two years; and
"Whereas the Legislature passed Simcoe West MPP Jim Wilson's private member's resolution which called for the establishment of dialysis satellites in New Tecumseth and Collingwood,
"We demand the government establish a dialysis satellite immediately in the town of New Tecumseth."
I've signed that petition, I obviously agree with it, and I enjoy the support now of the Liberal caucus, obviously.
Mr Murray J. Elston (Bruce): Mr Speaker, the time being short, I wish to file with you and the Clerk at the table several petitions dealing with Bills 55 and 56, the Tory bills, and 45 as well.
I have attached my name to them.
Mr Murray J. Elston (Bruce): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would ask consent to have the motion read in by Mr Cleary on behalf of Mrs McLeod.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Unanimous consent? Agreed.
AGRICULTURAL LABOUR POLICY
Mr Cleary, on behalf of Mrs McLeod, moved opposition day motion number 1:
Whereas in the past family farming operations have been exempted from the provisions of the Ontario Labour Relations Act in order to minimize the impact of disruptive labour disputes which would be devastating to many farm operations; and
Whereas under Bill 40 the NDP government removed the Ontario Labour Relations Act exemption for farming operations, promising to enact separate farm labour legislation; and
Whereas the government created an Agricultural Labour Relations Task Force to study farm labour issues comprised of three representatives of farm employers, two representatives from organized labour, one representative of farm workers, and two staff from the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, who acted as co-chairs; and
Whereas the NDP government has now failed to implement the task force's recommendations in the agriculture labour legislation it introduced; and
Whereas an independent legal review of the legislation found that it does not contain the protection provisions that were promised last year by the Minister of Labour, such as ensuring that immediate relatives of farm owners are not forced to join unions; and
Whereas the NDP government's agriculture labour legislation, Bill 91, fails to protect family farming operations from labour disruptions; and
Whereas agriculture organizations across the province are calling for massive amendments or a total rewrite of the legislation, which the Minister of Labour refuses to consider; and
Whereas farming operations are particularly sensitive to labour disruptions because of spoilage of crops and the health of animals;
Therefore, the Liberal caucus calls upon the NDP government to redraft its agriculture labour legislation under Bill 91 in order to implement the agriculture labour task force recommendations, or to amend the Ontario Labour Relations Act changes made under Bill 40 to reinstate the previous general agricultural exemption, for the purpose of ensuring that farm families are not forced to unionize their employees, and are not subjected to labour disruptions.
Hon Shelley Martel (Minister of Northern Development and Mines): There has been agreement, I understand, among the three parties to split the time evenly, with a vote to occur at about 5:55.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): It has been agreed.
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): No one can deny the key role agriculture plays not only in the economy of rural Ontario, but the entire provincial productive power.
With over $5.8 billion being generated at the farm gate annually and over $17 billion in total sales of agriculture products, it is indisputable that agriculture continues to be an economic foundation of Ontario.
Despite these overwhelming figures and the fact that the agrifood industry employs more than one in five jobs, I am surprised and disappointed that agriculture receives minimal recognition and appreciation.
Involved in agriculture all my life, I know that we should all be willing to acknowledge our farmers and farming and work to ensure a healthy agricultural industry for today and tomorrow. This will be no easy feat because farming has experienced some tough times over the past few years. I fear it may continue. I might point especially to the income crunch that happened in 1991 when crop prices fell by over 30% and net income fell by about 15%.
However, I am proud that since 1991, possibly one of the most difficult periods since the 1930s, the industry has struggled to make a comeback. I am also proud to have been part of a previous Liberal government, from 1987 to 1990, when significant increases were made to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food's budget.
I am concerned, however, that the current NDP government is not committed to assisting the industry. The NDP has not provided the assistance they promised in their 1990 election platform, the Hayes task force or their 1992 investment strategy.
In fact, quite the opposite has happened. Far from providing any new assistance, the Agriculture ministry's budget has actually declined since the NDP took office. The NDP has cut back on major provincial support programs in their attempt to control their own financial mismanagement.
It is reported that despite the NDP increasing overall government spending by about 15%, the 1993-94 Agriculture budget is 8% less than when the Liberals were in office. Also, when it took office, the NDP was committed to extending powers to unions, seemingly at any cost.
Testimony to their agenda is damaging Bill 40, which was introduced to give unions more power and to limit the ability of business to survive in the face of labour disputes. Bill 40 sent a clear message that Bob Rae and his Labour minister were not welcoming business in Ontario. The legislation has forced some businesses to leave the province and caused others to re-evaluate plans to expand and settle in.
Even today, Ontario continues to face plant closures and growing unemployment, despite news that the recession is breaking elsewhere in the country. In light of this ongoing hardship it seems incredible that the NDP now plans to wade into a new swamp and attack the province's second-largest employer by attacking the agriculture industry through labour legislation called Bill 91.
Instead of attacking the farmer community with this legislation, why can't the Agriculture minister, as well as the Labour minister, help farmers in a real and meaningful way?
To cite just one avenue that could be considered, there was a group of farmers in my riding who were very interested in operating a provincial park that was closed a number of years ago. They had a number of potential investors. They had good ideas for operating these parks. They would promote tourism and offer employment opportunities. But the NDP government is simply not willing to assist in job creation and economic renewal for eastern Ontario. Instead they are focusing on introducing more legislation and hindrances across the board.
Also in my riding in eastern Ontario, there is the Seaway Valley Farmers Energy Cooperative, an energetic group of farmers committed to developing a made-in-Ontario ethanol fuel industry. I am confident that everyone is familiar with this group and the merits of ethanol fuel, which promises to be positive for farmers, the environment and our non-renewable resources. Even my good friend the member for Chatham-Kent, who appears to have recently discovered that ethanol makes good headlines too, is willing to applaud the merits of this industry.
Yet are the ministers of Agriculture, Labour or Economic Development striving to assist farmers in this regard? With confusion surrounding the Cornwall project and, as the member for Chatham-Kent ably pointed out last week, the Chatham project, the answer is no. My advice to the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Agriculture is to clean up the messes already on your plates before you create even larger problems for farmers and the economy through Bill 91.
I must encourage the government to not scheme any further against agriculture and job creation and not unionize the mainstay of rural Ontario: the family farm. Agriculture is already struggling under the weight of low commodity prices, high inputs and an excessive amount of regulation. The last thing it needs is additional legislation which will make it more sensitive to labour disruptions.
Farm groups have made it known loud and clear to the NDP government that agriculture should not be bundled up with every other industry under some central labour plan. To do this, they first had to fight the NDP's plans to completely wipe out the long-standing agriculture exemptions from the OLRA.
The farming community felt it had made significant headway when the Labour minister agreed in 1992 to set up the Agricultural Labour Relations Task Force. With a membership of farm employers, organized labour, farm workers and staff from the ministries of Labour and Agriculture and Food, the task force was given the mandate to study the unique nature of agriculture in relation to labour reform.
As a result of setting up this task force, farmers were led to believe that the task force would be used as input into the changes planned under Bill 40. Many farmers were surprised when the minister went ahead and introduced Bill 40 before the task force report was finished.
With Bill 40, the NDP removed the agriculture exemption under the OLRA, removing all protection for farmers. Farmers told me this was in bad faith and nothing less than a threat to intimidate them to agree to reforms under the work of the task force.
Largely acting on the defence, the task force ended up recommending a number of specific measures to protect the agriculture industry and the family farm. This included steps to prevent strike action, to exempt family members from collective bargaining, and to have separate legislation, instead of amendments to the OLRA.
It is unfortunate that at a time when agriculture is facing serious problems and when farmers are struggling to survive, the only priority of the NDP government is to bring farmers under the OLRA. What is further astonishing is that the NDP finally brought forward its implementation of the task force recommendations under Bill 91, but it is not what the task force recommended.
Besides learning that the chair of the labour issues coordinating committee sent a letter to the Labour minister to state his disappointment that Bill 91 fails to represent the consensus developed by the task force on many critical issues, I have also been in touch with individual farmers and farm groups.
It is clear now, just as when the legislation was first introduced, that Bill 91 fails to live up to the spirit and the word of the task force recommendations in at least 11 major areas. Amazingly, however, the Labour minister first attempted to deny that his bill differed from the task force report, and he said the legislation was supported by all the involved farm groups.
Since then, a number of key farm organizations and commodity groups have clearly stated that Bill 91 is fundamentally flawed. As a result, the minister now appears a little more willing to admit there are problems. With at least four major farm groups having contacted the minister to express dissatisfaction, I guess it can be said that it takes at least four wake-up calls for the minister to realize the needs of rural Ontario.
Now the minister appears willing to concede that Bill 91 requires some, to quote him, "minor housekeeping." I must say that the Liberal caucus joins farmers across this province in saying Bill 91 requires more than a little dusting and straightening.
Today I would like to join my caucus members in tabling some very specific amendments to fix the structural flaws in Bill 91. I was surprised at the comments the Minister of Agriculture made in the House today, and I must remind him that there are 11 specific questions that need to be addressed before the legislation is acceptable.
-- We are concerned that the NDP government has refused to create a separate agriculture labour relations act.
-- We are also concerned about and question why the NDP government has refused to create a separate agriculture labour relations board.
-- There is significant distress that the NDP has refused to recognize specifically in the preamble of Bill 91 such issues as climate conditions, seasonal variations and the perishability of produce and livestock.
-- We are uncertain why the NDP refused to define "agriculture" under Bill 91.
-- The NDP must implement provisions to prevent strikes from occurring under Bill 91.
-- The NDP should implement the dispute settlement process as recommended by the task force.
-- We are concerned that the NDP refuses to implement the task force's proposed labour-management advisory committee.
-- There is anxiety that the NDP has not exempted all family members from requirements to unionize or be subject to the collective agreement.
-- Nor has the NDP properly defined "seasonal workers" under the legislation.
-- We question why share growers are not adequately protected from being included under the legislation.
-- There is also issue with the reason the NDP government has failed to address the health and safety of livestock and crops in allowing access to farming operations for organizing purposes.
It is clear that the failure to implement all or any one of these task force recommendations breaks the promise the minister made to the farmers of this province and unnecessarily threatens family farming.
In conclusion, the government has promised amendments. We will be waiting to see if they address the wide-ranging problems we are raising today. Farmers will not support this legislation if the minister fails to fix the bill, and neither will we. The one thing farmers can trust is that if the NDP government continues to refuse our demands to fix Bill 91, we will fix it after the next election and protect farmers and the sensitive agriculture industry from strikes and other labour disruptions.
A Liberal government would give farmers the respect and assistance they deserve, something that has been missing for the last three years.
Mr Noble Villeneuve (S-D-G & East Grenville): I too am pleased to participate in this opposition day debate. First of all, I want to personally congratulate my new colleague from Victoria-Haliburton. I had the opportunity of doing some campaigning with him during the time leading up to the March 17 by-election, and I must tell you, out in rural Ontario Bill 91 was first and foremost.
Bill 91, rightly or wrongly -- I think mostly rightly -- is very much feared by the rural community, and with just cause. It's interesting that the Liberals would bring in this particular opposition day motion now, because back on July 29, 1993, the Minister of Labour made his announcement that Bill 91 would be forthcoming, and that farmer from Mississauga West -- his name is Mahoney, and he has quite a reputation as a farmer -- went on for the entire five minutes in reply saying that he didn't get the documentation in time, and he was chastising the government, but nowhere did he say he was against -- there he is -- this bill completely. He finished off his comments by simply saying he was dealing with Gord Wilson in an attempt to get the information and that he didn't get the information, that it was now the 12th hour and it was totally unacceptable.
I accept that, because the Liberals didn't have a position at that time. They remembered well the Liberal leader making a statement when Bill 40 came in -- and Bill 91 is simply an extension of Bill 40; it's a twin of Bill 40 -- to the effect that, yes, labour reform was a good idea, but not at that time. I'm not sure when a good time is for the likes of Bill 40 and Bill 91; in my opinion, there is no time at all to bring in this type of anti-business legislation. But that is basically what came forth from the Liberals at that time, and I'm sure the billboard that was referred to -- the farmer from Mississauga West?
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: With due respect to the member, I was not speaking as a farmer. I was speaking as a Labour critic. The Minister of Labour had assured us that he was preparing documentation in cooperation with the farm community, and we were simply asking him to deliver what he promised Gord Wilson he would deliver. He failed to do it, and I was doing my job, and I take exception to this honourable member's remarks.
The Deputy Speaker: It's not quite a point of order.
Mr Villeneuve: I appreciate the interjection from the member for Mississauga West. I know there are times when he can get under people's hides and get their dander up. Maybe I irked his a little bit today, and if I did that, I apologize.
However, that very same day, I had the opportunity to reply for the party I very proudly represent. I'll quote a little bit right from the end, and I think it summarizes where our party stood on this: "I was hoping [Bill 91] was not coming at all, but it's here. We have to live with it. Our party is committed, when elected, to repeal Bill 40, and [Bill 91] is part of Bill 40 and will be repealed" as well.
So we're on the record right off the bat. Why do we not leave Ontario agriculture exempt, as in the past? The question remains.
And if indeed we have to bring in something to avoid the implications of Bill 40 with respect to agriculture, what we should have is a bill in the name of the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, because this is very much agriculture, food and rural affairs. It involves farming, it involves agriculture, and it involves the processing and the harvesting of crops. The name change, with great fanfare from the Premier, to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs -- at least it would have given some respectability to the name change had this legislation been changed and been administered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, not by the Ministry of Labour.
Agriculture is a very important industry to all of Ontario. Arguably, it's the most important industry to Ontario. I say "arguably" because some claim that transportation is more important to the economy and that agriculture, food and the processing of food is second. I can accept that, except, I say to all members present here, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is more important when it comes to: can you do without food or can you do without that second car or that industry? Maybe we, as agriculturalists and farmers, will win hands down on that one.
However, we will not waste any more time on that particular area. It's simply a matter of the importance of agriculture and food production to all of this province.
Bill 91 was brought in with some fanfare, and a task force was set up. The task force did report to the Minister of Labour; however, it seems it was not heard very clearly, because we now have in the brief to the Ontario cabinet by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture -- and I have a copy. There are great concerns over the lack of changes to Bill 91.
I know the Minister of Labour is going to tell me that, yes, the task force recommendations are now going to be brought forth. However, in the legal jargon of attempting to meet the requirements of an industry that has to make hay when the sun shines, that has to look after animals seven days a week, 365 days a year -- it is a totally different ball game than if we're talking about the steel industry or the mining industry or the car industry. We are dealing with food production: Food has to be harvested when it's ready, the planting has to be done in a timely fashion, and of course the livestock-related activities all have to be done in a very timely fashion.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): The cows have to be milked twice a day.
Mr Villeneuve: Of course the cows have to be milked twice a day.
I don't want to cut in on the time allotted to my colleagues, but I will relate an experience I had as a rural real estate appraiser. We were in court one day with the Ministry of Transportation and the learned folks who practise law, the lawyers representing the Ministry of Transportation. It was very interesting. I, as an appraiser, had estimated the value of the real estate. The highway was cutting the farm in a rather odd situation, and that, of course, was the farmer's problem. I was dealing with economic compensation, compensation whereby the cash flow would change to some degree because of the implications of the highway.
This farmer was explaining to the learned lawyer representing the Ministry of Transportation that he indeed did have some economic loss. He started off with a herd of 40 dairy cows and a complement of young cattle. There were 75 head of cattle on the farm at the beginning of the year and he came up with a net income that was somewhere in the area of $15,000 or $18,000, and he finished off with more livestock than he started with.
Of course, the lawyer, being learned in the law, said: "Sir, you started off with 40 milk cows and a total herd of some 75 head of cattle. You're finishing off with 80. You didn't purchase any, and therefore there were some hidden purchases here that would indeed, if they were reported, reduce your net income. Therefore, your total financial exercise is not very accurate."
The dairy farmer simply said: "Look, this is the way it happens on a dairy farm. That's the normal way it happens."
The interesting situation was that the lawyer for the Ministry of Transportation had convinced the judge that indeed the farmer had forgotten to include some purchases. When I was put on the stand, I told him a little more than, "That's the way it was," because I told him that every dairy farmer who's worth his salt and survives expects every cow in that barn to have a calf every year.
Mr Paul Klopp (Huron): How does that happen?
Mr Villeneuve: It happens through nature, sir. Don't ever forget, you were born too.
But the interesting thing, and I want to get back to the point at hand, is that when the negotiations occur, whenever the Ministry of Labour appoints some people to negotiate with farmers and with groups of people who are the workers, will they understand the unique nature of agriculture? These learned gentleman in the law, this lawyer and the judge, were both convinced that the farmer was pulling a fast one. Neither one even knew that a dairy cow, for the duration of the time she will be in the milk line, has to produce a calf. That is something that is pretty basic.
Yet, I say to the Minister of Labour, if indeed this is the type of legislation that we're going to have to live with, I certainly hope and trust that the people he appoints to mediate know something about agriculture. That's one of the reasons I would have liked to see that the lead ministry here be Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Can you think of a better name than Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs? Yet the Ministry of Labour will be doing all of the policing, all of the negotiating, all of the arbitrating, and agriculture will have to accept it, because there is no lockout and no strike allowed in this type of legislation.
I think the agricultural community is facing a very real challenge here in hoping that if it has to come -- and I again implore the minister, the ministry and the government to exempt agriculture. It worked in the past. We never had to force people to join whatever, including labour unions. They were always able to negotiate. Yes, there would be some unhappiness. There's always a situation where people can walk away from a job and replacement people are there, and if they're not there, then whoever is doing the hiring and the signing of the cheques will have to up the ante if he or she is looking for some help. It's that simple. Maybe it's too simple.
Our new colleague from Victoria-Haliburton could really emphasize how very concerned his constituents were throughout the entire period of the by-election.
A few of the areas of concern that were expressed by the Agricultural Labour Relations Task Force outlined 11 areas of major deficiency. It's arguable that a bill that is now where it is in the process can indeed be sufficiently amended that the government does not change the intent of Bill 91. If at some point it's decided that Bill 91, as Bill 105 -- which not only went back to the drawing board but got dumped and was replaced by Bill 42. We maybe should be looking at this particular alternative. Bring it to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
For example, there is the failure to create a sufficiently separate statutory framework from Bill 40; the failure to create a sufficiently separate administrative body; the failure to emphasize sufficiently in the preamble the unique nature of the agricultural sector; the failure to define agriculture; the failure to provide adequate enforcement provisions to the prohibition of strikes; the failure to give full effect to the parties' wish for the dispute resolution system of final offer selection; the failure to implement the task force recommendations designed to provide specialized services, educate and give initial support to the affected parties, etc. These are pretty major things.
We had the federation of agriculture, we had the milk marketing board, we had basically all of the farm commodity groups express concern over Bill 91 and the changes to the minimum wages: the tender fruit and vegetable growers, the processing industry. It's always interesting. When you hear of a settlement at GM or at Ford or at Chrysler and the employees got a 2% or 3% or 4% increase, whatever, everybody seems to be happy. Put the price of food up, and with the way the Canadian dollar has gone -- this morning it was announced that much of the imports of food from the United States, because of our rapidly falling dollar, are going to increase in cost -- we've got everybody upset. That tells you how important the food production and the food sector is to this entire province.
I have at least three other of my colleagues who want to express the concerns that have been expressed to them from their constituents, and I know they can do it in a very, very capable and articulate way. But my concern is, to the minister, I say, if indeed you're going to proceed and attempt to amend this, make sure it meets the needs of the rural food-producing community.
I say to my friends in the Liberal Party, it's nice to see you come on board. We wondered where you were. You're finally taking some stances, and I commend you for that. We now know where you are on this one, and I appreciate that.
In closing, I thank the Liberal Party for bringing this forth. I thank them for the opportunity we will have to reinforce the convictions that have been conveyed to us by our constituencies. Many of us represent largely rural communities and the economy is very dependent on the production, the processing and the distribution of food.
Hon Bob Mackenzie (Minister of Labour): I am not by background a farmer, and I don't claim to be any expert at all in terms of farm products, farm production and farm operations. I do, however, have a respect for the occupation. My younger brother is a farmer, but in a beef operation with about 125 cattle. I have some enjoyment visiting with him and seeing what goes on in his particular operation. He's even instructed me a little bit in some of the facts of life that the member for S-D-G & East Grenville was talking about when he tells me the number of cattle he expects to calve that year.
Mr Villeneuve: That is why cows have long faces.
Hon Mr Mackenzie: I want to tell him also that I really believe the people we've had involved in the discussions from the farm community, largely picked, I think, through the federation of agriculture, from the union community, United Food and Commercial Workers representatives, and from the ministry, do have some understanding of the difficulties and problems that may arise. As a matter of fact, I have an awful lot of respect for those who have sat on the committees we've had over the last couple of years as we've tried to deal with this situation.
I'm pleased to have this opportunity to clear the air, if I can -- I'm never quite sure in this House if that's possible at any time -- but once and for all about the proposed agricultural labour relations bill, because I've also sure heard a lot of false information around over the last several months.
Every step of the process leading up to this legislation has been carried out with the utmost regard for the needs of both farmers and farm workers. We have included members from all affected groups in a rather exhaustive process of planning for the legislation and have found, in spite of some of the comments in this House, remarkable consensus among the participants.
We've taken considerable pains to ensure that the spirit and substance of the recommendations made throughout the process be reflected in the legislation being considered today. So let me take you through, as my role in this debate, the entire process so you can see just how faithful this government has remained to the needs and wishes of those who were involved, and particularly to those of the agricultural community.
Probably, from my background, I would have approached it in a different manner altogether. I found some of the process we've had to go through a little bit cumbersome and a little bit difficult, but there was a recognition that we were dealing with an occupation here that was just a little bit different from the industrial community and workers in industrial establishments in the province of Ontario.
As far back as March 1991 the Minister of Agriculture and Food met with farm groups to express this government's commitment to labour legislation reform. So we started out in that context, letting them know that we certainly had some plans.
In July 1991 senior Ministry of Agriculture and Food staff met with the executive of the labour issues coordinating committee, a coalition of approximately 36 farm groups and marketing boards.
In the summer of 1991 the Burkett report recommended immediately eliminating the exclusion of industrial or factory methods of farming operations from the collective bargaining process. It did, however, propose further study for the remaining agricultural workforce due to the unique needs of the sector.
In November 1991 my ministry released a discussion paper on labour relations reform. In it we recommended that factory-style methods of production and landscape gardening no longer be excluded from having the right to collective bargaining. If the members in the House here will forgive me, whether they agree or disagree, that small sector was originally what was behind our concern about labour relations reform.
I remember well sitting in this House -- I forget the year now, but it's at least 15 years ago -- when workers at a mushroom plant -- I don't believe it's in operation any more -- in Picton signed up better than 70% in an operation that was three shifts, seven days a week, punch-in time cards; it was an industrial operation in every sense of the word. They were denied certification as a trade union, with over 70% signing up, because of their exclusion as agricultural workers. It was a rather rough and sad couple of months we had over that debate at that time in this House some 15 years ago, and it never left me.
That's really what we had been looking at, that there were groups that did have the right to bargain collectively if they were willing themselves to sign up and undertake the obligations that went with being a member of a union.
Farm groups expressed concerns about extending industrial-based labour reforms to the agricultural industry, which has many unique demands. The time sensitivity of harvesting commodities and the constant need for animal care were priority concerns. That's why in January of 1992 I announced the creation of a special joint labour-management task force. It comprised three agricultural industry representatives, three representatives of organized and unorganized labour and one government staff from my ministry and one from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
It's important to note that at the time my intention was to have the task force consider our proposal to extend the Labour Relations Act only to workers in factory-style or industrial methods of agricultural production. That's certainly what was in the background, and the reason for it is exactly what I mentioned a little bit earlier: the debate we went through for several months in this House over the right of a number of workers to organize in what was obviously really an industrial operation and being denied it.
I was also looking for suggestions and alternatives. It was never my intention to bring the family farm under the act. I want you to know that I think I have enough understanding to realize the difficulties we're asking for if that was the approach of the government.
The task force solicited and received comments from many groups: 35 written submissions from groups ranging from the Canadian Mushroom Growers Association to the Ontario Milk Marketing Board to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. The draft report was submitted to the labour issues coordinating committee, representing 35 agricultural groups, to gain a broad industry consensus before finalizing the report.
Another important point is that the task force considered and rejected three models for extending collective bargaining rights. One would be limited to factory or industrial-type farms; another would be limited to specific commodities; a third would be restricted to operations employing a threshold number of workers. This model, I might say, is used in Quebec and New Brunswick to ensure family farms are not included in labour legislation.
An interesting point here is that it was the agricultural representatives of the task force who most vehemently rejected these models. They saw them as arbitrary and divisive to the agricultural community. Distinctions based on size and number of employees, commodities and so on were seen as unjustifiable.
The task force report was made public on June 26, 1992. The report, I think, was remarkable because it was endorsed by the agricultural community, organized and unorganized labour. It recommended:
-- extending the right to collective bargaining to all agricultural workers;
-- prohibiting the right to strike or lock out. The task force recognized the sensitive nature of agriculture. Members proposed instead a dispute resolution process that includes negotiation, mediation and, as a last resort, binding arbitration;
-- also, creating a separate Labour Relations Act that would reflect the principles of labour reform, as well as the distinctiveness of agriculture.
On August 22, 1992, we announced that we would adopt all of the recommendations of the task force, including developing separate agricultural labour legislation. We also called for a continuation of the task force to recommend parameters of the new legislation.
In November 1992, the Premier reiterated the commitment of the government to separate agricultural labour legislation at a meeting with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and other farm groups. He stressed that the method of moving forward by consensus among all parties involved was of paramount importance.
Shortly after this, the task force did come to a consensus and submitted its final report to me. It outlined elements of the separate legislation. One of the key recommendations was to establish a management-labour advisory committee to provide ongoing advice on agricultural labour. A second was a provision to place seasonal workers in a separate bargaining unit from year-round employees.
On May 18, 1993, my colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Food and I sent a letter to the task force, telling it we had accepted the recommendations outlined in the second report.
On May 28, 1993, the deputy ministers of both ministries met with the task force to outline the government's decision. They encouraged members to consider the size and makeup of the proposed labour-management advisory committee, which would provide ongoing advice to the government on agricultural labour relations.
On July 29, 1993, I introduced the agricultural labour relations bill, Bill 91, reflecting the consensus recommendations of the task force. The key elements included:
-- Extending the right to organize and bargain collectively to all agricultural employees, regardless of size of operation.
-- Excluding seasonal workers until regulations are developed, at which time bargaining units for seasonal workers may be organized. The labour-management committee will be involved in the preparation of these regulations.
-- Ensuring that family members cannot be prevented by collective agreements from working on family farms.
-- Preventing strikes or lockouts and setting out a structured process for negotiation, mediation and arbitration. Contrary to the opinion of the opposition members, all parties in the process have acknowledged that the legislation does indeed prevent strikes or lockouts.
-- Providing for a labour-management committee which will give government ongoing advice regarding reforms and educational programs.
On November 9, 1993, the agricultural groups involved in the labour issues coordinating committee wrote to me outlining their concerns with the wording of the legislation. In it, they also reiterated their commitment to agreements reached by the task force and to the consensus that had developed.
I know that there has been difficulty with the way the legislation has been worded. I understand that this is a sensitive issue for farmers and farm workers. This is why we have spent so much time and effort ensuring that all concerns and options were fully explored before proceeding. Still, we're at an early stage; it's only first reading. I'm able and willing to make appropriate changes before it becomes law to maintain the integrity of the process.
The labour-management advisory committee recommended in the second task force report has been established, the committee we recommended be established. It comprises five representatives each from agriculture and labour. I have been advised that discussions are going well and I hope to receive their recommendations on amendments to the act in the very near future. Once I receive the report, I will be considering changes. I hope to introduce second reading of Bill 91 this sitting, with the appropriate amendments which, with your cooperation, will occur as soon as possible.
I'd like to assure members that our only intention is to have fair, equitable legislation that considers particularly the needs and demands of this most important sector. It's unfortunate -- and I say that advisedly -- that so much acrimony has arisen regarding this legislation in this House, especially since the industry has been able to reach the consensus it has. Quite frankly, it's much more than I thought was possible when we first started the process between labour and the farm community on this issue.
Clearly, the positives far outnumber and outweigh the negatives in the framing of Bill 91. First and foremost, the cooperation and good faith demonstrated by all sides -- farmers, labour organizations, government -- are almost unprecedented; certainly in this field it is. The result has been a consensus that should be held as a shining example of what can be achieved when we work with, instead of against, one another.
Second, we're extending the collective bargaining rights to workers in Ontario that have been available -- let me reiterate this -- that have been available in most other provinces for years: British Columbia since 1976; Quebec since 1964; New Brunswick since 1971; Saskatchewan since the early 1970s. Introducing this legislation is overdue, not overly hasty. I'd like to add that in these other provinces, extending the right to collective bargaining to agricultural workers has not caused unionization of the family farm. A very small percentage of farm workers are currently unionized.
I might add to that just for a moment, because I noticed that the member for Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and East Grenville refers to "how quickly they want to get rid of Bill 40, if indeed they ever have the opportunity again to form a government." I would advise him to at least take a look at what's happening at the board and what the first year's progress shows for that legislation, because while it's still not generally accepted by the business community, I am now receiving letters saying that it is cheaper and quicker, with less problems, violence and mistrust in the workplace.
It has not unionized the province of Ontario. There has been a slight increase in it. It has not chased business away from the province of Ontario; it has made it quicker and cheaper and much more effective to deal in labour relations matters. Any government in office has the right to do what it will, but I want to point out that you're sure as blazes, if this is the approach -- and I don't mind you taking this approach, because I'd like that information to be out there. There are a heck of a lot of workers in this community, and if workers have something that is now working in the province of Ontario and somebody telling them, "We can't wait to get in power to get rid of that," I think you might be asking for some trouble. As I said, this has not caused the unionization of the family farm; a very small percentage of farm workers are currently unionized, and I'm talking about the other provinces.
Third, because the government has been so vigilant in accommodating the concerns of the agricultural community, Ontario has taken a fresh and I think rather innovative route. Look at what we have: separate legislation that prohibits the right to strike or lockout, that has strong family member provisions and that provides for an active advisory body on agricultural labour relations. This approach is completely different from the methods other provinces use regarding this particular issue, and I think it's going to turn out to be a better method.
Fourth, rarely has there been as open and responsive a way of approaching an issue as has been employed by my government in this particular field. We've accepted in full the recommendations of the two task force reports. We've encouraged consensus, built good relations between management and labour and striven for the most equitable solution to the problems. The Premier himself has pledged this government's commitment to consensus.
I ask you to look at the facts. Several meetings have been conducted between myself and/or my colleague the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the parties involved. There have been countless contacts among representatives of government, farmers and labour organizations during the work of the two task forces as well as during the follow-up periods.
It's unfortunate, and I say this advisedly, that the opposition members of the House have not taken the same pains to understand the entire process. I would like to call on all members to show the same kind of goodwill we've seen in the agricultural and labour communities for more than two years. Set aside some of the more partisan biases and look at the facts. I think you won't have any difficulty in supporting the passage of Bill 91.
Mrs Joan M. Fawcett (Northumberland): I certainly welcome the opportunity to participate in a debate relating to the very important agrifood industry. It may well be our only debate on this most important sector of our economy this year, as I have noticed it is not on the NDP government's recently leaked priority list. The Tories have never given any real indication of their interest in rural Ontario over these past three years. But with their previous record of regard, or perhaps I should say disregard, for the agrifood industry, that is understandable.
Family farms and the agrifood industry continue to play a vital role in Ontario's economy, a fact fully recognized by the Liberals and evidenced by our leader's motion today. Our record when we were in government is a testament to our commitment to local economies in rural communities right across this province.
We have no regrets about our 52% increase in the Ministry of Ag and Food's budget over the five years when we were in government or for the host of new ag-related programs and initiatives we introduced. We realized the importance of the agrifood industry and took the level of funding from a Tory budget in 1984-85 that had no new funding for agriculture to over $500 million. That's right, from the Tories at $328 million when they were in government to over $500 million in our budget. At the time, 75% of our ministry's budget was direct payments to farmers of $364 million, more than the Tories' previous budget total.
I'm sure my friends in the Tory caucus cringe when I bring up that budget of 1984-85. As a result of their lack of any new funding at all for agriculture, in an unprecedented move the Ontario Federation of Agriculture called for the resignation of the then Ag and Food minister, Dennis Timbrell, and the Treasurer, Larry Grossman. You know Larry Grossman, the former leader of the Tory party, who while in that position for two years never asked one question about Agriculture and Food.
Now back to this government. When an industry is facing severe pressures like the agriculture industry did during the income crunch of 1991, when crop prices fell by over 30% and net incomes for the entire industry fell 15%, to levels not seen since 1985, the NDP was no different in its disregard for family farms than the Tories. The NDP responded by delaying its support for GRIP, the gross revenue insurance plan, and NISA, the net income stabilization account program, which cost Ontario farmers $30 million. They said: "Wait. Wait for the Hayes task force report on farm finance." Or remember the agriculture investment strategy announcement of 1992, which really has never materialized. The $120 million for farmers disappeared under the NDP government's self-inflicted spiralling deficit problems.
Worse than the last Tory budget, let the record show this NDP government reduced ag and food spending by $49 million in their last budget, an 8% reduction. How can the NDP government justify this when overall government spending has increased 15% and some of their favourite ideological ministries, like Labour, have increased 13%, or Citizenship, which has increased 58%?
Now Bob Rae, in his desire to gain favour with rural Ontario, has renamed the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to include the words "and rural development." Unfortunately, though, no new moneys were added with these imaginary responsibilities, so that the plight of the agrifood industry is even further dissipated. In fact, the NDP government will spend more money to replace all the signs on buildings and vehicles and to change their letterhead than they will on new programs for agriculture.
These aren't the ways you help an industry facing ever-increasing global competition. You don't help any industry by shutting down its research and technology facilities, its places of higher learning, its windows to the future, like the NDP did at New Liskeard and Centralia. You don't ask an industry to be more environmentally sound and then cut the land stewardship program and enact legislation that allows for megadumps on good agricultural land. You don't say you're committed to farming and cut off funding to the Farm Start program. You don't show your support to livestock producers by axing the Red Meat II program and then sell off the Ontario stock yards and take all the producers' money and put it into consolidated revenues, only to be eaten up by the deficit.
The NDP's overall strategy for Ontario is to let the Toronto tail wag the Ontario dog. Every piece of legislation and those mountains of regulations you secretly decree affect rural communities and family farms, yet you fail to realize this even when it is brought directly to your attention.
Last fall when I sat on the committee studying Bill 79, the Employment Equity Act, I put forward an amendment that would give farmers an exemption for the seasonal offshore labour they use. The government members failed to even comprehend the situation, especially in the Georgian Bay area, where over 800 such workers are sent to them through a federal arrangement. They failed to realize the apple grower has no say in who is sent.
After the committee, I spoke to the Minister of Agriculture and Food, who seemed totally unaware of these ramifications. His response was: "I think we will do something in the regulations. Speak to my PA, Paul Klopp. I think he's handling that." When I took the opportunity the next day to speak to the member for Huron, his response was much the same. "Oh, yes. I think we will do something in the regulations to cover that." Well, Bill 79 came and went, and to this day I have yet to see the regulations that will protect the farmers.
This is so typical of the NDP government. They don't understand rural Ontario and, quite frankly, I don't think they care. Their ideological bent on issues, especially employment issues, precludes the family farm and rural communities. Their only answer seems to be to hide it in regulations that never materialize.
Which brings me to this bill, Bill 91, the NDP government's failed attempt to recognize realities in the agricultural labour market. Should the Minister of Labour have consulted with the Minister of Agriculture, Food and rural development or, even better, if the Minister of Agriculture, Food and rural development had told the Minister of Labour of the structure of the agricultural labour market, together with the sensitivities of the sector such as perishability, animal welfare, low incomes and global competition, he would know that agriculture deserves, and in fact cries out for, differential treatment in the labour relations context. Is anybody in your government talking to each other? Is there anyone at the cabinet table for rural Ontario?
But the Minister of Labour didn't even have to talk to his colleagues, which I assume he didn't. All he had to do was read the two reports and the background studies prepared by his Agricultural Labour Relations Task Force. There is no evidence that he has done that. However, the public is becoming far too familiar with these NDP tactics of co-opting the stakeholders by pretending to consult and then just slamming down legislation which only reflects its own ideological bent. If the stakeholders cry foul, just tell them you will cover it in the regulations, and throughout the process hold the ever-threatening government stick over their heads while doing so.
I am telling you, you just can't do that with the province's second-leading industry. They'll revolt in the streets, and in fact I think we have seen signs of that already.
The realities are that the ongoing structural change in Ontario agriculture has had a profound impact on rural Ontario. The rationalization of agriculture, which can be attributed to a wide number of factors, including high real interest rates in the 1980s, low commodity prices, increasing input costs, trade issues and falling market share, has affected the economic and social fabric of many rural communities. Your attempts to unionize the family farm only further erode the social fabric in rural Ontario and are in direct conflict with the farmers I talk with.
As I've said before, and despite these current trends, Ontario still has the largest and most diversified agricultural industry in Canada. Ontario is the largest crop-producing province, based on cash receipts, and it is the second-largest producer of livestock and livestock products. This doesn't mean the NDP government can sink its teeth into these industries and extract the union dues. The farmers cannot bear the added burden of union costs, and the consumer won't tolerate any price increases.
The vast majority of farms employ fewer than five employees. A substantial portion of these employees are seasonal. The seasonality of employment in agriculture, as well as the prominence of casual and offshore labour, suggests that the composition of the appropriate agricultural bargaining unit is a significant one, not something that should be dealt with later in the regulations, as this bill would suggest.
Nor should these family farms be expected to battle giant union organization drives put on by the United Food and Commercial Workers, who have far more resources and money. It would really be the giant union swallowing the tiny family farm.
But perhaps the most significant thing about this piece of legislation is not what is in it, but what isn't in it. Here I am referring to a comprehensive and flexible definition of "agriculture."
The absence of a definition of agriculture may go to the very root of the problem. It clearly underlines the NDP government's inability to come to grips with the realities facing family farms, and highlights its lack of understanding of agriculture.
The current absence of a definition in the Labour Relations Act has left the board, and indeed the courts, to struggle with the meaning. As agricultural enterprises have become more specialized and more profoundly affected by technological advances, the board has found it more difficult to know whether or not, for labour relation purposes, a certain activity is agriculture. It can be anticipated that these difficulties will still arise with the absence of a definition for agriculture.
If you need guidance in defining the term, you could look to the state of California, where "agriculture" is an inclusive term meant to embrace all agricultural and horticultural operations, as well as practices that are performed as part of a farming operation. In Massachusetts, agriculture is defined to include "horticulture, floriculture and any other commercial enterprise involving the production of food or fibre."
Better yet, you could ask the advice of the task force that you set up to study agricultural labour relations and take its definition.
Still better, you could learn from those legislators who established the Ontario Labour Relations Act, when, I might add, agriculture was the leading industry in this province, and who, in their wisdom, exempted agriculture.
But my best advice to you, Minister, is to take this bill and go out to the family farm: a farm that consists of fathers and sons, of brothers and brothers-in-law, of mothers and daughters, of sisters and sisters-in-law, of nieces and nephews and of first and second cousins, maybe. The Dowlings on Howe Island, who rent some of our farm land, come to mind. Go out there and learn what it means to live and work on a family farm, to face droughts, to see a piece of your crop or commodity fall to new lows because of foreign pressures. Stand there with the family members and watch your crop rot in the fields because it costs you more to take it out than you would recover from its sale. Sit in the living room and watch as trade deals and international agreements erode your ever-shrinking income. Stand there and watch as your machinery breaks down and your buildings collapse, knowing the banker won't lend you the money to keep abreast of technological advances or even stay afloat. Yes, leave the city of Toronto, go out to rural communities, listen to family farmers, and then, Mr Minister, then come back and try to tell us you want to unionize the family farm.
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't believe a quorum is present.
The Deputy Speaker: I'll find out. Is a quorum present?
Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals (Mr Alex McFedries): A quorum is not present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.
Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals: A quorum is now present.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mrs Elizabeth Witmer (Waterloo North): I'm pleased to join the discussion today regarding Bill 91 and I certainly support the comments that have been made by the critic for our party. I would indicate also that there was no demonstrated need for Bill 91, ever, in this province. There wasn't an outcry from people in the agricultural community demanding that this legislation be implemented. It's part of the government's attempt to unionize as many people as possible in the province in response to a special-interest group: the unions.
Unfortunately, Bill 91 does not honour the commitment the government made to the agricultural community, and I can assure you that at present there is a high degree of anxiety in rural Ontario concerning Bill 91. This bill is fundamentally flawed, and some of the major farm groups have expressed grave concerns about the bill. It fails totally to recognize that agriculture is a unique industry by nature and that a very special status is required in order to maintain the productivity and quality levels this province has established.
I heard the Minister of Labour refer to the fact that there had been extensive consultation, that there had been a process developed, but I just want to say that I have heard the story before: I heard it in the case of Bill 40. There was supposedly extensive consultation with all the groups, all the partners. However, when the government went to put the legislation on paper, the only words, the only responses the government seems to hear are those consistent with its own viewpoint, and that's unfortunately the case here.
I was pleased, however, to hear the minister say he is willing to take another look, and I hope that as a result of the debate today he will make changes to Bill 91 which reflect the genuine concerns of the agricultural community in this province.
I want to quote from a letter the minister received on November 9, 1993, from Grant Smith, the chair of the labour issues coordinating committee, who indicates in this letter that, "The Labour Issues Coordinating Committee was extremely disappointed to find that Bill 91 failed to translate into statutory form the consensus developed by the Agricultural Labour Relations Task Force on a number of critical points."
I want to proceed further and deal with the issues that were not adequately addressed in the first draft of the bill and that have certainly generated this high level of anxiety and concern in the province.
This document states, "The Minister of Labour recognized the significance of the task force's accomplishments by confirming in writing on May 19, 1993, that the government would 'proceed with a separate Labour Relations Act for the agricultural sector which will be based on the task force recommendations.'" However, this document then states, "Careful review of the proposed Agricultural Labour Relations Act, 1993, however, leads to the conclusion that the legislative drafters have not succeeded in this task."
That is the reason for much of the concern, the fact that the legal interpretation indicates that this is indeed not what has happened.
"The agricultural community believes that the consensual balance between labour relations and agrarian principles found in the task force recommendations has simply not found its way into legislative form. Instead, the legislative drafters, at almost every turn, have favoured general labour relations principles at the expense of the agricultural context."
I think that is the key area of concern, the fact that they favour labour relations principles at the expense of the agricultural context.
It goes on to say, "In so doing, the extension of collective bargaining has been achieved without the corresponding recognition of the uniqueness of the agricultural sector. It is this failure of the legislative drafters to capture the consensual balancing of principles that forms the subject matter of this submission."
They go on to talk about the deficiencies in the draft legislation. They talk about:
-- "(a) The failure to create a sufficiently separate statutory framework," that is, a distinct, free-standing agricultural labour relations act which gives expression and emphasis to the unique nature of agriculture. Presently, as the bill is written, the Labour Relations Act is made to apply to agriculture except as expressly modified by the bill. That is probably one of the most serious concerns with the legislation, the fact that there is not a distinct agricultural labour relations act and that there is no recognition of the uniqueness of the agricultural community.
-- "(b) The failure to create a...separate administrative body," for example, an agriculture labour relations board.
-- "(c) The failure to emphasize sufficiently in the preamble the unique nature of the agricultural sector," that is, to balance the extension of collective bargaining with responsiveness to the unique nature of the agricultural sector.
For example, there was absolutely no responsiveness to the unique nature, the fact that you have to consider seasonality, you have to consider the climate, the time, the perishability of the produce. None of this was taken into consideration as they drafted the preamble. That had been something that had been supported by the task force and that it hoped would be included, but nowhere was that incorporated.
-- "(d) The failure to define agriculture" at all, whatsoever.
-- "(e) The failure to provide adequate enforcement provisions to the prohibition on strikes." This issue, as you can well imagine, is of overwhelming concern to the agricultural community, since any work stoppage could be catastrophic, and any decision that had been made to extend collective bargaining rights to agricultural employees was always based on the impression by the farming community that there would be an absolute restriction on the right to strikes or lockouts. Unfortunately, Bill 91 does not, in its present form, provide the adequate enforcement provisions to the prohibition on strikes, and so that is totally lacking and certainly needs to be addressed by the government.
-- "(f) The failure to give full effect to the parties' wish for a dispute resolution system of final offer selection." I think you can see that this bill just simply does not recognize the unique nature of the agricultural sector. It's very much based upon the labour negotiations, the labour act.
-- "(g) The failure to implement task force recommendations" which were "designed to provide specialized services, educate and give initial support to the affected parties." The bill is lacking what was recommended by the task force. The task force had recommended that there be a labour-management advisory committee established, that there be mediation and selection services, that there be a pay research board and joint education and training. Unfortunately, that's not included within the context of the bill, and so, although they are achieving the government's objective of extending collective bargaining to the agricultural sector, and of course this is a new idea, they are not providing within the bill the necessary infrastructure that is consistent with the recommendations of the task force that are going to ensure the proper working of this new labour relations system. So again, the government did not respond and did not listen to the task force, and so again this is an area that the government needs to take a look at.
They need to take a look at the fact that there was "(h) Inadequate treatment of family members." There are a number of flaws contained in the drafting of the bill, with the result that the concerns of the farm employers regarding family members have not been properly addressed. Again, the minister needs to take a look at making the appropriate changes so that the farming community does feel comfortable with the treatment of family members.
There's also "(i) Inadequate exclusion of seasonal workers." Again, what was discussed was not translated into the bill.
There is "(j) Inadequate presumption for the exclusion of share growers," and there are "(k) Inadequate provisions regarding access to farm property for organizing purposes."
These are the concerns that have been expressed that the minister needs to take a look at. This document goes on to state, "One final introductory remark concerning the bill" -- Bill 91 -- "is warranted." It says, "Together, government, trade union, employer and farm worker forged an unprecedented consensus on labour reform in Ontario through their representatives on the task force," a task force which, by the way, has worked very diligently in trying to arrive at that unprecedented consensus.
But then the document goes on to say: "Yet, when it came time to reduce the recommendations of the task force to legislation, the government chose to depart from the approach of the task force by introducing a bill without prior consultation or opportunity for review by the parties. Indeed, in the case of the employer community, an express offer to participate in the drafting process" of the bill "was rejected by the government. To the extent acrimony replaces consensus building in the days and weeks ahead, it will be a direct result of the government's own failure to follow this process to its logical conclusion by seeking the consensus of the parties on the language necessary to implement the task force recommendations."
So I guess it's fine for the minister to talk about the extensive consultation that has taken place, the process that was used. However, there is certainly proof within the document I have been reading from that in the final stage of the process, these participants were not invited to participate in the process to draft the bill. I think that's extremely unfortunate, and that is what has created the very uncertain climate within the province.
I would just like to say that, just as our party is opposed to Bill 40 -- and I think we need to repeat again that Bill 40 has caused tremendous financial hardship in this province. It certainly has contributed to a loss of jobs. People are not investing in the province as they may have intended to do simply because they are concerned about the replacement worker section and they are concerned about the facility of unionization, the fact that employees just don't have that sober second thought any more. Just as we would be prepared to repeal Bill 40 and we would be prepared to introduce secret ballots for all employees, we would certainly, if elected, also be in a position where we would repeal Bill 91, because at the present time we do not feel it adequately responds to the needs of the farming community in this province. In fact, it has created a great deal of hostility, distrust and anxiety.
I hope the minister will listen to the presentations that have been made today. I hope that he will make every attempt to continue with the process, as he has indicated he wants to, because we certainly need to be responsive to these very, very genuine concerns that have been expressed.
Mrs Karen Haslam (Perth): In all of these discussions I think there are some catchphrases that have been bandied about, and we should take a really good look at them.
One of them is talking about the "family farm." When we do talk about the family farm, I think we have to get a good picture of what the family farm is. I don't think you'll find many family farms hiring a lot of people. You may find one or two hired hands, but generally it's the family members on a family farm who work together to produce the crops.
There are some family farms that have families who join their farms together and might have an uncle or a couple of brothers joining together and working the family farm, but again I think you'll find the workers are made up of those members of the family who still support the family farm in those areas.
I think it's important to remember that when we talk about family farms, especially when we talk about unionizing family farms. That's simply not the case. We're not unionizing family farms. We are offering an opportunity for those plant locations such as cheese processors and mushroom factories and chicken processing plants, the plant idea in the agriculture sector, the opportunity to be unionized should they desire that, should they want that. That is the way a union works.
So when one of my colleagues mentioned the giant union organization swallowing up the family farm, the joke was you would think you'd see this bus of giant union people rolling into town to organize and unionize the poor, small family farm. That's just not the case.
In fact, I think you'll find in a union situation where you are organizing, it's not a matter of a large conglomerate coming in and unionizing a plant. It is the plant workers who go to a union and who say, "We need to be organized." It's about health and safety regulations. It's about a procedure that gives me fair treatment in this plant, be it a chicken plant, be it a cheese processing plant, be it a mushroom plant, be it General Motors, be it any type of union plant that is organized. It's the workers who come forward and say: "For these reasons, we're asking you how we form a union for our protection. How do we do that?"
I simply cannot see three brothers coming to the union and saying, "We need to be organized against our father here, who's not giving us fair and equal treatment." It's just not the way it is. It's not about that.
We've heard a lot about some of the points of this legislation that need work. There are things in here that are not what members of the opposition would like to see in legislation, but it is a process where we have seen a consensus come together on the task force and put forward points on what they wanted to see in this typical legislation. So even though there are some pieces here that are not perfect, I think we are seeing an ongoing effort on behalf of the task force members, on behalf of government members on the committee, on behalf of people who have come together to say there are things we need to address in this legislation and we're continuing to work those out. That's what a consensus is. I feel very good that there is a consensus out there that says this is the type of legislation we need.
We do understand the agricultural sector is a unique sector and it does require certain elements in legislation to address the concerns of the community around the harvesting of a crop, around the spoilage of a harvest that comes in that cannot sit, around some of those concerns about the strike situation. So we are looking at working these things out.
If we had brought in the perfect piece of legislation, there will always be one or two out there who say, "This is not what I want to see." In fact, there will always be this other side of the House. No matter how perfect that legislation is, there will always be people there who say, "This isn't what we want." That's what second reading is all about and that's what making amendments to this legislation is going to be able to do. It's going to be able to address the concerns that the community may or may not have, that the task force may or may not have, that members may or may not have. We're going to be able to say. "Okay, fine, if there's a problem here, that's what we're doing in first and second reading." We're looking at some of those concerns and we may bring in some amendments to address those concerns, but those amendments are coming again from a consensus and from a task force made up of various people in the community and those in the community include some very expert people from the agricultural sector.
I want to go into the legislation now. I was reading over the orders of the day, and this is opposition day, and they have a lot of "whereases" and I thought it was very interesting to take a look at the "whereases." In the first place, it says, "Whereas in the past family farming operations have been exempted from the provisions of the Ontario Labour Relations Act in order to minimize the impact of disruptive labour...." That's exactly what we're doing. We are putting aside the agriculture sector and we are looking at a unique sector out there and we are looking at exemptions from the Ontario Labour Relations Act. We are looking at special cases and specific clauses in a separate situation so we can address those concerns in the agriculture sector.
So where they say whereas they have been exempted, which would be devastating to many farm operations, we are listening to that. So there's a "whereas" we're already dealing with; we're already looking at the bargaining rights of legislation. As the Minister of Labour has indicated, there is bargaining rights legislation available in most other provinces. This is not unique legislation we're bringing in. Where the agriculture sector is unique we're addressing those concerns. But in British Columbia, since 1975 there have been bargaining rights in this sector, in Quebec since 1964, in New Brunswick since 1971, and in Saskatchewan since the early 1970s. We are well aware that we are bringing in a piece of legislation that is not new and we are well aware of the exemptions that are necessary.
In the second one it says, "Whereas under Bill 40 the NDP government removed the Ontario Labour Relations Act exemption for farming operations, promising to enact separate farm legislation." Yes, that's what we're doing. The "whereas" says, "Because you said this." Gee, that's what we're doing. We're bringing in some special clauses and some special legislation around it. There is separate farm legislation under Bill 91 and there are continuing endeavours to pass this special legislation. Again, we are working at that.
I love the next "whereas." The next "whereas" tells us something we already know: Whereas the government created the labour relations task force and whereas it's made up of farm employers and two representatives -- that's certainly good verbiage. I think we're all kind of used to that from the Liberals. They're good at verbiage, they really are. We are looking at the task force recommendations in the agricultural labour legislation, if it's introduced, and this is, as I said, ongoing.
The next "whereas" is very interesting. It says "such as ensuring that immediate relatives of farm owners are not forced to join unions." Nobody is forced to join unions, not family members or relatives of farm owners. There is nothing in this legislation that will force their family members to join unions, and especially on family farms, where you find most of the workers are going to be family members, you're just not going to have it.
I've worked with some union people and they have told me that the best organizer for a union is a poor employer. Even looking at mushroom factories, even looking at cheese processing plants, even looking at chicken processing plants, if the workers in those plants are being taken care of, have adequate benefits, have an adequate pay scale, have health and safety regulations, feel they are part of that organization, they are not going to call, they are not going to ask someone to come and unionize them. They would not give up a good working relationship with their owners or with the people in the plant if they didn't feel they had something to gain. So, as I said, the best organizer for a union is a poor employer.
I must tell you, they're so concerned they said even two and three people can be unionized. Unions don't want to organize three people. They're not going to come down and organize three people on a farm. If the three people come and say, "Please organize it," fine, they'll come down, they'll take a look and they'll do it. But this picture that the unions are going to be going through the countryside looking for people to organize on family farms is just not the case. It's not the case. It's not worth their while. It's not worth the dues. It's not worth the hassle. It's not worth it for them to go and organize three people on a family farm. It just isn't so.
I know that because I've dealt with a union organizer, if that's what you want to call him, a union rep. I've dealt with a union rep and a union organizer for something like 30 years and I just know that it's not worth their time, it's not worth their effort, unless they're asked to come in. They don't go out looking for it. They don't have the time. They don't have the --
Mr Kimble Sutherland (Oxford): They're hiding at every farm gate.
Mrs Haslam: Oh, they are. That's the whole process. They seem to think that there they're going to be, they're going to jump out at the gate and say, "Buddy, you wanna sign a union card?" It just isn't going to happen. It just isn't going to be there.
One of the other things is that in the next it says, "Whereas the NDP government's agriculture labour legislation, Bill 91, fails to protect family farming operations from labour disruptions." That's not true. I think the Minister of Labour in this particular instance has been very clear, saying, "Set out a structured process for negotiation, mediation, arbitration. Contrary to the opinion of the opposition members, all parties in the process" -- he's talking about the process of coming to a consensus around this legislation -- "have acknowledged that the legislation does indeed prevent strikes or lockouts."
That's been very clear in this: It prevents strikes and it prevents lockouts. When they're talking about "fails to protect family farming operations from labour disruptions," that is not accurate. The legislation has been very clear, and the parties, the members of the committee, the task force, who have been looking at this legislation have acknowledged very, very plainly that the legislation does indeed prevent strikes or lockouts.
The next one is: "Whereas agriculture organizations across the province are calling for massive amendments or a total rewrite of the legislation, which the Minister of Labour refuses to consider." Again, not true. I just met with my local Perth federation of agriculture on Saturday. We have an annual meeting where we get together and we talk about issues. They are very complimentary of this government. They are very complimentary about the issues and about the attention that has been given to the farm community, to the rural community, attention they have not had previously.
They are very, very impressed with the way this Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is dealing with the community. The minister has been into my riding on numerous occasions. He has sat around kitchen tables in my county and spoken with the commodity representatives and ordinary people. He has come and sat around a kitchen table and talked about rural issues, to take those issues they have and to come back and to do something. They were very quick to say, "We're very pleased, Karen, about the attention and about what your government is doing."
Even the ethanol plant. It was the first time that finally somebody paid attention to what they've been saying, and it was this government that's put the guarantee in there for that ethanol plant in the riding. It is this government that is putting forth and leading in the ethanol industry. They're very, very pleased and very, very supportive.
They also are very supportive of this legislation, very supportive of the labour-management advisory committee that's been set up. We have some members in my riding who are very in tune and at the forefront of things that are going on in the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. They are very supportive of the labour-management advisory committee and the people who serve on that.
They don't want us to listen to a few disgruntled right-wing people out there. They are there in my riding, and the federation representatives at this meeting were saying, "We've got to work together to tell the people out there what this is all about." It's not the rhetoric of a few. It's not the national coalition; it's not the Ontarians for Responsible Government. This is the group that doesn't like supply management, if I'm not mistaken; the national coalition wouldn't support supply management. It just blows my mind. They suddenly found another issue. I don't think the people who have joined them in this fight have really looked into their policies. I have. I have looked into their policies. Their policies are not supply management, their policies are not support for agriculture and their policies are not support for the farm community. They are very right-wing. They are very free-market concepts.
My OFA in my riding realizes this and is very clear to me in saying: "They don't speak for the majority in your riding, Karen. They don't speak for us. They don't speak for the farmers in this community. They are a few disgruntled loudmouths. They don't speak for us." What they're saying to me is: "We want this legislation, Karen. Where is it? Where is this legislation? We want it and we want it brought in now. Could you please take that message back?" I did and I am. They want this legislation.
In particular, I would like to mention Kelly Crowley who wrote a letter to the editor of the Beacon in Stratford and came out very strongly for this legislation. She's a farm wife. She's in the pork with her husband. She's in the pork congress and represents the commodity group on the federation meetings that we have. She came out and said, "This is about fairness and equity for the workers on our farms and in our processing plants."
The farm community is very much in favour of what we're doing in this legislation. I wanted to mention that, when they talk about rewriting it. No, they don't want this legislation withdrawn; they don't want it rewritten. There are some concerns the task force is working on, and that's fine, but they want this in, and they want it in very quickly.
They say, "Whereas farming operations are particularly sensitive to labour disruptions because of spoilage of crops and the health of animals." Yes, that's true. The agriculture sector has to be concerned about that, and yes, it's already being addressed. For instance, again from the Minister of Labour, he said: "Look at what we have: separate legislation that prohibits the right to strike or lockout, that has strong family-member provisions and that provides for an active advisory body on agricultural labour relations. This approach is completely different from the methods other provinces use regarding this issue."
Again, we recognize the uniqueness of the agriculture sector, we have addressed its concerns, we do recognize its concerns about the labour disruptions because of the uniqueness of the agriculture sector and we are looking at that. That's what we're doing: We're putting that in place in separate legislation, in this separate piece, so that they do have that. It will be part of the same act, with a uniqueness that is addressed in what we're doing in Bill 91. If they wanted to look at something else, we're listening, we're talking to them. That's what I'm trying to say: It's not a given. This is an ongoing process that both the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Minister of Labour have indicated they're working on.
We have legislation. Yes, as I said, there may be some further changes; the ministers might come forward with some changes. But it's not an unusual process here in this place to do that. It's not a call to totally take the legislation away and rewrite it. If this were a Liberal government, they'd say, "Okay, fine, we'll take it away, we'll rewrite it, and maybe it'll be ready in the fall, but we're not sure, and maybe it'll be ready in our second session, but we're not sure." That's what's been done time after time after time for the people in the agricultural community. They said, "We'll look at it and maybe we'll bring it in," but that has not happened. This is a government that is bringing something in. We want to address their concerns now, and we're willing to work with them to do that.
I think lots happened between the readings of the legislation. We have an ongoing labour-management advisory committee that's working, we have ongoing cooperation with this task force, and consultation. I firmly believe that a consensus is important to ensure that the unique characteristics of the agriculture industry can continue to be accommodated through the separate labour relations framework of Bill 91.
Mr Cleary: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I think this is very important, and we should have a quorum in the House.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): Would the clerk determine whether there's a quorum present.
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is now present, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Perth may proceed.
Mrs Haslam: I agree: It's a very important issue, and I believe a quorum should be present. I'm pleased to see that there is one here. I think the interest in the agriculture sector and in its uniqueness in this legislation has to be heard. I firmly believe that a consensus is important to ensure that the unique characteristics of the agriculture industry can continue to be accommodated through the separate labour relations framework of Bill 91, particularly special provisions like the prohibiting of the right to strike by arbitration and the seniority for family members. These are things that have to be addressed, and we are addressing them.
I think concerns of farmers are being heard and they are being addressed. As a result, we will be bringing in legislation that will have a broad base of support in our communities. I look forward to the introduction of the second reading of this legislation so we can see it come forward and become law very quickly in this spring session, because that's what the farming community in my riding and the farming community out there is working with us for: the bringing forth of Bill 91 to conclusion.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Murray J. Elston (Bruce): I will be characteristically brief and to the point on this. The farm community needs a lot of things done to assist in recovering some of the activities that used to go on there. We've had, as the member for Northumberland so rightly identified, the cutback in so many areas in our agricultural services that we need to be looking at how we can help them recover the vitality that was once the hallmark in rural Ontario -- not the least of which activities are those that used to be carried on by the old Ministry of Agriculture and Food. It's now called the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, but what you do with a name doesn't change the style of government.
While the Minister of Agriculture is here, it's interesting to read the release of March 29, wherein Brant county and the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth will now share a single office, where there used to be two offices dealing with the farm populations in those two very important rural areas in Ontario.
Basically, here's the bottom line: "No matter what you think of us, you can always reach us by telephone." That's really the only service the Ministry of Ag and Food will soon offer to rural Ontario, if we're not careful. The Minister of Agriculture and Food is held in very high regard. In fact, it's probably the one thing I would be able to agree with, without looking more closely, in the speech by the member for Perth. Mr Buchanan is indeed held in high regard, because he has a very good ear and he has put a lot of effort into doing a lot of work in rural Ontario, and he's to be congratulated for that. I would have to say, mind you, that he has had a couple of notable failings. One notable failing is retaining a high level of personal service to rural Ontario.
The service that was provided by the OMAF offices is not provided any more like it used to be. For instance, I saw an interesting publication that indicated that while Quebec may have some 14 assistants looking after the pork industry in that province, we end up with two, one less than a couple of the maritime provinces, who look after pork industry consultation in our province. I'm concerned by that, because that type of trend has been heightened and increased currently under this particular administration.
The run-down of our agricultural colleges, the depletion of the facilities that are available to train young people in the art and science of farm business, in the art and science of dealing with new products, use of chemicals and herbicides and other things, is, I think, regrettable. That doesn't happen to agree with some of the provisions put forward by an organization like the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, for instance, but it is my view that every time you take away a facility, as there have been facilities eliminated in this province, you will end up fulfilling the prophesy that there is less and less worthwhile attention to be spent in rural Ontario. I think that's regrettable.
In the end, what really is condemning is that the Minister of Agriculture lost this round with respect to this labour bill. There was a very clear understanding, an undertaking given during the debate on Bill 40, that there would be a separate piece of legislation which would not come under the aegis of the Minister of Labour, that it would in fact come under the aegis of the Minister of Agriculture and Food, as he was then known. In fact, I think the deal was struck because there was a sense that the Minister of Agriculture and Food, Elmer Buchanan, would deliver on that commitment and promise. I don't think the farm community would have agreed to that without something in very strong terms being written on paper, unless it had been Elmer who was making the offer.
In this regard, Mr Buchanan has a second failing in his dealing with rural Ontario. His inability to wrest this provision away from a very paternalistic Minister of Labour means very much that there is nothing unique about agriculture or agricultural labour in the province of Ontario. That is his chief and second failing in regard to his mandate.
I haven't really got any more time left, but I just want to indicate this: The two principal provisions that have been brought forward for agriculture at this particular time, the stable funding and the agricultural labour relations bill, have done nothing to solidify the vitality of rural Ontario.
Mr Elston: In fact, I can tell you, Madam Speaker, that if the member for Oxford would go back to sleep like he normally is in this place, I could finish my speech. And you know something? The member for Oxford for ever sits in his seat and chirps and chirps and he doesn't have the courage to stand up and deliver a speech ever. He doesn't have the time of day to speak out for his constituents, but he can sit in his seat and try and bother everybody else who speaks.
The Acting Speaker: Order. Would members come to order.
Mr Elston: I'm going to stop here, because I have wakened the people on the perches over there who don't have courage to stand up and speak out for their own constituents. All they have time to do is bicker and push their own dissension on the chamber's decorum. I wish that you would speak out once in a while in a meaningful way, member for Oxford, and then maybe we could get at you the way you seem to like to get at other people who represent their constituents.
I want to say one more thing before I leave this, and I've gone slightly over the time that I had been allotted. That is this: The member for Perth had indicated several things, one I agreed with, and that is that Elmer's held in high regard, and a couple of things I did not agree with. The other thing is the fact that this labour legislation will have really very little impact on farm stability or on the stability of our economy in rural Ontario.
Mrs Haslam: No, I didn't say that.
Mr Elston: The member for Perth now retracts what I believe she said. She is now admitting to us that this will not help rural economic stability whatsoever.
Mrs Haslam: No, I don't admit that either. That's incorrect. You are good at incorrections today, Murray.
Mr Elston: That's what my point is with respect to Bill 91. This is not a good piece of legislation for rural Ontario, this will not help us secure the future of rural Ontario and in the end it will mean less work for fewer people in rural Ontario at a time when we need more work in the province of Ontario. That is what condemns this piece of legislation to failure.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): It's my pleasure to have a few minutes to comment on this opposition resolution by the Liberal Party. I want to first of all recognize Noble Villeneuve, our critic for Agriculture, and Elizabeth Witmer, our Labour critic, for the excellent presentations they put forward on behalf of the people of Ontario and on behalf of the farm organizations in particular.
I was kind of shocked to hear the Minister of Labour say that he still remembers a mushroom plant around Picton, I believe he said, where 70% of the members had joined up and wanted to organize and they couldn't because they came under the Department of Agriculture. That being still with him, he's getting some personal satisfaction out of being able to bring in this very, very strong labour legislation which is going to be applied now not only to mushroom factories and other industrialized types of processing plants but right across the whole agricultural sector.
For the minister and the member for Perth to stand up and say, "Oh, it's not going to affect the family farm," is not acceptable, and I'm surprised at the Minister of Agriculture sitting down and listening to that, because he knows very well this is just the opening of the gates. This is just the start. Naturally you're going to hit where the largest membership is and you're going to organize there, but it's also going to continue. As the member for Perth stated, "There's wonderful protection in here for the family farm." Why do we need protection if it's not going to happen there?
Mr Sutherland: No one believes in the domino theory any more.
Mr Jordan: You say, "We're not going out to organize two or three people." Yes, you are going out to organize two or three people. You just finished it in Orangeville at McDonald's. You started out with two or three people, but what was your objective? Your long-range objective was to organize the agricultural industry. You're not fooling the farmers in my riding by thinking that you're just coming in here to talk about the industrialized units in agriculture. You are talking about organizing agriculture across this province.
I can say to you today, with the Ontario farmers facing the new global marketing prospects that are out there and having to adjust to the new milk marketing board, that we were quite unsuccessful in convincing the federal governments to maintain article XI intact. So now we're out trying to bring to the farmers another cumbersome piece of legislation that's really the beginning of the end.
I know what the family farm is going to do. They're going to throw up their hands and say, "Take it." The larger farm --
Mr Jordan: Yes, they are, I say to the member for Perth, because I've got farms already in my riding that used to have maybe 30 or 60 dairy cows, and some of them have increased to as large as 400. Don't tell me you're not going to organize that dairy farm, because you are.
Mrs Haslam: Not unless they want to be.
Mr Jordan: What are you doing with small business out there? Small business is being shut down because you abolished the word "helper." You can't have a helper on the job any more. He or she has to be either an apprentice or a journeyman, and they have to carry that card to show that.
We've got plumbers, electricians and many of the 17 trades that are affected by this legislation under Bill 40 coming to my constituency office wondering how they're going to continue to operate as a small business, because the owner of the business never did have a journeyman's licence, and he may have an apprentice working with him, but the other man or person was known as a helper. Now, unless that helper becomes an apprentice, the job is shut down. You are paying the inspector to go around and close that job down.
Mr George Mammoliti (Yorkview): This is an old argument. This was the same argument they used in 1930. It doesn't work any more.
Mr Jordan: I'm just telling you. You say it couldn't happen there a year ago. It is happening, and it's going to happen in agriculture.
Mr Mammoliti: Do we have to put up with this?
The Acting Speaker: Order. Could I speak for a moment? I'd ask the members to come to order, and would the member please direct his comments to the Chair. Thank you. Go ahead.
Mr Jordan: I would like to say that had this legislation been brought in, as originally planned, under the Minister of Agriculture, I know the people in my riding would have been much more comfortable and more readily in the mood to accept a form of labour legislation relative to their agricultural operation. But now it's being brought in by the Minister of Labour, who told us just a few minutes ago that he goes out on occasion to visit his younger brother to try and get a little bit of direction and keep his feet on the ground as to what is required there for a beef operation or a dairy operation or whatever.
Hopefully, he will get some direction from actual visits to the farm and realize that the labour organization as structured here under this Bill 91 is not suitable and not acceptable to the farmers in the province of Ontario. I speak especially about the farmers in my riding. They are very, very concerned about it, because they can see it as just the beginning of what is going to be a very difficult piece of legislation for them to be able to operate under.
The minimum wage is already affecting them, because when the students used to come to work as summer help on the farm, the farmer would probably pay them $50 a day, but that included their board, it included transportation, and it included clothing in lots of cases. Now, with the increased dollar costs, they can't pay $70 a day; they're better to leave the crop in the field.
I think you have to take all those things into consideration when you start introducing legislation such as this. Show me one sector of the farm operation, whether it was processing or whatever, that came to this government, wrote a letter or asked for labour legislation to be introduced in order that they could run their business and be more efficient and operate their farm and be more competitive in this global market. I don't know of one case -- I know there isn't one in my riding -- that ever wrote a letter, even to the Minister of Agriculture who they do have a lot of faith in, and asked him to bring in legislation that would organize their family farms.
It's very regrettable -- the Minister is holding up a piece of paper. Maybe he'd pass it over so that we could learn something we haven't seen.
What concerns me is that the Minister of Labour, more so than the Minister of Agriculture, is saying, "We're out consulting, and we're asking the people and they're telling us this." The member for Perth has stated that she has met with her agricultural people and they say: "Hurry up with this legislation. Who's holding it up? We need it. We want it." I don't know if "we" is two people or herself and one other person, but certainly there are no people in my riding who are asking me to ask the ministers to hurry along with this proposed legislation.
If you continue to say to the people of this province, "I'm consulting you and I'm listening and I'm going to implement it," and then you come back and you carry on with the exact plan you had before you went out there, you're going to be just telling the people that you're not interested in what they have to say, that you have a plan and you're going to use it.
It's just like this letter that the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters sent to the Minister of Natural Resources. They start out and they say, "It is clear that you intentionally misled members on more than one occasion." They say that in their letter, so they must have the people very upset when they sit down and write a letter like that to the minister. I'm concerned that's the type of letter you're going to get relative to this legislation unless you actually implement the changes you've been asked to make. Better than that, I would ask that you just withdraw the bill.
To the Minister of Agriculture, I know the priorities that he must have in mind for government and what the people want. To spend the time and money on legislation like this is just not productive. With that, thank you.
Hon Elmer Buchanan (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to rise today to speak to this motion. I think it's fitting and appropriate that we be talking about the family farm in rural Ontario in this House. So often we spend our time in this House talking about things that I do not feel are relevant, necessarily, in rural Ontario, so I'm pleased that we have a motion today that some members from rural Ontario can rise and speak to and talk about the family farm and its importance in rural Ontario.
It's rather unfortunate, though, that when we get to the end of this motion, it deals with two parts of Bill 91 and suggests either we amend it or bring back the exemption as it was previous to the introduction of Bill 40. I think what we have here today is a motion that wants to pre-empt the amendments that will be brought forward with Bill 91, as the Minister of Labour has promised, and we, in cooperation with the Minister of Labour, have talked to the group that is continuing to meet and talk and discuss this bill. They're putting together some possible amendments that we will be bringing forward. So what we have here today is a motion that is sort of trying to pre-empt those amendments coming before the House during second reading.
None the less, as I said earlier, I think it's important that we do have a motion here that talks to rural Ontario. A number of members have risen in the House today and talked about the importance of the family farm. Some of them have expressed concern that Bill 91, even after it's amended, will cause hardship to the family farm.
But some of us have lost our sense of what a family farm is. We talk about it in very romantic terms, and we use it, and we're talking about all farms. I'm going to speak in a minute about the size of some of the farms we have here in Ontario, but before I do that, I want to make a couple of comments about some of my colleagues across the way who have spoken to this motion this afternoon.
We had a concern raised by the member for Bruce about some of the closures of offices and the fact that this was an indication we were not committed to rural Ontario and the family farm. That is absolutely not so.
What we're trying to do is take the limited money we have and make sure it goes into service in providing assistance and support, direct support, for farmers and not simply into buildings and providing staff in offices where they're not necessarily needed. We're trying to respond to the needs of all farmers across rural Ontario and make sure that the money we do have goes directly to farmers.
The other point I would make in response to what my friend from Bruce said is that he mentioned stable funding as not being productive. In fact we brought stable funding, and probably one of the only things that I was insistent we have in that bill was that 25% of the revenues that were collected under the auspices of that bill would go back to the local organizations, at the county or at the regional level, because I want to see strong farm organizations at the regional level so that they can promote agriculture at the local level and not at some bureaucratic central or provincial level. That's something the member should take note of.
The other thing I would like to point out is that earlier today in the House we had one of the good rural members from Etobicoke waving a sign around which talked a little bit in response to Bill 91, that we were attempting to unionize. "Where's the family farm?" A group sponsoring those billboards is a group that's not very familiar with many people in rural Ontario. Many of the farmers, the people I talked to in rural Ontario, are curious where this group came from and what its support is of the family farm, whether or not it supports supply management, whether it supports milk marketing boards, whether it supports safety nets whether they be GRIP or NISA, whether it supports crop insurance, and some of those things that are the lifelines for farmers in this province.
Many of the farmers in the farm groups I talked to believe the group that has been sponsoring these billboards do not understand farmers and farm organizations, do not understand what goes on on the side roads in rural Ontario, and have another agenda which is quite different from supporting family farms, but I'll leave that for some future debate. I'm sure we'll hear more about the billboard business in the future, but I would draw that to everyone's attention here in the House.
Moving on to the family farm issue and the size of the family farm, while this bill was being drafted in its preliminary stages, when the discussions were held with the farm organizations, with the labour groups which were sponsored by my ministry and the Ministry of Labour, there were several suggestions as to how this bill might be drafted.
One of the proposals that was on the table was that if there were fewer than five employees or fewer than 10 employees, there would be an exemption; this would not be included under the provisions for this bill.
I believe it was the labour group that put that provision forward hoping the farm groups would say: "Yes, that's a good idea. We can accept that." But it was the farm groups that said at the table, "No, we would like to just have everybody treated the same. Don't have any numbers put in." So they were willing to include all farms, knowing full well they're not particularly interested in organizing a farm or an operation with two, three, four, five, six employees. They're interested, if they're going to have organizations, in larger operations, and I would like to draw to your attention some 1991 census material which will speak to the issue of the family farm and how many farms we're talking about.
I believe it was earlier today that there was an exchange in the House between myself and the member for Victoria-Haliburton about the number of family farms that might be affected in his riding, and while I do not have a breakdown on a county-by-county level, I do have some numbers here in terms of size.
It deals with the number of employees on each category of farm, based on 1991 census data. If we take 10 as a reasonable number that you might have an organization set up a union on in this province of Ontario, with 10 or more person-years of work -- in other words, 10 full-time people for a whole year -- do you know how many farms there are in the province with 10 or more employees all year? There are 352 of them. That's the total in the whole province with 10 or more employees.
If you want to go up to 20 or more employees, which would be more of a reasonably sized operation, there are 126, total, in the whole province, and I could go on. If you want to go up to 50, there are 30 so-called farms in the province that have 50 or more employees full-time all year, and there are 13 with 100 or more.
Mr Speaker, if you think or anybody in this House thinks that someone with 100 employees is a family farm and they're concerned about the future of the family farm, then I have something wrong with my vision of what a family farm is. The last time I checked, if there were 50 or 100 employees, it wasn't a family farm; it was something else, but it wasn't a family farm. It may be involved in the production of agricultural goods, and that's great, but I don't think that's a family farm.
Even if we go down to the number 10 of employees who might be organized -- and let's face it: We're bringing justice to the farm, because every other province, with the exception of Alberta, has provision for farm workers to organize collectively and bargain for wages. We're doing this by including what the farm side and what the labour side want, with provision that there be no strike and no lockout, and we're bringing in what was asked for in the task force; that will be here on the table, as the amendments are brought forward in the near future. I look forward to all members of the House putting away partisan politics and supporting the amended Bill 91.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): I thank the honourable minister for his contribution to the debate and invite further debate.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I'd like to make a few comments with respect to this bill. I listened to the Minister of Agriculture and all his other names speak about the support he is getting from farmers across this province on this bill. I don't know who he's talking to, because I can tell you, the farmers in my riding -- they are not large operations but are mainly small operations, and they don't understand it. They don't understand the philosophy behind it.
Most of them are family farms that may have at least two employees who work full-time, and they certainly have a number of seasonal people who work for them. That's the fear, of course: that if this legislation carries, it would be extended to the seasonal people. They are very concerned in my riding, which consists of the town of Caledon in the county of Dufferin. They have a lot of fear about the effect it's going to have on them.
The farming community has had a great deal of difficulty over the last decade in particular -- and of course they look at all governments -- difficulty in operating farms in this province, and this is one more thing: the fear particularly of the effect on the small farmer. What is it going to do?
Number one, to start, it's going to provide them simply with another level of bureaucracy they're going to have to deal with, and that's more cost they'll have.
I look at this resolution that has been put forward today by the Liberal opposition, and I might say I support this resolution, although I must confess I hear rumours, whether they're true or not, that your ministry is busy working on amendments to this legislation, that you've got some concerns with it, so probably the resolution is a little premature and we should see what you're going to do. My guess is, though, that we won't be very happy with the legislation as amended.
I find it interesting that the government indicates the support it's had of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. If you listen to why the Federation of Agriculture worked with you -- when I say "you," I mean your ministry -- in the drafting of this legislation, first, it didn't want this to be part of the Bill 40 legislation. Everyone in this province, whether you like it or not, is opposed -- well, not everyone; of course the union leaders are in favour of Bill 40. But generally speaking, in my observation, certainly in my riding, the large percentage of the people in my riding are opposed to Bill 40. That was one of the fears the Ontario Federation of Agriculture had, that this legislation would simply become part of Bill 40.
The second reason, as I understand it, that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture supported it was that it wanted this legislation to be administered not by the Minister of Labour but by the Minister of Agriculture. I understand that as well, but that is not support of the principle of unionizing the family farm.
Mr Klopp: We're not.
Mr Tilson: Well, that's the picture the government is painting, that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture supports that principle. That, as I understand it, is how it came about, and that to me is a form of coercion.
I will say that the Ontario farm economy has never recovered from the economic devastation of the early 1980s. There's no question that since that time the Ontario farmer has had a great deal of difficulty in operations. This was caused by interest rates and, as you know, Minister, from falling commodity prices.
As we've moved into the 1990s, with your government in power, with the NDP government in power, it's been characterized by international subsidy wars and price supports which, for the most part, in my submission, have left Ontario farmers hung out to dry. So the farmer has experienced a great deal of difficulty in proceeding not only through the 1980s but through the 1990s.
They're fearful of this legislation. They're fearful of where you're taking them and whether particularly the small farmer is going to be in operation if this philosophy catches on. They're going to be put through the same fear as the manufacturing and other industries that are submitting that Bill 40 has completely caused problems in investment in this province.
Ontario farmers, as I say, are potentially faced with the disastrous prospect of supply management being destroyed and other major structural changes through trade negotiations. The general feeling in the farm community -- I can certainly speak for my riding. I know the minister has stood up and said he's got a long list of letters he's received from farmers, but I can tell you, the farmers in my community, who are small farmers, have a general concern with this legislation.
I would suggest that if you have some amendments, you delay the implementation of this procedure. It's been suggested by my colleague that perhaps the bill should be repealed or withdrawn, and I would support that, particularly the way it stands now, but I await your amendments.
The general feeling in the farm community indicates that the prospect of higher wages and other costs associated with organized workforces are not needed. That's their concern. We're talking about keeping farms alive.
I had a farmer come into my office last week who simply said: "Bob Rae and Elmer Buchanan don't know who feeds them. They simply don't know who feeds them. Their socialistic philosophy is being spread to the farm, and it doesn't apply in a farm community." That's what one farmer said in my community. It's a simple statement that I hope, Minister, you pay heed to.
In other words, there's a need to preserve the family farm, and I think that's what the general intent of this resolution being put forward is: to preserve the family farm.
Another factor which should be considered is the competitiveness of the Ontario agriculture and food industry. In this sense, agriculture is no different from the industrial sector, as it must compete with other Canadian and American jurisdictions for corporate investment. Minister, we in agriculture -- and when I say "we," I mean the province of Ontario -- do compete like other industries do, yet this is making it more difficult to compete in this province.
We are already asking ourselves the question, "If you're in another jurisdiction, whether you're a European or whether you're an American or someone from Japan or other countries, would you invest in the province of Ontario?" One of the things they look at is our taxes. Another thing they look at is our labour laws. I can tell you, as I'm sure you know -- if you don't know, you should read any daily newspaper that comes out -- that investors are concerned with many of the pieces of legislation that have been put forward in this province. I can tell you that the unionization of the family farm is another fear that farmers and investors from within and outside this province are concerned with.
I'm just going to, in the final seconds, repeat many of the fears that have been put forward by the task force and apply to this legislation: that the already unstable economic climate in agriculture would be further threatened by modifications to the province's labour law. They fear higher labour costs. The expected result of an organized labour force would ultimately be passed on to the consumer because of the farm sector's inability to absorb the increase, and that's a general concern.
The people who are really afraid of this legislation are the people who are trying to buy food in this province, because the cost will be passed on to the consumer. So, the fear is that this would be particularly evident in Ontario supply-management commodities where a cost-of-production formula is used to determine prices.
I thank you very much for participating in this.
The Speaker: I thank the honourable member for Dufferin-Peel for his contribution to the debate and invite further debate.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): There are really two major reasons why we have presented this motion to the Legislature today. The first reason, perhaps most obviously, is because of our recognition of the very important role that agriculture has always played in this province and that it must continue to play in the economy of this province. A number of speakers have spoken to the difficult times that agriculture has been experiencing, and there's no question that they are going through some tough times, that they're going through a lot of changes. But we in this caucus and in this party are absolutely committed to making sure that agriculture continues to be a vital part of the economy of our rural communities and of this province itself.
But the more specific reason for bringing this motion to the Legislature today was to be able to speak to what I can only describe as this government's betrayal of the agricultural community on an issue of very grave concern to farmers and to the future of farm operations.
We have absolutely no guarantee, after eight months, that the concerns of people in farm communities are going to be addressed by these, at this point, mythical amendments that the Minister of Labour has spoken to. I do not use a term like "betrayal" lightly, but having spent a lot of time talking to people in farm communities about their concerns, first with Bill 40 and then with Bill 91, I can only find that as a way of describing the way in which this government has dealt with the agricultural community in the ongoing debate about labour legislation.
I don't pretend that this is the only betrayal that the farmers of this province have experienced at the hands of this government. Certainly, we remember the government promising significant financial assistance to farmers during the 1990 election, although we recognize that that's just one of the many promises of that particular summer that have been broken in the last three and a half years. Then we saw them promise help again in the Hayes task force on farm finance and then again in the agriculture investment strategy that was announced in 1992, and little real assistance has actually materialized.
In fact, far from providing real, new assistance, the Ministry of Agriculture's budget has been reduced by some 8%, and this is despite the fact that these are indeed some of the toughest times that agriculture in this province has ever experienced. This is a time when our crop prices fell by 30%; when net incomes from the agriculture industry fell by 15%. What was the government's response to the kinds of problems that farmers have faced? It was a reduction in provincial programs.
Now, I'm sure the government would be quick to say: "Look, it's a tough time for government too. What else could we do? We're reducing everywhere." But I think farmers might well ask, if the government could increase the spending for the Ministry of Labour by some 13% -- not a reduction but an increase in spending for the Ministry of Labour by 13% -- why was the budget for the Ministry of Agriculture reduced by 8%, and what does this say about the priority that this government places upon agriculture and upon the concerns of farmers?
Of course the government can talk a good game, and in fact it attempted to demonstrate its commitment to rural development and the future of rural communities by changing the name of the Ministry of Agriculture from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. But it doesn't do much to help agriculture, and there's no sign that it's going to do much for rural diversification either.
The Minister of Agriculture said that one of the realities of the name change for his ministry is that he's going to take on a new Ombudsman role, working with other ministries on behalf of farmers and farm communities and farm operations. I would say to the Minister of Agriculture today that the starting point for your work as an Ombudsman, Minister, should be to work with the Minister of Labour and to ask the Minister of Labour why he has not kept his commitment to farmers, why the Minister of Labour will not deal with the concerns that farmers and farm groups have been raising with this government for some three years.
We in the Liberal caucus have heard the concerns of farmers and we have raised their concerns in this Legislature. We echoed the concerns of farmers about Bill 40, the bill which removed the agriculture exemption from the Labour Relations Act and which now leaves farm operations with the threat of labour disruptions. I remember that at the time when these concerns were raised, the Minister of Labour seemed to recognize that farm groups had legitimate concerns and in fact he set up the agriculture labour task force to study the unique nature of agriculture and its relation to labour reform.
The task force members reasonably assumed that their recommendations would somehow have some effect on what happened in Bill 40. They believed the Minister of Labour and they believed the Minister of Agriculture when he said the family farm would not come under the Labour Relations Act. But Bill 40 went ahead and the exemption for agriculture was removed.
But the task force continued to do its work, to offer a reasonable set of recommendations to protect the agriculture industry, and a great many individuals and farm groups worked long and hard with the task force to find that reasonable framework, despite the fact that there was a clear intimidation presented by Bill 40 having been passed. A coordinating committee on labour issues was set up to work with farm representatives on the task force to find the ways, given the New Democrats' clear, unshakable ideological determination to unionize farms across this province, to yet give protection to family farms. It seems to me that it was ironic and more than a little unfortunate that when what farmers were needing was help in the struggle to survive, they had to spend so much of their energy just trying to minimize the damage this government was ready to do to farming.
But the work was done, the task force report was presented in the fall of 1992, and then just last summer, before the House recessed, the government responded with Bill 91, and Bill 91 is clearly not a response to what that task force recommended.
The minister has said, "But it is." He says the legislation was supported by farm groups, that there was broad consultation. The minister said last week he sees no real problems with this bill, and when I ask, "How is he going to respond to the concerns that we're hearing from people in the farm communities?" he talks about minor housekeeping amendments and he says: "Have faith. We'll deal with the concerns."
We have not seen the amendments. No one is ready to accept the statement that the minister will fix this on faith alone, and I say clearly to this minister: Bill 91 needs fixing, and minor amendments, whatever the minister means by that, are not going to do the job.
The Minister of Labour somehow seems to feel that this is just an opposition issue, just something we raise in this Legislature to be critics of the government. If that's so, can he tell me why then farm groups, under the continuing work of the labour issues committee, found 11 major areas where Bill 91 fails to live up to the spirit and the word of the task force recommendations?
Why did Grant Smith of the Ontario Milk Marketing Board and chair of the labour issues coordinating committee send a letter to the Minister of Labour expressing their disappointment that Bill 91 failed to address the concern and respond to the consensus of the agriculture task force? Why, if this bill is supported by farm groups, did the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association and other commodities groups try to get this government to understand that Bill 91 is fundamentally flawed?
We have up to now in this House raised only those issues that are causing the greatest concern to farmers: the failure to provide separate legislation for agriculture, the failure to exempt members of the broader family from being forced to join a union, and the failure to make provisions to prevent strike action against family farms.
But fixing Bill 91, Minister, means dealing with each of the 11 flaws that have been identified in this bill, and fixing Bill 91 means answering these kinds of questions: Why have you refused to create a separate agriculture labour relations act? Why have you refused to create a separate agriculture labour relations board? Why have you refused to define "agriculture" under Bill 91? Why have you refused to implement provisions to prevent strikes from occurring under Bill 91? Why have you refused to implement a dispute settlement process recommended by the task force? Why do you refuse to implement the task force's proposed labour-management advisory committee? Why did you refuse to properly define "seasonal workers" under the legislation?
Minister, I cannot identify all the questions under those 11 flaws in Bill 91. We will wait to see the minister's amendments to see if they address any or all of these questions. We'll wait to see if he is ready to deal with Bill 91 and fix it in a way that really does respond to the concerns of farmers across this province. The farmers of this province need and deserve nothing less, and it is in that concern that we have moved this motion today.
The Speaker: Mr Cleary, in the absence of Mrs McLeod, moved opposition day number 1, which stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.
Shall the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the nays have it.
Call in the members; a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1757 to 1803.
The Speaker: Would all members please take their seats.
All those in favour of Mrs McLeod's motion will please rise one by one.
Arnott, Brown, Caplan, Carr, Chiarelli, Cleary, Cordiano, Cousens, Crozier, Cunningham, Curling, Daigeler, Eddy, Elston, Eves, Fawcett, Grandmaître, Harnick, Hodgson, Johnson (Don Mills), Jordan, Kwinter, Mahoney, McClelland, McGuinty, McLean, McLeod, Morin, Offer, O'Neil (Quinte), O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau), Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt), Poirier, Poole, Ramsay, Runciman, Sorbara, Stockwell, Sullivan, Tilson, Turnbull, Villeneuve, Witmer.
The Speaker: All those opposed to Ms McLeod's motion will please rise one by one.
Abel, Akande, Allen, Bisson, Boyd, Buchanan, Carter, Charlton, Christopherson, Cooke, Cooper, Dadamo, Duignan, Farnan, Fletcher, Frankford, Gigantes, Grier, Haeck, Hampton, Hansen, Harrington, Haslam, Hayes, Huget, Jamison, Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings), Klopp, Kormos, Laughren, Lessard, Mackenzie, Malkowski, Mammoliti, Marchese, Martel, Mathyssen, Mills, Morrow, Murdock (Sudbury), O'Connor, Owens, Philip (Etobicoke-Rexdale), Pilkey, Pouliot, Rae, Silipo, Sutherland, Swarbrick, Waters, Wessenger, White, Wildman, Wilson (Frontenac-Addington), Wilson (Kingston and The Islands), Winninger, Wiseman, Wood, Ziemba.
The Speaker: The ayes being 43 and the nays 59, I declare the motion lost.
Before adjourning the House, I remind all members that there is a special ceremony planned for the grand staircase, and perhaps members would be kind enough to use an alternative exit when leaving the chamber.
It being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 1807.