L060 - Thu 18 Apr 1996 / Jeu 18 Avr 1996
The House met at 1003.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
Ms Churley moved private member's notice of motion number 13:
That in the opinion of this House, since cancer is one of the leading causes of premature death in Ontario, claiming more than 20,000 lives annually, and since Ontario currently spends in excess of $1 billion a year on cancer treatment, and since the previous New Democratic Party government recognized this dire threat and commissioned a task force to advise on ways to effectively stem the rising incidence of this disease, and since the Ontario Task Force on the Primary Prevention of Cancer tabled its report in March 1995, advising the government on an action-based plan for the primary prevention of cancer and the present Conservative government has yet to respond,
Therefore, in order to protect human health, prevent cancer and benefit natural ecosystems, this House calls upon the government of Ontario to (a) immediately appoint a working committee consisting of environmental, health, labour, industry, women's, aboriginal and other interested groups; and (b) work with the committee to establish realistic and measurable timetables for sunsetting persistent, bioaccumulative toxic chemicals that are known or suspected carcinogens as outlined in the report of the task force.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Every year in Ontario over 20,000 people die of cancer and many others are diagnosed with cancer. We spend over $1 billion fighting this disease, and of course there are untold social costs, indirect costs and tremendous human suffering. While it is true that we continue to make progress in research in fighting cancer, the incidence of cancer continues to rise. Obviously the time has come to put a greater emphasis on prevention, and that is why I have this resolution before you today.
This is an issue that should be and I hope today is outside the realm of ideology and partisan politics. I doubt there is anybody in this room who has not been touched by cancer, whether a friend, a loved one, or we have battled it ourselves. The good news is that there is a growing body of evidence that some cancers can be prevented.
That is why in February 1994, the former Minister of Health, Ruth Grier, who I'm happy to say is here today in the gallery, appointed a task force on the primary prevention of cancer. The task force was chaired by Anthony Miller, and he submitted this report to the minister a year later, in 1995. The report is comprehensive and makes many challenging recommendations.
A great many of the recommendations are what we call lifestyle changes: tobacco, alcohol, exercise. These are areas where we can make some choices. That is not to say, however, that I don't support all of the recommendations, and in fact I would urge the government to act on them. But today I am going to concentrate on one of the recommendations which required direct, and in my view urgent, action on this government's part. After all, we have no choice in drinking water, eating food and breathing air. So I am asking the government to take immediate steps to stem the tide of these environmental carcinogens in our environment.
Mr Speaker, you may be surprised to know that there are over 70,000 artificial chemicals that we have allowed into our environment, and we have no idea how most of these chemicals react. In October 1993, the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy released primary and secondary lists of candidate substances for bans, phase-outs or reductions, and other lists by other bodies have been submitted to the public on this same area.
Obviously it's not possible to remove a persistent toxic substance from its source once it's there, so the focus has to be on preventing the use and production and generation of these substances in the first place. As this report points out, certain classes of persistent toxic chemicals are of particular concern, and one of these classes which we are hearing about these days is organochlorines, which include such chemicals as DDT, PCBs and dioxin. Organochlorines have been found to act as tumour promoters, and there is growing evidence that some of these substances can mimic the effects of estrogens on cells and are likely causing birth defects and reproductive problems that could have very serious long-term effects on the reproductive abilities of future generations.
Dr Theo Colburn, author and scientific adviser to the World Wildlife Fund and coordinator of the distinguished Wingspread conferences, which brought together scientists from all over the world to discuss findings of human health and wildlife health problems and other dysfunctions caused by these hormone-mimicking chemicals, has recently written a book on this subject entitled Our Stolen Future, and I recommend that everybody read it. This is the most important book, I believe, written in this area since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring 35 years ago.
Dr Colburn's and other scientists' findings are indeed extremely alarming. For instance, they are certain that human male sperm count is rapidly decreasing in the industrial world. Four European studies in the past 10 years have concluded that there has been a 50% decline worldwide over the past 50 years. That's the problem with all of this stuff. We're just starting to see some very scary trends now, and obviously much more research has to be done.
The meeting of scientists, which I mentioned earlier, declared at the conclusion of their conference the following:
"We are certain of the following: A large number of man-made chemicals that have been released into the environment, as well as a few natural ones, have the potential to disrupt the endocrine system of animals, including humans. We estimate with confidence that, unless the environmental load of synthetic hormone disruptors is abated and controlled, large-scale dysfunction at the population level is possible."
Bioaccumulative substances move up the food chain, and breast-feeding of course is at the top of that food chain. When we have stories of dioxin in mothers' milk then we know we have a very serious problem.
I'm going to single out dioxin for a minute, because this government has repealed the NDP's ban on solid waste incineration in Ontario. That is a very serious problem, because dioxin is probably the most powerful carcinogen known to mankind. New data suggest that there is no safe limit. To put it in perspective, one eye-dropper of dioxin can contaminate 600 tanker cars of water, so I urge the government to rethink that policy.
It is estimated that only 5% of breast cancer is genetic; the other 95% is caused by external factors. The rate of breast cancer continues to rise about 1% a year, and scientists just don't know why it's happening in two out of three women. There is no doubt that cancer is a complicated disease and there are many varied causes, but if reducing and eventually eliminating exposures to xenoestrogens can reduce only 20% of breast cancers, think of how many women's lives can be saved.
We know also that prostate cancer continues to rise, and the incidence is higher the nearer the victim lives to industry. Testicular cancer has tripled since the 1950s in Denmark, and significant increases have been reported in studies in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US.
There is no doubt that much more research has to be done, but we cannot be lulled into passivity and do nothing until we have absolute proof. We may not get that for many generations. We can't use the traditional risk assessment that we've used for cancer in the past. We have to look at the weight of evidence somewhat in the same way the court system works.
I want to mention today before I close -- it's very difficult to say all you want to say on such a complicated subject -- there is in the gallery, as I mentioned, Ruth Grier, former health minister who commissioned the studies; and Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, who is involved with Women and Environments Education and Development Foundation, is here; and as well Van MacDonald, who works with the Women's Network on Health and the Environment. They are very interested, and I know would certainly offer their services to work with this government, should they choose to support my motion today.
I would urge all members, when you're asking yourselves today whether you will support this resolution, ask yourselves what are the costs to future generations if we don't act now. There are two kinds of deficits. This government talks a lot about monetary deficits. Well, there can be a much more serious deficit that we can leave to our children and our grandchildren. I would ask the government members, and all members of the House, to please show some real common sense today and support my resolution. Show some leadership to put together this working committee. I know there are many, many bodies and people out there who would be willing to work with the government to come up with realistic and measurable timetables to sunsetting these persistent bioaccumulative toxic chemicals that are known or suspected carcinogens, as outlined in the report of the task force.
I want to single out briefly the city of Toronto council which has set a real example as a municipal body, which has already started to do work on this and have its own resolutions. I would like to see our government here in Ontario take leadership in this area.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Speaker would like to recognize in the west gallery the honourable Ruth Grier, former member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): I'm very pleased this morning to have the opportunity to speak on this resolution. Cancer is something that all of us can agree has touched nearly everyone in this House. I think we all take very seriously the battle against cancer and the risks associated with environmental contaminants. This issue affects us in many ways. Health and safety, our environment and our food chain are among the most important.
In March 1995, the Ministry of Health released the report of the Ontario Task Force on the Primary Prevention of Cancer. This task force included consumers and experts in health promotion, public education, research, nutrition, and occupational and environmental health. The task force report was an important step towards identifying concerns and proposing solutions, but the task force would not have accomplished anything if these proposals were not acted on.
Fortunately, Mr Speaker, there has been much action on the recommendations of the task force report, and I am pleased to tell you that the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has been at the forefront.
The report identified tobacco use and improper diet as two major causes of cancer in Ontario. OMAFRA is working in cooperation with the Ministry of Health on tobacco and dietary issues.
The report undertook an extensive review of environmental concerns and their impact on cancer as well. The impact of the environment on the incidence of cancer in Ontario was thought to be less than 5%. As a result, the Ministry of Health allowed the Ministry of Environment and Energy and OMAFRA to take the lead on these issues, and OMAFRA has taken up that challenge. OMAFRA has initiated a number of highly successful programs aimed at reducing total pesticide use in our province while maintaining a safe food supply and a healthy environment.
As well, there are a number of committees and a special panel which are in place working on issues identified in the report. Under the Canada-Ontario agreement, for example, a committee comprised of senior government representatives from the federal and provincial ministries of health, environment and agriculture is working on establishing realistic and measurable timetables for sunsetting persistent and bioaccumulative agricultural chemicals.
OMAFRA, the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines are all signatories to this agreement on the Great Lakes basin ecosystems.
As well, the Canadian Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute of Canada have convened a special ad hoc panel to look at the general population risk associated with exposure to agricultural pesticides. We welcome this report, which is expected later this year, in the summer of 1996.
In 1988, as the member for Riverdale is no doubt aware, the government introduced the Ontario Food Systems 2002 program. The goal of Food Systems 2002 was to reduce pesticide use in Ontario by 50% over 15 years. In the past five years this program has contributed over $10 million to reduce dependence on pesticides in Ontario through research, education and technology transfer. As well, over $4 million has been provided for competitive research at a number of institutions.
Under the Ontario pesticide education program, over 53,000 Ontario growers have participated in grower-requested mandatory education programs. The Ontario task force report called for the development and application of alternative, non-chemical pest control measures.
OMAFRA has been a world leader in the development of an integrated pest management system. In fact, 22 integrated pest management programs have been developed for Ontario commodities, including fruits, vegetables and field and greenhouse crops, and we have seen a 13% reduction in pesticide use in just the last five years.
OMAFRA is involved with many other programs, including Ontario environmental farm plans, the Ontario enhanced food quality and safety program, the Ontario pesticide container recycling program, the forestry pesticide vegetation management program, the orphan pesticide collection program and the urban pesticide reduction initiative. All of the programs and safeguards that I have mentioned guarantee the consumers of Ontario the highest quality of food, from the time of planting in the field until it reaches their kitchen table.
Rather than supporting another committee which would revisit and duplicate existing studies, our government's efforts will be directed at continued improvements to the many fine programs already in place. This government understands the importance of quality human health and will continue to provide the practical measures to protect it.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): It's my pleasure today to speak in favour of this resolution. At the outset, I want to compliment my colleague the member for Riverdale for raising this important issue and introducing it as a subject of debate, and I certainly hope that government members will treat it with the respect and the non-partisan nature with which it was presented to the House.
Just as a preliminary comment, it seems to me that a modern government, in addressing any issue before it, ought to be considering at all times three imperatives: One is the economic, two is the social, and third ought to be the environmental. It seems to me this government fails to recognize the importance of always giving value to those three concerns. We have an opportunity here now to inject an environmental concern into some of the things this government is considering and we're offering an opportunity for it to express its concern, for not only our natural environment but obviously the health of Ontarians.
This is a report with which I was unfamiliar -- I'll be honest about that -- until I attended a meeting some time ago with the member for Riverdale, at which time somebody raised it. I've since had the opportunity to look at it, and like too many reports that we produce through committees of one sort or another by way of the workings of this Legislature, it goes unread and it's never had the life of law breathed into it. We have an opportunity before us.
It's a very good report, and one particular aspect raised by the member for Riverdale obviously deals with the effects of environmental carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents, that are found in our environment. This report specifically recommends that we set realistic and measurable timetables for sunsetting particular toxic substances, and there's a couple of them in particular here that are referred to that I want to address and bring to the members' attention.
There are some carcinogens, or suspected carcinogens, that have been listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and this report of the committee that took it upon itself to study these has suggested that we sunset their use. Those include the following, something called group 2A, probable human carcinogens: ethylene oxide, which is found in insecticides and fungicides; formaldehyde; and creosote, a wood preservative. It also lists carcinogens under group 2B as possible human carcinogens, including: amitrole, which is a herbicide; atrazine, another herbicide; dichlorovos, an insecticide; hexachlorocyclohexane; and a variety of others, including wood preservatives and anti-microbials.
The good news for us is that we have the information before us today, and as such, we are no longer relieved of the responsibility to take action in order to address these concerns that have been raised and thereby take some steps forward to improve the natural environment and, as I say, in a more direct sense to address health concerns.
One of the things this report also touched on was the importance of decreasing emissions from mobile sources such as cars, trucks and motorcycles.
I'm a bit frustrated with respect to one particular item. I have raised it in this House on a number of occasions now. At one point in time the city of Toronto took it upon itself to determine that it had some low-level smog problems and that these were creating health problems for the people who were living in Toronto, so it approached this government with a view to obtaining permission to put in place a bylaw which would limit the amount of time stationary vehicles could idle. They weren't looking for any money; they were merely looking for permission to take action to protect the health of their citizenry, of the people who happen to live in Toronto or happen to be passing through it.
This government, for reasons which are beyond my understanding, decided it would not grant that permission to the good people of the city of Toronto. I think that unfortunately speaks all too clearly as to their commitment to the natural environment.
On that note, I am prepared to admit that the environment is not what you would call a top-of-mind issue today in this province. If you knock on doors, people will more likely tell you about their concerns relating to jobs and the economy, and that's quite understandable. Notwithstanding that, polls consistently tell us that the people in this province expect their government to continue to take steps to build upon the 30 years that have gone before us by successive governments to weave together a safety net of laws which give protection to our environment. I think, as legislators in this province, when we're presented with this more pressing need that people raise on a regular basis relating to jobs and the economy, we have a responsibility to keep in mind those three imperatives I talked about at the outset: the social, the economic, as well as the environmental.
This is a specific way, which has been raised by the member for Riverdale, that this government can, at little if any cost, strike a committee that would consist of those who have some connection with this issue and who could then work to establish those kinds of timetables to sunset chemicals and suspected carcinogens which are right now having their effect on the people of this province. It's not an expensive recommendation or undertaking; it is hardly cumbersome; it's not overly intricate or complicated. In fact, it's something that's eminently doable.
Something else this government ought to be considering with respect to environmental concerns is that it ought to be giving real thought to putting in place mandatory vehicle inspection so that we can begin to address in a very real way the damages caused by car and truck emissions into the air of this province. We have, as many members will recognize, some of the higher readings, some of the most difficulty with low-level smog in the country here in southern Ontario. We have had an understanding of the cause of this problem for a very long time and we are now presented with the responsibility to take some steps.
The province of British Columbia has had on its books for some time now legislation which requires that people who drive cars attend for vehicle inspection. It's not an overly complicated system. There's a certain cost associated with that, admittedly, but at the end of the day we owe it not only to ourselves but to future generations to do what we can while we can, and given the information we presently have, to take steps to protect our natural environment.
To conclude, I am pleased to offer my support to the member for Riverdale for an eminently reasonable, non-partisan and workable resolution, and I trust the government members will treat it with the respect it deserves and agree to support it.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I'm delighted to be participating in the debate on this resolution today and to support the efforts of my colleague from Riverdale on what I think is a very important issue, for a resolution that I think is a very practical option for all of us as legislators to pursue in recommending to the government.
I must say in beginning my remarks that I listened carefully to the member for Hastings-Peterborough and I'm quite concerned with what I heard. With all due respect, I have to say that I think it represented an approach which is a tunnel-vision approach to how we deal with these very important and complex health issues; in fact, how imperative it is for us to understand the interrelationship of much of what occurs in our life and its impact on our health. You cannot approach issues of health promotion, of wellbeing, with a very narrow focus on operations of individual ministries or programs or whatever.
I heard you list a number of very positive initiatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, which you say should contribute to control of toxic substances and therefore to the goal of preventing preventable cancers, but those programs were all in place at the time in which the task force which was called together to look seriously at prevention of cancer undertook its work. We were aware of all of that and that was part of what had been viewed, and still there is a need for a much broader coordination.
One of the things I hope this government comes to understand is that our health care system, as fine as it is and as much as we want to contribute to wellbeing through the health care system -- you must come to an understanding that the things that determine our health status as a population often lie outside of hospitals and doctors and treatments. It's where we get our source of health in the first place. It's the things that determine our health. It's our environment. It's our housing. It's our income distribution. It's nutrition. It's a whole range of other things. The previous government adopted a framework of looking at determinants of health and understanding through the operations of all aspects of government, through the operations, the programs, how that contributed to making Ontarians more healthy.
Your health minister has certainly mouthed the words that he supports it and we'll see if it comes true in action. But we also understood that within the envelope of what's defined as health care spending there needed to be major reform and that the focus had to be shifted from simply paying out more and more money on illness treatment at the end of the system to more being invested at the beginning of the system; that is, in keeping people healthy in the first place, in illness prevention, in health promotion. That was what the work of the task force was all about. Within the Ministry of Health there was a recognition that cancer is a major, major challenge for the health status of the public. Twenty thousand people a year in Ontario die from cancer. We spend $1 billion a year in this province treating that cancer.
We understood as a government and for the first time brought people together to start to look at how we prevent cancer, to develop a comprehensive cancer strategy. Out of those discussions, former Minister of Health Ruth Grier established the task force which led to this report, a report with practical, concrete suggestions about taking steps to prevent cancer.
How can you disagree with that? How can you say this resolution is simply about another committee? It's about bringing people together across a range of interests in this province to enact recommendations from this task force, to talk about what are the reasonable levels and limits and time frames we can put in place to phase out the use of toxic substances in many different industrial settings and farm settings and other settings.
That is a worthwhile goal and you need the coordination across ministries. It's not simply an issue of the Ministry of Environment and Energy or the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. That kind of tunnel vision is not going to get us to the solutions we need. We have to work together across efforts within government, across efforts within our society. Surely, the goal of preventing the kind of carnage we see in this province from death from cancer is worth proceeding with what were well-founded recommendations from a non-partisan task force attempting to achieve that goal of preventing cancer.
This is an incredibly important issue and I can tell you, as someone who has done a lot of work over the years with women who have survived, and some of my friends who have not survived, breast cancer, 95% of breast cancer cases cannot be traced to genetic predisposition. It's external environmental factors. We can do something about this. This is a leading killer of women. There are recommendations that very wise people who worked on this task force have pulled together, and this resolution simply takes the recommendations and says: "It's been a year this has been sitting there. We want you to act on it."
All of us, as legislators, want the government to work with a committee to establish reasonable time frames, to establish limits and to establish the phase-out of certain toxic substances. I don't know how there could be disagreement with that. I find it amazing to hear suggestions that this would simply be another committee.
I want to say to you in closing, because I want to leave time for the member for Riverdale to wrap up in this debate, that in the area of health care it is the one area where in this House we should be able to put aside partisan differences. We should be able to understand and agree on the goal.
We should be able to look to the volume of work that has been done that says that to preserve our medicare system, our health care system, we must move to invest in the front end of the system, in the promotion of health, in the prevention of illness. We must take the time and we must think through the strategies to get to a point where we're not spending $1 billion a year on treating cancer, through to the point of 20,000 people a year dying, but where we spend some time and energy at the beginning to try to prevent people from contracting cancer.
That's what this resolution is about. This is not a cost to the government. This is not an imposition on your Common Sense Revolution in any way. This is simply enacting the advice of people who spent a great deal of time and effort coming together from across the broad expertise of the public and the health care system to recommend to government the next steps to take on a prevention strategy.
It's amazing it had never been done in the province of Ontario before, it's amazing we had never looked at how do we prevent cancer, but we hadn't. Ruth Grier brought that task force together; that task force reported; there are concrete recommendations. These are only two of the recommendations that the member for Riverdale has put before this House today.
I urge members here to support the resolution. It's simply, when passed, an urging on the part of legislators who care about the future health of the public of Ontario, an urging to the Minister of Health and to the government to proceed in a very commonsense way in enacting the strategy to prevent cancer. I hope you will support the members' resolution. I think it is deserving of your support. I think the public would like to see this kind of strategy be enacted.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I'd like to speak a few words with respect to the resolution put forward by Ms Churley, the member for Riverdale. The topic of cancer is something that I think all three parties are most concerned with, whether you go back to the Liberal administration, or certainly your administration -- and it's quite appropriate that the former minister, Mrs Grier, is in the House. It was quite obvious I didn't always agree with many of her policies, but certainly I supported her position on Bill 119, the tobacco bill. This was one of the concerns of your government.
We can all tell stories of how cancer has affected us personally, whether it's friends or members of our own family. There was a member of your cabinet, a former colleague of yours, who obviously had grave problems. Cancer is indeed a serious problem, and whatever party is sitting on this side should be taking whatever steps are needed to deal with it. I support you in bringing the issue forward.
The task force report you have referred to in your resolution came out in March of last year. In the introduction it refers to some of the facts you talk about, talking about cancer as being "one of the leading causes of mortality in Ontario, accounting for over 20,000 deaths per year. Approximately 27% of all deaths in Ontario are attributable to cancer." There's no question we all support the issue of a government doing something. Whether it be a federal government, whether it be a provincial government, whether it be an international government -- the government of the United States, for example -- we are all concerned with this topic.
In the executive summary, the task force stated: "In recognition of the importance of preventive measures for reducing the cancer burden in Ontario, a Task Force on the Primary Prevention of Cancer was appointed by the Ontario Minister of Health in February 1994. The purpose of the task force was to advise the minister with respect to the development of an action-based, effective and feasible plan detailing recommendations for the primary prevention of cancer." Indeed, the report goes through and spends considerable time on these issues.
The member for Riverdale has mentioned the fact that there is no 100% proof that these are the causes of cancer. That is referred to in the report at page 34, where it talks about the known or suspected environmental carcinogens: "To prevent the further generation of environmental toxins, bans on production and imports are necessary, but are not sufficient on their own as these substances can enter the Canadian environment from elsewhere." There's no question that does happen. These things are everywhere; they're in the air, they're in the food, they're in the soil. Obviously, we need to look at those things. But we must be very careful about how we go about it. I guess that is the difference between our party and your party: We may agree philosophically on certain things; it's how you go about dealing with them.
The Ministry of Health, as one of the earlier speakers has mentioned, has currently undertaken a number of cancer initiatives in the area of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer in the province of Ontario. It's been mentioned that there's the tobacco strategy, which your government spent a considerable amount of time on, which seeks to reduce tobacco use, especially among young people, because tobacco is certainly the primary preventable cause of cancer in the province; the prevention of early childhood cancer; early detection programs like the Ontario breast screening program and a pilot cervical cancer screening program; treatment centres like the London Regional Cancer Centre and the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre. A transitional team is looking at cancer care in Ontario and is expected to make its report to the provincial government in June of this year.
I think we all can stand in our place and support the member philosophically as to the need to take whatever initiatives are required to rid ourselves of this dreaded disease. The problem I have with your resolution is creating another level of added bureaucracy. All of the things you're -- well, you shake your head, but I'll tell you that all of the things you're asking the committee to do, that's what governments are supposed to do.
Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Well, do it.
Mr Tilson: Philosophically, we talk about doing things, and one of the differences between our government and your former government is that we don't like layers of bureaucracy. That's what you did.
Mr Laughren: Stop being silly. That's why we're right, because we consulted. You're being ridiculous.
Mr Tilson: I'm not being silly. That's why we're in the terrible financial position we're in.
Mr Laughren: You've got all the answers. You know it all, don't you?
Mr Tilson: This is an added layer of bureaucracy and we find it puzzling as to why a government would set up a committee to review the recommendations made by a previous committee when we have government departments, government ministries that are quite capable of carrying out this mandate. This is something the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment and Energy undertake anyway.
Mr Laughren: What arrogance. Wisdom resides only there. What a bunch.
Mr Tilson: One of the problems with carcinogens is that you cannot eliminate the presence of certain carcinogens by merely prohibiting their manufacture in the province of Ontario.
Mr Laughren: Gee, the incompetence of your colleagues shows all wisdom doesn't reside over there. You're surrounded by the incompetents you are.
Mr Tilson: As I indicated, carcinogens will continue to be carried across --
Mr Laughren: How can you say you don't need the advice of Ontario?
Mr Tilson: The member keeps blathering away over there, Mr Speaker, and I only have a few minutes left. If you can keep him under control.
Carcinogens will continue to be carried across borders in the air and water, so as a result the Ministry of Environment and Energy is working with other ministries of the environment to harmonize environmental management activities across the country.
We are concerned, of course, about the effect of doing something when you're not certain what the ultimate effect will be. We're concerned, for example, about what effect this will have on our food supply. I repeat your statement: You don't have 100% proof that these things are causing what you say they are. There are products that are continuing to be imported from other countries, from other provinces. I suppose we could encourage the federal government to ban certain food products that contain these things from coming, but you have to be a little bit more careful as to how you go about it.
Mr Speaker, there are a couple of comments other members from this side of the House would like to make, so I would thank you for allowing me to speak on this issue, but I can tell you I will be opposing this resolution simply on the fact that it's creating another level of bureaucracy we don't need.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): First of all, I want to commend the member for Riverdale for this resolution. It is true these are responsibilities of government, but all governments of all parties at all levels have always worked with task forces and volunteer committees. I see this committee as being just another arm that will help us in the cause of eliminating cancer ultimately.
The fact that it is everywhere, as the member for Dufferin-Peel has said, is the very argument for doing as much as we can to eradicate this particular disease. I think all of us whose families have been touched by this disease know at first hand that something has to be done, and if anything is done and we can do all of these measures cumulatively, such as the sunsetting of the persistent toxic chemicals, that at least is the beginning. It's only about 20 years ago that they banned the manufacture of PCBs, and that in itself began a new era of prevention.
Hopefully, we will all support this resolution. Frankly, I think you'd have to be out of your mind to vote against this resolution.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'm happy to carry on with the comments of the member for Mississauga South, who has certainly suggested something very strong this morning; that is, that anybody who would oppose this motion is out of his or her mind. Therefore, it would be difficult to oppose this.
There is no question that it identifies a very major problem we have in our society. If you talk to individuals, particularly those who have had people in the family afflicted by cancer, we recognize there is a consensus out there, regardless of a person's political affiliation or particular background, that a major effort has to be made to deal with, yes, the curing of the disease, yes, the treatment of the disease, but certainly moving into the field of prevention.
The suggestion that is made in this resolution that the government of Ontario "(a) immediately appoint a working committee consisting of environmental, health, labour, industry, women's, aboriginal and other interested groups; and (b) work with the committee to establish realistic and measurable timetables for sunsetting persistent, bioaccumulative toxic chemicals that are known or suspected carcinogens as outlined in the report of the task force" makes a lot of sense, but it really suggests that you have to make a very significant initiative take place in the Ministry of Environment.
My concern right now is that the Ministry of Environment has just had another $200 million eliminated from its budget. I know it sounds good to say that we are going to reduce government expenditures, and certainly there have to be areas where governments have to become more efficient and have to reduce those expenditures; I think everyone accepts that. But let me give fair warning that in the Ministry of Environment what you're going to see is an increase in the accumulation of these substances that are made reference to in this resolution and not an elimination or a reduction of them.
There was a major initiative put forward called the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement. Really, in very straightforward terms, that is a very extensive water pollution regulation which had as its goal the virtual elimination of persistent toxic substances going into our waterways. That, by the way, was written into an agreement over Niagara Falls and the Niagara River with the Department of Environmental Protection in New York state, the federal authority, which is the Environmental Protection Agency, in the US, Environment Canada and Environment Ontario. The reason that was included was that we wanted to see that virtual elimination. In other words, I think people looked at zero discharge. It was defined in that agreement as the virtual elimination of persistent toxic substances. And I know that is the goal of this particular initiative.
There are persistent substances that do not leave us. Once they are in the soil or in the waterways or in the air, where they're deposited elsewhere, they do not leave us. In fact, they do not leave our bodies in many cases. When you do an autopsy of a human body of, say, the age of 70, if you did a very extensive autopsy, you would find an accumulation of many of these substances. There is rather strong evidence that these substances that are accumulated through the workplace, through simply our lives, through exposure to contaminants, are with us and that they have a connection with various diseases, including cancer. You will see that the rate of cancer in areas which are heavily industrially polluted tends to be higher. There is, as I say, consistent evidence out there that ignoring the environment, that not trying to deal with these substances, will ultimately have a detrimental effect on the human body and on the health care bill in this province, if you want to put it in very crass terms. So when I look at this resolution, I think it will make a contribution.
A former Minister of the Environment and member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Ruth Grier, is here today. She had a very great interest in the environment as a critic, and then of course as Minister of the Environment and then as Minister of Health for this province. She would know, as others in this assembly know, how important it is to have a strong and vital Ministry of Environment with the appropriate resources, with the appropriate staff and with the clout within government to ensure that we bring about this kind of reduction.
The committee will be of benefit. Acting upon the recommendations of the committee will be the true test of whether we're going to deal seriously with environmental challenges that face our province and other jurisdictions. I think we can be a leader in this connection. But it really points to the full implementation of the water pollution regulation that was put into effect in 1990 and is still being put into effect. It calls for a clean air program which would be in effect the same kind of regulation affecting air pollutants. I think it looks very wisely to the workplace, where many are exposed to the kinds of substances which are bound to have a detrimental effect on health.
Because cancer is a disease which is so prominent in our society, quite widespread, I'm sure all of the population of Ontario would respond positively to this initiative and others which are designed to reduce those contaminants that may contribute to cancer.
Ms Churley: When I wrote this resolution, I worked very, very hard to make it as non-partisan as possible. In my speech today I worked very hard to be non-partisan. Believe me, that can be very difficult in this place, given my concerns about a lot of this government's agenda, and in my case, as critic for the environment, the cuts to the environment. I stayed away from all of that because I truly believed that something as motherhood as my resolution today -- I'm shocked at the words I heard from the members of the government side. This is not creating another layer of bureaucracy. That is an excuse for inaction, and I am afraid I am seeing this government now using this "Let's not create any more bureaucracy" as a dumb excuse to not take their responsibilities as a government in the province of Ontario.
My God, we're talking about $1 billion a year being spent by the taxpayers of this province. We're talking about untold anguish as people go through cancer care and many die. We had a member of our caucus, Anne Swarbrick, who went through an agonizing time with breast cancer; we had another member of our caucus, when we were in government, Margery Ward, the member for Don Mills, die of cancer. We've all had, as everybody here said today, people close to us suffering from cancer. This is not another level of bureaucracy. The member for Nickel Belt as well, as we all know, just recently went through and is now a cancer survivor. We're very, very happy to have him with us today. He's just gone through the agonizing process of recuperating from cancer.
I was shocked at the response particularly from the member for Dufferin-Peel. He says he is concerned that because we're not 100% certain about these things, he can't support it. I would say to you that in the document which we're all referring to today -- and he neglected to read some of the quotes like this -- "However, sunsetting should be put in place recognizing the different degrees of evidence now available. Thus, in establishing timetables for sunsetting, early consideration should be given to ban those organochlorines," etc. They're erring on the side of safety here.
This is the same government, however -- and that's what was so ironic and shocking and frankly stupid about this response -- that is asking us to all take a giant leap of faith on a 30% tax cut which they say is going to stimulate the economy and create jobs and take everybody off welfare and we're all going to live in honeyland or something. They have no business plans to prove that; they have no studies to prove it. It's an enormous leap of faith. They just stood in this House recently with a summary of business plans but with no real business plans to justify and show the impacts of these massive multibillion-dollar cuts they're making to social services and health and right across the board. They're asking us, again, to take a giant leap of faith. We don't have 100% proof, in fact far from it, that this is going to work, but, "Trust us."
Here we are talking about cancer and death and billions of dollars being spent and they're saying, "We need 100% proof before we can go along with this." So what we've been told by members of this government today, except for the member for Mississauga South, whom I applaud, is that they do not support the phase-out of carcinogenic pollutants in our environment. That is absolutely shocking; you're not supporting this resolution because you don't have 100% proof. That's another excuse, like the bureaucracy.
If there was ever a time when we needed a non-partisan body of people working together outside government and with government to try to deal with these catastrophic problems, it is now. While this government is busy deregulating like crazy throughout the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, when you add them all up, and I'm in the process of doing that, the cuts to our environmental protection are phenomenal.
The member for Hastings-Peterborough talks about the Canada-Ontario agreement. These are things that have been acted on for some time. It's slow, it's acting in isolation; he didn't talk about what the deadlines are and that with these huge cuts that are being made to that ministry, there will be no staff left to run these programs any more. Even that is going to disappear. The member did not say whether or not he supported the sunsetting but I assume, because he's voting against the resolution, he doesn't.
I find this very hard to understand. I can't understand, when I'm asking for -- there is a huge number of resolutions in this book, people with expertise in the area who are very worried. In fact, one of them who was working on this report -- it's dedicated to his memory -- M. David Kassirer, died of cancer in the process of writing this report. There are very dedicated people who worked on this who are very worried about the lack of preventive care we have in the province of Ontario.
We had an opportunity today to take just one piece of this resolution to show Ontario that in areas such as cancer and cancer prevention we can all work together. We can work with the citizens of this province who are working very hard to come together and try to correct the problems that are out there, and in a crass way, to save taxpayers' money down the road; that is the real irony in this situation, where people can do something, and this government is saying no today.
I assume that the members didn't pay a lot of attention to this resolution, that there was a bit of scurrying around and that the minister had to take a quick look at it and tell people how to vote today: "Don't let them add on another level of bureaucracy. We don't want to have to deal with this."
Ms Churley: Listen to my argument. For once, listen to what's being said over here. Sometimes the opposition has some good advice and some important things to say. We're elected as well. When I hear that kind of heckling over there, I'm upset because this is something that I believe we could make a difference on. I believe that you were told today, without full knowledge, without having read this report, not to support my resolution because it would put on a layer of bureaucracy. Think about it. Look at the people who are sitting in the gallery today. Two of these women have been working for years on women's health and are very aware that if we don't start doing something and pulling together a coordinated effort, nothing is going to happen.
The very nature of the complexities of these recommendations is the reason why it for a coordinated strategy. I have no illusion that it's going to be difficult to ban and phase out a lot of these chemicals. The report admits that and says that. We need industry involved in a big way; we need all of the community involved in a big way to make this happen.
I urge all members to support this resolution today.
Mr Tilson moved private member's notice of motion number 12:
That, in the opinion of this House, since the federal Liberal government introduced section 745 to the Criminal Code in 1976; and
Since a person convicted of first-degree murder is not eligible to apply for parole for 25 years at the time of sentencing; and
Since section 745 says that where an offender has a parole ineligibility period of more than 15 years and the offender has served at least 15 years, or only 60% of their sentence, the offender can apply to the court for a reduction of the parole ineligibility period; and
Since CAVEAT, Victims of Violence, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association, and the Police Association of Ontario have all called on the federal government to immediately repeal section 745 from the Criminal Code; and
Since holding hearings under section 745 uses precious resources which could be redirected elsewhere to prosecute serious crime; and
Since the federal government has failed to pass a private member's bill that Liberal backbench member John Nunziata of Ontario tabled in the federal House of Commons in the years 1991, 1994 and 1995, that calls for the repeal of section 745; and
Since federal Justice Minister Allan Rock has failed to state definitively that the federal government will repeal section 745 to keep convicted murderers off the streets of our communities;
Therefore the government of Ontario should urge the government of Canada to repeal section 745 to ensure that convicted murderers serve their entire sentences and to protect victims, their families and the community.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Would the member for Dufferin-Peel like 10 minutes?
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Thank you, Mr Speaker. The resolution which I have just read essentially outlines what the federal legislation under the Criminal Code, section 745, deals with, and it has created, particularly in recent years, a great amount of consternation as to what we should be doing.
Yesterday I had a press conference in which a number of representatives, basically the groups that were referred to in the resolution, came to Queen's Park and gave their interpretation of the problems that are being created with respect to section 745.
Section 745 was introduced to the Criminal Code of Canada in 1976 by the federal Liberal government of the day, and its purpose at that time was to give lifers the possibility, however remote, of an early parole. It became known as the "faint hope clause." At that time, it was stated that it was to be used only in the very rarest of circumstances. What has happened over the last 20 years has been anything but rare. Corrections Canada reports that 79% of first-degree murderers who have applied have received some form of early release. That's 50 out of the 63 cases dealt with up to December of last year.
There's a wonderful report that was given to me by Victims of Violence which I'd recommend that some of you read. It's called Section 745 of the Criminal Code and the entire paper deals with this subject. It was given to me by one of the people who came yesterday, Sharon Rosenfeldt, whose son was one of the victims of Clifford Olson, and I'd recommend that all of you read that. It has even more up-to-date statistics than the ones I've just reiterated to you.
When a murderer, a killer, is convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced, there is no discretion to the judge. That's how seriously we treat this crime in this country. The sentence must be 25 years with no possibility of parole. But in 1976, as I stated, section 745 changed the finality of that conviction because section 745 says that where an offender has a parole ineligibility period of more than 15 years and the offender has served at least 15 years, the offender can apply to the court for a reduction of the parole ineligibility period.
That application is made through the provincial system, where a provincial jury deals with it and determines whether or not the killer is subject to parole. If that application is successful, it then goes on to the federal parole board.
Yesterday morning, as I indicated, a news conference was held supporting my resolution to request that the federal government repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code of Canada, and at that news conference there were representatives from the Canadian Police Association. Chief Julian Fantino, who is vice-president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the chief of police for the city of London, was there. He made some comments.
There were representatives from the Police Association of Ontario; Rick Huston and Brenda Lawson were there. Priscilla de Villiers of CAVEAT and Sharon and Gary Rosenfeldt of Victims of Violence were there. As I indicated, Sharon and Gary are the parents of Daryn, who was killed by Clifford Olson, who has been gaining quite a lot of publicity. He's taken a course somewhere on how to be a minister, down in Acadia University, I think, at the cost of the Canadian taxpayer, and he has served notice that he intends to be applying for his review of section 745. That comes up in August, and he has already filed a letter with the Chief Justice of British Columbia indicating that he's applying for this review.
He even had the gall to write a letter to John Nunziata, the Liberal MP from Ontario, expressing what he thinks of Mr Nunziata, who has done the wonderful work with respect to this bill. I'm going to read the letter because this shows the arrogance of a man who conceivably could be let out on our streets with this section 745:
"John, you're a little late in reintroducing your private member's bill, the faint hope clause. Sorry, sucker. Smile now. The beast of British Columbia" -- and I'm cleaning up the language because it's full of obscenities -- "I'm coming home August 12 and not a thing you can do."
That is an attitude from one of the killers who even qualifies. The very fact that this man has the possibility of applying -- he has no right to apply. He was sentenced for life, and now this terrible section has the possibility that he could be out on the streets in August of this year.
As I indicated, Priscilla de Villiers of CAVEAT was there. She lost her daughter Nina to Jonathan Yeo, who slaughtered her when he was out on bail. The Rosenfeldts' son Daryn, of course, was murdered by Olson.
Olson's right is not so much the issue as the fact that all the victims' families are reduced to reliving the original nightmare when Olson receives the judicial review of his sentence. The families will only be eligible to submit a victim impact statement. That's all they can do in order to maintain his incarceration, these families that go through these terrible trials. We all were shocked at the Bernardo horror story, and families like those victims are going to have to go through this again with these hearings.
It will mean as well, as with the families of murder victims, that people like the Rosenfeldts must relive the emotional agony in front of another jury. Section 745 requires that a jury be present to hear reasons for and against early parole. If a jury decides that people like Clifford Olson must be incarcerated another five years, then again in five years the Rosenfeldts will have to go through another living hell, another jury, another victim impact statement.
Under the present law, jury trials cost our province for trial time, for courtroom time, for staff and legal assistance for prisoners. This money that comes out of the coffers of the provincial taxpayer could be refocused on prosecuting other serious crimes and dealing with other serious crimes that occur in our province.
British Columbia and Alberta are presently considering requesting the federal government to repeal this section, and I am asking this Legislature to be the first provincial government to vote in favour of asking the federal government to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code.
I can tell you that I listened to the comments of Sharon and Gary Rosenfeldt yesterday, and as this date in August is approaching, their lives are becoming more and more of a hell.
I only have a minute left and I do recommend to members of this House that no matter how you vote in this resolution -- and I hope you do, because Mr Rock and his federal caucus are meeting shortly. It was supposed to have been yesterday but I gather that's been delayed so this is still on the records and we still have an opportunity to persuade the Liberal caucus along with other members, people across this country, to ask him to completely repeal the section. Mr Rock has made suggestions that he is going to tinker with it, that he's going to clarify who is qualifying for this section and who is not.
When you're sentenced to life, you're sentenced to life, and that's that. It's as simple as that. Anyone who watches these terrible crimes, if you support this resolution, just remember the Bernardo trial. That's the type of crimes that we're dealing with, these unbelievable, terrible crimes, and to allow these people out in 15 years and take the attitude of Clifford Olson is absolutely inexcusable. So I encourage those supporters --
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): You are disgusting. You play to the cheapest, the meanest level.
Mr Tilson: You'll have your chance, and I'll tell you that it's time --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Rainy River is out of order.
Mr Tilson: I'm amazed that the heckling is going on from the other side, which implies that he's going to continue to support section 745.
Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I rise to speak to the resolution brought forth by the member for Dufferin-Peel and in support of the positions of CAVEAT and Victims of Violence and others. You may remember that I was very involved in bringing about a charter of rights for victims of crime, and this is an issue which is of extreme importance.
The federal government is currently considering changes to 745 and I think the Legislature has an opportunity to make some comments with respect to that. I'd like to review just briefly what the system is like now so we have a full understanding of what it is we'll be voting on.
The Criminal Code now provides for automatic life sentences for murder. For first-degree murder the parole and eligibility period is 25 years. For second-degree, the judge, after considering any recommendation from the jury, sets the period somewhere between 10 and 25 years. What section 745 does is allow for a special judicial review at the 15-year point of the sentence. The offender must apply for the review. The application is made to the Chief Justice of the superior court in the province and the Chief Justice then designates a judge and panel to hear the application.
The jury has complete authority to decide that (a) there should be no reduction in parole ineligibility period, (b) that there should be a reduction by a specified number of years, or (c) the ineligibility period should be terminated. If the jury rejects that application, it can then set a future date when the applicant can reapply for judicial review.
A formal hearing is held. Correctional Service Canada prepares a report which describes the institutional record of the offender. You may recall that Bill C-41, which was an act to amend the Criminal Code, was passed in the last session and amended section 745 to require the jury to also consider any information provided by a victim either at the time of the imposition of the sentence or at the time of the hearing. Therefore, a victim impact statement is required at the time that the hearing is held.
The jury then must consider the character of the applicant, his conduct during the sentence, the nature of his offence, and other matters that are considered relevant in the matter. Two thirds of the jury must agree on the determination. Even if the jury reduces the ineligibility period, the National Parole Board still must determine at a parole hearing whether the offender should receive parole.
The point is that there are some steps that have to be followed; it is not automatic and it is not indiscriminate.
Regardless of the decision of the jury or the parole board, the life sentence continues for the natural life of the offender. Parole is subject to conditions and can be revoked for breach.
We've heard a little bit from the member for Dufferin-Peel about statistics, and I'd like to run through those briefly. We have currently in penitentiary some 2,085 murderers -- that's about 15% of the penitentiary population -- 574 of whom are first-degree and therefore subject to 25 years in jail. A number of murderers have been eligible for parole under section 745. The stats up to December 1995 are as follows: 175 people have been eligible and only 74 have applied, that is, only 42% of those eligible have actually applied; and 63 reviews have been completed, with 13 refused a reduction in parole and 50 granted some partial reduction in parole.
It's important to bear in mind the numbers. It's also important to bear in mind that this is still relatively new and that the stats with respect to reoffending by murderers are also very new. For instance, of the 558 first- and second-degree murderers released between 1975 and 1990, only five committed another murder. That means less than 1% recommitted. That's an important statistic we should keep in mind as we consider our recommendations to the government.
It might also interest the Legislature to know what the parole eligibility is around the world in countries that have more or less the same judicial system as we do. Virtually everywhere, the parole eligibility threshold, if you like, is somewhere between 10 and 15 years. In the United States, the average time served before parole is 18 years at the federal level, and 15 years is the average for all the states. The 25 years we have is different from what is being done elsewhere in the world.
The federal ministry, as we know, is committed to changes by the end of April. It has stated that improvements are required, and I think everyone in this House can agree that improvements indeed are required. There are some cautions we should bear in mind as we send our resolution to the federal government, and that is that blanket rules sometimes have a way of catching people we would not want to be caught under those rules.
I'll give you one example. Not everyone in a penitentiary serving life for murder is a Clifford Olson. Some people are, for instance, women accused of killing abusive husbands. The question is whether they should be treated in the same way, whether there shouldn't be some facility within the rules for allowing for those kinds of extenuating circumstances.
I would also focus on the fact that, regardless of the crime, rehabilitation is critical. Whether we release a murderer at 15 years or at 25 years, eventually they're going to be in society. It is absolutely crucial that we enable those individuals to function as safe members of our community and not damage our communities and our children's safety and our own. That is an important factor that should be noted.
There's no question that the bureaucracy currently in place to deal with section 745 is excessive, and I think it should be sent to the Attorney General for review. To suggest that after having had a full hearing of the individual's case we then have subsequent hearings to determine virtually the same thing, at very high cost -- that may not be what the rule was designed for, and we want to be very cautious in looking at that.
I support this resolution in principle, but let me say this to the member and to the government: There's a hypocrisy in this resolution coming forth from that part of the House. Remember that just a few months ago we were here and, under considerable pressure, managed to have an inquiry into the Homolka case. It was the member for Dufferin-Peel who mentioned the Bernardo case. I remind you that despite public outcry, we were not able to have a public inquiry into one of the most horrendous crimes that has been committed in the history of the province. And I would remind you that the terms of reference set for that inquiry were of such a nature that basic evidence could not be obtained under oath by the judge in question, and that it occurred at a time prior to other facts being able to be put before the judge in question. We were left with a decision that essentially said, "The status quo prevails." We did not reopen the Homolka inquiry, despite evidence to the contrary that it could be done. Furthermore, we did nothing at all in dealing with the parole provisions for Homolka herself.
I have to say to the member for Dufferin-Peel, as I rise to support his resolution in principle, with the cautions I have given, that he would be well served to go back and examine the record of his government on this issue prior to sending recommendations of this sort to the federal government. What has been done here with respect to Homolka is certainly not justice. I hope the federal government will provide justice, but I must say, I would have expected a far different position on the part of this government with respect to its own House.
Mr Hampton: I want to take part in this debate to shed some further light on the issues that seem to be in dispute here, or at least the issues presented by the member for Dufferin-Peel.
There is some history that has been left out, and it's history worth noting. The fact is that Canada amended the Criminal Code between 1974 and 1976. The member refers to the fact that in 1976, the maximum sentence without parole eligibility was increased to 25 years. That was in 1974. What the member doesn't acknowledge is that before that, the maximum period without eligibility for parole was 10 years. So between 1974 and 1976, the maximum sentence without eligibility for parole was increased from 10 years to 25 years.
In increasing that maximum sentence without eligibility for parole, Parliament put in a check and balance, and the check and balance was to say, if after 15 years of serving the maximum sentence someone wants to apply for a judicial review of the remainder of their sentence, they're eligible to do so. Why would Parliament do that? It's worthwhile looking at the statistical evidence.
The fact is that most murders committed in Canada are not premeditated murders. In fact, most situations of murder happen between people who know one another. They happen, in most cases, when the individuals, whether through alcohol or whether through emotion, temporarily do something they would not otherwise do. That's the historical fact with respect to these situations.
The statistical evidence shows that people who have been convicted of murder in Canada are the least likely to reoffend of any group or of any crime type. What Parliament was trying to get at was the irrationality of keeping someone locked up for a further 10 years when a review of their sentence would indicate that (a) they are not likely to reoffend, and (b) there is clear evidence of rehabilitation and clear evidence of regret. So Parliament looked at it and said why in these cases would we want to keep someone locked up for an additional 10 years, particularly when the average cost of keeping someone incarcerated at this point in time is close to $50,000 a year? In other words, Parliament was saying, in terms of examining how we ought to use precious justice resources, does it make sense to keep someone locked up for an additional 10 years at a cost of $50,000 a year, or does it make sense to devote those resources in the justice system to where they may more usefully be put to work? Parliament, I think, set out a logical standard or a logical test for the utilization of resources.
The indication is that the 1974-76 amendments in themselves, that is, increasing the maximum sentence without parole eligibility from 10 years to 25 years, resulted in almost another 1,000 individuals being incarcerated who otherwise wouldn't have been incarcerated. In other words, the cost to the justice system of that amendment was over $450 million -- $450 million that could have been spent prosecuting crime, $450 million that could have been devoted to better policing, more community policing.
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): What's a life worth? Only $50,000.
Mr Hampton: The member over here from Etobicoke-Rexdale rants on in a tone that I can only call revenge, as if the only goal of the justice system is to visit revenge. That is not the only goal of the justice system. The justice system, yes, is to mete out penalty where it's proven upon conviction that penalty is required. The goal of the justice system is to protect the public. The goal of the justice system is to attempt as much as possible to rehabilitate someone.
What Parliament had to grapple with was, what is the rationale for keeping someone in jail a further 10 years when all of the evidence you're presented with indicates that it is unlikely they're going to reoffend, that they are filled with remorse and regret for the events that happened and that they have rehabilitated themselves?
What public interest, in terms of protecting the public, in terms of protecting victims, is served by keeping someone like that in jail for a further 10 years? I don't think there's any public interest. I think only revenge is being served by keeping someone in jail like that, in that situation, for a further 10 years, and I believe it would be a gross misuse of justice funds. I would much rather see those funds dedicated to better policing; I would much rather see those funds dedicated to things like a women's crisis centre, second-stage housing for the victims of spousal abuse, to more prosecutorial resources so that crown attorneys can do a better job or more community policing. In other words, there are a number of good public interest factors that far outweigh the revenge that some of the members of the government are talking about.
I want to comment just a bit upon the approach of the member for Dufferin-Peel. The member expressed a lot of emotion in the House today, and that's his right, but I would just say to him, yes, I can point out examples and he can point out examples where some hideous crimes have been perpetrated, but to base a justice system and to base the principles of the justice system on a few hideous crimes which are designed to raise emotion is, I believe, simply headed in the wrong direction. The principles of our justice system should not be based upon the activities of a Homolka, or a Bernardo, or a Clifford Olson. They represent, I would argue, the worst examples. But there are literally thousands of other cases in our justice system, and we must do justice to all of them. So to argue emotionally from the worst cases, and to argue emotionally that that is the basis upon which we should revisit or rework a principle that has been shown to have good effect in a lot of other cases is, I believe, not very good reasoning.
I want to review just for a moment the actual applications for judicial review. In New Brunswick, there has been one, and in that case the parole eligibility was reduced to 20 years from 25. In Nova Scotia, there has been one, and parole eligibility was reduced from 25 years to 18 years. In Quebec, there has been a total of 28: 14 cases were reduced to 15 years for parole eligibility, four cases were reduced to 16 years, four to 17, one to 18, one to 19, two to 20, one to 22. In Ontario, there have been 16 applications since 1976: one was reduced to 15 years, one was reduced to 16 years, one reduced to 17, one to 18, three to 19, one to 20 and one to 21, and seven were given no reduction at all.
I merely want to say, to conclude my remarks, that it may well be in the interests of justice, and the public interest generally, to review the operations of section 745. When that is done, we should keep in mind that keeping people who were convicted of murder but have shown that they genuinely express remorse and regret, that they have been rehabilitated, that they show they are no threat to public safety and the public interest -- there are good grounds for using the judicial review process to examine whether or not a further 10 years of sentence is in the public interest at all. There are good grounds for using those resources which otherwise might be committed to incarceration for things like increasing police budgets, increasing prosecutorial budgets, increasing the kind and the variety of community policing that I believe actually leads to safer communities.
The wrong approach to this is to come at this from a strictly emotional direction which cites two or three very serious crimes and then tries to argue that those two or three crimes ought to be used for the purposes of a general principle which would do injustice to all of the other cases we often find in the criminal justice system.
Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): It's my pleasure to rise this morning in support of Mr Tilson's resolution. As a young lawyer in the early 1970s I moved from the big city of Toronto to the small town of Preston, which is now part of Cambridge. This was a real contrast, I must say, from the big city, in that clients were your friends, not some impersonal file.
It was through my practice that I met the Pelz family, and I consider the Pelz family my friends. Bertha Pelz and her husband raised their family, consisting of five sisters, Liza, Toni, Joy, Nancy, Linda and a son, William. This was an industrious family, a family that was a credit to their community. In due course, Liza married Ronald Dube, and they had a son called Jason.
I'd like to report to you that this family lived happily ever after, but it did not. In 1979 the peace and serenity of this family was shattered permanently. On June 27, 1979, Ronald Dube shot his wife in the back with a shotgun. As she lay on the ground dying, his confession says that she gurgled on her own blood while she repeated his name over and over again, but that wasn't enough. He then dragged the body to a pigsty to be ravaged by pigs.
In 1979 the hopes and dreams of the Pelz family died by this act of brutality. But justice prevailed and on March 12, 1980, Chief Justice G.T. Evans convicted Dube of first-degree murder, murder in cold blood, murder that was premeditated, and sentenced him to 25 years without parole, with release in the year 2005. At that trial, Mr Dube actually threatened to kill Toni Pelz, one of the members of the Pelz family, because she had adopted the son, Jason, of the marriage of Liza and Dube. At that trial, even the crown attorney told the family, "You better seek protection, because this man is very dangerous." But for 25 years, until the year 2005, they can go about their lives.
Unfortunately, that's not what happened. Section 745 intervened. Section 745, I believe, is a cruel hoax on an unsuspecting public. We Ontario taxpayers paid for Ronald Dube to make an application under section 745 in 1995, 15 years into his sentence. We paid for the convicted murderer to present his case to a judge and jury. Of course no one represented the Pelz family, no one paid for them to attend the hearing. They did so at their own expense. Nor were they permitted to testify. They were not able to tell their story of how this had changed their lives.
Only Dube testified and now he conveniently forgot his confession. Now he didn't do the killing; it was someone else in his presence. Yes, this convicted murderer walks among us in our society today on unescorted passes and, in three short years, he will be applying for parole. What peace have we left the Pelz family? Where's the justice they deserve? We all want guarantees of safety and protection in our society. This family has bravely told their story to Canada. They've requested the opportunity to attend before the justice committee federally and, to date, have not received that opportunity. When will the Pelz family receive the justice they deserve from our society?
We can help prevent future problems of this kind. We can't help the Pelz family, quite frankly, but we can prevent the same thing happening to the Mahaffys and the Frenches and others who are innocent and suffer at the hands of brutality.
I am requesting that you support this resolution.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I rise in support of the principle that is presented in front of us today. Very clearly, I think this country is going through a difficult time and a very difficult debate as to where we move with our justice system, a justice system that I agree over the years has been flawed, a justice system that often does not protect the victims, does more to protect the criminals, does more to protect people who inflict the pain rather than the people who receive the pain.
It's a justice system that, in my view, needs to be overhauled at every level of government and needs to put the focus back where it belongs, and that is on the criminals and the people who create mayhem for people, who destroy people's lives and who destroy families.
We've seen it in my own community over the years. We had a situation where Jon Rallo, a city of Hamilton employee at that time, proceeded to murder his young son Jason, his young daughter Stephanie and his wife and has applied a number of times under 745 and is now, as we're aware, living in a halfway house, after serving about 15 years of a life sentence of 25. So it averages out to about five years for the life of young Jason, five years for the life of young Stephanie and five years for his wife's life.
We have seen the murder of Nina de Villiers, a McMaster University student, and we have seen, in the southern Ontario area, the murder of the French and Mahaffy girls, and it is these types of incidents that bring to light the need for some very serious reform in our criminal justice system. I very much believe that life means life. I very much believe that someone who is convicted of first-degree murder and is sentenced to 25 years should serve a 25-year sentence, period, if that is the maximum allowed under our system.
I think there are too many loopholes. I think 745, unfortunately, has been used by the Clifford Olsons and others across this country, has been an abuse and waste of taxpayers' dollars, and it really has continued the insult on the victims, because every time one of these animals applies under 745, you're reliving the tragedy again for that family. You're once again, for that family, bringing back the horror, the difficulties, the pain every single time, and it is unfair. It is reliving the tragedy, it is bringing that tragedy back to their doorstep and to their home again and again and again.
As my colleague mentioned earlier, I would like to see a system in place where, automatically, life means life, 25 years means 25 years. The onus should be the other way. Section 745, on its own, should be eliminated, but there should be an opportunity for a judge -- if there is, for example, a woman who after years of an abusive situation, and clearly the evidence is that it was self-defence, is convicted of murder, or clearly the evidence is that she could not escape this abusive situation and she was convicted, that circumstance would be different, obviously, than a Clifford Olson. But that onus should be on the evidence at the trial and it should be placed on the exceptions rather than 745 being the rule, where everyone is eligible for it.
I think it is dangerous the way it is set up. It allows the potential for many of these people to be freed, for many of these people to go out and murder again. Very clearly, anything we can do to push the government to take the right steps and move towards eliminating -- 745 being tinkered with is not going to be good enough; 745 simply being played with is not going to be good enough. We have to ensure there's a system that does not allow these individuals automatic access to a parole hearing, automatic access to the possibility of being out after 15 years, regardless of how many people they have killed, regardless of the circumstances.
I certainly concur with the work of CAVEAT, Victims of Violence and many other organizations across this province and this country that have urged the federal government to change the legislation, that have worked with this provincial government to help us urge the federal government change this legislation. I would hope that if we continue to work with CAVEAT, with Victims of Violence and with other groups right across this province and this country, we will get the legislation changed. Let's ensure that finally we have a justice system where victims are treated as victims and criminals are treated as criminals.
Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I'm pleased to speak to this resolution today. I will be supporting the resolution in an attempt to make Ontario a safer place for our constituents and our children.
Some might say this is a resolution which calls upon the federal government to act on matters that fall outside this Legislature's jurisdiction, but I feel this issue is one of provincial jurisdiction because it directly affects law enforcement and court systems which do fall under provincial control.
What we're talking about here today is a section of the Criminal Code, section 745, which says where an offender has a parole ineligibility period of more than 15 years and the offender has served at least 15 years, which is just 60% of the sentence, the offender can apply to the court for a reduction of the parole ineligibility period.
Part of my support for this resolution comes from the strong feedback I received from constituents as I travelled door to door during last June's election. The attitudes were the same whether it was in the larger communities of Huntsville, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Midland or in the smaller places like Hekkla, Dwight and Victoria Harbour. After speaking to these people, I feel I can safely say one of the major concerns among the public is the criminal justice system and the important issue of public safety.
I believe people across the province are fed up with reading stories about crimes committed by individuals on parole. When such tragic events occur, they create a sense of fear in communities. They cause people to lose confidence in our justice system. In fact, I believe there's a prevailing sense on the part of the public that an imbalance exists between criminals and victims. It was because the public felt criminals had more rights than victims that our government recently passed a provincial Victims' Bill of Rights. It's unfortunate that this bill of rights was necessary.
It's critical for governments to close openings for killers to earn early parole before they've served a full sentence, which is what section 745 allows. It creates the potential for new victims. It creates a bureaucratic, expensive process which gives convicted murderers an opportunity to get back into the community after serving just 15 years. Of the things the people of Muskoka-Georgian Bay elected me to do, high on the list is the elimination of frivolous processes and the issue of offenders serving partial sentences.
It's my understanding that approximately 15% of the offenders have their parole revoked and an estimated half of those revocations are for committing a criminal offence while on parole. These statistics are cause for concern when considered within the context of section 745 and the first-degree murderers who can benefit from this legal loophole.
It seems unbelievable that it's even up for debate. A first-degree murderer, whether he or she be a serial killer or not, should not be able to demand a judicial review after 15 years of what was supposed to be a minimum 25-year sentence. I believe this section of the law makes a mockery of the original trial and sentencing process.
I'd have to agree with statements made by Liberal MP John Nunziata when he said section 745 does not reflect the views of the vast majority of Canadians. It certainly doesn't reflect the sentiment of my constituents. That's why I'll be voting in support of this resolution put forward by the member for Dufferin-Peel.
Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): I welcome an opportunity to rise this morning in support of the bill put forward by the member for Dufferin-Peel. I ask the House to consider a couple of issues that I think are different from those put forward so far.
I first of all recognize that there are two sides to the issue. I remember in 1976 being a young lawyer doing some defence work when this change was introduced, and supporting the idea and the concept. Today, 20 years later, after five years of applications under this particular section, 173 murderers being eligible as of the middle of last year and some 60 reviews having been conducted, and after having spent 11 years on the provincial court bench, I have a little different perspective on the views I held in 1976.
I also would ask you to consider the weakness of the argument that will be made that we should allow the section to stand but that it not apply to certain types of criminals and certain types of people, and of course they're referred to as the Bernardo-like or the Olson-like type of criminal. My point herein is that everyone in 1995 and 1996 in Canada convicted and sentenced to a term of 25 years fits into that category.
I'd ask you to understand a couple of things, what's happening right now in your riding, in every courthouse in this province, and to understand exactly how the judicial system works in this province and just how difficult it is to gain a conviction in Canada today for murder one. You have to understand the pressures on the people working in the crown's office. You have to understand the pressures on the men and women of the bench in this province. Unless you're capable of understanding the inner workings of that system, I don't think you're able to appreciate the public debate which surfaces as a result of the criminal trials which attract media attention.
I would like to pose a couple of questions, the first being the position you might be prepared to adopt today with regard to the infamous Bernardo case if those tapes had not surfaced. If those tapes had been destroyed, would your position be different vis-à-vis the plea bargain of the accomplice of Mr Bernardo? Would that force you to adopt a position different from the one that you have in your mind today?
In relation to another case that drew a lot of attention over the past 12 or 14 months, what if a member of the Simpson defence team were, in a publication or a book, to reveal that the defence team had actually, prior to the trial starting in Los Angeles, offered to cop a plea to a lesser offence and, notwithstanding the refusal of that, we had the acquittal of Mr Simpson as experienced on national television?
When you consider the implications of those possibilities, you might gain a sense of the pressures of which I speak that are right now in your home town, in the courthouse in the riding that you represent; of the people who are working on behalf of the crown's office for the Attorney General of this province and the problems that they face, the problems that judges face in deciding whether or not to buy into an offer, into a plea bargain. Unless you appreciate the significance and the difficulties that are being handled on a very professional basis in every corner of this province, I don't think you can deal with, in a legitimate manner, the matters inherent in this bill.
What I am suggesting to you is that by adopting the resolution that's before you this morning and by having it referred to a standing committee of this House, there will be an opportunity for members of this House to appreciate the level of professionalism in our justice system, which serves each and every corner of this province on a daily basis. I think that reason and that reason alone is sufficient to authorize the passing of the matter that's before you today, and I urge you to do so.
Mr Hastings: I would briefly like to rise and applaud the member for Dufferin-Peel for his presentation of this initiative to urge the federal government to get rid of section 745.
It was interesting to hear the remarks of the member for Kenora. Talk about trying to place a dollar figure on a life. I couldn't believe he would average it out at about $50,000. I listened to his remarks with considerable disgust, particularly when he said you could reuse this money for community-based policing. But in point of fact, the member for Rainy River -- not Kenora; my apology -- was going to be using some of this money for community-based policing to be picking up some of the very people who had violated their parole.
I would urge the members of this House to strongly support the resolution of the member for Dufferin-Peel.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Dufferin-Peel, you have two minutes.
Mr Tilson: Very briefly, I'd like to thank all members for participating in the debate. We have heard arguments for and against. I won't repeat the arguments for; I have given those, as have other members. I would like to comment briefly on the main opposition to this resolution, which appears to come from the member for Rainy River, who seems to indicate that there are situations when these types of people should be released.
These people are killers. They're evil. When they're sentenced to 25 years after a trial, by a duly constituted trial and sometimes jury, that's the sentence they should receive. Members have referred to situations, the possibility of crimes of passion. We have other charges in the Criminal Code that those offences may be laid under, and generally those types of offences come under those charges. These are for the most evil of all cases.
In this respect, the member for Rainy River talks about how some people should be let out. There's a Calgary Liberal senator, Earl Hastings, who goes so far as to send letters to federal convicts instructing them on how to prepare for and receive a successful section 745 hearing. He goes on to say, "You've got to express remorse, you've got to apply for legal aid two years before the 15-year mark and develop good interpersonal communication and leadership skills." It just boggles my mind that someone would do that.
There's a lawyer by the name of Stephen Fineberg, a specialist in prison law, who concurs with Senator Hastings. He feels that an offender is in an advantageous position when he can tell the decision-maker that he has already made progress, that it establishes his credibility.
These are concepts to try and get these killers out early and the reason why this resolution was brought: to tell Mr Rock we don't want these killers out in 15 years; we want them to serve the full life sentence.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will deal first with ballot item number 21, standing in the name of Ms Churley. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.
Ms Churley has moved private member's notice of motion number 13. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the nays have it.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with ballot item number 22, standing in the name of Mr Tilson. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.
Mr Tilson has moved private member's notice of motion number 12. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1202 to 1207.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Point of order, Mr Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: We'll deal with the vote first and then we'll listen to your point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Ms Churley has moved private member's notice of motion number 13. All those in favour of the motion will please rise and remain standing.
Baird, John R.
Bradley, James J.
Guzzo, Garry J.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Cooke, David S.
Leadston, Gary L.
The Acting Speaker: All those opposed to the motion will please rise and remain standing.
Stewart, R. Gary
Ford, Douglas B.
Young, Terence H.
Rollins, E.J. Douglas
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 35; the nays are 25.
The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I simply draw to your attention that I believe that before you declared the second resolution, resolution 22, carried, there were five people standing in the House.
The Acting Speaker: I asked for the nays and I asked for the ayes. In my opinion, the ayes have it. I waited for a few seconds and then only two people stood. I then said that the motion carried, and that's the end of it.
We've debated all the issues we had to debate. I will now leave the chair and the House will resume at 1:30 of the clock this afternoon.
The House recessed from 1212 to 1330.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): The Professional Association of Internes and Residents of Ontario presented the Minister of Health with a report entitled Answering the Call.
PAIRO visited 65 underserviced communities and met with over 300 community representatives across the province. That's consultation.
The report outlined what PAIRO believes are the criteria for successful recruitment and retention of doctors in underserviced areas.
Some of the recommendations include: direct contract alternate payment plans, an Ontario-wide physician registry, various infrastructure support mechanisms, expanded medical education opportunities in northern and rural areas, locum improvement programs and enhanced specialist backup support.
I agree with the recommendations of today's report and urge the Minister of Health to act quickly. I also urge the Minister of Health to repeal sections 29.1 through 29.7 of schedule H of Bill 26 -- that's the billing number provision. Billing numbers are not a good solution to the problems of physician maldistribution. Billing numbers do create a climate of tension, anger and fear.
I would encourage the minister to read this excellent report from PAIRO and adopt the recommendations of the report, which I believe will solve the problems of doctor shortages in underserviced areas across this province.
But as a gesture of goodwill, I would ask the minister to admit that his bullying tactics are the wrong approach. I ask him to repeal the billing number provisions. Since he is not here in the House today for me to ask him a question, I rise for this statement.
Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I'd like to direct my statement today to Premier Mike Harris. I raise today the issue of the demise of industry in the north at the hands of your government. You're supposed to be a friend of business, of commerce and, being from North Bay, a friend, one would hope, of the north. Not true, Mr Premier. Since your government took office the job loss in the north has escalated and what we are seeing is the death of business and industry in the north and a lack of job creation.
You and the federal government entered into a deal that was termed the best deal in a bad situation and now we have a 15% export tax on Ontario softwood lumber. I asked you in the House recently how many jobs would be lost in the north with this deal and I haven't received an answer as yet.
You are in the process of negotiating the largest giveaway of timber rights and forest management rights in the history of this province to the large forest companies, destroying community forest projects and creating additional job loss in independent logging and small forest companies.
Proposed changes to the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission could bring an end to the dairy industry in my riding of Cochrane North, and the end of norOntair service brings an end to the reliable air service in the north and more job loss.
NATIONAL VOLUNTEER WEEK
Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): It is a pleasure to rise on behalf of all members of the Legislature to announce that this Sunday marks the beginning of a special time in the province of Ontario, National Volunteer Week, from April 21 to 27.
This special week is set aside to thank and honour the many people who donate time, energy and expertise to their fellow citizens and to the causes we all believe in.
The week is also meant to increase public awareness of the vital contribution volunteers make to our communities and to Canadian society as a whole.
Their numbers are impressive: one in three of all Ontarians and close to six million strong across Canada. They are a mosaic of gender, religion, age and ethnicity, connected by their spirit of giving and caring.
Ontario's government recognizes that volunteerism continues to play a vital role in the development of our communities and our province.
During this special week we should join with voluntary organizations in paying tribute to the many volunteers who make outstanding contributions to our communities.
It is important that the efforts of these special citizens are recognized. Today more than ever, we need to recognize the importance of these actions in our communities. During National Volunteer Week, it is our time to say thank you to so many special individuals.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I rise today to bring to the government's and the minister's attention another victim of the revolution: April Adderley. She's the mother of two children, 3 and 8 years old. She attends York University. She's a straight-A student. She volunteers at her children's school
Saturday, she has an interview to get into teachers' college. She has been working very hard and very responsibly to get off family benefits. She has worked hard to raise her children at the same time.
The government's move to take her off welfare, take away her benefits and have her moved to OSAP is going to force her and her children to continue to depend on a life of welfare. April told us that Mike Harris is kicking her in the teeth. She told us that Mike Harris broke the promise he made to her during the campaign to give her a hand up. What this government has done in the changes is given her a hand down and has knocked her down. She is a hardworking individual. She feels she is now being punished by the Harris government for trying to get off welfare. She has no one else in Ontario to support her. She is taking care of herself and her children.
Minister, what do you say to April and others like her who as a result of your change have gone through two or three years of university and now may be forced to quit and rely on welfare for the rest of their lives? Where is that hand up, Minister? Where is that hand up that you promised to April and others during the election, which you've now taken away from her?
PROTECTION FOR WORKERS
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I rise today to revisit the document that was tabled by the government last Thursday where they talk about their business plan. I particularly want to speak to what they're going to do with the Ministry of Labour.
This government of course already has a track record of introducing and passing, without any public consultation whatsoever, the anti-worker Bill 7, where they gutted the employee wage protection program, again made scabbing legal in the province of Ontario, and took away successor rights, an issue which they did not talk about in the campaign and which they had no mandate to do. They've already killed the Workplace Health and Safety Agency. Under Bill 15, they took away workers' rights to 50% representation on the board of the WCB. We also know the Jackson report is out there and it's planning to gut benefits and entitlement that innocent workers injured on the job are entitled to.
Now what do we see in this document? We see an opening of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the context of saving $8.2 billion and we see opening up the Employment Standards Act in the context of saving $2.4 million. We also see closing the ministry library and eliminating the Joint Steering Committee on Hazardous Substances in the Workplace.
The track record is there to look at. The plans for the future are there to look at. Can there be any doubt by anyone in the province of Ontario that this government's agenda is anti-worker and they're going to go after workers' rights until they have none left?
WOMEN OF EXCELLENCE
Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): Today I'd like to add my congratulations and those of the government to five outstanding women who last evening received Women of Excellence awards from the Chatham-Kent YMCA. This was the first time these awards were presented, and the five recipients were certainly well chosen for the honour.
Delores Shadd was recognized for her outstanding contribution to rural life. As the women's adviser in Ontario for the National Farmers Union, she has attended national and international conferences on women.
Anne Coulter, executive director of family services, Kent, was honoured in the community and volunteer category for her community work on various boards and committees.
The sport, fitness and recreation award went to Shae-Lynn Bourne. She and partner Victor Kraatz have been Canadian ice dance champions for four years, are holders of the bronze medal in the World Figure Skating Championships, and will be competing in the 1998 Olympics.
Internationally heralded country music singer Michelle Wright received the award for her contributions to art and culture.
Ida Goodreau, formerly of Ridgetown, received a business, professions and trades award. The first female executive at Union Gas, she is now CEO of the Tasman Pulp and Paper Co in New Zealand.
I'm sure all members join me in applauding the achievements of these Women of Excellence and the Chatham-Kent YMCA for honouring them.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This government's assault on Science North is beyond belief. Their record of events and reductions speaks volumes.
In September, Science North's base operating grant was cut by 3%. In November, they experienced another 7% cut, for a total reduction of 10% over the course of this fiscal year. In January, Science North's outreach grant from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of Northern Development and Mines was not renewed and, as a result, Science North's operating grant suffered total cuts equalling 17.4%. No other tourism attraction in Ontario has experienced such a deep cut. The most recent blow to this northern attraction is another $147,500 cut from the fiscal year next year.
The cuts already announced mean: seven fewer full-time positions; five contract positions not renewed; hiring of summer students cut by 10%; outreach services to the northwest decreased by 50%; discovery camps eliminated; the Path of Discovery tour eliminated; teacher workshops to enhance science education eliminated. The north is worried about these cuts and this government's direction with regard to Science North.
Will the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines meet with us, as requested? We've sent you letters. We haven't got a response. Do you care? Will you meet with us? Will you share our concerns and will you be sympathetic?
CROWN LAND CAMPING FEES
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Terrace Bay in the great riding of Lake Nipigon is home to the North of Superior Marina Marketing Association. This group is dedicated to promoting the North Shore of Lake Superior as a cruising destination for boaters, particularly American boaters.
Now the Ministry of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines plans to charge a crown land camping permit fee to non-resident boaters who drop anchor in Canadian waters. Last summer, several American boaters were stopped along the shore of Lake Superior by MNR and told that they were expected to pay this fee. Interestingly enough, it is only being collected north of the French River. Americans cruising in Georgian Bay and Americans cruising in Muskoka will pay no such fee. Any enforcement of this discriminatory regulation will obviously destroy the economic development and marketing efforts of communities in my riding to promote the North Shore as the best and most obvious place to do boating in the province of Ontario.
I do hope that we will be treated fairly. This statement asks the government that competition be allowed. We feel that is commonsensical. Let's level the playing field.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I have a point of personal explanation, Mr Speaker: This morning during private members' business debate on ballot item number 21 on the subject of cancer prevention, a subject too close to my immediate family, I closed my comments with these words:
"Frankly, I think you'd have to be out of your mind to vote against this resolution."
I apologize to my colleagues on all sides of this House for that comment. I believe in apologizing when I'm wrong.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Today is the last day for the current group of pages. I know all members will join with me in thanking the pages for the dedicated service to us members during their term here.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I also observe we have a former member of the Legislature in the east gallery, Mr James Taylor, member for Prince Edward-Lennox.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
CORPS D'ÉLITE ONTARIO AWARDS
Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): It is my privilege to welcome three special visitors to the Legislature today. With us in the members' gallery are this year's recipients of the Corps d'Élite Ontario Award, our province's highest distinction in the field of recreation. They are Wesley Luke Ogden of Welland, Jocelyn Palm of Willowdale, and Dorothy Walter of Toronto.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Corps d'Élite Ontario Award, which honours outstanding recreation volunteers and professionals from across Ontario. On the eve of National Volunteer Week, which begins Sunday, April 21, it is wonderful to be able to recognize and honour people who donate time and energy to share the joy of sports and recreation with everyone, from children to seniors. This government acknowledges the vital contribution that volunteers make to our communities and to society as a whole.
Participation in sports and recreational activities benefits us all. It promotes a healthy lifestyle and contributes to our physical and emotional wellbeing. Participation builds stronger communities, bringing the diverse members of our society together in pursuit of common interests. It is a significant factor in youth crime prevention and in enhancing academic performance.
Volunteerism is also an essential component of a strong recreation system. We know, for example, that there are about 660,000 sport and recreation volunteers in Ontario. Together, these volunteers spend $300 million each year in out-of-pocket expenses. This is in addition to the $2.3 billion which is the estimated value of their labour.
The 1995 recipients of the Corps d'Élite Ontario Award have recognized the tremendous value of these benefits and have devoted countless hours of time and effort in both professional and volunteer capacities. They have demonstrated leadership, determination and commitment in working with local, provincial, national and international organizations to improve our recreation and sports system and strengthen its ability to address community needs and concerns.
For the energy, creativity and perseverance they have brought to this task, for their personal sacrifice and their sense of duty they deserve both our gratitude and our respect.
Later this afternoon, these three distinguished individuals will receive their award in a ceremony presided over by the Honourable Henry N.R. Jackman, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. I would now ask that Wesley Luke Ogden, Jocelyn Palm and Dorothy Walter stand in the members' gallery while the honourable members please join me in showing our appreciation to these special Ontarians and to all the recreational professionals and volunteers who contribute so profoundly to the quality of life in this province.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Wesley Luke, Jocelyn and Dorothy, let me congratulate you on doing something that doesn't happen here very often: me agreeing with the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Certainly I too, on behalf of my fellow colleagues in the Liberal Party and caucus, would like to congratulate you and thank you.
Having been a teacher for 31 years, I like to try to relate every experience to an educational experience, so let me address for a second a few remarks to the pages, who will be travelling back to their home towns and cities after today, the David Hamiltons of the world, who will be going back to Sudbury, to St Francis school, and the other students who will be going back to their grade 7 and 8 classrooms.
Please, you may have seen, over the course of your stay here, things that you don't want to bring back as an example, but when you look at those three individuals in the gallery, I want you to remember, that is the reason your parents have allowed you to share in this experience. They want you to receive the example which will best be able to allow you the opportunities to contribute to society. These people have demonstrated how important it is, one, to make an individual and a personal difference, but two, how important it is to be giving of oneself in order to share their experiences, their expertise and their abilities to communicate with others so that they can make others make a difference. That is the lesson that I hope we would be learning from these three very, very dedicated and talented Ontarians. These people want you and all Ontarians to understand that it is important to contribute, it is important to share, it is important to say, "I have time for my fellow human being because I care about my fellow human being."
The reward you will receive today is certainly prestigious, but in fact, because of your years of volunteer service and because of your dedication, you know the biggest rewards that you've received have been the way you have affected the lives of those people you've come in contact with, and for that reason, I congratulate you and all the Liberal members congratulate you. You are deserving of your award.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I want to separate my comments into two parts: One, to praise the program and to congratulate the recipients, and the second part is to attack the government.
On the first point, we have a long history and tradition of strong leadership and excellent programming. Sports and recreation contribute to the quality of life, as the minister has said. We agree with that. It contributes to healthy living for individuals and communities because it reduces the Ontario health care budget, and we agree with that. It has tremendous economic impact in the province, and we also agree with that. She also adds another important point that I agree with, and that is, it's a significant factor in youth crime prevention in enhancing academic performance, and we agree with all of that.
As we do that, we thank and congratulate those individuals who take time from their many other activities of life to make this kind of contribution in sports and recreation that we believe contributes to healthy living, and we congratulate them for all of that. But there is an underbelly to this announcement and that's what I want to speak to as my second part of this announcement.
The second part relates to the budget that goes in supporting provincial sport and recreation activities. That budget was $16 million or so and they have cut 35.2% out of that budget. That's the underbelly of this announcement. So while on the one hand we praise individuals for contributing to sports and recreation and we thank them, because it's an important part of citizenship; while on the one hand we say that and we say how important it is to our economy, to our healthy living because it reduces the health care cost and it contributes to the quality of life in general -- while we say that, how can we take over $6 million out of that budget for sports and recreation? I think it's wrong. The future of sports and recreation is being threatened by the actions of this government. Sports and recreation groups, professional staff, coaches and participants are very fearful that the budget cuts will affect the future of their sports.
So while I thank and congratulate these three people, recipients of the corps d'élite program, Wesley Luke Ogden, Jocelyn Palm and Dorothy Walter, the people of Ontario, I believe, deserve better from this government and this ministry as it relates particularly to support for provincial sports and recreational activities.
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I too want to extend congratulations to Ms Walter and Ms Palm, and especially I want to speak about Wes Ogden because Wes Ogden, of course, is the dean of recreation in Welland, down there in Niagara region. Wes Ogden built the Welland recreation department. He, as a member of a team in the city of Welland, worked with a succession of city councils. I was fortunate enough to be in one of those councils from 1985 to 1988, and I tell you, Wes Ogden is the type of committed person who did not know work hours, did not know workdays of the week. It was a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day operation. He built that recreation department from the ground up and developed a team of people around him, volunteers and other staff people, who were committed and dedicated not only to Wes but to recreation in the city as a whole.
One can't speak too much about his contribution to important civic events like the Welland Rose Festival, and the fact that Wes Ogden would be out there at 6 am Sunday morning, Saturday morning, whenever he was called upon, providing the leadership and doing the grunt work as well.
I can't think of anybody who is a more fitting recipient of this award. It's not insignificant at all that it was the Ontario Municipal Recreation Association that nominated Wes. That illustrates the high regard in which he's held not only in his own community, among the citizens of that good part of Ontario, but by Ontarians and even people beyond Ontario as well.
I congratulate all three recipients, but I make special note of Wes Ogden, a most fitting recipient and one of those people about whom Wellanders are extremely proud. God bless you, Wes.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The time has expired. Oral questions.
ATTENDANCE OF PREMIER AND MINISTERS
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I understand the Premier was scheduled to be present in question period today and is in the building. I would like to request a recess of five minutes so that you might request the presence of the Premier for question period.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Mr Speaker, on the point of order, I certainly can speak for our caucus in that we would support the recess.
I think it's important to understand. I have a document here called the Premier's itinerary: "Thursday, April 18, 1:30 pm, question period," crossed out at 11:30 am this morning; he would no longer be in attendance. It's clear that the Premier was absolutely embarrassed by the evidence that he is so deeply in the public trough that he's running away from the accountability --
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. I have no jurisdiction to see that anybody is here. As far as I'm concerned, if you want to stand down your first question and go on to the second question, that would be appropriate. But if you want to insist, we would have to have unanimous consent if you wanted to stand down and have a recess. Do we have unanimous consent? We don't have unanimous consent.
Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Mr Speaker, I rise on what I believe to be a legitimate point of privilege. Yesterday afternoon in this chamber, the Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development and Mines was asked a question by my colleague from Sudbury East. The minister gave an answer that was self-serving, smug, and quite frankly insulting to all northern members and to our constituents up north.
It is becoming a pattern that when a minister gets into some difficulty on one day during question period, they're absent the following day. That is completely unacceptable and an abuse of the privileges of everybody in this assembly.
The Speaker: The same point of privilege?
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Mr Speaker, there are always legitimate reasons for ministers to be absent from time to time, and we certainly expect that's going to be the case. No doubt someone will have an explanation for some and it may be very legitimate and we would accept that.
Today there are several contentious issues that involve ministers Harris, Eves, Elliott, Villeneuve, Hodgson, Palladini, Snobelen and Wilson, all very key ministers. We would like to be able to ask these ministers questions. You, as a member of the Legislature, would know that these issues are very current and important and it's the urgent business of the day. We simply ask your assistance in trying to have the ministers who are able to be here to be with us this afternoon so that we can ask legitimate questions and have them explain the policies.
The Speaker: The leader of the official opposition, on what?
Mrs McLeod: I believe it has been placed as a point of privilege, but I wish to place a point of order for your consideration, Mr Speaker. I place the point of order under section 33(a) of the standing rules of the Legislative Assembly. You'll be aware, Mr Speaker, that these are the rules in which the orders of procedure of the day are set out, the oral question period clearly being set out in terms and conditions under which we operate. "Questions on matters of urgent public importance may be addressed to the ministers of the crown...."
As my colleague has said, there are often occasions on which specific ministers have to be away from this place; we understand that, and we do not question it. We do have a concern when the Premier, who is accountable to this House, as is each minister, reschedules his schedule in order to not be in question period when it was quite clearly possible for him to be here today. I believe that is an offence not only to the privileges of members but to the orders of this place.
We came into the House today with questions that we consider, in accordance with this order of procedure, to be of urgent public importance, questions that we had intended to address. If you wish, Mr Speaker, I would be prepared to table with you the questions so that you know that we are genuinely concerned about not being able to hold specific ministers accountable on these questions, questions for the Premier, questions for the Minister of Education, for the Minister of Health, for the Minister of Environment --
The Speaker: Order. You made your point. I've heard your point of order. I have no jurisdiction over cabinet ministers that are here or cabinet ministers that are not here. It's my duty, as Chair, to call the proceedings of the day. The next order of business is question period.
Mrs McLeod: What's the point of proceeding with question period? We cannot proceed.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): On a point of privilege --
The Speaker: A point of privilege is a matter of a very important issue. Most times when we used to have points of privilege here with previous Speakers, there was usually written consent of the Speaker of a point of privilege. A point of order is different than a point of privilege. On a point of order?
Ms Churley: Mr Speaker, I believe this is a point of privilege, or did you just rule that I couldn't raise a point of privilege? I feel that this is a very important point of privilege, and I would ask that you listen to me for a few minutes and then determine. I have a very important matter to raise here today. Hear me out for a second. Yesterday I raised an issue with the Minister of Environment and Energy about a potentially very serious heavy water spill from the Pickering nuclear plant. The minister did not assure me or the public --
The Speaker: You don't have a point of order. I can't help if the minister does not give you a satisfactory answer. That has nothing to do with me.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Where is she?
The Speaker: That's not my jurisdiction to know where the minister is. My jurisdiction is to run the routine proceedings of the day. The next order of business is oral question period.
Mrs McLeod: In the absence of the Premier, I would then, of necessity, place my question to the parliamentary assistant to the Premier; I believe that to be the member for Durham-York.
Mr Speaker, I will draw your attention to standing order 33(h), in which "Parliamentary assistants may answer for their ministers...when authorized by the Premier." I would ask you, therefore, to determine, if it is the member for Durham-York, if I'm accurate in that, whether or not she has been authorized by the Premier to respond to my question today.
The Speaker: I have not been made aware that she's been advised to that effect.
Ms Lankin: Ask her.
The Speaker: That's not my duty to determine. No.
Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to request unanimous consent for the member for Durham-York to answer the question in the absence of the Premier.
The Speaker: We do not have unanimous consent. Question period. The leader of the official opposition.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Mr Speaker, you can appreciate the dilemma of members of the House if ministers are not present and the Premier is not present to respond to our questions, and if under the rules of procedure of this House we are permitted to address our questions to the parliamentary assistants, who are holding positions of responsibility and receiving remuneration for those positions of responsibility, if we cannot present our questions --
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Only if it's referred from the Premier or the minister that they can answer it, and I haven't heard that any minister has indicated that their parliamentary assistant can answer it.
Do you have a question?
Mrs McLeod: I'm asking for clarification for my point of order, because my question is for the parliamentary assistant. I'm asking you --
The Speaker: You can't ask a parliamentary assistant a question. I have made it clear that if the Premier approves of it, then so be it. But you --
Mrs McLeod: Mr Speaker, I'm asking you to tell me what procedure I follow.
The Speaker: No. It's not for me to answer questions. I'm not here to answer questions.
Mrs McLeod: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm asking you, for future reference, since the Premier did not know that I was going to ask him a question, how would he authorize the answer unless he authorized the parliamentary assistant to respond in his place to any question today? What procedure should I follow to ensure that in the absence of a minister, a parliamentary assistant can be authorized by the Premier to respond to our legitimate questions?
The Speaker: The rule book says that if the minister, in his or her discretion, declines to answer any question, they can, only if the Premier or the minister refers that question to them.
Mrs McLeod: With due respect, you have cited the wrong rule in terms of applying it to my point of order. I'm referring to page 26, section 33(h). There is not an opportunity for a minister to decline to answer a question that I have not placed because the minister is not present. If the minister or the Premier were present, I could place the question and they could decline to answer; the parliamentary assistant could decline. But I am asking what I have to do to get a parliamentary assistant to be authorized to answer my question.
The Speaker: Section (h) says, "Parliamentary assistants may answer for their ministers only when authorized by the Premier." Well, the Premier's not here.
Oral question period. Do you have a question?
PREMIER'S RIDING ASSOCIATION
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Yes, I do have a question, and I had hoped the Premier had made some arrangements for my question to be answered. Given the fact that this has not occurred, according to your judgement, I assume then that the Chair of Management Board is the acting Premier in the House today.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Point of order.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): We're already into routine proceedings and we're into a question.
Ms Lankin: Mr Speaker, it is with respect to question period. You just called question period, and I wonder if you could restore the time --
The Speaker: No. The leader of the official opposition.
Mrs McLeod: Minister, I very much regret that the Premier has put you in the position of having to answer this question, but I am going to place the question nevertheless.
The reason I regret having to place this question to the minister rather than to the Premier or to someone authorized by the Premier to speak on his behalf is that it's a question which deals directly with the Premier's personal integrity. I think it's unfortunate that the Premier does not seem to feel it necessary to be here to answer it himself.
Yesterday, before the Premier left this place, he told the House that his rule for staff and personal expenses was the following: "Be up front about it, be public about it, put the expenses there and be prepared to answer for them."
Minister, can you then tell me why the Premier did not inform the Integrity Commissioner that Conservative donors were buying him a golf and country club membership, paying his Albany Club bills, and supplying him with an additional housing allowance?
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): What are your expenses?
The Speaker: The member for Dufferin-Peel.
Mrs McLeod: Can you tell me why he would not have disclosed this when he was clearly required by the law to do so?
Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): Obviously, I'm not aware of all the details to the same extent that the Premier would be, but I do know that the proper disclosures were made to the extent that the Commission on Election Finances, for example, has reviewed and authorized any spending that's taken place and has given full approval. So in that regard, all the expenditures that were made were up front, were visible, were entirely legal, nothing wrong with any of the expenses. The riding association, in addition, had authorized any of the expenses. These expenses were handled properly through the Commission on Election Finances and through the local riding association.
Mrs McLeod: The reason we need to know why the Premier did not inform the Integrity Commissioner -- and I'm being very specific about where this disclosure should have been made -- about those particular perks is because the Members' Integrity Act is very specific. It states, "A member of the assembly shall not accept a fee, gift or personal benefit that is connected directly or indirectly with the performance of his or her duties of office."
It was very clear yesterday that the Premier received the free golf club membership because he is indeed the member for Nipissing. Given that the golf club membership is a gift and personal benefit and cannot in any way be construed as a legitimate business expense related to the performance of duties, I have to ask you how you can explain how the Premier could accept such a gift when the Members' Integrity Act clearly states it's wrong to do so and why the Premier did not at the very least disclose these gifts and perks to the Integrity Commissioner.
Hon David Johnson: I'll simply restate that the money involved was money collected through the local riding association, money given by private individuals, by the private sector, of their own free will, not involving taxpayers' money but donations from individuals and corporations. The riding association has considered these matters and given approval -- fully visible, fully authorized. The elections finance commission has fully scrutinized this money and has given its full approval. There's nothing untoward, nothing that has not been up front, nothing that has not been visible with regard to the handling of this matter.
Mrs McLeod: The minister should be aware that we've reviewed the public disclosure statements the Premier has filed with the Integrity Commissioner, and nowhere did we find that Mike Harris received a free golf and country club membership, nowhere was it listed that donors paid for Mike Harris's use of the Albany Club, and nowhere was the housing top-up recorded. In fact, under the section "Gifts and Personal Benefits," the disclosure statement says "Nil."
Minister, will you acknowledge that despite what the Premier said yesterday about being open and upfront about these perks, the reason they were not listed in the disclosure statements was because the Premier kept this information from the Integrity Commissioner? And do you not think those gifts and benefits should be disclosed to the Integrity Commissioner immediately?
Hon David Johnson: What I think is that the Premier has chosen to go a route that most taxpayers would support, in that the expenses he has incurred and any money that's been involved --
The Speaker: Order. The member for Oakwood is out of order.
Hon David Johnson: Some members of this Legislature, I might say, choose to bury expenses within their budgets that are directly funded through this Legislature and through the taxpayers of the province. The Premier, if you review the various accounts of the members in this House, has one of the lower amounts of budgets of all the members of this Legislature. And its his view that taxpayers should not be footing the bill for many of the items other members of this Legislature apparently think are okay.
The Premier has had certain expenses reimbursed through his association. The association has agreed to that; they have authorized that. The elections finance commission has authorized that and fully scrutinized it. As a result, I think there's been a saving to the taxpayers of Ontario.
The Speaker: New question. The member for St Catharines.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The Chair of Management Board has an excellent sense of humour. I want to commend him on that.
LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD OF ONTARIO
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for my friend the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, who is now going to ensure that people will be walking down the fairways of this province with a bottle of beer in their hand. But it has to do with liquor outlets.
Minister, this week in response to my colleague the member for Essex South, a question he asked you in the House regarding the abandonment of the LCBO in favour of private liquor stores, you stated, "I believe a private system probably could do a better job of checking on the sale of liquor to younger people than the public system is now." That's quite an incredible answer. When pressed by the media later, you said: "I just have a suspicion. I have no numbers. I was just speaking anecdotally."
Isn't it true that you have no proof at all that LCBO handles the restriction of sale of liquor to minors in a less satisfactory way than private operators? And isn't it true that you're just scrambling for excuses to dump the LCBO in favour of privately owned and privately operated liquor outlets?
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): No, that's not true.
Mr Bradley: You have friends of the Conservative government in Alberta lined up to get their paws on the liquor outlets of that province. I know that's not what the minister has in mind in Ontario, but there's just a suspicion out there that there are a lot of people pressuring the minister and the government to turn those sales over to those private interests.
Minister, the Solicitor General, an individual for whom I have a good deal of respect and who has responsibility for policing in the province, showed no enthusiasm at all for your proposal to privatize liquor sales in Ontario. He is likely aware that in the United States, in many cases, the sale of liquor in privately owned outlets has proven to be a system plagued by armed robberies, the selling of booze to minors, unchecked quality of the product sold, and the sale of liquor to people in no condition to handle more.
Why don't you abandon your ideological obsession with privatizing everything that is now in the public domain? Why don't you keep a proven, safe, secure and successful operation for the people of this province?
Hon Mr Sterling: I have no obsession. We are going to look at privatization as a possibility. No decisions have been made on that matter at this point.
Mr Bradley: The minister has clearly changed his tune since earlier in the week when he was waxing eloquent about the advantages of privatizing the sale of liquor in the province.
The people who are concerned are the people involved in the wine industry and the grape industry in this province, people such as those involved with the Wine Council of Ontario, who say that a number of policies which underpin the Ontario wine industry would be vulnerable if you were to take the step of privatizing the LCBO, and that given how closely NAFTA and GATT agreements are monitored by wine-producing nations, the Ontario government would have little room to implement new measures if a privatized system provided undue benefit to foreign producers at the expense of the Ontario wine industry.
Do you not understand that if you turn the liquor sales in this province, along with wine, over to the private sector, away from the LCBO, we lose the one tool we have, the best tool we have, to assist our farmers and to assist our wine makers in having a successful industry?
Hon Mr Sterling: Certainly I understand that, and that's why I'm working with the Wine Council of Ontario. We have promised that before any privatization initiative would be undertaken, a full consultation would go on with regard to their interests in this matter. We're very cognizant of them, very appreciative of the wine industry and its growth in Ontario over the past 10 years. In fact, we hope to improve their situation, because they have shown a lot of leadership, they've won some recent prizes with regard to some of their wines. We're very proud of what they're doing and very supportive of what they're doing.
PREMIER'S RIDING ASSOCIATION
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I also have a question to the acting Premier, and I also have a copy of the Premier's disclosure statement to the Integrity Commissioner. I might remind the acting Premier, you were here when Mr Harris used to lecture everybody else in the place about being up front, honest and increasing the integrity of politicians.
I'm looking at this document right now, and under the income section, it has listed for Mr Harris's income Legislative Assembly indemnities and interest on a mortgage, and under gifts and personal benefits, nothing, "Nil."
I would like to ask the acting Premier, how can he possibly say in this Legislature, in view of the evidence that has been tabled here yesterday, that the Premier has complied with the Members' Integrity Act that he passed in this assembly?
Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I'll simply reiterate again that the Premier has made this whole process visible. It has been processed through the Commission on Election Finances, through his own riding association.
The Premier's overall expenses, I might add, in this Legislature, of all the members of this Legislature, the bill that's paid directly by the taxpayers of the province of Ontario, is one of the lower bills of any of the members of this Legislature.
I can only say that I'll quote from the North Bay Nugget, that obviously the riding association felt these were legitimate political expenses. So did the Ontario election finances commission, which monitors riding associations and candidates, and it felt, according to the North Bay Nugget newspaper in its editorial dated Thursday, April 18, that this is all aboveboard and all visible and nothing untoward.
Mr Cooke: The evidence is very clear. We're not talking about the election expenses act. No one has made an accusation here that that law has been broken. What we're saying is that the integrity law has been broken by the prime minister of this province.
I would like to ask the acting Premier, is it now not absolutely clear that since the Premier did not declare this amount of money as income with the Integrity Commissioner, he would also not have declared it as income with the federal income tax, and that it would now become clear the Premier has broken the integrity act and the income tax laws of this land?
Hon David Johnson: I think what is clear is that the funding that's been involved with the Premier has saved the taxpayers dollars. Instead of coming out of the direct budget of the Legislature and of the province of Ontario, the funding has been handled through the local riding association, and according to the election finances commission, this has been authorized and fully scrutinized. If the member opposite feels there's anything that's untoward, then I assume the member opposite would take the appropriate action, but clearly the election finances commission doesn't think so, nor does the local association which is footing the bill think so, so the member opposite -- it's a democratic society -- is free to pursue the matter.
Mr Cooke: The Premier's accountant is also the riding association treasurer, so I can hardly -- some accountability there.
Yesterday the Premier said in this place that his income tax returns are nobody's business, so hardly is that a very transparent process.
I'd like to ask you about another of your members on exactly the same issue. The member for Markham also, he and his wife, received considerable funds from their riding association. I also have his disclosure statement: "Income: Ontario Legislative Assembly indemnities; Tsubouchi and Nichols, professional income; town of Markham, councillor's salary." "Gifts and personal benefits: Nil."
Is it not now also clear that the member for Markham has broken the income tax laws and the integrity law, and are you prepared to announce today that your government will be launching an investigation to make sure that any laws that have been broken, there will be remedies, and that if there are laws that have been broken, there will be resignations?
Hon David Johnson: I think that question with regard to the expenses of the member for Markham should more directly be posed to the member for Markham, but I will say that this government, yes, is fully committed to enforcing the laws and to pursuing justice. I think that's very evident, that that's a basic premise and a basic characteristic of this particular government, but I think the member opposite should be sure of his facts, sure of his allegations because, yes, it's a newspaper report. Allegations are made on the basis of assumptions and interpretations of newspaper reports. I think we would want more facts and I would be very convinced that the member for Markham has followed all of the proper rules and regulations pertaining to expenses and pertaining to this House.
GENERAL MOTORS OF CANADA
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. General Motors is Canada's most profitable company: $1.4 billion in profits last year and $1 billion in profits the year before. Let me put that in an international context.
This year GM made 20% of its worldwide profits here in Canada, with only 5% of its workforce. There was 26% return to its shareholders on its Canadian investment. This superprofitable company is reacting to this good fortune by announcing that it is going to sell off two of its profitable Canadian plants, the trim plant in Windsor -- there are about 1,300 jobs there, as you would know -- and the fabrication plant in Oshawa, where there are about 2,200 jobs.
That means there are more than 3,000 families who will now be worried about their future in these communities. That's going to add to the lack of consumer confidence and the lack of business confidence which are really sapping the energy out of our economy, in addition to your government's announcements of tens of thousands of layoffs in the public sector.
When he was asked his opinion of this, the Premier said he thought this was good news. Minister, how much of this Tory kind of good news can the Ontario economy stand? Is this large-scale job shedding by profitable corporations going to be the Tory good news for the economy from now until the end of your term of office?
Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'd like to say that I don't believe our Premier would ever say that was good news. I take exception to that comment.
General Motors has made a business decision to sell its two facilities, one in Windsor and one in Oshawa, and I think it is up to General Motors to decide how they run their business, not for our government to tell them how they should run their business. They are viable operations, I might say, and we are very confident that a buyer will be found for each of these operations.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Put the sign down, please.
Ms Lankin: Show the minister opposite, if he can't read it.
"Premier Lauds GM Selloff: `General Motors' decision to sell parts plants in Windsor and Oshawa is good news,' Premier Mike Harris says." On the day GM announced this so-called good news, many of the workers in the plant received the company publication that's called GM Today. In that there's a photograph across the front page of the publication that shows the workers from the Windsor trim plant. It praises them for achieving the ISO 9002 certification, becoming the first of Delphi's division in North America to be a recipient of this significant quality standard.
The plant manager says, "This is a tremendous boost and a deserved reward for our employees who've worked very hard to achieve this." They also got the GM Mark of Excellence Award and the federal government's Canadian Award for Business Excellence.
Minister, we're talking here about a top-quality workforce, an impressive record of achievement, an impressive record of a profit. These workers contributed to that, sir. They did everything they were told to make their company more profitable, more competitive and to secure their jobs for the future, and to what end?
Minister, we understand that you're working with GM in order to find buyers for the plants in Oshawa and in Windsor. Why don't you get it? Why aren't you working with General Motors to help them understand that if they're making $1.4 billion of profits here in Canada, they should be giving us more jobs, creating more employment opportunities, not closing, moving and selling off the jobs to the highest bidders?
Hon Mr Saunderson: I'd like to assure the member that we know there are some jobs involved here and we're going to work with General Motors to make sure a buyer is located for both of these factories, as I've said before. I think GM has recognized workers' skills and I'm sure a subsequent buyer will recognize those as well.
Ms Lankin: Minister, this is about your responsibility for the economy here in Ontario and for creating jobs in Ontario and for workers in Ontario. You have a responsibility to them, not just to the businesses in Ontario. It would be bad enough if these were the only General Motors jobs at risk, but earlier this year the company announced it wanted to outsource 508 jobs from its other Oshawa plant. General Motors also announced a few weeks ago that 750 axle production jobs at St Catharines are being moved to the United States, and this latest announcement in Oshawa and Windsor is just the last straw. Your government is supporting GM's outsourcing strategy. It's pretty clear from your comments.
Minister, with your government's cuts to welfare, cancelling the pay equity proxy for the lowest-paid women workers, freezing the minimum wage and this shameful defence of the selloff of high-quality industrial jobs as good news, it's pretty clear that your strategy is to move us to a low-wage economy. Does this government really believe that profitable corporations are acting responsibly when they kill hundreds, even thousands of good jobs in Ontario? Is this common sense or just common greed?
Hon Mr Saunderson: I'd like to say again that I believe that quotation is out of context. That article said it would be good news for workers if it saves the jobs. That's all I have to say about that.
Ms Lankin: That's not true. Read the article.
Hon Mr Saunderson: Let me just come back to you. I think you are not the one who should be preaching to us about integrity and good judgement. I refer to you something that you're very responsible for, OBI, one of the biggest mistakes ever made by a government. It was.
Ms Lankin: Where are you saving jobs, Minister?
Hon Mr Saunderson: It can maintain jobs at a big expense. All I can say to you is that it was very bad judgement to ever get involved with that in the first place.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Minister, one of your mandates is to protect the consumers in this province. All across Ontario over the last two or three months we've seen the price of gasoline increase almost on a daily basis. It's gone up almost 20% on a litre over the last couple of months, and people feel they're being ripped off, gouged by the big oil companies.
In opposition you were very vociferous in defending the consumers in this ripoff, but there's been nothing but silence on this ripoff by the oil companies since you've become minister. Why the silence? Why aren't you standing up? Why aren't you confronting the big oil companies and saying, "Stop the gouging"?
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I'm surprised that I get a question from the Liberals on this matter. The federal Liberal government is responsible for competition policy in this country. Go and talk to your cousins up in Ottawa. We're sick and tired of increases in Ottawa for gas prices, and your federal cousins are doing nothing about it; they talk, they talk, they talk.
Mr Colle: Yesterday the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism said that here in Canada we had the best and most competitive oil and gasoline prices in the world. He seemed to be praising the federal government, but when you were in opposition, you did not say the same thing that you're saying now. You said it was a provincial responsibility, that it had a role to play in protecting the consumer.
Why, now that you're in government, have you abandoned the consumer? Why are you treating the big oil companies with kid gloves? Why are you now blaming and whining that it's Ottawa's fault? Why are you not fulfilling your mandate and your role to protect consumers from this gigantic gouging at every gas pump and every town and city across Ontario? Stop passing the buck.
Hon Mr Sterling: I can't recall the exact situation that was involved before, when I was in opposition, but when I was in opposition I asked a question about gas prices and was told that was a responsibility of the federal government. I now see the wisdom in that answer.
MINISTER'S RIDING ASSOCIATION
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question of the Minister of Community and Social Services. In light of the answer from the Chair of Management Board, I want to place this question to the minister. It seems that your family received $7,607 from your riding association or, to put it another way, enough money to provide social assistance to a single employable person for more than a year - 14 1/2 months. I wonder if the minister recalls when he said to reporters last fall, when he was talking about his 21.6% cut to the poorest people in our province, "When you've got no money, you've got no money and you've got to make do with what you do." Can the minister explain why he's willing to dish out this kind of gratuitous advice to the poorest people in the province when it's obvious he doesn't take it himself?
Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): I certainly welcome the opportunity to answer this question now, because the member for Windsor-Riverside somehow decided not to direct the question to me but rather the Chairman of Management Board. It saves me from standing up on a point of personal privilege later on.
I think we should do some research here and take a look and see what you guys have done in terms of your election expenses. I can't believe that none of you has ever had a barbecue or a thank you for your volunteers.
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): My riding association is broke, David.
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Is that right? I don't see everybody nodding their heads or waving their heads over there. I think we'd better take a good look at all this stuff. These were legitimate campaign expenses in order for me to get elected. I was accountable to my association, which approved these expenses, by the way. You know what? I got elected. I had a plurality of 27,000 people.
Mr Wildman: In my experience -- unfortunately, I suppose -- I tend to end up giving money to my riding association, as many other contributors do; I don't get money from them. I wonder if the minister thinks it is appropriate to receive funds in this way. He mentioned the barbecue, which I understand was $2,000 out of the $7,000. He got dry cleaning services and so on, or whatever it was, whatever he got.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): If he declared it, we would know what it was.
Mr Wildman: I'm a little at a disadvantage as to knowing what the other $5,000 was spent on, since the minister did not state what it was in the member's public disclosure statement filed with the Integrity Commissioner. Under gifts and personal benefits -- personal benefits -- it says "Nil." Can the minister explain why he did not report this in his disclosure statement?
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: First of all, we've got the leader of the third party embellishing again. No, there's no dry cleaning. Can you substantiate this, or is this another one of your --
Mr Wildman: We are asking what it is. What is it?
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: You're the guys saying dry cleaning; you tell me where that is. Baloney. This is absolutely ridiculous. These are legitimate election expenses. You know what? I'd like to see, for example, the leader of the third party justify his election expenses. Did you not go to any riding functions? Did you not go to any fund-raisers? Did you not have any type of appearances at all?
I don't know. He's waving his head over there, but gee whiz, all I say can is -- talk about dry cleaning, what about your leader? Heck, your leader, what did he get? According to the Globe and Mail, Bob Rae received clothing subsidies close to $2,300 in 1995 and over $3,100 --
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Would the House come to order. New question. The member for Kitchener.
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I have a question for the minister responsible for women's issues. It is my understanding that you have not renewed the mandate for the Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues in your business plan for 1996-97 and I was wondering how you might consult with, receive information and receive advice from the women of Ontario.
Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): It's a fact that over the years, since 1973, we've had advisory committees on women's issues here in the province which have provided us with good direction and certainly recommendations on issues of great concern to women. In looking at our business plan for the next year, we considered those reports. We also considered the advice of women, and that was that they did want more direct contact with the minister. We spent the last nine months consulting broadly with them. They appreciated those consultations and we've adopted that method into the way we will get advice in the future -- not just that way, but many ways.
I think we've been well served over the past, and the women who have advised us in the past year are interested in continuing with the advice they have given us. We're most appreciative of the direction they gave us and of their hard work. We will consult directly in six regional conferences over the next two years and I'm looking forward to leading those consultations.
Mr Wettlaufer: When would the regional conferences begin? Could you tell us, please?
Hon Mrs Cunningham: The regional conferences will be one forum, and we are talking about getting those organized for May and June. We are in preparation and working right now with communities, especially in the north, by the way, which are not receiving as many services as they should. We'll start there first and we'll let the House know, as soon as we have formed the final resolution, as to where and when.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Yesterday, my colleague the member for Oakwood, Mike Colle, and I, with Terry Burton of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, met with tenants who are very confused and concerned about conflicting reports made by the Minister of Housing.
In the Toronto Star dated April 17, senior Ministry of Housing staff said that rental caps are under study and that the current system of rent control is under study but tenants shouldn't be worried. On the other hand, a very different Al Leach made comments on this to his friends at the Ontario Home Builders' Association in October 1995. I will quote what the minister said:
"We're also hoping something else will promote activity in the residential rental market. I'm talking about getting rid of rent control.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again: Rent control has got to go. In fact, within 12 months you will see legislation and the beginning of the end of rent control....
"So we're going to put controls right back where they belong: in the marketplace."
Can the minister clarify which Al Leach tenants in the province should believe?
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): As I've said repeatedly in this House, we have no intentions of doing anything with rent control until we're satisfied we have a system that provides better tenant protection than we have now. We're very close to achieving that. I expect to bring something forward in the not-too-distant future.
I'd like to say that I think everybody recognizes that the current rent control system does not work. I know my colleague agrees with that. He said in the estimates, when we were debating it, that the current system doesn't work and has to be revised. They said in the red book that the current system doesn't work and has to be revised. So we all agree that something has to be done with the rent control system, and we're going to do it.
Mr Curling: I want to correct the minister. I did not say rent control doesn't work, I said the present system can be improved, so don't start saying things to me about that. It was some months ago that the minister told the home builders' association that rent control would be gone, and I quoted what he said here. I understand you told tenants' advocates that your plan was to cut six of the acts, or all of the acts, that protect tenants and bring in sort of watered-down housing legislation that will strip 20 years of tenant protection. Your ministry's senior official stated that your policy would be considered and decided by cabinet by June for legislation this fall.
After keeping tenants in the dark for almost a year and making confusing statements which only spread fear and uncertainty among tenants, when will the minister come clean and announce his intention, and give his assurance of full consultation after he releases his proposal? When will you intend to release that proposal so proper consultation can take place?
Hon Mr Leach: We have been consulting both with the tenants' association and with the association that represents landlords. Both of them have had considerable input into the proposals that we're developing at the staff levels. The staff have had ongoing meetings. I committed to the tenants' association that I would hold a meeting with it; every time I held a meeting with the landlord we would hold a meeting with the tenants. We've reviewed the proposals. They agree that the existing system doesn't work, as you agreed that the existing system has to be revised.
Hon Mr Leach: To improve it you've got to change it, my honourable friend, and that's what we propose to do. We're going to do it and we're going to do it soon. I can assure this House that all of the affected stakeholders have had a part in the development of the new proposal.
SERVICES FOR THE DISABLED
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. He will remember that the member for Algoma and I met with him on February 27 -- two months ago -- about funding to Community Living Algoma. They were looking at the possibility of having to shut down a group home for the most severely handicapped, an integrated day care centre, and drop some front-line services. It's been two months, Mr Minister. You made some commitments to us, to the association and to the parents. What have you done?
Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): The member knows full well when we left that meeting we were trying to have the particular association resolve some internal matters. That was part of the discussion, and I think he clearly should remember that. There is certainly a path that we had agreed on. I indicated to him that it was very important to make sure the group home was somehow preserved, and certainly the other facilities. We had a discussion, yes, and out of that discussion we were trying to have this particular organization resolve it in a way that they had suggested beforehand.
Mr Martin: That's fine for you to say two months later, Mr Minister. When we met with you, you said you would talk with the Minister of Health. You said you would look within your own ministry for some funding if it was available. We said to you we would work with the association and other people in the community to make sure the rationalization that was going on, the plan that was going on within that ministry, would continue. Even more important, Mr Minister, you said you would include the member for Algoma and myself in those discussions.
I have written to you twice since then; I have not had an answer. We have not been kept apprised. We're not in the loop. We have not been allowed to be helpful and to share with you our perspective on this thing. When are you going to meet with Mr Wildman and myself on this issue? It's really important to these parents and they're getting more and more concerned.
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I think the member forgets that somehow in this mix someplace we had a strike and during the strike we had a lot of our people who were working for our ministry not there.
Mr Martin: Tell that to the parents of the kids who are concerned about --
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Come on, let's get a little realistic about your point of view, frankly. Listen, we had agreed to try to get this organization to resolve this matter by itself. This particular member obviously has a selective memory. But yes, I will say something. I do believe we should be working for a solution here; I don't deny that, and I think that's something we should do. I'll certainly look into it for the member, because despite the way the member is phrasing his question, I really do believe somehow that he has a legitimate concern here. Certainly I will look into it and get back to both the member and the leader of the third party. I will agree to do that, certainly, and as expeditiously as possible.
BENEFITS FOR OLDER WORKERS
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): My question is to the Minister of Labour. Madam Minister, over a year and a half ago, you, I and many other members on the other side stood and questioned the then Minister of Labour from Hamilton about POWA, the program for older worker adjustment. At that time, you, I and many other members were upset that things weren't being done for our older workers. That was over a year and a half ago. We have formed the government since June 8. I would like to know what you have done for our older workers up till now.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): To the member for Grey-Owen Sound, I would agree with you: I did stand in this House along with you and inquire of the NDP as to what was happening regarding POWA. I had the opportunity to discover, when I became Minister of Labour, that we had inherited a backlog of approximately 240 layoffs. Those layoffs had primarily occurred in the early 1990s. So what has happened today is that we have decided to allocate the appropriate amount of money, because the reason for the backlog is that the NDP publicly spoke in favour of POWA but did not provide the necessary dollars to match the federal contribution. At a time when they could have accessed approximately 50% of the federal allocation, they only accessed 32.8%.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): You are lying.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. I think the member for Beaches-Woodbine would withdraw what she said.
Ms Lankin: Even though I meant it, I'll withdraw it.
Hon Mrs Witmer: In response to the question from the member for Grey-Owen Sound, I would indicate to you that each year there is almost 50% of the POWA funding available to the province of Ontario. We have only accessed 32.8% of that funding. We did not make the matching allocation. As you know, it's split 70% federal and 30% provincial.
However, in our first year of office, we increased the $2.5-million provincial allocation by $2 million, and so we have doubled what was spent by the NDP in its last year.
Mr Murdoch: That explains what we've done up till now. I have some workers in my area, and I'm sure there are many other workers, who have waited over five years to tap into this program. Will we be continuing to fund this program? Will these people who were waiting for five years be protected? Will they get something? I know you have to work with the federal government on this, I realize that, but I also have members who have waited over five years for something to happen. Will you commit today in the House that we will look after these people and get something done?
Hon Mrs Witmer: I can assure the member that my staff is working with the federal staff in order to ensure that those workers will indeed receive their compensation in a very timely manner. We are working hard to ensure that does take place.
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a question for the Minister of Labour. Minister, in your business plan that was released last week and in announcements you made to this House last year, you indicated that you would be closing the laboratory services that are provided through the occupational health and safety branch of your ministry. One of those labs is the radiation protection laboratory. I should tell you, Minister, that that laboratory provides all radiological measurements associated with Ontario's nuclear emergency plan and all measurements in support of the province's contingency plan with respect to any potential emergencies at Pickering, Darlington, Bruce, Chalk River and indeed offshore plants such as Fermi II, which is adjacent to Windsor.
Minister, what plans does your government have to replace this important laboratory service, and when will you have a full announcement with respect to it?
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I can assure you that we share your concern for the safety of workers. Obviously, if there is to be any change in the situation, we will do it in such a way that safety continues to be our prime concern.
Mr Duncan: The minister obviously doesn't even understand the question. This goes well beyond working people, whom you've left less well protected; this refers to communities. Just this week your laboratory is testing drinking water in Pickering to make sure that community will be safe from any potential nuclear waste that could get into the drinking supply.
You ought to know what's going on in your ministry and you ought to be able to stand in your place today and assure communities right across this province what service you'll provide by the government, not through some private American source. Other jurisdictions have maintained these services. What are you going to do to ensure that the only agency in the government of Ontario that measures nuclear contamination in the event of emergencies is replaced or left in place?
Hon Mrs Witmer: I would suggest to the member opposite that he should stop the fearmongering. He should understand that we are committed to the safety of the people in this province and we will ensure that the standards and safety measures are taken.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): In the absence of the Minister of Environment and Energy, my question is for the Chair of Management Board. Minister, the cuts that your government has made to the environment are having devastating impacts on our environment. You have eliminated blue box funding; you've cancelled funding to the green communities program that was designed to encourage water and energy conservation while creating thousands of jobs; you've cancelled funding to the Clean Up Rural Beaches program, which helped eliminate agricultural runoff from entering our waterways; you've killed funding for the province's household hazardous waste program, and the list goes on and on.
The public is not going to be fooled. They know that your government is not concerned about the environment. I would like to ask you today, what programs are you putting in place to conserve energy and water use, to protect rural beaches and to collect hazardous household waste?
Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): A good deal of the collection of household hazardous waste, for example, is accomplished through the municipal level. This government is working very closely with the various municipalities in terms of funding formulas: the block grant, for example, that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has introduced; the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will continue to work with municipalities in terms of disentanglement, in terms of funding initiatives.
I can say from my perspective that municipalities are moving quite expeditiously in terms of collection of household hazardous waste, in terms of blue box collection etc. These programs are alive and healthy. In an international context, the kinds of programs we have for recycling and waste reduction in the province of Ontario are second to none.
Ms Churley: Ontario's programs used to be second to none. The minister missed the point of my question. This government is setting back environmental protection that has been put in place by successive governments over 20 years. We are not going to be second to none any more.
The reality about hazardous waste pickup is that the funding is gone. Municipalities have been cut by almost 50%. They're not going to have the money. They're dependent on funding from the province.
A direct result of this government's cuts is that you have systematically eliminated the province's hazardous waste reduction strategy. You've put nothing in its place either. You've eliminated the Ontario Waste Management Corp, which was redefined for hazardous waste reduction. You've weakened regulations under the MISA program that reduced the discharge of toxic chemicals to our sewers. You have significantly reduced funding for new water and sewer facilities. You're dismantling the Environmental Protection Act and the Planning Act. A third of the MOEE has been eliminated. Compliance and enforcement is being cut by 25%.
Minister, this weekend we celebrate Earth Day. You can see -- and I could go on and on with this list. You are dismantling environmental protection. Minister, who is going to be protecting the Ontario environment, now that your government isn't?
Hon David Johnson: I differ with the premise and the assumption made by the member opposite. In the province of Ontario we have an excellent level of environmental protection; we will continue to have an excellent level of environmental protection.
But will the province of Ontario be able to spend the same amount of money in the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the Ministry of Housing, my ministry and any ministry? No. Can we continue to run $10-billion deficits year after year after year, as the previous government did? No, we cannot. So across the board there needs to be a reining in of the expenditures of the province of Ontario, and clearly we're doing that.
The Minister of Environment and Energy has focused on her core businesses. The ministry will be continuing to set the policies, to set the standards, to set the objectives and the ministry will continue to enforce those policies, standards and objectives to ensure that there is a high level of protection of the environment in the province of Ontario.
Having said that, the Ministry of Environment and Energy will call on the private sector, will call on the people of Ontario, will call on municipalities to also be involved in delivering the services to protect the environment, and I can assure you we will have a high level of service for the environmental services in the province of Ontario.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): I'm very happy to have an opportunity to ask a question today. Noticing a week or so ago when the Premier commented about the free flow of question period, questions that flow out of previous questions, I listened very intently to the member for Beaches-Woodbine --
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Who's the question to?
Mr Stockwell: The question's to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism -- when she talked very interestingly about General Motors and their interest in divesting themselves of some of their facilities.
It kind of struck me as passing strange. I want to ask the minister, I wonder what prompted that questioning when, not more than four or five years ago the newly elected, newly minted socialists at Queen's Park were in their places and had a very firm and honourable position apparently when it came to companies and government grants and government loans. Yet this is the same crowd -- and I remember the member sitting as a minister, I say to you, Mr Minister -- who talked about Varity and the $50 million that they left the province with. The position that the NDP at the time had was: "We are going to be tough on those kinds of loans. We're going to be sure they're repaid." When Varity in fact started their process to leave the country, they were so tough, they held the door open for them as they left.
I ask you, Mr Minister, do you see the same contradiction in this government's position when on this side of the House and their newly minted position as third party --
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The question has been asked.
Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): Based on that information, it does appear to me that the member opposite has a double set of standards.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to ask unanimous consent of the House, if the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Technology wishes to do so -- I'm just asking for unanimous consent of the House; they may want to or not want to -- whether he has a statement on the closing of the Mott's plant in St Catharines. Cadbury Beverages has announced the closing of Mott's in St Catharines. With 175 jobs being lost in St Catharines, I'm wondering if the minister has a statement that he might wish to make. If he does, I'd like to ask unanimous consent --
The Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent? No.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas Transition House in Chatham has provided emergency shelter to troubled or abused youth as well as support, counselling and life skills training since 1990, and, operating on a five-year budget of $865,000, they have counselled over 400 youth and served over 20,000 meals;
"Whereas the city of Chatham and the county of Kent rely on Transition House to meet the needs of its troubled youth and there is no other facility to serve the needs of the community; and
"Whereas the principles of discipline, self-help and a regimented environment at Transition House have combined with counselling and support to provide youth with the motivation and self-respect to return to school or to find jobs; and
"Whereas it has been shown that massive cuts to health services, school systems and social services have a definite impact on the statistics of children and youth in crisis; and
"Whereas the government of Ontario has cut its direct funding to Transition House by almost $48,000 annually and places the existence of Transition House in jeopardy;
"Be it therefore resolved that we, the undersigned, urge the government of Ontario to reverse its decision to cut the funding for Transition House in Chatham."
This petition is signed by 330 persons from Chatham and Kent county, and I affix my signature to it.
Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): I received a letter from a Mr Stan Papst, who asked that I present this petition today from some 4,786 signatures, requesting an end to the spring bear hunt in Ontario. He asked me to read this into the record, and I will do so.
"To the Parliament of Ontario:
"Whereas it is estimated that 7,000 to 8,000 bears a year are killed in Ontario during the spring and fall bear hunt; and
"Whereas the Federation of Ontario Naturalists estimate that approximately one third of the bears killed are female and that only 30% of the orphaned cubs survive; and
"Whereas bears are being poached year-round for their gall bladders and paws for the Asian market; and
"Whereas the estimated take of the bear population does not include the impacts from poaching; and
"Whereas bears, wherever they are found in other states, have shown themselves to be susceptible to endangerment from hunting and poaching;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to ban the spring bear hunt in the province of Ontario."
Mr Peter North (Elgin): I have a petition to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas the Ontario government plans to sell off public services to corporations which will run them for profit; and
"Whereas corporate takeover will be strictly user-pay for services we now depend on; and
"Whereas our clean air and water standards and worker safety rules are being relaxed because corporations don't like rules that interfere with profits; and
"Whereas privatization is being sold as a way to save tax dollars, even though large companies pay little or no taxes while individual Canadians pay most of the total tax bill; and
"Whereas Bill 7 was introduced in the interests of facilitating its privatization agenda by stripping public sector workers of their rights to retain fair working conditions when services are transferred or privatized;
"We, the following citizens of Ontario, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to abandon the selloff of Ontario public services and reinstate successor rights for public service employees."
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas the Conservative government's stated plan in the Common Sense Revolution is to improve the long-term economic prospects of Ontario; and
"Whereas research from all over the world shows early childhood education leads to lower dropout rates, improved reading, math and language skills, less chance of future unemployment, less teen pregnancy or delinquency and higher enrolment in post-secondary education, thus resulting in a better-educated, highly skilled workforce; and
"Whereas this Conservative government states it is committed to ensuring a larger share of the education dollar goes to the classroom; and
"Whereas the Conservative government fully expects boards to meet transfer reductions by cutting costs outside the classroom; and
"Whereas the Conservative government has made junior kindergarten a matter of choice for local school boards and has reduced the funding for junior kindergarten;
"Therefore, to ensure this Conservative government meets its stated commitments in regard to education and to Ontario, we, the undersigned, call on the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education and Training to restore the funding for junior kindergarten to its previous level and require all school boards to offer junior kindergarten classes."
I affix my name to this petition.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Petitions? The member for Scarborough Centre.
The Acting Speaker: Sorry, the member for Beaches-Woodbine.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. "Whereas the government of Ontario is planning to implement tax cuts" --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Please, just wait. I had somebody right in front of me and I couldn't see the member for Beaches-Woodbine. In fairness, I think the member for Beaches-Woodbine should read her petition.
Ms Lankin: "Whereas the government of Ontario is planning to implement tax cuts that will benefit well-off people while at the same time they have cut incomes to the poor; and
"Whereas 46% of Ontario families make less than $35,000 per year but will get only 7.3% of the benefits of the proposed tax cuts, or about $462 per year; and
"Whereas families with total incomes of over $95,000 a year make up only 9.2% of all Ontario families, but they will get 32.7% of the benefits; and
"Whereas in these tough times it is unconscionable that the poor will go hungry while the wealthy are given more.
"We, the undersigned, request that the Legislature of Ontario not approve any tax cuts until the causes of poverty and unemployment in Ontario are dealt with effectively and until the province's debt and deficit are paid down."
I have affixed my signature to the same.
Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I have a petition signed by a number of residents from Ontario, the cities of Toronto, Markham and Thunder Bay. The petition reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to proceed as quickly as possible with legislation to reduce our provincial tax rates, as promised during the last provincial election, and we call on all members of the Parliament of Ontario to support the government in its promise to reduce provincial income tax rates in Ontario."
I have affixed my signature to this petition.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I have a petition signed by a number of residents from Chatham, Wallaceburg, Dover Centre, Thamesville and Tilbury, and Dresden as well.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas Transition House in Chatham has provided emergency shelter to troubled or abused youth, as well as support, counselling and life skills training since 1990, and, operating on a five-year budget of $865,000, they have counselled over 400 youth and served over 20,000 meals; and
"Whereas the city of Chatham and the county of Kent rely on Transition House to meet the needs of its troubled youth and there is no other facility to serve the needs of the community; and
"Whereas it has been shown that massive cuts to health services, school systems and social services have a definite impact on the statistics of children and youth in crisis; and
"Whereas the government of Ontario has cut its direct funding to Transition House by almost $48,000 annually and placed the existence of Transition House in jeopardy;
"Be it therefore resolved that we, the undersigned, urge the government of Ontario to reverse its decision to cut the funding of Transition House in Chatham."
I affix my signature to it.
ST JOSEPH'S HOSPITAL
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Support from Hamilton to save St Joseph's Hospital in downtown Hamilton continues to grow, as evidenced by more petitions to the Minister of Health and the Hamilton-Wentworth District Health Council.
"Whereas the Hamilton-Wentworth Health Action Task Force, as part of their report, has recommended the closure of St Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton; and
"Whereas it is recognized the health care system should be made as efficient as possible; and
"Whereas the quality of health care service in our community should not be sacrificed in the name of efficiency; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government promised to protect the quality of health care in Ontario; and
"Whereas we, the undersigned, believe that maintaining the presence of St Joseph's Hospital in downtown Hamilton is a vital component of our health care system;
"Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health and the Hamilton-Wentworth District Health Council ensure the continuance of St Joseph's Hospital at its present site."
I support the petition.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): This is a petition to the Legislature of Ontario.
"We, the undersigned, request that the Legislature of Ontario not approve any tax cuts until the causes of poverty and unemployment in Ontario are dealt with effectively and until the province's debt and deficit are paid down."
I've affixed my signature to the same.
ALZHEIMER RESPITE CARE
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition signed by a number of people from the Niagara Peninsula. It reads as follows:
"To the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the Niagara region has one of the highest per capita populations of seniors in Ontario; and
"Whereas the Niagara region ranks 32nd out of 38 health regions in long-term-care funding and that more individuals wait for support services from the March of Dimes than those who actually are served by it; and
"Whereas Alzheimer patients who critically depend on support services in order to cope in a more humane way with this devastating illness continue to suffer from unacceptable delays in receiving respite care; and
"Whereas more than half of all Ontario families waiting for Alzheimer-related respite care reside in the Niagara area;
"We, the following undersigned citizens of Ontario, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to adopt the plan by the Niagara Regional District Health Council which would help improve the way vulnerable people are treated in the Niagara area."
I affix my signature to this petition, as I am in agreement with its contents.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas the government of Ontario is planning to implement tax cuts that will benefit well-off people while at the same time they have cut incomes to the poor; and
"Whereas 46% of Ontario families make less than $35,000 a year but will get only 7.3% of the benefits of the proposed tax cuts (or about $462 a year); and
"Whereas families with total incomes over $95,000 a year make up only 9.2% of all Ontario families but they will get 32.7% of the benefits, in these tough times it is unconscionable that the poor will go hungry and the wealthy are given more.
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, request that the Legislature of Ontario not approve any tax cuts until the causes of poverty and unemployment in Ontario are dealt with effectively and until the province's debt and deficit are paid down."
I affix my signature also.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas this Conservative government's stated plan in the Common Sense Revolution is to improve the long-term economic prospects of Ontario; and
"Whereas research from all over the world shows early childhood education leads to lower dropout rates, improved reading, math and language skills, less chance of future unemployment, teen pregnancy or delinquency and higher enrolment in post-secondary education, thus resulting in a better-educated, highly skilled workforce; and
"Whereas this Conservative government states it is committed to ensuring a larger share of the education dollar goes to the classroom; and
"Whereas this Conservative government fully expects boards to meet transfer reductions by cost-cutting outside the classroom; and
"Whereas this Conservative government has made junior kindergarten a matter of choice for local school boards and has reduced the funding for junior kindergarten;
"Therefore, to ensure this Conservative government meets its stated commitments in regard to education and to Ontario, we, the undersigned, call on the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education and Training to restore the funding of junior kindergarten to its previous level and require all school boards to offer junior kindergarten classes."
ST JOSEPH'S HOSPITAL
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I have a petition to the Minister of Health and the Hamilton-Wentworth District Health Council, and of course the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas the Hamilton-Wentworth Health Action Task Force, as part of their report, has recommended the closure of St Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton; and
"Whereas it is recognized the health care system should be made as efficient as possible; and
"Whereas the quality of health care service in our community should not be sacrificed in the name of this efficiency; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government promised to protect the quality of health care in Ontario; and
"Whereas we, the undersigned, believe that maintaining the presence of St Joseph's Hospital in downtown Hamilton is a vital component of our health care system;
"We, the undersigned, request the Minister of Health and the Hamilton-Wentworth District Health Council to ensure the continuance of St Joseph's Hospital at its present site."
I have affixed my signature to this petition.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Mr Arnott from the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly presented the committee's report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bill without amendment:
Bill 22, An Act to provide for an Oath of Allegiance for Members of the Legislative Assembly / Projet de loi 22, Loi prévoyant le serment d'allégeance pour les députés à l'Assemblée législative.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Shall the report be received and adopted?
All those in favour will please say "aye."
I will ask the question again. Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.
Shall Bill 22 be ordered for third reading?
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Committee of the whole House.
The Acting Speaker: Committee of the whole.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
TOWN OF MILTON ACT, 1996
Mr Chudleigh moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill Pr50, An Act respecting the Town of Milton.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mr Chudleigh moved third reading of the following bill:
Bill Pr50, An Act respecting the Town of Milton.
The Acting Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.
ASSOCIATION OF ONTARIO ROAD SUPERINTENDENTS ACT, 1996
Mr Arnott moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill Pr53, An Act respecting the Association of Ontario Road Superintendents.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mr Arnott moved third reading of the following bill:
Bill Pr53, An Act respecting the Association of Ontario Road Superintendents.
The Acting Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.
ASSOCIATION OF REGISTERED GRAPHIC DESIGNERS OF ONTARIO ACT, 1996
Mrs Marland moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill Pr56, An Act respecting the Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mrs Marland moved third reading of the following bill:
Bill Pr56, An Act respecting the Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario.
The Acting Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.
ELECTION AMENDMENT ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 MODIFIANT LA LOI ÉLECTORALE
Mr Sampson moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 44, An Act to amend the Election Act / Projet de loi 44, Loi modifiant la Loi électorale.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Mr Sampson, do you have any comments?
Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): Mr Speaker, may I defer to the member for Brampton South?
The Acting Speaker: You've just moved second reading of a bill. Make any comments you want to make, and after that I'll just go in rotation. Any further debate? Now you can go ahead.
Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): Thank you, Mr Speaker. It took me a while to get up here and participate in this very important and timely piece of legislation, if I might say so.
I wish to outline for the benefit of my colleagues both on this side of the House and opposite what, in our view, the essence of this bill is and subsequently beg leave for their approval in an expeditious way, given that there is something rather timely about Bill 44.
The bill's instant importance relates to the by-election in the electoral district of York South. It proposes certain amendments to the Elections Act which would, we feel, (1) cost the taxpayers less money, and (2) allow for a proper system of enumeration to take place with those cost efficiencies in mind.
The amendments that are proposed in this bill would allow the chief elections officer to utilize last year's -- that is, the voters' list that was used for the June 8 election -- for the York South by-election. This does a couple of things:
(1) By our calculation as well as by the chief elections officer's, it would save a net total of about $55,000. The total cost of enumeration in the riding of York South would be about $70,000. There would be a cost, though, associated with any revision costs of approximately $25,000. We feel that probably in the neighbourhood of $55,000 to $60,000 would be saved through this process.
We wanted to assure the electors in York South that there are a couple of other changes that would allow revision of the voters' list in a way that is both expeditious for the chief elections officer and I think fair to the voters of York South.
In the first place, and this is part of the cost-effective nature of this bill, we remove the need for door-to-door enumeration or a special enumeration canvass in the electoral district in the event -- this is a general rule now as proposed in this bill -- that a by-election or an electoral event, to use the technical term, is held within one year of any general election.
(2) It would be, according to this legislation, allowable for the chief elections officer to ensure additional revision locations that will be used to accommodate the electors who have moved into the riding for the first time.
In addition to that for the first time, this bill recognizes that for those who are living in urban polling locations -- I believe all of York South will be classified as an urban setting -- there will be an opportunity to allow additions up to and including election day. Members of the House know that in rural locations this has been the case, but now we propose to add this in terms of an urban location.
This would allow an opportunity for electors in the riding of York South in the instant case, and on a general basis all other by-election ridings, the ability to register up to and including election day. I think that would be the fair thing to do if we are not doing a new enumeration in the riding.
There are a couple of other things that I wish to draw to the attention of the House. Additional information would be available by the chief elections officer to those who are no longer eligible, and I think on a wider level we can assume that if this system in place now allows for a more expeditious type of enumeration. Maybe there are some lessons that can be learned that would help this House devise further changes to the Elections Act which would allow both an opportunity for electors to have their say and for this to take place, given our financial constraints as a government and as an assembly, in a way that will ensure we are responsible to the taxpayers.
For those reasons, I urge adoption of this bill.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): First of all, it would help if we had a copy of the bill. My understanding is it's somewhere, but there's nothing available in the House, because it seems the member opposite has the details of this bill; we do not.
We endorse the principles of the bill, and I hope that later on today we could get a copy of the bill so we can speak to it in more detail to people who are interested.
The people of York South are extremely anxious to partake in this by-election, and I think -- by the way, Mr Speaker, I have a couple of pages of notes here on it, just handed to me. The people of York South, as I said, are very interested in one change in particular.
As you know, in the last election and many previous elections provincially, there's been a real contradiction in terms of the way you can be added to the voters' list in a provincial election, as opposed to federal or municipal. I know a lot of people sounded most frustrated when they showed up to vote on election day and they were turned away. They were under the assumption the same rules applied federally as they did provincially but, as you know, they didn't.
I know countless numbers, maybe in other members' ridings, had the same experience where they showed up and they were turned away because they couldn't partake on voting day. They couldn't be added to the list. I think that part of the bill, that addition, is very important, considering there isn't going to be the extra enumeration that will take place. I think notice has to be given out to people in York South, hopefully through the candidates and through the elections office, to let them know they can do that.
I would think the critical thing is to give them information in terms of what they need to present to the election officials, the returning officers, that day so they can get on the list, whether it be a birth certificate or a hydro bill or a driver's licence or something. I think those instructions are very, very critical so people will know they can still vote as long as they carry certain documents and what the documents are.
In some cases, as you know, there are a lot of seniors in York South, and perhaps they don't have a driver's licence so alternatives to drivers' licences should be mentioned specifically so people will come with the proper documentation and be included and allowed to vote.
I think that is something that had to be rectified and this bill does that. I think it is a prudent and practical way of approaching the by-election and enumeration process, and that is the highlight of the bill that I think is certainly going to allow as many people as possible to vote in York South. I think the date is May 23, if I'm not mistaken.
Again, we support and endorse this approach, especially with that addition, and hopefully the elections office, the election commission, will disseminate information to the citizens of York South about the changes and the new process in terms of being allowed to vote on election day if you bring the proper documentation. We endorse that and support this bill.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Very briefly, we also will be supporting the legislation. I have a little bit of concern about the process we have followed on this, and that this issue has been around for a while.
The government's been elected for several months. The by-election writs were dropped and then Mr Bailie decides to come forward with a proposal for a change in legislation that now means the legislation has to be rushed through, and we don't have an opportunity to discuss all of the pros and cons of moving in this particular direction, because while it seems like it's a process and a change that is absolutely and totally supportable, there are some possible drawbacks in terms of concerns about possible fraud and concerns about people being left off a voters' list, especially in a riding like York South where the turnover is very, very substantial in any given period of time and there will be a huge change in the voters' list even though it's only 12 months from the time the last election was called; in fact, I think it's a year next Friday.
I agree with the principle of it, and it's obviously important in that it will save the taxpayers money in this by-election. I'm not an expert by any stretch in this particular field, but I believe this is in line with what they do federally. I think we did this when the referendum was held on the Meech Lake accord, or Charlottetown. We didn't have to do an entirely new voters' list; we used the voters' list that was there. It's been tried; it can work.
There have got to be a lot of safeguards put in place, and the member for Oakwood has referred to some of those that are in here. We'll see how it works in this particular by-election. But again, I think it's important, when we're changing the way we carry out our elections in this province, that it be done in a much more thoughtful way than just moving this quickly after writs are dropped and then a bill -- I mean, we're at the point where this bill has to be passed in the next couple of days. We're debating it for second reading today and the bill hasn't even been printed. We've got the copies that were tabled and given to us when the bill was introduced, as is required by these orders. I assume we're breaking the rules of the Legislature in order to proceed quickly with this.
This is not something Mr Bailie would not have known was going to happen, whether it was York South or whatever. He was before the Board of Internal Economy a few weeks ago looking at his budget and said to us that normally after a general election there are at least three by-elections in the first two years. This is normal; this happens.
I think it would have been more useful to take a look at reforms in a more thoughtful way, where we actually had the opportunity -- my recollection about changes in election laws is that they're not just brought forward by Mr Bailie to the Legislature. They're actually brought forward and then they go to representatives of the three political parties who are not necessarily members of the assembly, and officials from the parties sit down and take a look at the amendments, discuss them and decide whether they're appropriate and whether they will strengthen the democratic process in the province. I have some concerns about the process. That's not to take away from the principle, which I think is supportable.
I'll finish by saying that I think there's lots of talk, and has been over the years, about things like permanent voters' lists. I look at the process that they use about a mile and a half from where I live, on the other side of the border, where you get to the point where in the States usually only about 50% to 60% of the eligible voters ever even make it on to the voters' list. Huge numbers of people are missed because they have to register and there's not the kind of process we have. Ours might be in some ways more expensive, but it's a process that I think by and large guarantees virtually everyone the opportunity to get on the voters' list. It's a solid voters' list that allows the democratic process to work and work well.
When there are changes, we should always be careful because I think the process we have in Ontario and in Canada, while it's expensive, does work to strengthen democracy. Sometimes a little bit of money to make sure the democratic process works is worth the expenditure because it's the fundamental basis under which this entire process works.
We'll be supporting the legislation, with those concerns, and we'll be supporting it in a quick way.
The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments? Any further debate?
Mr Sampson has moved second reading of Bill 44, An Act to amend the Election Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? Agreed.
REPORT, STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for adoption of the recommendations contained in the report of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly on security in the legislative precincts.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): I believe that Mr Arnott was the person who had the floor. Any further debate?
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's my pleasure today to rise and make my comments known with regard to the report on security in the precinct of the Legislature. The Legislative Assembly committee did attend to this issue and looked at the resources available to it from both Quebec City and Ottawa and other constituent areas to ensure that there were suitable levels of security within the precinct of the Legislature.
I'm satisfied that this all-party committee fairly reviewed the recommendations contained within the report and had full discussions with indeed the Speaker and the Clerk of the Legislature. I submit that this has been given full review by each caucus. It was my understanding at the stage when this report was voted on in the committee that all members of the committee at that time were in support of the committee's recommendations.
I'm interested in the other parties' points of view and would respond.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I'll be very brief on this report. First of all, I want to compliment the Chair of the committee, the member for Wellington, who I think attempted on a relatively difficult issue -- I don't mean in terms of a lot of public interest in this particular process, but differences of opinion within the committee -- to bring about a consensus on where we should move in terms of some increased security, but some practical changes that I think will serve all the interests of the public as well as the interests of the staff of the assembly, staff of the caucuses and members of the assembly.
I must say I went into this process not at all open to the concept of things like signing in and having nametags once you've come in or having to phone up to MPPs' offices. But the argument was put forward, and there were other compromises on the other side that were put forward, and I've come to the conclusion that in 1996 -- I don't know what we call it in here, registration, but limited: having access for the public to come in so that people know who's in the building so there's some additional security.
The most compelling argument that was made to me was a couple of the staff who came forward and said that even though they hadn't experienced an incident, they still felt less secure in the assembly today than they might have 10 years ago and, as a result of that, there was a need to at least have some additional security that would allow them to carry out their functions in the assembly in a more secure and comfortable way. We're not adding that much new security, just some controls so people know who is in the assembly and that there's some access to the assembly.
I think one of the very positive things is that we moved away from having the permanent barriers out front, which we in this caucus felt was a very negative move several months ago and actually encouraged difficulties at the assembly, that when you can have speakers on the front steps of the assembly and have the public address system available to the demonstrators, and the organizers are on the front steps, that in itself is an additional level of security. But also just the optics of having permanent barriers out in front of the assembly I think says to the public that their Parliament is not open to the public, and that was a very wrong and bad message to be communicating to the public when that decision was made.
There are some major recommendations in here on how to organize the security force. I agree with those recommendations. It was a strong position by the Speaker. So I want to say on behalf of our caucus that we support this report and we will be voting in favour of it. I also want to say that I congratulate the Speaker for bringing forth some of his ideas and making sure this referral took place to the assembly. The support and advice that were provided by the security force and the police, but in particular the staff here and the Clerk of the assembly, who spoke to us on a number of occasions in camera with his advice and the Speaker's advice, I think helped very much lead to the consensus that the committee has reported.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a different view of security than some of my colleagues have in the Legislature, because I happen to believe that this Legislative Assembly should be as open to the public as possible. I recognize that there are some problems with that. One thing I want to say is that when I came to this Legislature in June 1977, people could virtually walk in off the street at any time and have access to this building. They could walk into the public gallery, sit down and observe what was happening. As long as they maintained their silence in the gallery itself -- and you're not allowed to take notes, apparently, except in the press gallery -- things were fine. People liked that access. I remember that when I was a student I used to from time to time come and sit in the gallery up there and watch the proceedings of the House and the eloquent speakers that were in the Legislative Assembly in those days.
Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): That was a long time ago.
Mr Bradley: A long time ago indeed, as some of my colleagues will say.
I then become very concerned when I see the kind of security that reminds me of Ottawa. When you go to Ottawa -- and I understand; they had a bomb go off in a washroom there, and that certainly scared a lot of people. The experience in the National Assembly of Quebec scared a lot of people, quite obviously for very good reason, when there were people killed and some people I believe injured when a person shot up the inside of the assembly in that particular case.
So I understand that and I know that in these days it's important to protect the Premier of the province, whoever that happens to be, and the senior cabinet ministers, who tend to be more the targets of people who are dissatisfied than those in the opposition or those who are in the back benches on either side of the House or the front benches on this side of the House. We tend not to have the power, so nobody tends to be too confrontational with us.
But one thing I don't like: If this report contains signing in, I don't like that. I don't think it's anybody's business who is going to anybody's office. You go to Ottawa and you have to sign in, they're putting badges on you, and they call up to say so-and-so is coming up. It's unfortunate. Perhaps the members of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly who dealt with the report said, "Well, that's 1996, unfortunately, and that's the way it has to be."
But I really think there was a lot of virtue to this place when Premier Davis was the Premier of the day. The opposition leaders at that time were Stuart Smith and for the NDP it would have been Stephen Lewis. The three of them would have talked about matters of security in those days, as would the House leaders.
I just think we're becoming overly secure. I'm not critical of the people who are proposing that because it's certainly well meaning in terms of the proposing of that. I don't think a lot of people like it either, even those who are proposing it. But there is a virtue to the freedom to come into a building that the public as a whole owns and to observe what is going on without being hassled by people in the hallway as to who you are and what you're doing there.
It's important to have special security on the Premier of the province. I know within this building there is special security, and when the Premier's going anywhere, he has with him people who are, for want of a better word, bodyguards -- we call them security. It's important the Premier have that because no one wants the Premier to be in any physical danger at any time. We have disagreements in this House, some very strong disagreements verbally in this House, but we want to ensure that our Premier, whoever that is, is secure from the kind of unfortunate attacks that have taken place in other jurisdictions. I certainly understand that and I'm not critical of that.
But everywhere you look now there's a surveillance camera. You walk down the hallway and there's a surveillance camera on you. You're out in the parking lot and there's a surveillance camera. I get a little bit annoyed with that kind of thing. Maybe that's the reality of 1996. Some of my friends who have served on the committee would say, "We accept this report because that is the reality," but this constant surveillance, the constant hassling of people, is not pleasant.
With regard to the front, I think in some cases -- not all the time -- when we have demonstrations there are going to be people who show up who are there to make trouble. I suppose if you looked at any of the film or tape of that over the years, you would see that there were certain people who were around here when there was great trouble to be caused outside, but the majority of people aren't that way. They come here to demonstrate.
Essentially what used to happen was that they would show up at the front and the opposition people would go out and say: "Of course you're right. The government is terrible and we're on your side." Then the government spokesperson would come out and everyone would boo and say, "Isn't it awful?" But at least the minister came out to speak to them and then they went away satisfied. They could go back home and say, "I booed" -- the minister of whatever -- "the Chairman of Management Board this afternoon, and I showed him what I really thought of him." There was a little bit of venting of anger without any physical confrontation with the minister or anyone else, which we would not want to see.
Sometimes the security barriers tend to get people to want to charge them or remove them, so that's a difficult issue. On the other hand, we had an unfortunate incident with some members of a student delegation who were here. There was a demonstration and a large number of people here, and a few of them, a minority of that group, confronted the security here and did some damage at the front. They should be liable for that damage, should pay for that damage. It's a building that belongs to all the people of this province and I don't think there's an excuse for that kind of violence.
Nevertheless, I think it's important to note that when these demonstrations take place, or any activity around here, by and large the people of Ontario, even those protesting, are pretty sedate people.
There's an interesting story that relates to security and the recent strike that took place in Ontario. An individual who was from another province and held a cabinet portfolio in another province came up to a building -- he didn't know the strike was on -- and saw a picket line, people carrying picket signs with their slogans and so on. He went up to a door, tried the door and could not get into the building. He was walking away in a disappointed fashion when one of the people carrying a picket sign, a woman, came over to him and said, "Well, sir, if you actually go over and press this buzzer, someone will come to the door and let you in."
This was not what you'd call a very militant action in that particular case. I realize there are different cases, but as a demonstration, I think most people are pretty fairminded, most people are pretty sedate and reserved, even within a demonstration, but there are going to be people who cause problems and must be dealt with in a way they don't like but that sometimes is going to be necessary.
I know it deals here with the controlled access to the Legislative Building, and again, people in the upper gallery have to go through a metal detector. They have an interesting situation in the United States Congress. When I was a minister, I had to meet with several Senators and members of the House of Representatives to try to persuade them to do the right thing on acid rain, which was the issue at that time. When you walked into their building, the only thing you had to do, essentially, was go through a metal detector. I can't recall anyone demanding where we were going, as a delegation, or what we were doing there. It was simply going through a metal detector. The only reason we would have asked was we would not know exactly where the office might have been.
While they are security-conscious and they have had their problems as well, there wasn't that you-must-identify-yourself circumstance. I'm a bit uneasy if someone comes to the door and they have to be identified, because there's always a log there. I know we do our best to ensure privacy and security of information, but if you don't believe that wouldn't appear on the front page of some publication at any particular time, then you're quite naïve as to who was visiting.
My friend the member for St Catharines-Brock is here. He might have a person who has some secret information about the government that the person wants to reveal. That person would have to sign in to bring this information, and then the member would not be able to retain the security of information that I know he would want to have, if that person were bringing this secret information that may be helpful to the people of this province.
There are requirements for members' staff and visitor identification and in some cases I can see that's useful. For instance, if you're getting into the assembly chamber and the chairs behind the Speaker, or people are in the lobby behind either the opposition or the government, it's important that they have some kind of identification. I can recall when the NDP was in power, there was a woman -- not that it meant any difference to the NDP, I'm just saying a period of time. When the NDP was in power, someone had come through the back lobby and around and out on to the floor of the Legislature to confront the then Minister of Health. That was not a pleasant situation. The person was not violent in this case, but I can certainly understand the need for identification in that case.
A protocol for public demonstrations: I think one that is lenient enough that it allows people and actually encourages people to express their views without causing damage to the property or without being unduly disruptive, is quite acceptable. That's where if you provide these people with a microphone and perhaps a podium, that can be quite helpful in encouraging the demonstration to be peaceful, or sometimes a flatbed truck is what they like to have out there, that they want to have out there. If they have that, they can bring their guitars out and have a nice demonstration. You can enjoy the music if you want to. But I think when we try to put too many roadblocks in the way of the demonstration, it can become a problem.
Crowd control -- listen, that's the hardest job there is. I recognize that. I was concerned when I saw what happened here on the day when there was a large demonstration associated with the strike. I know how difficult it is for security people, just watching them. I know how uneasy all of us felt when we saw at least the visual of a major confrontation between police forces and individuals on the picket line, and that's why the government has called an inquiry to find out just what happened and, most important in these matters, how we can improve upon that, how we can try to avoid that situation, what caused it and how we can overcome it in the future.
I think it's incumbent upon all of us, now that the inquiry has been appointed -- and Bud Estey, Willard Estey, who is a former Supreme Court judge, is a very respected person in the judicial field, so I would be confident that he would be very fairminded and a good choice for that particular inquiry. I think we all hope it will be a relatively quick inquiry, a focused inquiry, and I think all of us have to be not biased in what we think he should come forward with. That's why we have an inquiry of this kind, and that's why I think it can provide some use to us in the assembly.
So those are the areas. There are many details of this with which I become concerned. I happen to use the back door from time to time because it's close to the parking lot -- some of the members who park out at the back would find that -- for carrying items in and out of the building. I would hope that we're not into a situation, as members, where everybody has to truck around to the front door or where it's a situation where it's virtually impossible to come in at unorthodox hours with the material that we have to take to our offices, because members don't work 9 to 5. Members probably work something like 6 to -- it can be 3 o'clock in the morning if necessary.
I appreciate the role of the Speaker. I know it's a difficult role when you're trying to deal with security. As always, appropriate training -- I think everybody's talked about appropriate training of those who are responsible for security -- is an important component of any report. I know that while there are some items in this report with which I would find myself in disagreement, it was a pretty good consensus of the people who served on the committee that this represented in fact a consensus or a compromise of the views which were expressed.
When we're talking about matters related to the assembly, that's probably the way it should be, not one person or one party imposing a regimen on others, but a consensus being reached. That's why when I speak, let's say, not against, but when I question some of the provisions of this, I hope it's not taken as a criticism whereby I believe there should be a standing vote against this particular committee report.
A lot of people have put work into this. The members of the committee, the staff of the assembly, and the security people themselves have all put a lot of work into advising members on the best way of handling this.
I would conclude simply by saying that I lament the fact that we have to move as far as this assembly report, the Report on Security in the Legislative Precincts, dictates and suggests. But I'm always open-minded enough to concede that perhaps others who have studied this very carefully and looked at all the options are facing the reality, an unfortunate reality that it is, of 1996. I thank the members of the committee for giving due consideration to all the matters that were brought before it in developing a report for members of the assembly.
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): My comments will be most --
Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): Brief?
Mr Pouliot: Yes, brief, most broadly summarized.
The report strikes a balance between recognizing and living through the changing times, meeting the challenge, and yet the long-standing right of people to first assemble and demonstrate, sometimes in favour, more often than not to voice some legitimate discontent. Legitimate discontent has been long related to being among the -- well, a mainspring of civilization, to say the least.
The barricades have been removed. There was a consensus; we felt in some cases that it could be un agent provocateur or at the least a sign that people were not always welcome. It meant: Beware.
I was on the steps of the assembly, Mr Speaker, and I say this to you with respect. I know of your role in your jurisdiction as a sort of commander. You will forgive me if I don't excel in exactitude, but you're the one who rules over these chambers. For some it might be anecdotal but not to you, I'm sure.
The barricades have been removed. You also have in front of the Legislature a new entrance, a new platform, new sidewalks with a granite-like style of steps, but you have no access for the disabled. This is the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. You no longer have a ramp. The building is still accessible. People say the south entrance does not have accessibility, but the north entrance does. The front of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is the south entrance. There used to be one. We're not talking about a great number of dollars. It can easily be incorporated in the design. It causes a threat to no one, but for people who come in vehicles, and most people who are unable to climb the steps do, the front is more accessible than the back, and it stands to reason. Yet you have to ask people to use the back.
I'm just asking, through your good office, for a few dollars more. Architects tell us it can easily be reconciled. We used to have them before but there are no plans, I'm told, to have them at the front at this time. Why don't we endeavour to see what the minimal cost would be -- I'm convinced it's not more than that -- to make sure that the front of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario at least has accessibility for the disabled?
Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): I too support the recommendations of the committee. However, in my own personal opinion, they don't go far enough in terms of protecting and providing security for not only members of the elected assembly but for the staff contained within this building or for the citizens -- the public, the tourists -- who visit this historic building.
I don't say that lightly; I say that with some experience. Let me preface by saying that I served as a police officer for over eight years with the former Kitchener city police department. During my years on council there I served six years as the vice-chairman and commissioner and as chairman of the Waterloo Regional Police Services Board, so I think my comments add some credence to the topic at hand.
If you look at any institution within this community, if you look at the residence where we reside, there is a very strong emphasis on security within those buildings, not only for the tenants but for those who visit the tenants. We have security in this community and we have security in all our communities, whether it's an urban or a rural riding. If you look at the emphasis within our school system, within the municipalities, we have local crime prevention or crime safety councils within our community, within our schools; we have various task forces dealing with the element of crime in the community; we do safety audits within our communities for those who are less vulnerable; we do Take Back the Night programs in many communities.
There are major initiatives occurring across Canada and, more importantly, within the province of Ontario, within all our respective ridings. The basis of all the programs is safety and security, and that is the topic the honourable member Mr O'Toole has spoken to in this House. It's a very serious topic and should be treated with a great deal of respect and very seriously.
I personally don't feel that it goes far enough. Security measures can be very subtle and can provide a very strong element of safety. There are many methods, and I won't get into the methods; I don't think we should discuss the logistics of the security measures. Again, that in itself is part of the security program.
I think all members of this House should work cooperatively with the committee and with the recommendations. If they need modification, then so be it, but it's done in the interest of the safety of the members of this Legislature, the members of the public and the staff who come in here. It's probably one of the most important issues we'll deal with, one of the many we'll deal with in this House.
As you know, the demographics of society have changed and are changing. The fabric of this community, of the communities we represent are changing. There is a very subtle and very strong influence, an inference about safety in our communities. It is a fact, it is a way of life and we have to deal with it in a very responsible and responsive manner.
I think that is the attitude of Mr O'Toole, the member, and the attitude of the committee. We've had tremendous input from some very leading experts and from people who have had vast experience within this precinct. We should take heed and very seriously give strong consideration to this and also to any modifications that will enhance and improve the security in this Legislative Building.
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I'll only be a few minutes, but I felt I would like to add some of my personal comments to this as well.
It saddens me whenever we have to discuss an issue like this, but I realize it's necessary and I compliment the committee for the work it's done. I guess it does depend on your perspective, your point of view, your experience. I come from a small, urban and rural riding. Quite frankly, because of our different experiences, I respect the member for Kitchener-Wilmot and his comments that this doesn't go far enough; I guess it's sufficient for me to say that I'm sad it even has to go this far.
I came to this place a little more than two years ago and I viewed it much the same as my colleague from St Catharines, as a public place. Rather than discussing how we can restrict access to this place, I think we should be discussing, albeit we'd be heading for the same centre ground, and I would prefer the discussion were in a positive way, how can we make it more accessible and yet retain the security of the Legislature?
That being as it may, I want to comment, as my colleague previously commented, that if there's one issue in this report I do not agree with, it's that you have to sign in and that you have to tell someone where you're going and who you're going to see. It should be sufficient that we can be assured that the person who comes in is not a danger to anyone in the building, but in these days of government knowing more than I'd like it to know about anybody's private business, I'm opposed to the fact that you have to sign in and say where you're going. I agree with my colleague that unless there's very strict control of those papers people have to sign, it may intimidate some people and I don't think we should be doing that.
Again from a personal perspective, and I'll conclude with this, the time I've been most disappointed in the last two years was on the day of March 18. There was, I assume, because this is updating our security procedure, a plan in place at that time, and as a member I have to say that there was no information given to me as a member personally by the Speaker, who is in charge of security, as to how I should proceed that day. I was able to come into the building. I was able to gain access to the building, frankly without any, or at least very little, restriction. But my concern prior to the day, that morning, and I've thought about it since, is that not one bit of communication that I'm aware of -- I put that caveat in just in case it didn't get to me -- instructed me as a member as to what specific procedure I should take to get into this Legislature that day. I say that because that's my experience, and I hope the committee would take that into consideration in any finalization of the report, or the Speaker would take it into consideration, that you can have all of these measures in place but you also have to tell individual members and their staff how they should proceed under those specific circumstances.
In conclusion, I would say too, albeit it's a beautiful building -- why my offices are in the Whitney Block. Granted, Speaker, we have fewer mice over there and no ghosts that I'm aware of, although I would like to see the ghost that they tell us roams these halls --
Mr Crozier: I do need the exercise, yes. Thank you. But as I read the report, I took it that there's a little less concern about the Whitney Block than there is about this building.
Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): It's only because you're there.
Mr Crozier: It's only because I'm there. If that's the case, and I'm not really concerned anyway, I hope the Whitney Block is included in that, because the Premier has one of his offices, I understand, on the fifth or sixth floor. I've never been invited up there, but I hope that the Whitney Block, if we have to go to these lengths, is considered in all this, and with respect, I have given these comments.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to add a few brief comments. As one of the members who have their names attached to this, there were a few things I did want to put on the record at the time that we approve it. Of course, the first is to be very clear that I am supportive of the report and all of the recommendations and intend to vote for this. I understand we're having a voice vote shortly, and I will be with the crowd that votes yea.
Having said that, one of the things I want to comment on is that I had a great deal of trepidation going into this process, having heard -- and I'm not going to name members, because that's not the intent of these comments -- but having listened to some members of the government make various comments here and there and with the reputation this crowd has on the issue of law and order and from our point of view that that reputation is one of being beyond the pale and beyond the necessary into the sort of Preston Manning, Reform Party, hard-line, simplistic viewpoint of how we deal with issues such as security and punishment and justice and crime and that whole range of issues, I was very concerned about getting into a process that in any way might at the end of the day have myself, my caucus and I think others who feel similar ways in the Liberal Party agreeing or in some way being co-opted into agreeing to things that quite frankly we just shouldn't or otherwise wouldn't, and one doesn't rush into these sorts of things.
However, first of all because of the staffing needs of our caucus in terms of making sure people are there, plus, I suspect to some degree, my experience as the previous Solicitor General, there were fairly good reasons why I might be one of the members from our caucus. I want to say also that in our initial discussions, in our initial review of security measures, some of my original fears were being borne out, and after listening to some of the thoughts off the tops of the heads of some of my colleagues in the government back benches, I began to think that perhaps I had made a dreadful mistake and that indeed what I needed was an exit strategy out of this thing, because it was clearly going in the dumper and I didn't want any part of where it looked like it was going to go.
Having said all of that, I think all of us on the committee, from all three parties, learned a lot about the issue of security in parliaments. There was a real desire on all our parts to try to find a series of recommendations we could support. There was a lot of goodwill on the part of all members to deal in an honest and open way and to be as non-partisan as possible -- and we know that's not easy in this place -- to pull together a report that reflects the give and take of people with different viewpoints trying to find common ground.
I think we found that. Certainly all of us were deeply moved by what we saw at the Quebec National Assembly, particularly when we traced the route of the individual who burst into that Parliament with a series of automatic weapons and began firing away indiscriminately, not only injuring but killing people.
I was personally very moved by standing at the spot where this individual came around a corner and was firing a semi-automatic rifle, and right on the other side of that corner was a group of school children who were taking a tour that day. It's only by the grace of God and the presence of mind of the teacher who was with them that they hit the ground and, for some unknown reason, perhaps the fate of God Himself or Herself, the shots went all around those kids and did not touch any of them. Being the parent of a four-year-old daughter, it moved me.
I realize, of course, that we can't prevent all things that may happen in a public building or prepare adequately for all types of indiscriminate violence that we may have in society. But we do have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to provide reasonable protection for not just the members but the staff who work here and the visitors who come here and our pages and everyone else who either has someone who works here or knows someone who visits here regularly. They expect there to be a certain level of commonsense security -- I refuse to stop using the term; no matter how much you've badly destroyed it, I just refuse to. People have that right to expect us to take those measures, and I think this report reflects that.
I take seriously the comments of some members who feel that even this document goes too far, and this is one of those issues where they could be right. I don't think there's any right or wrong one can definitively point to when we're dealing with issues like this. As my colleague the member for Essex South said in his comments, a lot of it has to do with the experience you bring here, your own personal viewpoint on these issues, your own philosophy and, to some degree, the politics of the issue, as is always the case with everything.
But I think we've put together a series of recommendations that make sense, which I am prepared to defend in the face of those who say, "You didn't go far enough." We've heard that today. I am prepared to say we have taken reasonable measures here. There may need to be changes down the road, loosening or tightening. Who knows? But for now, I am comfortable defending that, and for those who say we should do nothing and it should remain the way it is, I am equally comfortable saying no.
I find it rather ridiculous that staff people who work here who don't have their badge are being turned away at the door, while unknown individuals who don't work here just walk through and are allowed to come and go as they please. That doesn't make any sense. Either everybody has to have some element of being recorded as at least being here, some semblance of knowing who's here and what the activities are -- protecting the rights citizens have and that people who visit us have -- or open it wide open and change nothing, or give everybody some kind of recognition. But the idea that staff who are known would be stopped at the door because they don't have their badge and are sent back while others are allowed to come in, to me is idiotic. Therefore, we needed to make some decisions.
Having visited the House of Commons and having had very good discussions, I think those of us who participated in visiting those two parliaments would want to thank those individuals for being so honest and up front. There was not a security question we had that they weren't prepared to answer fully and completely, including the downside to some of the things they were doing or future concerns they had. If ever there was an incidence of nation-building, certainly that small experience is one I would point to where those three parliaments were working together for the common good of citizens that have a right to have access to these Parliament Buildings.
A couple more comments and then I'll take my place. I'm very pleased we've removed those bloody barriers from the front of the building that were dropped in there and anchored there. I think if you talk to average Ontarians, nothing bothers people more than the idea that there are these permanent barriers that made this place look like an armed camp, and unfortunately, given the agenda of this government, there are going to be more and larger and louder protests as we move along.
We haven't said that the barriers won't be there at all, but we have said that the sight of permanent barriers does not reflect what Ontarians see when they see their Legislative Building. I, for one, think that was one of the best things to come out of this, and I think the rest of the measures that we're taking -- I also regret the fact that we have to do anything, but I do think these are reasonable measures.
I want to end on a positive note by again complimenting and thanking my parliamentary colleagues from all parties who very quickly recognized that it was in our best interests as elected members, full stop, not adding the party label, to try to find common ground so that something as significant and fundamental as the security of this building has the support of all three parties. The Speaker knows he has the support of all three parties, and I think that will make it much easier for us to continue. The idea that there'll be an ongoing committee is a good thing, where there won't be things like the barriers dropped in cement without an opportunity for us to have comment and give that to the Speaker of the day.
The conclusion of the report is one long but important sentence, and I want to enter it as part of my comments. It reads simply:
"The committee is hopeful that these recommendations will offer a balance between the need to ensure that the precincts remain open and accessible to individuals who wish to participate in parliamentary democracy and the need to maintain the safety and security of the Legislative Building, its users and visitors, and the institution it represents."
As one of the members who brought this into the House from that committee, I think we have achieved that and I think we've done it in a non-partisan way. I do think this is one of the few opportunities we will have during the course of this government's mandate to see all three parties agree on issues like this. I would think those who enjoy this kind of unanimity should savour the moment. There won't be very many. But on this one we were able to rise above our own partisan politics and do what was in the best interests of all Ontarians vis-à-vis their Ontario Parliament Building.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further debate?
On the motion by Mr Arnott for the adoption of the report of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly, shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed? Agreed.
MPPS PENSION AND COMPENSATION REFORM ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 PORTANT RÉFORME DE LA RÉTRIBUTION ET DU RÉGIME DE RETRAITE DES DÉPUTÉS
Mr Sampson moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 42, An Act to reform MPPs' pensions, to eliminate tax-free allowances and to adjust MPPs' compensation levels / Projet de loi 42, Loi portant réforme du régime de retraite des députés, éliminant les allocations non imposables et rajustant les niveaux de rétribution des députés.
Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): I'm pleased today to move second reading of Bill 42, An Act to reform MPPs' pensions, to eliminate tax-free allowances and to adjust MPPs' compensation levels.
This bill delivers on our commitment to abolish the MPPs' gold-plated pension plan and to get rid of our tax-free allowances. With the passage of this bill, the salaries and total compensation paid to members will be open and understandable.
As the Minister of Finance indicated last week, this bill does away with the gold-plated pension plan which offers benefits well beyond those in pension plans available to other people in Ontario. As we promised in the Common Sense Revolution, the government will replace the pension plan with an RSP-type retirement savings arrangement for MPPs, much like those available to many other working Ontarians. Passage of this bill will also bring a major change to the way MPPs are paid and will reduce their total compensation.
The Ontario MPP Compensation Commission, an independent group of experts, after examining pay levels for a number of positions that carry similar responsibilities, recommended that the total compensation for members be $110,000. The commission also calculated that in 1993 the true value of an MPP's compensation, taking into account the hidden, tax-free allowances and other benefits which most Ontarians do not get, was almost $99,000.
This Legislature recently froze MPPs' compensation at social contract levels. This was, on the basis to that used by the compensation commission, $93,389. With the passage of this bill, the salary for a member of this Legislature will be $78,007 and associated benefits will be $6,958. Adding the employer's RSP-type contribution of $3,900, the total compensation package will be $88,865. This is approximately 20% lower than the commission recommended, 10% lower than MPPs received in 1993 and approximately 5% below current levels.
I also want to advise members that some minor amendments to the legislation are required. I will be dealing with those in greater detail at the appropriate time in committee.
The passage of this bill will allow the public to know for the first time in Ontario's history exactly what members are paid and how they are paid. Its passage will end tax-free allowances and extra tax-free compensation for committee work. The measures in this bill to bring further openness and accountability to government are consistent with our commitment to reduce the cost and size of government. They are also consistent with the commitment we made in the Common Sense Revolution to restore the public's faith in the service of its elected members.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I don't think it will be a long debate this afternoon since, as you're aware, all three parties have indicated support for this bill, and it's not actually in the nature of an opposition leader to spend a great deal of time speaking in support of a government initiative. This initiative, however, is a little bit different because it affects every single member of the Legislature directly.
I can't think of another matter in which a member has a direct pecuniary interest, where we will benefit financially or perhaps not benefit financially but which affects us financially, in which a member would not declare a conflict of interest and not participate in a vote, and yet on this particular issue we are required to vote on legislation that sets our compensation as MPPs.
I don't think any member votes on their own compensation comfortably, and that is particularly true in these very difficult times of financial restraint and rather drastic cutbacks, but we have no alternative but to have legislators themselves take the responsibility of addressing and determining this issue.
There has been a succession of private sector, independent commissions established by successive governments and all have come back, in my memory, recommending salary increases for MPPs based on the comparisons they have made of the pay received by MPPs to that received by others that members of the commission would consider to be appropriate comparators. But in my memory, none of the recommendations of those independent commissions has ever been acted on, and members' pay has been, by and large, frozen for a number of years. I think the reason those independent commissions' recommendations have not been acted on is that successive governments, and indeed all MPPs in Ontario, have recognized that we have to set an example, and I believe that has been done.
Still, the issue of how MPPs are paid, as difficult as it is for members to address this matter of their own compensation, had to be addressed. It had to be addressed in this particular year because of a shared commitment to ensure that our full compensation was reported, was clearly understood and was fully taxable. The proposals on pay, on compensation for MPPs, that are before us today I believe achieve that goal, and it is for that reason our caucus will be supporting them.
The second issue that had to be addressed was the matter of MPPs' pensions. This matter had to be dealt with because pensions for MPPs were clearly out of step with pensions received by employees in either the public or the private sector. It had to be addressed in this particular session because all three parties were committed to reform of the current pension plan.
Our party was the first to set out in writing our commitment to specific changes to the MPPs' pension plan. The changes we had initially proposed included changing the minimum age at which a retired member could draw the pension to 55, ending double-dipping and requiring that members serve at least five years across two consecutive terms before they would qualify for a pension.
From that initial set of recommendations, we moved to endorse the conversion of the MPPs' pension plan to an RRSP. It seemed a simpler approach than modifications to the existing plan and certainly one which would be more clearly understood by the public. Our commitment to change from the MPPs' pension plan to an RRSP was one we made clear to all those who were seeking office as Liberal candidates in 1995. Therefore, since this proposal to convert existing pension plans to an RRSP follows through on that commitment, we will support the legislation and support the replacement of our pension plan with an RRSP contribution plan.
I further want to indicate that having seen the small number of proposed amendments to the original proposals, I appreciate that there has been some further clarification made to some specific sections of the act, and I think that was necessary.
I just want to add a further word because I do believe that this move from a pension plan to an RRSP is a direction of the future, that it's not just a direction for MPPs but is a direction we will see more widely in the public and the private sectors. If we look back, and I don't want to go too far back in time or take the time to go too far back, we'd probably recognize that the reason MPPs have had what the public has seen as a lucrative pension plan is because there has been no job security in elected office. There is still no job security in elected office. That is a reality of our business. But I think what's changed is that there is less and less job security for anybody these days. Increasingly, I think self-directed retirement plans are going to be the major source of retirement security for individuals.
As we move to change our pension plan to convert it to an RRSP, I want to challenge governments, to challenge this government, to challenge the federal government, to challenge future governments to deal with what I think is an important public policy issue and one we shouldn't wait too long to address; that is, how we can ensure the portability of pension plans and, perhaps more importantly, the ability to convert pension plans you qualify for in one workplace to an RRSP if you're changing your employment or your employment status. Without this, workers who change their jobs frequently throughout their careers -- and that will be a reality of the future -- or those who lose their jobs well into their working lives will not be able to ensure their financial independence on retirement. That would be a tremendous concern for future generations of retirees as well as for future governments.
It is likely that there will be very few people in the future who will serve 25 to 30 years in one job and retire with a full pension. That is why I believe both that we are setting the way with our own changes to our pension plan with this bill, but that we must look at the challenge of how it should be further carried through in private and public sector policy.
Let me conclude by stressing the importance of the work done by members of the provincial Parliament. I think sometimes as we get caught up in the debates, we can lose sight of the value of the work that is done by individual members and the importance of the work that is done here. That importance therefore means it's important that we be able to recruit strong candidates, people from all fields, people who have a wide range of background and experience. That's why it is so important that the compensation for MPPs be fair as well as reasonable in the view of those who elect us, who pay our salaries and whom we represent.
Because we feel this legislation is presented in a sincere attempt to achieve that very essential goal, it will have our support.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I'll be brief. We'll be supporting the legislation, as we indicated before, but I do want to make a couple of general comments and then maybe a couple of specific comments.
First of all, specific on the process: We'll be doing second reading today. I understand there will be some amendments coming when we get to the committee stage of the bill. There are a couple of questions that all of us have asked that we'll want some answers to from the government House leader when we get to the clause-by-clause examination of the bill.
I do want to say that for those of us who have been around this place for a while, dealing with MPPs' pay and pension has always been a very difficult issue. People can say that this is not the right time to look at properly raising MPPs' pay to what every independent commission or individual has ever said we should be getting paid. Look, I've been in this place during recession and during the boom time, and there's never a good time of dealing with MPPs' pay and pension. It's never politically popular.
There are people out there who, because politicians are not always viewed as being the most popular people in the world, would actually think the best thing we could do with MPPs' pension is not to roll it into an RRSP, but to take the money that's been contributed by us and by our employer, the assembly, and put it against the deficit, that we shouldn't be paid in this place; we should actually be paying to be in this place. I'm not personally wealthy, so what I could pay would be pretty minimal.
At some point members and others have to say -- I agree with the editorial in the Globe today -- that being an elected official in Ontario, in Canada, in any democratic society is a very important and honourable position to have. We can't continue to diminish the role of an elected official by saying we're taking a 5% cut here or we're taking a six-year freeze here, we're taking another 5% cut, when the reality is that if you look at some of the pay here and what people get in the private sector and even in other positions in the public sector, it becomes increasingly difficult to attract people to run for office, not because people want to make themselves personally wealthy, but because you have to have an adequate income to finance your family.
There are additional costs that come with being a member of provincial Parliament or a politician, whether it's banquet tickets, whether it's -- I'm not going to get into any of the discussions we've had during question period in the last couple of days, but there are additional expenditures that we pay for out of our own pockets.
To constantly say we should be lowering MPPs' wages does nothing to make it accessible for people to be able to run for these positions. The goal has to be, obviously, to have a fair compensation package, a fair pension or retirement package, that will allow people to make that choice of whether they want to become directly involved as candidates in the democratic process.
I take a look, when we do our candidate searches for elections, and it's difficult. How do you approach a principal in a high school in Ontario's education system? "You have to take a cut in pay in order to come to the Ontario Legislature." That's not to say that principals are overpaid, that's not the point at all; the point is that it's not appropriate, even though it scores political points, to say we're constantly taking cuts in our pay.
I'm one who says we need to be fair. We can't be extravagant, we never should be extravagant, but we have to be fair and we have to have a package that will attract good people to run for offices in all three of these political parties or whatever other political parties come along in this province.
In the meantime, I think this package at least moves to make the system more transparent, and I think that's appropriate. The tax-free portion was never appropriate, at least in the time I've been here. I remember when I got elected in 1977, the pay was $14,000 basic pay and $7,000 tax-free. We've moved away from the one third tax-free. At the local level, at the municipal council level and the school board level, it's still one third tax-free. I hope the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Minister of Education will take a look at that. I don't think it can be left to local discretion. It's provided for in our legislation and I think therefore we need to change our legislation.
As I was saying, this package, I think, at least makes our pay package, our pensions, RRSPs -- it's all politics, but an RRSP is a pension, and we're now setting up a group pension plan that's going to be called an RRSP. It's like eliminating the GST by having the PST and the GST put together and having one. I guess it fulfils a campaign promise the Premier has made, and therefore we can go along with it, but it's still a pension plan.
I don't think we should apologize for having a pension plan. The average stay in this place is four years. The majority of people who serve in this place never were able to collect under the old pension plan. Even at the end of the 42-year reign of the Tory government, the average stay was seven years. So the majority of people at that point did not ever collect a full or even close to a full pension plan in this place.
The way it was always reported, and quite frankly reinforced by a lot of members of political parties who are represented here, gave everybody the impression that all you had to do is serve five years, get re-elected, and you got a full pension plan in this place. That simply was not true. In fact, if you serve on the Board of Internal Economy and you take a look at some of the pensions paid to widows, survivors, out of the I think 190 people drawing from the pension plan, you will see that most of those amounts are pretty small. You can pick out the two or three or four that are large. They're not representative because the average stay in this place is four years, and as I said before, after 42 years of one party in power, the average stay was seven.
Let's keep it in some perspective. Let's not play to the National Citizens' Coalition and the group of people who have no respect for the political process or for government in general. Let's be honest with people. Let's make sure we have a system in place that attracts good candidates from all three political parties so we can have the highest quality possible in this assembly. That's only going to happen when you have fair pay, fair compensation, transparent pay, transparent compensation. I do believe this is a step in the right direction, one we can support.
I'll finish by saying that we always had this simplistic view in the past that you could have independent commissions. For years, you will remember, we had recommendations that came forward from the Commission on Election Finances that always recommended what our pay should be and every year it was a ritual that the Premier of the day would take the report and would make a headline by saying, "We reject the recommendation because it calls for a pay increase." It guaranteed that one day a year the Premier got good press. It was a farce.
No matter how arm's-length the process is, the decision always is going to come back to the legislators, because if you have an independent commission, the fact is you can always overrule the independent commission by passing legislation in here. The buck has to stop here. That's what we're elected for, and I hope that while we take this step today, we will also take a look in the future, when it's appropriate, to have a pay that is in line with the kinds of recommendations that are made.
The independent commission: You will remember the Premier said he was going to set up an independent group of people to take a look at pay and he was going to instantaneously implement those recommendations. You will note that he didn't. He got a good day's headline by rejecting the recommendations. The fact is that he instead chose to take the populist approach, to attack politicians by saying we're going to have a 20% reduction in pay. We'll support that. That's going to happen. That's what will be implemented. But I say that at some point the democratic process is going to suffer if we do not start looking at what is fair, what is competitive and what will attract the best people to be elected in this place.
You and I know that no member of this place will ever be elected or defeated on the basis of accepting or rejecting a fair compensation package. The democratic process has a little more integrity to it than that. At some point we've got to bite the bullet, do what's right, put in place a system that attracts people from all walks of life and allows political parties to go and get the best candidates to provide the strongest democracy in the province.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions or comments? Further debate? Would the parliamentary assistant like to say a few words to sum up?
Mr Sampson: No, thank you.
The Acting Speaker: Mr Sampson has moved second reading of Bill 42. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Shall the bill be ordered for third reading?
Mr Sampson: Committee of the whole.
The Acting Speaker: Committee of the whole House.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR L'ÉDUCATION
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 34, An Act to amend the Education Act / Projet de loi 34, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Further debate? I believe the leader of the official opposition had the floor yesterday.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I'm happy to resume debate, unless our deputy whip indicates that there is another member who is waiting for an opportunity to continue the debate. I do believe that is the case so, Madam Speaker, if I do not continue the debate, can another member of our party pick up the discussion at this point?
The Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? Yes, that's fine. Further debate. The member for Oakwood.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Thank us.
Mr Colle: Thank you to the House for your condolences and sympathies and opportunities.
I'm here to speak on Bill 34, and there are two aspects of Bill 34 I'd like to touch on. The first aspect is the impact on junior kindergarten. As you know, this essentially paves the way for the so-called local option on junior kindergarten. The pattern we see developing across this province is that because the local boards have really been so severely cut back and they're also going through assessment losses, many junior kindergarten programs are being dropped. This, to me, is essentially a regressive trend this bill is supporting. It is not something that's going to be beneficial to the educational system, nor will it be beneficial to society as a whole, because as we all know, an investment in education at an early stage has a positive impact all the way through the school system.
One of the interesting things: I remember one time a couple of years ago at Metro. It was after the unfortunate murder of ViVi Leimonis, who was shot and killed. We had a special task force that Metro set up to look at dealing with crime in the community and how we could respond. The police were under the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Toronto, so we brought in a number of experts and we also brought in, I remember, a criminologist from the University of Ottawa who is now the head of the crime prevention bureau in Montreal. We asked him as a criminologist what he would recommend we should do or where we should invest our resources, being limited, if we wanted to really have an impact on crime. He really cut to the chase very quickly. He said:
"Listen, if you are really serious about this and you want to really have an impact, and a serious impact, you would start to invest resources in early childhood education. If you wanted to reduce the incidence of crime in your community, that's where it begins. Once children at a very early age don't have the proper educational, social setting, this is when the roots of crime are laid in communities."
Junior kindergarten is not solely an educational opportunity; it is also a social opportunity. Children at this age have to socialize in order to interact with their peers, in order to understand that their whole life is going to be with other people. Junior kindergarten has an extreme level of importance in terms of socialization skills.
Children all across this province are going to be deprived not only of that educational opportunity at that very early and sensitive age; they are going to be deprived of the socialization opportunities in a structured setting where you're learning how to interact, how to deal with interpersonal challenges at that age. They do have them. This is what is going to be eroded as a result of Bill 34.
What we're going to see is a checkerboard pattern of early childhood education right across this province: The have and the have-not boards; the have and the have-not communities. If there are dollars available, there will be junior kindergarten programs. The sad thing is that many communities that are resource-poor or assessment-poor -- and they probably need the early childhood education more than some of the well-to-do communities -- will not invest in junior kindergarten. So the young children who need the investment most, who need a structured early childhood education system in place most, are not going to have it available to them.
This is really contradictory to a pattern of education that has been established in Ontario which, despite all its flaws and criticisms, I think has borne up quite well if you compare the system. I know we have all kinds of analyses with Japan and everywhere, but if you look at the educational system in Ontario, it's always tried to be uniformly equal across the province in terms of providing services and providing opportunities.
We've built good schools -- elementary schools, high schools, colleges -- right across this province in almost every community. That was a hallmark of provincial governments that went previously. We attempted to understand that there were communities that could not afford resources to provide junior education -- junior kindergarten, as an example -- and the provincial government supported that effort, and I think Ontario benefited.
This is again one of the major flaws of Bill 34, that it cements this withdrawal of support from junior kindergarten education, especially when we know from the Royal Commission on Learning that the recommendation was even to start school earlier because of the serious impact that the deprival of a good educational setting had on children.
If we want to talk about competition and we want to talk about having competitive educational systems in place, you've got to start with children at that age. If you don't start there, you're going to be paying for remedial education processes, special education. You'll be paying 10 times down the road in terms of extra support, dropout rates and who knows what other negative result of that. That investment, junior kindergarten, being made by boards and taxpayers is a very good investment in communities and children right across this province.
This province is becoming a little schizophrenic when it talks about -- they're all excited about investing in boot camps. Every time you turn on a radio or television everybody is getting all hot and bothered about boot camps. On the other hand, they're turning off and closing down junior kindergarten programs.
Someone looking at Ontario from afar would say: "What kind of a province is this where money is being spent on boot camps and taken out of junior kindergarten or early childhood education? This is nuts." It is not only nuts in an educational perspective, it's nuts in terms of a social or economic return.
It doesn't make economic or educational sense to be all excited about boot camp investment and turning away junior kindergarten investment. We'll look back on this regressive approach and say it was to the detriment of everybody in Ontario that we didn't have enough resources and a system in place to ensure that you had junior kindergarten in place right across this province. We'll pay big time for this down the road.
Another area I want to talk about is another recommendation in Bill 34. This is an area that deals with another new precedent, the famous clawback proposal. It's the proposal to enable, encourage, persuade negative grant boards to give up property tax dollars to the provincial government.
This is something I know many people from outside of the negative grant boards, outside of Toronto and Ottawa, may think, "This is good because we're going to share in some of the riches that there are in Toronto or in Ottawa and we'll all benefit." But there's a very critical principle you have to realize: Once you have a provincial government that dips into locally collected property taxes and uses them for provincial purposes, you are setting a precedent that could affect all communities across Ontario. Because if you go back through Canadian history, back to Confederation and the BNA Act, you'll see there's been a precedent where locally collected taxes were used for locally mandated services, and therefore you had local accountability and local responsibility for those locally collected taxes.
Initially, as you know, those taxes were used to fix roads and to provide water services; they were used for essential local amenities and local structures that people could use in that city, town, village or hamlet.
Now this provincial government is about to do something that's dramatically different. It's an intrusion into a new taxing area that's been the purview of local government, and that is the collection of property taxes.
No matter how vague and how indirect the language is, we certainly understand what the intent of this legislation is: It's to tell, either by persuasion or by threat or by intimidation, the negative grant boards, that is, Toronto and Ottawa, "You'd better cough up some of your local property taxes or else we'll amalgamate you, we'll cut off other supports the government does." This is the threat that hangs over Metro and over the city of Ottawa.
I tell those of you who think this is a good idea to remember that once a provincial government or any government steps into one taxing area, to get it to withdraw is extremely difficult. Once they make this intrusion into local property taxation, they will want to keep it because they've established the right to do so, and that's what Bill 34 does.
In essence, what it is is taxation without representation. It means that a provincial government will now have the right to collect and use taxes collected by the trustees, for instance, who get elected on whether they raise or increase property taxes locally. The provincial government, which isn't elected based on local collection of property taxes, now is going to take that money out of municipalities that have no control over what the provincial government does. So you're creating a scary precedent here: taxation without representation.
As you know, in the past local ratepayers have been very annoyed, especially in the city of Toronto, in the city of Ottawa, in North York, Etobicoke, East York and York. They see that they pay 100% of elementary-secondary education out of property tax. They have not received any provincial grants for a number of years. They've been self-sustaining and they've paid for education out of local property taxes. The seniors on fixed income, the small businesses, the big businesses, have been paying for education directly through property taxes. They said, "Okay, we're doing that, we don't like it; education shouldn't even be on the property tax because it's a regressive tax" etc.
Every time you go to a door, they say, "There's no darn way I should be paying 55% of my taxes towards education." They're already angry with that because they feel it's regressive. They could be unemployed; they could be a senior. They can't afford to pay the $3,000, $4,000 or $2,000 a year on taxes for their property that are going towards education, because they say, "In most other jurisdictions, or outside of Metro, the province is paying for education, and why should we be footing the bill for this?"
If you talk to business people in Metro, they say they're paying 40% more on their commercial taxes than they would be if they were outside of Metro, a 40% premium, and they think that's unfair. One of the reasons they say it's unfair is because they're supporting education, and why should they be treated differently than a business that's in another city or outside of Metro? So there already is a 40% premium. Now this provincial government is going to come along and say: "Hey, that 40% premium isn't enough. We're going to ask for more money out of the property taxes of Toronto to go into the provincial coffers." This is like a double whammy for them and this is an especially acute problem if you look at what's happened to Toronto in the last number of years. There's been an exodus of businesses, as you know, Madam Speaker, because they can't pay the existing taxes. They're being forced to close their doors and they're leaving, and some of them are even setting up shop outside of Metro's boundaries because of this premium and penalty.
This government promised it was going to come in and help these people to stay in Toronto, it was going to fix the hole-in-a-doughnut effect where we've got this exodus of industrial-commercial property assessment, people leaving -- "We were going to fix that and help you stay in Toronto and level the playing field." All of a sudden, they're saying: "Oh, no. In the meantime, while we level the playing field, we're going to give you another kick," and this kick is in Bill 34. It's this clawback out of Toronto taxpayers and a clawback that couldn't have happened at a worse time, and that's what this bill is doing. The minister has got all this double-speak and gobbledegook, "enabling," and "We're going to persuade you." We know darned well it's an ultimatum: "You either give up your property tax dollars to us or we'll get rid of you or we'll hit you another way." This is not the way it works.
As you know, presently in Toronto there's a sharing of taxes among the six municipalities, but they share that willingly, and that was done voluntarily and it works out well, because a lot of people live and work across the borders, they have businesses in one area -- I know a friend of mine just opened up a business in East York there and his kids go to school in Toronto. So it makes sense to share taxes between East York and Toronto, and he's happy to run his business on Bayview, and at the same time he lives off St Clair where I am. That's the way it works and the sharing has worked, but that sharing was done voluntarily, and the property taxpayers and the trustees and those who were accountable for those tax rates agreed to it, and it was something that went through the process. This is a back-door grab of that tax base, and I say to you, it is the beginning of something that could spread. If it happens in Toronto, why not Oakville next, or Burlington, or Markham? Once you allow this to happen, it could even go to Oshawa, which is very tax-assessment-rich.
So I say to all the members on the opposite side, I know there's a tendency to say, "Toronto's got all this money, all these tax dollars; let's dip into Toronto's rich resources," but once you do that, you're leaving the door open for a new intrusion into locally collected taxes that are the responsibility of the local councillors or the local trustees who are accountable to those property taxpayers, and this blatant clawback, claw-out, of local property taxes is not going to do anything to help people in other communities. What it's going to do is essentially mean you've got the potential of more tax revenues being grabbed out of local communities, because once you can do it here, as I said, you can do it anywhere. And secondly, it takes the province off the hook, because as the trustees get all the flak for raising taxes, it's the province that's going to take the money out and not be accountable for that.
Another area that Bill 34 infringes upon is the tradition that's been long established of local democracy. Once the provincial government now enters into this tax field, where is the accountability, the involvement, the responsibility of the local trustees and local councillors, once you have this clawback put in place?
If I could speak to what is happening in Metro, what is happening in cities -- I know a lot of members have been told there's all kinds of excess and so forth, and no doubt there's always room for efficiencies, restructuring which can be beneficial. But one of the recognitions you have to make is that the situation in Metro is quite unique. In my own area, the city of York, we have a constant influx of immigrants who have different languages, who don't have the ability to -- never mind take English courses; they can't do basics in school from an early age.
What this does is put an extra burden on the local school system. I think 50% of all the immigrants who come to Canada come to Metro. So all the schools in Metropolitan Toronto have to deal with this challenge, and these people have a great deal of potential, but you can't really benefit by the potential unless the educational system is able to adapt.
Over the last decades, the educational boards in Metro have set in place programs: English as a second language; they've had support programs to acclimatize, to socialize the new immigrants. These children and new adults have been able to socialize, integrate, and they've been very productive members of our cities. The schools were carrying that burden.
I'm not sure the degree to which you have that kind of challenge in communities all over Ontario, but I know certainly statistically this reality of dealing with an influx of people that need language support puts an enormous burden on Toronto schools. It probably does the same thing for parts of Brampton and maybe other schools too. But there is an acute need to deal with this reality here which may not be the reality in Gravenhurst, may not be the reality in Kenora, but schools have to deal with this on a daily basis. So you may have to spend extra resources on English-as-a-second-language programs. You may have to do that. You may need more counselling for some of these children who have a hard time adjusting. So there are expenses in inner-city schools.
Also, if you look at the per capita income, I know in my community you have the lowest per capita income or household income in Metro. Many of these children need support. Their parents or their parent may not have the ability to give them the support at home, and the fact that their income is essentially below what is the poverty line puts enormous pressures on the family and that child.
Therefore, historically in Toronto, the schools have picked up the slack. If you go to any school in the city of York, you go to a school in Long Branch, you go to a school in East York, you'll see that there are children entering the schools constantly from different countries with the willingness to learn but they need the extra support, and the teachers and the school boards have gone out of their way to do that.
Many people that are new immigrants also suffer from, as I said, a lack of income, because they're just starting out. They're having a hard time getting housing, getting clothing, getting work, so the schools have been almost like a buffer to allow them to integrate better, and they've done this very well. That's been one of the successes, as I said, of our school system. There are very few countries in the world, their cities, that have had this challenge. If you go to Rome or you go to, let's say, Boston or you go to other cities, international cities, they do not have this constant influx of immigrants. We have handled the immigrants in a positive way.
I'm an immigrant myself. We have always had an opportunity to learn the language, to be educated, because the school doors were always open. The Toronto school board doors were open, the York school boards were open, and they offered the help: language upgrading skills, socialization skills. The schools did this, and this is one of the reasons why there's been an extra cost to be borne in Toronto.
That's not to say there hasn't been any waste, but the problem right now is that what this bill is trying to say is, "Hey, there's too much money in Toronto, so we're going to take it out," without appreciating the challenges they have. Many schools in Toronto are faced -- when I say Toronto, I mean Metro, and I'm sure it's the same with school boards all across Ontario -- with unbelievable challenges. They have a minister who gives a different signal every day. For months we heard about this toolbox: "The toolbox is coming." It was like the second coming, and that was going to solve --
Mr Colle: Yes, it was a fishing box with a lot of hooks in it. What was happening was that a lot of trustees, I think in good faith, thought that toolbox was going to help them solve the shortfall problem.
As you know, the minister's tool box was essentially empty. There was nothing in it to give the school boards the ability to deal with the problem, so the problem was left in the hands of local schools. Local schools are under enormous pressure to deal with massive cuts in funding, loss of assessment, and all they got from the minister were threats and an empty toolbox.
Local trustees feel that they are being used, they are being set up to solve the problems that the minister created, because the minister created the crisis, he created the anticipation, he has teachers up in arms, he has parents up in arms, he has students anxious -- adult education students, junior kindergarten students -- he has everybody in this high state of anxiety. The crisis has been created, and no solution.
Bill 34 is basically the leftovers in the empty toolbox. It's really a fraud. There is nothing in here that's going to help trustees, there is nothing in here that's going to help school boards; it's a phony attempt to cover the minister for his failed attempt to deliver on solving the crisis and the anxiety and the fear and the loathing he created over the last number of months in education.
You have the trustees trying to solve an unsolvable problem: You have cuts that are affecting children; you have this back-door clawback of property taxes, trying to bail the minister out, that is probably unconstitutional. I hope the city of Toronto and the city of Ottawa take this minister to the Supreme Court on this because it's a violation of the basic principle of taxation with representation. I hope this is the last time that a government tries to intrude on local property taxes in a way that is contrary to the basic principle of local democracy and local accountability. That is what's wrong with this bill.
I tell people across the province and members across this province, "Don't let the minister get away with it, because it's the beginning of a very nasty precedent of essentially tapping into your property taxes to solve the problem that he created." This is what Bill 34 is all about and we have to oppose it. I hope those of you in caucus who have been local trustees or local aldermen will stand up and tell the minister: "This is wrong. You can't use local property taxes for this purpose in this way. It is intimidation. Trying to get property taxes, which are stretched to the limit, to solve a province-wide problem of education funding is not the right way to solve a funding problem." I hope the caucus of the Conservative Party speaks loud and clear on this issue. As you know, it's just Toronto and Ottawa now but it could be, as I've said, Oakville next, Mississauga next. Once the principle is established, I don't think there's any turning back.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I felt that perhaps the member would withdraw his unparliamentary language at one point, but he didn't choose to. You cannot stand in this House and accuse a minister of the crown of fraud, and that's indeed what he said.
Mr Colle: I did not do that. I said the bill is a fraud.
Mrs Marland: You will enjoy re-reading Hansard and then you will know what you've said.
I think it's time we got something straight in this province. You invited comments from former trustees, which I have been with the Peel board for four years; you invited comments from other trustees who understand the funding issues and the complex issues about the provision of education in this province.
One thing I must admit I get tired of is Metro trustees, Metro councillors, and in your case a former Metro councillor, talking about the uniqueness and the problems of Toronto schools. This afternoon in particular you were talking about the problems for new immigrant families. I wish some time you would visit some of the schools in Peel, where we might have 90% of the children in a classroom that are all immigrant families. Indeed, in a city of half a million people, the city of Mississauga, we have the same inner-city problems that the city of Toronto has. So the differential in funding and the differential in the grant formulas shouldn't exist on the basis of those arguments.
I ask you not to comment in such a negative way about the signals from our Minister of Education. He did not create this crisis that we're dealing with today, the funding of education, and the one thing I really agree with is that it should be off the property taxes.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The member delivered, of course, an excellent speech on this. I observed this carefully and listened and he certainly makes a very good point.
I didn't want to cut off the member for Etobicoke West because I know he would be rising to agree with the member for Oakwood, particularly on the raid on the property taxes of Etobicoke taking place by the Minister of Education of this government. I know the member wanted to, and if he didn't, he really wanted to, make reference to the excellent question directed to the Minister of Education by the member for Etobicoke West just a few days ago. It was an unexpected question; you could tell that. It was not a trumped-up, lined-up question at all. It was delivered with a good deal of force and verve and I want to compliment the member for Etobicoke West on that because I see that he wishes to rise and I know he's agreeing with those comments that were made by the member.
It's very attractive, I can tell you, for the people of St Catharines to think that somehow they're going to be getting the property taxes from Ottawa and Toronto. But if they think about it, particularly the people who serve at the municipal level, as my friend from Etobicoke West has and the member for Oakwood has, if you serve at the municipal level, you know that the principle of raiding property taxes to bring the money into the provincial coffers -- and that's the consolidated revenue fund, not any other fund; that's the general coffers of the provincial government -- is a very dangerous precedent. I am sure the member for Etobicoke West will more eloquently than I and more forcefully than I register an honest and sincere and genuine complaint about the action of the present administration in raiding those property tax dollars, so I will yield the floor to him.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I listened to the speech of the member for Oakwood very carefully, I'd say even more closely than the member for St Catharines. In particular, I listened to the comments that were early on in the speech by the member for Oakwood where he was referring to how junior kindergarten, which I think is a very important part of our education system, is being eroded by the government, and I agree with the member on that.
We took many years in the province to move to universal kindergarten. Over the last number of years, many jurisdictions in the province have developed junior kindergarten, and then when we were government, we moved forward with legislation, an amendment to the Education Act, to make junior kindergarten mandatory and then by regulation phase it in over three years.
What confused me, though, about the speech from the member for Oakwood was that there was a complete forgetfulness on the part of the Liberal member for Oakwood that when the amendment to the Education Act came forward by our government to make junior kindergarten mandatory, the Liberals voted against it. They fought it. They said this should be a local decision made at the local school board level and it should not be mandatory. I don't understand where the conversion took place. This is another example of the Liberals trying to have it both ways. They say one thing when the bill's before the House making it mandatory and they oppose that, and now the Tory bill's here saying, "We'll make it optional," and they oppose that. I don't know. What position will they take next Monday?
Mr Stockwell: The member for Windsor-Riverside made a point that I felt needed to be made about the Liberals' policy position with respect to junior kindergarten. I will add, in defence of the member for Oakwood, that he was not a member of the last Parliament --
Mr Cooke: But was he a member of the Liberal Party?
Mr Stockwell: -- but he was a member in good standing of the Liberal Party; he probably was. But I know my good friend from St Catharines was here last session and probably had a lot of input into the decision of the day not to support making junior kindergarten mandatory, and he's probably had a lot of input in the decision not to support junior kindergarten as an optional decision. It will be interesting one day when the good member for St Catharines stands in his place and tells us what exactly the position of the Liberal Party is with respect to junior kindergarten.
Mr Bradley: Strongly in favour.
Interjections: Of what?
Mr Stockwell: And that's the key. As my friend from Simcoe East, now the Speaker, used to say, "Some of my constituents are fer it, some of them are agin it, and I'm with my constituents." It's probably the Liberal credo.
I want to address the issue of junior kindergarten. I think I've addressed the other issue very clearly. The study we took about early childhood education talked about educating kids as early as two years old. Many people in the socialist party and others, the Liberals and so on, have argued about early childhood education. Two years of age was the recommendation. It seems to me you can cut this thing back as far as you want to and you can never be in a situation where you're buying into what the supposed experts are telling you when you should educate kids.
In my opinion, it comes down to a dollars-and-cents issue, and that dollar-and-cent issue can be decided on a local neighbourhood basis far better than it can in the august chamber of the Parliament of the province.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Oakwood, sum up, please.
Mr Colle: I know the NDP like to fight yesterday's battles or yesterday's elections, but the fact is that a dramatic change is taking place in this province. If they want to dwell on the past and play games of who said what when, they're going to lose big-time, because the enemy is on the other side. That's the message. The enemies of junior kindergarten are quite clear in Bill 34. It is a good investment, and this bill basically removes the possibility for all children in Ontario to have junior kindergarten.
The critical thing here is that there are more and more amendments and changes to the Education Act. There has to be an evaluation of the impact these changes have on children, their families, their communities and also the impact they have on local taxpayers. This bill is bad for local property taxpayers. It's abhorrent. It's something they should storm with tea in the Toronto harbour, in Long Branch harbour. This is the stuff that revolutions are made of, when you start doing taxation without representation, as in Bill 34. It is something a government has no right to do, and they are trying to get away with it. I know that a lot of members on that side, the member for Mississauga South etc, know this is wrong. You cannot grab local property taxpayers to fix the provincial funding problems in education. It is the wrong way to do it, and we all know that if we look at it. It's not justifiable.
Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): Point of order, Madam Speaker: I seek unanimous approval of the House to indicate the business for next week for the House.
The Acting Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): Pursuant to standing order 55 and on behalf of the government House leader, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of April 22, 1996.
On Monday, April 22, we hope to do committee of the whole and third reading of Bill 42, the MPPs' pension act, and third reading of Bill 44, the Election Amendment Act, after which we will continue with second reading of Bill 34, An Act to amend the Education Act.
On Tuesday, April 23, if Bill 34 is not complete, we will continue with second reading. After that is complete, we will begin second reading of Bill 39, the Ontario Highway Transport Board and Public Vehicles Amendment Act.
On Wednesday, April 24, we will continue with the unfinished business from Tuesday, after which we will begin second reading of Bill 38, the Toronto Islands Amendment Act.
For Thursday morning, private members' business, we will consider ballot item 23 standing in the name of the member for Oriole and ballot item 24 standing in the name of the member for Dovercourt. In the afternoon of Thursday, April 25, we will continue with any unfinished business for the week.
I would also like to say a sincere thank you to the fine young men and women, young boys and girls who are here as our legislative pages for their last day, and on behalf of all members of the House we want to wish them all best wishes for their future endeavours.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR L'ÉDUCATION (CONTINUED)
The Acting Speaker: We will now resume debate on Bill 34.
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): I'm happy to participate in second reading debate on Bill 34, the Education Amendment Act, and to discuss our government's plan to find savings in the education sector.
Before I get into the prepared remarks I have, I want to comment on a little debate the member opposite had with the member for Etobicoke West when they talked about Dr Fraser Mustard. In citing Dr Fraser Mustard, he's right to say that Dr Mustard advises that young people should be educated as early as possible, but what he conveniently leaves out, if he has ever attended any of Dr Mustard's seminars or lectures, is that Dr Mustard points out there are productive and consumptive sides to the economy. He freely admits that the consumptive side, the non-income-generating side, currently takes too much money out of the productive side of the economy and until that adjustment is made, the issue is one, like the member for Etobicoke West pointed out, of dollars and cents. Even Dr Mustard understands the problems we have in our economy and that if we don't address those problems in our economy, we are going to have a lot of problems being able to afford education at an early age for our kids.
Last month, our government announced savings of $400 million for the 1996-97 fiscal year. This level of savings represents roughly 3% of the $14 billion spent on education in Ontario. That's really not that oppressive when compared to some of the reductions faced by other institutions who are deftly handling larger reductions and maintaining services.
The goal of this act is to provide local boards of education with the tools necessary to achieve savings in order to guarantee funding for classroom education. This act identifies savings that can be achieved outside the classroom in areas such as transportation, school board administration, custodial and maintenance expenditures, a moratorium on capital projects and changes to teachers' sick leave plans. These initiatives reflect our commitment in the Common Sense Revolution to guarantee funding for classroom education and, at the same time, find savings elsewhere in the education system.
We are bringing in this legislation because in our discussions with parents, students, trustees, school board officials, teachers and taxpayers, three items were clearly conveyed to us. People believe that there is a waste in our education system and that savings can be realized in education. People also believe it is vital for Ontario to bring its spending in line with other provinces.
By any measure, ministry generated or even OSSTF generated, Ontario currently spends $1 billion more, or about $500 per child, on education than the average of the other provinces. Current overspending, which is a clear vestige of past governments, poses the greatest threat to classroom education.
The second thing the public clearly conveyed was that Ontario taxpayers believe there must be an opportunity to develop solutions locally. As the member for Etobicoke West had enunciated earlier, it is key that we let those decisions be made at the local level.
The third thing taxpayers told us was that while it is important to find savings, the government should allow time for local institutions to develop a fair plan which will ensure quality programming for all Ontario students.
As a result of our discussions with Ontarians, our government has carefully developed this legislation to find these savings. This particular piece of legislation is based on three identifiable goals: Classroom funding should be protected, a framework should be established which will allow for local decision-making and locally negotiated solutions, and local taxes should not be increased.
I'd like to elaborate upon each of these goals so that the people of Ontario and the citizens of my riding of Niagara Falls will know where our party and government are headed in this manner.
First, our government is committed to maintaining funding for classroom education and at the same time finding savings in areas outside classroom education in order to ensure that Ontarians receive quality classroom education. I want to make it abundantly clear to all members of the House and to the public that in the last election we never promised not to find savings in the education system. We never promised to keep the status quo. In fact, we promised to find savings in the education system so that we can preserve the most important and vital part of the elementary and secondary education system: classroom instruction.
On the matter of savings in education and protecting classroom education, the Common Sense Revolution specifically says: "Classroom funding for education will be guaranteed. That does not mean that savings cannot be found elsewhere in the education system. Too much money is now being spent on consultants, bureaucracy and administration. Not enough is being invested in students directly." It goes on to say, "Our principle of `classroom-based budgeting' will help ensure that this essential service is protected and, indeed, that excellence in education and training is enhanced." As you can see, our party is committed to both maintaining funding for classroom education and at the same time finding savings outside of classroom education.
The second goal of this legislation is to allow decisions and solutions to be locally driven. Our government realizes that a top-down, heavy-handed measure imposed by the Minister of Education on teachers, unions, school boards and students would be overbearing and would certainly violate our party's principles of community and local accountability. Our government believes these local officials were elected by local people to do a job and that they should be allowed to do that job. Our government believes that education policy should be brought closer to the people because it allows members of the public greater accessibility to educational matters and also enhances local accountability. Our government realizes that one solution is not appropriate for all school boards across the province, and therefore we chose to advance a framework which will be shaped by local input.
All decisions, it should be noted, currently being taken by school boards across the province today are being taken by locally, democratically elected school board trustees. I encourage Ontarians, if you don't like their decisions, to tell them. Make them accountable for your tax dollars. Ask them to explain the thousands budgeted on courier services, the tens of millions budgeted for transportation, the hundreds of thousands spent on mileage and other expenses. They should be held accountable, and Ontarians should talk to their school board trustees.
There are a number of measures contained in this bill which recognize the principle of local input. For instance, Bill 34 makes the delivery of junior kindergarten a local choice by eliminating the compulsory requirement that school boards offer junior kindergarten. This mandatory requirement is a clear example of education bureaucrats dictating the needs of a particular school board when it is apparent that there has been no consultation, no local input and no clear consensus in the community that such a service is desired.
Some will argue that this measure compromises our commitment to classroom education and hurts young children. What the critics are neglecting to tell the people of Ontario is that the Ontario government will continue to share the costs of junior kindergarten with the local boards. In other words, junior kindergarten will be funded at the same rate of grant as other grade levels, from senior kindergarten to grade 13. Beginning this September, junior kindergarten costs will be borne by both the boards and the province. Before this time, the province fully funded JK. Prior funding arrangements not only undermined and ignored any local say in the delivery of junior kindergarten but it also was a costly arrangement for the taxpayers of Ontario.
Bill 34 also allows local school boards more flexibility to determine the administrative structure of their schools; to negotiate the number of sick days by removing the number of sick days to which teachers are entitled, if they so choose; and finally, to increase cooperation with other local boards and public agencies by authorizing school boards to enter into cooperative agreements with other boards, public sector agencies and other organizations as prescribed by regulation, and require school boards to report annually on cooperative initiatives taken or explored to improve efficiency.
I'd like to address this issue of sharing. Many boards I hope around the province will look further into this. Colleges have gotten together to share costs of insurance and spread that around. They've saved millions in doing that.
In Nova Scotia, the universities just got together on a consortium to share some of their costs. They announced in an April 9, 1996, article in the Globe and Mail a saving of $17 million through these types of initiatives.
Finally, I'd like to point out that Haldimand-Norfolk is a board that's moving to greater efficiencies. They are going to merge and amalgamate their school bus system to find great savings.
These are the types of things that need to be done throughout the school system. They're savings that are available without affecting the classroom, and other boards should take heed.
I would like to address the third goal of this legislation, that local taxes should not be increased. Our $400-million saving amounts to an average reduction of 2% for each school board. The size of this reduction can be accommodated without having to lay off a large number of teachers or increasing local taxes.
I'd like to bring up at this point an article from the Kitchener-Waterloo Record. Several of our members are from this area and they're to be commended. I'll read from the article quickly:
"The Waterloo County Board of Education has passed its budget, and guess what? The sky has not fallen. Forget dire rumblings of an educational apocalypse with massive losses of teachers and programs, and classrooms bursting at the seams. Instead, if everything goes as planned, no full-time teachers will be laid off and classes will stay the same size.
"For months they have been told Ontario's educational system could be in ruins because the Conservatives are cutting...funding. In February, the board said as many as 300 high school teachers in the public board alone could lose their jobs.
"...school children came home bearing letters prophesying the decline and fall of education as we know it.
"But...Waterloo's public board has spared its classrooms and teachers serious discomfort."
"Many taxpayers will wonder what all the moaning and groaning was about, at least in this board. The Tories said their cuts would be made without harming the classroom. Here...they were right."
I commend the Waterloo County Board of Education for dealing intelligently with its cuts. Their example is one that should be followed. I congratulate them here today.
Boards must work with unions, teachers, parent councils and taxpayers in order to devise creative solutions that will bring about savings. Savings must be found in transportation, school board administration, custodial and maintenance, capital projects and remuneration in order to ensure that classroom education is not adversely affected. It can be done, as I've shown you some examples today.
This government's announcement of a moratorium on new capital projects, except for health and safety projects and for those projects which receive final approval under the ministry's capital grant plan, will yield savings of $167 million out of the $400 million. This measure will facilitate and mitigate the efforts of school boards finding savings outside the classroom budget.
What this all means is that savings can be achieved without an increase in local property taxes or the laying off of a large number of teachers. The $400 million in savings can be found in the education system while guaranteeing funding for classroom ed.
The Ontario School Board Reduction Task Force report, otherwise known as the Sweeney report, found that 47% of education expenditures are spent outside the classroom. This report recommended that this figure be lowered to 40%. Clearly, the reductions we have announced are achievable within that 47%. The authors of this report, and others, maintain that savings can be found in the system so that quality classroom education can be protected.
Our government's goal to find savings began in the July 21 financial statement when we announced expenditure reductions of $32 million, which were made outside of the classroom. In addition, the changes in funding policy with regard to junior kindergarten and adult education programming resulted in a further savings of $120 million. Savings of $65 million are also available to school boards by reducing expenditures in the areas of board administration and custodial and maintenance services.
Our government also expects boards to find at least another $16 million in savings in their transportation budgets. Looking at the budgets of some of the school boards across the province, I've noted that transportation costs as a percentage of the entire budget have gone up in the last few years in great leaps, and that is clearly an area where we can cut. I believe we can get more than $16 million in savings from that area.
As well, a one-year moratorium on new capital projects will yield the remainder of the savings: $167 million.
Clearly, achieving the objective of these reductions is possible without affecting the classroom. In short, our government has consulted with many stakeholders in the education sector -- teachers, trustees, union leaders, parents and taxpayers -- and through our discussions with them we have developed a piece of legislation which will give local school boards the flexibility to achieve savings and at the same time continue to deliver quality education.
While I'm on that subject of consultation, I'd like to note for the information of the members of the House and for my constituents that our Minister of Education and Training has spent approximately 25% of his time over the last few months consulting with stakeholders in the education sector. I don't think there are many ministers in the past, or even in the future, who can boast that kind of record, and he deserves to be commended for that.
Our government is committed to guaranteeing classroom education funding. Without finding the savings today, our classroom education will only deteriorate in the future. We must protect today's students and future students from the reckless overspending of the past. The actions we are taking today will preserve quality education for future generations of Ontarians.
Mr Colle: I have a few comments. The member for Niagara Falls certainly articulated his party's position. The trouble is, there are very major contradictions. He talks about local autonomy and local accountability, but Bill 34 usurps the local accountability of trustees to collect taxes, because it's going to dip into local property taxes. How does that relate to local accountability? That's the precedent of this bill. It certainly flies in the face of local accountability when that clawback comes into place.
In terms of consultation, if they had really wanted consultation, if the minister is doing such a fine job, why are there not province-wide hearings on this bill? Why not take this bill and let the people of Niagara Falls talk face to face with the minister and his staff about what this bill means to children? Take it to Kenora. Take it to Cornwall. Take it to Ottawa. Let them know what the minister is doing to education. If you wanted to consult, why are you not in favour of consultation on a province-wide basis? That's another contradiction.
The other thing is in terms of achieving the so-calling savings, which is the jargon for cuts. They're cutting education for one reason: to find money for the tax cut for the wealthy. You're taking money out of the system for that reason alone -- for no other reason.
When you talk about "classroom," transportation is linked to classroom education. If children can't get to their school, what good is the educational facility? Transportation is linked. You saw what happened in Dufferin-Peel when the trustees were forced to make that decision to cut transportation. There was a near riot out there because they needed transportation for the rural children to get to school, and they stopped the cutback of transportation. You can't isolate clean classrooms or busing to classrooms and say it's outside the classroom. It's all connected.
Mrs Marland: I'd like to respond to the member for Oakwood a second time. There wasn't a near riot in the Peel Board of Education offices on the subject of busing. There was a public meeting and there was a very healthy debate and there was a very normal vote. That's what democracy is about. I'm glad that the Peel Board of Education gave that opportunity to the people they represent, and it was a very democratically conducted meeting.
I think it's unfortunate to refer to that process as being "a near riot." But more importantly, I think if you weren't as experienced as you are, dear member for Oakwood, I would expect you to stand in this House and say things as they are, not as you are interpreting them to be, because our government is simply trying to implement some of the recommendations of a former member of your party and indeed your Liberal government in Ontario, Mr Sweeney, a very creditable person who did a lot of work and studied the problems associated with the cost of education in this province and the funding and the provision of those educational programs. Many of the things that he said in his report I am sure you have to concede are true. One of them, and most importantly I think, that is of grave concern to our government is the fact that Mr Sweeney identified that 47% of the cost of education today in Ontario is money spent outside of the classroom. But I say again to you, there is one area on which you and I do agree, and that is that the cost of education --
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member's time has expired. The member for Windsor-Sandwich.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): May I begin by commenting to our member for Niagara Falls, our heartiest congratulations from your colleagues in casinos, and congratulations on you getting yours in Niagara Falls. I know that you and I are going to work well together in succeeding in getting our 10% of profits that the Premier had promised.
Throughout your speech today on education you talked about how you are going to meet your promises. So please remember that your Premier promised 10% of profits to host cities of casinos -- yours and mine. Bart, I'm looking forward to working together with you on that project.
As far as your talk today on education, I feel I must clear the record, not necessarily for myself, but you quoted OSSTF as though somehow you and OSSTF were actually on the same page in this debate. For the sake of Earl Manners and their reputation, I have to clear the air. In fact, in an article entitled Agenda: Bankrupt, Destroy, Privatize, he says clearly that even the data the minister is using to justify his stance is rigged. The claim that Ontario spends 10% more per student than the average in Canada used pre-social contract figures, did not include Ontario in the Canadian average, and included kindergarten costs but excluded the enrolment in calculating the cost per pupil. Mr Manners, although he and I have not met, I'm sure will be pleased that we set the record straight, because I can tell you that we are not on the same page where this government is concerned in education.
Mrs Pupatello: Oh, indeed, and I do hope that Paul Harris, the principal of Lakeport high school, was not watching while you were giving your rendition today of the Conservative mantra. Let me tell you that I'll look forward to further debate from that side of the House.
Mr Stockwell: First off, I think we should realize that Mr Manners' is not exactly a third-party impartiality that allows us to determine the definitions and the calculations with respect to the funding levels.
I think what we should be talking about here is the speech that was just given by the member for Niagara Falls. I thought it was a good speech. It was enlightening. It was the kind of speech that was meant to be made at this place. I would say to the member for Oakwood, that is the kind of thing we are supposed to do. That's the kind of committee work that we're designed to do. We're supposed to go and talk to our constituents and bring back their messages to this place and use that kind of input to design and change and amend and build legislation. The member for Niagara Falls seems to understand the approach. He has taken it very seriously, very credibly.
Mr Colle: So why don't we have the hearings?
Mr Stockwell: Why does he have hearings? That's what we do. Every day we go home, I can only assume we talk to our constituents. That's a hearing. Maybe if you spoke with your constituents more often, you'd feel better informed like the member for Niagara Falls.
The people of this province elected a government that was very clear with respect to the decisions and the avenues we were pursuing in education. I continue to hear the barracking about junior kindergarten. We were very clear in the campaign about our commitment to junior kindergarten. We believed it was an optional.
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): What commitment? You can't call that a commitment.
Mr Stockwell: Now, listen, I can take a lot of heckling from people about commitments, but I can't take heckling from Liberals about commitments. You make more commitments about everything than any party in the history of this province.
I applaud the member for Niagara Falls: Good speech, well informed, the kind of thing that we want to hear in this place, and I say to him to keep it up.
The Speaker: The member for Niagara Falls has up to two minutes.
Mr Maves: The member for Etobicoke West is actually my father's favourite member, and I think he just reinforced that position. I thank him for his support.
I'd like to address some of the comments made across the way. Money for a casino: We're quite happy to have that kind of investment in our riding and the amount of economic development it'll bring. Anything beyond that would be bonus. We'll have to talk about that.
I don't need to address the consultation and the public hearings, because if the member had been listening, he'd have heard that this minister has spent 25% of his time over the last few months going around the province talking to school boards and teachers and unions. He's done all kinds of consultation, more than anyone could imagine, not to mention the amount of consultation all the members on this side of the House have been doing for the last few months and will continue to do.
I want to tell you that the OSSTF did dispute the ministry's numbers, which are $1.3 billion in savings, but when you use the OSSTF's calculations you still find that they spend $1 billion more. The member opposite maybe should call Mr Manners and find out about that situation.
Lastly, I really get a kick out of the members opposite, who in their red book said they were going to balance the budget in four years. But every time we bring forward any kind of a reduction anywhere in the Ontario government, they say it's no good. Well, where, oh where, would they find those savings?
Right now there's $14 billion spent on elementary and secondary education in this province. If it was $18 billion and we wanted to move it back to $14 billion, they'd still complain. They can't have it both ways. They were either going to balance the budget and cut spending or they weren't. Now we're doing it for the preservation of education in this province.
The Speaker: It being after 6 o'clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock next Monday.
The House adjourned at 1803.