L119 - Mon 4 Nov 1996 / Lun 4 Nov 1996
The House met at 1334.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): The results are in: a unanimous decision by the OMA to reject the agreement. All doctor groups, all specialty groups from all regions across the province have overwhelmingly said no to Jim Wilson. Why did the medical profession reject this deal so decisively? Because they knew it was a bad deal -- bad for doctors and, most importantly, bad for patients.
Let me try to capture for you the extent of the rejection of this deal: 91% of critical care physicians, 100% of cardiovascular surgeons, a staggering 95% of interns and residents, and 96% of medical students all rejected this deal, all said no. Sixty-eight per cent of the doctors in Mr Wilson's region and 68% of the doctors in the Premier's riding of North Bay voted against it. In the Deputy Premier's riding of Parry Sound, an overwhelming 87% saw through this government and rejected this bad deal.
This is just another example of a crisis in our own health care as produced, planned and managed by the Minister of Health. Jim Wilson is moving across this province destroying hospitals, gutting health care and now putting patients at risk. I think we should hold a referendum on whether to reject Jim Wilson and watch the overwhelming support roll in. It doesn't take much to recognize that he, the Minister of Health, is the area of greatest concern in our health care, and that really needs to be cut.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the banquet of the Whitney fire department in the town of South Porcupine and I had an opportunity during that banquet to speak to many firefighters who were in attendance about how they felt about what this government is doing around Bill 84.
The Solicitor General has brought to the Legislature a most regressive bill that is really a slap in the face of firefighters across this province. They're telling the firefighters that they're going to do a number of things, but one of the things that makes absolutely no sense is that they're trying to tell firefighters they're going to take away their right to strike. Firefighters in the province of Ontario have never struck. They have never been in a position where they've withheld their services from the people of this province. Because they are professional and because they care about the people they protect, they've always respected that they try to negotiate a contract at the bargaining table and try to do so without going out on strike. This government is saying it wants to take that away because it doesn't believe in workers' rights.
There are going to be firefighters from across Ontario coming to Queen's Park on Wednesday. I know, having met with the professional force on the weekend, that at least 16 firefighters from the city of Timmins will be coming down here to join their brothers and sisters at Queen's Park to try to say to the government of Ontario, "Stop this attack on firefighters."
It is one thing to try to reduce the deficit of this province, but when you try to mix your ideology with that by taking away people's rights, such as you are with firefighters, it has nothing to do with your agenda and has everything to do with attacking the hardworking men and women of this province. I say shame on you.
Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): My staff has classified this speech as No Sugar Tonight because November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes is a chronic disorder that affects the body's ability to break down sugar for fuel. Diabetes is the third leading cause of death in Ontario and Canada after heart disease and cancer. More than 500,000 people in Ontario have diabetes -- that's 1 out of 20 Canadians. Diabetes doubles the chance of heart disease and stroke and is responsible for 25% of the cardiac surgery, 25% to 40% of the kidney disease and 50% of the non-traumatic amputations.
On September 27 of this year, Minister Jim Wilson announced a reinvestment of $5.8 million to expand diabetes education programs and services and create four new regional diabetes networks across Ontario. This is similar to the highly successful programs already in operation in the north.
I would like to pay tribute to Jennifer Haskett from Lucan, Ontario, who recently published a cookbook entitled No Sugar Tonight for diabetics, including favourite recipes for campers and the staff of Camp Huronda, which is operated by the Canadian Diabetes Association.
With continued education and expansion of services, our aim is to reduce these life-threatening complications by 50% within five years. We continue to hope a cure for diabetes is not too far off.
SENIORS' HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): In recent months we have heard a great deal about the challenges facing Ontario's health care system. The government's so-called hospital restructuring program is of course not a program of restructuring but rather the dismantling of the health care system Ontarians need and deserve. This issue is of particular concern to Ontario's senior citizens.
I urge the Premier and the Minister of Health to listen to the advice of agencies such as the Task Group on Transitional Care, a coalition of 15 seniors organizations. The task group reminds the government of the need for flexibility when determining the length of hospitalization, recognition of the need for an intermediate level of care, the expansion of long-term-care facilities to replace any elimination of chronic care beds, and the establishment of more accessible after-hours clinics to absorb the reduction in emergency room care.
Senior citizens have worked throughout their lives with the expectation that when they are in need of essential services like the health care system, care will be available to them. Rather than concentrating only on the fiscal bottom line, I urge the government in the strongest possible terms to respect the dignity of Ontario's senior citizens and their basic health care needs. Governing is about compassion and concern for society's most vulnerable citizens, not only the financial bottom line.
Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On October 29 representatives of over 50 community organizations condemned the Tory review currently being done on civilian oversight of the police. The community representatives expressed a number of concerns, which I share, that call into question the government's basic commitment to the principles of civilian oversight. The major concern is the lack of consultation that has occurred with the broader community in the province, particularly with groups that have repeatedly called into question the accountability of the police and the functioning of the police complaints process.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General began this action by calling together a so-called summit, the delegates to which were handpicked to ensure that the pre-determined responses directed by the government in the discussion paper would indeed result. Then the ministry entered into post-summit consultations with a very select group representative of police chiefs, police associations, AMO and the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards. They met over eight days discussing proposed changes to the Police Services Act, but they never met with the interested community groups, nor did they ensure that the review team itself included representation from those groups. The time frame for the public consultation is less than one month, giving little or no time for effective preparation by diverse communities.
The police require the confidence of the community, to which we delegate policing authority. It is a shame that this government has embarked on yet another effort to undo the reforms of the past few years and return to a conservative era --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.
Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): I rise today to recognize the outstanding achievements being made in research in Ontario universities. Two professors at McMaster University in Hamilton have been honoured with the prestigious Synergy award sponsored by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Conference Board of Canada. These awards recognize excellence in research, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship that leads to both commercial and academic benefits.
Dr Mark McDermott's work with Connaught Laboratories resulted in the development of a new method of delivering vaccines orally. His work will be welcome news to millions of children and a few adults who cringe at the sight of a doctor's needle. Dr Bob Pelton received the award for his work with Dorset Industrial Chemical Ltd, which led to improvements in the manufacturing of paper, making the process more efficient and helping to preserve our environment.
Not only do these awards recognize true excellence, they also demonstrate how cutting-edge applied research can work for the benefit of the economic, social and intellectual life of everyone in Ontario. This makes our province an international leader in the development of tomorrow's technologies.
I'm sure the members of this House will join me in congratulating McMaster University and professors McDermott and Pelton for their extraordinary accomplishments.
FAMILY SUPPORT PLAN
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I rise today out of a concern for a constituent, Sarah Lenneau. Sarah was waiting and waiting for the family support program to update its support payments by garnisheeing her husband's salary.
Her account is now $1,800 in arrears. She says it was easier to get direct payment from her ex-husband through the family support, but the FSP is warning both of them not to take that route. Her ex-husband fully agreed to this and completed the paperwork several months ago, but administrators for the family support program just can't get their act together. We know whose fault it is.
Mrs Lenneau has called the family support program numerous times over the past six months but can't get any information or action. Just last week she was told she may not get any information on her payment and get it corrected before December because the family support program is in the midst of moving. In total, Mrs Lenneau has waited more than five months for her file to be corrected. I question whether this isn't a violation of her right to access of personal information. Minister, admit it: Your family support transition plan is nothing more than an unmitigated disaster.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I rise today to inform the Minister of Labour that the Ontario Federation of Labour sponsored a joint WCB and health and safety conference over the weekend where over 1,000 delegates representing working people from all across Ontario came together to talk about the pending legislation from this government. Every one of those delegates had a copy of the leaked cabinet document that clearly outlines the intent of this government to decimate the rights that workers have under WCB. They took great exception to the idea that this legislation would be introduced in this session and rammed through by the end of this year without province-wide public hearings.
I'm here to tell the government that those representatives and the hundreds of thousands of workers they represent demand their right to be heard in terms of province-wide public hearings when you bring down your devastating WCB legislation. You have an obligation. The Cam Jackson report was developed in secret. There weren't public meetings. In fact, this cabinet document says you're going to go beyond that report anyway. So there's no excuse, no argument, no acceptance that this piece of legislation would be introduced in this House and rammed through without province-wide public hearings. I tell the government, you have an obligation to listen to the working people of this province and give them their democratic voice.
BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB
Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): I am proud and excited to announce that a young person from Sarnia has been awarded a scholarship through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ontario.
If anyone isn't familiar with these clubs, listen up, because they are an asset to every community lucky enough to have one. A partnership of corporate sponsors, youth and adult volunteers as well as a small number of paid staff have developed unique club programs responsive to the particular needs of children and youth in the local communities.
The Boys and Girls Clubs recognize that every youth has potential and since 1992 have been distributing scholarship grants to help them develop that potential.
Michelle Duffield is the first young person to receive this award in Sarnia. Our Boys and Girls Club is very excited about that, and so am I. Michelle plans to complete the child and youth worker program at Lambton College and go on to work in a group home or detention centre. I wish her the best of luck.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: Last week in debate I made some intemperate comments to the Premier, and I'd like to withdraw and apologize for the comments I made.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): So noted.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): Community safety is a fundamental pillar of a quality family life in Ontario and a top priority of this government. Our government is committed to addressing violence against women in an effective and meaningful way. As part of our ongoing commitment to violence prevention and community safety, I rise today to recognize November as Wife Assault Prevention Month in Ontario.
A 1993 Statistics Canada survey found that one woman in four has been assaulted by her husband or live-in partner. The same survey showed that more than half of all women murdered in Ontario, 51%, were murdered by their partner or spouse. This cannot be tolerated, and our government is undertaking several initiatives to stop the violence.
This morning my colleague the Attorney General, the Honourable Charles Harnick, and I announced that two courts in Toronto and North York have been designated to handle cases of domestic assault. These courts will feature specialized teams of professionals who will deal quickly, effectively and sensitively with domestic assault cases.
In addition, I'm pleased to announce that our government is allocating $100,000 to ensure that treatment programs are available to male batterers who go through this new system. By ensuring that male batterer programs are associated directly with these courts, we are taking a positive step towards breaking the cycle of violence.
Our government also recently passed into law the Victims' Bill of Rights, identifying and protecting specific rights for victims of violent crime, many of whom are women.
We established the victims' justice fund. This $10.2-million fund will expand the victim/witness assistance program, the victims' crisis assistance and referral service, and will create a community fund that will provide greater service to victims of crime, the majority of whom are women.
Our government has also reinvested $11 million in nine emergency shelters to provide safer facilities for abused women and their children.
In addition to these new initiatives, this government continues to spend almost $100 million each year on the violence against women prevention initiatives. This includes funding for 97 emergency shelters, 34 rape crisis centres, 27 hospital-based sexual assault treatment centres and 16 male batterer programs, and a range of other programs across nine ministries.
We are firmly committed to providing services to victims, but we need more communities across the province to join with us to help prevent domestic violence.
We recognize the importance of community-based initiatives and we are grateful for the excellent work being done to eliminate violence against women and children across the province. In support of community initiatives, a few months ago our government supported the development of innovative anti-violence projects. Some projects include a project undertaken by the Metro Woman Abuse Council to create a greater coordination and a more effective response with respect to domestic violence; a project by the Community Resource Centre of Goulbourn, Kanata and West Carleton to assist shelters and community-based services for abused women to establish a volunteer base; and a project by the Emergency Shelter Foundation of Hamilton to develop a model for networking and coordination for service providers that will maintain a high level of accessibility and service for women.
With the coordinated efforts of community groups and with the development of more cross-sectoral partnerships, we will find practical solutions to reduce wife assault and, in the long term, prevent violence in our society.
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I want to reaffirm the message in the statement of my colleague the minister responsible for women's issues: Wife assault will not be tolerated in this province.
As Minister Cunningham noted, we announced today the launch of two domestic violence court projects, one in Toronto and one in North York, to support the government's commitment to assist victims, prosecute criminals and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the criminal justice system. We are keeping our commitment to promote community safety, strengthen victims' rights and build a swifter, more effective justice system.
Wife assault is a crime. Too often women are traumatized twice: first at the hand of the abuser and then through lengthy and emotionally draining court processes. The domestic violence courts will establish a designated team of crown attorneys, police and intervention staff who have the training and expertise to effectively support victims and investigate and prosecute abusers. Police officers will employ improved investigation techniques, including the use of 911 tapes, photographs of the crime scene, photographs of victims' injuries, as well as the use of audio and video equipment to tape the victim's initial statement. These enhanced investigative techniques will give crown attorneys better evidence with which to successfully prosecute cases that in the past they were not able to pursue.
The government has also spent $40,000 to enhance the local victim/witness assistance program in Toronto, which provides services to all the courts at old city hall. This is significant because it is important to ensure that victims have proper support through the court process.
The intake process has begun in both domestic violence courts and the first cases are scheduled for early January 1997.
We must continue to highlight that domestic assault is criminal. That is why Ontario will continue to lead in the area of charging those who assault their spouses by maintaining standards that lead to the maximum number of prosecutions of this crime.
I would like to commend the high level of cooperation and commitment that has made the domestic courts project a reality. The domestic violence court projects are another example of the justice system partners working together to help solve the serious societal problem of wife assault. I extend our appreciation to victims' groups, crown attorneys, Metro police and judges who have worked together to make these projects happen.
In closing, safe communities enhance our quality of life, a quality of life that is key to promoting jobs, investment, economic growth and safety in our communities.
Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I'm happy to hear that there is some attention being given by the government this month of all months, which is Wife Assault Prevention Month, a very serious time indeed.
It's important for us to bear in mind some of the statistics that face us. Today's Toronto Star reported some of its investigations and what has happened since it made those investigations. Of 133 domestic assault cases that were in the courts in the summer of 1995, "a quarter of the men have since been charged with the same crime. Also, of the 128 completed cases, only 71 resulted in convictions, usually on a lesser charge, and just 28 went to jail. Only three of 28 men ordered by a judge to take counselling have done so.
"And in 57 cases, the victim either failed to show up in court, or denied she was ever abused, or minimized the crime, or blamed herself...."
Clearly this is a problem of coercion, and 48 of those cases were dismissed.
It's entirely appropriate to focus on our court system to ensure that women and children are protected in these circumstances, but I'm concerned that what the government has announced here may merely be a shell game, that there is no real allocation of new funds, that we've simply shifted some resources from one sector to another, with the possible exception of the $100,000 given for treatment for batterers, and even then that is to make up for cuts that have already been made.
The reality is that women and children in this province have been savaged by the cuts this government has made in this area of criminal activity and in this area of critical safety for them.
I'd like to point out to the government that if it were really serious, it might look at restoring some of the funding for shelters and not simply talk about continuing to allocate funds that are already there. The funds to shelters, rape crisis centres, hospital-based sexual assault treatment centres and male batterers programs are, by and large, the same amounts of moneys that were there after the cuts. If those are going to continue, I'm not sure that's a novelty; that's just a continuation. I regret that women are not being given additional protection.
It also should be of some concern to us that women do not find the protection in the courts that they need, because legal aid does not cover domestic cases, and so it becomes ever more difficult for women and children to obtain the kind of justice they need and deserve in the criminal justice system.
Let me just say to the minister that some two years ago we offered some solutions that are still pertinent and relevant. They might want to consider them as a way to really strengthen the program. One is that in order to ensure women are protected from abusive men they make it mandatory for crown attorneys to oppose bail in cases where a man has perviously broken peace bonds or ignored court orders to stay away, and to press for bail conditions such as bans on firearms in cases where bail is granted against the wishes of the crown. This isn't anywhere in the announcement made today.
I also suggest that making peace bonds and restraining orders easier to obtain and more effective to keep women safe from abusive men, and investigating other means of increasing the security of women at risk are critical right now. Again, it's not addressed in the announcements that are made today.
Finally, I think the government should examine what we had proposed, which was the creation of a specialized family violence court within the criminal court system to improve and speed up the handling of domestic violence cases, including spousal, child and elder abuse, which is becoming an ever-increasing problem in our society.
So we welcome the announcement. We think it's limited. We think it is a shell game. We'd like the government to rethink what it has done and strengthen its support for women and children in abusive situations and come back to us with some really meaningful projects.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): What is valid about this announcement today is that more than half of all the women murdered in Ontario, some 51%, were murdered by their partner and spouse. It's important to acknowledge that during Wife Assault Prevention Month. It's also important to acknowledge the failure of this government and the cuts they have made to the programs that help to protect those women and those children.
The CSR has had a target, and the target has been abused women and their children.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I'm happy to stand today and say that I welcome this announcement. I think any step we take to go forward in preventing violence against women is helpful, and I applaud it. But I have to say that when this government talks about investing almost $100 million each year on violence against women prevention initiatives, what isn't in this document is how much was cut. With the small amount they're putting back into it, making it sound like they are investing a huge amount of money, just the opposite has happened.
We've had to deal with a stunning array of Harris government policies which disproportionately affect women and children across this province, from a whopping cut to social assistance to gutting violence prevention programs and unemployment equity and pay equity. The Harris government continues in all its cuts to target women and children. The minister responsible for women's issues knows this.
We've all been affected greatly by the ongoing articles in the Toronto Star about the human toll that domestic violence takes on women and kids in our province. I want to say to the government today that they should put back the money into the programs that they have taken out. They should give women the kinds of resources they need so that they do not have to go back to the abuser. With the policies of this government, unfortunately, I'm sad to say, we have statistics of many women who have ended up back in the home of the abuser because of problems with the family support plan, cuts in welfare, the spouse-in-the-house rule, and on and on.
So I congratulate the government today for moving forward a bit, but you've taken many steps backwards. Keep moving forward as of today.
Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I too want to say how pleased I am that we have a very definitive statement from this government that they will continue the practice of criminalization of wife assault. It is an extremely important announcement for the Attorney General to make. Indeed, I have an appreciation of what kind of pressure he is under by some people in his own party and some supporters of his party to water down the criminalization of wife assault. It is extremely important that we maintain our leadership role here in Ontario, a role that has been developed over many years.
I was surprised that the minister responsible for women's issues did not comment on our experience in our own home town of London. London was the very first police force to require its officers to lay charges in cases of wife assault when they had reasonable cause to do so. The actions and the teamwork of the police department there with the crown attorneys and with the various supportive agencies is legend across this country. It is not necessary for that kind of concerted domestic violence court to take place in a place where the community gets together, networks, supports its police force, supports the crown attorneys, and there is a mutual action.
That has not happened in Toronto and we have read over the last months in the Toronto Star very graphic accounts of the lack of coordination between the police force and the crown attorneys, the lack of commitment on the part of both in Metropolitan Toronto to ensure that domestic assault is indeed treated seriously. This announcement today is a very good news piece.
I would just caution the Attorney General. He is setting up these domestic violence courts in only two of the jurisdictions, and there are many others, in Scarborough, Etobicoke, York county and so on, where we know from the statistics that the criminalization policy of the government has, shall we say, never been vigorously pursued in the way the minister says he would like it to be pursued. Let us hope that these domestic violence courts in Toronto begin a process of acceptance and coordination between policing and between crown attorneys in this jurisdiction that then gives rise to a spread of that kind of commitment, because without that commitment it's not going to happen.
I would just echo my colleague from Riverdale's comment that while we recognize and welcome this as a positive action, there are many other actions that cuts by this government are causing that are forcing women and children back into violent homes.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): Mr Speaker, I ask unanimous consent of the House to note the passing of a former member of the Legislature.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Do we have unanimous consent? Minister of Environment and Energy.
Hon Mr Sterling: It's my privilege to note the passing of a former colleague of ours, Reuben Baetz, who was the member for Ottawa West from 1977 to 1987. Reuben was elected in the same year I was elected, 1977, and served his people in Ottawa West for that 10-year period. As well, he served in the cabinet of Ontario, first becoming the Minister of Energy, then the Minister of Culture and Recreation, as it was then.
Mr Baetz had a significant and long career in public life before he came to Queen's Park. He was the former president of the International Council on Social Welfare, former member of the Ontario Economic Council, Canada Manpower and Immigration Council, Canadian Association of Social Workers and a trustee of the Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy.
His interest in social welfare came from the history of his life in that his father was a Lutheran minister, and Reuben learned many things from his father. He travelled to Germany on a mission in social work and was bitten at that time by the plight of many people in our world. He fought for these people during his lifetime.
Reuben was very fortunate. He had a very strong partner while going through life, his wife Jule, whom many of us got to know during his time as a member of this Legislature. He was the proud father of three children, Mark, Anne and Carla, and had six grandchildren.
Reuben Baetz I believe served this province in a very dignified and intelligent way. He had the maturity of a great deal of experience when he got to this House. He used that experience to assist the Davis government in terms of its deliberations over the period of seven or eight years that he was a minister there.
I'll always remember Reuben and his family for their contribution to this place. I will always remember Reuben for standing up for the poor and less fortunate in our province and in our country. I'll remember him also for his cheerful attitude, his easygoing manner and his ability to get along with people not only on the government side but also on the opposition side.
I believe we all owe a great deal of gratitude to the memory of Reuben Baetz. We wish his family all our condolences and sympathies in this tough time. Reuben went through a long illness, and I know how difficult it was for his wife and family to endure that for the past six or eight months.
We thank the family for giving Reuben to the citizens of Ontario for the period of time they did. We will respect him always.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My colleagues and I want to associate ourselves with the remarks of the Minister of Environment and Energy in expressing our condolences to the family of the late Reuben Baetz.
I remember Reuben very well. He was all of the things that Mr Sterling has indicated in his excellent remarks this afternoon. I said to someone earlier, when I think of Reuben Baetz I think of many things, but had Jimmy Stewart not been cast in the famous role of Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Reuben Baetz could have played that part because he was such an elegant and stylish gentleman, and always a gentleman. A generosity of spirit, fun to be with. We had been involved, I remember, in a couple of fairly active issues of the early 1980s -- the McMichael Gallery is the one I remember most especially -- and no matter how frantic or frenetic the pace, Reuben never lost the good cheer and the generosity that were his hallmarks.
He was a child of the manse. His father was a Lutheran minister in Ontario. I think Reuben was born in Bruce county, in Chesley, if my memory serves me correctly. I remember him well talking about his experience as the son of a minister in rural southwestern Ontario in the Depression. Mr Sterling is right in reminding us that he had a very strong social conscience. That social conscience, I believe, was born from that experience as a minister's son in the Depression of the 1930s. He spent time with the Lutheran overseas service in postwar Europe, and I remember well his discussions about what he found in Germany and Hungary and other parts of central Europe where he played a very active role in the reconstruction of that period.
Reuben was also like another famous Ottawa Conservative, Charlotte Whitton, in that he had long and strong association with some of the leading child advocate and social welfare agencies. He was for many years the executive director of the Canadian Council on Social Development. His career, not just here at the Legislature and in government but elsewhere in the province and country, reminds us that a social conscience is and ought to remain an important part of the responsibilities of individual citizens and public personalities.
On behalf of my colleagues, I want to extend to his wife and his family our sincerest condolences. We will remember him always as an outstanding part of Ontario legislative history.
Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I will not repeat what's been said most appropriately by the member for Carleton and the member for Renfrew North. I too knew Reuben Baetz, not as well as those two gentlemen, given the geography of this province and the location of their respective ridings, but I knew Reuben and I had actually heard about him before he came to this place, before he got elected in 1977, when he was executive director of the Canadian Council on Social Development. As a matter of fact, he went on from there to become the president of the International Council on Social Welfare, I believe it was called in those days. Then he appeared as a Conservative candidate and got elected. Coming from the social welfare field in those days, being a Tory, didn't raise as many eyebrows as I suspect it would today. But he cared very much about that which he did, and it was always a good experience debating with him.
The member for Renfrew North mentioned the McMichael collection. There was a bit of a brouhaha around the administration and governance of the McMichael collection, as I recall, and I can remember engaging in quite vigorous debate with him, but at no time did he ever lose his cool. I wish I could say the same about myself. He always had a very courtly demeanour about him and always seemed to be able to put things in perspective. Most of his 10 years, of course, were in cabinet, and he left in 1987. He knew when to get out, I think.
I always will remember him because of the way he conducted himself, regardless of the pressures that were coming at him from the two opposition parties. He really did conduct himself with much distinction.
I know he'll be missed by his friends and by his family. On behalf of my caucus, I wish to extend condolences to his wife, to his three children and of course to his grandchildren and his many, many friends.
The Speaker: I thank the members for Carleton, Renfrew North and Nickel Belt. I'll be sure to send a copy of Hansard to his family.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Health. Minister, we have just received notice that it is your intention to go back to the negotiating table with the Ontario Medical Association tomorrow, as we are now four days away from the threatened health care crisis in this province. I stress again that this crisis which you continue to face is a crisis of your own making, that you bullied through your changes to the health care system and that you tried to bully your way into an agreement. You backed yourself into a corner, you lost, and now you have to try again.
Minister, it's quite clear that your so-called deal with the Ontario Medical Association didn't measure up for doctors of this province, but what is of greatest concern to us is that it didn't measure up for patients of this province, because a deal which would have forced patients to pay for medical services, a deal which threatens access to quality health care for patients across this province, is not a health care deal that works for patients.
I ask you, Minister, as you prepare to go back to the negotiating table, will there be somebody there to speak for patients this time?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The whole thrust of the negotiating team has been to do exactly that and speak for patients and to ensure access to medical services. That will continue to be the first and foremost thing that is on the minds of our negotiators at the table on behalf of the people of the province of Ontario.
Mrs McLeod: I don't believe that this minister can possibly claim that his concern -- his primary concern -- is for patients when his idea of getting a deal was to trade away patients' rights to make patients pay for their health care.
Minister, you sat down with the Ontario Medical Association, with their negotiating team. You agreed -- and it may even be, for all we know, that you actually proposed -- that you would take away $108 million in services that are now considered medically necessary, services that are now provided to patients without any charge, without any fee, and you suddenly decided that some of these services would no longer be medically necessary simply because you needed a deal at the bargaining table.
Minister, I ask you how you can possibly claim to be representing the concerns of patients when you were prepared to trade away their rights, to force them to pay for their health care in order to get a deal. If you are not representing patients -- and I don't believe you have been -- I ask you, who will be in these next rounds of talks?
Hon Mr Wilson: I say with all due respect that I think the honourable member might have her words a bit mixed up. Now she's talking about patients' rights to pay for their health care, and I must admit this side of the House is totally confused.
Mrs McLeod: Let me make it abundantly clear to the minister, because it is quite clear that what this minister was prepared to trade away were patients' rights to health care and to force them to pay for the care that they now receive without fee. What is obvious to everyone is that you were prepared to sit down quietly and secretly at a bargaining table and you were prepared to bargain away patients' health care -- $108 million in services that patients were entitled to.
You were not prepared to say, before the deal was voted on, exactly what services you now consider to be medically unnecessary; you weren't prepared to tell patients in this province what they would have to pay for. Quite frankly, I don't think either you or the Ontario Medical Association had any idea what services were going to have to be paid for, what you now consider to be medically unnecessary. You just wanted a deal and what happened to patients really didn't even come into consideration.
Minister, will you assure us, as you go into this next round of negotiations as you look again for a deal, that patients in this province will not have to pay for a single service that they are now receiving under medicare? Will you refuse to make patients pay for your next deal?
Hon Mr Wilson: The status quo is not an option in health care. The honourable member knows that; her federal counterparts know that; most of her colleagues seem to know that. We have to change the way we approach some of these long-standing problems that were existent when your government was in office and when the NDP was in office.
The joint statement that is now passed was not the deal that the honourable member keeps talking about. There's much more to be done in terms of negotiations. I've instructed our negotiators. They'll be back at the table tomorrow morning and we will carry forward in the same vein that we have throughout the past 16 months that this government's been in office, and that is to always protect patients' rights and, above all, patients' access to quality medical care in the world's best health care system.
TEACHERS' COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): That answer was as incredible as some of the reports commissioned by the Minister of Education, to whom I will direct my second question. You appointed, as you well know, your very good friend Leon Paroian to review the current process that's used for teacher-board negotiations. We all saw the report Mr Paroian released last Friday, a report which is worth about the dollar you paid for it.
We are now starting to receive the analyses being done by a number of legal firms, and those analyses are unanimous in finding that the basic information in Mr Paroian's report is not correct, that there's a lack of understanding of collective bargaining in general and of teacher collective bargaining in particular, and that the author's knowledge of our education system is sadly lacking. I'll just quote one part of one report, where it says: "The report is breathtaking in light of the sweeping conclusions it makes without any empirical evidence or critical analysis. For the most part, its conclusions are based on anecdotal evidence or the prejudices of the author." These are legal opinions based on a clear understanding of the bargaining process.
I ask if the minister will agree with us and the various opinions that are now coming in that this report lacks credibility due to a lack of understanding on the part of the author and that it should be shelved.
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I suppose there have been several days in this chamber where the Leader of the Opposition and I have disagreed on issues, and I expect that there will be more of those days in the future, but I can say that there never has been a time in my time in this chamber when I've been more disappointed in an observation made by the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Paroian filed a report on Friday of last week. Yes, it's true that Mr Paroian and I are friends and have been for some time. It's also true that Mr Paroian was compensated the grand total of a dollar for three months' work. He is a respected member of the bar and a respected member of his community, and I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that he has extensive experience in labour relations. I find it offensive and repugnant when the Leader of the Opposition would criticize a citizen who has come forward and put his time and experience and effort into trying to make this province better and trying to seriously review the collective bargaining process of teachers. I find that objectionable.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member from London, order.
Mrs McLeod: I can assure the minister that I have been equally disappointed in many of his responses, as I am in his response today. I would have thought that your friend Mr Paroian would have had a somewhat better understanding of our educational system because as a counsel he has represented both teachers and school boards on a number of issues over the past years. But there is one particular issue in which he's been involved that concerns me as I see this report.
I think you knew when you appointed Mr Paroian that he was involved in a case that dealt very specifically with the issue of workload and preparation time for teachers; he was the counsel in this case opposing the recognition of preparation time. I don't think Mr Paroian's report can possibly be considered objective given the nature of his role of counsel opposing teachers on this issue. I think when you appointed Mr Paroian, you did so not to have an objective review but to get your personal agenda back on the table. Was this your back-door way of pushing through your old tool kit?
Hon Mr Snobelen: Again, I think this entire line of questioning, just so you'll know, is reprehensible. This gentleman's reputation is very sound in his community. He has represented both sides of the bargaining table, just to be clear.
This is a very serious report that's looked at some deficiencies that have been identified in our bargaining process with teachers in this province by reports done by a variety of people, including Mr Sweeney, over the course of the last 10 years. It's comprehensive. It's taken a very serious look at a very serious issue.
For the record, I take seriously the fact that we've lost 17 million student days to collective bargaining in this province over the last 20 years. I believe that's a situation that needs to be redressed and I'm glad there's been an exhaustive study done on it.
Mrs McLeod: What is truly reprehensible is Mr Paroian's statement that teachers in the province of Ontario work just four hours a day. I think anybody who knows anything about the education system knows how absolutely absurd that statement is, and I hope you will at least agree that this kind of a statement is nonsense and it is offensive to the committed teachers of this province.
Minister, I think until you are prepared to completely distance yourself from this report, teachers and school boards and students are going to continue to feel literally under siege by your government. In fact, even David Moll, chairman of the Toronto Board of Education, a lifelong self-confessed Tory, has said, and I can only quote a part of his comments, "This commando style of governing with its press releases, media leaks, short time lines, and no consultation has been detrimental to schools and their students."
Trial balloons like this unrealistic, uninformed and inflammatory report just add to the chaos and to the confusion. It hurts students. I ask the minister, for the benefit of teachers, of school boards, of students, in an effort to bring some common reason back to our education system, will you clearly state your intention to shelve Mr Paroian's report?
Hon Mr Snobelen: To straighten out the record, to clarify the record, I wish that the Leader of the Opposition had perhaps read the report she's criticizing. Clearly she has not, because Mr Paroian said that in the circumstances of a work-to-rule, that was the case, when the teachers' involvement was limited to the number of hours they spent in the classroom under schedule. That's the situation people find themselves in in the province right now, where there are work-to-rule situations, where teachers are not even allowed to take their work home to help students. So that's exactly the reference, and I would suggest that the Leader of the Opposition read the report and not take it out of context and be accurate.
It's something that needs to be discussed. I think teachers don't like strikes. I don't think they like job action. I don't think parents like it or students like it. I think this will be a catalyst for a very useful conversation to improve the quality of education and the experience that children have in the classroom. It's not helped when the report is misrepresented by the Leader of the Opposition, who clearly has not read it.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): We'll see who is misrepresenting what. The Minister of Education talks about this objective report. The only thing that is objective about this report is that the person who wrote it is conducting a clear and objective attack on teachers and on what teachers do in the classroom.
Let me go back to the beginning. We've settled that the author of this report, Leon Paroian, is your long-time friend, and we've settled that at the same time he was supposedly writing this objective report he and his law firm were representing a board of education in an arbitration and they were attacking teachers' preparation time. We also know that immediately before Mr Paroian started to write this report he was the trustee for your business property at 6191 Atlantic Drive in Mississauga, immediately before you appointed him.
Anybody else who objectively views this thing would say that Mr Paroian has a conflict of interest, that he is simply your attack dog. Do you agree that he has a conflict of interest?
Hon Mr Snobelen: Thank you very much for the question, to the leader of the third party. If it is a conflict of interest to receive a dollar for three months of your work, and to forgo whatever compensation there would be for supervising a trust for that period, because Mr Paroian could not do that in all faith, then I guess that's a conflict of interest, because the gentleman put three months' work in for a dollar. I think that's commendable. Perhaps the leader of the third party doesn't.
Mr Hampton: Every day we learn more about the Conservative definition of ethics. This guy is your business associate. He's on your payroll. He's trustee for your business properties. He's your personal friend. While he's conducting this report he's representing a board of education that is actually out there attacking teachers' preparation time. I think anybody objective would say this guy clearly had a leaning, clearly had an interest, before he ever entered into this.
Let me ask a further point. When school board trustees who appeared before Mr Paroian indicated to him that they were happy, that they were satisfied with the current teachers' collective bargaining system, he actually attacked them. He berated them. Does that sound like someone who is objective? When he was confronted with the statistics showing that the teachers' collective bargaining system has worked well, that it settled 97% of the contracts without strike or lockout, his response was, "If it's not broken, break it."
Minister, this sounds suspiciously like you. It sounds suspiciously like your comments.
The Speaker: Order. Leader of the third party, come to order. Minister of Education.
Hon Mr Snobelen: This party, this government and certainly the author of the report on Bill 100 need no lectures from the leader of the third party on ethics, just to start with.
Perhaps it's an acceptable statistic to the leader of the third party that 17 million school days have been lost by school children in the province due to collective bargaining over the course of the last 20 years. Perhaps that's acceptable to the leader of the third party. I find it unacceptable.
Mr Hampton: I would have thought that if we were going to make some decisions about how collective bargaining is conducted with respect to education, we would want an independent report. We would want somebody who was prepared to be objective. We would want someone who wasn't coming to the issue already with an attitude, already with their mind made up.
We've already settled. This guy is your personal friend, your business associate, the trustee of some of your business properties immediately before you appoint him. Whenever anyone appears before him and gives him evidence which contradicts his viewpoint, he attacks them; he berates them.
Do you want an objective report on collective bargaining or are you looking for someone who merely does your dirty work in terms of trying to create a crisis in education? That's what it seems like. Do you want an objective report or somebody to do your attacking for you?
Hon Mr Snobelen: I suppose that when you have a comprehensive look at a system and you have someone who is well regarded in his community have a look at a system and you receive that report and don't like the report, if you can't find anything wrong with the report, what you do is attack its author. That's gone on for years and years. I think it's repugnant to take that course of action, but apparently the leader of the third party does not.
Let me tell you this. If the leader of the third party has some problem with the qualifications of the individual who has conducted this investigation, he might better turn his attention to the comments of the president of the Ontario Teachers' Federation or to the comments of the president of the OSSTF local in the Windsor area, where this gentleman is from, who when Mr Paroian was presented as chairman of this particular group, said that Mr Paroian was objective and knowledgeable and would file a report that was well regarded and well respected within the industry. I think that's as good a recommendation as anyone could have.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My next question is for the other minister who is creating a crisis, the Minister of Health. Last Friday, as a result of the decision of Ontario's doctors to reject your offer, you said you would take the weekend to decide your next step. Everyone in Ontario is anxiously awaiting the result of your weekend musings.
After all, it was your decision to give yourself power over the delivery of the entire health care system under Bill 26, your decision to claw back an extra 6.5% for medical services in order to meet your own fiscal targets, your decision to cut an unprecedented $1.3 billion from hospitals, and your decisions that have put Ontario's health care system in crisis. So let me ask you this: After the weekend, have you decided what to do? People in Ontario want to know what you're going to do about the crisis in health care that you've created.
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): At the invitation of the Ontario Medical Association, our negotiating teams will be sitting down together, and as per the last round of negotiations, we won't be negotiating through the media. It's incumbent that we respect the process, and the teams will get back together tomorrow.
Mr Hampton: Not a lot of information, so let me try again: This minister has managed in one year to anger the entire system of health care providers in the province. The doctors are extremely unhappy, the nurses are very angry and concerned about the future of health care and the quality of patient care, and now the Ontario Hospital Association has expressed its grave concerns.
Yesterday the president of the Ontario Hospital Association told the press the same thing we've been trying to tell you in this Legislature during this entire session, that you cannot expect hospitals to cut 18% of their budgets without affecting patient care. You have cut $365 million from hospitals already, and the result is clear: Services are being cut. Hospitals are laying off. Things like emergency services are being curtailed.
Will you commit, while you're thinking about this, to reinstate the hospital funding until you have your act together and can guarantee that patient services and medical services will not suffer while you're figuring out what you should do?
Hon Mr Wilson: For the first time in the history of this province the Ministry of Health has a very clear vision, and that vision was articulated and published earlier this year, as all ministry visions were published. Lo and behold, a lot of people have read the business plan, a lot of people have read the vision, and they agree wholeheartedly with the direction.
What the president of the OHA said over the weekend in his comments to the media showed great support for the direction the government is taking. He actually said that, and I want to publicly thank David MacKinnon, the president of the Ontario Hospital Association, and his predecessor, David Martin, who was in office when we launched the restructuring. They've been extremely helpful in setting the direction of the Ministry of Health and in working. What the president has obviously asked for on behalf of his members is not a retreat from the policy but indeed a redoubling of the efforts to implement the policy faster so that we can get the true restructuring done as quickly as possible to ensure --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister of Health, thank you.
Mr Hampton: The Minister of Health must have been dreaming, because let me repeat what the OHA said:
"What is troubling is that the government isn't saying whether the reinvestment money that is identified in the restructuring commission's report will be provided. Until the government's intentions in this area are clear, hospitals simply cannot plan and implement restructuring initiatives."
That's what we've been asking you in this House and what we've been trying to point out with respect to Thunder Bay and Sudbury. You refuse to give any commitment for the transitional costs, for funding new services and for capital construction costs. For example, you've set aside $167 million for capital, and over half of that is eaten up in Thunder Bay and Sudbury. You've got an entire province to deal with.
Let me ask you this: While you're figuring out what to do, will you reinstate the funding so that people can get the patient care, community care and medical care they need while you're figuring out how to clean up your own mess?
Hon Mr Wilson: I'll take honourable members back to what was a historic speech on April 18 of this year by President David Martin of the Ontario Hospital Association to the Empire Club, when he said:
"I know that restructuring and reform here in Ontario in some way lag behind other jurisdictions. Some look at our system and see how much has been accomplished in terms of restructuring in the past few years. I look at it and see how much more is needed....
"Over the years, the health care system has been studied into paralysis. That inaction is about to change."
Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): You'd better reinstate the money you took out, Jim. Put the money back. He won't answer the question; he's talking about something else
The Speaker: Member for Cochrane North, I ask you to come to order.
Hon Mr Wilson: To continue the quote: "Bill 26 created the Health Services Restructuring Commission. It was given a broad, sweeping mandate for change. The Ontario Hospital Association appreciated the need for enabling legislation like Bill 26 to overcome barriers to change where necessary."
The leaders in the hospital community don't agree with your view of what is needed in the health care system. The leaders in the health care community agree with this government's vision. We're all trying to work together to implement that vision.
NATURAL GAS RATES
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. What do you have to say to the over one million customers of Consumers' Gas in Ontario who have received in recent days a notice that they are expected to pay, and are being charged, upwards of $50 as a one-time charge to cover some miscalculations the gas company made last year?
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): The member well knows that the Ontario Energy Board is charged with approving rates that can be charged to consumers in this province to protect consumers from gouging by gas companies. That is a totally non-political, hands-off, arm's-length process. Therefore your government and our government have no control over the prices charged to consumers in Ontario for natural gas.
Mr Conway: All I know is that the Ontario Energy Board gave advice to the government and Ontario Hydro about rates, and both Hydro and your government just ignored the Ontario Energy Board completely. We have a gas company here, Consumers' Gas, that made $150 million last year, and now they're going to take an extra $30 million largely out of the pockets of residential customers across Ontario on a one-time basis because they miscalculated the weather last year.
What have you got to say to these increasingly irate customers? Are you prepared to tell these customers that if this year's winter is warmer than expected, Consumers' Gas will do what they've never done before: give a rebate on the basis of unexpectedly warm weather?
Hon Mr Sterling: The member may well know that if the rate that is established before the winter season is based on false assumptions, the gas company will be required to give a rebate. But I want to emphasize that your government and the previous Liberal, NDP and Conservative governments had no control over the gas prices directly, and you know that. This is an arm's-length process on purpose so that politicians like you and I will not meddle in it. If the member wants politicians to meddle in the process, perhaps as is the case with electricity rates, please let me know.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Last Thursday Mel Lastman, the mayor of North York, put out a joint news release with the other five Metro mayors, and this is what they said:
"The creation of one big city creates less efficient and more costly government."
On the same day the mayor sent out a letter to all North York employees urging them to "voice your concern about the mega-city project and fight to save our city."
"Anywhere a mega-city has been tried, it has failed. A mega-city is too large, too expensive and too bureaucratic," he said.
Yet today, in a sudden about-face, he's quoted as saying, "I'm not going to fight it." Methinks we've got a problem here.
Mayor Mel Lastman, the original Bad Boy who never saw a fight he didn't like, is acting like a pussy-cat. Minister, are you cooking up a deal with Mel Lastman to appoint him as the mayor of your mega-city?
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank the member opposite for that very interesting question. I think Mr Lastman is recognized as being one of the most astute mayors in the greater Toronto area. It would appear that he's had an opportunity to review all the facts and issues and has come to --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I'm having difficulty hearing the minister.
Hon Mr Leach: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I'd also like to inform the House that we haven't made any special deal with Mayor Lastman, but thanks very much for the idea. It might have some merit.
Mr Marchese: I'm not sure I have given you any new ideas, Minister. Mel Lastman last week said, "I was the first mayor of North York and I'll be damned if I'm going to be the last one." Something transpired over the weekend. That's why we think there's a problem, that you're cooking up a deal with Mel Lastman.
The people of Metropolitan Toronto want to elect their mayor as a fundamental right of democracy. They want to hold a mayor accountable, not to have someone appointed by you and not to give power to a government run by faceless bureaucrats. You cannot have a government run by your friends at the board of trade.
What I want from you today is a guarantee, your assurance that if you go to this mega-city, the people of Metropolitan Toronto will still be able to elect their mayor next year, in the year 2000 and beyond.
Hon Mr Leach: That's very interesting dialogue, but it's very difficult to give any assurances when you haven't made any decisions on the issue at hand. We haven't made any decisions on whether we're going to one level of government for efficiency and effectiveness. We're getting closer to it, and if we do, I will be looking forward to having input from all of the mayors who are involved in the GTA, not just Mr Lastman. I have spoken to every one of the mayors in the GTA, and I'd like to let the House know that many of them are seeing the merits behind this proposal now.
HIGHWAY 402 IMPROVEMENT
Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): To the Minister of Transportation: as you know, Highway 402 is in bad shape. Highway 402 serves as an important economic link between Ontario and major markets in Michigan and Chicago. It also connects the key industries of the Chemical Valley in Sarnia to London and the rest of the province. The residents of Sarnia and Lambton want to know what your ministry is doing to meet the needs of the almost 20,000 vehicles that use this highway daily.
Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): My ministry does recognize the importance of Highway 402's contribution to the Ontario economy. We have committed funding towards the rehabilitation of almost 40 kilometres between Strathroy and London. So far there have been three phases of pavement rehabilitation. The contract for the first phase is now complete. The second phase is scheduled for completion in the spring of 1997. The contract for the third phase was advertised two weeks ago and construction will most likely begin in the spring of 1997 and will be completed by 1999.
Mr Boushy: I just want to point out to the minister that the portion from Strathroy to Sarnia is just as bad as from Strathroy to London. I wish he had paid more attention to it.
On a related matter, many residents of my riding were relieved to hear that a noise barrier would be constructed along a section of this Highway 402. Could you provide the House with some specific details concerning this well-received project? When will construction begin and how long will it take?
Hon Mr Palladini: My ministry basically is indeed committed to the building of the noise barriers along that section of the 402. A contract was awarded and construction is scheduled to start later on this month. A noise barrier will be built in Sarnia from Murphy Road east for almost a kilometre on the north and south sides of the highway. Construction will occur throughout the winter and the barrier will be in place by the spring of 1997.
NORTHERN HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My question is to the Minister of Health. What I'd like to do is begin my question by sending over this document, Remote Northern Hospital Costs: The Need for Funding Adjustment to Recognize Inherent Costs. In the report, the authors have raised concerns with respect to the 1996 and 1997 funding allocations and factors adjustment formula. I hope the minister has seen this report; it was forwarded to him earlier. They've stated that they are concerned that the funding method developed by the joint policy and planning committee does not address the issues of remote northern communities. You continually tell the House and the public that you're not cutting costs in health care. I ask you today, will you agree to the group's recommendation, as outlined in this report, for a service protection fund for remote hospitals?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): As you know, the joint policy and planning committee of the Ministry of Health and the Ontario Hospital Association has been developing this year's funding formula. The formula is not quite ready. I've read most of the report the honourable member handed to me today -- it was originally released a couple of weeks ago -- and will tell the honourable member that we're very sensitive to the needs of the north, and particularly the remote north. Last year's formula, which the JPPC recognized, capped most small northern remote hospitals at a 2.5% reduction. Just this morning I met with James Bay General Hospital, for example, which has extremely unique circumstances in all of the area it tries to cover. I'm very hopeful, and I'm encouraging the JPPC to take all of this into account when it develops this year's formula.
Mr Miclash: Let me go back to page 4 of A Voice for the North. You must remember that this was the document issued by the Mike Harris Northern Focus Tour. They indicated:
"Kenora Hospital, for example, receives the same funding for food costs as southern Ontario facilities. This ignores the extra cost of providing nutrition in northern hospitals.... At both the Margaret Cochenour Hospital in Red Lake and the Sudbury General Hospital we were told that hospitals need to have their roles properly defined and to be funded accordingly."
You have already acknowledged that northwestern hospitals have higher costs; it's in your document. The administrators of these hospitals are telling me that some of these costs are in the neighbourhood of 25% to 30% higher. The current formula provides no recognition of the unique circumstances faced by these remote northern hospitals. Can I have your commitment today -- I want your commitment -- that no further cuts will be made to these hospitals without their full participation?
Hon Mr Wilson: I understand and appreciate exactly what the honourable member is saying on behalf of residents in our northern communities. I would also provide my own examples from the discussion with James Bay this morning. A four-litre bag of milk is over $13 -- tremendously more expensive than here.
We are challenging hospital after hospital to come forward and make sure we do an examination of their historic funding levels. Many of these hospitals' historic funding levels recognize the costs already. James Bay, for example, has been given funding over the years to provide housing for all of the employees; otherwise there wouldn't be affordable housing for the employees of its hospital. These things have been built into the budgets on a historical basis, and we will continue to be sensitive as future formulas are developed.
Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Health. Last Thursday my leader asked the Minister of Health if he would meet with some community leaders in the Sudbury area over their concerns about the delivery of health care in our community. You responded that you did not want to set up a parallel system of consultation while the Health Services Restructuring Commission was doing its work.
What I want to ask you today is, do you understand clearly what the mandate of the commission is versus your mandate? Because the mandate of the commission does not deal with the level of reinvestment of savings from that community, does not deal with labour adjustment, does not deal with the development of community-based services, what we are asking you is if you will meet with community leaders who want to talk to you about areas of health care that are outside the mandate of what the commission is recommending and certainly what the commission has the authority to impose. Why will you not meet with community leaders on those issues?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The honourable member is in error. The commission deals with all of those things, and the proof is in the pudding. Look at the final direction from the commission with respect to Thunder Bay. It clearly says that a labour adjustment policy and human resources plan must be put in place. It directs that's to happen and it will monitor to make sure that does happen.
Why, in the case of both Thunder Bay and Sudbury, is the government being asked to fund tens of millions, or millions of dollars if you take the one case of Thunder Bay -- about $10 million in new community services? Why are we being asked that if the commission doesn't have the authority to deal with that? The directives are very clear in terms of beefing up certain community-based services. The directives are also very clear in terms of providing about $10 million worth of new hospital equipment and 200 transitional beds. Gaps in services are very much addressed in a comprehensive way by the commission.
Therefore, all of the areas are dealt with by the commission, and the district health council is there to make sure that if there is something the commission missed, it will be sure to bring that to the government's attention.
Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): That's just nonsense. The minister knows full well that the mandate of the restructuring commission is to close hospitals, and his mandate is to make the final decisions with respect to reinvestment of savings, human resources strategy and the development of community-based services. That's his mandate. He has the power to make the final decisions with respect to those very important issues.
People in my community have very serious concerns about those issues. They want to talk to you directly about the reinvestment of savings, about a fully funded labour adjustment strategy and about all the community-based services we need in our community to be in place before any hospital closes. Those decisions are yours to make. When will you meet with leaders in my community who want to talk to you about these very important decisions, decisions that you at the end of the day have the final say on?
Hon Mr Wilson: It's very clear the law sets out that during this period there are to be no special meetings among the politicians, that the commission must be free to carry out in a very fair and reasonable way the restructuring of the hospital system.
I will be announcing very shortly -- and I repeat very shortly -- the government's commitment with respect to capital concerning the final directive of the commission in Thunder Bay. As members have correctly pointed out and the hospital association points out, it's difficult to find the dollars these days, but we're finding the dollars by finding efficiencies in other areas. We'll be making the announcements about the community services and about all of the other good news items that the commission has directed with respect to Thunder Bay. The government will be fully living up to the directives the commission has issued to ensure that we have a seamless and top-quality health care system in the north.
Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. My question comes from the fact that I represent a riding which goes around the south shore of Lake Simcoe, where winter tourism plays an important role through snowmobiling, ice-fishing, opportunities for cross-country skiing and so forth. I wonder what recent initiatives the minister has taken to increase winter tourism across Ontario.
Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): In response to the member for Durham-York, it's a very timely question, because this weekend in the Toronto Star this supplement came out about Ontario, talking about "Cold Weather and Hot Times." That message is going to reach over one and a half million people, particularly those in Ontario. It's 16 colour pages, very attractive, and I think you already know about it. There are over 1,000 events listed in it. It cost, for all of you to learn, about $250,000, a quarter of which was financed by the private sector. I think that shows a partnership between business and the private sector.
Mrs Munro: Are there any additional promotional efforts planned to attract more tourists into this great province, and what are they?
Hon Mr Saunderson: We plan to have more advertisements such as this. I think it had a big impact on people. Obviously the House knows about it. Yes, we are planning more of these. We're going to measure the reaction of the winter sporting crowd to this and then plan accordingly in the future.
FRENCH-LANGUAGE SERVICES / SERVICES EN FRANÇAIS
Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): My question is to the minister responsible for francophone affairs.
On parle beaucoup, en ces temps-ci, de privatisation et de transferts de responsabilités gouvernementales au niveau municipal.
Est-ce que vous avez pensé aux conséquences du transfert de ces services-là au niveau des municipalités et des entreprises en Ontario ? Comme vous le savez, la Loi 8 garantit des services, et par contre, en transférant ces responsabilités-là aux entreprises et aux municipalités, le gouvernement peut se défaire de ces responsabilités.
Est-ce que vous avez en main des études qui vont vous indiquer ou qui vont indiquer à la communauté francophone qu'elle soit rassurée de recevoir des services en français, même avec les transferts ?
L'hon Noble A. Villeneuve (ministre de l'Agriculture, de l'Alimentation et des Affaires rurales, ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones) : Comme vous le savez, la commission Crombie n'a pas encore fait toutes ces recommandations, et puis la décision de Qui fait quoi n'a pas encore été complétée. Mais je peux vous rassurer -- comme vous l'avez dit, la Loi 8 ne s'applique pas à nos municipalités -- et nous veillons sérieusement à ce que nous desservions notre communauté francophone de la meilleure façon possible. Ils reçoivent déjà les bienfaits de la Loi 8, et puis nous avons certainement l'intention de continuer.
M. Grandmaître : Monsieur le Ministre, votre réponse est vague, et je peux vous dire que la communauté francophone s'inquiète d'une telle réponse parce qu'elle est vague. Vous parlez de la commission Crombie. Je suis d'accord avec vous qu'ils sont en train de faire une étude, mais par contre votre bureau, l'office des Affaires francophones, a un mot à dire à cette commission. C'est ce mot que je veux que vous répétiez en Chambre, que vous avez donné des directives très précises à la commission de M. Crombie.
Je n'ai pas à vous rappeler que la Loi 8 sur les services en français garantit des services à la communauté francophone et que si jamais les entreprises et les municipalités auront à desservir la communauté francophone, il y aura des injustices.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Put the question.
M. Grandmaître : Ma question est très simple. Quelle assurance avez-vous à donner aujourd'hui à la communauté francophone qu'on va garantir la prestation de ces services ?
L'hon M. Villeneuve : Comme je vous dis, la commission Crombie va soumettre son rapport prochainement. Mme Gisèle Lalonde, qui vient de tout près de chez vous, est sur cette commission-là et elle veille certainement à ce qu'on desserve notre francophonie. Alors, je peux rassurer mon honorable collègue que nous allons faire notre grand possible, tout en demeurant économiquement efficace, de desservir notre francophonie.
ONTARIO LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. As you know, the Sun and the Toronto Star reported that Dave Johnson threatened a review or a reassessment of the Ontario Labour Relations Board because he didn't like its ruling on the Metro Days of Action. The Chair of Management Board says he doesn't remember what he said. The Premier says he's satisfied with that response.
It's now up to you to restore some confidence in the independence of the labour board. If you fire any more vice-chairs, if you conduct a review or a reassessment, everyone who deals with the labour board will see it as the promised retaliation. Will you commit right now that there will be no such review or reassessment and no further firings of labour board members?
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): To the member opposite, given the present situation, obviously it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment at this time.
Mr Christopherson: It's a little bit late in the day for cabinet ministers to suddenly be worried about what's appropriate to say and not say. The independence and the integrity of the labour board are in question here. Minister, that's very serious. As a result of all this, there's now an application before the labour board seeking contempt charges against the Chair of Management Board and asking to have a particular case heard by someone who will not have to fear retaliation of Dave Johnson, either an Ontario Court judge or a labour board representative from outside Ontario.
The application says that Dave Johnson threatened, coerced and intimidated the vice-chairs of the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The union which has charges against Johnson says that the veiled threat against members of the board makes it nearly impossible for them to get a fair hearing. The minister says he doesn't remember what he said, and you won't comment on it.
Minister, you have a responsibility to ensure that those labour board members don't have to fear that your government will retaliate with a review or more firings of labour board members. Please assure those labour board members that won't happen.
Hon Mrs Witmer: That's exactly the situation. There is a case before the board and it's for exactly that reason that I'm not in a position to make any further comment.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Minister of Health. We have asked you time and time again to resolve the issue of obstetrical care for women in my community and in all communities across Ontario where we cannot get adequate care for our women who are pregnant. I have a specific question. We have a number of our women whose citizenship status is landed immigrant; for example, we have many Chinese women or Middle East women with that current immigrant status. They need a visitors' visa to get delivery care or prenatal care in the US. I would like to know if you plan to organize that for these women.
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Mr Speaker, as you know, the honourable member's community is taking the lead in trying to put forward a clinic to deal with the needs of women in Windsor-Essex, particularly around prenatal care. I just assure the honourable member we're doing everything on our side to make sure that happens for your community and the citizens of your community.
Mrs Pupatello: The reality is that in all the talking you've been doing, in fact nothing has changed. May I remind you that this is not a simple case of people who can wait to get doctors' services. These women are due; they will be due before March. You had a deal which did not go through with doctors. You have worked on a clinic which is not yet open. We need more OBs. They have not yet arrived. The women will be delivering their babies shortly.
You cannot simply put this off and hope you will have some kind of an answer, because babies will be delivered somewhere. I am asking you today, on behalf of women with immigrant status who would require visitors' visas to attend care in the US, will you take the leadership role in ensuring that you pick up their costs for this added expense, to ensure they get the care regardless of where they have to get it?
Hon Mr Wilson: We're working very hard with health care representatives and leaders in the honourable member's community, and they're actually very positive that solutions have been found and we're in the process of trying to implement those solutions so that those worst-case scenarios that the honourable member -- by the way, the honourable member is never very positive about all the things we're trying to do for her community and the millions of dollars of investments we've made and the money we've given to obstetricians in her community and all the special arrangements we've made to make sure they have services.
She also is never particularly forthright with the fact that many of these issues -- I mean, you're new to this place but these issues have been around for years and years and we're moving forward --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.
The Speaker: "Whining" is parliamentary. I'm not suggesting anyone is. She just asked if the word was. That's parliamentary. New question, third party.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I have a question to the Minister of Health. It's a follow-up on the question asked by my two colleagues from Sudbury. The minister indicated that it is within the mandate of the hospital restructuring commission to look at support services, community services, reinvestment of capital and human resource adjustment policy.
I am sure you read Hansard of Wednesday, October 30, when Dr Sinclair appeared before the estimates committee, where we had a very detailed discussion with Dr Sinclair about that. He made it very clear that he has a responsibility to restructure hospitals and close hospitals and that with respect to that mandate he makes the final decision.
With respect to all other matters it's up to you to make the decision. That's why the people in Sudbury want to meet with you, Minister. Under those conditions, why will you not meet with community people about your mandate, not Dr Sinclair's mandate?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): During this period between the interim and final decisions of the commission it's not appropriate, but as the commission make its final decisions, as we're doing with Thunder Bay now, the government is very active with the community.
I will read the commission's mandate as was provided on February 28, the day of the announcement of the commission: "The commission must make decisions in the public interest, and in doing so may consider any matters it considers relevant, including the quality of care and treatment of patients, the quality of management and administration, the proper management of the health care system, the availability of financial resources and the accessibility to health services in the community." It goes on and on for a page and a half and covers most aspects of health care.
I agree with the honourable member that it's up to the government, after the commission has made final decisions, to step forward and show support for those decisions in terms of capital and other financial resources.
Mr Cooke: The minister still refuses to accept what Dr Sinclair understands very clearly is the separation of his role and your role, and you're obviously doing it because you're playing politics with this whole restructuring.
Every community the commission has dealt with is frightened to death that they're going to lose hospital services and that there's no commitment, nothing that can be enforced to ensure that there is proper capital -- dollars for human resources, retraining and adjustment -- and that there are community services. It's your responsibility to reassure those communities and the communities want to meet with you so that you will put your dollars on the table.
Your deputy was very clear: You've only got $169 million of capital in your budget. The Ontario Hospital Association says restructuring is going to cost at least $1 billion. These concerns are real. Why don't you meet with the people from Sudbury?
Hon Mr Wilson: Dr Sinclair, the chair of the commission, made it very clear in his appearance before the estimates committee last week that the commission has the mandate to look at the health care system as a whole in the community.
Second, I assure the honourable member that the government is fully aware of the capital requirements. We've looked at some 60 district health council studies, which your government and the Liberal government spent $26 million developing, and we have a ballpark figure of what restructuring may cost across the province, not just in the communities where the commission may go but in many other communities. The whole hospital system in Ontario needs to be restructured. Some areas, like Windsor-Essex, have already done it, and when we came to office we lived up to the commitment and put a substantial number of dollars there. It's premature now to give dollar figures, given that we don't have the recommendations on these communities from the commission. When we get the recommendations, the government will bring forward its response to back up those recommendations with financial resources.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): You wonder why no one has confidence in the process.
The Speaker: Order. If I left the impression --
The Speaker: Order. I want to say that the question was put by the member of Oriole about, is whining in order? I just responded yes. I was casting no intent on the answers or questions in the Legislature. If someone's taken offense, I apologize.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I am honoured to present this petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the provincial government is planning to make significant changes to the delivery and governance of education in this province; and
"Whereas we as parents believe that school councils should play an important role in education, with clearly defined responsibilities limited to their particular school communities; and
"Whereas we as ratepayers are extremely disturbed that consideration is being given to abolish school boards and eliminate decision-making by locally elected representatives,
We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that the present structure of school boards within the province of Ontario continue to have a major role in governance of schools to deal with board policies as advocates for the students in their community, to provide cost-efficient educational services and to be directly accountable to the parents and local ratepayers."
I'm happy to sign my name to this petition.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition flowing from the health and safety conference sponsored by the Ontario Federation of Labour. Their conference was entitled "It's Your Life, Don't Leave Work Without It." These petitions were forwarded to me by Vern Edwards and Jim Paré of the OFL staff. It reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the Mike Harris government is attacking workers' compensation benefits and the rights of injured workers; and
"Whereas Tory plans include taking $15 billion from injured workers and giving $6 billion to employers, including the government's rich corporate friends; and
"Whereas Cam Jackson, the former Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for gutting the WCB, refused to hold public hearings, choosing to meet secretly with business and insurance industry representatives; and
"Whereas the WCB has about $7.6 billion in assets and its unfunded liability has been steadily shrinking; and
"Whereas the Jackson report and WCB legislation are just part of a coordinated attack on occupational health and safety protections for working families in Ontario; and
"Whereas Tory plans also include abolition of the internationally respected Occupational Disease Panel; and
"Whereas the government needs to hear the message that taking money from injured workers and lowering incentives for employers to make workplaces safer is not the way to make Ontario a better place to live;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold full, province-wide public hearings on WCB reform; to listen to the voice of the people calling for improved occupational health and safety protection; and to tell the Tory government to call off its attack on the dignity and standard of living of injured workers and their families."
As I support this petition, I add my name to theirs.
Mr Morley Kells (Etobicoke-Lakeshore): I have a petition from the parents of Hilltop Middle School in Etobicoke and it's re education cutbacks. The petition reads:
"The Ontario provincial government, under Premier Mike Harris and Education Minister John Snobelen is threatening the future of our children's education and lives by huge cuts in the education budget. This action could result in any or all" -- or, I may add, none -- "of the following: larger class sizes, elimination of buses, elimination of junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten, reduced libraries, elimination of special education programs, French immersion, instrumental music, alternative education, elementary library, extracurricular sports, developmentally challenged assistance, overcrowded schools, obsolete equipment including computers, reduced maintenance, reduced administration and weaker discipline."
NORTH YORK BRANSON HOSPITAL
Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee has recommended that North York Branson Hospital merge with York-Finch hospital; and
"Whereas this recommendation will remove emergency and inpatient services currently provided by North York Branson Hospital, which will seriously jeopardize medical care and the quality of health for the growing population which the hospital serves, many being elderly people who in numerous cases require treatment for life-threatening medical conditions;
"We petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reject the recommendation contained within the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee as it pertains to North York Branson Hospital, so that it retains, at minimum, emergency and inpatient services."
I have affixed my signature.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition to present to the Legislature on behalf of 632 residents of the community of Thessalon and area regarding their concerns about the need for adequate nursing staff at the hospital for --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): This is a speech, member.
Mr Wildman: I was under the impression, Mr Speaker, that one could summarize a petition. If you wish me to read it, I will.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the mission statement of the Central Algoma East health committee is to secure and provide quality health care services to the residents of central Algoma; and
"Whereas the council of the corporation of the town of Thessalon deems it absolutely essential that two health care providers licensed by the College of Nurses of Ontario be on shift at any time at the Thessalon Plummer Hospital;
"Therefore be it resolved that two health care providers licensed by the College of Nurses of Ontario be made available to the hospital at all times.
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That two health care providers licensed by the College of Nurses of Ontario be made available at the hospital at all times."
This petition is signed, as I said, by 632 residents of the community of Thessalon, and I affix my signature to it.
I could have done it shorter, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: Member for Algoma, I just remind you that I understand the rules and you understand them. You're supposed to summarize your petition if you're not going to read it. What generally happens is they summarize it --
Mr Wildman: I wasn't going to read it.
The Speaker: I understand that. They tend to summarize it and then read it. That's the difficulty.
Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I have a petition from some people in my riding.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, petition the assembly of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas the Ministry of Education is initiating secondary school curriculum reform in light of the compression of five years into four, we would recommend that the following be enacted into provincial legislation:
"(1) The ministry recognize that the topic of origins is faith-based. Since evolutionism and creationism are completed acts in the past, neither can be proven nor disproven. Consequently both are religious by nature. In fairness to the parents and students of Ontario, equal instruction time should be given in presenting the underlying assumptions of each. Through the two-model approach, the skills of critical thinking, such as recognition of bias, awareness of society's influence on one's bias and the awareness of assumptions can allow students to examine their own belief systems and better appreciate an opposing view.
"(2) The ministry, through in-service training, should encourage senior administrators, principals and teachers to familiarize themselves with this two-model assumptional approach and accompanying skills of critical thinking.
"(3) The ministry begin the process of mandating that all textbooks dealing with the topic of origins in both the social and pure sciences should reflect the two-model assumptional approach before being included in circular 14."
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and contains 1,000 names.
"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission has recommended the closure of two acute care hospitals in Sudbury; and
"Whereas the overall number of available beds will be reduced by approximately 35%; and
"Whereas the reduction in beds will affect Sudbury's ability to remain the referral centre for health care in northeastern Ontario; and
"Whereas there will be a large number of layoffs in the health profession, impacting the quality of local health care and our Sudbury economy; and
"Whereas the global annual budget for Sudbury's health care will be reduced by 25%;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to rescind the Health Services Restructuring Commission's recommendation to close two acute care Sudbury's hospitals."
This, a 1,000-signature petition, is added to the 11,304 names that have already been signed.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have yet here another petition from the good people of the city of Timmins, who are petitioning the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in regard to the workfare program. The petition reads:
"We, the following undersigned citizens, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas the Harris government has initiated the workfare program; and
"Whereas the unemployment rate in the province of Ontario increased by 57,000 in the month of September 1996, giving a clear indication that there is a need for job creation; and
"Whereas the majority of welfare recipients do want to work and there's no evidence that workfare will create permanent jobs; and
"Whereas we believe workfare will eliminate permanent jobs;
"Therefore, be it resolved that the government of Ontario has to abandon its workfare program and concentrate on job creation."
It's signed by some 200 people from the community of Timmins, and I affix my signature to that petition.
FAMILY SUPPORT PLAN
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): It gives me great pleasure to present this petition today.
"Whereas the administration of Families Against Deadbeats, Renata Diorio, Heinz Paul and Danielle McIsaac" -- who happen to be in the gallery today -- "are in total support of Bill 82, presented by the Honourable Charles Harnick to the Legislative Assembly on October 2, 1996, outlining the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, to replace the Family Support Plan Act, 1992;
"Whereas the changes will relieve the taxpayers of Ontario and provide proper enforcement required to collect and administer child support payments and orders;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"We support and agree with all of the changes outlined in the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, set forth by the Honourable Charles Harnick as Bill 82, and urge the Legislature to pass this bill into law as soon as possible."
I affix my signature to that.
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the quality of care for residents of nursing homes and homes for the aged is being directly and adversely affected by the funding policies of the Mike Harris Conservative government;
"Whereas the funding deficiencies are forcing these institutions to reduce available staff assistance to residents to unacceptable levels;
"Whereas the user taxes placed on prescription drugs unfairly discriminate against residents of nursing homes;
"Whereas the residents of these institutions are the very people who built this great province and country;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To provide adequate funding for long-term-care institutions and eliminate the user taxes on prescription drugs for seniors."
This is signed by a large number of constituents, mostly from the Manitoulin district, and I affix my signature.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions forwarded to me by Tom Beatty, president of the Hamilton-Brantford, Ontario Building and Construction Trades Council, and Pat Whitfield, president, and Donna Portree, recording secretary, of Local 794 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Hamilton, as well as Donna Wright, the health and safety representative for CUPE Ontario.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas it is vital that occupational health and safety services provided to workers be conducted by organizations in which workers have faith; and
"Whereas the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers have provided such services on behalf of workers for many years; and
"Whereas the centre and clinics have made a significant contribution to improvements in workplace health and safety and the reduction of injuries, illnesses and death caused by work;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to oppose any attempt to erode the structure, services or funding of the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers.
"Further, we, the undersigned, demand that the education and training of Ontario workers continue in its present form through the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and that professional and technical expertise and advice continue to be provided through the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers."
On behalf of my caucus, I add my name.
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas St Mary's Memorial Hospital is critically important to the town of St Marys and area from both health and economic perspectives,
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, the Huron-Perth District Health Council, the health-related services study task force, the Health Services Restructuring Commission and the Minister of Health to support continuation of St Mary's Memorial Hospital with acute and chronic beds and 24-hour emergency services to effectively serve the St Marys and area community."
I will sign this on their behalf as well.
SCHOOL BUS SAFETY
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the 800,000 children who ride the school buses of Ontario are at risk and their safety is in jeopardy from unsafe drivers who are not stopping for school buses; and
"Whereas the current school bus law is difficult to enforce since not only is a licence plate number required but positive identification of the driver and vehicle as well, which makes it extremely difficult to obtain a conviction;
"Therefore, be it resolved, that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That private member's Bill 78 be passed. The bill doubles the existing range of fines for identified drivers and establishes vehicle owner liability.
"We ask for the support of all members of the Legislature."
I've affixed my name to this petition.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT AND CONSULTATION IMPROVEMENT ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 AMÉLIORANT LE PROCESSUS D'ÉVALUATION ENVIRONNEMENTALE ET DE CONSULTATION PUBLIQUE
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for third reading of Bill 76, An Act to improve environmental protection, increase accountability and enshrine public consultation in the Environmental Assessment Act / Projet de loi 76, Loi visant à améliorer la protection de l'environnement, à accroître l'obligation de rendre des comptes et à intégrer la consultation publique à la Loi sur les évaluations environnementales.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I must begin today again with a comment on the title of the bill. Every time I hear it, I shake my head in disbelief. I forget when I hear the title, and I think, "Is this what I'm talking to today, is this what I'm speaking to?" because it has nothing to do with the actual content of the bill. The title of the bill is An Act to improve environmental protection, increase accountability and enshrine public consultation in the Environmental Assessment Act.
As I said on Thursday when I finished off, the spin doctors that the Tory government must spend a lot of money on come up with great titles for bills. Unfortunately, the content of this bill, as the content of the land use planning bill and all of the other bills --
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Labour legislation.
Ms Churley: -- the labour legislation, as pointed out by the member for Hamilton Centre, and on and on and on, the contents of the bills are always contrary to the actual titles.
On Thursday I talked a bit about that, and I also talked about the problems with the bill using the title as a bit of a guideline, that in fact it doesn't improve environmental protection. It actually will, this new bill if passed, and I'm sure it will, because you have a majority and we're unable -- all the environmental groups across the province who came to speak to the government about this bill raised grave concerns about it, and none of their amendments were taken into account. So it does not improve environmental protection. On the contrary, it is taking away vital environmental protections, one of which is the very heart and soul of the environmental assessment process, and that is for the proponent to have to prove the need for the undertaking, the alternative sites, alternatives to the method.
Let me give you a good example of why it is so important for a major undertaking to be looked at from the context of the need and the alternatives to the undertaking. Suppose you have a proponent come forward with a proposal for a huge garbage incinerator right in your constituents' backyard. I assume that you would want to be able to tell your constituents, "Yes, there is this proposal there, and under the law, now that this government has allowed incineration back on the table at least as an option for dealing with solid waste," but at least I'm sure you would like to be able to tell your constituents that you will have a full environmental assessment. That means the proponent is going to have to prove very thoroughly that there is a need for this facility and that the proponent has looked at, particularly in this case, the three Rs, because incinerators involve the burning -- that's what they do -- of solid waste. There is, true enough, new technology.
I remember that back in 1982 the city of Toronto wanted to build an incinerator in south Riverdale. This used to be an industrial area -- there is still some industry -- that for many years had a very highly polluting incinerator called the Commissioners Street incinerator. While that incinerator was still in use, polluting not just Riverdale but all over, the city of Toronto decided to go that route and build an incinerator in Riverdale.
In Riverdale we didn't know very much about incineration. As it turned out, very few people in Toronto, even in Canada, had done a lot of work on incineration. We formed a group. I remember David Reville, bless him, was the city councillor before he came to this place. He fought hard for our community back in the early 1980s and got city council to agree to provide the community with $50,000 of intervenor funding because there was no provincial plan at the time. We had a group called Citizens for a Safe Environment.
I was an ordinary citizen then, a single mom, very involved in my community and concerned about an already big problem with pollution, ie, lead, and other problems in the community. I got very involved in this. We investigated incineration and were told repeatedly, just as we are being told now: "Don't worry. The technology is so improved, it is such state-of-the-art technology that there will be no problems with pollution. The stacks are higher and the pollutants are spread further. The technology is so good now that most of the pollutants are taken out through pollution control equipment, therefore there's not a lot to worry about in terms of pollution being caused by incineration."
I say this is not just about pollution, although we now know, for instance, that there is no longer a safe level of dioxin and that the very act of burning garbage creates dioxin and we get dioxins, furans, mercury, lead and on and on. Some of it comes up the stack and is dispersed for miles and miles. Several years ago, when we were in the process of trying to close down the polluting Commissioners Street incinerator, some people in my community from Citizens for a Safe Environment did a very interesting, I suppose you would say, experiment. We sent off some balloons with little notes saying, "Let us know if this balloon lands in your yard." People from all over southern Ontario -- I can't remember the locations now. These balloons came down in rural areas, on farm land, and this was to prove that you send a balloon up in the air and the wind carries it in all kinds of different directions.
That is the issue of an incinerator. The pollution is not necessarily going to be just in your own backyard; it spreads all over the place and goes into our water and into our farm land, therefore into our food. Tiny amounts of some of those carcinogens are deadly. We now have evidence that some are not only causing cancer but are interfering with our very immune systems and may very well be creating serious problems with our reproductive abilities as a human race. Those are indeed very serious concerns.
I'm glad to say I did get an all-party resolution passed in this House. So far I've not had an opportunity to meet with the Minister of Health to make sure this happens. I know he's got a lot of crises and he's very busy and this may not seem very important to him at the moment, but given the epidemic of various kinds of cancers such as breast cancer in women -- it's getting worse and worse. We now know there are connections between some of these chemicals, pollutants, carcinogens in our environment that are causing cancer, and we know that if we're going to get at the root of cancer and try to prevent some of the cancers, that is the way to go.
I was very happy to see, for instance, the Minister of Health announce more breast screening programs for women. That's good, that's very good, and we need to do more. But if we don't start acting on preventive measures and doing whatever we can to prevent the pollutants from going up the stack into the air, into our food, into our water, then we're not going to get much further than we are now. I think we would all agree there's a humane reason for doing this but also, in terms of our pocketbooks, it will cost us far less down the road to prevent the pollutants from going into our environment in the first place.
I have gone off on a bit of a tangent here on incineration because, of course, the government is now allowing incineration to be considered as an option, and lo and behold, there is already a proposal put forward to the city of Toronto that a huge incinerator be built in the east end, this time not on the old Commissioners Street site, because, I'm happy to say, after many years of battling, our community did get the old Commissioners Street incinerator shut down.
It's interesting that at the time in the early 1980s when we started fighting incineration, the 3Rs had just begun. I remember running around city hall lobbying very hard with other citizens from my community and saying we had to get into recycling, and hearing so many officials and other politicians saying it just didn't make sense, that it would be too expensive, too many problems, and that was not the way to go with garbage.
It was the very fact that we were having so many problems back then with finding ways to deal with our garbage that drove politicians in our communities to start focusing on the 3Rs as we know them today. As long as we make dealing with garbage easy, as long as we cut people out, our communities out of the process, which ironically this bill does, even though it says "enshrine public consultation" -- as I said on Thursday, de facto the public are consulted during complicated EAs because proponents know they had better do that or they're not going to go very far. So even though it's very nice to have it in the bill that it's now enshrined, it looks good, but the reality is right throughout the bill, all over the place, public consultation time is curtailed, shortened or not there at all.
We have a situation where public consultation is curtailed and when you have an incinerator proposal or a garbage dump proposal in your backyard, you're going to want to be able to tell the citizens of your community that they will have every option open to them to be involved in the decision-making down the road. They're going to want to know if the proponent comes forward and says, "We want to build an incinerator," that they have looked at the alternatives. They're going to want to know that everything possible has been done on the 3Rs and they're going to want to know that there's not going to be competition between the materials that are used for recycling, like paper and plastics and other materials, and that's actually going to take away from recycling programs. They're going to want to know that's part of the deal when they go into these hearings, that all of that has to be looked at.
This bill takes that possibility out. It's still in there as a possibility, but the huge difference between this bill and the old act is that it no longer is required under the act, which is what the Premier promised when he was asked a question by my Liberal colleague Mr McGuinty, who asked him very explicitly, would he require a full environmental assessment for landfill, and the Premier said, "Yes, I do."
This bill that we're debating today -- and I understand we're going to finish debate today -- actually, under the setting of the terms of reference in the very beginning of the bill, allows these key components of environmental assessment to be negotiated off the table. I say again, if passed the way it is today, this bill will break a key promise made by the Premier. Nobody's taking that seriously today.
In the whole scheme of things right now, with the invented crisis in education and the created crisis in health and all of the other areas where there are concerns and problems in the communities -- the family support plan is a terrible mess. The Attorney General has created more problems instead of solving the existing problems, which we all knew were there because our government was starting to act on the existing problems. This government has created new problems -- women were getting their cheques and they're not getting them now -- and it's not fixing the old problems.
While people are completely preoccupied with all of the other changes that are happening in their lives and are going to have a huge and direct effect on them, it is true that there are not a lot of people paying attention to me today when I stand here and say Mike Harris is breaking his promise if this bill goes through as it is written. Right now the whole issue of garbage dumps is not before us, but believe me, every government, every party in this House, goes through a period of time when it has to deal with waste disposal.
Now I know this government has worked very hard, as it has with a lot of these issues, to say: "We're independent of this. Don't bug us about it. Don't ask me about it." I saw the Minister of Health do it today; I saw the Minister of Energy do it today: "They're independent. It's not our problem. We don't make the decisions in this area." I know that as much as possible the government is trying to do that, and it is doing that with garbage dumps as well. It's saying, "Well, we're giving the power back to the municipalities to deal with them."
When we came into government in 1990, there was a garbage disposal problem. There was a crisis. It started when the Liberals were in power. When we came into government, there was a huge problem which had not been resolved. Rightly or wrongly, it's very difficult in these situations to figure out the best route to go. Nobody wants a garbage dump in their backyard, but at the time we were told there was a garbage crisis. The Liberals were unable, under their legislation, to get anything up and running. Municipalities were having a difficult time as well, and everything was practically at a standstill. Nothing was happening. Our government brought in the Interim Waste Authority and basically decided to take on the political heat.
I suppose if you ask Ruth Grier, who was then the Minister of the Environment -- and for a short time I was her parliamentary assistant while we tried to hammer out how to deal with this -- she took a lot of political heat and a lot of political grief. It was a very tough time. It took the heat off the municipal politicians, no doubt about it, and put it on her and our government.
What this government did was change the rules once again. This government said, "We are going to let municipalities determine how they deal with their waste." In the process of getting rid of the Interim Waste Authority, they also got rid of intervenor funding.
I don't know what's going to happen. We've got a very interesting situation now in Kirkland Lake where Metro has been -- incidentally, I should say that the crisis was lessened, frankly, because of the recession. The big garbage crisis that we thought was coming didn't come, because of the recession. That bought time for Metro and other municipalities that were having trouble siting garbage.
I will say that the problem has not gone away, and a very interesting thing happened in our clause-by-clause debate on Bill 76. It was really, really interesting. Towards the end of the debate, when we had put in our amendments, and, as I said before, the government did not accept any substantive amendments from our caucus or the Liberal caucus, they did bring in one that I was pleased to see, and that was the amendment to allow interested parties to be involved in the setting of the terms of reference up front; although, as I said last week, that to me became a bit of a red herring because unless the bill had been amended to include within the setting of the terms of reference that the key elements of environmental assessment be included in that, then I believe that is a bit of a red herring.
However, people did ask for that to be included and I believe that the government did that because even industry was saying, "We think people should be involved in the early process of the bill or of scoping the entire EA," because that's when it's done, during this very important time of the setting of the terms of reference.
The interesting thing that happened towards the end of our bringing in our amendment is that the government surprised us all by showing up one day with an amendment that essentially says that if a municipality in Ontario wants to put garbage across the border, wants to --
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe we don't have a quorum in the House.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Would you like me to check?
Mr Bisson: Normally, when a member stands and asks for quorum, it means to say that we would like the Speaker to check the quorum, and I believe that's happening now.
The Acting Speaker: I didn't know whether it was a question or a statement. Would you please check and see if there is a quorum.
Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals (Mr Alex D. McFedries): A quorum is present, Speaker.
Ms Churley: There was a very interesting amendment which was presented to us and the amendment had to do with the municipality wants to ship its garbage, say, across the border, which is something that Metro has been looking at, and this is an extremely peculiar amendment for a government that's deregulating in its own backyard and making environmental assessments much easier for industry. It suddenly comes forward, much to our amazement, with an amendment that says that if you want to put your garbage across the border you have to have an environmental assessment to bring it into the United States; you have to make sure there's an environmental assessment done.
We looked at this and thought, this is very peculiar. There's no guarantee right here in Ontario that we'll have full environmental assessments for the siting of incinerators or landfills. We thought that was very interesting and I looked at it and thought, "Aha."
For a long time up north, I'm sure we've all heard of it, in Kirkland Lake, there has been a proponent up there who's been working very hard for a number of years to get Metro to ship its garbage there in trains to bury in the Kirkland Lake area. This has been a very controversial -- I see the member for Timiskaming just walked in as I'm talking about this and he knows what I'm speaking about here. He knows how controversial the shipping of Metro garbage to the Kirkland Lake area is. He knows there was a so-called referendum taken up there, and guess what? The people who lived closest to the area where the garbage would be dumped in the mine pit, or whatever it is, weren't asked their opinion, and they would be the people who would be most affected. Yes, the town of Kirkland Lake -- the councillors, the mayor -- has said it would like to see it there; it's jobs, it's money, it's work. But the people who live in the area who would be affected are very worried about what it's going to do to their drinking water.
Anyway, Metro, after this had been going on for years, decided a few months ago that it wasn't going to ship its waste to Kirkland Lake. What is interesting is that it wasn't based on any kind of philosophy around: "Should we be dealing with our waste in our own backyards? Should we be not shipping our garbage out of sight, out of mind, so we don't worry about it, and try to preserve some of our natural resources and try to keep some of the pollution that happens as a result of landfill or incineration or burying it in pits to a minimum?" It wasn't based on any of that. The reason Metro decided not to send its garbage to Kirkland Lake was that somehow in the years that they had been debating this and having consulting work done, they didn't happen to notice an important little detail: that it was going to cost them millions of dollars more than they had anticipated spending. I believe it was Jack Layton, who's the Metro councillor for wards 7 and 8, who happened to come across this interesting little figure and pointed it out to Alan Tonks, the chair of Metro, and others, who said: "Oh, you're right. We can't afford to send our garbage to Kirkland Lake." So it was off the table.
The proponents who want to go ahead with this thought that with this government there's no problem. Our government did not support it; that was very clear. We said that regions had to look at taking care of their own garbage, that the very concept of loading up trains with our garbage, our waste, and sending it off somewhere else was not the way we believed we should go. Frankly, I don't believe we should be sending it across borders either. I know that happened in our government and that's what's being looked at now. We're not spending nearly enough money or nearly enough attention to doing what we should be doing, and that is focusing much more stringently on the 3Rs. We're not doing nearly enough. Research has shown that we can be doing tons more, and I mean that literally as well as figuratively, and we're not.
Metro then decided to look at sending its waste across the border, and then the proponents who wanted to have Metro's garbage brought up north suddenly were out of the game again. That's when the penny dropped, when this amendment came forward that essentially made it impossible for Metro and a local garbage company to send its garbage across the border, because now they would have to have an environmental assessment.
I have this interesting letter from the Ontario Waste Management Association. I think everybody knows that the Ontario Waste Management Association is no friend of mine. During clause-by-clause we had a rather terse exchange when I asked a question to the person from the Ontario Waste Management Association who came to present to us on the bill. When I asked him a reasonable question, I said:
"I wonder if you could elaborate on your statement relating to your request for amendments to 9(3) and 9(4), that if these aren't amended, you would absolutely not put in proposals in Ontario for a landfill. I suppose I would ask, what is worse in this, in your consideration, than what's already in existence?"
Mr Taylor, who gave the proposal, or who was one of the people there for the waste management association, said:
"I'd be happy to answer the question, but I have to admit, I'm a bit confused. In the last three and a half years of your government's mandate, we tried to meet with the Minister of the Environment six different times on matters that we thought were extremely important, and every time we asked for a meeting it was denied to us. If the NDP wasn't interested in our opinions when you were the government, why would you be interested in them now?"
I think all three parties sitting around the table were in agreement: There was a stunned silence that this was, at the very least, poor etiquette in an all-party committee doing hearings on any bill. I remember when we were in government, we would have hostile people there from the other side quite frequently who didn't agree with us at all, but there was a courtesy that was extended in these all-party committee hearings. That was expected and it was extended, and people were, at the very least, on the whole, polite to each other. So that was an astounding remark. Later, I did come back and express my feelings about somebody refusing to answer a question in this way.
As I said, these are not particularly good friends of ours. It's very true. Our government and the waste management association, when the NDP was the government, had very diverse opinions on environmental assessment and regulation and community involvement and how to deal with garbage. There's no doubt about it, we disagree fundamentally, and I suppose the hostility that was expressed there came out at this time.
The waste management association didn't think this government's bill went far enough. They were asking for even further amendments.
Then I get a copy of a letter written to Mr Sterling about this interesting, strange amendment that suddenly popped up, and this is what it says:
"Re: Amendments to Bill 76, addition to part II.2, municipal waste disposal.
"Dear Mr Sterling:
"It has just come to our attention that clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 76 has resumed and that the committee will soon be discussing this specific amendment.
"The Ontario Waste Management Association is strongly opposed to the inclusion of the provision in the Environmental Assessment Act. Requiring a municipality to submit its decision to contract out its waste disposal responsibilities is contrary to your government's stated intention to download waste management issues involving municipalities to the municipalities themselves. Any Ontario landfill to which waste would be directed would have already undergone an environmental assessment and would be properly licensed and permitted to take waste. What would be accomplished by subjecting the landfill to another assessment?
"Because of legal liability issues, any municipality considering a landfill outside of Ontario would, as part of its due diligence investigation, ensure that said landfill was properly engineered, licensed and permitted by the regulatory authorities in the jurisdiction in which it was located. What jurisdiction would Ontario's Environmental Assessment Act have on these facilities located outside of the province?
"We ask that you withdraw this particular amendment before it is considered by the committee."
This is from Mr John W. Sanderson, president of the Ontario Waste Management Association.
I believe the most pertinent part of this particular letter is something that I and the Ontario Waste Management Association agree on. It may be one of very few.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I can tell you are dragging the puck, Marilyn. You are reading it slowly. I can tell you are dragging the puck.
Ms Churley: What is the member for Mississauga South saying over there? I think she would agree with me on this, because I know that the member for Mississauga South must be -- well, I don't know if she's an environmentalist.
Mrs Marland: I am so.
Ms Churley: Well, if she's an environmentalist, she should cross the floor. I urge her to do that today, because no true environmentalist, even anybody who gives the slightest concern about the environment, would be sitting on that side of the House. This is only one bill in many that is deregulating and taking back the environmental regulatory structure 20 to 30 years.
The Bill Davis government brought in new regulations and improved environmental protection, the Liberals improved environmental protection, the NDP improved environmental protection, and it's true it was in degrees. Some did a better job than others. It went up and down, but each time everybody incrementally improved environmental protection.
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): The NDP hired an environmental commissioner for $120,000 a year. We are still trying to figure out what she does.
Ms Churley: Mr AG, your government is deregulating environmental protection in this province.
You keep standing up and saying: "We're doing more with less. Don't worry, we can deregulate and we can still protect the environment." This government has cut the staff of the Ministry of Environment and Energy by one third and has laid off over 700, nearly 800 staff. Now I read in the paper that there's more to come. The Ministry of Environment and Energy has already been one of the hardest-hit ministries by all the cuts. I read in the media that there's more to come -- very nice article about Mr Sterling, the Minister of Environment and Energy, in the Globe and Mail today, saying he wants to make his mark, he wants to do things to improve the environment. Is he going to go along with yet more cuts to his ministry? I should think not.
I urge any members, including the member for Mississauga South, if they really care about environmental protection, to join us and fight this government that is destroying environmental protection in this province.
I said earlier that there may not be a lot of people paying attention to me right now but, mark my words, a few years from now you're going to be --
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Ms Churley: I agree with the Ontario Management Association when they said, "Requiring a municipality submit its decision to contract out its waste disposal responsibility is contrary to your government's stated intention to download waste management issues involving municipalities to the municipalities themselves."
I agree with that because this is what this government has been trying to do: "Let's let municipalities take care of their own waste. We've got nothing to say about this. We're just going to have EA in place and we'll make sure it's regulated in some fashion, but you go away and make your own decisions."
Then they come forward with this strange amendment, in the middle of all this when everything is being relaxed and deregulated, saying you can't take garbage across the border now unless you have an environmental assessment to do that.
You have to ask why and I can tell you why. Kirkland Lake, I presume, thought: "We've got it made now. We've got a provincial government that supports this proposal. It doesn't matter that the local community doesn't want it. All is going well," and then --
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): That is not true.
Ms Churley: It is true. Kirkland Lake did a referendum up north and did not consult the people who lived closest to the pits. That is a fact. I will show them the document after this. I met with these people. I know what I'm talking about.
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): Have you ever been there?
Ms Churley: I certainly have been there and I know what I'm talking about. The people who live closest to the site were not consulted, but that didn't matter. Metro was going to go ahead, this government was going to let them go ahead and Metro decided to pull out because it was too expensive.
Do you know what this amendment does? It puts Metro in the position where they can't ship their garbage, so that brings the whole Kirkland Lake proposal back to the table again. Very neatly done, and it flies completely in the face of this government's stated commitment to have municipalities take care of their own garbage.
Make up your minds. Are you going to free up the municipalities to do what they want to do or aren't you? When it's convenient for you, the government, to help out your friends you manipulate regulations to make sure they get what they wanted. That's what is so strange about this amendment, and I will be watching with a great deal of interest to see what happens if this amendment actually goes through.
There are many problems with this bill. I've mentioned before the ones I'm most concerned about, and that is not having to look at alternatives to the undertaking and to the site. There are people yelling and screaming at me from the opposition -- from the government. They sound like opposition today. They sound quite defensive about this bill actually, environmental protection, and I've got to wonder why. I think they know what the polls are showing. Look what happened to the Republicans in the United States on environmental protection. Newt had to back down. Everywhere Clinton goes now, he's putting "environment" in his mantra.
You guys think you can get away with deregulating and destroying the environmental protection that we have built up over years, and this Bill 76 is one of many bills. Pretty soon we'll have Bill 57 before us, one of the red tape bills, so-called, "improving efficiency." Every environmentalist and every environmental group across the province, including for Bill 76, Bill 57, all of these environmental bills, the land use planning bill, are coming forward in absolute horror at what's happening. For heaven's sake, don't you get it?
You had a special report to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario saying that she is worried about what is happening, that things are being done in secret behind closed doors, regulation changes are being made behind closed doors and aren't being posted, cuts are happening, changes are being made. People aren't even aware of it. Back in the omnibus bill -- that was the beginning of the first onslaught by this government on environmental protection -- we were shocked to find out that they completely exempted the Ministry of Finance. For heaven's sake, you can put anything in the Ministry of Finance and say it's a money bill. That's completely exempted, and that other ministry is to be exempted for 10 months if it had anything to do with cost cutting.
That was absolutely shocking, and I see the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale thinks that's just great. You give it a few years and you'll be seeing if you think the deregulation and the dirty work you're doing behind closed doors on deregulating environmental protection in this province -- it is going to come back to haunt you.
This is the second special report from the Environmental Commissioner. This is an unprecedented move, to have this come forward. It indicates that indeed there is a very serious problem, and everybody throughout this province is saying the same thing except this government and industry, its friends, who want regulation relaxed, who want to get out there and build over farm land, create more urban sprawl, who want to get out there --
Mr Beaubien: What's the definition of "a rich friend"?
Ms Churley: Ah, they want to know the definition of "a rich friend." I wish I had it with me today, but I don't. I'll give you the definition of your rich friends another day. I'll take that on notice. Because I have a list of waste management companies --
Ms Churley: Are you humming over there?
I have a list of private sector companies, some of which are waste management companies, and the amounts of money they gave this government in the very last election. I can make some very interesting connections between those donations and some of the changes that are happening.
I have seen letters go out from the Ministry of Environment saying: "We're looking at making regulatory changes to industry. Tell us what you'd like to see us do." Then you talk to environmental groups, CELA and CIELAP, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy and groups like that which have been around for decades, that are very professional, that have no personal interest whatsoever, have absolutely nothing to gain --
Ms Churley: I hear the parliamentary assistant, the member for Northumberland, laugh outrageously, in fact I would say hysterically, at that statement.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Those lawyers have all kinds of things to gain.
Ms Churley: I can assure the parliamentary assistant that those lawyers, as he refers to them, do not make a lot of money. They are out there working for the common good. I know this government has a very hard time accepting the fact that there are actually people out there who care about environmental protection and who are out there working with environmentalists, working to try to improve environmental protection in this province. I am astounded to hear the parliamentary assistant, who I know is busily sending out little letters to environmental groups, feel-good letters saying, "Come and meet with me; let's talk about your problems," and he sits there today and laughs hysterically when I say the environmentalists out there have nothing to gain personally by this except to protect the environment. That kind of hysterical, sarcastic laughter tells it all, that this parliamentary assistant and this government have absolutely no respect for environmentalists, who have been out there for decades, who know the issues, who understand the implications of this deregulation.
Hon Mr Harnick: The righteous dippers. Here come the righteous dippers. Spent all our money and left all the cupboards bare, and they are going to be self-righteous.
Ms Churley: You know what? I would say to the Attorney General, who is yammering away over there --
Hon Mr Harnick: If I am yammering, what do you call what you're doing?
Ms Churley: -- that it was his ministry that let the intervenor funding program go, just let it disappear. There was an opportunity to bring in a new plan which would not have cost this government a red cent --
The Acting Speaker: I'd like to remind the House that --
Hon Mr Harnick: You didn't leave any money; you spent it all. You blew it all. One hundred million dollars in debt and you've got to be self-righteous? You have a nerve.
The Acting Speaker: Order. I can understand the bees being a little restless. I don't think we should kick the beehive. I'd like order. I'd like to hear the comments of the member for Riverdale.
Ms Churley: I would like to say to the Attorney General -- and I suggest he look into it -- that a lot of the deregulation that is happening throughout the Ministry of Environment and Energy has nothing to do with money; it's all ideology. There have been cuts and, sure, some of the cuts are now affecting the ability of the ministry to get out there and actually do what it's supposed to be doing, and that is enforcing compliance, inspecting, all of that kind of thing. That's not going to happen any more. Free rein for the polluters out there; no problem.
The same thing with the Ministry of Natural Resources. If you combine the cuts throughout the ministry and the cuts in staff, you don't even have to bother deregulating, because you've got nobody left to go out there and look at what's happening.
Hon Mr Harnick: We've never heard of another way of doing it.
Ms Churley: I would say to the Attorney General that if he looked at the intervenor funding project, there are ways which have been suggested by me and other environmentalists out there to bring in an intervenor funding program that will not cost this government a red cent. It can be worked out with the private sector.
They say no to that. What they want to do is curtail and keep the public out of the decision-making processes of environmental protection in this province. It's go ahead to the polluters, "Just do what you want to do; we'll freeze the communities out," because in big environmental assessments it doesn't matter how good and clear and transparent the rules are, if intervenors in the community do not have some kind of funds to match the consultants and the expert witnesses -- the proponents have millions and millions of dollars to spend to tell their side of the story -- then your communities are out of luck.
This government doesn't understand that. "Hold a bake sale. Do whatever. Make a couple of hundred dollars and see what you can do." They don't have a clue, not a clue, and they sit there so self-righteous because they know it all: "We're the Tories. We know what's happening. What can you, Marilyn Churley, know about the environment? Nothing. You're just a community activist. What were you before you got into politics? What are all these environmentalists?" Norm Sterling, the engineer, the lawyer, suddenly we've got --
Mr Bisson: Duck hunter.
Ms Churley: Duck hunter too, yes. Suddenly we've got somebody with those credentials: lawyer, engineer, and he happens to just tomorrow understand all the environmental issues.
I asked the Minister of Environment and Energy during a discussion of yet another deregulation red tape bill, 60 something -- there are so many of them, I've forgotten the number. I asked Mr Sterling, the minister, "How can you, when you're a new minister, say you know it all?" You have every environmental group in Ontario opposed to what you're doing and telling you that you are deregulating and your deregulation is going to hurt the environment and you say, and therefore all of your backbenchers say in tandem, because that's the government line: "Don't worry, we're not deregulating. Yes, we're cutting but we're actually making things better. We're improving regulation. We are going to improve the environment."
I said to the Minister of Environment and Energy, "How come you think you know it all?" and the minister said to me, "If somebody can prove to me that one of our changes in regulation is actually going to hurt the environment, I'll look at it." I said, "Minister, is that a commitment? Because I can guarantee you that I and environmentalists across this province will be coming forward to you and showing you and proving to you that some of your deregulation is going to hurt the environment, that it's very easy to do." So I said: "Is that a commitment? Will you promise to rescind some of the changes you've brought and will you promise to relook at some of the things you're bringing forward?"
Then he started to back down a little bit. "Oh well, I'd have to consult with my officials here," blah, blah, blah, and I had to remind him, "You are an engineer and you seem to think you know all of this better than environmentalists who have been in the field, some of them for decades, and have always to date, up until this government, been brought in on consultations and their views heard."
They have been totally shut out of the process this time. Everything they say is treated disrespectfully. These respected environmental groups across this province are treated with disdain and disrespect by members of this government. I saw it here again today. That kind of disdain is so inappropriate and it is so obvious. The cameras out there today were unable to hear that kind of ridiculing laughter when I brought up the credibility of environmental groups and the general disdain that I hear all the time for these people.
Mr Speaker, I want to tell you that this is going to come back to haunt the government. The members are having fun today. They're laughing at me. They think I don't get it. I say they don't get it. They're saying that what I and environmental groups, in my experience over the past number of years as a community activist, as an environmentalist in my community -- again nothing to gain, not a cent. When I was a community activist involved in Citizens for a Safe Environment, I volunteered my time and I did it to make my community a better place to live for my children.
There are a lot of people out there like that, and I would say a great deal of the environmentalists who are out there fighting these days and fighting this government and trying to get in behind the closed doors where decisions are being made in secret and saying, "We have something to say and we know what we're talking about and we want our voices heard," are not being heard, and I will say to the government members today --
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): You don't know what you're talking about.
Ms Churley: There he goes again, the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale saying to me, "You don't know what you're talking about." I would love to hear some time his version of environmental protection. I wonder why he thinks I don't know what I'm talking about. He is proving my very point, that these people have nothing but disrespect and disdain for those of us on the other side who actually have some suggestions to make.
If the government listened from time to time, accepted some of our amendments, took us seriously and tried to understand that there isn't just one view and took it all into consideration, perhaps we wouldn't have such a gulf between us, the government and the opposition and environmentalists out there. But they're not listening, and this bill, Bill 76, that we're debating today should not be passed. It is going to hurt the environment.
The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Comments and questions?
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure today to contribute once more to the discussion or debate on Bill 76 and respond to some of the comments the member for Riverdale made.
I think we have to keep in front of the people of Ontario that this bill, Bill 76, which I'm holding here, is really a process improvement bill. In fact, if you read the preamble to the bill, it's very clear. It says that the process of obtaining approvals was rather cumbersome. I think the best example of that was Bill 143, where the Interim Waste Authority group was all process and no results. I think you'd agree with that. They spent over $100 million and never located one dump site or came to any conclusive opinion on how the process worked.
What we're really doing is ensuring that up front the terms of reference for the applicant become the starting point or the reference point. At that point -- I can read right out of the explanatory notes in the bill -- "The proponent will be required to consult with interested persons when preparing the environmental assessment." This is from the terms-of-reference period right on. Before the minister allows the process to proceed, the applicant must make it very clear what the scope of the project is. So you're putting up front all the information on the table.
The process to resolve differences could really be streamlined if the applicant and one of the opponents could work together using the same environmental engineer. I've actually sat in hearings under the OMB and heard two scientists arguing the merits on the opposite sides of the argument. Now, is that exact science if they can formulate both opinion and/or support for the same application? It proves that there is a need to work cooperatively so that the planning process and indeed the environmental process can move forward productively.
My time has run out, so I'll pass it on.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I thought the speech on the environment was a very good one because it canvassed many of the issues that I think have to be canvassed. I was wondering whether the member felt this government was slanting its policies to those who wish to see environmental regulations weakened considerably, if perhaps this reminded her of the 1950s and the kind of environmental regime we might have had in the 1950s where the polluters pretty well had their way and the consequences of allowing environmental degradation to take place were simply not known to many and were ignored by others.
I know she has heard from environmental groups, as we all have, about their concern that this government has no commitment to the environment, that while they have a commitment to their economic agenda -- and it is a well-known commitment; whether one disagrees or agrees with it, it's a well-known commitment to the economic agenda -- they are prepared to elbow aside the environment if at any time the environment gets in the way of development or gets in the way of somebody being able to make a quick profit as opposed to a long and sustained profit.
If she has any examples that she has seen -- I know she's listed some of those -- where this government appears to be moving in precisely the wrong direction, I'm wondering if even she has heard this from some Conservative friends of hers who previously might have supported the Progressive Conservative government of William Davis, people who would be interested in preserving the Niagara Escarpment and not simply developing every last centimetre of it, people who would be interested in maintaining strong environmental regulations instead of systematically going about behind closed doors to weaken those in capitulation to people in the corporate sector who have not taken this action, as opposed to those who have taken the appropriate action. I'd be interested in her comments on that.
Mr Christopherson: I am pleased to commend my colleague the member for Riverdale for her speech on Bill 76. It truly is unfortunate that many of the members across the way see fit to ignore the experience and the knowledge this member brings to the debate. Just because the government happens to be the one introducing this bill doesn't automatically mean that every member of the Tory caucus knows more about the environment and environmental protection than anyone who happens to sit on the opposition benches.
It's interesting to listen to the yabba-dabba-dooing of the member from Bedrock over in the corner who hollered out when my colleague was speaking, "You don't know what you're talking about." That just typifies the attitude that member and some others bring to listening to someone who this government would probably like to label as just a special interest because the member for Riverdale says, with great pride, that she was a community activist. We know how you feel about --
Mr Christopherson: You see what happens when you even say the words "community activist." They start foaming at the mouth and shaking all over. They're almost uncontrollable.
But the fact of the matter is that community activists are the people who were at the front line of fighting for environmental protection, and in large part the member for Riverdale is here to bring that voice, to force you to at least listen to some degree to what is being said in the community. It's not just your corporate friends in secret meetings behind closed doors who deserve to be heard in Ontario. No matter how much you want to shut down democracy, the reality is that people in this province have a right to have their say, and this member was pointing out that you're working in the opposite direction.
Mr Christopherson: Just listen to them, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Mr Galt: I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the two presentations the opposition made. On Thursday the member for Hamilton Centre made reference that the minister now could exempt anything and everything, and he was waving his arms frantically. I'd like to refer him to part I, subsection 3.2(1), and the only thing that's really changed is that the word that used to be there, "exemption," is now "declaration." That should be able to help him out a little to better understand the particular bill, that everything can't simply be exempted by the minister.
There's no question that during the campaign, about a year and a half ago, one of the most controversial issues in my riding happened to do with landfill sites and trying to site them, and I am sure that can be repeated in many ridings across Ontario; for example, Peterborough, Hastings, Kingston, Wellington, and on the list can go. We were in a horrendously difficult position as municipal governments trying to come up with landfill sites with the old Environmental Assessment Act, which we had to work with, looking at all the alternatives right up until the last minute. With this bill, it's up front; the terms of reference will be developed very early.
The member for Riverdale was making reference to consultation and not listening, and I thought she would have been embarrassed to bring up when Terry Taylor was in, but he pointed out that they had asked the previous Minister of Environment from her government on six occasions, and the minister refused on all six occasions. That was why Terry Taylor was really upset on that occasion and unfortunately embarrassed everybody present.
You were talking about spending. I can assure you that nobody spent more than the NDP government. As a matter of fact, there were over 30 staff on the minister's floor when the minister was there, just a ridiculous number.
The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Riverdale, who has two minutes to respond.
Ms Churley: I don't recommend that this government start throwing out cost to protect the environment, because polls show that people out there support the government's spending money on protecting the environment and the health of their children. When you lay off a third of your staff -- and I understand now there is more to come --
Mr Bradley: More coming, $3 billion.
Ms Churley: More coming -- and cut the ministry back so deep that you're not going to be able to protect the environment and the health of the people --
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Ms Churley: They have to accept that this "more with less" is not going to work. You don't have the people any more to go out there and do the compliance and the enforcement and the work, and that's a fact. You're going to have to be very selective in what you do, and with all of the other bills, we know that a lot of work is going to be left undone.
The interesting thing that I want to point out, which I never got into during my speech today -- we never got into it at all -- is the government review. Most of the delays occur during the EA process. I see the former Minister of the Environment in the Liberal government nodding his head to that; perhaps not to me, but nodding his head that that is what takes the most time, the environmental assessment process. We tend to forget that when we're talking about it. "Oh, it's all these citizens who take up time. They want intervenor funding. They want to be involved. They worry about this and that."
Mr Christopherson: How dare they?
Ms Churley: How dare they. Exactly. But you know what? It's a government review process. You couple that with the fact that you've cut back so drastically, that process is going to be slowed down even more. If I were the private sector out there, I'd be very worried about this stage of the process, because you have now made the process even less transparent than it was. Every case is going to be different and will have to be negotiated, and I can guarantee you it's going to take longer than ever.
The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Further debate?
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I'm very pleased to rise this afternoon on behalf of my constituents in Wellington to participate in this debate on Bill 76, An Act to improve environmental protection, increase accountability and enshrine public consultation in the Environmental Assessment Act. It's interesting to be following -- I think the member for Riverdale, if I'm not mistaken, is the NDP's environment critic. I listened to her passionate speech with a great deal of interest and I want her to know that on the government side we listen very carefully to what the environment critic for the NDP tells us and we take it with all due consideration. We thank you for your contribution to this discussion.
As members of this House will recall, it was a Progressive Conservative government under Premier Davis that first established the Environmental Assessment Act in 1975. This was landmark legislation at the time, making Ontario I think the first jurisdiction in Canada, if not North America, to formalize a means of considering the environmental impacts of significant activities or developments. Back then it was ground-breaking legislation and showed admirable foresight and resolve on the part of the government of the day to do right by Ontario's environment.
Now, some 20 years later, we have enough experience with environmental assessments to make improvements -- and that's what we're doing with this bill -- to make adjustments and additions that will address the changes Ontario itself has undergone over the past 20 years. It needs to be updated so that it can continue to serve Ontario and the environment well into the next century. The government recognizes this need and the government recognizes that environmental assessment has become antiquated and bureaucratic in recent years, with the process often overwhelming the results being sought. Fortunately, with this Bill 76 the situation can be corrected.
This government is determined to make Ontario's environmental assessment system more workable, more certain, less costly and less time-consuming, and the government is taking action.
The first step was the introduction of Bill 76 for its first reading on June 13, 1996. Since June, the bill has received second reading and it has been the subject of extensive public hearings before the standing committee on social development. During the hearings, the committee heard presentations from a number of stakeholders -- people who are interested in this bill -- both those supporting the reforms and those opposing, and those making positive recommendations for improving the bill. We've listened to these recommendations, and in many cases we made changes accordingly.
The comprehensive discussion surrounding Bill 76 shows the keen interest of all Ontarians in maintaining the integrity of the environmental assessment process.
I'd like to commend the members of the opposition parties for the constructive role they've played in shaping the current version of Bill 76. I think this only goes to show that in some instances politicians in this House have the ability to look at these issues without partisan considerations and that some issues, such as the environment, are too important to bring partisan considerations forward, issues like this that cross party lines. The environment is one such issue, and I'd like to commend the opposition members for their contributions and their conduct throughout the debate on Bill 76.
I want to say most emphatically that the implementation of this legislation will be shaped by one overriding principle: the need to protect the environment. That's the reason for the Environmental Assessment Act and for the reforms that we're proposing. But before talking about the most recent changes to Bill 76 after the committee hearings held by the standing committee, I want to run through some of its main features.
The government has worked very hard to ensure that the key elements of environmental assessment are maintained through Bill 76. These include the continued requirement of EAs for projects subject to the Environmental Assessment Act; the broad definition of the environment; the examination of alternatives in environmental decision-making; and an impartial and independent Environmental Assessment Board. These defining features of the environmental assessment process will not change. We are, however, proposing a number of new features.
For the first time, proponents will be legally required to consult with the public. This will provide early access for all interested parties and ensure that issues are identified and resolved early on in the environmental assessment process.
Early and clear direction will be provided to all environmental assessment participants through the development of terms of reference by the proponent. These terms will have input from the public and government agencies. They'll be approved by the Minister of Environment and Energy and will be legally binding.
We need this legislation to avoid repeating situations such as what's happened in Wellington county with the Guelph-Wellington waste management master plan. The county of Wellington and the city of Guelph have spent some $4 million over a period of more than 10 years in an attempt to locate a suitable, environmentally acceptable landfill site. Towards the end of this process, so-called, a site in Nichol township known as N4 was selected for review and approval. This site turned out to be most unsuitable from an environmental perspective and would have been overly expensive to develop. The county and the city of Guelph are now back at square one, looking again at the possibility of going through some sort of process to find a landfill site, or a garbage dump as most people call them.
Unfortunately, due to the process outlined in the existing Environmental Assessment Act, municipalities seeking to establish garbage dumps have in the past undertaken environmental assessment studies that weren't focused from the outset. Approved terms of reference will provide that focus. Proponents will have a clearer idea of what is required of them, and interested parties will have a clearer idea of what is being proposed. In addition, those same parties will already have an opportunity to express their concerns, ask their questions or reassure themselves of the parameters of any proposal that affects them. This is a win-win-win situation: good for the environment and the general public; good for the government as gatekeeper and regulator; and good for proponents.
The foundations will be laid at the outset of the EA process for a more efficient and productive follow-through. Other measures will also keep the process moving smoothly along.
Tight time lines will be established through regulation for all key decisions. This will provide certainty for all participants and ensure that decisions are given in a timely fashion. We want to get a yes faster for projects that are environmentally sound and a no faster for those that are not.
New powers will be given to the minister to send contentious issues to mediation. This will help resolve issues before positions become entrenched and hardened and polarized. Again, there will be time limits on mediation. If hearings are required, the minister will be able to focus the discussion on specific outstanding issues. This should prevent delays due to endless rehashing of issues which may have already seen some level of resolution. The board's time will be used to facilitate decision-making only with regard to truly significant matters.
Finally, Bill 76 will achieve the goal of a one project, one assessment approach by giving the minister authority to harmonize EA requirements with those of other jurisdictions.
I want to list some of the recent amendments to the bill being considered today by all members of this House which came, I believe, as a result of the committee deliberations.
A key change is the additional opportunity for consultation provided by Bill 76. This covers two areas: terms of reference and orders to harmonize. This latter amendment was recommended by the opposition, and we feel it's a good one. Consultation is a key feature of the Environmental Assessment Act and we want to expand its use wherever appropriate.
We've also amended the bill to require environmental assessments when municipalities contract with third parties for waste disposal. This comes as a result of several groups and individuals who appeared before the committee with concerns that there might not have been sufficient opportunity for public input in the decision-making surrounding waste disposal. This government agrees that waste disposal is an environmentally significant activity and that it warrants an environmental assessment process.
What this amendment will not do, however, is require that municipalities get duplicate approvals for their waste disposal decisions. If, for example, they decide to use a landfill which already has a certificate of approval with sufficient capacity and a service area which allows it to take the contracted waste, no additional approval will be required for that landfill. What will have to happen is a proper consideration of alternatives such as incineration or recycling programs and of transportation methods for getting the waste to its final destination. This will give the public the opportunity to give input into how and where waste is moved through their communities.
Another change will provide for mediation without prejudice. This will mean that all parties must agree to the release of information regarding issues that have yet to be resolved. There will now be a longer transition period for using both the old and new EA processes.
Two other amendments put forward by the opposition parties which have been accepted in this bill include a provision that only Ministry of Environment and Energy employees can act as directors under the Environmental Assessment Act, and a requirement for public notice and written reasons for most decisions by the minister.
In sum, I believe the changes that have been made to Bill 76 have improved it and will lead to a better environmental assessment process for Ontario. I know this is a goal that is shared by all members of this Legislature and by all Ontarians. We look forward to continuation of this third reading debate and the vote this afternoon, and I would encourage all members of the House to support Bill 76.
The Acting Speaker: Comments or questions?
Mr Hastings: Briefly, I'd like to offer my congratulations to the member for Wellington, who has once again, as have so many other members of this caucus, put forth on the record the cost of long, protracted environmental assessment hearings. That's one of the primary rationales for changing this bill: to get some sunsetting, some outcomes into the operation instead of what the opposition parties favour, which is generally to have them go on forever -- 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. I'm sure we could document the costs of the hearings. They're probably more than the initial costs of starting up a dump or a landfill. That seems to be their preference.
The other thing I would like to comment on is that there seems to be an obsession with regulation on the other side, that if you only have more regulations for practically everything -- more inspectors, more procedures, more paperwork, more of everything -- somehow or other there's this bizarre concept out there that you are protecting the environment. If we just had more of everything, the environment's protected. But it comes back to the question, again, if you apply any logic: If you had that as an option, why are we having any environmental problems to deal with in the first place? You had all these bureaucrats out there. Everything should be just hunky-dory. That's what I'd call the old style of thinking which they have across the way: There isn't any other way to deal with protecting the environment except by more bureaucrats, more regulation etc.
Alternatives? It's not hard to find them. Best practices is one way; self-monitoring is another. But we couldn't have self-monitoring because that would mean -- imagine -- that some people who do create problems in the environment corrected them on their own to standards. No, no, we couldn't have that because we'd end up having fewer bureaucrats. So we have to have more bureaucrats, the typical old style of thinking to which they're so wedded, and will be forever.
Mr Bradley: As I know the member for Wellington would know, the old style was in fact allowing people to monitor themselves, and as a result, a lot of environmental problems existed. The people who will call for independent monitoring, monitoring by the Ministry of Environment, which is considered to be objective, are in fact the good corporate citizens, the people who will spend the money and have spent the money on the necessary equipment, on new processes which will avoid the production of contaminants, on the training of employees. They are the people who are saying, "We need government monitoring, and the reason we need that government overseeing and monitoring is because we have competitors out there who are not prepared to do those things."
So in fairness to the good corporate citizens as well as the people of this province, we need a strong Ministry of Environment to carry out enforcement, monitoring activities, enforcement activities, abatement activities and research activities. Unfortunately, what the member did not mention in his speech but he must be shaking in his boots about is the potential for even more cuts to the Ministry of Environment budget and more staff being laid off.
Now, I know in the mantra of some of his colleagues -- not the member himself, because he's more of a moderate, what I would say a Progressive Conservative as opposed to the Reform Party that he sits in the middle of right now -- he would understand fully the importance of those people in the Ministry of Environment, the excellent staff who had a worldwide reputation. People across North America came to Ontario to see what was happening in terms of the environment because we were an environmental leader. I know the member for Wellington would want to see us restored to that position rather than moving several steps backward to the 1950s, because he is more progressive than some of his colleagues, and I expect that he'll respond positively to my suggestion.
Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the remarks of the member for Wellington.
When I was sitting thinking about the reaction I was having, the first thing to cross my mind was that it's nice to see Ted back active in the House and it really is unfortunate for the people of Ontario that he doesn't sit in the cabinet because I do believe he's a reasonable, honourable person. But I've got to tell you, Ted, I think the problem is that you're far too fair to be a Harris cabinet minister. You're not mean enough. You're more than willing to listen to people, and that just won't work in this cabinet --
Mr Bradley: Against the tax cuts.
Mr Christopherson: He's against the tax cuts, I'm reminded by my colleagues here. You may really need to think through where you're ultimately going to land, because to see you sitting there wasting away really is a shame.
I know that having worked with the member when he sat right over here and I was in cabinet and we worked together on a private member's bill that he brought forward that improved public safety, and I think that was a positive experience for certainly both of us as parliamentarians, and it made things better for the people of Ontario, and I suspect he ran a large part of his campaign on that successful bill that he enacted. But let me just say that the member, unfortunately, tends to follow the government line of talking about how this has improved the process and made things better. I heard some of those things coming from him.
When we take a look at the other things that this government has done, when we look at the fact that there's no longer intervenor funding, that those from the community who want to get involved have to apply at the end of a process -- well, where you need tens of thousands of dollars to hire the kinds of experts to represent a community to offset the experts that the corporation may provide, who's going to spend that money not knowing until the end whether they're going to get the money back? That will have a chilling effect, as have the changes you made in Bill 20. You're about to water down the building code. You've done all kinds of changes with self-regulation, cutting red tape. You just don't believe in fighting for the environment, period.
Mr Galt: I'd like to compliment the member for Wellington for just an excellent presentation. He stayed on topic and had some excellent content.
This bill is certainly capitalizing on some 20 years of environmental assessment experience and updating the act to make it less costly, more timely and more effective. I can assure you that environmental protection remains the overriding objective of this act. The amendments have strengthened the province's Environmental Assessment Act and will make it more workable.
The public's right to a say early on in the process has been enshrined in this legislation. Early and clear direction to stakeholders on the kind of information to be included in the environmental assessment documents will provide more certainty, and that's extremely important.
Strict time frames will be adhered to for all key steps in the decision-making process. A full environmental assessment will still be required, and the key elements of environmental assessment are maintained, including the broad definition of environment, the examination of alternatives and the Environmental Assessment Board as an independent decision-maker.
In keeping with the government's red tape review, we are saying no to duplication and overlap and are harmonizing Ontario's Environmental Assessment Act with the federal government's: one project, one process. I can assure you that we will be harmonizing to the level of the highest degree of environmental protection.
Once again I'd like to compliment the member on just an excellent presentation. We've heard so many presentations in this House from the other side where they wander all over and they curse at the government and they do everything except talk on the bill. The member for Wellington stayed right on topic. He talked about what was important in the bill, what the bill is going to do with the Environmental Assessment Act, and for that I thank him and respect him for just an excellent presentation.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Wellington has two minutes to respond.
Mr Arnott: I want to thank, first of all, the members from my side, my colleague the member for Northumberland, who also happens to be the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy, and also my colleague the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, for their kind comments, and also across the aisle, the New Democrat member for Hamilton Centre for his kind comments. I certainly want to extend also my appreciation for the cooperation and help he provided on the private member's bill that I fortunately passed in the last hours of the former Parliament.
In response to the member for St Catharines, who asked me to respond positively to his expressions of concern, I hope to be able to do that. I want to reassure him, and I know the government is very committed to ensuring, that the role of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, a strong role, is maintained. Where we differ, I suppose, is we on this side accept the need for a reduction in the cost of the administration of the ministry and want to make that administration more cost-effective and efficient. We believe, and we will maintain and we will demonstrate at election time, that the environment still has been protected and that we've done it in a more efficient and cost-effective way, with less unnecessary administration. I agree that we continue to need a strong Ministry of Environment and a strong minister. I think we have that.
I also want to thank the member for his compliment, suggesting that I am a moderate person. I think that's a very nice thing for him to say. Thank you very much.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm very pleased to be able to rise in my place today to become involved with the other members of this House in third reading of Bill 76, the environmental assessment bill, and I'm going to take a bit of a different approach. It's more of a story than a speech about some of the involvement that's behind this bill and one particular amendment. It's more than a story. Let's say it's going to be like the Hard Copy show on television, because it involves patronage, it involves possibly corruption in this government, and I think it rivals some of the history this particular party had in the Davis era with then Premier Bill Davis and his best friend, Gerhard Moog, who just so happened to own the property across the street here where Ontario Hydro chose to build its headquarters, where it is today.
Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): You don't have anything more recent than that?
Mr Ramsay: Yes, it's a very good friend. In this case it's a very good friend of the Premier who is a proponent for the Adams mine waste proposal. This particular proposal, as people would know, is one of the options that up till a few weeks ago Metropolitan Toronto was considering as a solution for its waste management problems. Up till a few weeks ago it certainly was being considered, but they have dropped that proposal and have decided to pick an American option in a short-term waste disposal option for the next four years while they work on their long-term proposals, primarily expanding the 3R programs that have been very successful across this province. Metro is certainly one of the leaders in this; most communities now in Ontario do this. They'll be looking at some other types of solutions to handle that waste.
Metro now, as we know from our daily clippings, is very frustrated by the actions of this government. It's very ironic and strange, because this was a government that campaigned, and quite frankly fulfilled that promise after the campaign, to get out of the municipal waste business -- until now and until this very amendment that attaches itself to this bill. When they came into office, they decided to close down the Interim Waste Authority, which was the previous government's agency to look at Metropolitan Toronto waste. They said, "No, the provincial government has no business deciding where municipal waste should go. We're going to get out of that." They rescinded that old legislation and said, "We'll let the municipalities choose."
But along comes this bill. Bill 76, "to improve environmental protection," as it says here, was first introduced for first reading on June 13, 1996, and second reading was June 25 of this year. But only three weeks ago an amendment appeared on our desks in committee in regard to municipal waste. This amendment seemed to appear out of the blue, and it only came after there were very strong signals from Metropolitan Toronto that it was about to decide to choose an American option for a short-term waste disposal contract. So the timing of this has to be suspect.
Also, when you look, this amendment is very suspect because the amendment says, in regard to municipal waste, "This section applies with respect to an undertaking by such municipalities as may be prescribed" -- and of course these municipalities are not named here; this could be done in regulation, and so we don't even know what municipalities are going to be named -- "where the facilities or services of another person will be used for the final disposal of waste,
"(a) by depositing it at a dump;
"(b) by landfilling; or
"(c) by incineration."
The prohibition here is, "No municipality shall proceed with an undertaking to dispose of waste unless the municipality obtains approval to proceed under this act."
In committee a few weeks ago when this amendment was moved, I entered into a dialogue with the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment in regard to this particular amendment. It really comes off almost in the form of a cross-examination, as if we were in a courtroom, because I had a number of questions: Where did this amendment come from? Why did the government bring it forward at this time? Did it involve the exportation of waste? Did it involve what Metro Toronto wanted to do? In the Hansard I have before me, which probably goes on for about 30 minutes, it was very difficult to get any sort of straight answer from the parliamentary assistant in this case as to what is going on here.
As we see from the daily frustrations in Metropolitan Toronto, it is like a race to the clock between the provincial government and Metro Toronto as to when this bill will be proclaimed and when this particular set of regulations will be attached to this bill. There's a race between Toronto and the province to see where this garbage will go.
We've all seen this frustration from the news clippings, but I'd like to talk a little bit about what I think is behind this. It is no secret that the proponent of the Adams mine waste proposal is a lifelong friend of the Premier, Michael Harris, the member for Nipissing. Anecdotally, people know that they've been golfing buddies. They've known each other since being teenagers. In fact, when the Premier still lived in North Bay they lived on the same street.
When in the last election campaign it looked like the polls were turning and it possibly could be a Conservative government, there was a lot of concern in my riding among the vast majority of people who like myself were opposed to this particular project. We were very concerned about the relationship the Premier had with this proponent and what he might accomplish in making sure that this project went ahead.
Up until now for those people and myself, our battle has been with Metro Toronto, to try to convince it that putting 39-plus tonnes of garbage in a fractured rock pit that sits 300 feet above the great clay belt farming area of Timiskaming is a risky business. It certainly is a risky business. But up till now our battle has been with Metro because it's been in its bailiwick, it has been its decision where to put that garbage. But all of a sudden this amendment comes forward. This is the very first time that the Harris government has now put its finger in where it said it wouldn't. It's poking into the municipal business of waste management, a place it said it wouldn't.
I'll tell you why I'm concerned about this. When I look at some of the local news clippings of the Kirkland Lake paper as this story has unfolded recently, there is a very strange optimism by Mr Gordon McGuinty of North Bay that this garbage is still going to go to the Adams mine site even though the province has dropped the Adams mine site from its short list.
I'd like to quote from the Northern Daily News -- actually this would be from the Kirkland Lake Gazette, Wednesday, October 30, last Wednesday. This is after Mr McGuinty found out that Metro had decided to drop the Adams mine proposal from the short list and to look at two waste disposal sites in the United States. Mr McGuinty is quoted here as saying, by the reporter:
"`I fully intend to get Metro as a customer'....
"He said he rejects Metro's rationale for choosing American companies to landfill waste in the Detroit area....
"He suggests there's still a chance the Ontario government may prevent Toronto from sending garbage to the United States by speeding up new environmental legislation, scheduled to come into effect January 1.
"`It sounds like the province is already doing that on their own'" -- slowing it up -- "he said.
"All Metro council has decided, he said, is to short list two American companies and negotiate with them.
"`They still have to ratify any contract in December,' Mr McGuinty said. `If the province sticks to their guns on this, there may never be a contract signed.'"
I really have to wonder why the proponent of this project is so optimistic that the garbage is going to go to Kirkland Lake. I have to wonder and question if there's even more behind the scenes in this government than this particular amendment here that would allow any sort of regulation that possibly could prohibit the exportation of waste. I wonder why the government isn't up front now in its amendments or in the legislation to begin with to put the prohibition right out front, "Thou shalt not export waste out of Ontario," if that's what you really want. They're playing quite a cagey game here. They're not being frank with the people of Ontario, they're certainly not being frank with Metropolitan Toronto, and I think there's something going on behind here.
What's at stake here? What's at stake here is more than a friendship. At stake here are millions and millions of dollars, millions of dollars that one of the closest friends to the Premier has the great potential to make if Metropolitan Toronto sends its garbage to the Adams mine site.
Also, there are some other advantages to northern Ontario. There's no doubt about that and I've never disputed that. My argument has always been that those financial, economic advantages to North Bay and to my riding are not worth the risk that would be taken by putting that garbage in there. Rarely do members in this House get up in their place and say, "I'm not for those jobs in my area," because, God knows, we all want employment in our areas, but it's always been my principle that it's not jobs in any case, that sometimes one has to make a stand and say, "Yes, I acknowledge that there's an economic benefit to my area in this, but it's not worth it to the environment."
When it comes to the dumping of 39 million tonnes of garbage in a fractured rock pit 300 feet above the agricultural clay belt of Timiskaming, I don't care even what the best expert says today; it is not worth the risk, because in 20 or 30 years somebody's going to say: "I guess the system failed. We thought we could pump this leachate out for 100 or 200 years, but it looks like the leachate's gummed up the works here. We can't get down into the pit and properly repair the system that we had designed to the very best ability in 1996 or 1997." It is not worth the risk.
I'm very, very concerned about what's going on here. Not only does the Premier's friend have the potential to make millions and millions of dollars, but obviously the city of North Bay would benefit, his particular riding. The Ontario Northland Railway lost, when the Adams and Sherman iron ore mines closed in the late 1980s, its very best freight customer that provided tremendous tonnage and freightage that really kept that railway going. Now we're in a situation where the Ontario Northland Railway is desperate -- and I know they're desperate -- to try to find replacement haulage for that to bring the revenues up to where they can really keep the railway viable.
Having the Adams mine project means there would be a lot of jobs in North Bay, as there would be some jobs also in my riding of Timiskaming. It would certainly benefit the economy of North Bay, which is in the riding of Nipissing which is the Premier's riding. So the Premier has two very strong motives to make sure that Metropolitan Toronto does not send its garbage to the United States but sends it to Kirkland Lake. Just like Gerhard Moog when he was Bill Davis's friend and there was some property across the way here, I think the very same thing is happening here.
I would say to Mr Harris, if he wants to ensure to the people of Ontario that his hands are clean on this, that before we vote on this, this amendment should be withdrawn. At the very least, if he can't do that, he should ensure that the promise that was made to me by the parliamentary assistant in the committee a few weeks ago that this bill would not be proclaimed until January 1 and that the regulations they are planning behind the scenes that would be attached to this bill that would either prohibit or build a tremendous roadblock against Metro's possible decision to export garbage to the United States -- that that not happen until after January 1 in order to let Metropolitan Toronto continue with this process it has been working on for over 10 years now.
As the news clipping in today's Toronto Star said, Metro Toronto has -- and you've got to have sympathy for these people, because they've been through the SWEEP process, the SWISC process, the IWA process. It was this government that said, "Let's get out of all those processes and let Metropolitan Toronto and other municipalities make their own decisions." I thought that was good: Let Metro make its decision. But now we're starting to see, and I think for a nefarious reason, the Harris government, the Conservative government of Ontario, bring a little amendment here that will permit a regulation that could absolutely take this project of Metropolitan Toronto's off the rails.
The real problem with this interference too is that what Metro Toronto is trying to do right now -- and you might criticize them for exporting the waste. Like the NDP environment critic, I'd rather we solved our own problems here. I'd rather we didn't have to do this. But Toronto is in a bit of a jam here and, God love them, they've been frustrated by a Liberal government, an NDP government and now a Conservative government, so they're having a tough time and they're running out of time. A lot of the options for them, of course, are to add some lifts to some of the dumps that are in some of the very ridings of people I see right across the way here, north of Toronto in Vaughan, or Britannia out in Mississauga.
What Toronto wants instead of looking at some mega-landfill for the next 20 years is a short-term solution to give them some breathing room to get developed some long-term solution that might even involve a brand-new technology that isn't fully developed here yet today. There are all sorts of technologies beyond incineration, such as vaporization of waste, that are being experimented with now or are very close to being into commercial manufacture or production. So what they want to do is to expand the 3R system as much as they can, and they're doing a very good job of that. They need some short-term bridging to get some garbage put away for a while and they're trying to find the best place to do that, but they only need about four or five years to do that.
To develop the Adams mine site to make it viable, to develop the huge transfer station that's going to have to be built here in Toronto, to establish and build and construct and get the approvals for the infrastructure, the whole leachate containment system in the Adams mine pit, is going to take a few more years and multimillion dollars. In order to do that, the proponents of the Adams mine project need a long-term contract. To really make that viable, if it is viable at all, they will need 10 to 20 years. That's one very good reason why Metropolitan Toronto has dropped them from its list at this time, because Metropolitan Toronto doesn't need a 20-year solution at this time. It needs a short-term solution to give them some breathing room to work on all of the different alternatives they have before them and that the people down here and their council wish to pursue. I think that's important and they deserve that opportunity. I think they deserve that opportunity without interference from the provincial government. That's very important.
Unfortunately, there's a lot of pressure up in my riding, of course, for this proposal to go ahead. It has certainly been sold to many people in Kirkland Lake. It's literally been sold through share offerings and through other people there who feel it would be an economic benefit to the people of Kirkland Lake, as a straw is handed, passed out, to a drowning person.
We in northern Ontario, especially in the riding of Timiskaming after those two iron ore mines closed in the late 1980s, are very desperate for employment. We have an extremely high unemployment rate in our area. We are certainly desperate for any sort of development. So I can understand why many people, when this project first was introduced, would grasp it like a drowning person would a straw being handed out. But I think it only is a straw, because I don't really think it's the true, strong, sustainable development that would get us through the next boom-and-bust cycle of gold mining.
In fact, when the project was first proposed, it was a very different project than is on the table today. It was a project that said Metro Toronto would ship all of its garbage up to the Adams mine site and there would be a sorting plant there. All the wealth that is in a full waste stream would be sorted out and that wealth would stay in our area and we would be able to generate industries from that wealth. At first blush, it didn't look that bad, it looked kind of interesting, that we would return some of the wealth that we've always shipped to the south. Some of that, in the form of waste, however distasteful, might come back here and we might be able to develop something from it.
But what has happened now is that basically it has ended up only as a residual waste site. What that means, and it's something I've always been against, is that it's just going to be a dump. It's just going to be a dumping ground, a dumping pit, for what's left in the waste stream after all the waste has been removed.
What we have here basically is a project in the 1950s style. It's one of the last megaprojects that I think time has passed by. Time has passed it by, and the politics and the technology of waste management have passed it by. This is something of the 1950s where we were in a big consumer society and we were into real planned obsolescence and the more we could consume and the more waste we had the better. Those were sort of the principles of the day.
We live in a very different era today. We understand that we have to conserve and that we shouldn't be wasting and that we should try to derive value back from the waste stream. So we don't need the megaproject here. I think Metro, wisely, has understood that. Metro, quite frankly, has paid a lot of attention to a lot of the people who, I will say, through surveys that I have done through every household in the whole area that the proponent has decided is the catchment area for this mine -- the vast majority of the people in the dump catchment area and the whole region are very much against this project. I support them in that and I think Metro has listened to that. We have been to Metropolitan Toronto. We have talked to them about that, that we are not pleased with that.
What's very interesting about this project is that in the public liaison committee meetings and the public liaison committee meeting funded by Metro Toronto, they hired a consultant from California who said: "You know, you probably could make this project work if you went about it another way. If you put some more money into it, you engineered it differently and you made sure the moneys were there for contingency plans and worst-case scenarios, you might be able to do it." So here was an expert saying you probably could do it if you did it like this. But he said the way that Notre Development is pursuing this project is irresponsible, that it is not planning for any worst-case scenario, that it is dangerous and that the people of the region should be alarmed by this particular proposal.
I'm alarmed by it. I'm very concerned about it. It better not be the case that this government is interfering with the democratic decisions of Metropolitan Toronto, of how they want to dispose of their waste. If you are interfering, it better not be the case that you're doing that because the Premier is a very good friend of the proponent and the proponent has the potential to make millions of dollars from this and the Premier's own riding will definitely benefit economically from this. I hope that's not the case. I hope that you're not interfering and I hope it's not for those reasons, because it's not worth sacrificing the environment for anything -- for money or for jobs. We should not take a chance on this sort of scheme. It is not worth it, because a scheme is what it is. It's a scheme being promoted by a snake oil salesperson who's been running the roads in my area for seven years, and we're sick and tired of it. Metro Toronto has seen it for what it is and they've decided it isn't going there. I'm putting this government on warning: You'd better not interfere with that because you'll have hell to pay in the riding of Timiskaming.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments?
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'd like to compliment the member for Timiskaming for his wise words and I think the cautionary tale he was telling in terms of what this specific amendment would mean. It's a warning to the members of the government that this bill is being set up probably to be quite deceptive.
I had the honour of sitting on the committee that travelled the province this summer studying Bill 76 and a couple of things became very clear: The priority is not the protection of our environment but is in essence for control of the decisions by cabinet and by the ministers themselves. The cruel irony of this bill is that one part of it says it's to enshrine public consultation, and the real truth is -- this came out quite frequently during the public hearings -- this will actually reduce the opportunity for the public to get involved. Delegation after delegation made that point.
The member for Northumberland and I think the member for Scarborough West were on the hearings. I recall very well people saying in essence that by looking very carefully at the bill it's clear that the minister will have complete control. The fact is that this bill broadens the cabinet's power to exempt projects from the need to have environmental assessments. It gives the minister the power to limit what the Environmental Assessment Board can examine without saying what principles must govern the decisions. It continues the premise of allowing the minister to define what is a major commercial or business enterprise through internal policy guidelines and thereby decree what projects must undergo environmental assessments instead of placing a definition in the Environmental Assessment Act.
This bill is a deception, and I think the people of Ontario need to know that this is not a question of allowing people more public consultation and it's not a question of the environment being the priority. It's a question of simply controlling the number of regulations.
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): What a startling revelation as you begin hypothetically, and I hope it's only that, to piece the puzzle together. The good, vigilant watch by the member for Timiskaming brings forth the name of Gordon McGuinty, a lifelong friend of the Premier, a golf buddy -- they share many hours -- owner of the now defunct Adams mine. Mr McGuinty is one of the main garbage kings and, you see, he found a site where people can dispose of garbage. He's very close to the Premier. We don't wish to impute motive but we will be like sentries at our post. We will be watching very carefully and meticulously the partnership, the friendship of those two people, Gordon McGuinty and Premier Mike Harris, the Premier du jour when it comes to the disposal of garbage.
Mr Speaker, you've followed the debate year after year and you know that the people of the north do not wish to get Toronto's garbage. We don't want the garbage to leave the 416 and 905 areas of Toronto and its surroundings, its suburbs, and move all the way to northern Ontario and jeopardize our quality of life. We don't wish to have it. The member for Timiskaming has said: "Toronto, snap out of it. Keep your garbage." I want to commend the member for --
The Deputy Speaker: Your time has expired.
Mr Tilson: The member for Timiskaming spent a great deal of time on the amendment which requires that environmental assessments be required for waste being sent out of the province. What's wrong with that? What's wrong with requiring environmental assessments for transfer stations, transportation, all other matters with respect to sending waste to the United States? What aversion do you have to that?
I suppose as a Liberal -- I mean, we haven't forgotten Whitevale. We haven't forgotten your short-term alternative with respect to Whitevale which required no environmental assessment, absolutely no environmental assessment for Whitevale. So I find it a little strange, the member for Timiskaming -- he normally gives a good speech, although he stood up on this issue before, and I have to remind him of Whitevale, I really do, because we on this side do care about the environment, whether waste is being put in a landfill site or whether it's being put in an incinerator. We all remember the former environment minister from the NDP giving testimony down in Detroit. There are facts of all of the stuff floating back into Canada. So what's wrong with having an environmental assessment? I'm rather surprised that he would take that position.
We are simply requiring that the municipalities continue to have the local option for whatever it may be, whether it be a landfill site, whether it be an energy-from-waste facility, whether it be a composting facility, whether it be all of the various alternatives that are continuing to be looked at. We simply say, have an environmental assessment, whether that be on long term or short term. We cannot risk destroying the environment by simply allowing municipalities to do whatever they wish. You must do it safely.
Mr Bradley: I suppose the member for Timiskaming didn't mention Whitevale because he knew that it would have to go through an environmental assessment process indeed, and that's why he would not have mentioned it; he would have assumed that that was the case, and indeed that was the case. I know the member for Dufferin-Peel never wants to mislead the House because he's not noted for doing that, so I'll just make that correction because I get to speak after him. I guess that's the best time to be able to do it.
I'm glad the member alerted us to the fact that there could be something happening in his constituency behind closed doors. I think he was worried that somehow something might happen behind closed doors and the fix might be in. He simply wanted to alert the House to that and the people of this province. He's done a service to the people of his constituency by alerting us to that possibility. We hope that doesn't happen, quite obviously. I'm not one who would direly predict that would happen but I'm glad he did alert us to that.
I'm wondering whether the reason that he feels this way is he's looking at a pattern in the Ministry of Environment now where the power of the ministry is being withdrawn, where, when there are cabinet decisions to be made or government decisions to be made, we're back to the old days where the Ministry of Environment is elbowed out of the way instead of playing a prominent role in the environmental assessment process or in the entire environmental process. I think that may be his concern, that in response to those who show up at the Conservative fund-raisers, the wealthy and the privileged, who want to develop anywhere and everywhere, that somehow the environmental process might be compromised, and I'm wondering if the member would comment on that concern I have.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Timiskaming, you have two minutes.
Mr Ramsay: I'd like to thank the members who followed my speech with their comments and questions. I appreciate the member for St Catharines couching the tenor of my speech as a warning because that's certainly what it is. I think the eyes of all Metropolitan Toronto politicians and bureaucrats are certainly going to be watching what this government does after this bill receives third reading vote, how fast they move on royal proclamation of this, whether they break the promise of the parliamentary assistant who said it certainly wouldn't be proclaimed until January 1. The other promise that was made is that the municipalities, and in this case especially Metropolitan Toronto, would be consulted before those regulations were attached to this bill. We're going to be watching that to see if you're going to fast-track that or if you're going to carry on with that schedule.
I think you have a chance to keep your word and if you do that, then I would say and I would admit that I was wrong, that what I said here in my place today was wrong, if you do that. But we're watching. Because if you move quickly, as I suspect you're going to do, and ironically as Mr McGuinty feels you're going to do, because he is extremely confident that this garbage is not going to the United States. I just don't understand why he feels so confident. He's said this in the newspaper, so something is afoot here and I think something's amiss. But we'll see in the next few weeks.
Mr Ramsay: The member for Dufferin-Peel said I should be more trusting, so I will put my trust in you today, in all the members of the Legislature on the Conservative side, in the government, to see if you hold your word that this bill will only be proclaimed on January 1 and allow Metro to finish its process that it's been involved in over the last 12 years.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Bisson: Mr Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to split the remainder of my time with my leader.
The Deputy Speaker: Agreed? The member for Cochrane South.
Mr Bisson: I take it it's agreed?
Mr Bradley: Yes.
Mr Bisson: Thank you. I've only got about 15 minutes or so to go through what is, by its very volume, a fairly large and comprehensive bill put forward by the government. The bill, so we can keep on topic here, is Bill 76.
It always amazes me that each bill this government brings into this place is always accompanied by a title that has absolutely nothing to do with the bill. In this particular case the bill is entitled An Act to improve environmental protection, increase accountability and enshrine public consultation in the Environmental Assessment Act. Well, if you take a look at the contents of this bill in regard to what it says, you'll find that the bill does not deliver. The bill should have been more appropriately entitled An Act to dismantle environmental protection, decrease accountability and kick the public out of the consultation process. I think that would have been more in keeping with what we find inside the bill. This is just another example of how the Tory communications machine within the Premier's office is always trying to find any way it can to communicate its message. Unfortunately, what's inside this bill is quite contrary to what we find in the title of the bill.
I'd like to go through a couple of parts, because I don't have the time to go through the entirety of the bill. I'd like, for the record, to state some of the views canvassed from people within the environmental community and also from people within the riding of Cochrane South.
The first section of the bill, under section 2, clause 3.1(1)(b) and subsection 3.1(2) of the act, reads:
"(b) if the minister considers the requirements imposed by the other jurisdiction to be equivalent to the requirements imposed under this act.
"(2) The minister may by order vary or dispense with a requirement imposed under this act...."
What it means to say is that they're trying to harmonize both federal and provincial legislation when it comes to the environment. That in itself, on the surface, would sound like not a bad idea. The problem, however, is that what they're really doing here is driving it to the lowest common denominator. If federal legislation is weaker, that is where Ontario is going to position itself when it comes to an issue having to do with the environment and a matter before an environmental tribunal.
Quite simply what they're doing is following the direction of the American legislation where, if the state legislation is weaker and the federal government has something under its control, it follows the weaker legislation, and vice versa. What we're seeing here quite frankly is an Americanization of legislation in Ontario.
It has always been understood that in Canada what you have is an ability by the provinces to start setting some of the direction and start setting some of the way that policy needs to be developed. Rather than always trying to work it towards the lowest common denominator, provinces have had the ability to introduce legislation and to build on legislation from other jurisdictions and from the federal government.
A good example of that would be the legislation having to do with health care. When one province -- Saskatchewan -- started a system of health care, every other province tried to ratchet itself up to the standard set up in Saskatchewan. Ever since then, each province has worked within the federation to try to enhance our health care system by that provision.
What we're doing in this act is quite the opposite. We're saying, "Whatever the lowest common denominator is when it comes to the environment, those are the rules Ontario will play by." I say that's not a good thing for the environment. I would even argue it is not a good thing for the economy as well.
Under section 3.2 of the act, we have a clause here that basically -- this is really the guts of the bill. The bill in the title tries to say that it's to "increase accountability and enshrine public consultation." Well, if you take a look at this, what section 3.2 simply does is it allows the minister to exempt certain classes of businesses from going through an environmental assessment. That's dangerous stuff.
What that allows, quite frankly, is if somebody has an in with the government, somebody has an in with the minister, a proponent of a project has an in with the Premier, what you do is you snuggle up real close to the minister, you snuggle up to the Premier, and you say, "Hey, Premier" -- or Minister of Environment -- "I've been reading this legislation and I see under this particular legislation that you have the right" -- as read here, "With the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council or of such ministers of the crown as the Lieutenant Governor in Council may designate, the minister may by order...declare that this act, the regulations or a matter provided under the act does not apply with respect to a proponent, a class of proponents, an undertaking or a class of undertakings."
What, quite frankly, that means is that it gives the power to the minister and to the cabinet to say: "My buddy in the business sector has got a project that wants to go forward and we don't want to stand in the way. I want you to invoke the powers so that they don't have to fall under the environmental assessment."
I say to the government, that is not good business practice, number one, and it's certainly not good environmental practice. Because the one thing I hear over and over again when I deal with the private sector within my riding and within the greater province of Ontario is they say: "We want to understand the rules. We want to know that the rules are clear and they apply the same to everyone. Not one person is treated differently before the law."
What this allows you to do is to say, if you're a business with an in to the Premier's office or to the Minister of Environment or some other influential member within the government, you can be treated differently than somebody who doesn't have an in. I say that is the worst system of politics and the worst system of government that you can see happen. It's a little bit like Alabama. You know, if you know the governor, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, whatever you want goes through.
Mr Pouliot: Pay, pay, pay.
Mr Bisson: And pay, pay, pay, as the member for Lake Nipigon says.
Quite frankly, I wasn't going to get into that, but the danger is that what could end up happening is that the Minister of Environment and the government can very simply put themselves in a position where a business says, "Rather than give $150 to the Tory fund-raiser, I'll buy a section of tables or I will buy a number of tables and give $10,000, $20,000, $50,000 to the Tories," and end up being in a position before the government so it can be exempted under the act. I say that is really dangerous.
I ask again, what does the business sector want? The business sector wants to know what the rules are. They want the rules to be clear, they want them to be fair, but more important, they want them to apply the same among all businesses in Ontario and not give special consideration based on which cabinet minister you know and the availability you have to patronize the Tory party through fund-raisers. I think that's very dangerous stuff.
As a short example, I grew up in a place called Kamiskotia Lake. There is a huge environmental disaster at Kamiskotia Lake called the tailings dams at the Kamiskotia mine. That happened because of these exact provisions, because during the Second World War and leading up to it the government needed copper to supply the war effort. The mine applied for a permit to build a tailings dam and the government of Ontario knew at the time that it was not in keeping with even the known technologies of that day to keep the tailings dam safe. What did the government do? They said, "We're going to turn a blind eye to our own rules and we're going to allow it to go forward." The long-term environmental impact of that decision is still being felt today.
You cannot fish on the Kamiskotia River as the water leaves the lake and goes out into the river system because it's full of tailings. It has been leached from the tailings ponds within the Kamiskotia mine, has been so since about the mid-1970s, and has killed all of that area when it comes to fishing south of the Kamiskotia Lake, or going out to the eastern part, and it was this kind of provision that allowed it to happen.
I say to the government, you're really opening up a bees' nest here and you're really opening up a problem that is going to allow a whole bunch of environmental disasters to perpetuate themselves within Ontario.
Another part of the act under section 6 is quite interesting as well, and again it has nothing to do with the title of the bill. If anything, it is quite the opposite. It goes on to say under subsection 6(1): "The proponent shall give the ministry proposed terms of reference governing the preparation of an environmental assessment for the undertaking."
What does that mean? That means quite simply that again, as in the previous section, if you're friends of the Premier or you're friends of the Minister of Environment or you have an in with the Tory party because you give good dollars to their Tory fund-raisers, you're going to be able to dictate, with the approval of the minister, what are going to be the terms of reference to your EA should you need to go through an environmental assessment. That's what it means.
I understand the government is saying, "We want to make things simpler for the business sector," but nobody had an idea that simpler meant what you guys are really up to here, because what you're about is giving Tory fund-raisers a blank cheque on the back of the environment. That's what this is all about. It has absolutely nothing to do with trying to protect the environment, as in the title of the bill. It says, "If you have bucks and you want to buy favour with the Minister of the Environment, here's the legislation that will let you have it." That's exactly what this legislation is doing.
Mr Bisson: The members on the other side can grumble all they want, but the reality is what it says. It says, "The proponent shall give" -- the proponent is who? It's the person with the application -- "the ministry" and the minister "proposed terms of reference governing the preparation of an environmental assessment for the undertaking," and subs (a), (b) and (c) spell out what that is. I say it's pretty dangerous stuff.
Another example is in the city of Timmins. There was a project that was supposed to go under way which was a reclamation of tailings on the old McIntyre tailings stack at Pearl Lake. At the time, under the Peterson government, the then Minister of the Environment, James Bradley, required that certain provisions had to be followed according to the Environmental Assessment Act and permits to be able to get the permit to go forward and start that project. In the end, because there was a significant number of jobs to be possibly created through this project, the ministry and the municipality waived certain restrictions. We plugged that hole afterwards, but the government basically allowed that to go forward.
The reality is that less than two or three years after that project got started, there were no more jobs to be found on that project because the place shut down, there was a whole huge environmental disaster that we're still having to live with in the middle of the city of Timmins, where the old tailings dam used to be, there's a huge pond of water there that is where the tailings dam is and it's quite filthy; in fact we had to build a fence around it so people couldn't see it. Why? Because we allowed people to go forward with it just on the basis of the economics and creating jobs.
Sometimes that's what an environmental assessment tries to spell out. It looks at, should this project go forward, and balances it against the needs of protecting the environment and the need to create jobs. In this particular case, I would say under current regulations that project would have never gone ahead, and neither should it have, quite frankly.
It goes on to say under section 3.2 that the minister may -- oh, no, I've already gone through this. I wanted to go up to section 4 to section 8, which is the section of the bill that deals with mediation. I just want to give the government credit on the one part of the bill that I do agree with, although I think there are problems in what you're doing. It is not a bad idea to try to deal with mediation when it comes to issues of dispute. I think there are appropriate terms to be able to do that. I can tell you in many, many cases that I've seen, that I've had to deal with as a member, where there were issues having to deal with how the ministry had dealt with a particular issue or how the private proponent had dealt with the particular issue, it's not a bad idea to be able to move forward with some form of mediation to be able to deal with that.
The problem is when you go into the fine print of what you're doing with the mediation services, it's littered -- and I use the word "littered" in this environmental bill -- with all kinds of loopholes that the ministry can set up in order to be able to make a bad thing worse. For example, under subsection 8(1) it's the minister and solely the minister who appoints the mediators. I think there needs to be some kind of a public process. We've seen the same thing in the Courts of Justice Act, where the minister responsible for the courts, the AG, gave himself the entire power to appoint the case masters. It's very much the same case over here. The government is saying, "We're going to appoint the people to hear the mediation, and only we, the government, will be able to appoint those people." The danger with that is if you have a pro-business government like we have today with the Conservatives, they will go and appoint their friends, and their friends will be the ones to make the decisions, and guess what? The decisions are going to reflect what the government wants. There needs to be some sort of public accountability in this process, and I don't see that in what this government is doing.
The other thing is, and I understand the logic behind this, but I just want to point out -- there's a bit of a danger here; it's a double-edged sword -- that under subsection 8(5), unless the mediator decides otherwise, the mediation is not open to the public. I understand why you want to keep mediation closed; I don't argue with that point. But what I'm saying is by taking many of these issues and throwing them into mediation, there is a bit of a danger of removing from the public the whole question of accountability, of how we go forward in being able to approve particular projects within the Ministry of Environment when it comes to environmental assessments.
In the couple of minutes I have left I will say this: Under subsection 9(3), "The minister may direct the board to hear testimony concerning only those matters that the minister specifies, and the board shall do so." What they're getting at here is that only what the Minister of Environment spells out as being the terms of reference for environmental assessment will the board deal with in its final ruling. It doesn't prevent the board from hearing other submissions but limits it to what it can rule on based on what the minister puts in the environmental assessment directions in the first place. That is dangerous. It goes back to the point that the Minister of Environment, the Premier and the powerful cabinet ministers of Ontario will be able to direct which projects get approved, not on an environmental basis but on the basis of, are you a good friend to the Tory party and do you give money to the Conservative Party?
It goes on to say under subsection 9(8), "The board shall make its decision by the deadline the minister specifies or by such later date as the minister may permit if he or she considers that there is a sufficient reason." The problem with that comes down to the fact that we have already fired one third of the people who work at the Ministry of Environment. They are not able to deal with the applications coming before them now. They're about to fire a whole bunch more people at the Ministry of Environment. The minister has put on the altar of the Minister of Finance his ministry for cuts because he knows this government does not believe in environmental regulation, and we're about to lose probably another third of the existing Ministry of Environment.
How in heck are you ever going to meet the guidelines set out under this legislation? You won't be, is the point, and you're going to end up with very shoddy decisions on the basis of the ministry's not being able to respond to all the matters brought before it because it won't have the staff to deal with them. What you're going to end up with in the end is a system filled with problems on the basis of not being able to deal properly with the matters before it.
I'd like to give the remainder of my time to my leader, Howard Hampton, who would like to close off debate.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I thank the member for Cochrane South for the opportunity to say a few words about what I regard as another one of this government's large mistakes. We understand all too well what is really happening here. The government, through its phoney tax scheme, is giving away a lot of money to its wealthy friends, so it's got to find a way to recoup some money. We saw earlier in this place that this government is willing to ignore the involvement of organized crime with video slot machines because they need the money. Here they're willing to ignore environmental destruction and environmental degradation so that some of their friends can make a quick buck, because they need the money.
There is nothing in this bill that is about environmental protection, that speaks to environmental integrity. It is all about this government trying to find a way for their corporate friends to make a quick buck at the expense of the environment. They hope to keep some of their friends happy by allowing them to make a quick buck at the expense of the environment.
What this government, through this bill and through its other legislation on the environment, is going to create over time is an environmental deficit. I don't expect any of them to be concerned about an environmental deficit. They're more concerned with short-term results. If somebody else has to come in and clean up the mess 10 or 15 years from now they won't be around to worry about it, believe me. People can be sure of that. None of this crew will be around to worry about it. Someone else will have to come in and clean up the environmental deficit this crew is going to leave behind.
What do I mean by an environmental deficit? Let me give you an example. I use this example a lot because it's the one place where this government is really hanging out. One of the places this government thinks it's going to make a quick buck is off our forests. They have essentially privatized Ontario's crown forests. They have essentially said to the private forest companies in Ontario: "You could go out there. You're in charge now. You could even monitor yourselves. You can volunteer to come in and tell us when you have degraded the forest environment or when you've degraded the lakes and streams. We don't have enough people any more to even check up on you, so you're in charge out there."
It's quite true that this is going to open up the opportunity for some people in the forest industry to make a quick buck. It will. Some people will make a quick buck in the forest industry out of this. But what is waiting not very far down the road, and with some certainty, is that this is all going to come crashing down. Let me explain why that will be.
There are some private companies operating in the forest industry that will take all of this environmental room and will actually behave responsibly. Some of them will actually put money into forest renewal, some of them will put money into ecological studies, some of them will put money into fish and wildlife studies, and some of them will actually do a good job, both on the forestry front and on the environmental front. But others, which share this government's attitude, will say: "We're not going to spend any money on fish and wildlife. We're not going to spend all the money we should on forest renewal. We're not going to spend all the money we should looking at some of these environmental issues. We're simply going to take the money and run."
My fear is that that's going to get all of us in trouble. That's going to get us in trouble because we have to sell many of our products internationally. We have to sell them internationally into markets like California, New York and Europe. Many of those jurisdictions -- and this government doesn't want to hear this -- are very concerned about environmental issues, very concerned about leaving behind an environment that is sustainable for succeeding generations.
I predict what's going to happen, and it may take four or five years, is that they will see the kind of environmental degradation that this government is prepared to allow in Ontario, and they will say: "We are not prepared to buy forest products from a government, from a jurisdiction, that allows this to happen. We're not prepared to buy pulp. We're not prepared to buy paper. We're not prepared to buy lumber. We're not prepared to buy manufactured forest products." We will be in a situation like a boycott.
Some of the Conservative members who have never done anything much more than run a hamburger stand think that you can run the environment like you run a hamburger stand. Let me tell you something. This government is going to repeat the mistakes of the Social Credit government in British Columbia. They're going to wind up having much of our natural resource exports and many of our natural resource products boycotted by other jurisdictions. You're going to cost this province not thousands of jobs but tens of thousands of jobs, and you're going to cost this province literally billions lost in exports. That's what's going to happen. That is what environmental deficits mean. That is what environmental degradation means.
I know that none of the Conservatives want to hear any of this. They would like to pretend that the environment is something like workers: You simply kill the legislation governing worker health and safety, you gut the legislation covering workers' compensation, you lower the standards and you say, "Get out of here." But I'll tell you something. The environment doesn't work that way. The fact of the matter is that Ontario has to export into an international marketplace, and it's an international marketplace that is more and more concerned about observing environmental standards, more and more concerned about environmental sustainability, and they will boycott you. They will boycott your products. They will boycott you in other ways in the international market.
The end result of your quick-buck philosophy, the end result of your philosophy of environmental deficits, is that you're going to kill jobs, you're going to kill economic activity, you're going to put all kinds of communities in worse shape.
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): When's that going to happen?
Mr Hampton: Speaker, I wouldn't mind, if the member wants to heckle, if you could put him back in his seat. But if you put him back in his seat, people from the Kitchener-Waterloo area might recognize that the government's going to gut a hospital in his home town just like this government gutted 600 jobs in his home town.
Interjection: The government didn't gut any jobs; that's below the belt.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. There's only a few minutes left. Try to remain calm, composed.
Mr Hampton: What this government has to recognize is that the foundations of our economy, the foundations of our communities, the foundations of our society are not based on phony tax schemes. They're based on a true realization of environmental sustainability. They're based on good public investments that increase and assist productivity. They're based on good human, community and physical infrastructure, which, like the environment, this government is prepared to write down. If you look at this government's environmental agenda, it is very much like its health care agenda, its education agenda, its social development agenda: It is one of cutting, it is one of destroying, it is one of decimating the fundamental building blocks of our communities and the fundamental building blocks of our economy.
The government members may not want to hear this. I predict that your environmental degradation, your environmental deregulation, will get you some quick bucks, but it's also going to get you and this province's economy into a lot of trouble down the road. It will hurt this province in terms of our environmental sustainability, it will hurt us in terms of our economic sustainability, it will hurt us in terms of the kind of social and community cohesion we really need if we're going to be productive in the 21st century.
You may want to move ahead and do this; you're the government. Again, on this legislation, as with all other legislation, we can tell you're not listening to anyone but your corporate friends. Anyone else who has anything to say about environmental issues, about natural resource sustainability, you're not listening to. You're simply listening to your fat-cat corporate friends. That's whose agenda you're implementing here. But I'll tell you something, there's a whole bunch of people who are not going to take this, who are not going to swallow this.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?
Mr Pouliot: I won't take the full two minutes. One can hardly remain seated after the most sincere and committed address I have heard for a long time. To have to notice the kind of reaction, the kind of ridicule, the kind of ill-timed comments directed at my leader when all he was doing was reminding them, warning them and telling the truth regarding the environment -- many of the citizens don't have a voice, or in front of those people who have money they say little. When confronted with the logic, or the lack of logic, of these people they are quite often frightened.
We're talking about the air that we breathe; we're talking about the way a river flows; we're talking about a pristine, clean environment -- not to be discarded for the mere sake of a buck. My leader has warned the public of Ontario of the real chance of having payola, where by virtue of a partnership among people the environment will be on the back burner and the prevailing factor will be the ability to pay. That's what he said. The people out there are listening. They're concerned. May they never be frightened.
Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): They should have been concerned --
The Deputy Speaker: The member for York Mills.
Mr Pouliot: Those people who, one by one, will not stand up will have to carry the guilt unfortunately. Hopefully, not too much damage will be done by the time you leave office.
Mr Turnbull: We know your conduct and --
The Deputy Speaker: The member for York Mills, order.
Mr Pouliot: That is the only environmental change that would benefit the province of Ontario. They won't listen to anything else. Thank you, leader.
Mr Bradley: We're going to be voting on this briefly, but I'll get my comment in, if it's possible to do so and still vote. I want to compliment the member for Cochrane South on his usual very balanced presentation on this matter, along with his colleague the member for Rainy River, who recognized what this bill is all about. I'm going to ask the member for Rainy River, if we get around to responding to this all right, which we may or may not, whether he feels that what the government is doing will go over well at the Tory fund-raisers. I know that among many of the people I speak to who don't attend the Conservative fund-raisers this is not as popular, but I'm wondering if he believes that indeed it is going to be the case that at the Conservative fund-raisers this may well be popular.
It is obvious this is going to pass this afternoon -- there will be a vote held -- and there will be regulations coming after this. I'm wondering if either of the two previous speakers -- one of them is going to respond -- feels that there is reason to be concerned about the regulations that are written to go with the bill, because what the public often doesn't realize is that there's a bill that they can examine, and it may look fairly benign, but there are regulations that go with it, and those regulations are drawn up behind closed doors in the secrecy of the government back rooms. I'm wondering whether there's concern when it isn't before the people of this province through the parliamentary channel but rather in the back rooms of the government. That's where my concerns would be. I'm wondering if in the total context of the environmental record of this government that's enough to cause him considerable concern.
The Deputy Speaker: The leader of the third party, you have two minutes, or the member for Cochrane South.
Mr Bisson: I got up first, Mr Speaker. I want to take this opportunity to thank the people who commented on the speeches by both myself and the leader of my party. In regard to the member for St Catharines, yes, I went on at length to point out to the people watching this debate that indeed what this does is give Tory party fund-raisers a blank cheque to go out and talk to the business sector and say: "Look at what we've done for you. We've allowed you to exempt yourself from environmental assessment. We have allowed the minister to spell out what will be part of an environmental assessment and have given the minister and the Premier much more power than people who are environmentalists would ever be comfortable with."
I pointed out diligently, as the member well knows, that what this means is that the Tory fund-raisers will be extremely busy after this legislation and will put those people in the province who are not Tories in a funny situation because it will set up basically two classes of businesses. If you're a business that's willing to patronize the government by giving it money, you will get better treatment before the minister; if you don't, you won't. That is a real problem.
To the member from Nipigon, as always, right on topic. He points out something that's quite interesting, which is, as I've noted of late, that the Tory caucus is getting much more agitated and much more vocal in its opposition to some of the comments put forward by the opposition parties. That tells me they are going back to their constituency and are getting it right between the eyes. Their constituents are saying: "We don't like what you're doing. We thought we were voting for a party that was going to do some good." But you're fighting with absolutely everybody out there on every front and you're starting to get the friction. You come into this Legislature and I see you guys angst at every opportunity you have when members such as the leader of the third party get up and make comments that are right on. That only tells me: Keep it up people. You're getting to the Tories. Keep the pressure on. They're starting to figure out that not all is well in Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker: Any further debate?
Mr Galt has moved third reading of Bill 76. 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.
Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.
Being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 1805.