MUNICIPAL AND LIQUOR LICENSING STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1994 / LOI DE 1994 MODIFIANT DES LOIS EN CE QUI A TRAIT À LA DÉLIVRANCE DE PERMIS D'ALCOOL ET À LA DÉLIVRANCE D'AUTRES PERMIS PAR LES MUNICIPALITÉS
The House met at 1001.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The honourable member for Oriole.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): The issue that I bring before the House today --
The Deputy Speaker: Just present the reading first, please.
MUNICIPALITY OF METROPOLITAN TORONTO AMENDMENT ACT (STREET VENDING), 1994 / LOI DE 1994 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LA MUNICIPALITÉ DE LA COMMUNAUTÉ URBAINE DE TORONTO (VENTE DANS LA RUE)
Mrs Caplan moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 183, An Act to amend the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act / Projet de loi 183, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la municipalité de la communauté urbaine de Toronto.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the honourable member has 10 minutes for her presentation.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Having been in the House since 1985, we have to be reminded of the procedures of private members' hour from time to time, so thank you for your patience.
Bill 183, which is An Act to amend the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act, is really an act or a proposal that was brought to me from a representative of Metropolitan Toronto council, Councillor Howard Moscoe, and I have also met with Douglas Floyd, the commissioner of transportation, to discuss this issue.
I thought I'd take just a couple of minutes of my time to explain to the members of this House and anyone who is watching the debate what the issue is. I've sent to all members a packet of information, but I think it's important that we be really clear and on the record what the problem is and what this legislation is designed to do.
Some time ago, the city of Toronto, via a private member's bill in this House, was given the power to regulate, through the ability to establish a permit system, vendors who set up to sell their wares on city streets and road allowances. The reason they made that request many years ago was obvious. They had people who were putting out their tables and selling their wares and there was frequently disruption as to who was in which location and who could be where and who had the right to be on those city road allowances.
This Legislature gave the city of Toronto the ability to set up a system. They chose a lottery system. They decided how many vendors they thought were appropriate for their streets. Over the years they've watched how that system has worked, and the information I have is that it works quite well.
So why is Metropolitan Toronto interested in this? As you know, there is the Metropolitan Toronto Licensing Commission, which actually gives out licences. What they have found is that all of the other municipalities within the Metro partnership, within the Metro federation -- and those other members are the city of North York, the city of Scarborough, the city of Etobicoke, the borough of York and the city of East York -- do not have the same powers as the city of Toronto. As vendors have had success in the city of Toronto, they have been moving into the other municipalities within Metropolitan Toronto, and there is no ability for the local councils to deal with those very same issues that the city of Toronto dealt with over the past few years.
The request has come that we amend the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act to give to the other municipalities within Metropolitan Toronto the same ability to design a system as they see fit. This act does not impose upon the rest of the municipalities in Metropolitan Toronto the city of Toronto solution. It enables them to develop their own solution to solve the problem of the proliferation of vendors in areas where the community may not be happy with them, where there may be seen to be too many, where they may be causing traffic problems, or where it could simply be a dispute over who has the right to that location among the vendors themselves. That's what this legislation does. It enables the other municipalities in Metropolitan Toronto to have the same rights and powers as the city of Toronto has.
This is not a province-wide bill. There are other municipalities, such as the city of Ottawa, which already have those authorities, and in fact this Legislature has granted the ability to solve local problems from time to time, so I think it's appropriate for us to respond.
Why is this coming forward as a private member's bill? Frankly, I asked that question of Metropolitan Toronto, and what they were told by the Minister of Municipal Affairs was that this was an appropriate matter for a private member's bill, that the city of Toronto had originally sought the powers through a private member's bill, that the government didn't have time on its agenda to bring it forward as a piece of government legislation, but that if there was agreement in this House, the government gave the commitment, the Minister of Municipal Affairs has given the commitment, that this would be accepted by the government and they would call this bill and it would be dealt with expeditiously.
I have brought this legislation forward at the request of Councillor Howard Moscoe and with the advice of Doug Floyd, the commissioner of transportation, and I believe that it fits the criterion of allowing a permitting system.
For those who are interested in how it would work, the analogy I would use is that the province of Ontario gives you a licence to drive your car. However, the city of Toronto has the authority to give you a permit for overnight parking. They have a parking permit system that not other and all municipalities have. The city of North York, for example, does not permit parking on their streets overnight. So notwithstanding the fact that vendors have to get a licence, and they will still have to get a licence, this will require vendors to get a permit from the city, all of the cities and the borough of York, in order to establish themselves on a city road allowance, on a city right of way, on city property.
I think it's a reasonable request. I want to point out to the members of this House that the system that the city of Toronto has set up is working well. I think the other municipalities which are supporting this bill and wish to have the ability to establish their own system will look at the city of Toronto and say, "Will that work for us?" and if it doesn't, it allows them to design their own local response, their own local solution.
So I would point out that this is enabling legislation. It gives to the other municipalities within Metropolitan Toronto the same rights that the city of Toronto already has. I don't see it as a partisan issue or a partisan debate in any way. I understand how busy the government's agenda is and that it is frequently, on this kind of an issue, easier for them to respond to private members and a resolution from this House. I ask the legislators here today to support this legislation in the spirit in which it is presented, which is one that says a municipality, one that we are actually a part of -- this building is actually in Metropolitan Toronto, as we know -- has made a request that we can respond to, and that we can respond to in a non-partisan and expeditious way.
Having put that argument forward, I'd like to say that I am from the city of North York and I represent the constituents in the riding of Oriole. This is at this point in time not a big problem in Oriole, but I can foresee that it could be an issue in Oriole, on our streets.
I know that it is an issue on Yonge Street, which is not very far from Oriole riding. The boundaries of Oriole are Leslie Street on the west, Victoria Park on the east, the 401 on the south and Steeles Avenue on the north. But Yonge Street is really just a couple of miles away and I know that in the western part of North York and in other parts of North York -- I think you'll be hearing from other members in Metropolitan Toronto whose municipalities are starting to experience some difficulty as vendors try to establish themselves in a location and there are frequently tensions both with the local community and with other vendors if you don't have in place a logical and sensible way of designating who can set themselves up and where.
I'd like to point out and just put on the record that this doesn't cost the taxpayers anything. There's no cost involved in the establishment of this permit system, or there should be no cost. Whenever the city of Toronto and Metropolitan Toronto have done a licensing system or a vendor permit system, the costs of the permits are paid for, any administrative costs. So it is a reasonable request. It has no cost to the provincial government. It can be set up in such a way that there is no cost to local property taxpayers, as the vendors who will benefit from being able to sell their wares on city road allowances will pay for the privilege of doing that.
The legislation that I've put forward is in that spirit and I'd ask for support of all members of the House.
Mr David Johnson (Don Mills): If I could just correct the member for Oriole at the outset, it is the borough of East York and the city of York. East York is the only borough in Canada, and very proud of it too.
Mrs Caplan: I stand corrected.
Mr David Johnson: But I might say that, yes, this is an issue in Metropolitan Toronto, the licensing of vendors. It doesn't rate up there, I don't expect, with the issue of taxation, for example, that the Metropolitan Toronto Board of Trade has brought forward with the publication Killing the Golden Goose, which outlines the high level of property taxes in Metropolitan Toronto. It has been pointed out, for example, that a hotel in Etobicoke pays about twice the taxes as a hotel across the border in Mississauga. It doesn't quite rate up there with that issue.
That issue, I might say, is one where the Metropolitan Toronto Board of Trade says there are basically three problems with regard to the level of taxes in Metropolitan Toronto. If you were to ask the Metropolitan Toronto council, my guess is that they would say that taxes would be the number one issue that we should be dealing with in this Legislature.
The board of trade has mentioned three problems. One is an antiquated assessment system that unfairly deals with many businesses, such as hotels, but many other businesses in Metropolitan Toronto. There's a problem that the school taxes are on the property taxes, and the school taxes are very onerous across the province of Ontario, but particularly in Metropolitan Toronto and the city of Ottawa, where the province contributes nothing towards education. The total burden of the school tax falls on the backs of the residential property taxpayers and the business taxpayers. Thirdly, the cost of welfare which has grown enormously over the last six or seven years: I think the cost of welfare during the term of the Liberal government in the 1980s tripled and it's doubled again during the term of the NDP government. Those are the kind of problems the Metropolitan Toronto Board of Trade sees.
But still, there is an issue with regard to the vendors. I served on the Metropolitan Toronto council and I've seen that particular issue come before us and it certainly provokes a great deal of heat. It perhaps doesn't rate up there, again, with the issue that was dealt with by the taxpayers in the city of Toronto; that issue on the ballot was, should the Metropolitan Toronto level of government be eliminated? Sixty per cent of the people of the city of Toronto said the metropolitan level of government should be eliminated.
My guess is that if that same question was asked across Metropolitan Toronto in the other five municipalities there would probably be a similar vote. The vote is registering a concern with regard to the overlapping, the duplication, the layers of government that we have, not only in Metropolitan Toronto but in Ontario, certainly here in Metropolitan Toronto.
That is another major concern that I would suggest most in government, perhaps all in government, would say if we need to get on with something. If we need to spend time in this House, it would be on that issue rather than on street vending. Still, it is a concern.
Other concerns would rate higher in the estimation of the people of Metropolitan Toronto: job creation, unemployment. There are 200,000 fewer people employed within Metropolitan Toronto today than five years ago, 200,000 jobs lost; vacant office space; vacant industrial space; businesses that were gainfully employed years ago that are out of existence, that have gone bankrupt; people thrown into unemployment; people thrown on to the welfare rolls.
These are the kinds of issues, I would suspect, about which the governments within Metropolitan Toronto and the people of Metropolitan Toronto would say: "Tackle those issues, address those issues. Let's do something to get job creation moving in Metropolitan Toronto." That again comes back to the document put out by the Metropolitan Toronto Board of Trade just last month. They point out that it's taxation, it's the assessment base that is out of date to address those problems. Those are the issues you need to deal with.
We could talk about transportation in Metropolitan Toronto, a major issue, an issue that would be on the tongues of the Metro councillors, on the tongues of the local councillors, I would have to say, much more so than street vending. Street vending is important in its own right, but it would hardly compare with establishing an affordable and an effective transportation system in Metropolitan Toronto, and one that is going through and has gone through considerable crises in the last few years. Doug Floyd has been mentioned, the commissioner of transportation for Metropolitan Toronto. I've known Mr Floyd for many years, a former resident of the borough of East York, I might add.
Mr Floyd, being in charge of the transportation department in Metropolitan Toronto, is most concerned about street vending, no question. But if you were to ask Mr Floyd, "Make a list of the major concerns you would have within your department," I would suggest that at the top of the list would be his concern for the lack of progress in maintaining a good arterial network of roads in Metropolitan Toronto. There has been virtually no major construction of any improvement, any addition to the arterial network of Metropolitan Toronto for two decades.
Think back. When was the last time there was a major addition to an arterial road, an extension or a new arterial road, in Metropolitan Toronto? Think of the traffic two decades ago with regard to the traffic today in Metropolitan Toronto. Think of the Don Valley Parkway in the morning and the crush of traffic --
Mr Jim Wiseman (Durham West): I just got off.
Mr David Johnson: -- and the people who come in from Durham West, as the member across the way says, using the Don Valley Parkway. That's what Doug Floyd, I'm sure, would put towards the top of his list as a problem.
He would also put on the top of the list the maintenance of the existing network of roads and bridges, and bridges are right at the top of that list. Believe it or not, the Don Valley Parkway is a big bridge. That's what it is, and the Don Valley Parkway is going through considerable maintenance each and every year. Ask the motorists --
Mr George Mammoliti (Yorkview): How about this morning?
Mr David Johnson: The member for Yorkview says, "How about this morning?"
Mr David Johnson: Well, the vendors have to come to work somehow and all the people who come to work in Metropolitan Toronto --
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Those vendors would have a field day.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, order. The member for Durham West, the member for Fort York.
Mr David Johnson: These are some of the major problems that we should be dealing with because Mr Floyd, as the commissioner of transportation, has inadequate resources to deal with the maintenance of the bridges, the maintenance of the Don Valley Parkway, the maintenance of the major roads, the transportation network in Metropolitan Toronto.
Mr David Johnson: Yes, the bill. This bill is important. Street vending, I know from --
The Deputy Speaker: If you would address your remarks to the Chair, you won't attract the debate with the other members, please.
Mr David Johnson: Mr Speaker, I apologize. They are somewhat disruptive but we do have to put up with them.
This bill, I know from personal experience, is a hard one to deal with because there are more street vendors in Metropolitan Toronto than the Metro government deems there are positions. If you go back a number of years ago, they were uncontrolled. The street vendors were permitted to set up shop anywhere. That's the free enterprise spirit and indeed they did.
Some people considered this a bother because they would set up side by side and there would be competition and perhaps in some cases they'd block sidewalks and perhaps in some cases they would set up near a store that sold essentially the same sort of products that they did. Yes, in some cases, there were harsh words between the vendors, there were harsh words between the general public and the vendors, perhaps the odd fight; I don't know.
It was deemed that this system of street vending, the carts selling popcorn or selling hot dogs or whatever they were selling, had to be controlled somehow and regulated, so a system was brought in. Since Metropolitan Toronto does not have the authority, it was brought in through the city of Toronto, that does have the authority and there was a working together and that relationship still works today in the city of Toronto.
I must say, the city of North York has a few occasions to use such a system as well. But most of the municipalities would not come under scrutiny by the vendors because the vendors go to where the people are and the people are primarily downtown here in the city of Toronto; perhaps at Sheppard and Yonge Street, around the North York centre. But in East York, for example, the municipality of which I was mayor for a number of years, there aren't too many street vendors.
Mr Mammoliti: You did a good job.
Mr David Johnson: And I did a good job. Thank you to the member for Yorkview.
Because there aren't that many people, the street vendors aren't attracted there, so it's no big problem. I can tell you that on occasion flower vendors have set up on O'Connor Drive, for example. You come around the corner on O'Connor Drive and there they are, or there one individual would be, and traffic would be stopped and perhaps a little bit of a danger. But by and large, there's no particular problem in East York with regard to the vendors, so this is primarily a problem in the city of Toronto and, to a smaller degree, in the city of North York.
The system that's in place is not without it's faults. There are more vendors than Metropolitan Toronto has established locations for the vendors. Consequently there's a lottery and if you win the lottery you're in business; if you lose the lottery, tough luck, you don't get a spot. People who have had a spot for a couple of years, and I believe the lottery comes up every two years, may find themselves out in the cold. There are certainly complaints about the kind of lottery system that is in place, but the Metropolitan Toronto council, I guess, believes it's the best that can be done.
It is an issue that needs to be dealt with. It doesn't rate with regard to policing, for example, in Metropolitan Toronto; the issue of policing, the issue of the illegal booze cans where people are getting shot. It doesn't compare with the problem of safety in our communities, with the problem of drug use and policing for drugs, catching those who are selling drugs and the horrible impact the drug trade is having on many communities in Metropolitan Toronto. I know in my own community of Don Mills there was an operation just this past September, it came to a culmination in September. Thirty people were arrested: 16 of them were pushers, 14 of them were buyers. That had a most tragic impact on the community where the illegal trade was taking place. If you ask the people of my community, that would be of much greater importance, as would other issues such as the ambulance service.
There were reports in the press recently that there are problems in the ambulance service. There's a lack of morale, the response time is a bit too long. I know these issues need to be dealt with, but there's a different funding formula here in Metropolitan Toronto and I wonder how many people know that in this Legislature. Ambulance services generally across the province receive 100% of their funding from the province of Ontario, but do you know that in Metropolitan Toronto -- and we're talking about Metropolitan Toronto here today -- only 50% of the funding for the ambulance service comes from the province of Ontario and the other 50% comes from the property base in Metropolitan Toronto? There's another issue we could be talking about, to improve the level of service of the ambulance department.
Water treatment is an issue that is of most concern. The Provincial Auditor has pointed out that some million people have been in jeopardy across the province of Ontario, none of them I believe in Metropolitan Toronto. I believe the water system we have in Metropolitan Toronto is a safe system, but nevertheless of critical importance. There's an issue we could be talking about.
Economic development is another issue. All the mayors are getting together in Metropolitan Toronto to promote economic development, to promote jobs and growth. That's another issue we should be talking about to assist Metropolitan Toronto.
But in all that mix, somewhere down the list -- and I'd have to suggest considerably down the list -- does come the issue of street vending, so I'm glad I've had an opportunity to speak to it for 15 minutes today.
Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I'm pleased to support my colleague from Oriole to bring Bill 183 to our attention. I would have preferred the government to do it, but the initiative this morning comes from the opposition. This is a needed piece of legislation for the simple reason that, as pointed out by the member for Don Mills, there is a problem in Metro and I think this bill will provide us with a solution.
As you know, street vendors are becoming a big business, not only in Metro but in Ottawa-Carleton. I can recall two or three years ago the city of Ottawa instituted a bylaw which now permits vendors to locate in certain areas. This has improved the walking distance from business to business and also it improved the parking system around the market area. This piece of legislation has resolved 90% of our problems in Ottawa-Carleton, and I don't see why members of this House would oppose such a bylaw.
As pointed out by the member for Oriole, it's enabling legislation and it's up to individual municipalities in Metropolitan Toronto to choose the model or the system. It could be a lottery system or it could be something else. I think it's only right that this enabling legislation will give municipalities the power, the responsibility, to pinpoint or to locate these locations and allocate them as they may choose.
I think this kind of legislation cannot be opposed by any member of this Legislature for the simple reason that it gives the municipality that power to regulate their problems. They know better because they live it every day, and I think municipalities will simply enjoy that privilege or that power. I hope that every member in this House will support the member from Oriole.
Mr Marchese: I want to take my five minutes to speak to Bill 183 and to say that I support fully the bill that the member from Oriole has presented. Bill 183 will give authority to set up different types of zones, no-vending zones, issue permits and would also give the power of seizure. All of those things in my view are things the Toronto council has had since 1990, and they are things that every other municipality within Metro should be able to have.
Because it's been very successful in Toronto there has been pressure to allow vending outside of Toronto, obviously, because the number of vending licences issued by the Metro licensing commission exceeds the number of legal vending sites in Toronto. That clearly shows us that it's been working in Toronto and that there are many more who would love to be able to vend outside of the city of Toronto.
The lack of authority to this point has meant that some Metro area municipalities have prohibited vendors entirely, as a means of control. We argue that prohibiting vendors entirely isn't the fair way to control vending at all. In fact, it's an unfair way to do it. We want to make the argument, or at least I want to make the argument in supporting Bill 183, to say that street vending is important, it's part of what makes up the fabric of many of our communities. Vendors bring excitement, character and life to our communities. In fact, the Eaton Centre vice-president, Dennis Harrs, said that vendors add flavour to downtown as long as they are regulated. What we're asking through this bill is to allow Metro to be able to regulate, not just in Toronto but in all municipalities.
We say that vendors increase the number of street pedestrians, benefiting small and large businesses. Some business people believe that vendors' presence is positive because in fact they attract people, not send people away. Vending is popular, something that we should be able to facilitate, and Bill 183 gives Metro the tools to facilitate the activity in a regulated way instead of having to prohibit the practice entirely.
Bill 183 would in my view foster, not stifle, the entrepreneurial spirit that is within individuals to make a living, and if some members of this House present this as a problem, we say it is good for business, it's good for individuals because they create small businesses, as opposed to presenting arguments, as Mr Johnson has, that it's somehow a problem. "It's okay for Toronto, but nobody else really wants it." That's not true. This is good for business and it's good for small business.
I want to make another point: Vending has been used as a stepping stone to establish new businesses for those who have already established themselves as vendors on some of those city and Metro streets. Regulation therefore is key to a number of things: Sweep illegals off the streets, establish an ordered framework for vending, protect the legitimate vendors, open up more areas to legal vending in certain areas where they choose. It would foster entrepreneurial spirit, something I would think the Tories in the end would support, in spite of the things Mr Johnson has stated.
So I would hope that rather than talking about everything else under the sun, as Mr Johnson has done, we will focus on this particular bill, which I think is good, not just for Toronto but for Metro. I support the member for Oriole. I think it's a good bill and I think this government should facilitate the passing of that bill.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I too would like to add my support to private member's Bill 183, presented by my colleague from Oriole. It is always a pleasure actually, an unusual pleasure, to speak on a bill that all members of the Legislature support. It's also interesting to hear their perspective, just as Mr Johnson put his perspective to it. I commend him for his perspective because it adds to the kind of character of legislation and the character of the House itself, and the member for Fort York so eloquently supports that kind of initiative.
As you know, in the last couple of years, maybe the last five years, we've seen such a recession in this province. We see an increase of unemployment, so therefore what we have here is the creativity of creative entrepreneurs who may decide not to seek employment in the regular pattern but to get out and do some sort of vending. As a matter of fact, it adds a lot of great character to the city. You go down and somehow you can walk around and purchase things, which normally you have to go inside to do. But again, of course, we have to have some sort of regulation.
It's quite timely too, I find, that this legislation has come forward, because at times it was maybe unnecessary in certain cities or in a certain borough to do so. In Toronto, which is more or less the hub of where many of the activities are, they have seen a lot of vending and maybe we can, as a model, look at Toronto and find out how it enforces its legislation.
Of course, we have a couple of concerns here. While I support them very strongly, I find that in the enforcement aspect of it we must make sure that those who are enforcing it will be rather sensitive to the entrepreneurs, the vendors, that people understand the laws and realize that laws are put in place so we have proper regulation. The people who are being harmed by the way they are not regulated, the pedestrians, the parking aspect of it, motorists passing by -- that would cause quite a lot of problems while we randomly have these vendors around. Therefore, having laws and regulation and a process in which to do it is extremely important from that point of view.
Also, I hope we don't have the sort of red tape that finds these vendors lining up for a long time to get their vendor's permit and frustrating them in that aspect of it so that people become rather creative in ways of not getting a licence. We hope the red tape aspect of it will be eliminated and people are able to get their permits to exercise this kind of creative ability.
In Scarborough, for instance, one of the fastest-growing cities, with half a million people there, and of course the city hub is of different areas, we see a lot of vending happening, vendors emerging. Of course, they welcome that and give their support to this legislation. As a matter of fact, all the cities and the borough, as my colleague from Oriole expressed, have shown a keen interest in it and want us to move ahead.
We know of course private members' bills sometimes get clogged up in the process of having first and second reading and are not passed through legislation. I would encourage colleagues here to make sure this goes through the House before we have this adjournment, recess or whatever by December 8. It's such an appropriate time because of the fact that it's Christmastime too, so those would be in place. We know that if we should lose this legislation now, we'd have to start all over again and maybe have more problems in that regard of having it properly regulated.
So in regard to this effort and this legislation, I strongly support this. I'd urge all members to encourage their municipalities in any creative manner to administer that. I commend my colleague here and I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this legislation.
Mr Mammoliti: I want you to put yourself in the position of an individual who has saved $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 and who decides to buy a particular unit in a particular municipality, whether it's a condominium -- or decides to rent a particular unit -- and takes his or her money and decides to open up a pillow manufacturing business or a comforter business, as somebody in my riding has done and has been established, quite frankly, for the past 10 to 15 years.
I want you to put yourself in that person's position when he drives to work every morning and sees a number of different trucks parked on the side of the street, selling pillows and selling comforters. This individual, who has spent $30,000 or $40,000, as I said earlier, and who now has an established business, has overhead and has a number of bills to pay at the end of the month. When you see an individual parked on the side of the street selling the same product, most likely at a cheaper rate, it becomes very frustrating for you.
One of the reasons I agree with the bill is because it regulates. If you regulate and if you give the municipalities the right to regulate, you'll be able as a municipality to govern where these individuals are parked. This particular person, as I said, has invested all his money and his family's money in his business. I think if the bill is passed it will ultimately give, in my particular case, North York the right to regulate, to give out the vendor permits and to establish where that person's going to be parked.
I tell you, this has been a big problem up in my neck of the woods. For this reason, I'm going to support the bill. I think that, as it's a problem in Yorkview, it's a problem in every municipality, big or small. Mr Johnson earlier had talked a little bit about population and how that affects the problem. I could tell you very clearly that while, yes, population does attract vending, I think it's a problem even on some of the streets up north. I think that if we could extend and amend this bill to include all municipalities, that would be great.
While I have spoken briefly about the good point that this brings out and how Yorkview will benefit from it, I must tell you that I'm not sure what this will do about somebody who decides to illegally sell on private property. I'm hoping that when the author of the bill, the member for Oriole, stands up, she will talk briefly about what we can do or what could possibly be done to incorporate some language in the bill that would give municipalities the right to perhaps regulate on private properties. In my riding there is that problem and I think this won't help that particular end of the problem. So I'd like to talk a little bit about how to solve that end of it.
The other area, very quickly, is lotteries. I know that municipalities choose to do their own way of giving out vending permits. I want to put on record that I'm not an advocate of lotteries. I know it's difficult to find a way, a mechanism of giving out the permits, but I'm not sure that putting names in a hat is the best way of dealing with it. I know it's really not something you can deal with through the bill, it's the municipality that deals with it, but I wanted to put that on record for the member.
I don't have much time, Mr Speaker. I think I've pretty much said everything I wanted to.
Mr Gary Malkowski (York East): I am very pleased to be able to participate in the debate in full support of Bill 183. I would like to share a little bit of what I have seen that's happening in terms of vending in the borough of East York: on Bayview in the Leaside area; on Pape Street there's some vending; on Donlands and the small businesses in that area. Also, on O'Connor Drive I have seen some vending happening. I think that is beneficial for economic development, and I very strongly feel the borough of East York should become more accountable in terms of supervising and watching and promoting the economic development, but also looking at watching this grow and also reducing the red tape so that everyone is accountable.
There was a report on the borough of East York, and the report was from the commissioner of works in the environment. It was April 28, 1993. The report strongly recommended the borough of East York's support for the city of Toronto's application for the special legislation to be enacted on street vending. So obviously, I think, the borough is in strong support.
A lot of constituents of mine are people who are vendors, and the feedback that I've received from the constituency is that it would be beneficial to have this kind of legislation. So therefore I think this is an appropriate place where members can collect and talk about the legislation. It's, I think, very simple. It's not going to cost a lot and yet it still promotes and encourages small business, and it attracts people into the area from big and small businesses. I think the borough of East York talks about the concern of transportation and the concern of health and safety, but many constituents really enjoy that option of going to vendors within the borough.
Therefore I would like to give my full support to Bill 183 for the reasons that I've just talked about and the feedback that I have gleaned from my constituents in the riding. I would just say congratulations to the member for Oriole for raising this issue in the House.
Mr Drummond White (Durham Centre): I'd like to congratulate the member for Oriole on taking the initiative in bringing forth this bill. Certainly, on behalf of the government and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, I know that we have no objections to the bill. I think it makes some deal of sense. We have a jurisdictional issue with Toronto and Metro, but overall I think what should be brought forth is the issue that while we're talking about regulation of street vendors, we're not talking about prohibition of street vendors, which is what is occurring right now.
Without those powers to regulate, the municipalities are forced to prohibit, to stop people from vending on the streets, and of course that regulation is important because those vendors can often interfere with the businesses, with thoroughfares etc. Doing it by regulation, by establishing zones for street vendors, it enables them to have access to the market.
I also would like to comment briefly about the very simple fact that, as my colleague was saying, it's not usual to pass legislation through private members' hour. It certainly has not been the case in the past. However, in this Parliament there has been a virtual flood of legislation. Her friend Mrs Fawcett, the member for Northumberland, and her friend Mr Mahoney, the member for Mississauga West, have passed private members' bills; Mr Turnbull, the member for York Mills, and the member for London North have as well. I believe the member for London North's was the bicycle helmet legislation.
Mr Duignan, the member for Halton North, with preservation of the Niagara Escarpment; Mr Wessenger, the member for Simcoe Centre, with the residential tenants, the trailer park legislation; the member for Durham West with endangered species; Mr Martin, the member for Sault Ste Marie, with the adoption bill; and I believe my friend Mr Rizzo, the member for Oakwood, will be presenting a piece of legislation later this morning as well, again on family law reform. These pieces of legislation are taken very seriously by our Parliament and by our government.
I think it's very commendable that my colleague is speaking about an issue that doesn't even affect her direct riding. Although it has been brought forth by a Metro councillor from her city, it's not something which directly affects her. I think this speaks to how this body, this Parliament, can be used in a non-partisan way and how a ministry, such as the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, can process issues that have no direct political or partisan benefit but rather speak to the benefit of all of our community.
Again I'd like to thank my colleague for her excellent bill and for a good presentation thereof.
Mrs Caplan: I'd like to thank all the members in the House who spoke to the bill that I have presented on behalf of Metropolitan Toronto and the cities in the federation of Metropolitan Toronto, as well as the borough of East York. I'm pleased that I have an opportunity to let the citizens of East York know that I know that they live in the only borough. To the residents of the city of York, I stand corrected; it was a slip of the tongue.
I think we've had a very good debate. I think a number of issues and different perspectives have been raised. I believe, as has been said, that this bill will encourage vending in appropriate locations. It will encourage municipalities to permit vending in places now where they've had to prohibit everywhere as the only way of controlling vending in inappropriate locations.
I think this bill will create a dynamic vitality in our city and that we will see jobs created and economic activity in places which the local municipalities deem appropriate. I think it will also lead to the solving of problems and disputes, and I believe that it will prevent problems simply because you will have a system in place that is respected because it is seen as reasonable.
Not everyone may like the results. Certainly in the lottery system those people who do not receive a lottery are not happy with it, and we have to acknowledge that. The other alternative -- and I want to respond directly -- to a lottery system is a first-in-the-door, take-a-number, stand-in-line kind of system. Under this legislation, municipalities can choose which system they prefer.
I think that ensuring there's fairness in that system is going to be the responsibility of the individual local municipalities. As a former councillor in the city of North York, I believe and I'm confident that the municipalities can design a system that will work in each of the municipalities for their purpose.
There was one issue that was raised that I would like to address -- the member for Yorkview raised it -- and that was the issue of illegal vending on private property. It is true this bill does not deal with that. Certainly in committee of the whole if there are suggestions as to how it could be incorporated, I would be pleased to do that. However, that is a very difficult and thorny issue because there are many private property owners who don't want to have anyone have the ability to do anything on their land except themselves, and they deal with the issue by calling the police or enforcing.
Frankly, I support their right to not have anyone intrude on their land. That's why I have not included in this legislation anything to do with private property. Certainly for some private property owners that is an issue, and they have said, perhaps to the member for Yorkview, that they would like the municipality to be able to incorporate enforcement on their lands as well. Certainly that's a good debate, but my own feeling is that that's a debate for another time and another place, and I don't think it can be incorporated in this legislation without some discomfort for private property owners.
I would also say that the timing of this legislation is crucial, and I'd like to quote, if I can, from a letter that was signed on behalf of Mr Floyd, the commissioner of transportation. He says, "The timing of legislative changes is crucial given that any change within the two-year lottery cycle will be difficult to undertake."
We know that the next lottery in Toronto will be held early in 1995. The bottom line of this letter from Mr Floyd says, "It is essential that the necessary legislative enactments occur prior to the end of December 1994."
I have had communication, as I said earlier, with both Mr Floyd as well as Mr Moscoe, and they have told me that the government is able to meet and accommodate their time line. I've heard support from numerous members on the government benches, and I would hope that Mr Moscoe and Mr Floyd and the municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto will not be disappointed and that this legislation in fact will move forward.
At the end of my time today I'm going to move that this go to committee of the whole, and in committee of the whole, expeditiously, there is room and ability to amend the legislation. I have received a memorandum from Councillor Moscoe with some suggestions from a lawyer by the name of Jeffrey A. Abrams, who is a solicitor for Metropolitan Toronto from their legal department. He has a few suggestions for amendments to the bill.
My intention is to send these to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and if there is a desire that these amendments be included at committee of the whole, I would be pleased to do that. If the ministry has difficulty with the amendments, it's my view that the bill should pass as it is. As we know, the only thing that's ever carved in stone in this building are the names of the members in the wall. There's always the ability in the future to change and amend legislation if it is not working as we hope that it will.
I'd like to thank the member for Don Mills, the member for Ottawa East, the member for Fort York, the member for Scarborough North, the member for Yorkview, the member for York East and the member for Durham Centre for participating in this debate. I believe that we have fully explored the issue in a non-partisan way. I'd like to put on the record that this issue was brought to me by Councillor Howard Moscoe, the Metropolitan Toronto councillor for North York-Spadina, and it was brought to him through discussions with Mr Doug Floyd. So any congratulations for the raising of this issue I think belong with those people. I have simply put forward the legislation on behalf of those who have identified both the problem and the opportunity.
As I close my remarks, I'd like to repeat again that I think this legislation will give us an opportunity to see jobs created, vending jobs, and appropriate locations decided by the local municipalities. I want to thank the members of this Legislature for their support, and I look forward to speedy passage of the legislation.
The Deputy Speaker: You still have a minute and a half.
Mrs Caplan: While I do have a minute and a half, for those of you who know me, I can probably continue talking, but in fact I have said everything that I'd like to say about the legislation, and I would ask the members of the government caucus if I sit down now if that means we'll get speedier passage of the bill.
CHILDREN'S LAW REFORM AMENDMENT ACT, 1994 / LOI DE 1994 MODIFIANT LA LOI PORTANT RÉFORME DU DROIT DE L'ENFANCE
Mr Rizzo moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 156, An Act to amend the Children's Law Reform Act / Projet de loi 156, Loi modifiant la Loi portant réforme du droit de l'enfance.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the honourable member has 10 minutes for his presentation.
Mr Tony Rizzo (Oakwood): The introduction of Bill 156 for second reading presents us with the opportunity to take a close look at the family in times of need. Today's parents and children are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the complex and challenging world we live in. They're all familiar with the very real threats to family stability: poverty, unemployment, high tax burdens on one hand and the decline of the traditional institutions that families could depend on for spiritual guidance and counselling in the past.
Also in the past, one of the resources that the family could turn to for help and advice was the presence of a grandparent. For many, grandparents provided the family with a source of wisdom and comfort at times of crisis and need. They helped with babysitting and child-rearing, gave advice when needed and often were able to help in times of financial difficulty. I think we would all agree that this is an aspect of family life that we would like to encourage and see continued today and into the future.
It is also fitting, this being the International Year of the Family, that we acknowledge the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. While most of us recognize the important role played by grandparents in society, lately researchers and family life advocates have actually confirmed this reality: Grandparents have an important role in responding to the emotional upheavals and needs of their grandchildren, particularly in situations of marital breakdowns.
When things go wrong and families for whatever reason break up, the law that governs access to the children by grandparents is lacking and fails to acknowledge the special relationship that the grandparents should have. Bill 156 deals with the grandparents' rights of access to a grandchild under the Children's Law Reform Act and addresses those shortcomings.
Legislative jurisdiction of custody and access to children is a shared responsibility of the federal and provincial governments. In cases involving divorce, the federal Divorce Act governs the issue. In all other cases, the provincial legislation governs. Instances of provincial jurisdiction would arise, for example, when parents separate but no divorce petition is filed; where parents were never married; where one or more of the parents dies; or when the parents and child are an intact family and a third party seeks access to a child.
With the exception of Quebec, Canadian jurisdictions have been more reluctant than their American counterparts to give special recognition to the grandparent-child relationship. In Quebec and in many states south of the border, access with the grandparents is presumed to be in the best interests of the grandchild unless the contrary is proven. Under the CLRA this is not the case, and no special recognition is given to the grandparent-grandchild relationship. The onus is on the grandparent to show a benefit and prove that access is in the best interests of the child.
Bill 156 would change that by requiring parents and others with custody of children to refrain from unreasonably placing obstacles to personal relations between the children and their grandparents. It would amend section 21 of the act to mention them specifically, and not just view them as "any other person."
It would include a special reference to the importance of maintaining emotional ties between children and grandparents in subsection 24(2), a list of matters that the court must consider when determining the best interests of the child.
It would, under subsection 24(2.1), ask the court that is considering custody or access to give effect to the principle that a child should have as much contact with each parent and grandparent as is consistent with the best interests of the child.
Finally, it would, under subsection 24(2.2), require a court that is considering custody to take into consideration each applicant's willingness to facilitate as much contact between the child and each parent and grandparent as is consistent with the best interests of the child.
Across Ontario, thousands of grandparents live with the agony of never being able to have contact with their grandchildren. They live with the daily despair of knowing their grandchildren may think that their grandparents no longer love them or want to see them. In my own riding, I have been approached by grandparents who have no recourse when they are cut off from their grandchildren.
It is not too difficult for us to imagine: One parent dies and the surviving parent with custody refuses access to the parents of the deceased spouse because of personal conflict, or a common-law couple with children separates and the custodial parent refuses access to the parents of the non-custodial parent. As the law stands, there is no way for the grandparents denied access to effectively make a case for continued contact with their grandchildren.
Bill 156 will not change the presumption that access by a parent is presumed to be in the best interests of the child. Bill 156 will not take away the parental right to determine the best interests of the child if a parent decides that the child should not have contact with his or her grandparents. It will, however, give a grandparent some recourse before the law and make it harder for a parent to unreasonably deny access.
Children need their grandparents' emotional support in today's complex and often confusing society. Grandparents give children a link to their past, teach them many important things and give them the unconditional love that only they can provide. I call on my colleagues to support this bill and invite your comments and input.
The Deputy Speaker: I'd like to remind the people in the gallery that you have to refrain from applauding.
Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): It's a pleasure to join in the debate on this bill. I know I've seen at least one set of grandparents around here lobbying for years for this particular type of legislation.
I don't mean to say this in a negative fashion, but it's going to sound that way. It's unfortunate that Mr Rizzo, as a private member, has to bring this forward and that the government did not look at this entire issue in advance of this.
Mr Bob Mackenzie (Hamilton East): Oh, oh.
Mr Gordon Mills (Durham East): Oh, oh.
Mr Ron Hansen (Lincoln): Cheap shot.
Mr Callahan: The other side gets upset by my saying that, but the reality is that we have here in the gallery of the government and in our gallery many seniors who, if this passes today, are going to believe this will suddenly become the legislation of this province. We all know it won't unless the government House leader calls it. We have very scarce time in terms of that ever happening, with only about two weeks maximum left in this session and perhaps a week or two left in the session in the spring before we go to the electorate.
I have to say as well that as I approach my golden years, with my oldest son now married, I expect I will be a grandparent one day, and for that reason I suppose I can speak in great favour of this type of situation.
Having said that, however, I can tell you from 30 years of experience in the courts that custody applications are more fiery than defending an insane murderer. There have been lawyers who have been killed as a result of domestic applications, particularly involving custody. I can tell you that custody raises the emotions of people to a height you have never seen before. It has greater passion than anything else.
Recognizing that fact, we should really be trying to craft a particular type of arrangement which will allow the true interests of the child to be determined in a less acrimonious atmosphere. We did that with the assets under the Family Law Act. We virtually turned the asset decision into a mathematical formula. But we still have people fighting over custody.
It's fine where parents agree to the custody of a child and access to the child and they have a good working relationship with the grandparents, maternal and paternal. But this act attempts to place into the law a situation which may not encompass those situations where there is a battle royal going on between not just the husband and wife, the father and mother of the child, but also perhaps a battle royal going on with the grandparents.
I think that any grandparent who will look at this in a broader fashion will accept the fact that there can be very bad relations between one or other of the parents and the husband or the wife. Of course, what this does is that it injects into the whole dynamic of this process one further obstacle, in a sense, that can create just a longer period of trying to determine the custody of the child and therefore placing the child at risk.
The importance of this, and I think grandparents would certainly recognize this, the importance of the whole custodial situation is to ensure that the child's best interests are looked after. There is no property in children. Even though under the common law and under statute law the mother and father have equal access or equal rights of custody to the child, the common law was wise enough to recognize that there is no property in children. In fact, the judge has an overriding consideration as pater patriens in order to determine an issue of custody in regard to how he sees it or she sees it, forgetting what the parties themselves are trying to say.
If anyone wants to have a real experience, go in and watch a real dog-and-cat fight in a custodial battle. You watch this little kid or these kids sitting there crying because they've had a breakup of a marriage, and these people are fighting; I guess the classic example would be a mother and father at either end of the child, each of them pulling one arm one way or the other.
What we have to do is to craft a piece of legislation and recognize that this act that is being presented by the member does not change the legislation dramatically, but we have to endeavour to craft legislation that will in fact encourage the same type of non-acrimonious resolution of the issue of custody as we have done with some success with reference to family assets and support. I suggest, and this is not a partisan crack at all, that the legislators of this province have not applied their minds to that very important issue in seeing that does happen.
The reason it's important is the fact that children have the right to expect that legislators will craft a piece of legislation that will not simply give rights to parents or grandparents, but will provide an atmosphere within which those children will not come out of it battle-scarred and believing that either one parent or the other is terrible or that their grandparents are terrible because of whatever the circumstances are that applications have to be made for custody or access. I suggest to you that this is the issue that has to be determined, and it's the issue that if it's not determined, I suggest you're going to leave a lot of fractured young people in this province after the fact.
We're seeing today that the family breakdown is significant. We're seeing the divorce rate at an ever-increasing demand. We're seeing grandparents perhaps who are disenchanted with the person their daughter or son marries, and that does -- and I think the grandparents in the gallery would have to admit it -- create problems.
That may be because they don't like the person they married, it may be because there are differences in religious background or whatever, but if that does occur and if you have a problem in the house where the parents say, "Look, we don't want to participate with either of our parents for the moment; we want the stability of being able to love our child and raise our child," that may very well create the situation where if you pass this act in its present form, simply giving further rights to other groups, what you do is open the floodgates to allow an application to be made to simply put more pressure on young people than there is now.
What I say finally is, I have concerns that this has not been researched enough in order to really look at the issue as I've stated, and I'm not going to repeat myself. The major issue is the child and that's what we should be addressing. The interests of parents or grandparents, as admirable as they are -- and I certainly subscribe to the fact that grandparents should have a loving relationship with their grandchildren, should not be denied access to them in the perfect situation, the perfect scenario. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world; we live in a world where litigation is becoming more and more apparent. The children should not be the subject of that litigation.
This Legislature owes a responsibility to grandparents and to mothers and fathers and, most specifically, the children to ensure that we craft a piece of legislation that appropriately deals with the issue of ensuring that those children, who have already suffered a breakup of a marriage, will be able to have the emotional stability to grow up as good citizens of this province, emotionally sound and able to enter into a loving relationship.
I reserve the balance for my friend.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I welcome this opportunity to provide a few comments on this private member's bill, An Act to amend the Children's Law Reform Act, that has been brought to our attention by the member for Oakwood.
I want to congratulate the member for Oakwood for attempting to address a weakness in Ontario's law reform act with respect to acknowledging the special relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. I'm a grandparent eight times over and I treasure the relationship that I have with my grandchildren.
Briefly, private member's Bill 156 would emphasize the importance of children's relationships with their parents and grandparents, require parents and others with custody of children to refrain from unreasonably placing obstacles to personal relationships between the children and their grandparents.
It would also make amendments to specifically permit grandparents to make custody and access applications; make amendments to refer specifically to the importance of maintaining emotional ties between children and grandparents; it would require a court that is considering custody or access to give effect to the principle that a child should have as much contact with each parent and grandparent as is consistent with the best interests of the child; it would require a court considering custody or access to consider each applicant's willingness to facilitate as much contact between the child and each parent and grandparent as is consistent with the best interests of the child.
Several of my caucus colleagues -- like the member for Oakville South, the member for Lanark-Renfrew and the member for Burlington South -- and I have constituents who are grandparents who, through death or divorce, do not have access to the grandchildren they love and cherish. I know one who has been through 11 lawyers, spent more than $20,000, and applied to numerous courts in an attempt to have some access to her three grandchildren.
Her daughter died after a battle with cancer when the youngest was less than one year of age. She returned home from the graveside alone and within days her son-in-law had another woman move into his home and was denying the grandmother access to her grandchildren.
The youngest child was run over by a transport truck after climbing out of his father's truck while the father was in a bar. The grandmother has saved and paid for the surviving children's education -- $13,000 for one and $9,000 for the other -- and sent cards and money to them on holidays and birthdays.
Last March the grandmother was denied access to them forever. It was felt the children, 14 and 20 years of age, could make up their own minds whether or not they wished to see their grandmother, but I ask you, how could they make up their own minds? They have not known their grandmother since they were infants. They were never given a chance to know her, to love her, or to learn from her.
As a grandparent who cherishes the relationship with my grandchildren, I support this private member's bill because if it can take some obstacles out of the way, it's a great plus.
I know of a family which was separating over a six-year-long divorce battle. The three children were not allowed to see one of the spouses for five years. Is that right? I think not. If this bill in any way will help solve that problem that we have in this province -- I see so many divorces taking place where one spouse is adamantly at the other; the children are in between. I say to those spouses who are continually condemning their other spouse that they are condemning 50% of that child who they are saying is theirs.
It's important when we take this whole aspect of what has taken place with regard to divorce and when we look at society today, the problems that we're having in society are a part of all of this. To give the grandparents the rights that I think they should have to be able to love and cherish those grandchildren is so important.
The other aspect that I often wonder is how many lawyers in this province have caused some of the problems that parents have, that people have. Instead of trying to tell them, "Don't talk to your spouse," I think they should be trying to get them together, because not all people really want to separate, because I think the attitude should be when you first were married there was a reason you wanted to get married and I don't think there should be any reason that you want to be separating. I think there should be an emphasis placed on the availability of trying to keep people together. I have a feeling that perhaps some of our legal profession is the cause of some of the problems that we have.
I commend the member for Oakwood for bringing this bill forward, for the debate that's taken place here today. Perhaps there could be another date when we have more debate, because the aspects of those children are so important.
Mr David Winninger (London South): I can't imagine a caring and reasonable member in the House who would oppose grandparents having access to grandchildren where it's in the best interests of the children. For that reason, I too applaud the spirit with which the member for Oakwood has brought forward this bill, to highlight this concern that grandparents have that their access to their grandchildren whom they've formed a close relationship with and love not be disrupted.
I also agree with the comments of the member for Simcoe East. Too often family law matters become litigious, contentious. They're emotionally draining. I think it's an indication of the need for very early intervention in matrimonial proceedings to ensure that the level of the proceedings doesn't escalate to the point of nastiness, the point of no return. That's the sort of thing we need to avoid through early mediation, arbitration, what you will.
On the other hand, I have to say quite candidly that the present Children's Law Reform Act does in fact allow any person to apply for custody or access. "Any person" has been interpreted by the courts to include grandparents but can also include other persons such as step-parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, adult siblings and even non-relatives. Under our act, which is comparable to all other legislation and in fact goes further than all other legislation in Canada except perhaps Quebec, there's an absolute right to bring an application for custody before the courts, unlike the federal Divorce Act, which is a little more problematic because grandparents would have to seek permission in order to apply for access under the federal Divorce Act. But certainly under our legislation, grandparents have an absolute right to apply for access to the children, but it's always subject, as is the case where any applicant applies for custody or access, to the best interests of the child.
What better yardstick do we have to measure the appropriateness of access to a child than the best interests of the child? It's a common misapprehension among parents, for example, that they have a right to access to the child, when the fact is it's really the child's right of access to the parent that the court is upholding because what's in the best interests of the child is child-centred. So no one has an absolute right to access, no one has an absolute right to custody, but the best interests of the child has proven to be the best measure by which we judge access and custody.
The Children's Law Reform Act presently requires the court to consider the love, affection and emotional ties between the child and each person claiming custody or access. While no one wishes to diminish the worth of the ties between grandparents and children, we have to adjudge them in the same way we adjudge other family members' right to access, and that, in the end, is based on the best interests of the child.
Mr Steven Offer (Mississauga North): Let me say how pleased I am to join in the debate on this particular piece of legislation. Let me say, at the outset, that I've had the occasion of talking about this particular issue over a number of years and I think that there are some in the gallery today who recognize some of those earlier debates.
I think a bill such as this is one which truly should go to a committee stage in this Legislature, where one can take a look at some of the very specific aspects in the legislation and determine what their impact is going to be. So I must say that I would be certainly very concerned if a piece of legislation such as this would not have the opportunity of going to a committee of the Legislature whereby there would be some public hearings and where we can hear some input from those who are emotionally attached to the legislation as well as those who can provide some significant legal advice as to what the impact might be.
I think we can deal with this particular piece of legislation in a very legalistic, dotting of the i's, crossing of the t's approach. But I think what is also important is that we recognize the emotion behind the words and that there are people in this province, grandparents, who feel in many ways shut out from the process in and around the legislation. I think that we have to be conscious of that and we have to be sensitive to that.
I must say, though, as I speak, there are some concerns I do have with the legislation and let me say right at the outset that there are provisions in this legislation with which I do have some significant concerns. When you read the legislation, when you read the current Children's Law Reform Act, what we are talking about in the bill is that a person who has custody of a child shall not unreasonably place obstacles to personal relations between the child and the child's grandparents.
At the outset people would say, "Well, of course, that sounds wonderful." The concern I will tell you -- and Mr Speaker, I know that I'm supposed to address my concerns to you, but I am looking to those in the gallery -- is that we have to recognize that in many cases when we are looking at the Children's Law Reform Act and other pieces of legislation, we are not talking about a custody application or access which is in any way, shape or form amicable. We are usually in a litigious, very difficult situation.
When that is the case, when we have, in many cases, warring parties, we must be very careful that the words of the legislation don't operate against the best interests of the child. I do not suggest for a moment that that is anyone's purpose; of course not. But sometimes, if we don't take a very hard look at the legislation, there are impacts and implications which we just didn't recognize and fully appreciate.
I take a look and use this first section of the bill, because we have to recognize that it is actions which have been taken after a custody order has been granted. In other words, a judge has already decided what is in the best interests of the child. A judge has taken a look at the child, has listened to the child, has listened to all those in and around the situation and has made an order, and I very much believe that those orders must be embraced as being in the best interests of the child.
I get concerned about any section in any legislation, not just here but anywhere else, which tries to erode a judge's order which is made in the best interests of the child. I know we don't want that to happen, but I sometimes think that maybe a very strict reading of this section could in some way erode a judgement which has already been made in the best interests of the child.
We of course want to make certain that the relationships between a child and his or her parents and his or her grandparents are as best as well nurtured and continued, and it doesn't just apply to parents and/or grandparents but to others as well. I think that there are many who believe that that type of relationship is important to the growth and wellbeing of the child.
We have to be very careful in terms of legislation that the words do not have an impact that runs contrary to the purpose, so I have some significant concerns with this particular section of the bill. That is why I believe the bill should move to the committee stage, that it should be moving from this reading to the committee stage whereby we can get more information to make certain that we do not pass a piece of legislation which runs contrary to the best interests of the child.
What we want to do is make certain we have a piece of legislation which has as its paramount purpose the best interests of the child and make certain in meeting that interest that persons such as parents, grandparents and others have a full opportunity of maintaining ongoing relationships with the child.
I think that there are some questions in and around some of the sections of the particular legislation and I'm hopeful that they might be cured at the committee stage. I think this is an extremely important issue that many people in this Legislature and out have devoted many, many years of their life to, and I look forward to the continuing debate.
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): I'm pleased to be able to rise in the House today and to participate in the debate on Bill 156, and I want to commend the member for Oakwood. In my nine and a half years in this chamber, this chamber has only to my knowledge had three occasions to discuss this very specific issue about grandparents' access rights in Ontario. I have had occasion to participate in each of those debates but I also had the privilege of examining the commentary and to determine in part why there's been such little progress in this legislation.
My colleague in the Conservative caucus made reference to the fact that both the former member for Oakville South, Terry O'Connor -- members will remember him in this House -- and the new mayor of Markham, the former member for Markham, Mr Cousens, tabled specific, focused bills on amendments to various legislation, including the Children's Law Reform Act, in order to improve, strengthen and acknowledge grandparents' rights.
I was intrigued by the commentary by the first speaker from Brampton from the former Liberal government who expressed concern about, "All you need to do is talk to your own Attorney General." I want to remind the House that back on April 26, 1988, the then Attorney General, Ian Scott, tabled a substantive bill dealing with access and custody.
Without getting into the politics of what happened, it's a gross oversimplification but it's clear in terms of family law reform in this province that when the government made concessions to women in terms of legislation for SCOE, support and custody orders enforcement, there was this resultant tradeoff with the disproportionate number of men who don't have access to their children with the Children's Law Reform Act amendments which Mr Scott got in.
Just at the outset, I found the whole process offensive that we were sort of gender-trading with children on the table, and clearer legal minds and social historians will have a field day with the last decade that we've wasted in this area without really resolving the issue for grandparents' rights.
When I revisited my notes from the day I was in the House, I noticed that the then leader of the official opposition, Bob Rae, had a lot to say about this when Ian Scott tabled it in the House. This may be enlightening to the member for Oakwood, but Bob Rae said, I'm quoting from Hansard of April 26, 1988, and the leader of the official opposition:
"I must confess to being continually troubled by an effort on his part," meaning the Liberal Attorney General, "to legislate reasonableness in this very difficult question of access." He went on to say, "I hope very much that the Attorney General will agree that this bill is something that should be discussed widely in the House and should be referred to committee."
I want to say that when Bob Rae was in opposition, he clearly was saying, "I don't have much confidence in the unreasonableness section of this bill," which Mr Rizzo has put into the legislation. It's the same clause that Terry O'Connor and Don Cousens put in their legislation, but Bob Rae has already indicated his concern about that clause, and perhaps that's one of the reasons this is not government legislation, but in fact a private member's hour.
My colleague Mr Cousens on January 4, 1989, made reference in what I thought was an impassioned speech on behalf of grandparents when he went on to suggest, "I have to look at the business of highlighting the importance of grandparents, especially the parents of those who do not have custodial rights of children." He went on to say, "I do not think we understand the agony that has gone on in the hearts and minds and families of grandparents."
If you go through the stages of a marital breakup, and he had specific examples that he wanted to talk about -- in this case in Hansard he said the grandparents became the neutral ground on which the child was placed until the parents had finished their fighting over custody, and after four months of being resident and being raised by the grandparents, the child was removed by court order and the grandparents never, ever saw that child again. But clearly my colleague Mr Cousens was speaking up, as Mr Rizzo is today, on their behalf.
I then want to remind members of the House that this issue resurfaced on December 7, 1989, and that's when the member for Etobicoke-Humber, Mr Henderson -- and I want to place this in context, because I wish the Liberal member hadn't taken the cheap shot at the government, because it's the same cheap shot that could and therefore must be labelled at the former Liberal government.
Here we had an Attorney General, Ian Scott, who wasn't prepared to make these amendments, and Mr Henderson, wallowing in the back benches of the government, brought forward a resolution which made specific reference to the rights of grandparents and access rights. So it seems that this is a process that continues to go on and it's not being dealt with.
The first NDP Attorney General of this province in its history, Mr Hampton, who is currently a member of the House, spoke on that day at length, and I want to quote from his debate and his contribution to the singular efforts of Mr Henderson as a private member with his own government. I'll quote from the member for Rainy River:
"Grandparents also figure in this calculation. I want to say to the honourable member that I do not think this is the way to go for grandparents either. I think there is an option for grandparents. There is a way the existing law could be amended so that grandparents would receive some recognition. As it is, the Children's Law Reform Act basically says that anyone is entitled to custody of a child and access to a child if it is in the best interests of a child."
He goes on to talk about, "All one needs to do, I think, is to put into the Children's Law Reform Act a clause that creates a rebuttable presumption, a clause that could say it would be presumed to be in the best interests of the child that grandparents have access to the grandchildren, but it would be a rebuttable presumption."
Now, I want to pause there because clearly that is what Mr Rizzo has in his bill, that was what the Attorney General for two and a half years in this province under an NDP government had publicly stated, and yet Mr Rizzo has been relegated to bringing forward a private member's bill. Mr Hampton, who went on to become the Attorney General, said for the record, as I say to the honourable member:
"I do not think this resolution measures up to the social policy issues that really have to be dealt with here, so I will oppose it and I expect that many of my colleagues who I have spoken to about it on numerous occasions will be opposing it as well."
For the record, that motion was defeated by this House with a specific reference to grandparents' rights.
Given that we have heard in debate in this illustrious chamber a very clear and detailed speech by the now Premier of the province, Bob Rae, with respect to the fact that this should go immediately to a committee of the House and be debated widely, I'd like to know if the Premier supports that today with his member's piece of legislation.
Very clearly for the record, we also hear from the Premier that on this whole question about unreasonableness, which is the test which is being placed in this bill, the Premier has serious legal questions and doubts in his mind. We hear from the Attorney General of the day, Mr Hampton, who had two and a half years in order to bring in this legislation and chose not to, but we clearly have his reasons in Hansard as to why he's not prepared to go that far.
I want this information on the record because, quite frankly, the issues involved here are to a degree complex but they are simple if we consider a simple principle that, in the delicate issue of personal relations, grandparents do not have the right to access to children that they would like to have and that they deserve to have and that we should be seeking in a public forum, through committee, opportunities to assist them.
Mr Mills: It is a pleasure to rise in support of my colleague's bill, Bill 156, An Act to amend the Children's Law Reform Act. I'm not speaking this morning as a lawyer, as an expert on this legislation, nor am I going to get into bashing either of the other governments about what they did and what they didn't do when they were in office. What I'm going to talk about is personal. I am a grandfather of several children and I'm going to bring that perspective into this debate here this morning.
I have always thought that there's something wrong with a system whereby a couple get married and they enjoy a relationship that includes grandparents and then suddenly that relationship goes sour, and because of some court order or something that's done by law, those grandparents are then excluded, sometimes forever, from ever having contact with their grandchildren again. I think that's awfully sad.
I know in my own instance I feel that my wife and I interact very well with our own grandchildren in the crises in their lives. I know that we get phone calls and they come over and they talk issues through that are troubling them and we most often are able to resolve them. In fact my children come to me and say: "How come you've got all the answers now? When we were your children, how come you never had these answers or this wonderful philosophy that you've got on life now?" That philosophy, that learning comes about through living a long time.
I know that there are some technical details from a law point of view about this and about the courts and all that, but I'm prepared to support this on the merits as it is placed before us today, that is, that grandparents, in my opinion, do have a right to access their grandchildren and they do have a right and they do play a great psychological role in the way their lives develops.
Now I'm going to go across the Atlantic Ocean and we're going to go to London. We all know and we've read in the paper the tremendous difficulties that the children of the royal family are having. I think it's a well-known fact that the person that they turn to most for advice and as a mentor is the Queen Mother, so we have a precedent at perhaps the highest level in the land --
Mr Mills: My colleague from Ottawa Centre says, "Well, that hasn't worked out all that good." But nevertheless, it's a well-known fact that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales often goes to discuss his problems with the Queen Mother, his grandmother.
I know that two of my colleagues want to add to this debate. Without much ado, I'm going to sit down and let them have that opportunity, although I could go on for quite a while about what I see as the merits of my colleague's bill.
Mr Drummond White (Durham Centre): I rise with some interest and excitement to speak to this issue because I have for many years worked with families who are in the process of breaking up. That process of breaking up, that process of separation, is one where the children's interests are often lost because a couple is in a fight, a division in that small family. When that division occurs, their extended family become warring camps, one side against another. None of those camps can easily see what the best interests of the child are.
If separation and divorce are hell, certainly the family court and that process only serves to stoke that hell. Rarely, in my experience, is the larger family considered, and that larger family, when a separation occurs, becomes directly involved with those children. Those children whose parents are often subsumed with their conflict with each other are nurtured and supported by that wider family and by our community as a whole. As our province and our community as a whole move to assist children like these who are in these turmoils, it only behooves us to look with a broader and more intelligent, more sensitive eye, to their needs.
I think my friend's bill speaks to this, because frankly, grandparents are important. You think of a nuclear family splitting up and let's say, typically the mother leaving the father or the father leaving, but that mother and children being there on their own. We think of a smaller family and yet what really happens is that that mother often is much more supported and in much more frequent contact with her parents and her broader family than ever before. Often she and her children are living with them or directly financially supported by them.
We have to recognize that there are many different family forms, and the more that we recognize the extent and the richness of family life in our province, the more those children will be supported. It is not an issue of the grandparents' right to access; it's a right of the children to have the widest possible level of support, nurturing and affection they possibly could.
When I hear of doors being closed, of windows being shut for those children, there has got to be a very good reason for that to occur. I think my friend's bill speaks to opening doors, to allowing more people in to support those children, people who would otherwise be shut out often by the warring camps that are established in a divorce or separation situation. I think it behooves us to open these doors when families are going through this very difficult process within the courts, because the courts, after all, are the final arbiter.
In these times, when we have so many families going through that process of separation and divorce, somewhere in their lives they can have that model brought forth to them of an opening of the establishment of a greater level of contact for those children. They are the paramount issue here. I would like to again compliment my friend and I look forward to hearing the comments of my friend from Ottawa Centre.
Ms Evelyn Gigantes (Ottawa Centre): It's good to have this debate here this morning, and I welcome the introduction of this bill by my colleague so that we can discuss the issues which he's raised in this forum.
I think that we all understand that the issues are issues which arise when families are in turbulence and turmoil and terrible trouble, because that's the point at which families go to court. Families can choose to take different paths. Families can separate among their membership. Families can come to agreements outside of formal undertakings under our legislation, and in many cases families do that, but when they get to court, that's when these issues arise.
I think that in Ontario the discussion we've had over the years about what should be foremost in the minds of the people responsible for making decisions in such cases is the welfare of the child, and I think that has been spoken to quite eloquently by members of my party and parties opposite. It's a very fundamental part of our approach to what happens when a family is in real trouble and the law is called in, as it were, and we say that what happens in terms of the children is before the judge, on the principle that the welfare of the child is the determining factor.
The issue that has been raised in the introduction of the private member's bill we're dealing with this morning, Bill 156, is, is there a place to instruct the judge on questions of access and custody that the interests of the grandparents should be involved? We can express it either as the interests of the grandparents or as the interests of the child in the relationship with grandparents. If we express it in terms of the interests of the child in relationship to the grandparents, I think that what is currently before courts in Ontario under our existing child welfare legislation is the interests of the child, and that will be considered fully and that will include the interests of the child in relationship to the grandparents.
There are many people in Ontario who over the years have decided, in one case or another, that the decisions made in our courts and made on the principle of the interests of the child have not been well made, and there are grandparents among those groups. But I think for us now to take Bill 156 forward and have discussion in committee of the whole will bring forth a deeper discussion of these issues and I am prepared to support it on those grounds.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Oakwood has two minutes for his reply.
Mr Rizzo: Mr Speaker, I don't know if I could give a few seconds of my time to my colleague from Yorkview. Could I?
The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? Agreed. The member for Yorkview.
Mr George Mammoliti (Yorkview): Thank you, the member for Oakwood. Very, very quickly, we talk about the interest of the children and it should always be the interest of the children, but I'm a firm believer that the interests of the children, in most cases, is to see their grandparents. I think that in this place sometimes we lose track of a lot of things in passing legislation, and we worry a little bit too much about technicalities and perhaps what precedent this might cause. I think if it sets any precedent, it's a precedent worthwhile setting in that that child will probably grow up in seeing their grandparents and living a wonderful life, and learning the morals and the values that grandparents can only teach.
Mr Rizzo: I want to thank first all the members of this House who participated in this debate and particularly the members for Simcoe East, Brampton South, London South, Ottawa Centre, Mr Cam Jackson, Steven Offer, and the members for Durham East and Durham Centre.
I appreciate their contribution to this particular bill, but I want to emphasize in the last 20 seconds that are left for me that this bill was addressed really to the best interests of the child, but what this bill is saying is that there is a big difference between being grandparents and being any other person. Grandparents are your parents' parents and so they are family, they are blood and they are the ones who are closest to the children after the parents.
The Deputy Speaker: The time provided for private members' public business has expired.
MUNICIPALITY OF METROPOLITAN TORONTO AMENDMENT ACT (STREET VENDING), 1994 / LOI DE 1994 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LA MUNICIPALITÉ DE LA COMMUNAUTÉ URBAINE DE TORONTO (VENTE DANS LA RUE)
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will deal first with ballot item number 71, standing in the name of Mrs Caplan. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.
Mrs Caplan has moved second reading of Bill 183, An Act to amend the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Pursuant to standing order 94(k), the bill is referred to the committee of the whole House.
CHILDREN'S LAW REFORM AMENDMENT ACT, 1994 / LOI DE 1994 MODIFIANT LA LOI PORTANT RÉFORME DU DROIT DE L'ENFANCE
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with ballot item number 72, standing in the name of Mr Rizzo. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.
Mr Rizzo has moved second reading of Bill 156, An Act to amend the Children's Law Reform Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Pursuant to standing order 94(k), the bill is referred to the committee of the whole House. Agreed?
Mr Tony Rizzo (Oakwood): Mr Speaker, can I ask permission to send this bill directly for third reading? Unanimous consent.
The Deputy Speaker: Agreed? It's not agreed. There's no consent at all.
Mr Rizzo: Can I ask for it to be sent to the justice committee?
The Deputy Speaker: Is the majority in favour? Those in favour will please stand. Those opposed will please stand.
The majority of the group is not in favour; therefore the bill is going to committee of the whole.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Just to clarify for myself and those who are interested in my bill, it automatically goes to committee of the whole; is that correct?
The Deputy Speaker: Yes.
All matters having been debated, I will now leave the chair and the House will resume at 1:30 of the clock this afternoon.
The House recessed from 1158 to 1330.
Mr Charles Beer (York-Mackenzie): Last night in Newmarket several thousand people gathered to pay tribute to Ray Twinney, mayor of Newmarket. For the last several months Ray has been fighting a courageous battle with cancer. The purpose of the tribute in honour of his retirement was to rename the Newmarket Recreation Complex as the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex.
Ray was born in November 1935 and raised and educated in Toronto. He arrived in Newmarket in 1960, entering politics in East Gwillimbury in 1965. In 1970 Ray was elected to Newmarket town council as a regional councillor, serving in that capacity until 1978. In 1979 he was elected mayor of Newmarket and has been returned as mayor each successive council term to the present, making him Newmarket's longest-serving mayor to date, a total of over 15 years.
Being fond of local organized sport, Ray Twinney owned and/or co-owned and operated many successful local teams, including the Newmarket Ray's Fastball, Legion Ray's Oldtimers Hockey and the Newmarket Flyers Junior Hockey teams.
In 1988 the dream of a professional class community recreation centre became a reality under his mayoral leadership. Newmarket's recreation complex was constructed, becoming the venue for many local sporting events, including the home to AHL and OHL hockey.
I would like to thank Ray for his lengthy public service on behalf of the residents of Newmarket and the numerous accomplishments he achieved during his 29 years in office. I know everyone will join with me in wishing Ray, his wife, Thelma, and his family the very best for a full recovery.
Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I would like to pay tribute to Fred Allan Healey, who passed away suddenly on Friday, November 18, as the result of an accident. As we pay our respects to Mr Healey, I would like to acknowledge his tremendous legacy in service to his community, to his province and, above all, his devotion to family.
Fred was born and raised on a century farm in North Elmsley township, county of Lanark, on which he and his son Brent operated a dairy farm and were members of the Lanark county milk committee.
Fred served on the township council from 1973 and was reeve from 1977 to 1988. He was elected warden of Lanark county in 1983. As warden, Fred was instrumental in the development of the new county administrative building and is remembered for his many successful county projects.
He was a valued member of the Smiths Falls Rotary Club, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and St Andrew's United Church at Port Elmsley.
On the provincial level, Fred served as director and vice-president of the Ontario Good Roads Association and was recently re-elected as a director to the Ontario Milk Marketing Board as the representative for Lanark, Renfrew and Carleton counties. In this capacity, Fred helped revamp agricultural education in the classroom by creating dairy educators.
Ontario Milk Marketing Board president John Core said, "Mr Healey always thought about dairy policy in terms of how it affected the individual farmer."
I will close by offering my deepest condolences to the family: Jean, Quentin, Alannah, Mariah, Laurie, Chito, Brent and Leona. "He will be missed," said his daughter Jean. "Family was always first."
Mr Ron Hansen (Lincoln): Read my lips: No new toxic waste incinerators. In 1980, the Bill Davis government decided that Ontario needed a permanent toxic waste treatment facility and Ontario Waste Management Corp was born. Since then, taxpayers have shelled out more than $130 million studying OWMC's harebrained scheme to burn and bury toxic waste in the Niagara Peninsula.
When West Lincoln was chosen as the preferred site in 1985, the residents of Niagara immediately declared war on OWMC, and I was right there with them. In 1989, EA hearings began. We finally got a decision yesterday, and it was just what we were hoping for. The consolidated hearing board said no to the OWMC's toxic monstrosity.
That doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet. Appeals can still be filed with cabinet within the next 28 days. If that happens, I guarantee my knuckles will be raw from knocking on cabinet's door to tell them that Ontario cannot afford to waste $300 million on OWMC's toxic white elephant and to remind them that there's overwhelming evidence that it's not even needed. Since 1980, industry has learned to reduce toxic waste through recycling, and in the meantime new Canadian technologies have been developed that would allow industry to treat toxic waste onsite.
Not long ago, we banned the incineration of garbage. Why not toxic waste too? It looks like OWMC's monster is dead, but I'm going to wait until the appeal period is over before I dance on its grave. Until then, I'll be a sentry at my post on the issue.
In closing, Jim Green, West Lincoln's town crier, often says, "God save the Queen and God help West Lincoln."
LEADER OF THE THIRD PARTY
Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): Over the weekend I was stopped in my tracks to read about the unveiling of a new politician in Ontario. He's the kinder, gentler Mike Harris.
It sure looked like Mike Harris was on his very own road to Damascus when he was converted from Mike the Slasher to Mike the Bleeder. But don't be fooled: Mike the Bleeder is still Mike the Slasher at heart. He's just wearing a new image. Underneath he's still Attila the Un, as he liked to call himself a couple of months ago.
Mike the Bleeder is going to fight the deficit by attacking those who are most vulnerable, just like Mike the Slasher. Mike the Bleeder is going to take away money from the more than half a million children whose parents are on welfare. Over half of these children are under 10. Mike the Bleeder is going to force parents on welfare with four- and five-year-olds to return to work. All this with no real plan for job creation.
I ask, is Mike's conversion due to a change of heart or direction, or is it a recognition of reality, an acknowledgement that he has run into a blank wall at the polls?
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): I want to share with all members of the House a letter sent to me and to my Conservative colleagues.
"As a senior of 83 years and fairly frail just now, I have had a great deal of TV-watching time and have been impressed by the amount of energy and effort you and your party members have put in both in the committee sittings and on the floor of the House on behalf of frail seniors and disabled persons. When I couldn't watch during the day, I tried to get the program at night.
"I will never understand just how we have been so hoodwinked by the NDP government. They talked about wanting to hire only from not-for-profit organizations. The VON, the Red Cross and others have always been not-for-profit. I only wish it had come up at the beginning of the committee hearings that the MSAs really mean unionization for the workers.
"You and the others who have worked so hard to get the clauses re 80-20 changed deserve so much praise for your efforts, I just had to write and tell you how much it was appreciated not just by caregivers but many seniors who had nothing whatsoever to do with the Senior Citizens' Consumer Alliance for Long-Term Care Reform."
That's signed, "Sincerely, Mrs Margaret Elliott."
I read this letter into the Hansard record on behalf of the Ontario seniors who feel that Bob Rae and his government are not listening. Bill 173 is too vital and too important to our seniors. Bob Rae should have amended Bill 173 to thank Ontario seniors and their years of contributions to our society rather than thanking the labour unions for their years of contributions to the NDP socialist party.
Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): I rise today to invite my colleagues to a press conference next week, a press conference that is on gun control as a public health issue. I think they'll find that it's a very educational session at that press conference, one that Dr Isaac Sakinofsky, the head of suicide studies at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, will be at and one that Dr Brian Rowe, who is the research director of the Sudbury General Hospital, and Kathy Willis, the executive director of Rosewood Shelter, will be at.
The purpose of it is to educate people about gun control and to encourage them to get into the debate. As we enter this debate with the government in Ottawa, we need to make sure that people know exactly what the issue is that we're dealing with.
I want to make sure that my colleagues know that, for example, almost half of the women killed by their partners are shot, and well over the one third for the general population. Most of these are committed in the home of the victim: 85% are committed with an ordinary hunting rifle or shotgun, and 78% of the guns used are legally owned.
The gun lobby is just about exclusively a male-dominated lobby and the rallies are attended in large numbers by men.
I encourage all my colleagues from all sides of the House to attend this, because I think they'll find this is a very educational forum, and I encourage them to get involved in the debate, because gun control really is a health issue.
MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGER
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The long, exhausting struggle incurred by the residents of the Niagara region in their efforts to have a CAT scanner located in the Niagara region is still a vivid memory for most local residents.
The government has recently announced that it would expand the number of MRIs -- high-tech diagnostic devices that act like enhanced X-ray machines -- in Ontario from 12 to 34, including five more for the planning region that encompasses the Niagara region.
I trust that the government will not involve itself in any unnecessary delays in overseeing the implementation of this resource in the Niagara region, given the dire need for it in the area as well as the preparations that have already been made in anticipation of its arrival.
The St Catharines General Hospital has already drawn up blueprints for the planning and installation of an MRI machine and has actively pursued and hired staff based on their expertise in the field of MRI radiology.
Given the crucial role that MRI technology plays in the diagnosis of soft-tissue ailments related to the brain, the central nervous system and other difficult orthopaedic cases, it is unacceptable that we currently have one MRI machine servicing a designated area of over 1.4 million people.
This current arrangement has produced undue hardships on those who have been in need of these kinds of diagnostic treatments. Patients in the Niagara area have been forced to incur great financial hardships through the purchasing of this treatment in the United States or enduring the long and painful waiting periods for treatment here in Ontario. I call on the Ontario government to act in a caring and expeditious manner.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): My statement is for the Premier, and it concerns a letter written to him on October 17 by Mr Robert Evans, trustee, Simcoe County Board of Education. Mr Evans urged the Premier to reconsider the mandating of junior kindergarten.
Mr Evans and I believe we must do the best we can for the children of Ontario. To accomplish this goal, it is our view that nursery schools are preferable to junior kindergarten for the following reasons:
(1) Nursery schools have smaller class sizes to enable closer attention to the children.
(2) A nursery school has one teacher and two other adults, while a junior kindergarten class has one teacher and no other adults.
(3) The nursery school program is a half-day program provided three half-days per week, while many junior kindergarten programs are provided on the all-day, alternate-day system.
(4) In nursery schools the teacher works directly with the parents, while junior kindergartens are supervised by principals, supervisory officers, directors of education and school boards.
(5) Nursery schools can be accommodated economically, while the cost of adding and equipping a junior kindergarten to a school is about $280,000.
(6) It costs about $700 per year to educate a child in nursery school and it costs over $3,000 per year in junior kindergarten.
(7) Many of our schools are overcrowded and it will be difficult to accommodate junior kindergarten classes.
The government's policy of mandating junior kindergarten will result in cuts to the rest of the education system, and the equality of education is sure to decline.
I join with Mr Evans in urging the government to encourage nursery schools rather than mandating junior kindergarten.
Mr Mike Cooper (Kitchener-Wilmot): I rise today to share with the members of the Legislature how the Waterloo region is celebrating its first national Child Day on November 20, 1994.
National Child Day was proclaimed by the government of Canada in 1993 and it is occurring annually on November 20, the anniversary date of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.
National Child Day is more than an historic commemoration. It's a day for everyone to celebrate children for just being themselves, an opportunity to remember that children need love and respect to grow to their full potential. It's a day to listen to children, to see the world through a child's eyes.
Waterloo region is one of the leading communities in Canada to recognize this new national day for children, and close to 50 different organizations have joined forces to plan a week of celebration and fun activities led by the regional community health department.
The goals in celebrating national Child Day are to raise public awareness about the day and promote everyone's sensitivity to the special care and nurturing all our children need. May I remind the members of this Legislature that we need to recognize national Child Day, but our children need this and much more 365 days a year, every year. We must, as legislators, encourage and promote this every day.
FIREARMS SAFETY AND CONTROL
Mr Peter North (Elgin): My statement is to the Minister of Natural Resources, the Solicitor General and the Attorney General.
Last evening I had an opportunity to attend a community forum in Elgin county, in the village of Rodney, dealing with the issues of firearms and gun control. This meeting was well attended by both men and women and a number of issues were discussed. I want to tell all members that there is great concern in rural Ontario for firearms safety and the regulation of firearms. There is also great concern for a fairness and recognition in those laws and regulations for the many firearms owners who have practised these principles for years.
Firearms owners and rural residents are very disappointed in the fact that this recognition is not apparent in the present firearms acquisition certificate application procedures. They very much wish to see a grandparenting clause included such as there is in Quebec for the firearms owners who have demonstrated their capabilities and responsibility with firearms for many years. This resolution was supported unanimously.
They also were very disillusioned with the ammunition bill and felt that this bill served no real purpose other than a resource for government later in the full registration of firearms. This bill also had no support.
There were also concerns raised about native issues and the concern over the use of high-power weapons and trespass laws. These concerns, however, were not limited to native groups but were related to the enforcement resources for the MNR and the inability to prosecute on charges that are laid and then later dropped. These issues are still of great concern, and the feeling is that the areas of conservation and public safety are still being overlooked in the interim enforcement policy agreement agreed to by the government and native communities.
Finally, there was lengthy discussion about the federal legislation coming forward, and it was clear that there is no support for Mr Rock and the views he is putting forward. People in rural Ontario feel that the pressure from large urban centres to press ahead on gun control does not take into account their concerns and needs and they are extremely upset about this.
I was told that on average 85% of the charges laid under section 85 of the Criminal Code are plea-bargained.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): The member's time has expired.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
Hon Ed Philip (Minister of Municipal Affairs): I rise to make a statement on behalf of my colleagues the Solicitor General and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and myself as Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Later this afternoon, I will introduce for first reading a bill that will help municipalities and police control late-night businesses and make neighbourhoods safer. Because this issue is of such importance, I am hoping the bill will have the all-party support it will need in order to pass during this legislative session.
Let me give the members some background. For several months now, we've been hearing concerns about certain businesses -- and I emphasize only certain businesses -- that operate late at night. We've read reports of shootings in or near after-hours clubs. It is well known that some late-night businesses have become hangouts for drug dealers. People are becoming increasingly concerned about the activities of people going in and out of these businesses.
Last June, my colleague the member for Fort York, Rosario Marchese, introduced an excellent private member's bill to give Metropolitan Toronto greater licensing powers over late-night businesses. That bill would have gone a long way towards helping Metro deal with its problems. This fall, though, a young woman was killed outside an after-hours club in London. It was apparent that the problem was not limited to Metro, and last month the Premier promised quick action.
We've consulted with the police and other enforcement agencies, with municipalities and with community groups. Today's initiative will enable police, municipal agencies and communities to work closely together to prevent activity that presents a real threat to the public. We've expanded considerably Mr Marchese's excellent private member's bill that I referred to earlier.
The legislation I'll introduce later this afternoon will strengthen both liquor licensing and municipal licensing powers. It will increase powers to deal with those businesses that have become the centres of criminal activity, while protecting the rights of legitimate businesses.
Let me take a minute to outline what's in the bill. The bill strengthens police powers under the Liquor Licence Act in a number of ways to allow them to close down illegal "booze cans." In places where it is suspected liquor is being sold illegally, it will allow the police to enter the premises and order the people to leave. It will allow them to seize liquor being sold illegally, the profits from the sale of liquor, and any equipment, such as tables, chairs, restaurant equipment etc, used in the commission of an offence. It will also allow the police or the LLBO employees to revoke a special occasion permit on the spot if liquor laws are being broken.
The bill also strengthens municipal licensing powers in a number of ways. It allows the licensing body to revoke, suspend or refuse issuance of a licence after a hearing and to impose operating conditions on individual licensed establishments, including limiting hours. It will allow courts to close establishments convicted of contravening a municipal licensing bylaw.
It will increase the maximum fine for municipal licensing infractions from a maximum of $5,000 to $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for corporations and allow a business's equipment to be seized for non-payment of the fines. It will allow for the honesty and integrity of a licensee to be considered as part of the criteria for a licensing decision.
While these measures give municipalities more means, more power if you like, to deal with trouble spots, there are some other things the government intends to do.
The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations will amend regulations to better control the granting of special occasion permits and to permit information to be shared with police to allow them to take a proactive role in heading off events they have reason to believe will pose threats to public safety in a community. As well, we will encourage better coordination and cooperation among enforcement agencies and community groups to help combat the problem.
I want to thank Michael Thomas of the Toronto East Downtown Residents' Association; Frank Parkhouse, president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police; Bill Mickle, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and so many others who have given us input and some very solid advice and who were present at the press conference this morning in support of this bill.
The violence and crime that have been associated with late-night businesses have to stop. This legislation and the supporting regulations will make Ontario communities safer. We are giving back communities to the people who live there.
Mr Tim Murphy (St George-St David): I appreciate the opportunity to talk on this issue. I'm always confused and surprised by what it is that eventually motivates this government to finally act. Metro council recognized the crucial importance of this issue in 1990 and, frankly, the situation has gotten worse, not better, since then. My leader has raised this issue in the House, my colleagues have raised this issue in this House, and it seems to show that that's what it takes finally to prod this government into action: to keep pressing, pressing and pressing. I give my colleague, for example, from Lawrence credit for doing that in this House.
There are a series of issues that we need to look at. In this, they're giving police more powers, and I think that's appropriate to do. The question, and what I'd like to hear from the police, is whether they have sufficient resources to do that job. In Metropolitan Toronto, for example, they are over 700 officers short of the complement they need to do the job well. That's what I hear in my community; I'm sure that's what other members are hearing in their communities. Whether they have the resources to do the job is what I'd like to hear from police forces.
We've also heard from some business associations in this province about their concern about some details and aspects of the municipal licensing provisions. We'd like an opportunity to hear them, so here's the commitment that we make. We will work with the government to pass the bill. We, however, want and must have committee hearings. The government on other issues has previously provided committee hearings when appropriate. For example, on the market value assessment bill we sat on Fridays and weekends. We can do that to make sure that we hear what we need to hear from municipalities and businesses across this province, to make sure that crime is reduced.
The key thing is that we have got to make sure that what we pass in this House focuses on deterring the criminals and the bad guys and doesn't unnecessarily impact on the good guys.
Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I'd like to add that this is not a partisan debate. In fact, all members of the House would support these initiatives and I think that all members would want their communities to be the safest places in which to live. I think that a community such as mine, which has had to cope with various clubs in it that have been operating in a fashion that would lead to the kind of violence and criminal activity we've seen over the past number of years, looks forward to action taken by this Legislature to bring forward this piece of legislation.
I want to say also, adding to what my colleague has said about committee hearings, I think it's important that we have a quick, speedy committee process -- let's be clear about that -- in an effort to make this legislation the best it can be and in an effort to give municipalities the real clout and the real authority they need to act in this regard.
We need to ensure that the legislation is watertight and sound. I believe that having committee hearings will ensure that. We can do that and get the bill passed before the end of this session. Nothing will get in the way of that. My colleagues support that. I believe that is the only way to ensure good, proper and appropriate legislation is passed and I'm sure that my colleagues in the Conservative Party would agree with me when they also get up and support legislation which would see a strengthening of powers and authority to municipalities to close down these places.
I suppose it would be prudent to add that the police would also be in favour of this legislation, but they would also like to see additional resources allocated to ensuring that communities are safe.
Mr Ron Eddy (Brant-Haldimand): Our leader and the Liberal caucus have called for such legislation to restore the rights and safety of our citizens in many communities across Ontario for years. I chastise the government for taking over four years to bring forward this important announcement. Over four years ago it was proposed; we were told in the announcement today it was over four years ago that it was requested. I believe that this is one of the most important announcements made by the government since its election and I am shocked and disappointed, indeed ashamed to be a member of a House that took so long to bring forward this important legislation for the safety of our citizens.
The municipal governments and the police forces across this province have been crying for the tools to do the job. Finally, they're going to be given some of the tools. It's important and let's get on with it.
Mr Charles Harnick (Willowdale): About three or four weeks ago the Liberal leader jumped up and thought she had a big issue here and she was going to score some big political points on this issue.
I'd like to tell you that in February 1987 the then Liberal government, in a report called the report of the Advisory Committee on Liquor Regulation, known as the Offer commission, at that very time recognized that there was a problem with after-hours clubs. You know what they did? For the three and half years that were left in their mandate before the people of Ontario rightfully threw them out and put them where they should be, they did absolutely nothing. Their leader stood up and crassly tried to score political points on something that she was in the cabinet and could have done and sat and did nothing -- a cheap political manoeuvre.
Let me just deal with the legislation the minister has put forward, because I'm running out of time. This piece of legislation is really very much a Band-Aid solution. I've looked at the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act and most of what is now being proposed is either available through that act now or within the Liquor Licence Act.
The difficulty that you have in this particular situation is that you are very much trying to regulate something that is illegal from the very outset. You can't regulate something that's illegal. If someone is selling liquor without a licence in a place without a licence, after hours without a licence, it's illegal. You can't regulate what's illegal.
The only way you can effectively deal with this problem -- and I mean effectively -- is to give the enforcement powers the resources to close up places that are operating illegally, to arrest people who are selling liquor illegally, to break up drug deals that go on in these places and outside these places.
These places exist for one purpose and it's illegal. It's to make money by selling liquor when you don't have a licensed premise. If you have a licensed premise, we have the tools to regulate it. The problem here is that what is being done is purely and totally illegal and there is not one thing in this package that is giving police greater resources to do the job.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): We heard the minister say at the conclusion of his statement, "giving back communities to the people who live there." That is self-congratulatory pap, at best, and certainly a gross exaggeration. The reality is this is a very modest step indeed. Essentially it's window dressing. It's smoke and mirrors to cover up this government's inaction in terms of dealing with the very tough issues facing our communities right across this province.
We can talk about policing and manpower. We talked about Toronto. Metropolitan Toronto is about 800 officers under strength right now. You can go out into the regions of this province -- in district 10, for example, between the hours of, I believe, 7 at night until about 6 in the morning, we have eight officers covering almost 11,000 square miles, supposedly protecting 275,000 people.
In other areas of eastern Ontario, and my colleague from Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry has a similar situation, we're closing down OPP detachments. We have very few officers to cover the province and provide security for Ontarians, and this minister has the gall to get up and say that this modest measure is going to give back communities to people who live in them.
What they could be doing is dealing with the Young Offenders Act, taking a strong position in respect to removing 16- to 18-year-olds from the Young Offenders Act. But your Attorney General fails to act. We could be unplugging the courtrooms so that people accused of rape are not walking free in the streets. We could be introducing a victim's bill of rights, which you have refused to do and the previous Liberal government refused to do. We could be bringing in amendments to the Mental Health Act to deal with dangerous offenders so we can ensure that they're kept off the streets.
If you want to do something meaningful about protecting the public in respect of law, order and security, those are the kinds of meaningful things that you could be doing. Instead, you've ignored them and brought in things like this almost meaningless piece of legislation, another thing like the bullet bill, which as a matter of fact has virtually no impact on the difficult situation facing the people of this province.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It's my understanding that the honourable member mentioned that Lyn McLeod was in cabinet and did not act upon that report. Lyn McLeod wasn't even elected at the time when the report was out.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): The member does not have a point of order and he will know that.
The Speaker: Order, order.
MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION CONTRACTS
Mr Steven Offer (Mississauga North): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, in her capacity as the acting Deputy Premier. Yesterday the Deputy Premier made an undertaking to speak to the Premier about serious allegations that were raised by my colleague the member for Mississauga West. These allegations involved threats and intimidation by a union official who was raising money for the NDP.
As the minister is aware, the head of an Ontario construction company says he was approached by a senior union official. The official told him: "You are a big company and you should buy a table for the Bob Rae dinner. Make sure you buy some tickets or we will make lots of trouble for you." It has been confirmed that the Premier's office has obtained a copy of the letter containing the allegations by the owner of the construction company. The Deputy Premier told this House yesterday that he would discuss this matter with the Premier.
My question: Has this matter been investigated and what has been found?
Hon Frances Lankin (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): I can tell the member that in fact we share the concern of the seriousness of these allegations, but I would say again that at this point in time they remain as allegations.
The Premier and the Treasurer have had a conversation and there has been an attempt in the Premier's office to look through and determine whether or not we have received any complaint from this individual. I can tell you at this point in time there hasn't been a complaint raised. We would be hoping that if there is a copy of the correspondence or if there is a complaint that is being directed to the Premier, if the member has a copy of that he would share it with us. At this point in time we've had no official complaint.
Mr Offer: By way of supplementary, we have received information that this letter has been shared with the Premier's office. Minister, you will know that the actions not yet taken by your government seem to indicate that you do not take this issue seriously.
The Premier's public schedule states that he is supposed to be in the House today. The Deputy Premier told us yesterday he would speak to the Premier and report to the House. You are the acting Deputy Premier. Minister, these are very serious allegations and you have a responsibility, as acting Deputy Premier, to follow through on this issue, but it appears that the government is not taking the issue seriously.
The question remains: What specific steps have been taken to look into this situation? What has the Premier done to see whether or not the strong-arm tactics and threats were used to raise funds for a dinner in and on his own behalf in his own name?
This is a serious matter. These allegations have been very directly made, and we believe that it is up to you to respond directly to the very serious matter which has been raised.
Hon Ms Lankin: I take the matter seriously, the Deputy Premier takes the matter seriously, the Premier takes the matter seriously, and our political party takes the matter seriously, as does the member, obviously, by the tone of his question.
I would say to the member again, an allegation has been referred to in this House quoting from a report in a newspaper that is a report of a letter that was sent from a company executive to his lawyer with respect to a labour board suit of some sort involving this particular local union. We have checked at the Premier's office into whether or not we have received a complaint or a copy of that correspondence. We do not have that. We have not had this complaint made directly to us. All we have is a report of an allegation in a newspaper article, at this point in time, without any follow-up to that.
Mr Offer: By way of final supplementary, the question is that an allegation has been made. You are indicating at this point in time that as far as you are concerned you do not have any further information. What we require today, Madam Minister, is a commitment, a guarantee, an undertaking that you will on Monday report to this Legislature this whole matter: what was said, who said what, when it was said, and the results of your investigation. Will you give us a full, thorough report on a very serious matter that has been reported, and will you undertake to do so this coming Monday?
Hon Ms Lankin: No, I will not. At this point in time I'm not any longer going to suggest that the member is being genuine and sincere in his concern about this serious allegation. This is silly partisan nonsense going on.
We have not had a complaint made to the government with respect to this. A particular Toronto newspaper and reporter have reported that there was an allegation made in a letter between a company and that company's lawyer which is going to be used in evidence at a labour board hearing. It's very convoluted. I'm not sure at this point in time what the actual nature of the allegation is, whether or not it's related to that labour board case, whether or not it stands apart outside of that. I also have no information to suggest that the allegation is true.
I don't even know, and I'd ask the member opposite if he knows, if this individual actually felt strong-armed and actually bought a ticket or a table at the dinner. We don't have the answers to that. We don't have a complaint that's been launched with us. So I think that this is silliness. I'm sure this is going to continue in order to try and get a sense of momentum. I'm not going to participate in that. The answer to you is no.
Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): My question is for the Solicitor General. Minister, last Saturday a young constituent of mine, Sean Kells, age 19, suffered a very painful death, with burns to 90% of his body. Yesterday hundreds of people from north Toronto packed Deer Park United Church to say farewell to Sean. The questions they had were very basic: How could this have happened? How could this tragedy have been averted?
The cause of Sean's death is clear. At the place where Sean worked, he was pouring a highly flammable liquid called chipshield from a 45-gallon tank into 1-litre containers. There was either a spark or a buildup of static electricity causing an explosion. Tragically for Sean, part 4 of the Ontario fire code, entitled "Flammable and Combustible Liquids," contains no rules about the handling of such materials as chipshield. Instead, after 13 years, Minister, this section has one word: "Reserved."
I am convinced that had there been regulations in the Ontario fire code concerning this flammable substance, Sean would have been alive today. Minister, it's my understanding that the office of the fire marshal has had a draft document ready to go for some time, and yet the regulations are still not spelled out. In light of this tragedy, have you reviewed this report and are you now prepared to implement the regulations recommended by the office of the fire marshal?
Hon David Christopherson (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I'm sure that all of us express our condolences to the family and are always moved when an individual dies, particularly in the workplace, as it was in this case. I know that I speak for all members of the House when I say that, from all the parties. I would also say to the member that the coroner has called an inquest, so of course I'm limited as to what I can say with regard to the specifics of this case.
With regard to part 4 of the fire code, the member will know that the code was enacted in 1981, and at that time a decision was taken to place that on reserve, given that all of the regulations were not ready, which is not unusual when legislation of that complexity is being proposed, and that the fire marshal's office undertook, with the support of the government of that day, to work on the priorities of the regulations that they best could enact and those that they felt would have the greatest immediate impact on the public.
In 1987, one of your colleagues, a predecessor of mine, circulated the draft regulations, which run some 100 pages. Those draft regulations are available for fire services to use in issuing a fire marshal's order and are available for them to know the kind of guidelines that the fire marshal is suggesting be looked at, notwithstanding that they aren't regulatory law.
The last point I'll make, and then I'll add more during the supplementaries, is that the Occupational Health and Safety Act in many areas overlaps much of what the fire code does when it pertains to workplaces. I understand from talking to the fire marshal's office that indeed in this particular area there are quite a number of overlaps, and I think we may see that show itself as this particular case unfolds.
Ms Poole: Minister, first of all I will convey your sympathy to Judi and Paul Kells, but I think they need more than sympathy from the legislators in this building. They need some assurances. I am aware that some of the safety regulations are covered under the health and safety act; however, after talking to the fire marshal's office, I've been advised that those regulations are not nearly as comprehensive as what would have been included in part 4 of the Ontario fire code.
We're also aware that a coroner's inquest has been called. However, calling a coroner's inquest is no guarantee that their recommendations will be carried out. Do we have your commitment today that you will prepare without delay draft regulations so that once the coroner's report has been received, you can act immediately to ensure this tragedy never occurs again?
Hon Mr Christopherson: Let me say at the outset that when I referred to the actions of the two previous governments in this regard, both the Conservative government in 1981 and your own government in 1987, I am in no way criticizing the action or decisions that were taken. I believe that was the appropriate way to deal with this, given the other issues that were there to be dealt with.
I would point out to the member that since 1981 there have been a number of other regulations. It's not as if nothing has been done. Each of our governments, working with the fire marshal of the day, has worked to fill in those reserved places in the code so that the regulations are in place. It's always a question of, which one do you work on first? I would think that my predecessors are like me: You take very seriously the advice of those who are professionals in this arena and know these things and listen to what they say needs to be worked on.
I know that in 1982 there were regulations put in place for rooming-houses, in 1987 there was health care retrofit, and during our term of government we've had three different pieces of regulation put in place.
To deal with the last point of your comment, the question of whether I will act, in my discussion with the fire marshal's office I have asked them, if they're not in a position to recommend we do the entire 100-page regulation, can we at least break it down into pieces that we can begin to move on over the next few months, and indeed see an accelerated pace of getting this particular regulation in place? They are going to respond to me with an action plan, if you will, on how we can do that in a way that is appropriate.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the minister conclude his response, please.
Hon Mr Christopherson: Well, there's one more supplementary. I'll get one more point in then.
Ms Poole: Minister, I am pleased to hear that there is an action plan and in fact work will be commenced and will be done over the coming months. However, I want some assurances that these regulations will not fall between the cracks.
I would ask for a very specific commitment from you today. Will you commit that within 30 days of receiving the results of the coroner's inquest, regulations will be brought before cabinet? It is too late to save the life of Sean Kells, but it may well save somebody else's life.
Hon Mr Christopherson: Again, let me point out that although the honourable member raises the issue of how far the occupational health and safety regulations go, the code regulations go there, I would just ask that we all pay particular attention to that and see whether or not in this particular case there were codes that applied, and we need that to happen.
To answer directly, I would really like to stand here and say it's a guarantee that within X number of days there will be immediate action taken and everything will be as we want it to be. The reality is that your own Solicitor General of the day couldn't do that with this particular regulation. Neither could the previous government.
I'm not satisfied, given this issue, that we leave it out there as draft regulations. I've asked that we break it down further and look at pieces that can be implemented. I'm advised that this is one of the most complex, wide-ranging regulations in that entire code -- as I said, it runs some 100 pages -- and I don't think it would be appropriate as a political response to say to all of the world that's affected by changes in the fire code: "Don't worry. Everything will be taken care of."
What I will say to the honourable member very directly is that this will not fall through the cracks. This is an issue that I have spoken to the fire marshal's office on. I have asked them for an action plan; and yes indeed, we will take it very seriously and move on putting that total regulation in place just as quick as we can, in as responsible a fashion as I know that she would want, and certainly that the third party would want.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): My question is to the Minister of Health on her unilateral decision to cancel out-of-country health care coverage. I have a copy of a letter from John Keogh of Wasaga Beach. John's wife, Laura, is 68 years old and is a severe asthmatic. For the past eight years they have gone to Arizona in order for Mrs Keogh to enjoy a healthy winter. The Keoghs used to pay $1,600 in extra health coverage for five months in Arizona. That bill would now be nearly $3,000 this year. Minister, because of your decision to cut their hospital coverage below the OHIP rate, a plan which they worked all their lives to pay for, the Keoghs are staying home. Do you think this is fair?
Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): Our first priority is to have a top-quality health care system in Ontario for all of us in this province. While doing that, we have had to make some tough decisions in order to be able to both protect and preserve our existing system and expand it to meet areas where there was not enough service, whether that be for seniors through long-term care, for the expansion of our cancer system, for dialysis costs.
We've made some choices and made the decision that out-of-country health care was something for which people always, as you've said in the example you raised, carried some private insurance. To ask those people to carry some extra private insurance was a decision we made in order to have the saving to do the many expansions and to maintain the health care system we have now.
I am surprised at the example of costs that you raise because in fact rates for private insurance have gone down this year by about 10% or 20% from last year because of increased competition. Dare I say it, but it appears to be that the marketplace is working to reduce the costs of private insurance.
Mr Harris: I don't know why anybody on that side of the House would dare to say it. What your cuts mean, however, to Laura Keogh are that she will now look forward to a winter of illness. According to her husband, John, she is likely to be hospitalized at some point. For example, in previous years prior to going to Arizona, she regularly spent time in the hospital each winter in Ontario.
Minister, the bottom line is, aside from the personal effects on Mrs Keogh's health, in her case -- and you tell me that the reason for this policy you've brought in is to save dollars. Whether it saves dollars or not is what I actually want to talk to you about tonight, aside from the fact that I don't think that's a good reason to break the Canada Health Act and violate a fundamental trust with the people in Ontario. But you say it's to save dollars.
In her case, you clearly are not going to save dollars. In fact it is very likely that the system will cost far more, because she is much more likely to be hospitalized this winter staying at home than had she been in Arizona. So in Mrs Keogh's case, not only are you destroying the trust, not only are you destroying her life at age 68 and ruining her winter and her family's, but you are actually going to in all likelihood cost the system more money than if you would pay the OHIP rate for her to be in Arizona, where she is less likely to be hospitalized. How do you possibly justify affecting her life, ruining her winter, when at the same time, in her case, net costs to the system will be more?
Hon Mrs Grier: As the leader of the third party is well aware, I'm not able to nor am I in a position to comment on an individual case. But I have to say to him that there is no evidence overall that in fact the costs -- and he's talking costs, not the individual effects on an individual -- are greater as a result of the fact that some people may not be able to afford the private insurance to go south.
But let me repeat to the member that everybody leaving the country has for decades known that buying private insurance was something they had to do, and the increase that was forecast in the cost of private insurance as a result of some of the changes that have been made has in fact not been great and overall the cost of private insurance has diminished.
The reason that we have made some changes in out-of-country health care costs is because we don't believe that we ought to spend precious health care dollars necessarily on out-of-country institutions. We pay for out-of-country doctors. We pay for out-of-country medication in some cases. We don't any longer pay expensive hospital beds out of country.
We are in line with other provinces in this country, and by doing that we have been able to protect the health care system for everyone, whether they are here or whether they are out of country for several months of the year, and we have been able to expand the services --
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Would the minister conclude her reply, please.
Hon Mrs Grier: -- our health care system here provides.
Mr Harris: You, like some other provinces, are in violation of the Canada Health Act. You are destroying lives, and according to you, you have no evidence. You have no evidence that it's going to even save money. In fact, this is what you told me, "We don't have any evidence to this effect." Clearly there are many others like Mrs Keogh. If they now stay home because of the increased cost, this will be what we call the unintended consequences of your legislation.
Since you have no evidence, or you're not prepared to table any evidence, I am giving you evidence of at least one case, and I believe there are many others, where it will cost the system more. That is medical evidence, irrefutable, that the doctors are telling us. That's why they recommend that their patients go to places like Arizona. Why then, in the face of this evidence that I'm giving you, which is medical, which is irrefutable in the absence of any evidence of your own, do you continue to break the law, violate the Canada Health Act and destroy the lives of people like Mrs Keogh?
Hon Mrs Grier: The leader of the third party should not say there is no evidence. The figures speak for themselves. In 1991- 92, we were spending $310 million on out-of-country health coverage. In 1993-94, we spent $71 million on out-of-country health coverage.
Another fact: Of that $71 million, only $14 million was for people over 65. Because of the changes we've made and the saving that we have, we have expanded cancer care, we have expanded dialysis care.
The member says he is going to restore all out-of-country coverage. What's he going to do? Take the dialysis machines out of hospitals? Tell Oshawa that they can no longer have a cancer centre? Tell the seniors of this province that we can no longer afford long-term care? He's not prepared --
Mr Harris: I am going to stop breaking the law. I am going to live up to the obligations --
The Speaker: Order. The leader of the third party, please come to order.
Hon Mrs Grier: -- to make tough financial decisions in order to protect the health care system of this province.
Hon Frances Lankin (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): This is a 180-degree turnaround for you and your party.
The Speaker: Would the member for Beaches-Woodbine come to order.
AGRICULTURE LABOUR POLICY
Mr Noble Villeneuve (S-D-G & East Grenville): I have a question of the Minister of Labour, but in her absence I will go to the minister who should be in charge of this, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Can the minister confirm the facts in the lead story in a current edition of Farm and Country? It says here, "Labour Unions Go Undercover on the Farm," that the United Food and Commercial Workers conducted an illegal organizing meeting on a Niagara fruit farm earlier this summer. If the minister can't confirm that, then why has there not been an investigation over the last two weeks since the details were published in this edition of Farm and Country?
Hon Elmer Buchanan (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): I'm usually not in the position to confirm or deny anything that appears in any newspaper and I'm certainly not going to do it with this particular story.
I am aware, though, that some allegations were made around the migrant worker program, which happens to be a federal program. It's a program that we have been supportive of. We recognize the importance of the migrant worker program to many of the farmers who have a lot of manual labour that needs to be conducted for harvesting crops and we have been supportive.
There have been complaints about the housing. I understand that there are vehicles in place to deal with those complaints and we would expect that those complaints would be dealt with through the normal course of events.
Mr Villeneuve: It was reported by the owner of the farm that when he inquired why there were some 20 cars at the road, he was told that there was a church meeting of migrant workers. We also know from photographs found at the scene, and later published in the Farm and Country article, that union organizers Ralph Ortlieb and Walter Lumsden were present -- I think people who are known to you. Ralph Ortlieb, as the minister will know, was one of the NDP's own labour representatives who participated in setting up Bill 91, and Walter Lumsden is quoted in the paper as saying about being "secretly on a farm property," and I quote, "There's all kinds of us doing it now and I'm glad sometimes you have to do something a little bit wrong." That comes from Walter Lumsden.
There's more than enough information in the article, Minister. Why has the minister, or people from your ministry, not acted and reassured the farming community that illegal actions by unions will not be tolerated?
Hon Mr Buchanan: As I said a moment ago, I have no intention of commenting on what's reported in one article in any newspaper. I do know though that a meeting has taken place; in fact it took place on Monday, I believe. The committee that's made up of representatives from labour, representatives from the farmers and representatives from the Ministry of Labour and my own ministry met on Monday. I believe that this issue was one of the ones that was discussed. I believe that both sides -- if you can call it a disagreement -- have decided to work together. There's a recognition that they will investigate as to whether or not there's any validity in some of the allegations and they will be dealt with in a cooperative manner.
Mr Villeneuve: The Ministry of Labour is certainly complicit in organizing the family farm. I hope the Ministry and the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is not.
In each case, the access-to-property clauses in Bill 40 and Bill 91 have clearly been broken. Will the minister admit today that his government has no intention of ensuring that indeed the legislation in Bills 40 and 91 is enforced? I know it's not in his ministry, I know it's in the Ministry of Labour, but would you not agree, Minister, that Bill 91, according to what's happened, is a bit of a joke?
Hon Mr Buchanan: There are no jokes about Bill 91. Bill 91 in fact brought Ontario into the same era as all of the other provinces with the exception of Alberta. Agricultural workers in every other province in this country are allowed to organize except for Alberta. That's what Bill 91 did.
The seasonal workers were an issue as to whether or not they should be included. The representatives on the committee who looked at this bill, both the UFCW and the other organizations representing labour and farmers, agreed that seasonal workers would not be included as part of this bill. They agreed on that, they signed off on that and we agreed with that. There were some suggestions that seasonal workers be included. It's my understanding at this point in time that both sides have now said that that's what they agreed on and that's what they continue to agree on. They think that there are some problems with the migrant worker program and they have agreed that all of us will work together in trying to resolve whatever those issues are.
This bill is working. There are no problems with this bill. In fact, it has not hurt any farmer and the farmers and labour are working together, which was the intent of Bill 91.
MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION CONTRACTS
Mr Steven Offer (Mississauga North): I have a question to the Minister of Transportation. Minister, I want to return to the issue of the awarding of the Highway 407 contract which you have refused to provide any details upon. Minister, media reports have indicated that there are many questions about the way in which this contract was awarded, and your refusal to disclose the bids and to ensure taxpayers that they got the best deal for their money only feeds suspicions about this deal.
Minister, I'd like to ask you one very specific question about one particular aspect of the deal. Reports have suggested that the labour deal signed by the winning consortium and included as part of its bid was a key reason that it ultimately won the bid. My question to the minister is, was the presence of the deal with labour a key factor or was it not?
Hon Mike Farnan (Minister of Transportation): Several questions. First of all, as far as I am concerned, and I want to make this abundantly clear, I have absolutely no problem in releasing the contract and providing that contract provided that the commercially sensitive information is not revealed. That's the first point I want to make, and my ministry staff have sent a formal request to CHIC, which is the private sector consortium, for permission to release the contract. That's the first point.
Secondly, I don't want the Liberals to lose sight of the fact of what we achieved here. We are building Highway 407 some 22 years faster than originally planned. The private consortium is building the highway $300 million cheaper than if the ministry had built it itself. We have a time and price guarantee for the completion of the highway. Highway 407 will reduce congestion in Toronto estimated at $2 billion per year. Can you imagine, Mr Speaker? Two billion dollars per year being saved as a result of entering a very innovative contract. The Liberals would have taken 22 years extra to build this, and we are in fact creating jobs now.
With regard to the point he makes about the contract between the consortium and the union --
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Would the minister conclude his response, please.
Hon Mr Farnan: -- let me say it has absolutely nothing to do with government. If the people have concerns, they should take them to the appropriate parties. You have an employer and an employee coming to a contract that is the business arrangement that is holding up between those two parties and has absolutely nothing to do with government.
Mr Offer: My question to the Minister of Transportation was whether the presence of a deal with labour was a key factor or not. The Minister of Transportation has now taken about four or five minutes in a response that was not to the question that was posed.
Minister of Transportation, the reason I ask you this question -- and please listen -- is that there have been conflicting reports about whether a labour deal was key to winning the deal. One of your senior Ministry of Transportation officials said the labour deal in the winning bid was an important factor in the decision to award this billion-dollar contract. In fact, Tony Salerno, the head of the Ontario Transportation Capital Corp, said it was a key part of their bid. Yet the representatives of the losing bid have said that they couldn't get a clear answer on the importance of including a labour deal in their bid. In fact, they say that a senior bureaucrat told them not to sign a deal with the labour group.
Minister, maybe you can clear this up. What were your officials told to inform the bidders? Were they directed to inform them that a labour deal would be crucial to a successful bid or not? Finally, were all the bidders given the same information? Minister, I would appreciate it if you would respond to the question posed as opposed to the briefing note in front of you.
Hon Mr Farnan: The process has been impeccable, absolutely impeccable, and I have answered this question time and again. But let me say to the member that when you negotiate the largest single contract in the history of transportation in Ontario and when you successfully conclude a fixed-time and a fixed-price guarantee, doesn't it make sense for any consortium that is bidding on that process to enter into negotiations? The member should know that there is privileged information in these bids.
I am saying to you that it certainly, in my view, makes sense to have some agreements made. Whether those agreements are made or not is part of the presentations that were made, but you know that the proposals, the bids, are indeed proprietary information. That is a fact.
The Speaker: Would the minister conclude his response, please.
Hon Mr Farnan: As far as the agreement goes between an employer and an employee, labour law in Ontario is very clear: An employer can make an agreement with its workers as long as it practises fair wage opportunities. Indeed it is my understanding --
The Speaker: Would the minister please conclude his response.
Hon Mr Farnan: -- that the consortium is indeed recognizing union wages, paying union wages, and if he has a problem with workers in Ontario receiving union wages --
The Speaker: Will the minister take his seat. New question.
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): In the absence of the Premier, to whom I wished to place this question, I would like to pose it to the Minister of Community and Social Services, and I would ask a page to give to him a copy of two letters signed by your Premier, Bob Rae, to a prominent member of the Adoption Council of Ontario. Those letters are dated both in 1985 and 1986, when your Premier made a personal, strong commitment to adoption reform in Ontario.
In the letter of September 25, 1985, which I have placed on your desk, the Premier thanks adoptees and their parents for their support during the provincial election and in return promises that, and I quote Premier Bob Rae, "New Democrats will continue to press to open up adoption records to adoptees and their parents, just as we have done since 1978."
Minister, if you look at the letter of June 10, 1986, again signed by Premier Bob Rae, the Premier goes on to state, "You can be sure that Ontario New Democrats will try to obtain the kinds of information disclosure legislation that people such as you, as an adoptee, are seeking."
These letters are signed by Premier Bob Rae as leader of the third party in Ontario. They are his personal commitment and undertaking prior to two elections, and they were reiterated again in 1990.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Would the member place a question.
Mr Jackson: My question, Minister: Is your Premier still personally committed to reform for the adoptees in this province?
Hon Tony Silipo (Minister of Community and Social Services): I think the letters the member has read from, has quoted from, speak for themselves. I believe the Premier remains today as committed as he was then to this issue, and I think the support he has shown for this issue as we've made steps, as I know the member is aware, to try to deal with this issue in terms of going as far as we've been able to go within the present legislation -- the member knows that we have made a number of improvements in the adoption disclosure process to try to make it easier for people who want to reconnect with people who were adopted to do that.
At the same time, I'm sure the member is also aware of the issues that are now being discussed through the private member's bill from the member for Sault Ste Marie, and I presume that's the issue he's going to want to pursue in the supplementary.
Mr Jackson: No, I don't wish to pursue a private member's bill that will die on the order paper of this government. I want to quote again from the same letters I have given to you, a quote from Bob Rae, personal signature, on September 25, 1985.
He says this: "Because of committed supporters like yourselves, New Democrats were able to negotiate an historic agenda for legislative reform in 1985. Just think what we could have accomplished with a majority."
Minister, in the provincial election in 1990, Ontario adoptees relied on the word of Bob Rae and they helped give you your majority. There are some one million people involved here.
When adoption groups contacted the Office of the Premier and asked him to undertake a personal support for Adoption Month in Ontario, he said no. When they asked you to rise in the House and provide official government recognition of Adoptees Month, November, you said no. On Monday I began tabling petitions on behalf of these individuals, and yesterday a private member buried in the back benches of your government made a statement on Adoption Week in Ontario without mentioning any legislative reform.
The Speaker: Does the member have a supplementary?
Mr Jackson: My question then to you, Minister, and to Bob Rae in his absence: Do you still think adoptees deserve the reforms they've been seeking from you since 1978 or are you simply going to pay lip-service to them because there's an election around the corner?
Hon Mr Silipo: We have been dealing with this issue in what I thought was really a non-partisan way and a very constructive way, and that's quite frankly, despite the attack from the member opposite, the way in which I would like to continue dealing with this issue.
I think he does a disservice to every member in this House when he diminishes the power of a private member's bill in this House. I know he, as a private member, has in fact argued time after time as to why certain private members' bills have not been passed. There is, as the member knows, a private member's bill which deals very clearly with these issues that stands in the name of the member for Sault Ste Marie. That bill, I was pleased to learn, has been scheduled for committee next week.
I think before the member opposite casts all sorts of aspersions on any particular member of this Legislature, he should let the process continue to unfold.
Mr Jackson: You said no to official recognition.
The Speaker: Would the member for Burlington South please come to order.
Hon Mr Silipo: I have said to the member privately, I have said to the member publicly and I'm happy to reiterate today, I support the private member's bill that's there. I believe there are many members in this House who support that bill.
There are issues we are trying to resolve between my ministry and the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations with respect to the funding, with respect to some of the legislative provisions which I know are going to be addressed next week as the bill goes through committee. There's still time left on the legislative calendar for all of us to do what we believe is the correct thing to do and that is to continue to provide access to adoption records for people in these instances. That continues to be very much the intent that I'm going to work under.
The Speaker: Would the minister conclude his reply, please.
Hon Mr Silipo: I hope that despite the attack, the member opposite will also continue to work with us towards that objective.
Mr Norm Jamison (Norfolk): My question today is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. There has been some conversation in this House around the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, SOPs -- special occasion permits -- and so on. My question I think is pertinent today around those issues.
The Tories have made a firm commitment to the privatization of the LCBO. The Liberals have shown strong tendencies to move in the same direction. This position is based on two assumptions: that privatization would lower costs and improve customer service, and that it also would have little effect on the control of liquor sales to the public. I think that's pertinent due to previous discussions here in this House today.
I would ask the minister, what is the minister's position on these particular assumptions?
Hon Marilyn Churley (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): The experience of privatization in other jurisdictions, most notably recently Alberta, shows that both of those assumptions are completely wrong. I'll read to you from an article in the Globe and Mail which says:
"Alberta consumers have found that the cost of many popular alcoholic beverages has increased by as much as 25%. Selection ranges from decent to dismal, as many new outlets have limited floor space and most owners have no interest in stocking brands that do not move quickly."
The LCBO, through the economy of scale, can keep prices down and keep uniform service across the province even in remote northern areas. So that is not common sense whatsoever.
Mr Jamison: Many families in this province have experienced troubles because of liquor in one form or another, liquor sales and the control of liquor sales. The Tory policy does not mention the social consequences of privatizing the LCBO. Would the minister give the House her view on the social impact of such privatization?
Hon Ms Churley: Given the seriousness of the statement that was made earlier today by the Minister of Municipal Affairs on what we're trying to do on some problems relating to alcohol in the province, I'm really surprised and somewhat shocked by the response from the opposition today.
According to a study by Professor Lauzon of the University of Quebec, privatization would result in an increase in alcoholism, a rise in smuggling and also perhaps an increase in drunk driving. The LCBO works with health and social agencies on strategies to ensure the responsible sale of alcohol. The LCBO employees uphold strict guidelines with respect to serving minors and intoxicated persons.
There is fear that a private system would favour profits over social responsibility. So I am proud to reiterate once again that this government will not be privatizing the LCBO, for it would be a bad business decision with negative social consequences for the people of Ontario. We are using our common sense in this regard.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): My question is to the Attorney General. On Monday the Ontario Crown Attorneys Association, which represents your crown attorneys, appeared before the Ontario Labour Relations Board at a hearing that was to decide which bargaining unit should represent your lawyers.
The unionization of crown attorneys is the unfortunate outcome of the government's amendments to the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act, the new legislation that you brought forward, which forces Ontario's civil servants to join unions.
The crown attorneys fear that they will be forced to go on strike in order to reach a first contract, and by going on strike they will be violating their code of conduct as set out by the Law Society of Upper Canada. As a result, Ontario will not be able to prosecute any cases, be it for murder, robbery or rape, because Bill 40, your labour law, does not allow the hiring of replacement workers as long as these services are not considered essential.
Right now the government is trying to decide which public sector services will be considered essential, and the existing framework between the government and its crown attorneys, your crown attorneys, Minister, expires in December.
I'm asking the Attorney General today, because of her interest in ensuring that the crown attorneys are available to prosecute cases in our courts, will she give her assurance to this House that crown attorneys will be designated essential and therefore prevented from going on strike as their own code of conduct forbids?
Hon Marion Boyd (Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues): The member is quite right to be concerned about the issue. Certainly the crown attorneys' association has made many representations to us about their concerns, because of course they remain concerned about their obligations under the law society as well.
What the member should be aware of is that this matter is very much part of the discussion by the labour relations board. It's completely inappropriate for me to comment on a matter that is being adjudicated by that board at the present time, and it would be extremely difficult to give her the assurance that she wants in the form that she wants.
I can tell her that it is our obligation as the Ministry of the Attorney General to ensure that cases going through the courts proceed with expedition, and we certainly can give a commitment that we would make every effort as a government and as a ministry to ensure that cases do not get lost under any circumstances.
Mrs Caplan: Minister, your answer is not in the public interest. In fact, I'd suggest that we have a patently ridiculous situation here under the guise of ideological purity. Your government is saying that your crown attorneys could be put in a position where they would be forced to strike. The government is forcing the association representing the crowns into the same bargaining unit as other ministry lawyers such as legal drafters. The larger unit virtually guarantees that at some point Ontario prosecutors will be on strike and no cases will be prosecuted. This is your responsibility.
What I'm asking you today is for your assurance that since you will not designate the crown attorneys as essential, that you'll not assure that happens, will you agree at least that the crown attorneys will have their own bargaining unit so that they are separate from other public sector lawyers and would then not be in the position of having to strike because a larger unit forced them into it?
Hon Mrs Boyd: These matters are currently under negotiations and negotiations are going well. I'm certainly not going to enter into a discussion as Attorney General with the member. She's the critic for Management Board, she knows this is a Management Board issue and I will decline to answer any further.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): My question is for the Minister of Transportation and it has to do with the four-laning of the southern portion of Highway 16. It appears clear that the federal Liberal government is reneging on its promise made during the federal election campaign to come up with -- is it $90 million? --
Mr Noble Villeneuve (S-D-G & East Grenville): It is $60 million.
Mr Runciman: -- $60 million towards the completion of the southern portion of the highway. If you accept the assumption that the Liberals are now backing away from that election promise, where does the project stand in terms of priorities within your ministry? When can we expect the provincial government, your government, to proceed with this? Is it at the top of the priority list? Can we expect, without federal funding, that this road expansion will be launched next spring?
Hon Mike Farnan (Minister of Transportation): We are very clearly committed to 416, as the member knows. The federal government, in the course of an election, said it would come forward with one third of the funding for this project in order that it could be fast-tracked. Unfortunately, the federal government has not lived up to its commitments.
I am delighted that a member from the third party would be supporting this, but also I'm a little bit surprised that the member from the third party would be encouraging us to spend funds on transportation when his party is committed to cutting $300 million from the Transportation budget.
Mr Runciman: If we want to talk about spending priorities --
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Order.
Mr Runciman: The minister failed to deal with my specific question in terms of where this stands, assuming the federal government is not going to keep its commitment. Where does it stand with his government? Let's set aside the federal government situation.
He talks about fiscal integrity. I want to ask him, as a supplementary, why his government does not have enough funds to continue with the southerly extension of four-laning when it was able to come up with $2 million for, in effect, a bridge to nowhere, a bridge that's going to something called the Log Farm which is costing $2 million? The Log Farm is a questionable tourist attraction which has declining revenues every year. There's a serious question whether it can continue to operate, yet your government made a decision to construct a very elaborate, fancy bridge to what, in effect, is a dying tourist haunt. Can you explain your priorities? How come you have money for that sort of thing and you don't have money to continue the four-laning?
Hon Mr Farnan: The contradictions of the Conservative Party really disturb me. On the one hand they're talking about spending money; on the other hand they're saying to cut $300 million from the Transportation budget.
Let me just give you some idea of what members of the Conservative Party want us to do. The member for York Mills, "Spend more money on transfers"; Dianne Cunningham, London North, "Install raised pavement markers"; Carleton, "More money to fully fund Highway 416"; Leeds-Grenville, "Spend more money to keep open an underutilized DMV office"; the member for Wellington, "More money for provincial capital roads funding"; the member for Renfrew, "Maintain municipal roads"; the member for Parry Sound, "Road rehabilitation, railway crossings, gravel roads, road culverts."
It goes on and on. The Conservatives want us to spend, spend, spend, and at the same time, Mike Harris says he wants to cut $300 million from the Transportation budget. I don't understand where the Conservatives are coming from. They're speaking out of both sides of their mouth. The people of Ontario will not stand for this duplicity and neither will I.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Ms Christel Haeck (St Catharines-Brock): I know all members in this House will welcome Professor Donald MacDonald and his class. I think we've all given them a very lively first-hand demonstration of the joys of question period. We all hope you've had a good time here visiting us all.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Now for your question.
Ms Haeck: Thank you for your indulgence, Mr Speaker.
Ms Haeck: Thank you, the member for St George-St David, I'm sorry.
My question is to the minister responsible for women's issues. I do not intend to remind the minister that November is Wife Assault Prevention Month, a month when government, service providers and communities work together to focus on the prevention of violence against women.
A problem has come to my attention specifically relating to a service provider in my riding, St Catharines-Brock, which has been involved in giving counselling to those male abusers who have been sentenced to go into treatment. As you know, more and more judges are making mandatory participation in a counselling program a provision of sentencing for men convicted of violence against women.
In St Catharines, Design for a New Tomorrow is the sole provider of a 10-week group counselling session for men who have abused their female partners. Design for a New Tomorrow, like many other social agencies, is experiencing serious budget constraints and cannot meet the demand for its program. Madam Minister, what actions can be taken to resolve this situation?
Hon Marion Boyd (Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues): Certainly, preventing violence against women and their children and the vulnerable continues to be a high priority. In fact, we've increased funding in the area about 52% since 1990. So we have been working hard on it. The male batterers programs are part of our violence against women strategy. They're funded and delivered through the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services and the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
In response to an extensive community consultation, the government implemented guidelines to make the male batterers programs more accessible and more accountable, and there has been a moratorium on additional funding for the programs during the development of those guidelines. We've now initiated an evaluation of the male batterers programs to ensure that the guidelines have been implemented and that the outcomes of the programs show them to be effective in providing better safety for women and their children. Once that evaluation is complete, then the question of additional funding can be addressed more effectively.
Ms Haeck: Madam Minister, I think we all want to ensure that men who assault their female partners receive the treatment they need to be functioning members in our society. I have met several times with the staff at Design for a New Tomorrow. Their philosophy is that if they can change one man, they will have saved five and possibly six women from abuse since these men tend to go from one woman to another.
Last year, Design for a New Tomorrow received 225 calls from men who were looking for counselling; 125 of those calls were from men who had been charged and were awaiting sentencing, or who were already convicted and mandated by a judge to have treatment through their program.
Unfortunately, Design for a New Tomorrow only receives funding to counsel 80 men a year. That means 125 men sought counselling for their program but had to be turned away because of funding constraints. This, I think we will all agree, is a tragedy, not only for the men but for the women they will go on to abuse because they couldn't get treatment.
The Speaker: Could the member place a question, please.
Ms Haeck: Can the minister assure me that male batterers programs will be considered for additional funding in the new violence against women strategy?
Hon Mrs Boyd: The focus of the violence against women strategy is to prevent violence and the member is quite right in her analysis of the importance of helping men who have been violent to change their behaviour. I can assure her that from my perspective and from our government's perspective, male batterers programs need to be taken into account in planning that strategy.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
Hon Brian A. Charlton (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding standing order 96(h), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot item 75.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): This is a petition that I know the Minister of Northern Development and Mines will be interested in, as he gave me his assurance yesterday that he will be dealing with this issue. It reads:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the difference in gasoline prices between northern and southern Ontario has long represented a serious inequity between the two regions; and
"Whereas the difference in gasoline prices between northern and southern Ontario is often between 10 and 20 cents a litre; and
"Whereas residents of most northern Ontario communities have no access to public transportation options and are therefore dependent on private automobiles; and
"Whereas in 1990 the NDP made an election promise to 'equalize' the price of gasoline across the province of Ontario and this promise has not been kept; and
"Whereas," I, the MPP for the Kenora riding, have "called upon the NDP government to keep their 1990 election promises; and
"Whereas the elimination of motor vehicle registration fees for northern Ontario residents does not compensate for the excessively high price of gas in the north;
"We, the undersigned, hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the NDP government of Ontario fulfil its election promise to the people of northern Ontario by equalizing the price of gas across the province."
That is signed by constituents of mine from places like Dryden, Keewatin, Kenora, Red Lake, and from the entire riding as well as from the entire north.
EDEN MILLS BRIDGE
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and I'm not sure if the format is consistent with the rules of the House but I'll read it into the record anyway and have the table make that determination. The petition reads as follows:
"The council of the township of Eramosa decided on September 7 at 2:15 am to destroy the Eden Mills historic Bow String Bridge and replace with it a two-lane structure.
"We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the council of the township of Eramosa rescind this resolution and resolve instead to rehabilitate this heritage bridge.
"We respectfully request that the government of Ontario, the county of Wellington and the township of Eramosa cooperate to apply the resources needed to preserve and restore the Eden Mills Bow String Bridge and thereby maintain the architectural, environmental and social integrity of Eden Mills."
It's signed by approximately 1,200 people and I think it's interesting to note that about 20% of those signatures, by my rough calculations, are from Wellington county; the rest are from across the province and from as far afield as Britain and Germany.
Mr Paul Klopp (Huron): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to amend subsection 225(1) of the Municipal Act of 1990, chapter M.45. This is from the London Diocesan Catholic Women's League.
"Whereas municipalities may pass bylaws for licensing, regulating, governing, classifying and inspecting adult entertainment parlours or any class or classes thereof and for revoking or suspending any such licence and for limiting the number of such licences to be granted; and
"Whereas municipalities may define the area or areas of the municipality in which adult entertainment parlours or any class or classes thereof may or may not operate and may limit the number of licences to be granted in respect of adult entertainment parlours or any class or classes thereof in any such area or areas in which they are permitted; and
"Whereas 'adult entertainment parlour' is defined as follows: 'any premises or part thereof in which is provided, in pursuance of a trade, calling, business or occupation, goods or services appealing to or designed to appeal to erotic or sexual appetites or inclinations'; and
"Whereas 'goods' is defined as follows: 'includes books, magazines, pictures, slides, film, phonograph records, pre-recorded magnetic tape and any other reading, viewing or listening matter'; and
"Whereas consumer minister Marilyn Churley recently said, 'We think it's becoming more and more of a problem about the proliferation of films which depict violence against women'; and
"Whereas the proliferation of adult videos depicting violence against women and children and hard-core pornography is becoming a serious problem; and
"Whereas many municipalities wish to have the authority to prohibit adult entertainment parlours, as defined in the said act, from operating within the boundaries of the said municipalities,
"Therefore we support a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to humbly request that the said Municipal Act, section 225, be amended to permit a municipality to pass bylaws prohibiting adult entertainment parlours in the said municipality."
I sign my name, and also many other distinguished people: Muriel Murphy, who's here today, who's done a lot of work on this; Shirley George, the president of the Catholic Women's League, and her husband, Bruce, who also came down and also signed this.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it reads as follows.
Hon Ed Philip (Minister of Municipal Affairs): Can you read your own handwriting?
Mr Bradley: It's a legitimate petition. The member is interjecting over there that it wouldn't be. It is from a number of people in the Niagara Peninsula. It reads as follows:
"Whereas the government of Ontario has traditionally had a commitment to family life and quality of life for all the citizens of Ontario; and
"Whereas families are made more emotionally and economically vulnerable by the operation of various gaming and gambling ventures; and
"Whereas the government of Ontario has had a historical concern for the poor in society, who are particularly at risk each time the practice of gambling is expanded; and
"Whereas the government of Ontario has in the past vociferously opposed the raising of moneys for the state through gambling; and
"Whereas the citizens of Ontario have not been consulted regarding the introduction of legalized gambling casinos despite the fact that such a decision is a significant change in government policy and never was part of the mandate given to the government by the people of Ontario,
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:
"That the government immediately cease all moves to establish gambling casinos by regulation and that appropriate legislation be introduced into the assembly along with a process which includes significant opportunities for public consultation and full public hearings as a means of allowing the citizens of Ontario to express themselves on this new and questionable initiative."
I affix my signature to this petition, as I agree with its contents.
CLOSURE OF GOVERNMENT OFFICE
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I have a petition signed by 19 members of the Athens Women's Institute expressing concern about the closure of the licensing bureau in the village of Athens. The Minister of Transportation was criticizing me earlier as this was a cost-saving measure, but indeed there are no costs to be achieved. This is another attack by the NDP government on rural Ontario. I'm affixing my signature in support of the petition.
Mr Pat Hayes (Essex-Kent): I also have a petition that was read by my colleague from Huron. It's a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to amend section 225 of the Municipal Act, RSO 1990, chapter M.45, and it's from the London Diocesan Catholic Women's League. It's also signed by, I'm sure, many municipalities, including Maidstone, Sandwich South, Rochester, Belle River. A lot of the people in my riding have signed this in the parishes. In the essence of saving time, I'll just read the "therefore."
"Therefore, we support a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to humbly request that the said Municipal Act, section 225, be amended to permit a municipality to pass bylaws prohibiting adult entertainment parlours in the said municipality."
These petitions were signed by 16,000 people, including my own signature.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have yet another petition. I think the new Minister of Northern Development and Mines will be quite interested in this, as they just keep coming in.
It's a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the difference in gasoline prices between northern and southern Ontario has long represented a serious inequity between the two regions; and
"Whereas the difference in gasoline prices between northern and southern Ontario is often between 10 and 20 cents a litre; and
"Whereas residents of most northern Ontario communities have no access to public transportation options and are therefore dependent on private automobiles; and
"Whereas in 1990 the NDP promised to equalize the price of gas across the province and these promises have not been kept; and
"Whereas" I, as the Liberal MPP for Kenora riding, have "called upon the NDP government to keep their 1990 election promises; and
"Whereas the elimination of the motor vehicle registration fees for northern Ontario residents does not compensate for the excessively high price of gas in the north,
"We, the undersigned, hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the NDP government of Ontario fulfil its election promises to the people of northern Ontario by equalizing the price of gas across the province."
That's signed by a good number of my constituents from Dryden, Keewatin, Kenora, Red Lake, Sioux Narrows and Redditt as well.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the provincial government has recently slashed health coverage by 75% for Ontario citizens who are hospitalized out of the country; and
"Whereas this reduction in coverage will affect all Ontarians but will have the greatest impact upon seniors, many of whom travel south of the border for important health care reasons and will be forced to absorb a tremendous hike to their health insurance premiums; and
"Whereas the government has justified its decision on the basis of not wanting to pay exorbitant hospital costs, even though, currently, out-of-country hospital coverage is based solely on the rates charged by Ontario hospitals; and
"Whereas the reduction in out-of-country hospitalization coverage below the rates charged by Ontario hospitals represents an indisputable violation of sections 7 and 11 of the Canada Health Act; and
"Whereas the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party makes the preservation of medicare a priority in its Common Sense Revolution policy document;
"Therefore, we petition the government of Ontario to act in a fair and just manner by preserving the sacred principles of medicare and to immediately restore out-of-country hospitalization coverage to the rates charged by hospitals in Ontario."
This is signed by 120 residents of my riding, and I'm affixing my signature in support.
Mr Norm Jamison (Norfolk): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to amend subsection 225(1) of the Municipal Act, 1990. This petition is from the London Diocesan Catholic Women's League.
"Whereas municipalities may pass bylaws for licensing, regulating, governing, classifying and inspecting adult entertainment parlours or any class or classes thereof and for revoking or suspending any such licence and for limiting the number of such licences to be granted; and
"Whereas municipalities may define the area or areas of the municipality in which adult entertainment parlours or any class or classes thereof may or may not operate and may limit the number of licences to be granted in respect of adult entertainment parlours or any class or classes thereof in any such area or areas in which they are permitted; and
"Whereas 'adult entertainment parlour' is defined as follows: 'Any premises or part thereof in which is provided, in pursuance of a trade, calling, business or occupation, goods or services appealing to or designed to appeal to erotic or sexual appetites or inclinations'; and
"Whereas 'goods' is defined as follows: 'includes books, magazines, pictures, slides, film, phonograph records, pre-recorded magnetic tape and any other reading, viewing or listening matter'; and
"Whereas consumer minister Marilyn Churley recently said, 'We think it's becoming more and more of a problem about the proliferation of films which depict violence against women'; and
"Whereas the proliferation of adult videos depicting violence against women and children and hard-core pornography is becoming a serious problem; and
"Whereas many municipalities wish to have the authority to prohibit adult entertainment parlours, as defined in the said act, from operating within the boundaries of the said municipalities;
"Therefore, we support a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to humbly request that the said Municipal Act, section 225, be amended to permit a municipality to pass bylaws prohibiting adult entertainment parlours in the said municipality."
This is one petition reflecting 16,000 signatures on the same issue and I add my name to this petition.
Mr Ron Eddy (Brant-Haldimand): A petition to the Legislative Assembly:
"Whereas Bill 173, the long-term-care reform bill, if allowed to pass without necessary and appropriate amendments will result in a lower level of service to consumers in the province; and
"Whereas the enactment of this legislation in its present form will increase the cost of the provision of care to the elderly and those in medical need; and
"Whereas the passage of Bill 173 will bring about a decrease in the number of volunteers available to organizations now directly involved in providing service in the field of long-term care; and
"Whereas local communities will lose control and influence over the delivery of long-term-care services even though they are best able to determine local needs,
"Be it therefore resolved that the government of Ontario be requested to amend Bill 173 to comply with the recommendations of service organizations who at present deliver home care to people in communities across Ontario."
It is signed by a number of citizens and I affix my signature.
Ms Jenny Carter (Peterborough): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To amend your plans, grandfather responsible firearms owners and hunters and only require future first-time gun purchases to take the new federal firearms safety course or examination."
This petition is signed by about 175 people from my riding and other areas.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): Introduction of bills. The Minister of Municipal Affairs.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Hon Ed Philip (Minister of Municipal Affairs): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to introduce --
The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): Minister, could you present the bill first.
MUNICIPAL AND LIQUOR LICENSING STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1994 / LOI DE 1994 MODIFIANT DES LOIS EN CE QUI A TRAIT À LA DÉLIVRANCE DE PERMIS D'ALCOOL ET À LA DÉLIVRANCE D'AUTRES PERMIS PAR LES MUNICIPALITÉS
Mr Philip moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 198, An Act to amend the Liquor Licence Act, the Municipal Act and the Regional Municipalities Act and certain other statutes related to upper tier municipalities / Projet de loi 198, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les permis d'alcool, la Loi sur les municipalités, la Loi sur les muncipalités régionales et certaines autres lois ayant trait aux municipalités de palier supérieur.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): Is it the pleasure of the House that this motion carry? Carried. Would the minister care to make some introductory remarks?
Hon Ed Philip (Minister of Municipal Affairs): Yes, Madam Speaker. I'm sure that with another 19 years' experience of doing this, I'll learn how to do it properly.
I'm pleased to introduce for first reading today a bill entitled the Municipal and Liquor Licensing Statute Law Amendment Act. The bill strengthens both municipal and liquor licensing and licensing enforcement powers as I outlined earlier in my statement today. I might add, it will go a long way to resolving some of the problems outlined in the petition by the Catholic Women's League that was introduced earlier today.
REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF DURHAM STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1992 / LOI DE 1992 MODIFIANT DES LOIS EN CE QUI CONCERNE LA MUNICIPALITÉ RÉGIONALE DE DURHAM
Mr Wiseman moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 199, An Act to amend the Regional Municipality of Durham Act, the Municipal Act and the Regional Municipalities Act / Loi modifiant la Loi sur la municipalité régionale de Durham, la Loi sur les municipalités et la Loi sur les municipalités régionales.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mr Jim Wiseman (Durham West): The purpose of this bill is to require the regional council of Durham to elect a member of the council as its chair. Currently the council can appoint somebody from outside. This bill also requires the council of the area of the municipality from which the chair of the regional council was elected to fill the vacancy on its council either by appointment or by holding a by-election.
I think it's far past the time when our senior elected officials should be elected and that people who are making decisions such as the regional chairman makes should be elected somewhere by the people so that they are directly accountable.
UNCLAIMED INTANGIBLE PROPERTY AMENDMENT ACT, 1994 / LOI DE 1994 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES BIENS IMMATÉRIELS NON RÉCLAMÉS
Mrs Boyd moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 200, An Act to amend the Unclaimed Intangible Property Act / Projet de loi 200, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les biens immatériels non réclamés.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Hon Marion Boyd (Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues): This bill will amend the Unclaimed Intangible Property Act of 1989. These amendments honour the commitment our government made in the spring budget to implement a program that will reunite owners with their unclaimed intangible property.
Members will be aware that last June I introduced Bill 178, the Unclaimed Intangible Property Amendment Act, 1994. In response to requests from the business and financial communities, our government agreed to further consultations before proceeding to second reading of that bill.
During the summer we consulted with the holder advisory committee, which consisted of representatives of the business, financial and legal communities. The committee submitted its report at the end of September and, in addition, we received a number of submissions from other interested groups. We then had further discussions with the holder advisory committee to determine what changes were necessary in order to address their key concerns.
It is appropriate, I believe, for me to express my appreciation and to publicly thank all of those who have participated in the consultations. I particularly want to thank those who have invested much time and energy in preparing detailed and useful reports. Many of the recommendations have been invaluable and it is for this reason that our government is withdrawing Bill 178 and introducing a new bill which incorporates those recommendations that the holder advisory committee indicated were key in addressing their concerns.
This process serves as an example of how the business, financial and legal communities, together with government, can work to create a program that will work to benefit all the residents of Ontario. For too long there has not been a comprehensive method to get people back their lost, forgotten or abandoned property. I would call on all members of the House to support this bill, which addresses the needs of the business and financial communities as well as those who currently cannot retain their property.
Mr Harris moved opposition day motion number 2:
Whereas the NDP government unilaterally announced that OHIP would reduce out-of-country hospital coverage for all Ontarians;
Whereas this government change means higher health care costs for every Ontarian, including people travelling for business, families on vacation and seniors;
Whereas the Canada Health Act guarantees "portability" and states that provincial health plans must pay for out-of-Canada hospitalization at the same rate they would pay for such care at home;
Whereas the federal Liberal health minster refuses to enforce the Canada Health Act and has demonstrated no leadership on this issue;
Whereas the principles of fairness and accountability to those who fund the health care system through their tax dollars have also clearly been violated;
Whereas the NDP failed to consult with the people affected, failed to determine if this policy is legal, and failed to calculate if savings would truly be made;
Therefore, in the absence of leadership from the federal government, this House calls on the Minister of Health to support the belief of the people of Ontario in the principle of portability -- as enshrined in the Canada Health Act -- and immediately restore out-of-country hospital coverage to Ontario rates.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): Now we will debate this motion and all three parties will have equal time to debate.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): I know that every single member of my caucus wishes to get on the record on this, and I'd like to allow as much time as I possibly can for as many as possible to get on the record.
Clearly, what we have here is a unilateral change by the Health minister and by Bob Rae and the cabinet of this current administration contravening the Canada Health Act. On those grounds alone, this policy ought to be reversed and should be reversed today, particularly at this point in time when seniors in particular are now trying to make plans, many determining if they can afford, with the increased insurance costs, to go south.
We heard a case today, of course, of Mrs Keogh, who under doctors' recommendations ought to be in the drier, warmer climate of Arizona during the winter months, and is not likely to be able to make that decision, and we believe there are many others. These are cases, of course, that will add costs to the health care system, not save money.
Secondly, we are as upset, I guess, as we are disappointed with not only the unilateral action; the lack of respect for the law of Canada; the lack of compassion for particularly those who can't afford the premiums to make up the difference. We are talking now not of course of the wealthy or of those travelling on business. Most likely this is an extra cost of doing business which makes it wrong. Those who have money will pick up the cost and go, but for an NDP government to come up with a policy that hits at the poorest, that hits at those senior citizens and the poorest of the senior citizens who have worked all their lives for this great province, it's a tragedy.
It's such a complete reversal from what anybody would expect of any politician of any party, but from the holier-than-thou supposed party that liked to say only they had compassion for the people of Ontario, it's absolutely astounding. It ranks up there with selling nuclear reactors to the perpetrators of the Tiananmen Square massacre, from a holier-than-thou Bob Rae who was opposed to nuclear power and held himself out as a human rights champion. I think this ranks right up there with that and stretches credibility, and is just totally unexpected. It was a shock, I know, to many seniors and particularly the poorest of seniors and a shock, I want to tell you, to me and to the members of our caucus.
The second tragedy, of course, is the lack of action by the federal Liberal government. Once again we've seen that Liberals are Liberals are Liberals. In opposition, they've got all the answers. They pushed for the Canada Health Act when they were in opposition. They were the biggest whiners and criers and bellyachers at everything that came along; fund everything.
We saw the same thing when they were in government in Ontario. A Liberal is a Liberal is a Liberal when it comes to saying one thing and doing another, or saying something in opposition and something different in government, and I'm most distressed about the same lack of principle, the same lack of respect for the law, the same lack of concern for the most vulnerable in our senior citizens and the most vulnerable senior citizens in Ontario, a complete disregard for these actions.
So we're left with no choice. Can you imagine senior citizens, with what few little pennies they may have left after paying premiums, or maybe staying home, now being asked to fund a court action against the federal government for not upholding the Canada Health Act? It ought to be the province of Ontario, if somebody else was doing this, going to court, funding this action. We are so puzzled on this side of the House, so distressed at the situation that has taken place.
We are asking all 130 members of this Legislature, even those in cabinet in the New Democratic Party, to just stop and think for a moment. You're breaking the law. You are attacking the most vulnerable in our society, particularly the most vulnerable of senior citizens in our society. The Liberal government in Ottawa is in cahoots with you on this and refusing to do anything about it as well, but you have the power, right here today, to pass this resolution which will send a powerful message.
Your party and your cabinet and your Premier, unbeknownst to them, might actually go up a little bit in popularity. You might even save one seat in the province, I don't know, if you would acknowledge the huge mistake you've made and correct not only the mistake but the injustice and the unfairness and bring yourself into compliance with the laws of Canada.
Our appeal today is a very direct appeal to you. The power is within your hands. Only you can make this happen for this winter. Only you could make it happen for Mrs Keogh and many others like her in this period of time. Within six months, a new government -- a Harris government anyway, which is a commitment you can count on -- will change this; so next winter the situation will be okay and within a short period of time. But we have a six- or eight-month period here where we have a problem.
The only rationale your minister is giving in your caucus meetings for losing your seat in the next election, the only reason she's giving you is she's trying to save $20 million. She has no documentation for that. Somebody in her ministry pulled it out of the air and gave her a figure. We have documentation and evidence that in some cases it'll be more expensive. So you've got to ask yourself now, do you want to lose your seat?
The Acting Speaker: Please address your remarks to the Chair.
Mr Harris: Do you -- and I say it through the Chair to all the members -- want to let down your constituents? Do you want to be part of breaking the law? Do you want to be part of this dastardly deed and be an accomplice to that because your minister, on false information, says you may save $20 million?
If somehow or other she has convinced you there is $20 million to be saved, I ask you to think of some $30 million to $40 million you spend on courier services, on some of the examples I've brought up -- $330 million you're spending on Jobs Ontario, which is the Bob's Ontario boondoggle that will also cost you your seats.
Just think about what you were elected to do. Think about the matter of priorities. Think in a commonsense way about what you can do in a non-partisan way for the people of Ontario, particularly the most vulnerable, and I ask you to support this resolution today.
Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): I'm delighted to have the opportunity to debate this. I assume the mover of the motion and leader of the third party is going to be here to participate in the debate.
Mr Harris: I wouldn't listen to your nonsense for all the tea in China.
Hon Mrs Grier: I'm sorry that he is saying he is leaving the chamber and not going to participate in this nonsense because, if you can't take the heat, I guess you get out of the kitchen. That's what the leader of the third party is doing, because he's not prepared to stay here and debate a thoroughly unsubstantiated resolution that he has put on the order paper of this chamber. I think that is reprehensible.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: The Minister of Health knows the rules of this House very well indeed, and to refer to a member's absence is not acceptable. I would ask her to stop referring --
Mrs Marland: We have lots of debates on government bills in this House and there's not even one cabinet minister present.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you to the member. It is a tradition that we do not note who is here and who is not, but we do have another point of order.
Mr Gordon Mills (Durham East): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I'd like to put on the record that when the leader of the third party left, he said, "I wouldn't stay to listen to your nonsense for all the tea in China." That was a direct comment to the minister and I think that should be on the record.
The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order. I would appreciate the Minister of Health resuming her comments.
Hon Mrs Grier: I think, for New Democrats, protecting the health care system of this province is one of the responsibilities that we take most seriously in all of the responsibilities that becoming the government thrust upon us with great excitement four years ago, because as many people in this province remember, it was because of Tommy Douglas and it was because of the CCF and then the NDP in Saskatchewan that we have universally accessible coverage for medical expenses in this province, in this country, something that as Canadians we're very proud of, something that here in Ontario we're very proud of.
It is a program that we cherish and that we're very proud of, and we are always nervous when anyone suggests changing it because we are so proud of it and because it is so good. When we became the government in 1990 and faced the responsibility of looking at this health care system, we realized that all was not well, that we were spending $17 billion a year on health care, a third of our provincial expenditures, 33 cents of every taxpayer's dollar on the health care system, that those costs had been increasing at the rate of 8% or 10% or 12% throughout the 1980s, at a rate that was not sustainable given the economic situation that we faced in 1990, and that despite those ever-increasing costs there was no empirical evidence that the health of the population was improving. Life expectancy was not increasing; infant mortality was not necessarily decreasing.
There were numerous reports throughout the late 1970s and the 1980s -- Dr Evans, Spasoff, Podborski, the Premier's Council established by the previous government and continued by us -- that said that throwing money at the health care system was not necessarily the way to improve the health of the population of the province of Ontario. What was needed was some careful management and planning of the health care system and a shift from an emphasis on hospitals and professionals to a more community-based care, particularly to looking at how we prevent people from getting sick in the first place, how we educate people to take responsibility for their own care, how we give people a sense of responsibility and empowerment over their own health and over the health care system.
So we continued what had been begun, and I see that the member for Oriole is in her place and I'm sure we're going to hear from her because many of the initiatives that we have continued, accelerated and built upon were gleams in her eye, I suspect, if not already begun at the change of government. They were consistent with the directions that we have followed, though I would venture to say that we have followed them more aggressively, more democratically and more effectively than any other government in this country would have.
When medicare came in, it really didn't change the way in which the system had grown over time. It didn't nationalize doctors; it didn't nationalize hospitals. It merely meant that the provincial government started paying their bills and that the unplanned growth based on the philosophy that more is better and based on the autonomy of many of the players in the system, an autonomy that is a useful balance because we have a health care system that is not monolithic -- we have hospitals run by volunteer boards, we have self-governing professions who provide excellent-quality health care. But the system had grown; it had not been planned.
The imposition of some planning, increasing the mandate of district health councils, beginning to look at restructuring in the light of both what was recommended for the health care system and what was the experience of countless public and private corporations in this province over the late 1980s and the 1990s, and that there were more effective and more efficient ways of doing things, were things we began and that we have continued very successfully.
By virtue of the fact that we were prepared to do that and that we were prepared to give the provincial framework and policies within which those changes should occur, that we were prepared to acknowledge that health was more than the absence of disease, that it was a state of wellbeing, with a broader definition and broader determinants of health, as many of my colleagues in cabinet move forward on legislation, whether it be for increases in housing and rent control, whether it be environmental, whether it be social support systems, all of that contributes to the health and the wellbeing of the people of Ontario.
We have, I think, dramatically changed the attitude towards health, the understanding of health, and we have been enabled to expand significantly those aspects of our health care system that deal not only with treatment and curing people who are ill but with preventing people from getting sick in the first place and, more importantly, with treating them in settings other than hospitals.
To do that has meant that we have made some shifts in spending, and we have looked very carefully at how we have been spending. That has made some people who perhaps took advantage of the fact that we had been a very generous province, that the Ministry of Health essentially in the 1970s and 1980s merely signed the cheques without paying any attention to whether or not the cheque they were signing was the most effective way to spend those precious taxpayers' dollars or did in fact contribute to good health in the population as a whole -- when, as I've said, a system is as cherished and something which people are as proud of as they are of our health care system, any change is seen as somehow damaging and undermining that health care system.
But the point I want to make is that for this government, nothing could be further from the truth. For this government, the principles of the Canada Health Act are supreme and govern all of our actions in maintaining a universally accessible, publicly funded, publicly administered health care system for this province and for this country.
As members will know, an action has been taken in the courts because of the change that we made in what we pay American hospitals and other hospitals out of country for Ontario residents when they are travelling abroad, and so I am prohibited from commenting on that particular legal action.
Let me say to the member who put the motion before us today that any changes we've made have been designed to protect our health care system for those people who perhaps can't go south every winter, for those people who are forced not to have a holiday at all, whether it be south or in Europe or anywhere else; for those people who are fortunate enough to be able to go south, to make sure they have a health care system when they return, because they do return and we do not close down a hospital bed when somebody goes to Arizona for six months. We keep it here, and we keep the professional and we keep the investment in our health care system so it will be there when they return and for their children and their grandchildren who may still be here.
With the saving that we have made by changing what we pay for out-of-country rates, we have made considerable investments in the health care system here in Ontario, and I want to talk a little bit about that.
We have expanded the range of professionals in our health care system by funding midwives, the first province to do so, the first province to pay for the training of midwives, to pay the salaries of midwives when they attend the perfectly normal and natural function of giving birth, something that used to be done in high-tech surroundings regardless of the need. Eighty-five per cent of the births in Metropolitan Toronto are normal, not requiring intervention, and midwives are trained to know when intervention is required and to make the appropriate referral. We were able to add that on to the health care system because of some of the changes that we made.
We have given enormous attention to cancer, a disease for which, despite all of the emphasis and all of the research, we have not yet found a cure, a disease where the increase in incidence keeps growing and where the demand as a result of new technologies is for ever better and more effective equipment, services and cancer centres close to where people live. I know some of my colleagues in the House today will talk about that and will talk about the investment that we have made in cancer.
We have been faced with the fact that we have an aging population; 12,000 or 13,000 residents of Ontario turn 65 every month and those who turn 65 remain alive longer than my grandparents did, because we have increased our longevity. As those demographics change, the need for services to the elderly mounts.
There are many people who used to go south every winter but who now are too old or too ill to go south and who need ever-increasing services here at home and ever more expensive services here at home. Our reorganization of the long-term-care system, the creation of a system and then its organization in a more effective way, which is part of the work we're doing with Bill 173 that is currently before this House, is designed to meet those needs and those changing demographics and is a policy behind which we have pledged and put dollars. We will increase, by next year, by $600 million a year what we spend on our long-term-care system. Within that $17 billion which we still spend on health care, we have made those shifts.
As people get older, the incidence of kidney disease increases. The need for dialysis is growing at 10% a year. That is a need that must be met, that is a need that must be planned for and that is a need that we have been enabled to put money behind because of our better management of the health care system, because we've been prepared to look at some of the traditional expenditures, where people out of country were able to have all of their expenses covered, no questions asked.
Let's be frank about it, many jurisdictions took advantage of the fact that Ontario residents had full coverage. We have all had anecdotal stories of people who when they were hospitalized, particularly in the United States, were perhaps hospitalized for longer than they might otherwise have been because in fact the province of Ontario was paying the full freight. We have had that time and time again.
As a result of the changes our government has made in our payments for out-of-country health care expenses, we have made dramatic savings -- let me say that again to the members of the third party: dramatic savings -- and I want to put them on the record: In 1990-91, the total expenditures out of country were $236.4 million; in 1991-92, $309.8 million; in 1992-93, $106.4 million; in 1993-94, $70.9 million.
As a result of those savings and the changes we've made, we have increased our capacity here in Ontario to provide some services for which we paid US hospitals predominantly. For example, my announcement last week that we would add 22 MRIs to the 12 that currently exist across the province will result in the future in far fewer people having to go south of the border for MRIs, particularly from the northeastern and northwestern parts of Ontario, because we're building the capacity here in Ontario through the saving that we make by better management of the health care system. That's what I think the people of this province want, not a chequebook approach to health care that enables us to pay bills for people who are fortunate enough to be out of country.
We heard a lot from the leader of the third party about the fact that this was a change made on the backs of the poorest, the seniors. Maybe in his constituency, but certainly in my constituency, the poorest of the seniors don't go to Arizona for six months. They stay here and they need care here in Ontario.
It's interesting again, if you look at the facts, something that time and time again the leader of the third party seems incapable of doing, because all of us on this side have stood up time and time again in response to questions that have been put to us by the leader of the third party and preambles to those questions that show a total absence of facts. Let me put it at its kindest.
Last year, 1993-94, of the $70.9 million that was spent on out-of-country health care, only $13.8 million was spent on people over 65. The vast majority of that expenditure, $57 million of it, was spent on people who are not senior citizens.
Maybe they're poor. Some of them are going for services for acquired brain injuries or for drug rehabilitation that we are not yet providing here in Ontario but where we have begun to build an infrastructure and provide those services so that we no longer have to funnel taxpayers' dollars from Ontario to institutions south of the border. Some of them are business people, people who are travelling and who have insurance, as has everybody who leaves the province, because nobody for decades has travelled out of Ontario without having health care insurance.
So the decision about whether we change the out-of-country hospital rate we pay and the saving of $20 million that we got for that was based on the firm knowledge that anybody affected by that would already have private insurance. As my colleagues federally and provincially concluded where this issue was discussed at our last federal-provincial meeting, and I read from that communiqué:
"Currently, Canadians who travel outside the country are covered by a combination of private insurance and provincial territorial plans. Ministers have requested their deputy ministers to continue their examination of the issue of coverage for Canadians travelling abroad."
That was the conclusion of discussions of this issue by all 12 provincial and territorial ministers and the federal minister. There is no consensus as to what appropriate rates should be and every province pays something different. Ontario is not the lowest and was not the highest before we made the changes that we made. I'm sure members will recall the gloom and doom when we made our changes about what would happen to insurance rates: They would skyrocket out of all ability of any senior going south to pay for them.
Let me quote from a column by Prior Smith, who is host of a daily Canada Calling radio broadcast to Florida and Arizona, a column that was written earlier this year:
"As recently as June when the Ontario government dropped its out-of-country limit from $400 to $100 a day...there were fears that travel insurance rates across the country would go through the roof. What's happened? Exactly the opposite." As of this week, those who shop around for their trip south this winter find a saving of 25% to 30% from prices quoted last year, providing they can qualify.
"In recent weeks, rates have been dropping like 10 pins," and "Now there's a host of players in the travel insurance game ranging from banks to seniors' advocacy groups." Conservatives, the party of business, private enterprise, competition, are now arguing that government should cover something in which the private sector has been dropping their rates.
A similar conclusion was reached by an article in the Financial Post as recently in September, when it said:
"Gearing up to go down south this winter, healthy snowbirds under 80 will probably find prices for out-of-Canada medical insurance down from 20% to 25%. In a few cases, reductions are up to 50%."
I rest my case with respect to this.
What I do want to say is some comment on the Common Sense Revolution that is part of the election platform put forward by the leader of the third party, the Common Sense Revolution, let me say to you, that when it comes to health care is based on a proposal that there be $400 million a year added to the health care system.
Guess how? By raising a $400-million-a-year fair share health care levy, a levy on the people of this province in order to pay for their health care. If that isn't user fees, if that isn't a violation of the Canada Health Act, I don't know what is, and that is not something this party is ever going to support.
The other part, of course, of the Common Sense Revolution is that there will be a dramatic slash-and-burn in costs. There will be a 20% reduction over three years in government spending. But Mr Harris, were he here, would say they're not going to cut health care, they're also not going to cut law enforcement and they're not going to cut education spending in the classroom. I understand that just last week when Mr Harris appeared before a meeting of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, he told that audience they weren't going to be cut either.
If you're excluding health care, if you're excluding law enforcement, if you're excluding education spending and you're excluding agriculture and you're still going to cut government spending by 20% over a three-year period, you don't have much left to cut from. Mathematics have never been my strong point, but out of $50 billion or $55 billion expenditures, if you're making all of those exclusions, you're taking far more than 20% off all the rest of the budget.
Perhaps the leader of the third party will tell us what he's going to cut out. Is he going to cut out the Ministry of Environment and Energy? He certainly doesn't say anywhere that it's going to be protected. Is he going to cut out Culture, Tourism and Recreation? Nowhere does he say that's going to be protected.
Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): You're getting warm.
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Hon Mrs Grier: We know that he's going to cut out the Ministry of Labour because there is no commitment from the third party for the protection of workers' health and safety, for the democratic rights of workers or for the protections that we and workers in this province have struggled to build over so many years. We know that will go.
What else will go? You know what else isn't protected? Transportation. Is the Conservative Party, the party that ran for 40 years on building highways everywhere across this province, whether they were required or not, going to eliminate transportation? Because they're going to have to do that if they are in fact going to cut expenditures overall by 20%.
Mr Jim Wilson: Before you criticize the book, read it.
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Hon Mrs Grier: I hear the third party has now been aroused and is saying that I haven't read the document.
The Acting Speaker: Order. Would members come to order. Each member of the House has the opportunity to put their debate forward. We would finish the Ministry of Health.
Hon Mrs Grier: Not only have I read the document, I have watched what another government led by a Conservative Premier is doing to health care in this country, and I refer to the Common Sense Revolution's first cousin in the province of Alberta, a province where there has been an all-out assault on social programs and public services, a province where there has been a deliberate assault on democratic rights --
Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): They've got 62% of the people behind them and you have 15% of the poll.
The Acting Speaker: The member for York Mills is out of order.
Hon Mrs Grier: -- and on anybody's ability to participate in the planning process, a province where there has been a transfer of control of authority and of capital to the private sector.
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Hon Mrs Grier: I think what is happening in Alberta gives us the key to what the effect of the Common Sense Revolution would be here in Ontario.
We have in Alberta the spectacle of hospitals being closed, of services being gutted, of workers being laid off, with no restructuring plan, no process such as has been going on here by volunteers and citizens in cities across the province, whether it be Windsor, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, of people coming together to plan for the health care system of the future. Not in Alberta: Slash, you're dead. Your hospital's closed.
There have been no new models of the delivery of health care. No midwives, no nurse practitioners, no Regulated Health Professions Act that acknowledges that the delivery of health care happens in many ways by many different professionals and that there are many people who are choosing less traditional ways of providing health care.
There is no provision for aboriginal communities to plan and manage their own health care services, as the aboriginal health and wellness policies of this government have begun for the first time anywhere in this country to put in place. No new models of delivery. No education, no health promotion, no district health councils looking at the diversity of the province, at the needs of the people in those areas and working with volunteers to produce plans for a community health care framework or for a better primary care system within their particular area. No commitment, in fact, to bringing health care closer to the people. No long-term-care reorganization.
I know the third party is going to repeal Bill 173 when it becomes the government. Interesting, they're going to repeal our long-term care, they're of course going to repeal Bill 40, our labour legislation, they're going to repeal our waste reduction legislation. I forget what else they're going to repeal, but I'm sure there must be some others.
The first session, should we ever be so unfortunate as to have it, of the Common Sense Revolution will have nothing constructive to offer the people of Ontario. They will spend all of their time destroying the hard-won gains and the hard-won victories of ordinary people who for the last four years and who for the first time have had an opportunity to say what they wanted in this province, to design a health care system that meets their needs, that recognizes the diversity of this province, the opportunities for people as volunteers to have their say and to participate, whether it be in the workplace, whether it be through employment equity, advocacy -- that's another one they're going to repeal, the Advocacy Act, and the Substitute Decisions Act and the Consent to Treatment Act, for the first time giving the vulnerable, giving the disadvantaged rights to speak for themselves.
That's what the Common Sense Revolution will destroy. That is what the caring and sensitive leader of the third party, as he was portrayed last weekend, means to do to the vulnerable, to the elderly, to the disabled, to the disadvantaged of this province. Those are the people our party was formed to represent. Those are the people the majority of us, in fact all of us in this party and on this side of the House, have spent most of our adult lives fighting to protect. Those are the people for whom we built a health care system, for whom we are managing the health care system, for them and for all of the residents of this province to whom we are pledged to protect and preserve our health care system for the future.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member for Oriole.
Mr Anthony Perruzza (Downsview): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: For the last several minutes -- and I'd like to have some ruling from you on this -- there's a comment that was made by the member for York Mills which has been troubling me. He basically said something to the effect -- and I'd really appreciate that you provide him the opportunity to at least correct the record -- that it's okay to punish the poor as long as you have 62% support from the public. That's basically what he said. I'd appreciate giving him the opportunity to at least clear that up, because that's troublesome to me.
The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order.
Mr Turnbull: Point of order, Madam Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: Let me deal with the first point of order, please.
Mr Turnbull: On this same point of order, Madam Speaker: That statement by the member now is fundamentally wrong. There is nothing within Hansard, and I challenge him to say that again or retract it.
Mr Perruzza: He was basically misleading the House.
The Acting Speaker: I'd like to make it clear that the member for Downsview did not have a point of order, and I think we should leave it at that. If there is some misunderstanding between the members, maybe you could clear it up. This is an important debate, and we must proceed with the debate.
Mr Turnbull: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I know that the House rules require that members not impute any motive to another member, and therefore it can be quite clear --
The Acting Speaker: Would the member take his seat.
The Acting Speaker: I've asked members to come to order. I want to clarify once again that there were no motives imputed, that there is nothing out of order. Is that clear? We are proceeding with the debate, and the member for Oriole has the floor.
Mr Turnbull: On a point of clarification, Madam Speaker: Are you now telling me --
The Acting Speaker: A point of what?
Mr Mills: Clarification.
Mr Turnbull: Or a point of order, Madam Speaker: By way of clarification, I want to understand whether the words which were inaccurate which the member uttered about me will be struck from the record of Hansard.
The Acting Speaker: To the member: Many times in this House there are differences of opinion.
Mr Turnbull: It's not a difference of opinion.
The Acting Speaker: No. I have made it clear, there are differences of opinion and that is strictly what this is. I have ruled. Thank you.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I rise to participate in a debate on a very important issue to the people of the province of Ontario and that issue is the Ministry of Health policy under the NDP on out-of-country Ontario health insurance plan payments.
I'd like to start by saying that I have some history and some knowledge about the progression of health policy in this province and, for anyone watching who may not be aware of it, I had the privilege of serving as Minister of Health from 1987 until 1990.
I want to put on the record at the start of this debate that when the Ministry of Health changed its policy to limit the payment to $400 per day for emergency inpatient hospital treatment and $55 to $400 for emergency outpatient services, as well as $293 for dialysis services, it did so because that was the comparable rate in Ontario. That complied with the Canada Health Act. For those who are watching, not only did I support that move, but it had been one which I had intended to implement and we were on the verge of implementation when the government changed.
The reason that we did that was for many of the concerns that I had, and that we had, about the abuses, the type of care, the appropriateness of care, the quality of care, as well as the very significant rising cost of out-of-country payment, and the numbers that have been stated are, indeed, accurate.
Having said that, at the start of this debate I would like to be very clear, and I'm pleased that the minister is here to see it: I am opposed to the NDP's move to further limit, well below what the existing costs are in Ontario -- and, in my opinion, in contravention of the Canada Health Act -- out-of-country emergency medical coverage. The reason that I oppose it is because I believe that it is the wrong health policy. I believe that it erodes the protections of the Canada Health Act.
I listened very carefully to the Health minister's debate, and as we take a few minutes to discuss the motion that is before us, I would like to make some comments that may stray a little bit, as the minister did, from simply the issue of out-of-country emergency medical payments. I would like to take the liberty, as the now minister did, to deal with some of the history and let you and this House know why I feel so strongly that the NDP's health policy in this area, for emergency out-of-country health payments, as well as other areas of health policy, is very, very wrong and run contrary to the protection of medicare that the minister has so eloquently said she is defending.
I listened very carefully as the minister spoke. She spoke of the history of the development of medicare. She talked about the fact that Canadians cherish our medicare program and, on that score, I agree with her. The history is accurate. The fact that medicare is cherished by Canadians is accurate. However, what I am concerned about is that her words do not match the deeds of her government and they do not match the deeds that she has carried out as Minister of Health in an NDP government.
I would say that many people, when I discuss these issues with them, are quite confused and really confounded because they don't believe that an NDP government would do some of the things that it has done and continues to do, because the end result of that has been the dismantling of medicare as we know it.
I'd like to point out for the record what the principles of medicare are and I will then explain to the minister and others who are interested how I see the erosion under this government and how I'm concerned that we have seen medicare threatened in a way which should concern us all.
The principles of medicare are universality, public administration, reasonable access, portability and comprehensiveness. Those are the five principles that were enshrined by a rare unanimous vote in the federal Parliament in 1983 when the Canada Health Act was enshrined.
There are two areas where we have seen erosion of those principles of medicare under this NDP government. I would tell you that I think the founders of medicare, many of whom were strong NDP and CCF, as the minister said, are spinning in their graves because of the policies of this government, and I will articulate exactly where they are.
On the issue of comprehensiveness, what we have seen as a policy of the New Democrats has been one of delisting, de-insuring and the encouragement of third-party payment and private sector insurance companies. The reason that I'm so concerned about this is twofold. First of all, medicare is about taking care of people and giving them the care they need when they are sick. I also believe that medicare should be about improving the health of our population, and therefore I have been very supportive of health promotion and disease prevention activities within medicare.
What is also a concern is the fact that the primary feature under the notion of public administration is the notion of a single payor. We never had a true single payor for all of those things that the OECD counts when it looks at total health expenditures. Historically in Canada, and in fact when I left the Ministry of Health in 1990, the ratio of public payment versus private payment was about 75% payment by the taxpayers from the provincial treasury and 25% from the private sector, from the individual and from businesses in the forms of other payments; as we have discussed, those items that were, for a number of reasons, not covered.
What we have seen under the NDP has been a shift, as the minister said, but not the shift only in the way she has described. We have seen a shift from payment by the single payor from the public purse, from the publicly administered system, to the private, third-party, individual and business sector of our society. The numbers today are no longer 75% from the public sector, 25% from the private sector. Today, after over four years of NDP government in Ontario, we have about 64% paid for from the public purse and 36% paid for from the private sector.
That is a tremendous concern, because what you find when you delist and de-insure and force the costs into the private sector is that it is primarily business that ends up paying those costs, and that threatens job creation and that threatens our competitiveness. There are many health policy experts who are as concerned as I and who have been attempting to raise this issue and advising governments that if you want a healthy economy and you want job creation in the private sector, you must not push your costs from the public budget into the private sector.
We have seen the share of the gross domestic product that was being dedicated to health expenditure in this province rise from 8.5% to, today, in excess of 10.5%. When you consider gross domestic product, a dollar is a dollar is a dollar. It doesn't matter who pays. Therefore, when the Minister of Health and Bob Rae talk about how they have contained expenditures and contained health costs, that is simply not the truth. It's not factual.
We have seen health expenditures rise as a percentage of gross domestic product, and that is not good for our health as a society because that has affected our competitiveness and our ability to see jobs created in the private sector. I know that that's a difficult argument for people to understand, but when the minister talks about her defence of medicare, we have seen an erosion of medicare because of this policy of de-insuring and de-listing and adding costs to those who are not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.
This relates directly to the out-of-country policy that we're talking about, because that is an area where we have seen a very significant shift from the cost paid for by the taxpayer as part of their universal coverage, and we have seen it move directly into the private sector where people are having to buy insurance and companies are insuring their executives.
On this issue of out-of-country coverage, it is not just senior citizens, although they do have a special interest, and they have a very real concern. Their special interest is that we know that about 40% of all of our health resources go to seniors because they have special care needs, and as people get older they need to use the health system more because they have more chronic disease. We all tend to deteriorate a little as we get older, and so we need the supports of the medical care system to treat our illnesses. We know that. That's a reality.
But there are many business people and individuals in this province now who are -- and who should be -- forced to buy private sector insurance even if they go out of the province for one day, for one hour. If they have an accident across the border, then they are not covered at a sufficient amount. And for people living in border communities, people living close to the border who make trips across that border on a regular basis, how many of them even think about making sure that they have private sector coverage for that one-day trip, for that few-hour trip across the border which is just part of their lifestyle?
I think of people living in the Windsor area, people living in the Niagara area, people living in the Sault Ste Marie area or in the Sarnia area. These people cross the border to go out for dinner. They just go across for a picnic. And I've warned them and I've said very clearly that they are in jeopardy if they leave this province without adequate private sector coverage. If they have an accident, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan will no longer protect them. That is a violation, in my view, of the portability guarantees of the Canada Health Act.
I'm going to read to you exactly what the Canada Health Act says so that anyone watching this debate can decide for themselves whether or not the NDP government in Ontario has contravened the Canada Health Act. The act states, and I quote:
"Where the insured health services are provided out of Canada, payment is made on the basis of the amount that would have been paid by the province for similar services rendered in the province."
That's very clear. The Canada Health Act requires that you pay the same amount for out-of-country emergency as you would pay for in-province emergency. The people of Ontario who are covered by that Canada Health Act and expect portability as one of the enshrined principles of that act to be honoured by the government of Ontario, they see the erosion of medicare. They see the betrayal of that principle and they know that this government has not lived up to its obligations to the citizens, notwithstanding what the minister says.
As I said, I listened very closely. Many of the things that she said I think were probably lifted directly out of speeches that I made in this House and that I made during my three years. Much of what she said, particularly at the beginning of her remarks --
Mr Mills: It's true.
Mrs Caplan: Yes, it's true, and the member for Durham East is sitting there saying, "It's true." Anyone who was in this House or who read my speeches will know that I said many of those same things. But there are many, many things that the minister said that I do not support, that I did not say, and I want to be very clear that when it has come to implementation of many of the initiatives that I began, I do not support the way the NDP has begun implementation. I do not support their plans for long-term care. I do not support the delisting, the de-insuring policies of the NDP.
I would say to the minister that in the fact that I am suggesting that you pay the same amount for out-of-country emergency services as you do for in-country services, I am not suggesting that you have to spend more. I have said before and I will say today that I believe there are sufficient resources within the $17 billion we are presently spending on health care in Ontario. We have enough to ensure that people are fully covered under the Canada Health Act when they travel out of the province, whether it is for one day or for a month. We have enough resources. Where should we find it? It is well documented. The minister herself said it. The minister before her said it. I said it. Epidemiologists and health researchers have told us that approximately one third of all of the services that are provided presently are considered inappropriate, unnecessary and wasteful. And that estimate of 25% to 33% of $17 billion is approximately $5 billion.
The minister has said, and I have the number here, that she believes she has saved about $125 million or $130 million with her out-of-country payment policy, which has restricted the reasonable access, which has restricted portability and threatened comprehensiveness of Ontarians, when if she had put in place the kinds of structures that would allow for reallocation from that which is clearly inappropriate, unnecessary and wasteful, she would have had enough money to live up to the Canada Health Act. She would have had enough money to see to it that people got appropriate and needed care whether they were in Buffalo or whether they were in Florida for a month or whether they were in Arizona.
There are many things that I would like to say about this. I know that many of my colleagues would like to speak, and so I'm going to end by saying that I think the ministry should stop trying to solve its problems by betraying the principles of medicare and saying one thing to the taxpayers of the province of Ontario and doing another. I also believe there are a number of health policies which the minister has not followed through on which would have yielded the resources to be able to support these kinds of initiatives without adding one new dollar to the amount we are already spending.
I believe her policy on out-of-country emergency medical payments is illegal. I think it unfairly targets our senior population. I've had many calls from senior citizens in the riding of Oriole, but others who make short trips to the United States in particular and those who travel outside of the country. What her policy is effectively saying is that only those who are rich can leave the province and feel secure, and that is wrong. I do not support the minister's policy and I will be supporting this resolution before the House today.
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): I suppose one of the things we have learned since coming to Queen's Park in the last five years is that this government still believes it has a monopoly on caring for the citizens of this province. I can tell you that this health care policy to take away the privileges that citizens have earned over the years to be protected under the Canada Health Act under emergency situations when they leave their province of Ontario, to take away good health care in emergency situations is in fact not supporting the principles of the NDP. I can tell you, as the minister talked about protecting the health care system with her references to Tommy Douglas, he, of course, would not support this violation of the Canada Health Act. That's what we're really talking about today.
I should say that deinsuring medically necessary services -- what we're talking about today are not the everyday health care problems that would be taken care of by people who actually live out of the province for a certain length of time. I want to make it clear, we're talking about emergency. Emergency is a matter of life and death.
This is what is being taken away, the OHIP coverage for people in emergency situations; not just seniors, not just young people, but family members and citizens who may have an opportunity for a one-day trip, who may have the support of a family, if they're elderly, for a vacation away, who may even be following doctor's orders -- which used to be a common term around people's households as we were all growing up, "doctor's orders." If you are ordered to a more safe climate for whatever your health problem may be, whether it be asthma, whether it be a heart problem, whether it be arthritis, you can be assured, if anything happens to you in an emergency situation, then you will not be covered by the province of Ontario's OHIP plan any more.
How could the minister possibly stand up today and talk about her government, the New Democratic Party, Tommy Douglas, preserving -- and I think I can use her words very carefully; in fact, I wrote them down -- protecting the health care system? This is not protecting the health care system. As of June 30, 1994, the province will pay only $100 per day to individuals who need, and I underline this, emergency hospital treatment when travelling outside Canada.
The current rate is $400 per day, which reflects the amount that hospitals in Ontario charge per day for a patient to stay in hospital. This is a blatant violation of the Canada Health Act. Actually, it isn't $400 everywhere, but it's the amount this government has deemed to be a correct amount and we're not arguing with that at all.
But this is a blatant violation of the Canada Health Act. No one has said otherwise. The federal minister has had that opportunity and the Minister of Health of Ontario today said that all of the health ministers were looking at, I think she said, a solution or the studying of this certain situation. Then, at that point in time, I think it was called studying the issue of Canadians travelling abroad. We do not have a recommendation from the federal minister.
I might add, the Liberal member for Oriole -- I'd like to know what the Ontario Liberal Party is doing to help with regard to this issue by lobbying or perhaps persuading the federal Liberal Minister of Health in this regard. I personally have not seen any action in that regard.
Section 7 of the Canada Health Act states, "In order that a province may qualify for a full cash contribution referred to in section 5 for a fiscal year, the health care insurance plan of the province must, throughout the fiscal year, satisfy the criteria described in sections 8 to 12 respecting the following matters: (a) public administration; (b) comprehensiveness; (c) universality; (d) portability; and (e) accessibility."
This action, on behalf of the government of Ontario, does not, in anyone's opinion -- because we haven't heard otherwise -- support the Canada Health Act. The portability requirement alone makes the point that this is a system designed to provide reasonable health care for Canadians wherever they might happen to be, and contains two elements, and I think it's important to understand them: (1) Provincial governments must cover those citizens who require medical treatment while travelling in another Canadian province. (2) Provincial governments must cover residents travelling outside Canada, and I underline this, "on the basis of the amount that would have been paid...for similar services rendered in the province."
The government's cutback clearly violates the spirit and the principles of the Canada Health Act and undermines the whole notion of fairness. I say bravo to the seniors for deciding to sue the Ontario government for slashing and burning -- imagine -- out-of-country emergency medical coverage, because that's what it is, with no warning.
As one London North constituent put it, and I'm sure we've all received these letters: "If we are forced to remain in Ontario for 12 months and if we take sick and we are hospitalized in an Ontario hospital, this total cost would have to be paid by OHIP rather than an insurance company covering us outside of Canada."
How much money will the government actually save when the rates of hospitalization in Ontario increase, when many of these seniors become more ill or are injured due to our harsh winter climate, especially those under doctors' orders?
Another constituent wrote: "It seems extremely unfair to be covered in an Ontario hospital for $400 per day, but $300 less per day if you should have the misfortune to become ill" -- remember, we're talking about emergency here; this government doesn't want to cover our citizens in cases of emergency, even for one day, or longer, my goodness -- "if you should have the misfortune to become ill or be in an accident outside the province.... It appears our own government is building a rather transparent Berlin Wall through which the citizens of Ontario must not pass, except under threat of possible severe financial risk." I'm quoting from one of my constituents; perhaps my colleagues in London have had the same letter.
I'd just like to close my comments today by saying that our leader, Mike Harris, wrote a letter to the federal Liberal Health minister asking her to intervene and impose the sanctions outlined in the Canada Health Act, and she effectively washed her hands of the situation by choosing instead to monitor the situation. If in fact the federal government is studying the issue of Canadians travelling abroad, why then would we not find a solution to that before this government took this kind of action? We don't have a solution.
You should also know that there are other provinces in Canada that have broken the Canada Health Act in the past, and Alberta was one of them many, many years ago. That has not been the action of this province, to my knowledge, at this point in time. This is the first time, in the research that we did, that we have knowingly broken the Canada Health Act. There are other provinces that have done that but not this one.
According to the Council of Ontario Universities, the elimination with no warning of OHIP coverage for foreign students and faculty is a huge backward step. These people bring a wealth of experience, talent and diversity of culture to our country. Why should they have to put up with this with absolutely no warning? The universities had to be pay for those students for a short period of time up until June 30 of this year, and then they too will have to find another solution.
It is with, I think, a lot of concern that this motion was put before the House today on behalf of our leader, Mr Harris, and we are speaking on behalf of the seniors, the vulnerable and the disabled, who in fact may be more vulnerable given this action by the government. So I don't think that we have to stand here today and listen to the Minister of Health once again talking about the monopoly of caring for this government. They clearly have shown with this action that that is not the case.
Mr Mills: It's a pleasure to stand here this afternoon and debate this resolution. This morning I had the opportunity to stand in my place and talk as a grandfather about a private member's bill that dealt with grandparents. This afternoon it's my pleasure to stand in my place again and talk about a bill that deals with seniors, and I'm a senior. It deals with people who go to Florida, and I certainly go to Florida. It deals with people who own property in Florida, and I own property in Florida. I'm also a member of the Canadian Snowbird Association, so I think I'm very qualified to speak to this.
When this was first introduced, and I'm not going to hide the fact -- and the Minister of Health is there -- I became quite cross about it, and I said so. I told the folks back in my riding that I was cross about it and I wrote one or two articles about it. From those articles, believe it or not, I got quite a lot of letters coming from seniors on the other side of the fence.
They said: "Gord, we appreciate the way you stood up for seniors etc and we appreciate the way that you speak for us. But listen. We don't go to Florida. We don't go to Arizona. We stay put where we are and we feel a little put out about you going on about this and in fact the health system would have to subsidize those folks who go south."
You know, Mr Speaker, reasonable guy that I am, fellow, I thought about that and I think it's a poor day in the world today when we can't take a second look at some of the things that we've said in the past. I know that in the past when our whole sort of health care system became threatened with ever-burgeoning costs -- it's $17 billion now -- and there was some discussion about possibly some user fees on some drugs for seniors, I went completely bonkers over that, because I come from an era in England where I was brought up under the panel system, and I tell you that any mention of any user fees for drugs or health care sends me right off the deep end. I don't mind telling you that.
But then I had a discussion with the Minister of Health, a very frank discussion, and she said: "You know, Gord, you can't have it every way. You can't have dialysis machines, we can't improve the care for seniors, we can't look to all those great things and at the same time provide out-of-province coverage for the other seniors who want to go to Arizona or who want to go to Florida."
Then I had a change like on the road to Damascus. I became impassioned in the drive to bring cancer therapy, radiation therapy, to my community that I share with the other members in Oshawa. I became passionate on that issue; it absolutely engulfed me. I became involved with the cancer care committee. I spoke in the Oshawa mall. I attended meetings. I absolutely made the honourable minister's life a living hell with pressing her: "What is going to happen? When are we going to get radiation therapy to Oshawa?"
I can speak about that because I have suffered through radiation therapy and I know what it's like. I know what the trials and tribulations are of travelling every day. I travelled for over 30 days, every day, to Toronto to get a minute shot of radiation, and it made me very ill. I was determined that I was going to do something about cancer treatment in my riding; as I say, my conversion on the road to Damascus about how we can't keep spending money on everything, that we have to concentrate on things that are for the betterment of society as a whole.
Then I remember going to the minister the last time and saying, "Ruth, what about the cancer centre at Oshawa?" She said: "You can't have everything. You can't have everything. We've got to maximize and manage our resources and our health care so much better." I then became an advocate for that radiation therapy coming to Oshawa and I also became an advocate of the way that we have to manage our health care resources.
During constituency week, I made it a point to go and speak to as many seniors and seniors' groups as I could possibly fit into my schedule. Of course, you go and talk to seniors and the uppermost thing in their minds, most of them, is this cut in out-of-country coverage and the fact that they see their way somewhat limited to going south. I remember I said to them, "Look at the letters. It says O-H-I-P. It doesn't say F-O-H-I-P. You get the message? This is for the people in Ontario."
While I'm talking about Florida, I want to mention my good friend and colleague the member for Scarborough East, Bob Frankford. Bob, who is behind me, has been a great help to seniors in trying to come to grips with the Florida authorities to see if we could work out some sort of arrangement where we could get better coverage.
Mr Mills: Reciprocal coverage. The trouble with the folks in Florida and in Arizona is that they don't charge Canadians what they charge Americans. They charge us double, and that is what makes it a real problem about paying for health care down there.
If it were the same, if we could get the same fees they charge their people on the American sort of health medicare, we could do something, but they refuse to do that. My colleague has worked hard and long. He's spoken to the governing authorities down there, but they won't come across and they won't help us. That is the real problem about user fees.
I want to get back to my talks with the seniors. I've heard the rhetoric from the third party and I shudder to think of what's going to happen in son-of-Ralph's province if he ever became the Premier of this province as I look at the terrible statistics and the things that have happened in Alberta already.
I just read the other day of a man who cut his foot in a lawnmower. He waited 17 hours before he could get hospital treatment. The hospitals were closed, the nurses were laid off and eventually he lost the toes on that foot. I think Ontarians are caring and they want the services we provide, that this government provides. I don't think they want the harsh, terrible climate that there is in Alberta. I think Ontarians are much more caring people.
As I explain this to the seniors, what was happening in Alberta, I only wish there were more hours in the day, because I'm convinced that if there were more hours in the day that would allow me to speak to the seniors in my riding individually, I'd be able to convince them that this is all about health care in Ontario. We've got to save it as we have and we cannot go on.
I said to my peers: "Let's look at this way. Your government gets so much money in. Health care is costing us at the moment $17 billion a year. It's very, very expensive. We've controlled those costs. We have made an arrangement with the doctors of Ontario. We gave them $4 billion a year to manage their affairs. We also give X number of dollars to all the hospitals all over the province of Ontario to provide the services that Ontarians expect."
I said: "George, when you go down to Clearwater and you twist your ankle and you end up in hospital and your outfit bills OHIP" -- they even charge you for Kleenex down there. They do; it's awful -- "when that comes up, where are we going to get the money from? We've already given out all the money that we can to serve Ontarians. We've given the money to the hospital. We've given the money to the doctors, to the specialists, all those people. How on earth are we going to get money to pay for your accident in the United States?"
He said, "You know, Gord, that's a good question." I said: "I'll tell you how it's come. We would have to cut some other health care services in the province of Ontario and it would affect all those people who don't go to Arizona, who don't go to Florida, and you and I and the people who don't go will be picking up the slack."
You know what? The penny drops. People say to me: "Do you know, I never thought of it like that. I didn't know that."
We heard the minister talk about this outrageous claim that health care costs would go sky-high, that no one would be able to afford to go south. That isn't true. It's not happening. I'm not going to give an advertisement for the insurance company that my house is in, but I have a little tick on my house insurance that says I can get 30 days' coverage in Florida for $45. What a bargain. You've got to search. You've got to look around.
I know my good friend and colleague the member for Durham-York, the parliamentary assistant to the minister, wants to say something; I think I've said enough.
Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): It's a pleasure to join in this discussion, because you're talking about people who I think have worked hard and long in this province, people who have given of their energy and their abilities and their resources to this country and this province and now, after having done all that and having perhaps the opportunity to travel south -- not everybody travels south every year; perhaps they travel even to Buffalo just for a shopping trip, and if they drop over to --
Mr Callahan: The member for St Catharines-Brock is suggesting that there is insurance to cover those people. Well, that's fine, there's insurance to cover all of us, but that still doesn't meet with what I'm suggesting.
Here are seniors who have given all of this to the benefits of Ontario; they've worked hard, they've had businesses, created jobs, they've worked in all of our industries, in our plants, in our professions, and they then reach the golden age of being seniors -- and not all of them are rich. For some reason there seems to be this misconception that every senior in this province is just rolling in money. It's not the case.
I think the concerns that I've got are these: Let's say a senior decides to take a trip to Buffalo. Now, not everybody is up on what's going on in this province. In fact, many people in the House are not up on what's going on in this province. How can we expect them to necessarily understand that the minute they take that one-day trip to Buffalo or to Rochester or to Chicago or whatever and they don't take out health insurance, and God forbid they suddenly are struck with an illness and they wind up in an American hospital and in fact perhaps are in a position where they can't be removed from that hospital for a period of a week or two -- it could in fact bankrupt many seniors.
The amount of $400 that was previously the order of the day is not a lot of money in terms of what the US hospitals charge. In fact, paying the balance, paying the difference for a senior, or anyone else, can cause considerable injury to their ability to be able to survive back here in this province.
When Tommy Douglas, who was a member, oddly enough, of the New Democratic Party government -- and I'm sure Tommy, as he's smiling down on us, would consider what's being done by this provincial government and others, other provincial governments who are of an NDP stripe, outrageous. He would be as upset as Mel Swart is about some of the things you've done as well. He would say that you have deserted the whole principle of fairness, the whole principle of universality to the people of this country.
The federal Minister of Health has told us that what is happening is contrary to law. We saw what happened --
Ms Christel Haeck (St Catharines-Brock): She has?
Hon Mrs Grier: That's interesting.
Mr Callahan: The Minister of Health seems to question that. Perhaps she hasn't decided --
Ms Haeck: It hasn't been said.
Mr Callahan: I tell the Minister of Health she hasn't decided what penalty she's going to impose on Ontario for doing what we are doing, but in fact if one looks back on the experience we went through with extra billing in this province, where if the entire Legislature -- and I believe it was unanimous -- had not voted to ban extra billing, we were going to be denied something like $50 million in transfer payments from the federal government because we were in fact contravening the Canada Health Act.
If in fact the Minister of Health federally does decide that the penalty will be the withholding of whatever funds there are that had been withheld from these people, then all of the arguments that the Minister of Health made today about saving money and all the rest of it on the backs of seniors will reverberate right back in her face, with all due respect.
Hon Brian A. Charlton (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): Why has the federal Minister of Health not done that?
Mr Callahan: The House leader says that the federal minister hasn't done that yet. However, you people probably figure that it won't happen until after the next election, so it doesn't matter; it won't be your responsibility.
Let's get back on line. We're not just talking about seniors, we are talking about any citizen of the province of Ontario, be they young or old, who might take a trip for a hockey team over to Buffalo, a baseball team or whatever. If for some reason they were not knowledgeable about the fact that they had to take out private insurance, or they thought, "For one day, what could happen to us?" and they wound up in a hospital where they had to stay for an extended period of time, the results could be horrendous.
I think quite frankly that is not what the Canada Health Act was intended for. It was not what Tommy Douglas -- again, as I say, he must be frowning terribly on this party which has suddenly taken on the degree of saying, "Well, Tommy, you had a nice plan but we don't subscribe to it," the same way as they have done to Mel Swart in saying: "Mel, you are a man of principle, and we have abandoned all our principles. We really don't care about what you say, Mel Swart, because you're out of the Legislature. We're in power and we no longer have the requirement to live up to your standards."
I heard the member for Durham East who spoke before me. He indicated that we do not do the same thing to people coming to this country. Well, we do.
Mr Mills: I never said that.
Mr Callahan: It's my understanding that's what he said. He said that we don't charge people who come here who do not have OHIP coverage the same amount as they do in the United States. I suggest to him, and I'm sure the minister will be aware of this, I had a case of a young couple --
Mr Mills: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would just like it on the record that I never mentioned about Americans coming here. I never mentioned it.
Mr Callahan: If I misinterpreted what he said -- in any event, I can tell you about a case that I took to the Minister of Health about a grandmother who came here from I think it was Poland. She bought $25,000 worth of insurance coverage. She had an unexpected stroke and the bill from the Toronto Hospital is now somewhere in the neighbourhood of about $110,000. They are prepared to sue this young couple whom she was coming to see and are not prepared to forgive that. It's sort of a quid pro quo. Here's a person, a senior, who took the steps to get coverage and wound up having an illness that cost her more than the $25,000. I suggest there is a parallel situation --
Ms Haeck: Why should we pay for that?
Mr Callahan: The member for St Catharines-Brock says, "Why should we pay for them?" That's the same argument that could be made if a senior, a Canadian citizen, an Ontarian who has paid his dues, finds himself in the United States for a protracted period of time in a medical facility, and perhaps for one reason or another has even taken out medical coverage. Let's say they've taken out the medical coverage and they find themselves with a bill that is just beyond their means.
I can remember an anecdotal story about someone I knew fairly well. They took ill in Florida, and in order to get the person's body out of the hospital, you had to have a credit card or no way. You stay there.
Now, $400 is a pittance in terms of the cost of American health care. That $400 is not really a great amount; it's a drop in the bucket. I can see the reasons the minister tries to put forward in that the money we can save is going to help us in terms of enhancing or perhaps protecting our own health care system in this province, but at the same time there was at least an admitted amount of $20 million in fraud. Some of the figures that were being bandied around, and we have asked for proof that they're not correct, were $690 million per year in fraud.
A new health card is supposed to be produced. I've not seen it yet. I don't think anybody has. I can tell you, and members of the public accounts committee who are present in the House will confirm it -- Mr O'Connor will -- that when the Deputy Minister of Health of the day, Mr Decter, came before the public accounts committee, I said to him, "Mr Decter, if I apply for a health card, can you show me the application form?" So Mr Decter pulled it out and there were eight different ways that you could record yourself. For instance, I could be recorded as R.V. Callahan, R. Callahan, Bob Callahan, Vincent Callahan, Leo Callahan -- those are my middle names, by the way -- and I could get eight health cards. In fact, there was a procedure in place whereby fraud could be committed with impunity. It meant that eight health cards could be received by an individual.
To the credit of the deputy minister, after making that comment in public accounts, the next day he came back and he said: "You're right. We have changed the application form and you now can only apply in the name of the document that you produce to demonstrate who you are."
There are savings. There are also savings through public accounts. When I chaired it, we took a trip to some of the alcohol and drug treatment centres in the United States. This is kind of funny because when we travelled there, the purpose of the committee was not to give them more business; the purpose of the committee was to determine how they do what they do and bring it back here to Ontario so that we don't have to send these people across the border to receive this treatment.
The reason I remember it was that we visited Parkside Hospital in Chicago and the name of the guy who was in charge of it was Tom Collins. It would be difficult to forget Tom Collins's name considering the fact that we were going there to look at an alcohol and drug treatment centre. After we got back here we prepared a very detailed report for the minister and for the government and we've yet to have a response to it or any action on it. In any event, this fellow called me up in my office and he said, "Mr Callahan, you saw our facility." I said, "Yes," and he said, "This is Tom Collins." That's how I identified who he was, as I've told you. He said, "You're going to be sending us more patients?" I said: "No, no, you've got it all wrong. The purpose of this investigation was to try to repatriate some of the services that we are now sending people out of this province to receive."
There, for the minister, is an opportunity to save millions and millions of dollars, to save inconvenience for parents whose children have to go abroad or to the United States. Instead, no movement has been made on that at all. I don't see any more alcohol and drug treatment centres in this province. There are still people being sent out of this province for a whole host of disorders, and instead of dealing with that, whom do we attack first? We attack the people who are most vulnerable, the senior citizens.
I guess the government figures, "Well, we probably don't have the seniors on line and most of them are rich." For some reason this government seems to think that elderly people are rich. I think if a good study was done or Statistics Canada was checked, you would find that there are a large number of seniors who are just on the subsistence level. They may not go to Florida, they may not go to Cancun or whatever, as the more wealthy seniors such as the member for Durham East -- who has a place in Florida and travels to Florida -- does, but they may go to Buffalo, or they may go to visit Aunt Lucy in Rochester. God forbid that they suffer an emergency situation where they are required to be captive of an American hospital that charges extraordinary fees. I suggest to you that the Minister of Health and the former Minister of Health -- well, perhaps not the former one, because she didn't suggest this. But to the Minister of Health herself, I say, shame.
Why pick on the seniors of this province? They have proven their worthiness of this province; they have contributed to this province; they have in fact created in a large degree the wealth of this province; they have created the good society we have in this province. What do we do for them on a Canada Day? We gave them a Canada Day gift on July 1, 1994. We said to them, "If you get sick in the United States or if you get sick on your trip to meet Aunt Lucy in Rochester and you wind up in hospital, we're only going to pay $100 for your in-hospital treatment." I think that's shocking and I just find that they were the most vulnerable people they could have touched.
We look at other areas of concern -- even if they take out health insurance. Let's say the contract is such that for some reason -- seniors are getting on and perhaps they forget that the 183rd day has come by and they get into the 184th day and they become ill and they've planned, just as the couple from Poland did; they took steps to ensure that they were covered and they find themselves without coverage completely. That is unacceptable, it's insensitive and it demonstrates how this government, instead of using the other measures that are available to them, repatriating those people who are required to use services outside of this province -- instead of using that imagination and that industry, they take the shortest and quickest route -- and an illegal route, I suggest to you, and it will prove to be illegal. But they don't care because come June or July when the writ is issued for an election, it won't be their responsibility to look after that illegality; it will be the responsibility of the next government. So who cares?
That to me strikes an amazing situation, because we all know that despite the MRIs that the Health minister said have been increased in terms of buying capital equipment, there have not really been that many dramatic increases in terms of the service that's offered to the people of this province.
I've urged the Minister of Health on numerous occasions in this House to provide coverage for young people with mental health problems through psychologists. They provide it through psychiatrists. With all due respect to psychiatrists, you have the one who goes through psychoanalysis, you have the other one who uses different types of drugs to try to cure the problem the person has, and yet psychologists, in the main, I think, if you talk to people who are in the know, will say they're the best people to deal particularly with kids with learning disabilities. I've never gotten a response from that.
I urged the minister one night to introduce into the formulary the most recent drug for the treatment of schizophrenics. In fact, the minister and I one night got in a shouting match over it. She didn't know what the drug was and she asked me to find out what the drug was. I said: "Minister, you're the Minister of Health. If you don't know what the drug is, we're in real trouble."
Obviously, either that match that night or something -- I think it was probably a doctor who came before our public accounts committee. I can't remember his name now -- Humphries, I think -- who urged the ministry to put that on the formulary, because this drug has the least side-effects for schizophrenics. These schizophrenics, many of them, are street people and they don't have the funds to get the drug. So if you can't get the drug for them, they will act out and wind up back going through that recycling bin called the mental health centres. Under the Mental Health Act, as amended, these people are just recycled back and forth, right through it. You know the story of the schizophrenics, how they're picked up on the street when they're a danger to themselves or to the public, taken into the mental health facility, given a drug, and then suddenly there is this committee you go before and the committee decides that they're no longer in need of help, so they usher them right back out the door. It's just a vicious cycle.
You've got parents, and I've seen these parents and talked to them, and many of the people in the Legislature should talk to them, who go to bed at night wondering where their loved one is. What is he or she doing on the street? What are they up to? What kind of danger are they in?
Why doesn't the Minister of Health, instead of reducing the out-of-province payments to seniors, deal with the question of the Mental Health Act amendments? Why doesn't she look at that? Why doesn't she try to deal with this issue? It's a crying issue. Most of the people we see on the streets of Toronto are people who are suffering probably from schizophrenia, and there is no effort made to try to deal with that.
I'll tell you something. The NDP party really has disappointed me because over the years as I --
Mr Callahan: Well, the former Minister of Labour laughs about it. I guess you can laugh now; you're out of the cabinet and you've got an easier life.
But it bothers me, because as I was growing up, as a young person, I kind of looked at the New Democratic Party as being a party of caring about people. That's in fact what they ran on during the last election: the Agenda for People, all the good things they were going to do for people.
Quite frankly, I think it would be agreed among most of us in this House, perhaps even members on the government side -- certainly their supporters -- that the Agenda for People became a document about as useless as some of the royal commissions in this province that have gone up on the dusty shelf, never to be seen again. Some of the things they have accomplished in that Agenda for People -- they're probably at page 1 if they're lucky.
What will happen is -- and this is all being engineered. I said this the other day when they gave this small bit of advice and help to business. This is sort of a pre-election goody. I'm surprised they haven't just capitulated on the out-of-province money, but I guess they figure the rich seniors will never support the NDP. Those are the people they are punishing with this thing and they feel that they can hit on them and it won't affect them from an electoral standpoint.
But you can be sure that when the throne speech comes down in March or whenever and we go back for about two weeks in this House, they're going to promise everything from soup to nuts and then they're going to go out to the electorate and say: "Elect us. Trust us. Agenda for People II will now be implemented in our next mandate if you give it to us."
I don't think the people will be fooled by that. I think quite obviously they're going to understand that this is not an appropriate task and that they should perhaps try and get some sanity back into this place. We've had four and a half years of insanity. We've had four and a half years of a government that has, granted during a recession or a depression --
Mr Mills: Why did you call the election?
Mr Callahan: I'd love to. You're closer to Mr Rae than I am. Why don't you tell him to drop the writ?
Mr Mills: No, tell me why you called the election after three years.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): Order.
Mr Callahan: I didn't call the election there either.
Mr Mills: Get your facts straight.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The honourable member had his opportunity. The member for Brampton South now has the floor.
Mr Mills: They called the election because they knew what was going to happen.
The Acting Speaker: Please, interjections are out of order. The member for Brampton South, please overlook the interjections.
Mr Callahan: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I'm trying to overlook them, but my good friend Gordie Mills from Durham East attempts to try and stir my ire. He can't do it.
All right, I will end by saying that you have to understand, as I said before, that seniors are not all like the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who is probably a senior now, and certainly the member for Durham East, who have the wherewithal that if they were to be brought into a medical facility in the United States, they could probably buy the place. I think they have to understand that and they have to understand that these are the people who are the most fragile. Don't try to reduce your deficit on the backs of people who can't fight back. If you want to do it, fight with the people who can fight back.
I suggest to you that what you're in fact doing is simply creating a precedent that will prove to be illegal and the next government will have to deal with that issue. Let's face it: I hope we're all here for the good of all the citizens of Ontario and not just simply to put forward our own ideology and impose that on society, impose it on people and so on.
I have to say finally, this morning during private members' hour I spoke on an issue of a bill that was presented by Mr Rizzo, and for some reason I was misunderstood because some of the seniors went away thinking I was against that. I wasn't.
What I was trying to say was that the bill we bring in to deal with the question of the children of our province, who are our greatest treasure, should be a bill that's fashioned in such a way that it in fact avoids the acrimony and the problems that we will create for children of separated or divorced parents. That's what I was saying to the grandparents.
I'm not saying that grandparents should not be involved, I think they should be. I'm a firm believer in family. I believe that family has a real meaning to it and we're losing it, and I think we're losing it in a sense in the Legislature by not treating the seniors of this province as family, by crucifying them, by denying them an opportunity to receive what the Canada Health Act guarantees.
Mrs Marland: I am happy to rise today and speak in support of this motion. I think it's regrettable that there is a necessity for this motion in the first place. It's very obvious that things in this province have gone very wrong when we are now in a situation where many, many people are in difficulty because they are not able to choose what they can do in order to preserve their health.
Those people who choose to go to a warmer climate in the winter -- most of them are seniors; not all of them, but most of them are -- are an advantage to our health care system in Ontario. They actually save us money by going out of the country for the cold, harsh, winter weather period. If those people stay here, many of them, under doctors' orders, find that they have to be hospitalized because they simply cannot tolerate our harsh weather. There are many hundreds and hundreds of broken hips from elderly people falling on ice. You just have to check the emergency rooms to see what happens in severe winter weather to older people.
Where does this government get off saying they will not meet the obligation they have to every citizen of this province, regardless of age? I really find it appalling that now our senior citizens are having to spend the money it's going to cost them to pursue their legal challenge through the courts.
The thing about the decision of this government is that it doesn't only affect seniors; it affects anyone who is travelling. How is it that a family that happens to be in a major car accident on I-75 or I-95 or any of the major highways in the United States, and that family requires hospitalization and medical treatment, because they are there, cannot have the same costs paid for them as they would if they were in an accident on the 401 or the Queen Elizabeth Way or any of our Ontario highways? How unjust can that be? They happen to be in another location, outside of the borders of this province, and because of that they are not treated equally. If they were in Ontario, they would have their full medical expenses paid.
Obviously, when the government argues this issue, it does not realize how hurtful it is. I would suggest to this Minister of Health that when she stands in this House and indicates through her debate that we're talking about wealthy seniors, I would ask her to do a little homework. To suggest that only the rich go south, and if they can afford to go south they can afford to pay for their health insurance coverage, I think is a brutal statement on the part of this Minister of Health. I would ask her to table in this House her study, her information on which she bases that kind of deplorable statement that actually hardly bears a response. In my opinion, for anyone in this House to make that kind of a statement indicates pure ignorance of the facts.
This business of throwing out the fact that our party, our Mike Harris PC Party of Ontario, would do the same thing with health care when we become the government, and worse, because we would make the same kinds of cuts as Ralph Klein -- I would suggest that if anyone on the government benches can read, perhaps they would like to read the Common Sense Revolution. For the benefit of those who either can't read or do not choose to read, I would like to put on the record what it is exactly that we say about health care.
It is one of four envelopes of spending that we are not going to cut. We are going to make major cuts in government expenditures. We are in fact going to cut 20% of government spending, but we are not cutting health care. In fact, on page 7 of this book, The Common Sense Revolution, which anyone can have a copy of -- it's in black and white what we will do when we're the government, not like any other party currently in this House -- it says:
"We will not cut health care spending. It's far too important. And frankly, as we all get older, we are going to need it more and more.
"Under this plan," the Common Sense Revolution, "health care spending will be guaranteed. As government, we will be aggressive about rooting out waste, abuse, health card fraud, mismanagement and duplication."
It's in black and white what we're saying. So when the New Democratic socialist government stands up in this House and maligns what kind of a government we would be and what our policies on health care would be, I simply say to them, read the print. It is here. At least we're willing to make a commitment in writing to the people of this province about what our health care protection would be.
We won't be in a situation where I will be receiving letters -- and I haven't asked this senior if I can read his name into the record, so I won't read his name, but this letter says, "I am writing for the first time in my life to a politician." The first time he's ever felt compelled to write to a politician.
He says, "I would agree that our main priority should be to reduce the Ontario debt and any reduction in the annual deficit," but he goes on to say, "But the recent reduction of hospital payments to $100 per day is a different concept that hits both rich and poor." He says, "It would be reasonable for OHIP to pay the same amount per day for a stay in a USA hospital as if he or she were in a Canadian hospital." There are two pages of concerns on the part of this individual.
I simply say to this government that if you cannot see what is fair and equitable in the provision of health care and, I may add, about what's left of the health care system that we have in this province, then you don't even consider what the facts are. You don't even consider that our population is aging, and it's imperative, because of their increasing numbers, that we preserve their health. If by going out of this province in the winter they can remain healthy rather than staying at home and being a financial burden to our health care system, how much more common sense an argument can we make?
I do have a letter here from someone I know will not mind me reading his name into the record, because it's Dr John Tyson. Dr Tyson is a very knowledgeable person not only in the field of medicine but in understanding what the management of the health care system in this province is about. He says:
"In a survey of 15 former blue-collar snowbirds, all had temporary winter residences in the southern US. All were in trailer parks. Each had a gross US value of $15,000. Annual taxes ranged from $253 to $964 per year.
"These Ontarians are not rich nor are they privileged. They built the current health care system we have enjoyed. The recent actions by the Ontario government to reduce scheduled benefit payments to C$100 per day is crushing the retirement and security of thousands of ordinary people, notwithstanding the economics of a potential forced sale of a US asset that will be taxed at full rates."
We are not talking about the rich and the wealthy; we're talking about the people who built this province with their blood, sweat and tears. Those people are entitled to the same protection under a health care system regardless of where they happen to be. But to listen to this government you would think that the "snowbirds" -- probably an unfortunate title that they have been given, but everybody understands what is meant by that -- choose to go away to have their heart attacks or they choose to go away and have some medical complication. How insulting. I think it's on that word that I will close my comments.
I simply cannot understand how this government can do something which it knows is illegal. I also cannot understand why the glorious Jean Chrétien federal Liberal Party which is in government now cannot enforce the Canada Health Act and ensure that the people of this province have the entitlement to the protection under the health care system wherever they travel.
If this government is looking for money, it should start where we have been asking it to look for two years, since the Provincial Auditor identified $700 million in health care card fraud. The money is there, but to take it off the backs of the people who need to be out of this province, particularly with the winter climate, or anyone else who chooses to go on a vacation outside of this province on a short term, is grossly unfair and we will not accept that position by this government.
We will continue to fight for these people and we will look forward to implementing the Common Sense Revolution where we guarantee in writing that the health care system will be preserved and enhanced back to where it was when we were in office.
Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): I guess this is an interesting debate to be part of because, for the viewers, this is an opposition day, and I want to make that clear, which is really what we're hearing a lot of from the opposition. They're in opposition to real leadership that has been taking place by the province of Ontario and the NDP government.
The fact of the matter is, right in the bottom of the resolution they say there's an absence of leadership from the federal government. I'm going to have to admit that there is an absence of leadership by both the Liberals in Ottawa and, before them, the Conservatives in Ottawa, because their view of the Canada assistance program that funds our medicare was that they were going to put a cap on it. The Tories put that in place and I wish that the Liberals would remove that, but I don't see any movement in there at all, none at all.
Let's paint the picture as it really is. My colleague across the floor just talked about $700 million worth of potential fraud through a health card system. In fact, when they were in power there were 25 billable OHIP numbers out there circulating around the province. I think that potential for fraud was certainly there when the Tories were in government.
Then my colleague from Brampton over there talked about the new card and the problems with it. Well, the fact is, yes, as they designed the program there were multiple ways of applying for that card and the opportunity for fraud was there. We've cleaned that up.
But let's be realistic. We saw health care grow right through the 1970s and 1980s to when we formed the government at 10% to 12% every year, per annum. It grew from 25% of the budget to a third of the budget. If we're going to try to control that, then there have to be some tough choices made, and we made them. Oh, boy, we made some pretty tough choices. Anyone working in the hospital sector would be in a state of shock to deny that there was ever a tough choice made in a hospital. There were a lot of tough choices.
The hospital boards really did have to work hard, and I congratulate them for being partners in saving the health care system, not with the rhetoric that we hear opposite, but they were a partner working with this government to save the medicare system. They want to ignore that.
Let's be realistic. When we came into government, we saw the out-of-country expenses very high and we brought them down. This year I think we're going to see the number is around $53 million being spent out of province, so there is a lot of money still going out of province. But let's talk about what we do have here.
Let's talk about the management that we've done which gave us the money to invest in health care in the province of Ontario. The integrated homemaker program: 5,000 new people in there working in home care in the province of Ontario. Health care in the community through long-term care: We're going to spend $850 million this fiscal year, $350 million more than when we formed the government, and that's recognizing that we have to make some tough choices as we go along to providing health care services to those seniors.
We've seen groups and agencies come together to formulate programs for palliative care, hospices -- it's incredible the work that's being done. My colleague here and all the members from Durham -- the fighting that went on to try to make sure that we could get a cancer centre outside of the city of Toronto because it isn't easy for the people from the rural parts out in southeastern Ontario to get into downtown Toronto. A good decision was made, but a decision made because of planning, a decision because there was a lot of work gone into protecting those services.
It's easy to just sometimes stand back and criticize but we do have to be realistic about this. Let's use our Ontario drug benefit plan as an example. The costs have been growing over 16% and there have to be some tough decisions made in trying to maintain a health care system that is going to be important to provide the care. We were able to maintain some of those costs by putting a network that is going to hopefully reduce the number of people that are admitted into hospitals. More than 17,000 people are admitted to hospitals each year due to medication problems. Twenty per cent of seniors require hospital stays which are attributed to prescription use to our Ontario drug benefit plan -- not necessarily wise use; it's poor use. And through our network we're going to save not only $30 million annually but we're going to save an awful lot of needless grief for family members taking their family member to the hospital that doesn't need to take place.
Sometimes we forget because as a member in a rural riding just northeast of Toronto we forget about the north. Well, let's not forget about the north because there's $880 million that was put into small communities and first nations to upgrade and expand the medical and dental clinic services in these communities; a comprehensive health unit for example, in the Fort Frances area and Wawa. These types of service are innovative, one-stop shopping for all the people in the community. We sometimes seem to want to forget about that. We've established a midwifery program. In northern Ontario up at Laurentian University is where people are going to go to study this new way of delivering health care to young mothers and families in the province of Ontario.
It's because we were able to take a look at the needs in a community and yes, make tough decisions. Now, tough decisions -- you say that's what the government in Ottawa did when they put the cap on the Canada assistance program, but the meat and potatoes of the Canada assistance program meant that medicare was funded at 50-cent dollars -- 50 cents from the federal government, 50 cents from the province. Where are we today? Well, we're well below 30 cents. And are we going to see any change from the Liberals? I don't think so.
So we have to deal with the realities that the Liberals in Ottawa are ignoring Ontario, ignoring the health care needs of Ontario and we're going to deal with that. We have to deal with that. The only way we deal with that is by making some tough decisions and yes, we have made some tough decisions and if my opposition colleagues want to say, "Well, let's kill all the money that was put into radiation therapy so we can send it on to the seniors, or let's scrap the Ontario drug benefit plan so that we can give more money to seniors; let's scrap the midwifery program so that we can give more" -- being in government is about making decisions. Some of them aren't easy decisions to be made, and if my colleagues opposite want to be part of a system that ignores the realities of what has happened and the improvements in our communities, the improvements in health care in the province of Ontario, then they've got blinders on if they're going to stand back there and spew off their opposition rhetoric and deny the fact that, "Yes, we have been able to control the cost of the Ontario health care system," and at the same time the $17 billion that is in the Ontario health care system -- $17 billion -- that's enough money.
There is certainly enough money in the health care system and if we go back to what it was a decade ago and see the vast change in our health care system up to today, we should be living a far better life. The fact of the matter is we have to maintain what we have here and there is certainly enough money in the system now. I'd like to see some constructive opposition, instead of all this nay-saying and rhetoric that we hear.
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I am pleased to rise in response to this motion by my party leader, Mr Harris, calling upon the government, because of the fact that they've unilaterally announced that OHIP would reduce out-of-country health coverage for all Ontarians; and
"Whereas this...change means higher health care costs for every Ontarian, including people travelling for business, families on vacation and seniors; and
"Whereas the Canada Health Act guarantees 'portability' and states that provincial health plans must pay for out-of-Canada hospitalization at the same rate they would pay for such care at home; and
"Whereas the federal Liberal Health minister refuses to enforce the Canada Health Act and has demonstrated no leadership on this issue; and
"Whereas the principles of fairness and accountability to those who fund the health care system through their tax dollars have also been clearly violated; and
"Whereas the NDP has failed to consult with the people affected, failed to determine if this policy is legal and failed to calculate if savings would truly be made;
"Therefore, in the absence of leadership from the federal government, this House calls on the Minister of Health to support the belief of the people of Ontario in the principle of portability -- as enshrined in the Canada Health Act -- and immediately restore out-of-country health coverage to Ontario rates."
On behalf of the seniors of Wellington and the people of Wellington, I want to indicate I strongly support this resolution. It is unacceptable to us what the government has done with respect to this issue. To deny appropriate health care coverage to travellers, seniors who are outside of the country, to me is unacceptable.
There are several big issues, I think, that this resolution addresses in response to the government's policy. One is a practical problem. If the government doesn't redress the problems that they've created with respect to this issue, it will make it very, very difficult for many, many seniors to travel abroad for the winter and, as we've heard in the debate, many seniors need to travel south because their health situation is such that they can't spend the winter in this province because of the weather. The legality is a major issue. This appears to be contrary to the principles of the Canada Health Act and I think we've got to speak against it in respect to that issue.
Also, the NDP has failed to demonstrate the cost savings that they claim would be created if they continued with this policy. We want to see that evidence before we can in any way give support to this bill. We also have to challenge the federal Liberal government on this issue because we feel that they are remiss in not taking action to enforce the principles of the Canada Health Act which, of course, is federal legislation.
For those reasons, I indicate to you that I will strongly support this resolution this afternoon and would encourage all members of the Legislature to support this resolution.
Mr David Johnson (Don Mills): I'd like to quote from the Canada Health Act. The Canada Health Act says: "Where the insured health services are provided out of Canada, payment is made on the basis of the amount that would have been paid by the province for similar services rendered in the province."
It's clear that the government has violated the Canada Health Act. Ontario residents, people of all ages, young and old, when they travel outside of Canada do not expect special treatment. They only expect equal and fair medical coverage, but they are clearly not getting it from this government.
I have consulted with my constituents in Don Mills in a questionnaire. Of 830 people who responded to the questionnaire, by a margin of over two to one, they do not support the government in reducing out-of-country health care services.
This is an issue for people of all ages and it's an issue of fairness and equality. That's simply what people are asking for. They're asking that the Canada Health Act be enforced. It's clearly not being done. That's the sole issue that's before us here today.
My constituents, and I believe the people of the province of Ontario, are telling this government they do not require anything special. They do not consider that when the Minister of Health stands up and says, "We can't afford those kind of services," they do not understand that. They look at the fraud that's taking place in the health care system; the fraud that's taking place in the welfare system, and they say: "We have the resources in the province of Ontario to be equal and fair to our seniors who travel, to people of all ages who travel, and we should be applying that fairness." We are not doing this through this particular action in the health care system.
Mr Jim Wilson: No one has fought more loudly or more often for the right of seniors and other Ontarians to out-of-country health coverage at Ontario rates than the Mike Harris team at Queen's Park. We believe in fairness and that Ontarians have the inalienable right to health care, be they at home, in another province or in another country. We have backed our beliefs with a two-front assault on both the NDP and Liberal governments. Unfortunately, both the Liberals and the NDP refuse to listen.
I want to share with members of this House and the public some of the actions that my caucus colleagues and I have taken in our effort to fight for fairness in health care. In May, I wrote to Premier Bob Rae asking him to restore out-of-country coverage. He said, and I quote: "The changes are part of our efforts to better manage health care spending and improve services in Ontario." In other words, the Premier's definition of better management and improving services in Ontario is to simply deny services.
On May 17, 1994, Tory MPP Bob Runciman asked the NDP government to delay implementation of out-of-country changes until the deputy minister's working group released its findings. On June 14, 1994, PC seniors' advocate Cam Jackson told a seniors' rally at Queen's Park that a Mike Harris government would restore out-of-country hospital coverage to Ontario rates. On June 15, 1994, Mike Harris appealed to the federal health minister to intervene to spare seniors from having to use their own resources to launch a lawsuit against the provincial government. The Liberal minister said no.
On August 16, 1994, I demanded that Ottawa and Queen's Park reimburse seniors for hospitalization costs incurred outside of Ontario while the snowbirds' legal challenge was heard. All I got back was silence from both governments.
In October of 1994, I on behalf of the Ontario PC caucus and in my position as health critic requested a meeting with the federal Liberal health minister to discuss the out-of-country health coverage issue. The minister's response was, and I quote: "Although I appreciate being offered the opportunity to discuss this matter with you, unfortunately my schedule does not permit the acceptance of your invitation." She continued: "Ministers agreed to have their officials continue to examine this matter and officials of my department will continue to monitor the situation."
Monitoring the situation after months of delay and on an issue that is such a blatant and clear violation of the Canada Health Act is a shameful response to the seniors and the many Ontarians who elected a Liberal government to uphold the Canada Health Act.
I also find it interesting that the federal Minister of Health has chosen to selectively enforce the Canada Health Act. She is rattling the sabre of the act and when it comes to the health policies of the province of Alberta, the minister continues to rail against the facility fees being charged at the Gimbel Eye Clinic in Alberta. She eloquently states that, "Facility fees over and above the fees provided by public health insurance are denying access" -- access of course being one of the fundamental principles underlying the Canada Health Act.
However, the federal Liberal minister, and there are no Liberals currently in this House right now to listen to our concerns and those of seniors, the federal Liberal minister seems to have a selective interpretation of Canada's national health legislation. While she is prepared to wrestle with Alberta over the principle of access, she is content to simply monitor the NDP government's whitewashing of portability of health care benefits for the citizens of Ontario.
The federal Minister of Health has the power to punish provinces by withholding funds if they violate the Canada Health Act. In her letter to me last month, the federal Liberal minister professes her commitment to the Canada Health Act by saying: "I would like to assure you that" --
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I thought it was the rules of the House that one doesn't make reference to attendance, but there are two Conservatives in the House.
The Acting Speaker: It's not a point of order. The member for Simcoe West.
Mr Jim Wilson: To quote from the minister's letter, she wrote: "I would like to assure you that, as Minister of Health, I remain firmly committed to the principles of the Canada Health Act."
The government violated the portability clauses of the Canada Health Act last April. Seven months later, the so-called defender of the Canada Health Act, the federal Minister of Health, has done nothing more than to monitor what is a clear breach of the act and a clear breach of the law in this country. As a result, it has been left to seniors to take the provincial government to court in order to uphold the provisions of the Canada Health Act. While they've been doing this, Diane Marleau, the federal minister, has been telling everyone who'll listen how much she cares.
In slashing out-of-country hospital coverage, the NDP government was doing three things: cutting without thinking, as it has done with most health care decisions, bashing seniors and driving a wedge between one of the most important unifiers of our nation, the Canada Health Act. At no point has the NDP government been able to identify how it intends to save the $20 million it claims by slashing the rate of OHIP reimbursement for out-of-country hospital costs to $100 per day.
Seniors' groups like the Canadian Snowbird Association say the action taken by this government will end up costing the government when seniors, because they are forced to stay in Ontario, become hospitalized more. The following is a quote from Don Slinger, first vice-president of the Canadian Snowbird Association:
"Aside from her actions being clearly illegal, Mrs Grier and the Rae government are lying to themselves and the people of Ontario by saying they will save taxpayers $20 million.
"We say this illegal action will cost Ontario $20 million, not save it. And we proved it. When we asked her" -- referring to Mrs Grier -- "in person, in this very building, to compare her figures to ours, she wouldn't. You know why? Because she couldn't. Her own ministry's figures put the lie to her $20-million savings. She wouldn't do it because she can't do it."
The reduction of out-of-country hospital coverage means that only rich seniors will be able to travel. As a result, many seniors who travel south right now for health reasons to escape our harsh winter climates are trapped at home and are likely at some point to be hospitalized here at home. I want to read from a letter I received from my constituent John Keogh of Wasaga Beach last month:
"Because of my wife's severe asthma condition, for the past eight years we have gone to Arizona where my wife can breathe easier.
"Prior to us going to Arizona during the coldest winter months my wife would end up being hospitalized once or twice during the winter. Because of the NDP government's policy on health care we feel that it might not be possible for us to go to Arizona this winter.
"Ourselves, as well as thousands of senior citizens, feel it is not fair that the government will not pay the same amount per day for out-of-country hospital care as it does here in Ontario. Last year we paid $1,600 for five months' insurance coverage. This year that same coverage has gone up to $2,900."
I also want to read from a letter that was sent last May to Mrs Grier by a constituent of mine, Mr Lloyd Bellamy. He writes:
"Your proposal to reduce out-of-Canada hospital reimbursements from $400 per day to $100 per day is for the birds, but not fair for 'snowbirds.' You have said that this is because of the high rates of hospital charges in the US, causing a severe drain on OHIP. Who do you suppose is bearing these high hospital charges except the individual?"
Alvin Murphy of Alliston has correctly seen this legislation for what it is, an attack on seniors. He makes his argument very succinctly in a letter to me last May:
"(1) The reduction to $100 a day is illegal.
"(2) This action discriminates against seniors.
"(3) Snowbirds pay all the same taxes as other Canadians. They have paid their freight throughout their lives.
"(4) Seniors in the warmer climate are healthier than when in an extreme, colder climate.
"(5) Seniors do not abuse the health care system as seniors spend more time and effort and money on preventive health care and practices than any other" group in our society.
The actions of this government and the neglect of the federal Liberal government may serve to tear apart the fragile fabric of Canada. The Canada Health Act is one of the unique threads that binds our nation together. The failure of the federal Liberal government to uphold the act will jeopardize our nationhood and make the federal government even more of a bit player in the health care of this country.
The slashing of out-of-country fees is just one more shot at seniors by a provincial government that has no respect for the elderly in this province. We've seen it in long-term care, where unionization of the workforce took priority over the needs of seniors. We've seen it in the continual delistings and the failure to list essential prescription drugs on the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary. We've seen it in the cutting of the property tax grant and in the lack of emphasis placed upon seniors' housing. The NDP government does not appreciate seniors and the federal Liberal government does not have the courage to come to the defence of seniors and families in this province.
Members should be aware that only about a quarter of the out-of-country payments are made for seniors by this government. Although the issue is being carried by the snowbirds' association, this policy affects every family that ventures outside of Canada for a vacation. The vast majority of our payments are going to families who get into car accidents or kids who break their legs on the ski slopes in Colorado, and this government says it doesn't care. It also fails absolutely across the board to substantiate what it claims will be $20 million in saving.
The Canadian Snowbird Association has brought forward its own study which clearly shows that this policy will cost this government money. If you think of it very simply, Ontario rates paid in the US save Ontario taxpayers money. We pay $400 a day if someone has a heart attack in Arizona, regardless of what the cost may be in that hospital in Arizona, by example, and their private insurance picks up the rest. That same person who has his heart attack in Toronto may cost Ontario $1,200 a day at Toronto Hospital, and no private insurer picks up anything. It is by right 100% covered under medicare.
So the government's own logic cannot be backed up either by study or any reasonable thinking process. The snowbirds are right on this issue, families are right on this issue, and Mike Harris, in putting forward this resolution today on behalf of the Ontario PC caucus, is right on this issue. He's absolutely right to go to bat for the seniors of this province, and in spite of all the rhetoric in this House, I'd ask members to read the Common Sense Revolution, where we very clearly set out our plans to save medicare because this government, the Liberals before them and the Liberals in Ottawa are destroying medicare by not supporting the principles of the Canada Health Act.
I say shame. Shame on these people who in the past claimed to have a corner on compassion. Well, I'll tell you, Mr Speaker, they no longer have a corner on compassion. They have done everything they can to make seniors feel bad for being citizens of this country, to feel bad for being residents of Ontario, and now they've got all the seniors of this province under house arrest against their will. That is wrong.
Hon Bud Wildman (Minister of Environment and Energy and Minister Responsible for Native Affairs): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think it only fair that Ralph Klein be given equal time.
The Acting Speaker: That's not a point of order.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Audrey McLaughlin on the Candu reactor should be given just as much time.
The Acting Speaker: That's not a point of order. The member for St Catharines.
Mr Bradley: In the last two minutes that I have to address the House on this issue, I simply want to say, first of all, that I will be voting in favour of the resolution. I understand the difficulty the government has in meeting its many costs that build up in the field of health care. I believe a number of people were supportive of the government move which said that we will no longer pay the American rate. I think where the opposition began to really grow was when the government said, "We won't even pay the Ontario rate when a person is ill," whether ill here or ill somewhere else. I think that's where the problem arose.
I find it ironic really -- I was hoping this wouldn't be as partisan a debate, but we're near an election so it's going to be -- that the Conservative Party, of all parties, would be championing this cause. To their credit, they are a party which has said they're going to drastically cut government expenditures, and many of their people have defended that very well. Many have spoken with great acclaim about Ralph Klein, the Premier of Alberta, and what is being done in Alberta. Many of the provincial Conservatives think that is the route to go, and indeed Mr Klein can be a popular man from time to time in his own province.
But I think we have to remember that if the Conservative Party is to implement its policies, we won't be looking at something like this, we'll be looking at far greater cuts to the health care system. Once you're finished taking away all the French signs, once you're finished taking away the salaries of the MPPs, once you take away all the waste, you're still getting to health care because that is where the big cost is in government and you can't fool the people out there into something else.
Therefore, I happen to think the government has gone too far in this regard and will support the resolution, but I find it so ironic that, of all parties, the Conservative Party would be the champion of this particular cause.
The Acting Speaker: This completes the time allotted for opposition day motion number 2, standing in the name of Mr Harris.
Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, please say "aye."
All those opposed, please say "nay."
In my opinion, the nays have it.
Call in the members; a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1757 to 1802.
The Acting Speaker: Mr Harris has moved opposition day number 2. All those in favour of Mr Harris's motion will rise one at a time to be recognized by the Clerk.
Arnott, Beer, Bradley, Brown, Callahan, Cunningham, Daigeler, Eddy, Harris, Henderson, Hodgson, Johnson (Don Mills), Kormos, Mammoliti, Marland, Miclash, Murphy, Offer, Poole, Ruprecht, Sterling, Stockwell, Turnbull, Wilson (Simcoe West).
The Acting Speaker: All those opposed to Mr Harris's motion will please rise one at a time.
Abel, Allen, Bisson, Boyd, Buchanan, Carter, Charlton, Christopherson, Churley, Cooper, Coppen, Duignan, Farnan, Fletcher, Frankford, Gigantes, Grier, Hampton, Hansen, Harrington, Hayes, Hope, Huget, Jamison, Klopp, Lankin, Mackenzie, MacKinnon, Malkowski, Marchese, Martel, Martin, Mathyssen, Mills, O'Connor, Owens, Perruzza, Philip (Etobicoke-Rexdale), Pilkey, Pouliot, Silipo, Sutherland, Swarbrick, Ward, Wark-Martyn, Waters, Wessenger, White, Wildman, Winninger, Wiseman, Wood, Ziemba.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 24, the nays are 53.
The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion lost.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon Brian A. Charlton (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of November 28.
On Monday, November 28, we will give third reading to Bill 163, the planning reform bill. Following that, we will begin debate on concurrence in supply for certain ministries.
The business for Tuesday, November 29, will be announced.
On Wednesday, November 30, we will consider a government motion enabling the House to sit evenings for the sessional days in December. Following that, we will continue the concurrence debate.
On the morning of Thursday, December 1, during private members' public business, we will consider ballot item number 73, second reading of Bill 189, standing in the name of Mr Henderson, and ballot item number 74, a resolution standing in the name of Mr White. On Thursday afternoon, we will give third reading to Bill 187, the business regulation reform; third reading to Bill 175, the efficient management omnibus legislation; second reading to Bill 107, the Ryerson university pension plan; second reading to Bill 197, the Assessment Act amendments. Any remaining time will be allotted to the completion of the concurrence debate.
Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm sure all members would wish to join me in wishing a very happy birthday to the member for York-Mackenzie.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): Not a point of order, but we all join in.
It now being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until Monday, November 28, at 1:30 pm.
The House adjourned at 1807.