The House met at 1002.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
SCHOOL BOARDS' FISCAL YEAR
Mrs Cunningham moved private member's notice of motion number 45:
That, in the opinion of this House, in order to facilitate school board budgeting and planning, the Ministry of Education and Training should continue with its intent to change the school board fiscal year, which now coincides with the calendar year, to coincide with the school year, September 1 to August 31.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the honourable member has 10 minutes for her presentation.
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): I should first announce to the House why I've chosen to bring this resolution to the floor today, as opposed to a private member's bill. It's a technical challenge more than anything else, and of course I don't think there would be anyone in the Legislative Assembly who would disagree with me that this has been the intent of many governments over the years. But it would have been more difficult for myself to bring it in the form of a bill, because the bill would have to change both the Municipal Act, which defines "fiscal year," and the Municipal Affairs Act, which defines "local board," as well the Education Act.
We found that to be somewhat cumbersome and complicated and we thought, because this issue is of a pressing nature to the school boards, that we should bring it in the form of a resolution and therefore ask the minister to act upon this in haste. This is something that he could do very quickly.
It actually is a privilege that I stand in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to discuss this very important issue and have the opportunity of introducing a private member's resolution. It's one of the great privileges of the democratic process which all of us respect and do not take for granted. So I, of course, am honoured to have my colleagues from all three parties here to participate in this discussion.
I understand that the member for Sault Ste Marie will be speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Training and I look forward to his comments and to the comments of my other colleagues today.
I think most of us are aware that in 1992 the former Minister of Education stated in a press release that he would be looking at adjusting the school board fiscal year so that, beginning September 1993, it would coincide with the school year. School boards have been requesting this change, stating that it would make it easier for them to plan and manage their budgets. It's now June 16, 1994, and more than two years have passed, at least, during the tenure of this government, and the change has not occurred.
I was approached by a number of school boards which expressed their concern that the ministry had not delivered on its promise. Then, more recently, I received a very, I think, pointed letter from Carol Donnelly, the chair of the London and Middlesex County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, that she had sent to the Minister of Education and Training, again requesting that the fiscal year for school boards be changed.
I should say that my own personal experience in this particular issue goes back to 1973 with the school board, so it's not just this government but all governments that have indeed ignored school boards that we criticize for their ability to manage their budget and yet don't respond to what I think is a very practical request.
I therefore thought, in spite of my questions in the House in the past six years since I've been a member representing London North, that it's time I brought it forward in this format, and to use up one of the most valuable privileges, and that is a private member's bill or resolution, which can happen to us sometimes less than once a year. That's the kind of emphasis I feel that this issue warrants.
After tabling the resolution, I think it's very important that I make these comments. I sent a letter and a copy of the resolution to all of the directors of education, chairs of boards, asking them to comment on the proposal. This was a couple of weeks ago, and in the last week I have received more than 40 letters and phone calls, in fact I think it's much more than that today, from boards across the province in response.
That shows the kind of openness and the kind of interest they have in having a more efficient system, but more importantly, I think it shows their desire to assist the government of the day and to work with them so that we can have more accountability in our school systems and better education for our students.
I'd like to thank the directors of education and superintendents of business for taking the time from their busy schedules to respond to this important request of our office. I will be using the information that they sent to us during these remarks.
The advantages and disadvantages of changing the school boards' fiscal year to coincide with their operational year, as I said, has been discussed over the years. In recent months the Ministry of Education has received requests for a change in the fiscal year from the following groups: the Ontario Association of School Business Officials and the Ontario Association of Separate School Business Officials. The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, in a submission to the provincial government, also supported making the fiscal year and operational year of school boards coincide.
The third report of the select committee on education in January 1990, the report on education finance, recommended, "The fiscal year should be altered and reporting and budgetary procedures should be streamlined to more closely reflect the reality of the school year."
Mr Patrick Slack of the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association has stated that the association supports the change, as does the Ontario Public School Boards' Association in a letter written December 2, 1992, to the Honourable Tony Silipo, signed by the president of the OPSBA, Paula Dunning. It clearly states that OPSBA would suggest that the transition to a school year fiscal year must proceed with as little disruption and administrative expense as possible.
Of course, that letter was followed up by a letter on May 16, as recently as a month ago to this day, 1994, to the Honourable Floyd Laughren, and the same letter to the Minister of Education, David Cooke, signed by Mr Joe Gunn, who is the present president of the OPSBA. So there's a lot of support for this resolution and we certainly did our homework in this regard.
According to school boards, changing the fiscal year to coincide with the school year would provide increased efficiency and effectiveness in the preparation of the budget for schools and departments in advance of the school operational year. It would improve planning and decision-making when establishing a mill rate since the budget would be established with the knowledge of the general legislative grants and other data well in advance.
Boards had the unfortunate challenge this year of settling a budget, only to find that the GLGs, which were announced late, had decreased their grants. Boards were left scrambling at the last minute to find ways to cut costs without jeopardizing the education of our students and without increasing taxes.
Much of the current support for the corresponding fiscal-operational year is contingent on the general legislative grants regulations being published well in advance of the start of the boards' fiscal year. In recent years the GLGs have been published March 31, three months after the start of the school boards' fiscal year and one day before their municipal requisitions must be in on April 1.
The ministry has been aware of the problems this late publication has cost boards but has been unable to publish earlier because of the data on which the GLGs are dependent: assessment rolls and enrolment figures. They're not available earlier. However, if the school boards' fiscal year coincides with their operational year, a GLG release date of March 31 will no longer present a problem.
Allowing boards to be proactive in their financial planning will ensure better financial decisions, which ultimately impact on our children. It's simply common sense to match an organization's fiscal year with its natural operating cycle. This long-sought-after change would allow boards to better plan their operations within today's fiscal realities, rather than being forced to solve their financial problems at budget time using the first four tenths of the following school year. Any organization would logically match its fiscal year with its operational cycle.
Significant decisions in staffing, program changes and system reorganization would be implemented on the basis of the school year cycle. I think it's interesting for my colleagues in this assembly to note that Ontario and Saskatchewan are the only provinces where the school boards' fiscal year coincides with the calendar year, so this is not new.
I will be encouraged to listen to the discussion, but I thought that I should read into the record some of the responses from the boards and at least show you the kind of response we had when we asked for their opinions.
It won't be surprising to know that such boards as the Board of Education for the City of York and the Board of Education for the City of Hamilton, the West Parry Sound Board of Education, the Halton Roman Catholic Separate School Board, the Simcoe County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, the Halton Board of Education, the Carleton Board of Education, the Lincoln County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, the Haldimand Board of Education, the Durham Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board, the Board of Education for the City of Windsor, the Victoria County Board of Education, the Middlesex County Board of Education, the Durham Board of Education, the Peterborough County Board of Education, the Lakehead Board of Education, the Elgin County Board of Education --
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired.
Mrs Cunningham: -- Essex, and I could go on but my time has expired.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): It gives me some pleasure to rise this morning and participate in this discussion about what I think is a very important issue, something that I don't think anybody in this House would disagree we need to do something about, because of the fact that financing education is so complicated without even considering this particular issue.
In my experience with school boards -- I was a trustee for a number of years in northern Ontario -- one of the more challenging aspects of being a trustee was trying to understand the finances, how education was financed. As the member who has brought forward this bill has intimated, certainly this didn't start with us. It's a complicated formula that's been around for a long, long time.
All three parties of government have had some experience with it, and I would suggest to the member that if this shift is as simple as she suggests, then why wasn't it done earlier and sooner, because I don't think there's anybody I've come in contact with in my years in school board activity who hasn't expressed the same frustration as I have felt and expressed around this whole question.
I don't know why we can't make the funding of schooling a lot more simple so that the accountability that is spoken of and asked for in this move could take place and those of us who serve on school boards or who serve in the Ministry of Education or as members of this House could sit down very simply with our constituents and explain to them how education is funded, why it costs this much, why in some years we have money and other years we don't, and all of those kinds of things, because that's really what we should be about. People, if they're going to take some ownership of the school system, need to understand it more fully.
I served as well for a period of time in this job as chair of the refinancing council to the Minister of Education with members of all of the important stakeholders in this exercise, trying to come up with a formula that would appease everybody, that would please everybody and that we could bring forward.
That exercise in itself proved to be quite challenging and difficult. Yet we did, in the end, come up with some suggestions that have in fact been announced by the minister and will roll out as time progresses and as we hear from the Royal Commission on Learning and we have some of the support that we need to do this kind of thing.
As chair of that council I was challenged again, as I was when I first became a trustee, particularly with the separate school board in Sault Ste Marie, to get my head around the complicated formula. I found myself, almost every time I had to prepare to chair the meeting, having to go through a refresher course in how all this works, because it is so complicated. Because of that, it cries out for change and reform. Hopefully, with the support of everybody in this place, when we do bring forward some suggestions and ideas as a government as to how we might do that, we will get their support.
Just the fact that we have three types of years going in public financing in the public sector is another complicating factor. We have the fiscal year, we have the calendar year and we have the school year. We have three kinds of years that we're trying to meld here. So, through that, folks might begin to understand that answers to this aren't perhaps as simple as some might propose they are.
However, it should not get in the way of us moving forward and trying to come to terms with it, trying to simplify this whole exercise so that everybody can become involved, everybody will be knowledgeable and, in the end, we will all be more accountable.
I am pleased to be able to say here today that the government supports this resolution and thanks the member for London North for bringing it forward. It makes sense from a financial point of view for school boards to start keeping the books for the year at the same time that they start making expenditures. It would also help school boards in their planning and make them more accountable to taxpayers for their budget decisions.
I will briefly explain how the current system works. At present, school boards start preparing their budgets before the start of the calendar year and may continue until early May. The general legislative grant regulation is usually released in March. This gives school boards the information they need to calculate their grant entitlements. This information and the expenditure decisions made by the board determine the tax levy for ratepayers supporting the board.
In May, school boards hand over their requisitions to municipalities to begin collecting local taxes, including the school board levy, which is a further complicating factor, because as soon as you change that system, it then becomes a challenge of trying to extricate yourself in some way from what's happening at the municipal level, because through, I think, a sincere desire to have efficiencies, the municipalities do collect taxes for the school boards.
Tying the fiscal year to the calendar year puts school boards in the awkward position of deliberating over a budget year which has already started. In fact, at budget time, 60% of their expenditures for the year have already been committed. For the six-month period from January through June, decisions have already been made about classroom size, hiring of teachers and so on, and very little can be done to change those decisions. The remaining 40% is for expenditures that will be made during the last four months of the year, from September through December. School boards generally have few expenditures for the months of July and August.
A major drawback of this system is that school boards can only deal effectively with 40% of their annual budgets. If a board wants to cut expenditures, it can do so only for the last four months of the year. This does not give trustees much leeway for reducing costs. Similarly, if a board adds programs or services, only 40% of the costs are reflected in the tax bill for the year. Again, this does not promote trustee accountability.
A number of school boards have expressed their support for a change to the fiscal year, and we heard the member who introduced this bill mention a few of those boards that have come forward to support this. So have groups such as the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, the Ontario Association of School Business Officials and the Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants. Most other provinces have changed the fiscal year for their school boards to coincide with the school year.
Making the fiscal and school year one and the same will enhance the quality of education in Ontario. It will encourage better planning and, as I've mentioned, will make school boards more accountable for their decisions about how tax dollars are spent. Under the current system, a school board can decide on a $2-million expenditure in 1994 but only 40% of that amount, or $800,000, will be billed to taxpayers in 1994. The remaining 60% of the expenditure will have to be paid for in 1995.
With a changed fiscal year, boards will consider the program and service demands for the school year and the effects they will have on ratepayers. Their decisions about how money will be spent during the school year will be fully reflected in the tax bills for the year. This will promote wise use of education resources.
Changing the fiscal year will result in a clearer distinction between the budgetary process and financial reporting. If I might just explain briefly: At present, the budget process involves a great deal of financial reporting on expenditures committed to in the previous fiscal year. Boards are only able to plan for 40% of the year. With a change in the fiscal year, they would be able to prepare cost estimates for the entire school year. Financial reporting would no longer be part of the budgetary process. This would increase administrative efficiency.
For these reasons, the Ministry of Education and Training is in favour of changing the fiscal year to coincide with the operational year of school boards, September 1 to August 31. We will take steps to effect this change once we have reviewed the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Learning, which are due at the end of this year.
Mr Charles Beer (York-Mackenzie): Let me say at the outset that I rise to speak in support as well of the motion which our colleague from London North has brought forward. It is one of those motions where she said it's an idea whose time has come and that we all have made reference to previous commitments or suggestions that we go forward with this. It is useful to recognize some of the complexities of changing fiscal years, but none the less, within the broad educational community there is a strong belief that we should do this.
I want to just remind members that in the motion what our colleague from London North has said is, "...the Ministry of Education and Training should continue with its intent to change the school board fiscal year...." I think and believe that those words were chosen carefully and are to indicate that, look, one recognizes that you can't just at the snap of your fingers change this over, but what we really need to see is a public commitment, a time frame. I would suggest perhaps a mechanism for doing it.
Perhaps we want a task force or working group that would involve representatives from the two major trustee associations, representatives from the ministries, perhaps some of the others who would be most involved, and ask them to report back within a reasonably brief period of time, perhaps several months, so that the House could look at something specific in the fall. I think there is a need to move with this and I would hope that the government would.
I recall the hearings which the select committee had on educational funding, and this was one of the questions that came up. I've been struck, not in every discussion I've had with school board directors, business officials where they've said, "Look, we want this to happen," but it inevitably does come up and has come up repeatedly, that I think there is, if not unanimity out there, a very high degree of support for doing this.
I was struck by some of the information that has been circulating from boards on this particular issue, and I want to just read one quote because I think it does deal with the kind of frustration that school boards have had with all governments. Let's be clear on this: All of us, in terms of when grants are announced or what is going to happen, during our different mandates have not always made the announcement at a time that makes it useful or helpful for boards in trying to construct their own budget.
In late April, a news release that came from the chair of the Halton board finance committee, Penny Siebert, had this to say, and I just want to read this into the record:
"Frankly, this delay" -- and this refers to the delay in getting out the information on the GLGs -- "in providing grant information makes a laughingstock out of the budget process and out of our responsibility as community representatives in setting the budget. By giving us the information so late, the ministry is showing careless disregard for the planning process and for local taxpayers."
I had the pleasure at one time of serving as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education, and I can always recall that whenever the issue of education finance came up, people's eyes would glaze over. In terms of trying to sit down and really understand how the system worked, it could be a very difficult task, and I think even those who have served a long time as school board trustees or those who have worked within boards at times find there is a certain Byzantine quality to the development of educational finance.
Clearly, one of the things that we have to say, with all of the various problems that school boards face today and with the fact that money is going to continue to be constrained over the course of certainly the rest of this decade, regardless of who forms the government following the next election, is, "How can we make the system work better and get rid of a lot of the frustrations that school boards often feel when they don't have the relevant information with which to determine their own budget priorities?"
I think that's where this motion from the member for London North really comes from. This isn't going to obviously settle all of the financial problems, but it is going to make it easier for school boards to do the budgeting and planning that they need to do. Inevitably, there will be, as the member for Sault Ste Marie points out, some other things that will come into play because of that change, and we do have different kinds of fiscal years, but for the proper and appropriate management of the school board's fiscal year, I think making this change will really help.
I want to link this to a couple of things that are currently going on, because I think they do relate. This motion speaks to a budgeting and planning process in trying to make it more accountable and to make it work better. We are, as members know, currently dealing with another bill before this House which I think is related to this motion and which deals with educational financing. A number of us had hoped that we would have the opportunity in this session to have a good debate on educational funding.
I have said, in this House and elsewhere, that in terms of where we go with the whole budgeting, planning and financing of school boards, what we need from the government is, if not a draft bill, a white paper that we could put into the standing committee on social development and take around the province for some very serious discussion with all of those who have an interest in the system around how we fund the system and around the issue of equity in terms of the funding of the system.
I would hope that in going forward with what the government has proposed in their budget and what is in Bill 160, they will not look at that as being the final step. Certainly the member for London North and myself, as the Education critics for our parties, as we go around talking to trustees, school board officials, to parents, there is a real concern out there around some of the problems that particularly the assessment-poor boards are facing and how we begin to address that question of equity and ensuring that every child, regardless of what school he or she may attend, is going to have a level of financial support the same as any other child wherever in the province.
So while this motion is speaking to a process in terms of how boards develop their budgets, again I would say to the government that I think there could be some usefulness in setting out in a white paper, in a document, the kinds of options that we're looking at today. We have the Fair Tax Commission's proposals, which, it would seem, given that there was no reference to the commission in the budget, the government finds not to be compelling.
The member for Sault Ste Marie has noted that he has chaired a funding and finance group within the ministry, and I think it would be useful, through a committee discussion, to have some sense of some of the things that they wrestled with. Let me underline and add that this is a complex issue, one that all governments have had difficulty around and where clearly there are some very significant issues.
I suspect it's also one where it would help if we had a more public discussion of what those options are and to see if we can really get people in the province to agree to a set of principles that would direct us so that when we go around the province today and talk with the different boards, we don't have to spend so much time looking at the inequities that exist in the funding process but try to develop a consensus to get something that is really going to work for all of us.
Again, I would say to the government that I think you would find that those of us on this side of the House would be quite prepared to work with them towards that end and that that is something it would be good to get on with.
I want also to link to that issue and to the honourable member for London North's resolution the other element, which is the royal commission that is deliberating and is going to bring its report in by the end of 1994. We know that one of the things the royal commission is dealing with is the question of school governance. They are not dealing specifically or directly with the issue of funding, but I'm sure they have to be concerned about how school boards operate. I suspect they would be quite interested in our deliberations this morning and what would appear to be unanimous support among all parties for the member for London North's resolution.
But I would say to the government that if it is looking, as I think it is and indeed a lot of us are, to the royal commission to provide some good direction around issues of program, curriculum and governance, we are going to need at the same time a clear indication of where the government sees us going in a more specific way with the whole funding and financing system.
If that happens and if following the reception of the royal commission report we can take those recommendations together with what I would hope would be some work done by the standing committee on social development following receipt of a background document from the government on what those options might look like, then for the first time in a long while we would have an opportunity to really discuss, perhaps during what may well be next spring's election, the issue of the restructuring of education, dealing with program, dealing with financing. Who knows? We may find that there's a very broad range of agreement, not only within this House but among the public, on what that ought to look like.
Some of those issues may seem a somewhat long way from the specifics of the member for London North's resolution, but I think they are all linked in that one of the things that is clear is that over time we have tinkered with the educational system, sometimes to a greater extent than others. There have been changes made, especially if one looks at the whole question of how we fund the separate schools and the public schools. There has been movement, but we know that today the problem that many separate boards face is not just faced by separate boards but increasingly by public boards as well.
That question down the road is, what is going to happen four, five, six years from now unless we really do try to grapple with change? In order to help those boards, at least through the next couple of years, to the extent that we can remove the kind of daily operational frustrations which the fiscal year problem speaks to, I think we ought to do that.
In my seven or eight years in the Legislature I don't think that I have ever talked to school boards where -- they always seem to be waiting for some kind of announcement. Maybe that's the nature of local government and the relationship with the province, but their difficulty in trying to guess what the grants will be this year or the percentage changes, and then even at times hearing statements from government ministers -- they try to plan on that and then perhaps something else happens and something changes.
At least with this proposal, if we move to this change, boards would know that they would have that information through the provincial budget in the spring and would have at a minimum some three months or so to be able to assimilate that information and to go about the budgeting and planning they would want to do.
I reiterate again that I support the motion that has been put forward by the member for London North and would simply make the plea to the government that if they could move in a more direct way following passage of this motion to indicate a time frame for when it could be implemented and to set out who perhaps might be brought together to determine what would be the best way to do that, I think that would give the educational community in this province a great deal of not only joy but hope that something might happen, and this would be seen by everybody as a very positive move.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I want to begin my remarks today by complimenting the member for London North for bringing forward what we feel is this very important resolution.
Ontario provincial governments of all political stripes have created uncounted budgeting and planning hardships and headaches for municipalities and school boards alike with outdated budgetary procedures. The member for London North has a commonsense approach to this problem by calling on the Ministry of Education and Training to change the school board fiscal year, which now coincides with the calendar year, to coincide with the school year, September 1 to August 31.
I trust you'll agree with everyone involved in the educational system who suggests that the Ontario government's complicated and outdated fiscal year budgetary procedures need to be revamped. As well, I also trust you'll agree that above all, this government's practice of mandating new programs without providing the necessary funding to school boards must end.
In January 1990, the third report of the select committee on education noted that a number of boards had comments with regard to the various aspects of fiscal control and efficiency, such as the need for improving long-range planning. Several boards also recommended that the fiscal year be altered, and reporting and budgetary procedures be streamlined to more closely reflect the reality of the school year. That is recommendation 29 in that select committee's report back in January 1990.
The committee recommended, "The fiscal year should be altered and reporting and budgetary procedures should be streamlined" -- as I said -- "to more closely reflect the reality of the school year."
This recommendation, like the resolution from my colleague the member for London North, has taken what we call a commonsense approach to resolving this issue. It's something that I support and it has the backing of both the Simcoe County Board of Education and the Simcoe County Roman Catholic Separate School Board.
Mrs Gail O'Brien, trustee for Oro-Medonte and vice-chair of the Simcoe County Board of Education, has indicated to me that school boards across Ontario have been urging the provincial government to change the school board fiscal year to reflect the school year for some time, in order to make the board budgetary process more efficient.
Mrs O'Brien said this change would have been most helpful this year, when the announcement of the GLGs was not made until late April when over a quarter of the school fiscal year had already passed and budgets had not been set. She said there were some important decisions that had to be made prior to setting budgets, thus reducing the flexibility when her school board finally became aware of its revenues.
Mrs O'Brien said she heartily endorses this resolution because planning and priority setting would be enhanced if the school board fiscal year matched the actual school year.
Mr Mearl Obee, director of education for the Simcoe County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, said the change in the fiscal year is but a small part of the immediate reform required in education finance. Mr Obee notes that under the present system of budgeting and financial reporting, it is recognized that the reporting and financial planning patterns are not consistent with the board's operation nor with the province's fiscal year.
Changing the fiscal year is for the most part an accounting exercise, and with the sophistication in most boards today, there is a capability to blend all the different fiscal years to plan and/or budget on the same year as a board operates.
Mr Obee said one of the main reasons boards require a change in the fiscal year is due not only to the fact that boards operate on a school year basis, but more importantly, it is because of the problem a board has in developing its budget when the grants are not released until late March or early April. Because of this policy, boards are forced to react rather than plan. Mr Obee believes that allowing boards to be proactive in their financial planning will ensure that better financial decisions, which ultimately impact on our children, will be made.
Again, I compliment the member for London North for bringing this resolution forward, and I want to assure her that I'll be supporting her endeavour to change the school board fiscal year to coincide with the actual school year.
I believe that by passing this resolution, we'll be taking a major step towards making our education and training systems accountable to the people they serve, both financially and in terms of curriculum and standards.
Mr David Winninger (London South): I would like to add to the remarks of my colleague from Sault Ste Marie by mentioning a major initiative being taken by this government to make school boards more efficient. I refer to the restructuring now under way of school boards across the province to make them more efficient and economical.
We've been encouraging school boards to take a close look at their operations and consider where they might streamline or enter into cost-sharing arrangements. More efficient operations mean that more money can be put into programming in the classrooms and improving the quality of our programs. With assistance from the province, school boards in every part of the province are working together to save on their operating costs.
Since last March, approximately $25 million from the province's transition assistance fund have been given to school boards to help them carry out cost-saving measures. Funding has been allocated to 117 restructuring projects. School boards, we feel, are quite capable of deciding for themselves where the greatest efficiencies can be realized.
In London, for example, $240,000 was received from the transition assistance fund by the three boards in London -- that would be the public school board, the Catholic school board and the county school board -- to study how they can achieve total computerized integration of bus scheduling in London and the surrounding area.
Another $35,000 was received from the fund to invest in using the London board's warehouse as a distributor for the other two school boards. Also, $35,000 is being used to invest in the centralization of more services, while providing for equal or better access to media needs and resources for schools. So a lot of money is being used by this government to enable school boards to achieve the necessary efficiencies and economies that they need to, in this day and age.
I noted with some satisfaction that the Minister of Education was in London just this past Friday to announce capital funding for a new French-language high school in London, which is a cooperative venture by both the public school board of London and also the London and Middlesex Roman Catholic school board. Here's an example of two boards working together to restructure and deliver education in London.
Ms Margaret H. Harrington (Niagara Falls): Mrs Cunningham's resolution is about school board budgeting and about efficiencies and changing how things are done. I would like to tell the people of Ontario one example of what can be done to do things better.
Last Monday, the Minister of Education, Dave Cooke, and I were in Niagara Falls for an announcement which means jobs, good education and unique cooperation between school boards: $6.4 million was announced for Niagara South Board of Education and the Welland County Roman Catholic Separate School Board to build a multi-use facility for education in the northwest area of Niagara Falls. These shared facilities are going to include the science labs, the gymnasia, the washrooms, the playing fields, the parking and the day care facilities, all shared in one school, an elementary school, between the two boards. This will mean cost efficiency to local taxpayers.
Other options that the city is looking at are including a branch of the public library there, and community agencies such as family and community services. So we're looking forward to a new way of doing things in Niagara Falls.
I'd also like to tell you that in the past the boards have been working together with sharing of student transportation across the whole region and also the ordering of supplies jointly. So they certainly deserve some credit.
I would like to quote from what Minister Cooke said the other day. It says, "This working together sends a very positive, powerful message to taxpayers that this government is looking at doing things differently," just like Mrs Cunningham's resolution. In fact, cooperative efforts are now given priority for funding at Queen's Park. It only makes sense to work together to save taxpayers' dollars. I'm proud of the efforts of the two school boards in Niagara Falls.
I support this resolution because it shows that our support shows that this government is willing to look at new ways to work together with local boards to do what really just makes sense, and I would encourage boards all across this province to look at new ways to work with this government.
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): I am delighted to rise in support of my colleague's resolution. It's quite appropriate, as the Education critic for the Conservative Party, that she is proposing this because it has had considerable support from our caucus for many years.
We are rather concerned by the tenor of part of the debate today, because as I listened intently to the suggestion of my colleague from the Liberal caucus, he indicated that perhaps a working group might be helpful and effective in developing this. From the governing side, I was very pleased to hear that there's support in principle, that there will be positive support from the governing side, I hope, and that we should proceed with this very commonsense, fiscally responsible decision as it relates to responding to what school boards are telling us. But my concern is that the Liberals would yet again consider dealing with this in some sort of working group or report.
Prior to my colleague having the responsibility, for five years I was the Education critic for the PC party and participated, not in a royal commission as the current government would have us do -- that's costing taxpayers millions of dollars to come up with these commonsense solutions -- but under the David Peterson government we had the select committee on education, and I was fortunate enough to serve on all three of the committee reports and the public hearings to come to those findings. This committee report, incidentally, only cost taxpayers several hundreds of thousands of dollars and not the millions of dollars that are being spent on the Royal Commission on Learning.
What we will find is that the findings within this document will be virtually identical to the ones that came out in the royal commission. Really the purpose of the exercise is more public relations than common sense. Let's get on with the business of making some decisions. I'll give you some examples.
Incidentally, I should say that my colleague from York-Mackenzie was, along with myself, a member of the select committee on education and he will recall that when we published our report in January 1990, this report came to the very clear conclusion in recommendation 29 -- I'm just going to read briefly from the report, because there was absolute consensus from all three political parties in this House on this issue and full support and consensus from the educational community. It says here:
"A number of boards and other commentators spoke to various further aspects of fiscal control and efficiency, such as the need for improving long-range planning. Several boards also recommended that the fiscal year be altered and reporting and budgetary procedures be streamlined to more closely reflect the reality of the school year.
"The committee recommends that:
"(29) The fiscal year should be altered and reporting and budgetary procedures should be streamlined to more closely reflect the reality of the school year."
Incidentally there are 34 other very commonsense recommendations in this report, all of which I'm sure will be embraced by the royal commission, but I guess we needed to spend millions and millions of taxpayers' dollars to come to those commonsense conclusions.
The truth is that we should have been supporting this some time ago. As my colleague from London has indicated, every jurisdiction in the United States has made this move. Every province in Canada, except Saskatchewan and Ontario, has made this very commonsense move to streamline its fiscal and school-operating years.
It's something that should be supported. It should be supported quickly. There's absolutely no reason why, while we're waiting for the royal commission, which I'm sure is going to have to have 200 recommendations in it to justify the several millions of dollars that have been spent on it -- this will be buried in there as one of the recommendations and then we'll have to wait a year and a half for someone to decide that we should proceed with it. I encourage all members of the House to get this singular commonsense resolution of my colleague to a committee or get it approved as quickly as possible.
With respect to the presence of so many from the disabled community in our presence today, I want to refer to another one of the very good commonsense recommendations that were contained in the select committee on education report, and that is recommendation 8, which talks about special education funding. Why this is important is because I have persistently asked the member for York East for his support in changing something which I think was done to the detriment of the disabled community by the David Peterson Liberal government.
Essentially, special education funding, as envisaged by the Conservative government when we brought in Bill 82 and developed integration models, took disabled children out of basements and out of institutions and integrated them into our school system. The vision and the dream was that we identify special dollars that are allocated to the consumer, to the student in the school, and this fund was on top of and separate from the per-pupil block grants.
One thing the Liberals did was they said: "Look, this is getting expensive. We're having to invest money in the disabled community. These individuals have high needs." What they decided was, "Let's roll all this money into the per-pupil grants so it's sort of buried," and what we had is a paradigm shift in this province so that instead of identifying, with funding dollars, the disabled community, and where school boards were doing intensive assessments and developing programs, we shifted to a model where they had to compete with every other aspect of education. That was grossly unfair and what we saw were fewer students being identified and fewer programs being offered.
All parties agreed that this was wrong, and this took great courage from the Liberals to disagree with David Peterson and their own Education minister. I'm hopeful that the Royal Commission on Learning will come to the same conclusion, but so far the government has resisted making this very strong and clear recommendation to protect the educational funding needs of the disabled community.
Recommendation 8 states: "As long as special education moneys are part of the basic per-pupil block grant, the ministry should continue to identify that portion of the grant specifically spent on special education such that special advisory committees and parents in the community can monitor school boards' expenditures on special education programs."
The bottom line is that if you can't identify the dollars and you can't identify those who need them, there's no accountability. No parent can walk into a school board and say, "This money is earmarked for my child's growth and development and support services." As long as you bury it with the one cheque you send from the province and say, "Go fight for it with your school board," you've done a great disservice to the disabled community.
I believe there were a lot of commonsense suggestions in that report back in 1987-88-89 and 1990, and I hope the government will embrace more of them, but today, we get a chance to embrace one very important one, the resolution by my colleague from London North, Ms Cunningham, and I ask all members of the House to support that resolution.
Mrs Cunningham: I would just like to make a few remarks for the record. First of all, I would like to thank the member for Sault Ste Marie on behalf of the government for his support of this resolution and certainly my colleagues from York-Mackenzie, Simcoe East and Burlington South.
The members from London South and Niagara Falls talked about the restructuring. I would advise them very seriously to take a look at the new release from OPSBA, June 9, 1994, where it says, "Ontario's Public School Boards Call for Removal of Barriers to Full Restructuring." I think the government should be looking at this very carefully.
The issue here is the time frame and I have a suggestion to make. I don't agree with my colleague from York-Mackenzie, who says that we should be looking at this; I think there's full agreement for it. We have an opportunity this afternoon during the discussion on Bill 160, which is a budget bill, where section 3 is an education finance issue, to put this issue into those discussions when that bill is severed and put into committee, and we could act on this very quickly. There is no reason we shouldn't be moving forward in this regard, and certainly this is not the responsibility of the Royal Commission on Learning after the numbers of hours of public hearings.
I would just like to add to the list. As I stated before, we had a number of responses and we tried to do our homework. Obviously the chair of the Middlesex Catholic school board, Carol Donnelly, who got me going on this resolution, has responded.
My own board, the London Board of Education: I have to say thanks to Jack Morris, who was the president not only of OASBO but of AASBO, one of the only two Canadian presidents who've worked on this for probably more than 20 years.
The Sault Ste Marie board: The member has already spoken and he had very strong support for this from Bert Campbell, who is the superintendent of business.
The following boards supported the resolution by phone -- and there are in my office, I've just had my staff advise me: the Metropolitan Toronto School Board, Don Higgins; the Huron County Board of Education, Paul Carroll, their director; the Peterborough County Roman Catholic separate school board, Ray Rigby; the Manitoulin Board of Education, Sam Nardi, superintendent of business; Lanark County Board of Education, the superintendent of business; the York Region separate school board, the director of education; the Kent County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, their superintendent of business. Those phone calls go on.
With regard to the Ottawa Roman Catholic Separate School Board, they've written to us; the Kenora Board of Education; the Conseil des écoles publiques d'Ottawa-Carleton has written; the Timiskaming Board of Education; the Scarborough Board of Education; the North of Superior District Roman Catholic Separate School Board; the Lakehead District Roman Catholic Separate School Board. That's all I have with me in the House.
I would like to end in this regard: This is a commonsense issue. All you have to do is take it to the legislative research services from this Legislative Assembly, and I can tell you that Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and the Yukon have a school-year budget process. That's 10. The only ones that do not are Ontario and Saskatchewan.
I have no idea why anybody would suggest that we need more information. I think that we're ready to act on this. I think the ministry and this government have an opportunity to act on this today during the debate on Bill 160. In the meantime, I'm very pleased that we have the kind of support in the House today and I thank my colleagues.
The Deputy Speaker: The time for the first ballot item has expired.
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 1994 / LOI DE 1994 SUR LES ONTARIENS QUI ONT UN HANDICAP
Mr Malkowski moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 168, An Act to ensure Equal Access to Post-Secondary Education, Transportation and Other Services and Facilities for Ontarians with Disabilities / Projet de loi 168, Loi garantissant aux Ontariens qui on un handicap l'égalité d'accès à l'enseignement postsecondaire, aux transports et à d'autres services et installations.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the honourable member has 10 minutes for his presentation.
Mr Gary Malkowski (York East): It's certainly a very great honour for me to be involved in today's debate on historic legislation, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It's nice to see such a large number of people from the disabled community out today to hear today's debate.
There was a point in our history when many disabled people, including deaf people, were seen by society as basically worthless, unimportant, unproductive members. In fact there was a time in history when people were left on the street to starve, to die, many of them actually even killed. There was a point in history when, although disabled people wanted to be equal members of society, they were completely denied that right. Even in more recent history, in the Second World War, in one nation's search for the perfect race there was a time when disabled people were exterminated, were killed in gas chambers. These are parts of our actual history.
Even today, we see disabled people, deaf people continuing the struggle for access to training, to transportation, to the right for a higher education. Yet unfortunately many service providers, who have set up a system that is supposed to work for disabled people, have in fact set up a system that fails the disabled community. We still see low expectations placed on the disabled community, disabled people feeling worthless. They've been put in hospitals and institutions and basically rejected from society, marginalized.
Sure, we have seen both previous governments and our own government, on both provincial and federal levels, establish legislation. For example, we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; here in Ontario the Ontario Human Rights Code. Just recently, we passed legislation such as the Advocacy Act; employment equity legislation has gone through. They're very valuable pieces of legislation. They do look towards equity and speak to the rights of all individuals to participate in society.
However, the fact of the matter still remains that unfortunately, although that legislation's in place, it has not really dramatically improved disabled people's access to society. They continue to fight, often at great legal cost. They continue the battle that takes a good deal of their time and energy to get the support and resources that they need. Many disabled people still live in poverty, are still subject to a paternalistic attitude by society. The struggle does in fact continue.
Although the Human Rights Code is in place, the legislation is such that there's a tremendous backlog and often people are awarded very low settlement costs, so this has had a dramatic impact on the disabled community. Also, this legislation that I previously mentioned does not have a guarantee of support services, and by that I mean things such as interpreters or intervenors and attendant care. Sure, there's often a rather vague assurance that we'll look at this, this probably will be covered, but there isn't a black-and-white guarantee that these support services will be in place.
Our government has made a tremendous effort, has made a special effort to try to improve the situation. But basically, what we have to do is see business, labour, the broader community working together to recognize the needs of disabled people. That's why I'm standing here today raising this issue and saying very clearly that people with disabilities are really very tired of that long, hard struggle.
Why are they continuing to do this? Are we punishing disabled people for what they are, for who they are? Why are they not given the same access that other people are? Why must they expend this tremendous energy to get what is their right? That's why I'm standing here moving the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
I would encourage us all to work in cooperation -- advocacy groups, individuals -- to support, non-partisan, in a political way as well as in the broader public, to make sure that we legally mandate access for all individuals to participate in society. The ultimate goal is to dismantle old barriers in society as well as ensure that new barriers do not crop up to take their place.
The second critical issue is we have to remove that paternalistic attitude that has prevailed in society. It's time that attitudes changed. We can't have that charitable, "Oh, let's take care of those poor disabled people" attitude. It's time that stopped and that we saw disabled people as equal members of society, and that's my goal today.
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act in fact does encourage the disabled community to come out and express their thoughts. We want to hear what members of the disabled community feel about this legislation, which is why I would like to see this referred to standing committee, so that people have a chance to get out and share their perspective, to increase public awareness and to educate the government members, the opposition members, the business community, the labour community and the broader public on the needs and opinions of the disabled community.
I think there's a very good example that we can look to when we're talking about legislation if we take a look south to the United States. There's the Americans with Disabilities Act in place there. In fact, that act was signed by a very conservative Republican, George Bush. He was certainly well known in business circles, but he actually came out and supported such a bill because he knew that this type of legislation is in fact cost-effective and cost-efficient because it brings disabled people into society, off welfare lists, and instead of accepting social assistance, they become taxpayers.
It also has a benefit in other ways, because it's cost-effective when we make sure that when any building is put in place that we don't have to worry about retrofitting, that accessibility is considered right at the beginning. We don't want to see people who can be participating members of society, who have skills, stuck on social assistance.
We also see another benefit, because with increased technology and with mandated support services we will see a whole expansion in terms of business. So there's an economic spinoff as well.
The access that I'm talking about has a global effect. I call it global accessibility. Things such as ramps are not only beneficial for people in wheelchairs but for moms and dads with strollers. Closed captioning is not only beneficial for deaf, hard-of-hearing and deafened children and adults, but it's also beneficial for people who are learning English as a second language, because it enhances literacy skills. That applies to young children who are learning to read. Also, literacy skills of course are an absolutely vital skill in today's highly technical age.
Overall, what I see as important is that the disabled community, government members, opposition, labour, business and the broader community as well as the media work together in solidarity and continue to fight that this legislation actually be passed, that we increase public awareness, that we have an opportunity for disabled people to come out to public hearings and talk about how they feel. This may lead to, say, a government discussion paper, because what we have to do is make sure that we get input from various members of society. There's a great deal of education that needs to be done on the part of the disabled community to the broader community.
The overall goal is to dismantle those old barriers that have been with us for so long and make sure that there are not new ones put up to take their place and to make sure that attitude that has said, "disabled people can't" is changed to one that says, "disabled people can"; that we allow disabled people to have the pride and dignity and self-esteem that we all deserve.
The key word is "respect"; respect for disabled people and for their rights. Give them the rights, the responsibilities and the opportunities that we all have. It's time for our government, government members and opposition members, to work together to make sure that rights are in fact in place and that full equality does exist. Paternalism should not be a part of today's society; we have had enough of that. Disabled people are important, contributing members of society, and they do have a place in this society.
The Deputy Speaker: I would ask the visitors in the galleries to refrain from applauding. It's against the procedure to do that, so I would encourage you not to do it. The member for Scarborough North.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Mona Winberg wrote in her column on June 12, 1994, that June 16, 1994, would be an important date for disabled people in Ontario. She was referring of course to Bill 168, which is before us, An Act to ensure Equal Access to Post-Secondary Education, Transportation and Other Services and Facilities for Ontarians with Disabilities. Indeed it is a very important piece of legislation, and I will be of course supporting this bill in principle as it seeks approval on second reading but not without some serious concerns that I have and that other people within the community have expressed to me.
There is no doubt that more must be done to integrate our disabled into the mainstream of our society. The NDP government had promised the disabled community that this issue was a priority on its agenda. It seems that the member from their caucus got really fed up waiting and had to introduce a private member's bill in its place. It is unfortunate that the member had to take that route, instead of the minister who's responsible for the disabled bringing forward a government bill.
I've had the opportunity to discuss the matter with a number of people who have a vested interest in this issue. They all recognize the importance and the urgency of this matter. David Baker, for instance, the executive director for ARCH, expressed his support for this bill but raised the concern of the spending cuts by the government that will adversely affect the effectiveness of the initiative.
When I raised the matter that it seemed that much was left to regulations -- because I too was concerned that many of the aspects of the bill were left to regulations -- which did not accompany the legislation, his comment was that he had no problem in that regard. He pointed out to me that even within the American system, when they had a bill of this nature that was mirrored like this, that benefit was left to the regulations.
If he is comfortable with that, I feel a bit more comfortable with what is left to regulations, although sometimes we don't know what's in the regulations until much later. Beryl Potter, as you may remember, one of the strongest advocates for the disabled, also welcomed this legislation, but is extremely critical of the government cutbacks in funding for the disabled group.
Many of my colleagues have expressed their concerns about the bill, especially my colleague from Ottawa South, who has been monitoring this bill, who has been in contact with the Council of Ontario Universities, the COU, as it is called. They have indicated to the member for Ottawa South some concerns that they have with the bill and also how it was handled. Of course, he speaks and they spoke in respect of the consultative method and the fact that they should be consulted more. I just want to list a few of their concerns in the short time, because I know my other colleague would like to share some of this time.
They felt that, "Bill 168 could seriously interfere with the balancing of priorities which the post-secondary institutions must undertake in order to increase learning opportunities for all equity-seeking groups." They expressed also that the bill, of course, is not accompanied by regulations. I've expressed to you too that was my concern, but I'm not too concerned about that right now.
They expressed that even with employment equity there was much more consultation about the regulations, and this one had no consultation whatsoever. That's another matter about employment equity which has been legislated, and yet not proclaimed for so long.
Mr Curling: Of course, the member must have his comment. Every time his voice must be heard. But we all know that consultation is a very important part of this legislation.
"The bill as written represents a serious intrusion on the authority of universities' board and senate. It would specify university policy with respect to admissions criteria, curriculum content and budget expenditure priorities." They expressed that concern.
They also expressed that, "Bill 168 would require that post-secondary institutions admit and educate students 'in accordance with access to education principles'... these principles have not been developed in consultation with post-secondary institutions." I hope that when it goes out to public hearings, they would then discuss that and have some more involved consultation with the post-secondary institutions.
The universities also expressed that their "experience with the provision of services to, and the renovation of facilities for, students with disabilities indicate that the costs of accommodation can be much higher than the special grant currently provided by the Ontario government for that purpose. If the bill's demands were now to be met with the urgency outlined in the legislation," with that kind of priority, "it would require the immediate infusion of significant funding." The government now has indicated that it has not had enough funds and funds were cut off in that respect.
I recall -- and of course my colleague mentioned it -- the question to the Minister of Education and Training about funding to the secondary schools, that in his response to my colleague he had said, "I'd like to move more quickly, but everything costs in terms of resources."
We know that at a time when all governments are faced with the restriction of funding, it must measure its priorities. But I'm telling you that people like the disabled group, who have been shut out and denied access to education, should be a priority for this government.
So I will be supporting this legislation, and I know more consultation must be done. We have a long way to go to include these people in our society so they can be competitive, able to work and able to live an independent life and contribute, and they have so much to contribute to our society. With that, I urge some of my colleagues too to support this legislation, and the reservations they have in regard to this could be resolved in the consultation process and the hearings.
But again I must express my disappointment in the government not bringing forward a government bill so we could deal with it more seriously. We know the history and the life of private members' bills: that it gives false hope to people outside that something is being done, when we know it shall die on the order paper. You, Mr Speaker, have had some very important bills that would have made such a great impression and changes but have never seen the light of day, bills that are there from 1991. I urge you, if you're going to go through the private member's bill process, to support it and move it along as quickly as possible.
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): I'm happy to have the opportunity to speak to the bill this morning. I'm very disappointed in the process. I feel this government has a number of programs it should have been supporting. I was happy to see the Minister of Health just last week make an announcement to support independent living, where they're working with people with disabilities to hire and train their own attendant workers. I think it's extremely important.
I personally have tried to work with the ministry with regard to job shadowing. This is where disabled people have jobs but can't keep them, because the employers just give them to them because they think it's the right thing to do but don't encourage them over a long period of time to stay at that work and help them move forward.
I know a lot about people with disabilities, because I have a head-injured son. I don't think Kevin would have appreciated this legislation today at all, because the colleges and the universities we've communicated with tell us that this actually throws bureaucracy and red tape in the way of getting things done.
I would like to take the opportunity to talk about what we have done and to underline that there are so many more programs that must take place so that our disabled community can become a very real part of society. I've worked, as a mother, for the last 10 years making that happen, not only for Kevin but for the disabled community in London. I want to tell you what we have accomplished in the last 10 years.
The member should know that I'm very disappointed in him personally, that he did not reach out to the colleges and universities to find out how this legislation would be helpful. So we had to do that, but we only had a week, so I'm sorry we only have responses today from the University of Toronto, the University of Western Ontario, Seneca College, Sir Sandford Fleming College, the University of Guelph, and Fanshawe College. All my colleagues have been in communication with any college or university in their ridings to see if they can be helpful, and I want to pledge my support to the member in his intent to make this world a better place for the disabled community.
To begin with, I'd like to talk about a very special young man. The first year I was elected here, six years ago, Martin Anderson was one of my constituents. He is a young man who suffers with a neuromuscular disease and went to Cubs and Brownies along with my children in London over the years and was a friend of my boys.
This is Martin: "My first year in residence was a unique experience. Not only did I get a chance to live away from home and go to university but I was also able to experience some of the finer points of residence life. Carleton's attendant care program really opens up the opportunity for people with disabilities to participate fully in university life and realize that they are not as limited as they may think.
"When I first came to Carleton, I was pleasantly surprised that most of the misconceptions about people with speech impairments were not present at Carleton. This made me more comfortable and allowed me to participate in a wide range of campus activities.
"Carleton's reputation as a university capable of accommodating people with disabilities is well earned and is being improved year by year. Just remember, when you go to university it is not who you are but what you can do that counts.
"Lastly, openness and a willingness to participate will take you as far in university as it will in life."
This was An Accessibility and Resource Guide, Carleton University 1990-91. I wanted to put in on the record, because I think all of us are proud of the Martin Andersons who work, in spite of their disabilities, to make a real difference. Now, there are many who don't have his resources, and that's who we're speaking about today, but I did think that was important.
The Council of Ontario Universities was absolutely shocked not to have known about this legislation, and it sent, I think to all of us, its concerns with Bill 168. They stated:
"The bill as written represents a serious intrusion on the authority of the universities' board and senate. It would specify university policy with respect to admissions criteria, curriculum content and budget expenditure priorities. Without regulations, it's difficult to speculate on the extent of that intrusion." So we say, "Well, that's the bureaucratic response we might have expected." Let's go on:
"Bill 168 would require that post-secondary institutions admit and educate students 'in accordance with access to education principles,' which are then defined in the next section. However, these principles have not been developed in consultation with post-secondary institutions" -- or the disabled students who are registered and working at those institutions now, and they should have input into this.
"The universities' experience with the provision of services to, and the renovation of facilities for, students with disabilities indicate that the cost of accommodation can be much higher than the special grant currently provided by the Ontario government for that purpose."
So the member is going to have to work very hard with the government of the day -- and I notice the Minister of Education and Training isn't here, and I absolutely share the concerns of my colleagues and I'm sure the member himself: Where is the government? Where is the minister introducing this legislation? Why does a private member have to take this responsibility on to himself? For that, I commend him.
"If the bill's demands were now to be met with the urgency outlined in the legislation, it would require the immediate infusion of significant funding which the universities have been led to believe is not possible in light of the province's current funding problems," so the funding envelopes will have to come from some other place.
The University of Guelph today in a letter to my colleague the member for Wellington North states:
"The University of Guelph has developed a comprehensive coordinated plan, that involved all the institutional constituencies, in support of the learning needs of students with disabilities. This plan included the appointment of a coordinator of services for students with disabilities, the establishment of a centre for students with disabilities, the hiring of professional and support staff, the purchase of adoptive technology, the allocation of resources to support faculty in adapting teaching strategies and develop awareness within the university community, and the introduction of a mechanism to coordinate the activities of university personnel -- admission officers, academic counsellors, counselling staff, housing staff -- with regard to issues and needs faced by students."
Most of the universities, since I've been working with them over the last five years, have made significant gains, because I've made certain as I visit the universities and the colleges that I brought this to their attention. I have taken a look at their documentation and their success and their failures over the years.
This one is from Fanshawe College. There's a lot of detail here and a lot of policies were forwarded to us. This is the bottom line from Fanshawe College. The bottom line is probably very much like the note that went with the legislation.
"We are making tremendous strides on our own, for good educational reasons. The question is this:" -- the member should think about this -- "Why would we need this legislation to make the process more complicated?" They've looked at it and they think we now have a more complicated process. Working on their own without red tape is something they want.
I don't have enough time to read in all of the other concerns, but I will send them to the member.
Mr David Winninger (London South): I congratulate my colleague from York East for his commitment and fortitude in bringing forward Bill 168. He's alluded to the fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights which govern a free and democratic society. One of those rights, of course, is the equality before and under the law and the right to equal protection and benefit without discrimination based, among other things, upon mental or physical disability.
These fundamental rights are carried into our Human Rights Code of Ontario, which forbids discrimination and vouchsafes to every individual the right to equal treatment in employment, services, goods, facilities, contracts, accommodation and vocational associations without discrimination because of disability.
It's important that the member for York East has seen the need for legislation that will complement many of the innovative and progressive steps already taken by this government that are designed to meet the needs of people with disabilities. I'm talking not only about long-term care, I'm talking not only about employment equity, I'm also talking about the restructuring of the Ontario Training and Adjustment Board and certainly also our advocacy legislation, unique in North America.
Many of the needs that have been identified over the years by the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons with respect to transportation, with respect to independent living, with respect to access to employment, have been met. However, the ground is quite unlimited for improvements. Bill 168 goes a long way towards meeting those very vital needs that put people with disabilities on an equal footing with all other people in society.
It's important that the member did consult with his community and determine that post-secondary access, transportation, access to government publications, training programs and communications were paramount. He did do extensive communication. We've heard a lot from the member for London North about the plight of colleges and universities, very little today about the plight of those with disabilities. Surely, when this bill goes to committee on second reading, the colleges and universities will have the opportunity to put forward their submissions, their suggestions, their amendments to make the act work better.
My time is short because I have three other colleagues who wish to speak as well, but I wanted to allude to a resident of London. Her name is Dr Bapai Batliwalla. She's in her 70s. She's only been blind for seven years. She's trained in psychoanalysis. She took a considerable amount of her life's savings and gave it to the University of Western Ontario so they could purchase an optical scanner for the use of students. She's a fellow at the Westminster Institute of bioethics.
Her main concern, she told me as recently as last week, is transportation: little flexibility in terms of the paratransit system in London. Being blind, she can't even read the meters to know whether the fares are accurate if she takes a cab. The CNIB provides a ride to medical appointments but not to other appointments. I hope she's listening today and I hope she appreciates the bill that my colleague has put forward. I think it's designed to improve both her lifestyle and that of others with disabilities.
Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): I'm pleased to participate in this debate on the reading of Bill 168. I'd like to restrict my comments to part I, section 5 of the bill, those provisions which deal with the principles of access to education for people with disabilities.
On Tuesday of this week during question period, I asked the Minister of Education and Training a question about access to secondary school education for students who are over the age of 21 and who are developmentally disabled. The process of access to secondary school is a necessary prerequisite for the access contemplated in Bill 168.
As I questioned the minister, I presented him with a letter from a parent in my riding who had gone to considerable effort to collect over 2,500 signatures of Ontario taxpayers, many of them parents like herself, in support of her request for education for her son and his peers.
The minister did not answer the question posed by those concerned parents. He shared instead with the House the platitude, "I think what we have to try to do during this difficult time of controls on expenditures is to make as much progress as we possibly can," and then he added, "I'd like to move at the post-secondary level, but everything costs in terms of resources."
This minister's answer to my question posed by these concerned parents must have been less than reassuring to the member for York East.
The principles of access to post-secondary education for people with disabilities, as expressed in section 5 of Bill 168, will not be very effective if those students cannot access or complete secondary school as a result of arbitrary age restrictions placed on secondary school funding by the Minister of Education and Training.
As families are being encouraged to take care of their children at home, the government has the responsibility to provide integrated services to those families. There's no point in promising supports for community living which exclude educational opportunities within the schools in the neighbourhoods in which the families reside.
Also relevant to this debate is the fact that we continue to see, as has been mentioned earlier this morning, inadequate support for less expensive family-based services such as special services at home.
I urge the member for York East to encourage the ministers of Community and Social Services, Health, Education and Training, Transportation and others to begin to talk seriously about the provision of integrated services for families to enable them to assist their children to achieve their full potential within their own communities.
Community-based services must include health care, education, social services, recreation and transportation and must involve all the ministries which deliver and fund these transfer agencies. All of the ministers who are responsible must work together to provide whatever services are required by Ontarians with disabilities in whatever community they live.
As I close, I'm reminded, especially in this year of 1994, the end of the NDP mandate, of other occasions in this House where I've spoken on legislation brought forward by backbench members of the NDP government and not by the minister responsible. I and the families and other members of this Legislature and individuals impacted by these initiatives are left to wonder about the real priority given by the cabinet to issues raised in this way.
The Minister of Community and Social Services used the same strategy very recently on Bill 158 concerning adoption disclosure, another bill brought forward by a private member. As you know, these matters are restricted to but one hour of debate on second reading; one hour for the members of this House from 130 ridings right across this province to discuss legislation with serious implications for many people right across the province, in this case the many, many thousands who suffer either physical or mental disabilities. Sadly, Bill 168 seems to be suffering a similar fate to Bill 158.
Again I say, as I said that morning, that I would like to encourage the member for York East that although he is seeking what he desires and which I consider commendable in his private member's bill, I truly hope, and I say that from the bottom of my heart, that he can bring the responsible ministers on side, but they have to be brought on side in a meaningful way, and the meaningful way must include very serious allocations in the budget that show that this is a government priority. The ministers must be brought on side to lay the groundwork that would be achieved in Bill 168.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I am happy to stand in the House this morning as the spokesperson for people with disabilities on behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus and say that of course we support the intent of Bill 168.
I do, however, just have to make one comment on something that really upset me this morning, and that was that the member for London South would criticize the member for London North and say that she does not speak about people with disabilities or their plight or their challenge. This is a member who has a head-injured adult child. She has suffered with her son and also made progress with her son and I think it's unfortunate that the member for London South would not recognize what this particular member has endured with her son Kevin.
There is a tremendous frustration in having 15 minutes for our entire caucus to speak to this important issue this morning. I think more than anything what really upsets me is that this is not a priority for this government. If it were a priority for this government, the member for York East would not have to stand in his place this morning. It would be a minister of the crown who would be standing here, producing and announcing finally an Ontarians with disabilities act, a promise which was made by Premier Bob Rae when he campaigned, before he was Premier, in the summer of 1990.
The worst thing that politicians can do is use people, and I say to this government, the Minister of Community and Social Services finally responded on June 10 to my resolution of last December 2 dealing with people with developmental disabilities; seven months for the minister to respond to a resolution supported by all three parties in this House. That speaks volumes about the commitment of this Bob Rae socialist government to people with disabilities.
That is the reason that the member for York East has to come to this House this morning with a private member's bill. Everybody understands what a private member's bill is. Helen Henderson, in the Toronto Star, says very clearly in the second paragraph of her article on this bill, "The document tabled Tuesday in the Legislature was a disappointment because it was not introduced by the government itself." That's the whole point of the issue that we're dealing with.
There is a lack of priority by this government. This four-page letter that took seven months to come, dealing with people with developmental disabilities, recognizing that's only one area of disability, states very clearly that they have reduced their funding. They are admitting finally that they do not have the funding in place that they had talked about committing. They talk about the fact that their transfer payment budget was reduced by $1 million. They talk about not being able to deal with the needs because, and they use words like "constrained funding," "another $1-million reduction." Then they say they know that the funding this year will not meet the needs of all those people who are currently waiting for service.
What really upsets me is that this government is not without money. What it is without is setting priorities in terms of human need in this province, and that I will not tolerate. That is the position that I have been taking for the last nine years, particularly the last four years with this government.
Where this government stands on this issue was demonstrated yet again last summer when it removed the rights of parents to have their children access education programs, if those children are in the category of being at risk, which of course includes our severely disabled children. We, as a government, in 1982 gave those people and their children, those special-needs families, Bill 82, so they were guaranteed a right to education. Now, as of last summer, that right is removed. What are the options for those parents and those children? To go out of province at their own expense. That is how this government demonstrates its priorities, and we will not sit back silently and watch this gamesmanship at the expense of these people.
Unfortunately, one other aspect, in the brief time that I have to address this bill, is the enforcement of it. I say with regret to the member for York East, believe me, I'm supporting the bill because of its intent, but I want to tell you that the compliance of the bill, where you say that the enforcement will be dealt with through a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission -- what a farce.
I have a number of constituents who have obviously tried to deal with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, but I'll tell you, I have one in particular who came to mind when I saw that in this bill. This gentleman has been fighting with the Ontario Human Rights Commission for six years now, and he is dyslexic; six years of his life to try to get his rights established against a former employer, six years and $4,000. He's out of money. He cannot access his human rights today through the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
It is no good, I say to the member for York East, to say they can seek to address their rights to your bill through the Ontario Human Rights Commission. If this government can set up a whole bureaucracy to deal with rent control and the rights of people who complain because they're being charged too much rent, surely we can establish some kind of bureaucracy in support of the needs of people with disabilities. Where are the real priorities of this government?
I say that a bill that does not address that and does not have any mechanism for fines is shallow; it's empty. Again we come back to the fact that it's no good putting something in words when there's no financial commitment by the government to back it up, no financial commitment to the institutions that are going to have to implement this bill. We simply say --
The Deputy Speaker: Your time has expired.
Mrs Marland: -- let's stop playing games and deal with the needs. We don't need any more games or any more reports. We need action now.
Ms Jenny Carter (Peterborough): I'd like to congratulate the member for York East. Since his election in 1990, the member has been a powerful advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and an example to all of us.
My own time as an MPP has been a great educational experience as regards the capacities of people with disabilities. Just as I myself am disadvantaged in the world of Queen's Park by chairs and other furniture meant for people 10 inches taller than I am, many people are prevented from functioning properly because the world is just not geared to their requirements. There has been a self-fulfilling assumption that people with disabilities would be housebound or institution-bound, that they would not be employable and that they would have to be subsidized and cared for all their lives.
Modern technology has made available a wide range of devices and mechanisms which can compensate for disabilities. There has been enormous progress as a result, yet the feeling lingers that the financial layout involved is more than society or employers or institutions or businesses can really afford. But we have to remind ourselves that if the necessary effort and outlay are forthcoming, hundreds of thousands of people who now lead lives of dependency can become self-supporting, productive citizens. Many have already succeeded in doing so. The cost to the taxpayer and society in general will fall as people are empowered to take control of their own lives and become contributing citizens.
In Peterborough, I have come to know many groups comprised of people with disabilities and in particular PUSH, Persons United for Self-Help, Peterborough. This group works to make available to its members those accommodations that will enable them to function fully. The Alliance Centre has opened recently downtown and is a pilot for a wider project which will provide equipment and training to enable people with disabilities to enter the workforce.
Specialized computer software provides endless possibilities. Manufacturers are making equipment available because they know that this is the way of the future. I was also impressed by a successful community project to create a video, the first of its kind, with built-in signing for the deaf. This video is for expectant mothers and makes available vital information which might otherwise have been difficult for them to come by. A sequel is already planned.
Specialized vehicles, ramps, elevators, specialized telephones, doors which open automatically, accessible washrooms and kitchens, captioned televisions and attendants hired and trained by the consumer all need to be in place before disabled people can inhabit the world as easily and productively as the rest of us. But while one component needed by an individual is missing, they may be unable to take advantage of the rest.
There is a change occurring in public awareness of what disabled people can achieve, given the chance. We must encourage that change, while understanding that it will take time and that there will be some demands that cannot be met. Obviously, fair access to transportation and to higher education are vital requirements if disabled people are to take their place in society.
Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): It's my pleasure to rise in my place today and add my support to Bill 168 and to the member for York East, Gary Malkowski, a good friend of mine. I want all the members of the House to know that he's got full support from his caucus colleagues on this.
This isn't one of those things where we'll hear from opposition critics saying, "Well, it's not good enough," or going out there and speaking against housing, which of course includes supportive housing for people with disabilities, and then say, "Well, we really didn't mean that part." This is about something different. This is about going that much further and getting beyond the partisanness about this Legislature, which seems to happen.
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act -- who are the people? If we take a look at the Legislature itself, the building is over 100 years old. The difficulties that people have -- our visitors who are here today with us, people who have come from all over the area, the difficulties that they had just coming into the Legislature to watch us, to watch the participation of the debate. Even members of the House -- this past winter seemed like a year for crutches around here because member after member seemed to be getting hurt. It was so easy that even my good friend and colleague the Minister of Agriculture could have been injured very severely and we would have at that point said, "Yes, we have to make this House more accessible." We need to go beyond that. We need to think about today. This addresses making education facilities accessible, to make people employable, to allow people the dignity to be employed.
It's time municipalities started cooperating. I think of the injured workers' group up in my riding. They wanted a spot in front of their office so that injured workers who want to go in for a consultation with their advocates would have a space so they don't have to walk for a block and a half, and yet the town turned them down. It must be frustrating for them. Here's an injured worker trying to get a little bit of advocacy work, someone to help them out, and they're turned down.
The town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, the access committee there -- here they are, trying to provide accessible taxis and yet Metro comes in with its licensing and then the province has to step in with an omnibus bill to overturn that, that is going to allow someone from my riding to come to Toronto and not have to wait or book a month in advance to get transit to go back. I'm sure my colleague from Transportation would speak on that.
We could probably talk about the needs of families that aren't addressed. The announcement made two days ago by the Minister of Health about the $4.4 million goes a long way, and I think this complements exactly what the member for York East has done here. So my hat is off to him. The needs are so important. I'm pleased that I had the opportunity to participate, albeit briefly, in this debate this morning.
To my constituent who called and wanted to know if I'm going to support it: You're darned right I'm going to support it.
Mr George Dadamo (Windsor-Sandwich): It's a pleasure to stand and speak to this private member's bill put forward by my colleague the MPP for York East. I'd like to place some information into Hansard on behalf of MTO, as well as being the parliamentary assistant with direct responsibilities to disabled issues in the last three and a half years.
The Ministry of Transportation supports the spirit and intent of the bill as it relates to many transportation initiatives and programs undertaken by the ministry and already in place.
In light of various MTO initiatives moving towards making transportation more accessible to persons with disabilities, the obvious question is, how would this bill impact on these initiatives?
Bill 168 creates a right of access for persons with disabilities to transportation services. The bill requires municipalities to develop and implement service plans in this respect.
The Ministry of Transportation, through the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act, provides subsidies for conventional and specialized transportation to municipalities, including districts, regional municipalities and metropolitan areas. Just yesterday we met with John Feld and the Trans-Action Coalition as we continue to address their wide and varied needs.
The provision of public transportation is a municipal responsibility and decision, as they are in the best position to determine demand for services and are best able to develop a system to meet their unique transportation requirements. The province, of course, supports municipal transit programs through the provision of financial and technical assistance. As a condition of subsidy, the municipalities are directed to prepare and present to MTO a full accessibility implementation plan.
The current legislation does not mandate provision of service or which services are required to be accessible; rather, it allows the province, through MTO, to fund the service that the municipality determines to be required.
Furthermore, the current ministry guideline for purposes of subsidy for specialized services is based on physical functional mobility. There has been considerable debate among transportation providers and users of specialized transit regarding this very issue.
In this bill, the definition of "disabilities" extends to cognitive impairment and not just physical functional mobility focused on in current transportation programs. While this definition may be appropriate to other parts of the bill dealing with, for example, education, it raises some questions as to its applicability to transportation systems. The expansion of services to include persons with cognitive disabilities will put severe financial stress on municipalities and will of course limit the service they can provide to persons with physical disabilities.
In this respect, the ministry remains committed to the family of services concept, including fully accessible conventional public transportation, community buses, accessible taxis and specialized transit services, in order to meet the wide range of transportation needs for persons with disabilities and the variances between the municipalities.
Through this bill, the ministry welcomes the opportunity to discuss ways to improving accessibility and support the mobility rights of persons with disabilities.
As parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Transportation in Ontario along with many other dedicated staff within the ministry, we continue to focus on disabled issues throughout this province and to attempt to make it easier for all to get around.
I offer my personal congratulations to my colleague the member for York East for the introduction of Bill 168 on May 31, 1994.
Mr Malkowski: I would like to thank the various members of the House for their comments and for their support of this bill. I would like to remind all of the members here today that a very large population in Ontario are disabled and that in fact that number is growing. Some 40% of all seniors are disabled, 55% of people who have been injured at the workplace become permanently disabled, and many of you, as well as people we know, have been disabled or injured through accidents and so on. So we have to remember that in fact the population is growing.
I'd like to mention a specific person here today, Kenny Walker, who used to play for the Denver Broncos in the NFL. He mentioned that he really appreciated the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act allowed for an interpreter to be provided for him while he was playing with the Broncos. He's now with us in Canada playing for the Tiger-Cats and has faced some real concerns in terms of getting an interpreter and access to that service. That's why the Ontarians with Disabilities Act needs to be in place to address all issues of accessibility. So I would encourage all of the members in the House to support this legislation.
The member for London South has some interesting information from the colleges and universities, but I will make sure that in fact the colleges, universities, people with disabilities, people from varying communities have a right to come out to public hearings and make their concerns known.
I'd like to thank a few specific groups: PUSH, ARCH -- Persons United for Self-Help; the Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped -- People First of Ontario, CNIB, CHS, the Wider Disabled Community, the Ontario Association of the Deaf, the Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups and United Disabled Consumers of Hamilton. It's time that we all came together and worked together for this cause.
The Deputy Speaker: The time provided for private members' public business has expired.
SCHOOL BOARDS' FISCAL YEAR
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We deal first with ballot item number 63, standing in the name of Mrs Cunningham. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.
Mrs Cunningham has moved private member's resolution number 45. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 1994 / LOI DE 1994 SUR LES ONTARIENS QUI ONT UN HANDICAP
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with ballot item number 64. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.
Mr Malkowski has moved second reading of Bill 168, An Act to ensure Equal Access to Post-Secondary Education, Transportation and Other Services and Facilities for Ontarians with Disabilities. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Shall it be referred to the committee of the whole House?
Mr Gary Malkowski (York East): I would like to refer it to the standing committee on administration of justice.
The Deputy Speaker: The bill will be referred to the standing committee on justice. Agreed? Agreed.
As the time for private members' business has expired, I will now leave the chair. The House will resume at 1:30 of the clock.
The House recessed from 1202 to 1331.
Mr Ron Eddy (Brant-Haldimand): The NDP says the recession is over, but the people in my riding of Brant-Haldimand are still looking for answers that will bring back jobs to their communities, which have been so badly hurt by the recession.
CNR is intending to abandon a local rail line which is an important transportation link for a number of local businesses in my riding. A number of citizens are looking to start up a short-line rail operation to keep the trains running on this line, but Bill 40 has made it impossible for a small operator to take over the line and stay in business.
I want to know when the government will help save the jobs of my constituents. I want the government's assurance that it will support the amendment of the member for Mississauga West, which would fix the problems created by Bill 40 and save the rail line from Hamilton to Caledonia and the many jobs that go with it.
CN says Bill 40 is the problem. Business people who want to buy the line know that Bill 40 is the problem. Haldimand-Norfolk regional council, which is fighting to save the line, knows that Bill 40 is the problem. The official opposition knows that Bill 40 is the problem.
Why doesn't the government realize that the workers, investors and entrepreneurs of this province, who are actually trying to create jobs, need their help? I wonder how long the government intends to drive the economy off the rails.
I want to know when the government will come to its senses and fix Bill 40 to save jobs across the province. We need help now to save this line.
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): On May 19, Mr Douglas Lougheed, principal of Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute in this city, won the distinction of being named outstanding leader in education in the 1994 Reader's Digest Leadership in Education Awards. Mr Lougheed was selected from among 200 nationwide nominations submitted by parents, school board officials, school administrators and fellow educators. He and the school will share $20,000 from the Reader's Digest Foundation of Canada for his work in creating a safer, more accessible learning environment for students at Danforth Collegiate.
Mr Lougheed is well known among educators. Four years ago, when Doug arrived at the school, he developed a number of initiatives to deal with high-risk students and with youth alienation and its impact on the school. His conflict resolution program for students and the school's cooperation with the local police street crime unit have helped create a safer learning environment in this large, inner-city high school.
The Fast Track program enables potential dropouts to graduate as quickly as possible. There are a number of students who are 16, 17 and 18 years of age who are behind in their credits. They find ways to put them in a program which enables them to move more quickly through the system.
On May 30, 1994, Doug Lougheed and his wife Margaret Ann, who is a guidance counsellor at Northern Secondary School, took the time from their busy careers and their busy lives to make a presentation to the standing committee on social development, which was reviewing "children at risk." They made an excellent statement on behalf of the many students they have worked for over the years and informed members of the committee of their solutions to assisting students who are at risk.
After 35 years of service with the Toronto Board of Education, Doug Lougheed is retiring. We will all remember his commitment to improving the school experience for many of our students. I would like to take this opportunity to extend our best wishes to Doug and Margaret Ann for all the work they have done and to thank them for their tremendous contribution to education in Ontario.
Ms Margaret H. Harrington (Niagara Falls): Last Monday the Minister of Education and Training, Dave Cooke, and myself were in Niagara Falls for an announcement which means jobs, good education and unique cooperation between school boards.
Mr Speaker, $6.4 million was announced for Niagara South Board of Education and the Welland County Roman Catholic Separate School Board to build a multi-use facility for northwest Niagara Falls. Shared facilities such as the science lab, the gymnasia, the washrooms, playing fields and parking, as well as a day care facility, will mean cost-efficiency for the local taxpayers. Other options to be considered include a branch of our public library and community agencies at this location, such as FACS, and recreation on adjacent city-owned land.
Our boards are already, over the past years, working together, sharing student transportation as well as ordering of supplies. I remember that back in January 1992 I brought then board chairs Arlene Atherton and Malcolm Stockton together at my office to discuss the long-term capital needs of education in our city, especially the northwest area. I urged them to work together, and here are the results. To quote Mr Cooke: "This sends a very, very positive, powerful message to taxpayers that this government is looking at things differently. In fact, cooperative efforts are now given priority for funding at Queen's Park."
It only makes sense to work together to save taxpayers' dollars, and I'm proud of the city of Niagara Falls.
DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I bring to the attention of the House today that June 16 has been declared the Day of the African Child to commemorate the 1976 massacre of children in Soweto, South Africa.
This important day takes on a special significance given the recent developments in South Africa. Now in its fourth year, the Day of the African Child has come to mean more than simply commemoration. It is a celebration of the beauty, rich diversity, and perhaps its greatest resource, its children.
The Day of the African Child also serves as a forum where prevailing myths about Africa can be dispelled. It is an opportunity to highlight the many accomplishments of the continent rather than focusing on the hardships.
Not every African child suffers from disease or malnutrition. The death rate of children under five has been cut in half since 1960, and the average life expectancy in Africa has risen to 54 years, an increase of 13 years since 1960.
African governments provided safe water and adequate sanitation to an additional 120 million people during the 1980s, and now over 80% of the children living in urban areas have access to safe water.
Of course, commitment to meeting the needs of African children starts in Africa itself. As of January 1994, over 35 African nations have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the international treaty that guarantees children the basic human rights of survival, protection and development under all circumstances.
I ask all members of this House to join in celebrating the Day of the African Child. By working together, we can achieve so much on behalf of the children.
VEHICLE LICENSING OFFICE
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): Approximately two weeks ago, the Ministry of Transportation closed the vehicle licensing office in the rural village of Athens for an illusory saving of $10,000 to $15,000 a year.
This office has been operating in the village for more than 30 years and had been serving close to 4,000 customers annually. The arbitrary closure of this important office is a clear reflection of the NDP government's attitude towards rural Ontario. Ignorance, neglect and contempt appear to be the hallmarks of the NDP's approach to the rural way of life.
A week after the Athens office closure, the Ministry of Transportation announced it was spending $500,000 to install bilingual highway signs in the greater London area -- this from the same minister who could find more than $5 million of taxpayers' dollars to put bilingual highway signs in the Hamilton-Toronto corridor.
Gilles Pouliot, the Minister of Transportation and minister responsible for francophone affairs, has no reservations about spending millions of dollars on unneeded and in many cases unwanted pursuits which fit his political ideology, while at the same time he coldly ignores the pleas of a rural municipal council, a chamber of commerce, a seniors' group, business people and other concerned citizens for some pie-in-the-sky $10,000 saving.
The closure of the Athens licensing office is itself a kind of sign to the people of Ontario, in French, English or any other language, of this minister's arrogance, favouritism and disregard for rural needs.
Mr Ron Hansen (Lincoln): I rise today to pay tribute to two community newspapers from Lincoln that recently won a number of national awards. The Lincoln Post Express in Beamsville and the West Lincoln Review in Smithville won a combined total of four awards in the 1994 national community newspapers competition.
The Lincoln Post Express won a blue ribbon award, meaning it was in the top third in general excellence in its circulation category, and has also earned a third-place award in the photo essay competition.
The West Lincoln Review also garnered a blue ribbon award and it took third place in the best-front-page category in the general excellence competition.
Congratulations to the editorial staff of these two fine publications. Hats off to editor Judy McEwen of the Post Express, and reporter Terry McNamee; and kudos to editor Julie Hendriks of the West Lincoln Review and reporter Gary Davies.
Many of us take our community newspapers for granted, and yet the people who work for them are just as dedicated and educated as those who work for the better-known dailies. I'm told that the job of a community newspaper journalist is never done. Most work seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. That's dedication.
We should all support our community newspapers. After all, they're the people who shop in our community and whose children attend school with our own, and they're the people who will come out on a snowy Saturday to take a photo of the Brownie fly-up.
Again, congratulations to the Lincoln Post Express and the West Lincoln Review for a job well done.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I wanted to wish the Finance minister well in his endeavours to sell Ontario bonds. I gather he'll be travelling next week to do that, and we support him doing that.
The point I wanted to raise, though, is the seriousness of the situation. Ontario is going to have to borrow $12 billion this year, as you know, and we face a fairly serious situation. We've had now three credit downgrades that have put pressure on our borrowing costs. The Provincial Auditor, for the first time in history, qualified the opinion of the books, which put a little bit of a cloud around our finances. Our debt has grown, as we all know, from $40 billion, when Bob Rae became Premier, to $90 billion.
There are other things, though, that are troubling. The Canadian dollar is weak right now and causing unease in the foreign markets. Much of our borrowing, as you know, is done offshore in other markets. The interest rates in Canada are rising, putting additional cost pressures on us. We are now, in Canada at a 10-year high, I think, in terms of the interest rates on Canadian bonds, and the spread between Canadian bond rates and the Ontario bond rates is under a lot of pressure.
I wanted, as I say, to wish the minister well. We support him in his activities, but the situation is becoming serious, with some obvious cost implications for Ontario, but also some significant fiscal implications for all of us in the Legislature.
NATIVE LAND DISPUTE
Mr Ernie L. Eves (Parry Sound): On June 1, the Shawanaga First Nation closed the Skerryvore Road, which runs through its property to the community of Skerryvore in Parry Sound riding. Today, some 16 days later, there appears to be no substantive progress made by the province of Ontario to resolve this issue and to ensure access for the citizens of Skerryvore.
Prior to the closure of the road, I questioned the fact that, given the nature of the issue, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs was designated the lead ministry by the government. I have spoken to all parties involved on several occasions, and no one seems to know why the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is taking the lead.
In fact, this morning on CKLP radio in Parry Sound a story was run stating that Shawanaga Chief Howard Pamajewon and the first nation's lawyer have decided to take their concerns to higher levels. The chief is not happy with the progress being made by Municipal Affairs and believes they have been using stalling tactics. In addition, according to the chief, the lawyer for the first nation attended an interministerial meeting this morning to discuss, among other things, which minister will be handling the issue.
Sixteen days after the closure of the road and 13 years into this dispute, while the residents of Skerryvore are being forced to access their homes by water, the government of Ontario is still trying to decide which ministry will be handling the matter.
This morning Chief Pamajewon informed me that although the ministry and first nation have shared information, there has been no concrete discussion of substantive matters -- I repeat, some 16 days after the closure of the road.
I urge the government of Ontario to stop spinning its wheels and resolve this matter in the best interests of all concerned.
Mrs Ellen MacKinnon (Lambton): My riding of Lambton is well known for minor sports programs and the support of community involvement in providing young people an opportunity to develop their skills through many athletic organizations.
I'm very pleased to say that many NHL players have started their careers in the hockey programs in Lambton, and today I would like to pay special tribute to John McIntyre, a centreman for the Vancouver Canucks, who, as we all know, did an admirable job in the playoff games.
John was born in Ravenswood, near the town of Forest, in Lambton county. He attended Forest High School and from there he started his NHL career. John is the son of Mr and Mrs Glen McIntyre of Forest and he still resides in the Forest area during the off-season.
John is a credit to the community of Lambton and to the minor hockey system he first started playing in as a young boy.
It seems to be a dream of every young hockey player to play in the NHL and especially to have an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. This dream has certainly come true for John McIntyre.
Lambton county is very proud to see Mr McIntyre excelling in his career, and I do commend him for his accomplishments. As a matter of fact, I was at Forest High School to present him with his graduation certificate, but it couldn't be given to him because he was playing his first NHL game that very night. So I'm really proud of John.
ANNUAL REPORT, COMMISSION ON CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): I beg to inform the House that I have today laid upon the table the annual report of the Commission on Conflict of Interest for the period April 1, 1993, to March 31, 1994.
ANNUAL REPORT, INFORMATION AND PRIVACY COMMISSIONER
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): I have also laid upon the table the annual report of the Information and Privacy Commission, Ontario, for the period covering January 1, 1993, to December 31, 1993.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
SCHOOL BREAKFAST PROGRAM
Hon Tony Silipo (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'm pleased to inform members that our government is introducing a school- and community-based child nutrition initiative, and I would also note the support that's been given to this issue in the past by all three parties and hope that support will continue.
This initiative's goal is to promote healthy development for children, primarily between the ages of four and 13, and it will support communities at risk of experiencing problems with child nutrition.
It reflects what we have heard from interested parties and groups across the province. They've told us to let them find solutions that are unique to their own needs, and that's exactly what we are going to do.
I'm pleased to note the presence today in the gallery of a number of people who I know have expressed interest in this initiative, if I could briefly introduce them. We have Debbie Field from FoodShare, Pam Prinold from the Etobicoke Nutrition Network, Fiona Knight from the Coalition for Student Nutrition, Charmyne Urquart from Winchester public school, Marg McIntosh from Dundas public school, Jacqueline Latter from the Ontario Parent Council and our own Susan Parr from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, who did a lot of work on this initiative.
We realize that the government cannot ensure by itself that children get the nutrition they need, but government can help communities work towards that goal.
With funding of $1 million a year, we will help community-based groups, including schools, to launch or improve a range of child nutrition programs. This funding will augment local resources.
The range of nutrition programs we will support includes meal programs, collective kitchens, community gardens and food-buying cooperatives, to name just a few.
Very shortly, the ministry will be inviting proposals from non-profit charitable organizations to administer and promote this initiative on behalf of the government. One important role of this administering body is to involve the private sector so that business can be encouraged to contribute to the various projects taking place within their communities. We will announce the name of this organization by late July.
The organization will be supported by an advisory committee made up of representatives of such interest groups as consumers and parents, educators, businesses, social service providers, faith communities, food producers and distributors, public health and government.
The role of the advisory committee will be to help the administering organization with the selection of local projects to receive funding, with promoting the initiative and to assist in other areas to further the success of this initiative.
Local projects, which could be run by churches, community centres, parent groups, social agencies, schools or local businesses, for example, should be based on partnership and community development.
We will be encouraging voluntary participation by children and their families in this initiative, with an accent on accessibility, cultural appropriateness, environmental awareness and non-stigmatization.
A maximum of $100,000 will be used to fund the non-profit organization chosen to administer the initiative, leaving $900,000 to fund the individual projects. These projects will receive up to a maximum of $10,000 a year for three years. This approach will enable us to fund a good number of projects well into the future.
Information packages will be sent out by September to selected communities inviting them to submit proposals for funding. We anticipate that some of these programs will be funded and operational by early fall.
We look forward to supporting the ability of communities to respond to the nutritional needs of their children and promoting cooperation between community groups, parents, schools, the private and non-profit sectors and government in addressing this issue.
This initiative is an example of how this government is mobilizing partnerships in the community. Through these partnerships we further healthier lifestyles among young people and their families and we create opportunities for community development.
Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): Mr Minister, I'm pleased you finally have made this announcement. I know you have been struggling with this in cabinet for a long time. You promised this to us in January 1994 at the very latest, and now, in June, you're suggesting that perhaps by fall we'll have something up and running.
In the same announcement, however, you state that the information packages will be going out in September and you will be inviting people, and I have a little bit of concern when you suggest that you are going to be inviting selected communities. I hope those communities will have criteria with which we can all live and that there will not be any political overtones to those invitations.
I'm pleased that nutrition programs will include meal programs, collective kitchens, community gardens and food buying co-operatives, whether these be non-profit, whether they be based with a church- or a parent-sponsored group. Your invitation to the private sector, as you know, has been received and indeed responded to in many communities across this province and I know that your invitation will again encourage the private sector to get involved.
I hope that the advisory committee you have mentioned in your announcement will play a real role, and I hope in particular that the programs will be culturally appropriate and non-stigmatizing, because some of the initiatives of this government towards children in the very recent past have not had those qualities.
I'm concerned, Mr Minister, that you are devoting but $1 million to a problem with so many tentacles. You do not seem to have -- and I phoned the ministry as late as 1 o'clock today -- an idea of how many people will respond to this initiative, but if my estimation of my figures of those in poverty in this province is true, this would be about one dollar per month per family in Ontario. I'm not sure your goals will be able to be achieved with that kind of figure. This is $1 million of a $9-billion budget of this ministry in a $55-billion budget of this province.
I'm happy that you have given recognition, however, today to the many community-based programs that are already in existence, whether they be private or public or non-profit, and most of them, as you know, are very heavily dependent on the volunteers in the communities. They have been initiated within those communities and they're responding to the needs of those communities in their own unique ways.
But breakfast programs are but a small part of the solution that would really level the playing field between the poor children in this province and their peers in the middle class. We need a real focus in this province on lifting people out of poverty.
As you know, the social development committee has been working on this issue for the last few months. What the people who came before that committee told us was that we need in this province a real commitment to quality child care; a real commitment to this document which many people in this province have hooked on to, Yours, Mine and Ours; a real commitment to making children a priority day after day, budget after budget; a real commitment to supporting primary prevention and early intervention programs for children at risk and in need; a real commitment to the development of family support services, and I hope these food programs will be that; a real commitment to innovative funding designed to achieve interservice and interministerial integration; and a real commitment to ameliorate the fragmentation and lack of coordination that we see in so many of the ministries.
Mr Minister, I'm happy you have finally been able to recognize that there is a need. It's been recognized for over five years in this province. Indeed in opposition, your party pushed this very strongly. I'm sorry that it's taken four years for you to recognize the efforts, and I'm sorry that it's only $1 million you're putting in, but I encourage you to make the most of that million and to continue to encourage those people who are devoting so much of their time to this worthwhile project.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): I too want to take a few minutes to comment on the minister's announcement about what most of you in this House know has been an issue I've advocated and fought for as leader of our party.
Nearly four years ago, just after your government took office, I asked the Premier to immediately coordinate a nutrition program for school children in Ontario. He said he would and I believed him.
A year later, on November 28, 1991, this House unanimously approved my resolution to establish nutrition programs for school children in Ontario through partnership with the private sector. Again I believed your government when you supported that resolution. In fact, 12 times I have asked in this House for your government to provide the leadership that was so desperately needed to set up a provincial program, and I believed you every time you said an announcement was just around the corner.
While I am pleased that we finally have a definitive statement from the government on nutrition programs today, I am none the less saddened that yet another school year has come and gone before this government made its announcement.
Just last month, I sat down with a grade 1 and 2 class at Holy Angels school in Sault Ste Marie while the kids enjoyed a nutritious midmorning snack, provided, I might add, at not one cent cost to the taxpayer, as every program I asked you to join with me and the leader of the Liberal Party in promoting would be, not one cent cost to the taxpayer.
Here the kids enjoyed a nutritious midmorning snack, a program provided by the generosity of the Maycourt club. It does not require thousands of dollars from the government. It's a community effort. Let me tell you, Minister, that there could be nothing more gratifying for the teachers, the volunteers or myself that day than to hear a six-year-old boy say to his teacher: "Thank you. I'm full. Thank you. No more. I'm full."
When this is a reward for providing nutritional snacks to our kids at school, let me say there is absolutely no excuse that it has taken over three years and three ministers to finally get an announcement today, in the final year, I might add, leading up to an election campaign.
Secondly, there's no excuse for the fact that thousands of children in this province have been going to school hungry because some members of your government could not set aside ideology and agree upon a program that does not cost the government any money, but does mean we bring the private sector in; no excuse for the fact that you still believe that government alone, through tax money, can provide nutrition programs; no excuse that you invite the non-profit sector to bid, but you won't invite the private sector to bid; no excuse that you're allowing $100,000 for any kind of administration at all -- that's $100,000 not going to kids, no excuse for that either -- that we should be paying anybody to administer a program when so many people in the private sector are willing to come forward and donate time and money to do that; no excuse for the Premier's refusal over a year ago to spearhead a provincial nutrition program with myself and the leader of the Liberal Party, at no cost to the taxpayers.
I very much disagree with the critic from the Liberal Party, who's disappointed that you didn't pour more than a million in. In the New Directions series of documents on education over two years ago, we called for nutrition programs. In the Common Sense Revolution, we allocate half a billion dollars to new programs where government does need to spend money, in head start programs, in giving kids the break they need.
But you know what, Mr Minister? We have asked you and your Premier to provide the leadership and simply coordinate the untapped wealth of dollars that are out there, the good spirit that is out there, programs up and running in Burlington, at no cost to the taxpayer. We asked you to support those initiatives at not a cent cost to the taxpayer: The Canadian Living Foundation for Families has been asking to bring forward these programs.
It will be about 100 projects, I guess; I think we have about 5,000 schools in this province, so one in 50 -- whatever gets up and running. Some will get some food, unfortunately at a cost to the taxpayer, instead of following our plan. I say thank you on behalf of those kids, who have been hungry for four years but perhaps will have some food next year.
I say shame on you for insisting that it ought to be a government bureaucracy, a government program, and not coming forward with a program that we could have done four years ago at no cost to the taxpayer.
Mr Anthony Perruzza (Downsview): How dare you use kids that way?
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Oh, give me a break.
The Speaker: Order. The member for Downsview, please come to order.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Minister of Housing. On May 24, you issued a directive to all local housing authorities, telling them that all fully funded rent supplement programs are to be terminated. Let's understand exactly what this means: You want to stop support for some 3,800 rental units in private sector buildings, and ideally, you would like to move all the tenants in those 3,800 units into non-profit housing.
You do this as part of an expenditure control plan. You claim that the move is going to save you money, but you're moving people into non-profit units that the auditor has said cost anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000 per year for taxpayers to subsidize. I ask whether you have examined all the costs of this so-called cost-saving measure. How are you going to save money moving people into costly non-profit housing?
Hon Evelyn Gigantes (Minister of Housing): Of course, when this government reviewed expenditures with a view to making sure that our operating costs were as low as possible, in order to be able to ensure that where moneys are being spent by the Ministry of Housing, they are being spent most cost-effectively in terms of providing housing assistance for people, we certainly did look at the alternatives and the costs that might be involved.
Mrs McLeod: The minister talks about cost-effectiveness, but there is absolutely no proof offered that moving tenants into non-profit housing is in fact a cost-effective move. If the minister believes that to be true, we would invite her to bring forward some proof of that, because that is certainly not what is believed by the local housing authorities.
Beyond that, beyond the fact that non-profit housing is clearly less cost-effective than many rent supplements, in this minister's blind devotion to non-profit housing, you are actually willing to pay landlords and tenants in order to get the tenants out of the rent supplement units and into non-profit units, and that's exactly what this directive points out.
According to this directive, you're willing to pay the moving costs of the tenants, you're prepared to move them into larger apartments and you're even prepared to buy out the landlords so that you can move those tenants out more quickly. You say you're going to save money, but you're actually going to have to pay people in order to achieve any savings at all.
Minister, how much do you anticipate you're going to spend on these incentives to the landlords and to the tenants, and how much are you willing to spend simply to move people from rent supplement units into non-profit housing?
Hon Ms Gigantes: I think the Leader of the Opposition should take a moment to try and understand what the rent subsidy program in the province of Ontario is. It's administered by the Ministry of Housing. It is, of course, in addition to the well over $2 billion a year that we provide in shelter allowances through the social assistance system which go directly to private landlords in this province.
The program that is operated, the rent subsidy program specifically, is a program that was begun by federal-provincial cooperation. Over many years, the stock grew to about 20,000 units around the province and it costs about $80 million a year, and that's in addition to the shelter allowance program which we operate. As of late, the federal governments, both the previous Conservative government and the current federal Liberal government, have been unwilling to cost-share new non-profit units and new rent subsidy units. She knows that. She lives in Thunder Bay, and in Thunder Bay --
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the minister complete her response, please?
Hon Ms Gigantes: -- the urgency of that situation is being brought forward very strongly right now. What we're saying is that there is no reason for the province of Ontario to be spending 100% dollars on a rent subsidy program which doesn't generate new affordable housing supply, which to the contrary, our non-profit housing program does.
Mrs McLeod: We understand how the rent supplement program started and how it works, the local housing authorities understand how the program started and how it works, and the local housing authorities understand what you are doing to change this program and they are telling you that what you are doing does not make sense and is certainly not going to save money.
The local housing authorities in northwestern Ontario have said that the rent supplement units in their area are more economical than non-profit units. In fact, the average subsidy for a non-profit unit in Thunder Bay is $952 a month. The average rent supplement in Thunder Bay is $535 a month. Show me where you're going to save money moving people out of rent supplements and into non-profit units.
People in northwestern Ontario and the local housing authorities say the only thing your policy is going to do is increase their costs and make their waiting lists longer. Kitchener-Waterloo did a study a year ago, and that study showed that rent supplements are economical, are cost-effective, as compared to other housing programs.
Minister, I don't believe that you're undertaking this move for cost-effectiveness. I believe you're pursuing this out of a blind ideological belief that non-profit housing is the only way to go. You are not doing it to save money because it is going to cost taxpayers money. I ask you to stop now this costly foolishness.
Hon Ms Gigantes: Of the 20,000 units of rent supplement housing available through the Ministry of Housing programs, as she indicates, only those that are fully funded, 100% funded by the province of Ontario, will be affected by our determination to save money in the administration of housing programs by rolling out of those 100% provincially funded units. Where there is 50-50 funding with the federal government, we will be glad to continue to have a rent subsidy program.
But coming from the Leader of the Opposition, who comes from the town of Thunder Bay, where the Thunder Bay Housing Corp and municipal council -- the municipal council has decided that they are not going to have any more non-profit housing in Thunder Bay. They've instituted the moratorium that the Liberal Party has been demanding. So she should not come to this Legislature and talk about the need for housing units for people who need housing assistance in Thunder Bay, because the policy she supports is being implemented by the Thunder Bay city council.
The Speaker: New question.
Mrs McLeod: If this minister wants local housing authorities to continue to provide affordable housing for people in their communities, she'd better come up with some answers as to what is really cost-effective.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Ms Gigantes: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: You allowed the leader of the --
The Speaker: Point of order, the Minister of Housing.
Hon Ms Gigantes: My point of order is that the comments that were made by the leader of the official opposition after she rose to start her question, the comments related to the earlier question, I couldn't hear. I wonder if you would ask her to repeat them.
The Speaker: I think in the interest of time, the most appropriate way obviously is, upon the completion of one question, to then start another question. I would ask the Leader of the Opposition if she would place her second question.
Mrs McLeod: Mr Speaker, this minister has asked for clarification of the questions. I will forward the questions to her in writing in a formal way for a written response.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): For my second question I will be happy to give the Minister of Municipal Affairs an opportunity to respond.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Order. Will the leader take her seat, please.
Second question, please.
Mrs McLeod: Minister, after suffering a series of provincial cuts and downloading under the expenditure control plan and the social contract, municipalities do not feel that your government has much respect for local elected governments. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario has released a policy paper on reforming its working relationship with the province. They are looking for reforms to prevent further arbitrary downloading from the province on to the municipalities. They are not asking for more money; what they want from you is a policy of no surprises from the government.
I'm going to be meeting with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario next week to discuss their concerns. I understand they have asked to meet with the Premier and cabinet, but this has apparently been refused.
Minister, will you tell us in the Legislature today if you support AMO's basic recommendation for a commitment to consultation and cooperation and a guaranteed access to provincial decision-making, and do you agree with the municipalities' request that the province stop downloading without consultation?
The Speaker: The member for Chatham-Kent, please come to order.
Hon Ed Philip (Minister of Municipal Affairs): I'm always pleased to have consultation with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and indeed with ROMA and other municipal representatives. Indeed, they will tell the Leader of the Opposition that we have met much more frequently than the previous Liberal government ever did with them and that we've taken into account their concerns, unlike the other provinces, where Liberal governments have completely downloaded on the municipalities in their efforts to trim the deficit.
Mrs McLeod: I was actually hoping the minister would simply say yes, he believes in consultation, he believes that there should not be downloading without consultation. It seemed like a fairly easy commitment to make. But in fact I have a copy of a notice that the Ministry of Finance has sent to all municipalities. It may be possible that the Minister of Municipal Affairs is not aware of the directive that was sent by the Ministry of Finance to all municipalities, but I would expect him to be. The notice states that the province is slashing $18 million from its property assessment services and that municipal taxpayers will have to make up that difference.
There was no consultation on this issue. The policy was announced on June 14 and it takes effect on July 1.
When the Treasurer announced his transfer payments in March, he did make a commitment to maintain funding levels for municipalities. The minister is now downloading $18 million on to the backs of local taxpayers with no consultation.
Minister, I ask you, after guaranteeing municipalities the same level of funding this year, why has your government now imposed $18 million in new costs on local ratepayers, with all of two weeks' notice?
Hon Mr Philip: There was consultation. Indeed, the Treasurer and I met with AMO only this week, on Monday. We talked with them about their concerns. They also shared with us the concerns they had as to whether or not we were prepared to reverse the downloading that the Liberal government did on the courthouse costs and the maintenance of the courthouse security, on which they said there was no consultation and was a considerably larger downloading in good times than anybody ever tried in bad times.
We are meeting on a continuous basis. This is a matter of charging the cost of certain services which the municipalities are receiving from the provincial government. Indeed, in nearly all instances in those reassessments they will in fact generate new tax revenue from the reassessments.
Mrs McLeod: That sounds a little bit like something that a government might have sat down and talked about in disentanglement, except disentanglement was supposed to have a two-way effect. It wasn't all supposed to be downloaded on to the municipal level. This is another download.
The bottom line is that when municipalities set their budgets this year, they did not have to bear this cost, and now they do. Your government has dumped this cost on to the backs of local taxpayers. The government treats municipalities simply as if it owns them. You have shown no respect for elected local councillors, for mayors or reeves, and you are simply cutting $18 million out of your own spending by forcing municipalities to pick up the tab.
You say you consulted, but here's what the president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario says about your new policy: "It is completely unacceptable and it makes a mockery of the province's frequently stated goal of creating a partnership with municipalities."
Minister, how can you dump this added cost on municipalities in the middle of the municipal budget year?
Hon Mr Philip: Any costs that are borne by this policy will not be felt and in fact will not be paid until the next fiscal year, so it will not affect this fiscal year.
The honourable leader of the Liberal Party talks about disentanglement. At least we tried to negotiate disentanglement. We consulted with the municipalities. We didn't get a deal; we're still working on it. But that's more than the Liberals ever tried.
I say to the leader of the flip-flop party, at least we've got definitive, specific policies. What's her policy on this?
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is to the Minister of Housing. I've always known this place was like Alice in Wonderland, but it's kind of interesting to notice today that with the question by the leader of the Liberals, the Dormouse has finally woken up at the Mad Hatter's tea party.
My question is based on an article in the Hamilton Spectator today by Emilia Casella, who reveals mind-boggling problems at the McClure Community Homes Inc in Hamilton, which was funded under the Homes Now program of the former Liberal government, which announced 30,000 non-profit units under that program. This project, however, on numerous occasions has failed to make its mortgage and property tax payments, leaving the provincial government to pay the arrears.
There has also been a serious conflict of interest. A veteran of non-profit housing advocates, Gary Quart, was chief executive officer of both the housing project board of directors and the two companies the boards hired to develop and manage the project. These three organizations even shared the same board of directors and office space. Contracts were awarded without a tendering process. There was $344,000 in unauthorized expenses, including payments to Mr Quart's personal credit cards without invoices to support the expenses.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the member place a question, please.
Mrs Marland: Yes, Mr Speaker. I ask the minister, since the ministry has allowed Mr Quart and his company, Jubilee Consultants Inc, to keep the job for another 12 months at $60,000 and get away with gross mismanagement, are you really interested in rewarding them by allowing Jubilee Consultants to continue as the project manager?
Hon Evelyn Gigantes (Minister of Housing): There are over 1,000 non-profit housing projects and developments in the province of Ontario. I'm sure that the member for Mississauga South is aware of that.
From time to time in human affairs things go awry. They do within the Conservative Party, they do within all kinds of volunteer organizations, and they certainly have in this case. The problems that the member refers to were identified by a ministry internal audit which was released over the last period of time. It was presented within the ministry to me over the last few weeks. It covered the period 1991-92, and it identified a series of problems which we will continue to work on.
Mrs Marland: This minister always stands in this House and says, "Yes, we've got all these wonderful projects," but she won't come clean and tell us that there is rot in her ship. We keep saying to her that because you can't feel the heat in the kitchen it doesn't mean that your house isn't on fire, and I would suggest to you that by continuing to hire the management that have defrauded this province by the actions of their boards through their manager, you are defending something that is very questionable.
Even before the housing complex opened the province suspended its subsidy to the project because McClure's board failed to supply financial information. The board then fell 12 months behind in its mortgage payments. The minister paid the arrears and reinstated the subsidy. The mortgage fell into arrears again. Then the McClure board of directors -- after all this blundering, the original board is still in place. The Hamilton Spectator article quotes Mr Quart as saying, "There are a lot of non-profits that operate on that basis."
The Speaker: Would the member place a question.
Mrs Marland: If you can defend somebody in a management role, pay them $60,000 a year while they submit bills, while they spend money on their own personal Visa without submitting invoices, I ask you again, why has this McClure board of directors not been replaced as have some other boards of non-profit housing corporations in this province?
Hon Ms Gigantes: The quote which the member for Mississauga South supplies to the House from Mr Quart is wrong. Mr Quart is wrong. The member for Mississauga South is wrong. Our work on this questionable situation continues.
Mrs Marland: What is wrong, Minister, is that any individual in this province under the guise of any corporation is allowed to bill $10,000 to his personal Visa account without submitting invoices. That's what is wrong. And that's the kind of corruption and defrauding the public of funds that we are concerned about: $344,000 spent without permission. If you don't think that's wrong, then you have a bigger problem than we already realize.
I simply say to you, Madam Minister, that if you don't understand the concern of the Provincial Auditor about the lack of operating agreements in this province and the reason that this example in Hamilton takes place because there isn't an operating agreement, there's no supervision by your ministry --
The Speaker: Could the member place a question.
Mrs Marland: -- I simply ask you, Minister, your deputy minister said that all the operating agreements for provincially subsidized non-profit housing would be in place by the end of this year. Is that going to be the case or are we going to continue this horror story of one more corruption and conflict-of-interest situation after another?
Hon Ms Gigantes: The operating agreements are under consideration and joint work by the ministry and the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association at the moment, and the ministry's commitment will stand about the overall operating agreement. She should understand that in fact the Ministry of Housing has enough guidelines in its program and enough understandings about the arrangements that take place in a non-profit organization, such as the McClure organization, that we do have powers which can be very effective.
The member claims that I, as minister, do not find this wrong. The member is wrong. I will say again, the member is wrong.
The Waterloo police believe that the situation is a serious one and the Waterloo police have the cooperation of the Ministry of Housing in the work that lies ahead.
The Speaker: New question, the honourable member for Leeds-Grenville.
Mrs Marland: This is Hamilton, not Waterloo. That's how much you know about it.
The Speaker: Would the member for Mississauga South please come to order.
Mrs Marland: If I knew as much as you about it, I would be so embarrassed.
The Speaker: Would the member for Mississauga South please come to order.
YOUNG OFFENDERS' ACTIVITIES
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): In the absence of the Minister of Correctional Services, I gather the member for Beaches-Woodbine is the acting Premier for the day. I have a question related to corrections and I know she has some experience in the field.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, six young offenders at the Metro West Detention Centre were out in the exercise yard with an instructor playing with ropes and rock-climbing equipment. I understand they're preparing for a rock-climbing excursion outside the institution as part of a temporary absence program. Perhaps they're going to receive a diploma as certified second-storey men. I'm not sure.
Minister, why are the young offenders being taught rock climbing at taxpayers' expense and why are these young offenders being offered temporary absence for a romp in the countryside?
Hon Frances Lankin (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): I'm sorry that the Minister of Correctional Services and the Solicitor General is not here today. I'm also sorry to say to the member that I don't have any information about the question he asks. I'll have to stand it down and assure him that I will get a response from the minister as soon as is possible.
Mr Runciman: Again, hopefully this will get back to the minister and he will indeed take action. We want these questions on the record in any event.
We want to know why your government would want a young offender, who may well be in Metro West or wherever for house break-ins or robberies, to learn how to scale a wall. Is that not a skill that might come in handy later in life if they want to return to a life of crime? A Metro West officer puts it this way: "If your apartment gets broken into, you'll know they were trained at the West." What's next? Chemistry classes to build small explosives? Lock-picking? How about target practice?
I want to suggest that the member for S-D-G & East Grenville has proposed to the deputy at Correctional Services that they look into teaching young offenders how to operate computers, something that can perhaps encourage them to find meaningful employment in society.
Minister, how can you justify these kinds of activities at young offenders' facilities?
Hon Ms Lankin: I think the member's suggestion of computer courses of course is one that all members would suggest. Learning skills that can be used for a productive and legal career in the future is always a suggestion that would be welcomed and I would assume is being acted on already.
I appreciate the member's interest in this and the seriousness of his question, and will undertake to pass on Hansard from today to the minister and get a response for him.
Mr Runciman: It seems that Metro West is having more than its share of problems with young offenders lately. A week ago last Sunday, the Metro West Detention Centre had a race-based mini-riot involving approximately 20 young offenders, which prompted a code 2 response, which means they called out all available guards. During the month of May, things were so bad at the centre that guards were checking the young offender units every 20 minutes, the rounds usually reserved for suicide watches.
Guards tell me youths have taken to ganging up on other inmates and playing a so-called game called "bubbling," where one race sticks the heads of other inmates of different races down toilet bowls. They're also doing something called "cupping," where they hit other inmates with plastic cups, causing severe injuries. I am told that Metro West was sending an average of one young offender a day to the hospital.
Minister, again, why is your government spending tax dollars teaching young offenders to scale walls when there are such obvious control problems within that institution?
Hon Ms Lankin: I can't at this point in time, as I've indicated, give any reasonable response to the member. I'm not aware of the issues that he raises and I will undertake to get that response for him and ensure that the minister is informed of the serious nature of the question.
Mr Steven Offer (Mississauga North): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. I think, Minister, you will recognize the concerns of many people over the serious problem, especially on days like today, of air pollution in our province.
Last month we learned, through the release of three international studies, that as a result of the level of air pollution in southern Ontario, hospital admissions for people with respiratory problems have increased by as much as 50%. Minister, the reality is that your government does not take this problem seriously and is doing very little to combat it.
On Tuesday you and your government were reprimanded by Pollution Probe and the Lung Association for failing to take the necessary steps to combat the smog problem in this province. They've criticized your voluntary vehicle emissions testing program as being completely unsatisfactory.
As Pollution Probe has said: "It doesn't cut the smog. In truth, it is little more than a one-year pilot project designed to only test testing equipment." Bob Olsen of the Lung Association said, "We can't believe that the Rae government still needs convincing that something must be done about Canada's worst smog problem."
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the member place a question, please.
Mr Offer: My question to the Minister is: Why are you not taking meaningful steps to combat the smog problem in this province?
Hon Bud Wildman (Minister of Environment and Energy): The member knows full well that the government takes very seriously the air quality in the Metropolitan Toronto area and indeed the whole of the southern Ontario corridor. It's for that reason that we have done a number of things. We announced a training and certification regulation for dry cleaners in February. This regulation was promulgated on June 7. On March 9, I released for public consultation a draft regulation for the control of hydrocarbon vapour emissions, that is, gas fumes which result from the handling of fuel in refineries, terminals, bulk plants and gasoline stations.
We have also, as the member indicated, announced that we will be proceeding with a pilot project, which is indeed what it is, a one-year pilot project to determine what are the best ways to ensure that we can have a vehicle emissions test program, in conjunction with the Ministry of Transportation, so that we can evaluate what is needed in order to ensure that we can have the proper technology tested, since we are using technology different from British Columbia and others, and that we will have the technicians trained and the repair facilities available to ensure that we will be able to meet the need if we move then to a mandatory program.
Mr Offer: Let's cut to the quick on all of this. Today Pollution Probe and the Lung Association issued a smog inaction alert to warn all the people of the province that your government is taking no significant action to reduce smog. The only action your government has taken is that today they're warning people to stay indoors.
Minister, the air resources budget of your Ministry of the Environment has been slashed by 23% in the last two years alone. Your voluntary vehicle emissions pilot project will not be implemented, at the very earliest, until next spring. In the meantime, tonnes of emissions spew from the tailpipes of cars, polluting the air we breathe.
It is time to take immediate action to address the smog problem and indeed the health problems it creates for the people in this province. We ask you today, why don't you implement a strong, comprehensive program to clean up our air?
Hon Mr Wildman: Frankly, I welcome the positions taken by Pollution Probe and the Lung Association in alerting the public to the serious problem of smog in the southern Ontario corridor, particularly in Metropolitan Toronto.
The member knows that this is indeed a serious problem, that about 50% of the problem is transborder, that it comes from the United States. We have been pressing the federal Liberal government to persuade their counterparts in the United States to negotiate an 80 parts per billion ozone standard in the United States, similar to the standard in Ontario, instead of the current 120 parts hourly average per billion in the United States.
We obviously must take every action we can in this province to persuade our American neighbours, and that's why we are working with industry on a pollution prevention approach to curb the release of nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds. We have seen a 40% cut by Ontario Hydro, a 33% cut by the chemical producers, and we are moving in every area that we can.
The Speaker: Could the minister conclude his reply, please.
Hon Mr Wildman: I share the member's concern about the seriousness of the problem, and we are moving in a concerted manner to meet it.
The Speaker: New question. The honourable member for Etobicoke West.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): The minister certainly could have added Costa Rica as well with respect to their pollution concerns.
ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): My question is to the member for High Park-Swansea, respecting a citizen who came into my office who is dealing with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. It's almost Ripleyesque in the Believe It Or Not category with respect --
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): The member for Etobicoke West, to which minister does he wish to address his question?
Mr Stockwell: The Minister of Citizenship, High Park-Swansea. I'm sorry. It's almost Ripleyesque in the Believe It Or Not category with respect to the dealings that she had with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
This person went into the office in July 1991. She was completely disenchanted with the response by the ministry and how they handled the situation because, as of now, as of today, they had mishandled the whole situation and kicked it up now to the federal Human Rights Commission and said that they could in fact do nothing about it.
What is very interesting about this is, at the end of the day they provided this citizen of mine with a customer service analysis. The customer service analysis said that your ministry commission did two things right when they were dealing with this citizen: They "serviced her over approximately two years in a very timely manner" -- it seems slightly an oxymoron, "two years...timely manner." The second thing is "by some of its staff treating this citizen with respect and dignity." Some of your staff dealt with her with respect and dignity. I think that's a damning indictment right there. But you did four things wrong as part of this customer service analysis: They "did not accurately establish jurisdiction, the race-based case was not carefully supervised" --
The Speaker: Would the member place a question, please.
Mr Stockwell: -- "the ESI settlement was not framed in the minutes of settlement," and number four, which I find incredible and hard to believe, "the tone, manner and comments of some staff at the Ontario Human Rights Commission resulted" --
The Speaker: Does the member have a question?
Mr Stockwell: -- "in hurt, insult and perceived racism."
The Ontario Human Rights Commission writes a letter to a constituent saying, "Yes, we were hurtful, we insulted" --
The Speaker: Take your seat, please. Members have asked repeatedly that there be ample opportunity for backbenchers to ask questions. That is not possible unless all members, both asking and answering questions, will use as short a period of time as possible. Would the member for Etobicoke West please place a question.
Mr Stockwell: Your Human Rights Commission has sent a letter saying that they treated one of the members of the public with hurt, insult and racism. Can you tell me why no one in the Human Rights Commission was disciplined, suspended, or dealt with in a manner that is acceptable when they're dealing with the public like this?
Hon Elaine Ziemba (Minister of Citizenship and Minister Responsible for Human Rights, Disability Issues, Seniors' Issues and Race Relations): The member opposite raises a very important scenario that has occurred in the past in all respects as to how clients and customers are served at various institutions. We recognized that when we first came into government, and one of the reasons that we instituted a whole analysis of how the Human Rights Commission was dealing with its customers and clients is just that fact.
We brought about some changes. We did a lot of staff training. One of the things that surprised me the most as the minister responsible for the Ontario Human Rights Commission is that in previous governments the staff were not trained. One of the things we brought about was making sure that all staff had ample training and upgrading in how to deal with cases and how to deal with clients who came in to the commission. We also conducted many reviews about how people were treated at the commission, and because of that, we have brought about those changes.
I'm not apprised of the actual facts of the case, whether a staff person was reprimanded or not, nor should we be, because as you know, the Ontario Human Rights Commission is a schedule 1 agency, which is an arm's-length agency. Number two, ministers, as we've stated before in this House, do not have responsibility for the hiring or firing or the promotion of staff, whether it's within the OPS or whether it's within agencies, boards and commissions.
Mr Stockwell: This agency is supposed to be resolving issues of racism, resolving issues of insult and hurtful nature within your government to the citizens in this province. You're supposed to be resolving this issue, not creating it. The Ontario Human Rights Commission is the last resort for a lot of people when it comes to certain racism, perceived racism, in dealing with private sector companies and government companies.
The bottom line here is that when this citizen went to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, she was dealt with, admittedly, by your staff with a tone, manner and comments that resulted in hurt, insult and perceived racism.
This is not like any other ministry. This is supposed to fix these problems. I'll send you the letter over. I know that you can get involved deep enough to ensure that when the Ontario Human Rights Commission treats citizens in my constituency like this, something should be done about it. You're not supposed to be dealing with the problem by creating the problem; you're supposed to be fixing it. This is dangerous stuff.
The Speaker: Could the member place a question.
Mr Stockwell: I'll send it to you and ask you to investigate and ensure that the people who treated this citizen like this are reprimanded or disciplined in some fashion to ensure that the Ontario Human Rights Commission doesn't have racism running rampant in dealing with people.
Hon Ms Ziemba: I do not disagree with the member opposite. Obviously, the Human Rights Commission is there to deal with acts of discrimination against the citizens of this province. And absolutely we agree: We want to end that form of discrimination, whether it's at the Human Rights Commission or whether it's at any agency or board.
That's one of the reasons we spent the dollars we did, where we heard criticism from the members opposite when we instituted a whole new regime of staff training, of investigating complaints, whether they were at the commission itself or how the staff were dealing with their issues. And yes, we did bring about many changes, because we recognized that the staff at the Human Rights Commission had not been given the opportunity for appropriate training and for review looking at how they dealt with their client service. We have instituted many new mechanisms, and we're very pleased that we've been able to start to change that around, to give the staff training, to make sure that we monitor what occurs at the commission, which had not been done before.
But I'm not disagreeing with him. He's shaking his head. I'm not disagreeing. There is no place in Ontario, whether it's an agency, board or commission, whether it's a ministry, whether it's in the private sector, that should discriminate or have any forms of racism or discrimination against any individual --
The Speaker: Could the minister conclude her response, please.
Hon Ms Ziemba: We all have the responsibility to work very hard to end forms of racism, and I'd work with the member opposite to make sure that we end that discrimination. I thank him for bringing this forward to me, and we will continue to make sure we bring those changes. So I thank him very much.
Mr Anthony Perruzza (Downsview): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. Over three years ago Metro council asked this government to approve the construction of four subway lines, including the Spadina extension to York University. Our NDP government said yes. The Liberal- and Conservative-dominated council pursued its own political agenda and rejected two of the lines, killing over 30,000 jobs.
Our Premier has insisted that all four lines must be built, and Metro council was to reconsider its decision by mid-June. It's now mid-June and Metro council at its meeting yesterday did not consider the construction of the Spadina extension to York University.
Minister, can you tell this House what is happening with this issue and when is Metro council going to make a decision with respect to this matter?
Hon Frances Lankin (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): I can tell the member that I had the opportunity, along with the Minister of Transportation, to meet with the Metro chairman, Mr Tonks, and Councillor Cavalier, who heads up the working committee of council that is looking at exploring financing alternatives for Metro's portion of the two additional subways.
We had a very constructive meeting. We were able to present to Mr Tonks and Mr Cavalier the results of the work that had been done at a staff level between Metro staff, ministry staff and TTC staff to take a look at various ways of financing and assisting Metro with the financing of those costs. I call the meeting encouraging because I took very positive signs from Mr Tonks in terms of his commitment to try and find a way for Metro to be able to finance its portion and proceed.
There is more work that they need to do and they haven't completed that work, so I think, to the member, it would be fair to say that it's not likely that it will be dealt with in June by Metro council, but I would hope by August that there would be some resolution to this issue. That of course is up to them at that level to proceed with their meetings.
Mr Perruzza: I know that the minister and the minister's staff and the different ministries involved have been working hard on this issue to try to get it worked out, resolved and get it approved. But council has one meeting left in June, on the 29th, and it's my understanding it's not considering it then. In July, they're off and they're not considering it then. In August, it's my understanding that it's only one meeting and it's a housekeeping meeting where they don't consider many of these hot issues because many of the councillors are away. In September, they're immersed in a municipal election, and a new council doesn't get sworn in until December.
At what point are you going to say to Metro council and Liberal Chairman Tonks: "Enough is enough. Do what you said you were going to do or we will do it for you"?
Hon Ms Lankin: At the meeting on June 27 that the member refers to, I understand that Councillor Cavalier will be taking forward an interim report to Metro council to update council on the progress that committee has made. There is, as I indicated, more work to be done and they're not prepared at this time to make a full report.
The document that we presented to Chairman Tonks and to Councillor Cavalier, which outlines some of the possibilities under exploration for alternative financing that Metro could consider, has been circulated to Metro council. We hope that will help move the issue along.
We continue to be convinced that it is critical for these two lines to proceed and that the jobs that will result from that will be a major boon to the Metro economy. We'll continue to work, as we have been, in a collaborative way, to see that come about.
I took very strong, positive signals from the meeting. I was very encouraged by the meeting and I think that it would be most appropriate at this time to continue in the collaborative manner in which we have established our working relationship with Metro on this issue.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): In the absence of the former Minister of Labour, Mr Mackenzie, and the new Minister of Labour, the Premier, I will direct my question to the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance.
I have here in my hands four invoices that were sent by the Workers' Compensation Board to a small business in Norwood, Ontario. According to these invoices, Hamblin Antenna Service owes the Workers' Compensation Board a whopping five cents.
The postage alone for these invoices totalled $1.84, not to mention the staff costs, the computer costs and the printing costs to print them out and send them. Only the NDP and the Workers' Compensation Board would think it was shrewd to spend $1.84 to try to collect a nickel.
Minister, is this what you call a well-run, efficient bureaucracy at the WCB?
Hon Floyd Laughren (Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance): Only a Liberal would raise this question in question period. I must say that is a strange allocation of time and money to collect five cents, but I don't have the invoices in hand and the member opposite does, so perhaps he could create a more level playing field by sending across the invoices to me.
Mr Mahoney: Is this all right now? I'm having more trouble with my colleagues here.
The other day we learned that the Workers' Compensation Board is paying almost $10,000 a piece to send injured workers to attend a private school when the same course can be taken at a public board of education facility for $50. We all remember the $180-million boondoggle called Simcoe Place approved by the Workers' Compensation Board. This entire situation is nothing short of a fiasco.
Now the WCB is pestering a small business because it owes five cents. The board is trying to suck every last penny from all the employers in this province regardless of the costs attributed to the board. While this government watches its nickels, dollars are being flushed down the toilet.
Minister, on behalf of Hamblin Antenna Service, I would like to send you over this nickel. It's not a plug nickel, it's not a wooden nickel, it's not the Big Nickel from your riding in Sudbury; it's a plain, simple nickel. Minister, can I ask a page to come and send you this nickel, along with this invoice, and ask you to ensure me that you will see that this nickel travels all the way to Bloor Street to the Workers' Compensation Board and tell the WCB to get off the back of this small business?
Hon Mr Laughren: I would have appreciated it more if the member could have taken the nickel directly to the Workers' Compensation Board himself, but I will accept that in the spirit in which it was sent across the floor. I would remind the member opposite that I suspect this is one of those automatic billing examples that from time to time we see in all organizations. I suspect that's the case.
I know the Liberal opposition would not want us to ignore what's owed by employers to the Workers' Compensation Board just because when they were in government they let benefits increase without increasing assessments on employers in the province, which had a major contribution to the unfunded liability problem of the compensation board. I know they don't expect us to do that, because we are a government that for the first time is tackling the serious problems of the compensation board and not sweeping them under the rug the way you did when you were in office.
MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION SPENDING
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Minister, earlier this year your ministry circulated a survey, we're told, to some 12,000 Ontario drivers. The survey is titled A Study of the Amount and Type of Driving Done by Ontario Drivers. It was sent out in an expensive envelope with an 86-cent stamp on the front and a whole bunch of stuff inside, including the survey and an envelope, which I have here, with a stamp on it for 86 cents -- quite a bit of expense. This was sent to quite a few of my constituents, but one in particular caught my eye because he's an 81-year-old resident who hasn't had his licence for three years.
Could I ask the minister why the computers at the Ministry of Transportation are sending out such expensive surveys to non-drivers in the province of Ontario?
Hon Gilles Pouliot (Minister of Transportation): I appreciate the carryover from the nickel to the 86-cent extravagance that the critic opposite so rightly mentions. Let's put it into perspective here and then we'll talk about glitches and then we'll apologize and we will endeavour to make the system better, aiming to make it perfect one day in this world. There are seven million drivers in the province of Ontario. Each and every year we welcome 250,000 -- that's a quarter of a million -- additional to the existing seven million.
We have an objective at Transportation: to make the system the most efficient in North America while making our roads the most efficient and the safest in North America as well. From time to time we consult with the public. They're paying the bill; they have ideas; they're the users, so we conduct surveys and from time to time, given the numbers, there are glitches.
There will be some anomalies, but what's important here is this is positive work. It helps the Ministry of Transportation, the province of Ontario, in improving its system. If someone, by hazard, with the highest of respect, 81 years old, gets an envelope in error, the person will come out of it better informed whether or not he or she has a driver's licence in good standing.
Mr Jackson: Let's keep this in perspective. This was not sent to a person; it was sent to a licence number that came directly from your computer. I have the printout right on the document. You're not even treating these people as human beings, you're treating them as numbers. The flaw here is that your computer is pumping out this material.
My constituent happens to be a senior citizen who is concerned about how it is that your government has this kind of money for wastage when you've made decisions to cut the number of chronic care beds in our region for seniors, when you've made cuts to the drug formulary for seniors, while you've made cuts to oxygen services, cuts to emergency hospitalization for out-of-province travel and cuts, as was referred to by my colleagues in the rural caucus, to rural licensing offices, all of this in the name of efficiencies for government.
Why are you sending out this material when your computers are obviously in error? When are you going to get a handle on your ministry and stop making cuts to seniors when you should be looking for savings within your own ministry?
Hon Mr Pouliot: We feel it's right to consult with people who are footing the bill, who are paying for all this. It is their endeavours, it is their answers indeed.
The remark which I find most inappropriate and unfortunate is that we at Transportation, or we as a government, treat people like numbers. We don't; we treat people like people. But computers attach numbers because it's a computer to run numbers. If you have 500 John Smiths entered into a computer, it makes good common sense that a number be attached to it.
Hon Mr Pouliot: Let me remind you by way of conclusion --
The Speaker: The member for Burlington South, please come to order.
Hon Mr Pouliot: The member obviously doesn't wish to consult with people, but we will keep consulting with people. By way of conclusion, with respect, if I may, if you read the little blue manifesto, the Common Sense Revolution package -- and I have an extract from it here -- it says the following, "The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario would cut taxes by 30%." Imagine how many offices would be closed, how many people would --
The Speaker: Could the minister conclude his remarks, please.
Hon Mr Pouliot: -- and they would cut the Transportation capital budget by $300 million, so you would have no roads leading any place. Shame on the member opposite. We will keep consulting with the population of Ontario. That's our intention.
Mr Kimble Sutherland (Oxford): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade regarding independent telephone companies. In light of the April 26 Supreme Court of Canada decision regarding the regulation of independent telephone companies, can you tell the House what responsibilities the province now has with regard to the 30 independent telephone companies, including North Norwich in my riding of Oxford, what responsibility you have with regard to those companies now?
Hon Frances Lankin (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): I appreciate the question. I know it is of concern to a number of people in the province and members in this Legislature. As the member indicated, there are 30 independent telephone systems in Ontario. I think a lot of people living in Metro Toronto might not realize that. There are subscribers for those services and it affects over 100 communities across the province.
There was a court decision that came down recently with respect to an independent telephone service in Quebec. That court ruling found that in fact the CRTC should be properly the regulators of these telephone services. In other words, the regulation of it would transfer from a provincial jurisdiction to a federal jurisdiction and that's where it properly belonged.
Although that decision dealt specifically with the telephone service in Quebec, it is believed and all legal opinions agree that is applicable to all independent telephone services. We are at this point in time looking at how to facilitate the transition from the provincial regulation to the federal regulation. If there's a supplementary I can indicate how we're doing that.
I just want to assure members in the House we do have an independent telephone service, that in fact I have just, as of yesterday, sent a letter to all of you to indicate the steps we're taking, so I hope that will be informative for you.
Mr Sutherland: As I mentioned, not only do I have North Norwich, the Blanshard telephone system comes into my riding, as well as that of my colleague in Perth, and also touches a bit of Middlesex. I know there are several up in Huron riding as well, and in southern Ontario.
My question to the minister as a supplementary is, what discussions and consultations have you had with the independent telephone companies to get their reaction to the impact of this decision and of the transition from the province possibly to federal jurisdiction?
Hon Ms Lankin: I have met recently with the Ontario telephone association and have been of course in direct contact with the Ontario Telephone Service Commission. I've also written to our federal minister responsible for communications, who has responsibility for the CRTC.
We take the transition period very seriously and we think it needs to be facilitated and there needs to be smooth transition. There needs to be support for these small independents during this period of time.
For example, the CRTC does not have experience with regulating small independent telephone associations, and there are different issues. If they were to face the same regulatory burden as the large telephone companies, it would be very difficult and very difficult for those subscribers.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the minister conclude her response, please.
Hon Ms Lankin: Yes, I will. I just want to say then, in trying to wrap it up quickly, that I am well aware of the concerns of the independents, that we have communicated those concerns and those of our government to the federal minister and that I will continue to advocate on their behalf.
The Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired. The member for Downsview and then the member for Chatham-Kent.
Mr Anthony Perruzza (Downsview): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I'm really looking for direction from you on this. Earlier today the leader of the third party alleged that this government, for the past four years, has allowed children to starve. Those were his exact words.
On a personal level I find that an absurdity. But if I or any other member of this government knowingly let any child starve, we should be incarcerated. I don't think there's any other venue to pursue in that kind of matter, but that's what the leader of the third party alleged.
I want to know from you what recourse I have, as a member of this Legislature, who was pointed at when that accusation was made. What recourse do I have to pursue that and to ensure that that kind of thing is stricken from the record? Otherwise he points to actual examples, because I can't go away, knowing that allegation was made in the way it was made.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): To the honourable member for Downsview, I appreciate the concern that he brings to my attention. The member will know that in a British parliamentary system, freedom of speech is cherished.
Often in Parliament statements are made, some of which appear to other members to be extreme, appear to not be reasonable, but in a parliamentary system we do not restrict freedom of speech, except we ask that parliamentary language always be used.
The member asks about a recourse. In fact, in part he has found a recourse by bringing the very matter of which he speaks to the attention of the House. I don't believe the member would want the Speaker to restrict any member's ability to speak freely in a Parliament, no matter how extreme the statements may appear to any member of the House.
STATUS OF BILL 21
Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I ask for your guidance and direction. I have a letter that's dated June 10, 1994. I know your responsibility is dealing with this Legislature and making sure that legislation, whether passed or defeated, is properly recorded in the Hansards and others.
I have a letter, dated June 10, which is addressed to a person in Strathroy and which is signed by the leader of the third party, Mike Harris. It makes reference to private member's Bill 21, dealing with land-lease legislation. In that letter it says that the legislation was defeated in the Legislature.
I ask for your guidance and direction to notify me, because this legislation is important to me, whether this legislation, Bill 21, standing in the name of Mr Wessenger, has actually been defeated in this Legislature and is not on the order table, or does it currently exist in this Legislature, has not been directly voted on yet, is alive and is still to be debated and voted on?
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): To the member for Chatham-Kent, I cannot help him immediately with respect to the status of Bill 21, but indeed if he would check with the table, I'm sure they will be able to notify him as to the status of that bill.
Hon Evelyn Gigantes (Minister of Housing): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to correct the record. Earlier, in answer to a question from the member for Mississauga South, I had indicated the interest and involvement of I believe the Waterloo Regional Police in the McClure development. That is not accurate information. I had confused that with another development in which the Waterloo Regional Police indeed have been contacted.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): I appreciate the fact that the minister corrected her own record.
Hon Bud Wildman (Minister of Environment and Energy and Minister Responsible for Native Affairs): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: Just in regard to your earlier ruling, I wonder if you could clarify for me rule 23, where it says, "In debate, a member shall be called to order by the Speaker if he...makes allegations against another member," or he imputes motives.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): First of all, I will understand that the member is not challenging the ruling made by the Speaker.
The remarks which were referred to in fact were not directed at any particular individual. No member was named; I listened very closely. The comments may have appeared to some to have been extreme, yet they were not directed at any particular member, nor were any motives impugned of a particular member. Those were very general remarks which were made, as they appeared to me to be.
ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Hon Elaine Ziemba (Minister of Citizenship and Minister Responsible for Human Rights, Disability Issues, Seniors' Issues and Race Relations): Mr Speaker, I have a point of personal privilege. It also arises from a question that was asked of me by the member for Etobicoke West.
The member for Etobicoke West passed over information to me, which I appreciate, and I thank him very much. Unfortunately, in the amount of documentation that was sent to me, there was personal information about a case that was before the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
As a schedule 1, quasi-judicial agency and commission of this government, I am not, as minister responsible, permitted to have personal information, and I feel very bad about this. I would like to give this back to the member opposite. I know he did not intend to impugn the system, but I would like to direct it back to him.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't understand the legalities of the issue. I will certainly accept it back. I did ask the constituent if I could use her name and offer the information. She gave me the okay. I'm not sure if that alleviates any concern, but I give that information to the minister.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): That would seem to be an appropriate response from both sides of the House.
The member for Chatham-Kent, a new point of order.
Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): On the point of privilege I raised earlier, which I believe is very informative for you: I've just checked with the clerk's table, and Bill 21 standing in the name of Mr Wessenger is still on the table and still has not --
The Speaker: I dealt with this matter earlier and advised that the member check with the table, who'd be more than pleased to tell him the status of the bill.
CONSIDERATION OF BILL 160
Hon Fred Wilson (Chief Government Whip): With your indulgence, the House leaders have agreed that Bill 160, An Act to amend certain Acts to provide for certain Measures referred to in the 1993 Budget and for other Measures referred to in the 1994 Budget and to make amendments to the Health Insurance Act respecting the Collection and Disclosure of Personal Information shall be modified by deleting sections 143 to 171, inclusive, in part XVI under the heading Unclaimed Intangible Property Act and Complementary Amendment, and that this modified Bill 160 go forward for consideration of the House, and that the office of the legislative counsel shall be authorized to make such consequential amendments as are necessary to conform to the accepted printing standards of the Legislative Assembly, and that if the modified Bill 160 has no further amendments other than the deletions of sections 143 to 171, inclusive, in part XVI under the heading Unclaimed Intangible Property Act and Complementary Amendment, the bill shall not be reprinted until after the third reading and royal assent.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Does the House give unanimous consent to do what the chief government whip has just read? Agreed.
Hon Fred Wilson (Chief Government Whip): I make a motion that the standing committee on administration of justice be authorized to meet in the afternoon following routine proceedings on Wednesday, June 22, 1994, and the standing committee on finance and economic affairs be authorized to meet in the afternoon following routine proceedings on Tuesday, June 21, 1994, and that the standing committee on regulations and private bills be authorized to meet, if necessary, in the afternoon following routine proceedings on Wednesday, June 22, 1994.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mr D. James Henderson (Etobicoke-Humber): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the Ontario government has announced its intention to reduce emergency coverage for out-of-country health care on June 30, 1994;
"Whereas the citizens of Ontario are entitled to health coverage no matter where they are with payment made on the basis of the amount that would be paid for a similar service in the province;
"Whereas the Canada Health Act entitles all Canadians to health care on an equal basis;
"Whereas this decision by the Minister of Health is in direct contravention of the Canada Health Act;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to ensure the Minister of Health follow the provisions of the Canada Health Act and prevent further erosion of our health care system in Ontario."
That petition is signed by several dozen Ontarians and by me.
MOTORCYCLE AND SNOWMOBILE INSURANCE
Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas we, the undersigned, are of the opinion that private insurance companies are exploiting Ontario motorcyclists and snowmobile operators by charging excessive rates for coverage or by outright refusing to provide coverage;
"Whereas we, the undersigned, understand that those insurance companies that do specialize in motorcycle insurance will only insure riders with four or more years of riding experience and are outright refusing to insure riders who drive certain models of 'supersport' bikes; and
"Whereas we, the undersigned, believe this situation will cost hundreds of jobs at dealerships and in the motorcycle industry and is contrary to the rights of motorcyclists and snowmobile operators;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the government of Ontario should study the feasibility of launching public motorcycle and snowmobile insurance."
Mrs Irene Mathyssen (Middlesex): I have a petition on behalf of my constituents from Twin Elms in Strathroy, who petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas consideration of Bill 21 has been completed by the general government committee; and
"Whereas Bill 21 will provide needed protection to owners of mobile homes and mobile home trailer parks and owners of modular homes in land-leased 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 signed my name to this important petition.
Mr Murray J. Elston (Bruce): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario signed by approximately 100 of my constituents who are concerned about the Solicitor General's decision on the firearms acquisition certificate. I attach my signature to the petition.
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:
"Whereas any person applying for a job should be judged fairly, on the merits of his or her qualifications, abilities and experience; and
"Whereas a person's colour, religion, race, gender, or other such characteristics should not enter into the equation; and
"Whereas Bill 79 establishes a quota system of hiring based on race, colour, gender or other physical characteristics; and
"Whereas employers should be free to hire the most qualified person for a given job;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"We demand that the government rescind Bill 79, the Employment Equity Act."
I have signed this petition as well.
Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): I've got a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas Bill 21 has received second reading in the Ontario Legislative Assembly; and
"Whereas Bill 21 will provide the needed protection for owners of mobile homes in mobile home trailer parks and owners of modular homes in land-leased 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 landlords;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"To proceed as expeditiously as possible with third reading of Bill 21."
That goes contrary to a letter I've received from Michael Harris saying it was defeated. It wasn't defeated.
Mr John Sola (Mississauga East): I have a petition which reads as follows. It's a motion in support of firefighter defibrillation.
"Whereas studies in the province of Ontario have shown the survival rate from pre-hospital cardiac arrest is among the lowest in Canada;
"Whereas rapid defibrillation has been shown to be the most important chain-of-survival intervention necessary to improve that survival rate;
"Whereas the Ministry of Health for the province of Ontario has committed itself to introducing a pilot paramedic project;
"Whereas to quality for this pilot project a community must provide rapid defibrillation to victims of pre-hospital cardiac arrest;
"Whereas firefighter defibrillation has been recognized as the most cost-effective means of providing rapid defibrillation;
"Be it resolved that we" -- and it's signed by the Lung Association of Peel, and another one by the North Cooksville Community Association -- "support the urgent implementation of a firefighter defibrillation program in Mississauga."
I'm signing my name to it.
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I have a petition pertaining to Bill 45, Human Rights Code Amendment Act (Sexual Orientation), 1993, and it reads as follows:
"We, the undersigned, are strongly opposed to Bill 45, which seeks to change the definition of 'marriage.' Only the union between a man and a woman should be recognized as a marriage by Ontario's laws. We think it is morally wrong to attempt to redefine the family in this way. We strongly urge the government to reconsider proceeding with this legislation and do what is truly beneficial for society and the stability of the family."
I support this petition. I've signed it. It's signed by quite a number of my constituents, mainly from West Luther township.
Mr David Winninger (London South): I have a box here full of petitions, hundreds of petitions with thousands of names of people who support licensing of Chinese medicine and acupuncture. The preamble is actually in Chinese, and I'm sure it means "addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario," but following that are the words:
"This is not a perfect medical system for the health care of the general public. Chinese medicine and acupuncture are a safe and effective treatment of many diseases and should be a welcomed alternative. Chinese medicine and acupuncture have great promise for our modern medical world. Thousands of years have established it as a traditional healing art in the Orient.
"Therefore we, the undersigned, do hereby petition the Minister of Health for the province of Ontario to consider the practice of Chinese medicine and acupuncture to be fully regulated against incompetence, fully recognized as a Chinese medical procedure when performed by a qualified Chinese medicine doctor and acupuncture doctor, covered by OHIP when performed by a qualified Chinese medicine doctor and acupuncture doctor."
I support this petition and I've affixed my name to the first of the many petitions.
Mr Murray J. Elston (Bruce): There is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario signed by probably over 100 people from the Niagara Falls area who are asking the Legislative Assembly to do the following:
"We, the undersigned, who are opposed to casino gambling, request that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario not allow the city of Niagara Falls to become a candidate for a gambling casino unless there is broad-based public support for such a facility, which we are requesting to be determined through a referendum vote by the citizens of Niagara Falls."
I have attached my signature to the petition.
Mr Kimble Sutherland (Oxford): On Thursday, March 17, 1994, I was asked to attend a meeting regarding a proposal from the Thames Valley District Health Council regarding a women's health clinic. It turned out that many members who attended had concerns against the extension of abortion services. They have sent me a petition that many signed at that meeting, expressing their opposition to the extension of abortion services through what they quote "women's health clinics."
Mr Murray J. Elston (Bruce): It's an easier day to put petitions on the record, Mr Speaker, and I thank you for recognizing me again.
I have a petition signed by about 50 to 75 of my constituents who are opposed to Bill 45. I have attached my signature to the top of that petition.
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I have another petition on junior kindergarten, and it reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the previous provincial Liberal government of David Peterson announced its intention in its budget of 1989 of requiring all school boards to provide junior kindergarten; and
"Whereas the provincial NDP government is continuing the Liberal policy of requiring school boards in Ontario to phase in junior kindergarten; and
"Whereas the government is downloading expensive programs like junior kindergarten on to local boards, while not providing boards with the funding required to undertake these programs; and
"Whereas the Wellington County Board of Education estimates that the operating cost of junior kindergarten will be at least $4.5 million per year; and
"Whereas mandatory junior kindergarten programs will force boards to cut other important programs or raise taxes; and
"Whereas taxes in Ontario are already far too high;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"We demand that the government of Ontario cancel its policy of forcing junior kindergarten on to local school boards."
I have affixed my signature to this petition.
Mr Ron Hansen (Lincoln): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas the majority of Ontarians believe that the privileges which society accords to heterosexual couples should not be extended to same-sex relationships; and
"Whereas societal approval, including the extension of societal privileges, would be given to same-sex relationships if any amendments to the Ontario human rights act were to include the undefined phrase 'sexual orientation' as a ground of discrimination;
"Therefore, your petitioners pray and request the Ontario Legislative Assembly not to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same-sex relationships or of homosexuality, including amending the Ontario Human Rights Code to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase 'sexual orientation.'"
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
FIRE DEPARTMENTS AMENDMENT ACT, 1994 / LOI DE 1994 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES SERVICES DES POMPIERS
On motion by Mr Morrow, the following bill was given first reading:
Bill 177, An Act to amend the Fire Departments Act / Projet de loi 177, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les services des pompiers.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): Does the honourable member have some explanatory remarks?
Mr Mark Morrow (Wentworth East): The bill extends certain benefits respecting discharge, remuneration and working conditions that are now supplied to full-time firefighters to part-time firefighters.
REVENUE AND LIQUOR LICENCE STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1994 / LOI DE 1994 MODIFIANT DIVERSES LOIS FISCALES ET LA LOI SUR LES PERMIS D'ALCOOL
Deferred vote on the motion for second reading of Bill 161, An Act to amend various Taxation Statutes administered by the Minister of Finance and to amend the Liquor Licence Act / Projet de loi 161, Loi modifiant diverses lois fiscales appliquées par le ministre des Finances et modifiant la Loi sur les permis d'alcool.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): We have a deferred vote which we will now proceed with. A five-minute bell to call in the members.
The divisions bells rang from 1527 to 1532.
The Acting Speaker: We are now dealing with the deferred vote on second reading of Bill 161, An Act to amend various Taxation Statutes administered by the Minister of Finance and to amend the Liquor Licence Act.
All those in favour of Mr Laughren's motion will rise one at a time and be recognized by the clerk.
Abel, Bisson, Boyd, Buchanan, Carter, Churley, Cooke, Cooper, Dadamo, Duignan, Farnan, Fletcher, Frankford, Gigantes, Haeck, Hampton, Hansen, Harrington, Haslam, Hope, Huget, Jamison, Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings), Klopp, Kormos, Lankin, Laughren, Lessard, MacKinnon, Malkowski, Mammoliti;
Marchese, Martel, Martin, Mathyssen, Mills, Morrow, O'Connor, Owens, Perruzza, Philip (Etobicoke-Rexdale), Pilkey, Pouliot, Rizzo, Silipo, Sutherland, Waters, Wessenger, White, Wildman, Wilson (Frontenac-Addington), Wilson (Kingston and The Islands), Winninger, Wood, Ziemba.
The Acting Speaker: All those opposed to Mr Laughren's motion will rise one a time and be identified by the clerk.
Arnott, Beer, Bradley, Callahan, Caplan, Carr, Curling, Eddy, Elston, Eves, Henderson, Jackson, Johnson (Don Mills), Jordan, Kwinter, Mahoney, Marland, McLean, Offer, Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt), Poirier, Ramsay, Runciman, Sola, Stockwell, Turnbull.
The Acting Speaker: The ayes are 55; the nays are 26. I declare the motion carried.
Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? Agreed.
Report continues in volume B.