L089B - Mon 16 Oct 2000 / Lun 16 oct 2000
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
RED TAPE REDUCTION ACT, 2000 / LOI DE 2000 VISANT À RÉDUIRE LES FORMALITÉS ADMINISTRATIVES
Resuming the debate adjourned on October 12, 2000, on the motion for second reading of Bill 119, An Act to reduce red tape, to promote good government through better management of Ministries and agencies and to improve customer service by amending or repealing certain Acts and by enacting two new Acts / Projet de loi 119, Loi visant à réduire les formalités administratives, à promouvoir un bon gouvernement par une meilleure gestion des ministères et organismes et à améliorer le service à la clientèle en modifiant ou abrogeant certaines lois et en édictant deux nouvelles lois.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): In rotation, we will go clockwise. Further debate?
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): It's my pleasure tonight to be able to speak to this bill. I'm going to be speaking, first of all, on the bill but more so of what red tape did to the economy of this province over the last number of years. If we are going to continue moving this province forward as we have been for the last five years since our government became the government, it was identified very quickly that red tape had to be eliminated or reduced if we were to move the economy along, if we were to create those jobs we knew had to happen.
Bill 119, An Act to reduce red tape, to promote good government through better management of Ministries and agencies and to improve customer service by amending or repealing certain Acts and by enacting two new Acts: I guess one of the keys of that title is, number one, better management. Better management, whether it be in the private sector or the public sector, it is imperative that that happen if again we are to create those jobs, to create that wealth in this province and if Ontario is to continue to be the engine of the economy in this great country.
The other thing that is imperative and is labelled or identified in the act and in the title of the act is "to improve customer service." I always remember a little logo that we had in a company that I had, and that was, "Can we be of service to you?" I think it is so imperative that we identify that the people of this province are indeed our customers. Yes, they foot the bill through their taxation and, as we know, there's only one taxpayer, but certainly it is imperative that customer service be done.
All of the amendments in Bill 119 are based on concerns and suggestions from both the public and the private sectors. Certainly we must continue to consult. If you look at the red tape and the regulation that has been created in this province over the last many years, it has had a major concern with-and I want to emphasize this-both the public and the private sectors. We have to make sure that we listen to those concerns and identify them. I think this is one thing about the red tape secretariat, and certainly many of us in government, that we are going to the private sector and indeed the public sector and saying to them, "What is causing you problems? What regulations are in place that are deterring job creation, job growth? What is deterring the protection of the environment? What is deterring the improvement of the economy? What is deterring the accountability of industry?" Those are magic words, but those words are so important if this province is to continue to move forward as it has in the last five years.
Certainly we must and will continue to reduce administrative delays by reducing red tape. We have to clarify the regulations and standards, and they have to be clearly identified. There is nothing worse than reading a bill and there is so much mumbo-jumbo in it written by, I hate to say it, a lot of bureaucrats and lawyers who are trying to make it extremely difficult for the average, rank-and-file person in this province to understand. It's written by a lawyer, and you've got to hire another lawyer to interpret what that lawyer was trying to say, and then you're not sure whether there might be another interpretation so you've got to hire another one. No disrespect, Minister, but I was in business long enough to know there is nothing worse than some of the regulations and things that are involved in doing business.
We've got to make sure we make it as easy as possible, with the protections in place, to do business in this province, because there is absolutely no doubt that in the last five years, Ontario has been open for business. I want to compliment the Premier on the establishment of a permanent red tape secretariat. It is one more indication that the commitments the Mike Harris government made are being carried through.
There are certainly a number of sections in this bill. It deals with some 11 ministries and has amendments and changes that I believe will indeed cut down red tape and, of course, make it easier to do business and improve customer service. A couple of areas I want to identify and talk about are the amendments proposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources. In that section some nine different acts have amendments that, if I may comment on a couple of them, it is very easy to see will enhance what we are trying to do.
The first one is the amendment to the Aggregate Resources Act. One of the changes in this enables the minister at any time to add, vary or rescind a condition on a wayside permit. There is no comparable mechanism similar to aggregate permits or licences to make amendments to the site plan following issuance. Currently, if a change to the site plan is required, the applicant must submit the application with the proposed changes and undergo the application process. It is absolutely ridiculous to have to do that when you've already been approved.
For those of you who may not know what a wayside permit is, a wayside permit-it might be a gravel extraction-is issued for an improvement on a road. It is based on the particular job it was identified or licensed for.
Subsection (31) requires that a wayside permit expire on the completion of the project in respect to which it was issued or 18 months after its date of issue, whichever occurs first. Many road construction and maintenance projects require more than 18 months to complete. These types of wayside permits are extremely important in what you might say are more remote areas or areas where road construction may not necessarily have a lot of licensed gravel pits in the immediate area. They would licence these wayside pits, first of all, to keep the cost of road construction down. But as I said, they were for a specific job.
The 18-month limitation: as you know, due to weather conditions and costs, the job sometimes has to be extended. This 18-month limitation has created unnecessary red tape by requiring the applicant, which is often, believe it or not, the Ministry of Transportation, to apply for a new permit and again fulfill the requirements of the provincial standard. Consequently, additional costs and delays are being incurred to complete the project. I think this is one of the keys: why would we want to create additional costs to the ministry, which is doing the job, because the project may have been within that 18 months, and another couple of months, if it was extended, could indeed make sure the job was completed and that it would be done within the tender price or within the cost that was indicated?
Also in this section is the fact that we want to make sure the proposed amendment is consistent with the intent of the legislation-and indeed it is-and will have a positive impact on environmental protection. Certainly environmental protection is a priority of this government, and we want to make sure in any amendments or changes to legislation that we make, the environment is indeed protected.
This is strictly an administrative amendment, and it would require a licensee or permittee to notify MNR and the trust of a change in address within a specific time. That sounds like a menial type of thing to have to do, but why should the government have to run after people, checking out titles etc at its expense? Whether it be the MTO or a private operator, if you want to continue to carry on business, then you should do it in a professional, businesslike manner and make sure the province is well informed of the requirements.
I believe all the amendments in this case are to improve customer service for the people we're doing business with. I also believe the amendments will support improved compliance with rehabilitation of expired or revoked permits and reduce workload, costs and unnecessary administrative delays to government and to industry. I want to emphasize that it cuts down on costs and it cuts down on unnecessary administration and delays, which is so important if you are to do a job that will come in under the price it should and offer good customer service to the people of this province.
Another amendment that's coming through is to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, which provides for the regulation of forest planning, public involvement, information management, operations, licensing and trust funds for reforestation and processing facilities such as sawmills. In northern Ontario, and in southern Ontario as well, the forest industry is a very important part of the economy of this great province.
The legislation in this section also has remedies and penalties for non-compliance. If you look at some of the legislation and regulations that have happened in this province even the last couple of weeks, I believe the amount of change in penalties will deter people from trying to vary, for lack of a better word, the laws and regulations of this province. I think it is extremely important to make sure we have those things in place.
Some of the specifics of the act are to broaden the definition of "forest resource" to include parts of a tree and residues produced from the tree. What we're trying to say is to look at the big picture, and at the start of my comments we talked about management. If you're going to manage something, make sure you look at it well. I often think of the term "waste management," and in the past government said, "If you're going to look at waste management, you only look at a few things." That is not management. You've got to look at the big picture, the entire program.
One of the things it does is provide for entry on to private lands in those situations where such entry is necessary to gain access to landlocked crown land, and we know that happens. Certainly in the past that's happened, possibly because of some poor planning, but those are some of the things that should happen.
It also allows the ministry the means to obtain compensation when they seize and detain forest resources.
One of the things I want to make very clear is that the amendments to this red tape bill are based on the concerns and suggestions that have been put forth by staff and, particularly in the last bill, the forest companies and indeed the public, to make sure that they realize that any changes will be good changes, will be positive changes and will continue to move the province forward. It will continue to make sure that we create those jobs that are necessary if this province is to continue to move forward. And, indeed, this province has moved forward tremendously over the last five years and under the leadership of Mike Harris, our Premier.
I'd also like to mention one thing. If you look at the list of red tape commissioners, and I know if I mention some of their names I'll probably forget one or two, there is the member for Durham, Mr O'Toole; the member from Lambton-Middlesex, Mr Beaubien; Mr Kells. It is now being chaired by both Mr Wood, the MPP for London West, and former MPP Mr Sheehan. You have both the public and the private sectors involved as co-chairs of this so that we get a perspective from both public and private.
Marilyn Mushinski is a member, and I am very pleased to have been appointed and part of it for the last four years. Mr Johnson from Perth-Middlesex is also a member, and he has many positions in this House that are most commendable. We believe that it is very important to have this calibre of people.
One of the things I want to emphasize is the fact that the Red Tape Commission is out there asking, "What can we do for you? What have we done for you so far? Let us tell you what we can do. Let us suggest that we can do additional things for you."
I often think of what the late John F. Kennedy said, I believe, which is, "What can we do for you? What service can we offer? Can I be of service to you?" That's what the Red Tape Commission is all about.
We want to hear from you. We want to help you and your red tape problem. After being in business for a number of years, I can assure you there are red tape problems. The commission is a focal point for small business regulatory concerns in this province, and we encourage the commission-or I do and I think my colleagues will agree-to continue to challenge unnecessary red tape.
Let's talk about the paper burden, and I know that my colleague who will be speaking after will talk about it. Our goal is to provide Ontarians with service and regulatory excellence second to none in the world, and I believe the commission will have the support of all Ontarians if we can continue to make this great province move forward as it has in the last five years.
Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): It is indeed my pleasure to speak to this bill. I wish I was in better shape than I am to carry this Bill 119, with the number of pages to it. It's a massive document. If there is any hope at all that the public is to understand it-
Interjection: Work out.
Mr Parsons: Yes, I should probably work out, but I watch the others jump to conclusions and I get my exercise out of watching them do that. This is a massive bill that is intended, I think, in some ways to make it very difficult for the public to understand.
Mr Parsons: Yes, it's an omnibus bill, and I like the way the member from St Catharines refers to them as "ominous" bills, and I think that's probably a very realistic term. When you try to put this much material into one bill, there has to be somewhat of an objective that they can conceal changes. Certainly we've heard that the intent of it is to improve certain legislation helping industry, and I will be speaking to this at more length shortly, but I believe it also has the effect of making life more difficult for the average person and it continues this government's trend of trying to conceal legislative changes.
The title does not infer in any way what the bill actually includes, and so groups in the communities in our province who want to respond don't have a flag to alert them that there is going to be a change. If the bill were entitled "A change to the Tenant Protection Act," people would understand that, but the title of this bill, "An Act to reduce red tape, to promote good government through better management of Ministries and agencies and to improve customer service by amending or repealing certain Acts and by enacting two new Acts"-what does that mean? How does the general public get any sense that is of concern to them? Who's opposed to promoting good government? Everybody in the province obviously wants good government and they want it soon, but this bill won't do it.
Mr Bob Wood (London West): I was a little concerned that the member for Peterborough omitted a very keen member of the commission in his remarks, namely the member for Peterborough, who brings much wisdom, experience and helpful guidance to the commission. I'd like to offer public congratulations to him for the work that he does on the commission.
I'd also like to congratulate him for the comments he made about better customer service. I think, as a government, the Ontario government has not been particularly good in the past in giving the priority that we should to better customer service for the people of this province, and it's not something that you can flip a switch and achieve overnight. But it is something that you can work on day in and day out, year in and year out.
I think that over the past five years we have made some significant progress in improving the service that we're able to offer the people of this province. I think over the next few years, if we as MPPs are prepared to offer the kind of leadership that's needed, we're going to see a considerable improvement in customer service that our people do receive and can rightly expect to receive. In doing that, we've got to look at some new ways of offering that service, and I think electronic information processing offers a lot in that area so that we can get to a lot of services being offered 24-7, the way they are in the private sector now.
I'd also like to congratulate the member on talking about how cutting red tape attracts investment and jobs. That is a message that's so key. Other jurisdictions in the developed world understand that; they're out in the field explaining to investors and business people that they understand the kinds of problems they're going to run into and are prepared to deal with them. It's very important that we, as a province, convey that same message so that we can create more jobs and more opportunity here in Ontario.
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): I listened carefully to the remarks from the member for Peterborough. He made reference to something that John F. Kennedy said. All of us quote and misquote and ultraquote. I'm not holding the member accountable for the quote, but what he said was that JFK said something to the effect of, "Let us know what we can do for you." Of course that wasn't JFK's quote. What he said was, "Think not what your country can do for you; think what you can do for your country." The point was, JFK's legacy was to a large extent one of service. It was one of giving people confidence in their government, inspiring people to get involved in politics on both sides, either for or against his particular agenda. It was very much a positive message, obviously. It was a message of service and it was a message of bolstering our public service.
The ultimate irony is-so I think it might have been a Freudian slip-this red tape bill. It's not the good-government bill; that's not what it's called. The marketers in the government offices have decided there's some political capital to be gained from denigrating government. That's what they said in the throne speech: that they're not the government; they've come here to fix the government-the ultimate plumbers, I suppose, of provincial governance. They don't call it the good-governance bill. Instead, they call it "the cutting red tape act." They don't talk about accountability; they bring forth an act called "fewer politicians." Again, contrary to the whole spirit of JFK-and I didn't invoke his name; the member for Peterborough did-this government is going out of its way to denigrate government at every turn.
Smaller government, better government, more efficient government: these are values on which most Ontarians agree. Denigrating government is this government's legacy.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): It always amazes me when I see the government come in with what they call red tape, because they do this in the guise of telling us that indeed this is going to make Ontario run better and we're all going to be much better because of all the red tape this government is cutting. I, like other members around this House, was here in the last session and the last Parliament where the government introduced other such measures of red tape. A little thing that they cleaned in order to streamline government, for example, was changing the Environmental Assessment Act in order to allow them to dump Toronto's garbage into the Adams mine. If I remember correctly, they didn't call it the red tape bill at the time, they called it an omnibus bill, and they brought in legislation that allowed, basically, the transport of garbage out of the city of Toronto into any other municipality across the boundaries, something that we under the NDP government stopped by way of law.
I remember another thing they did in order to make government work smoother and work better. They brought in another red tape bill and they said, "We're so smart we're going to make all this work." They made changes to the Mining Act to allow mining operators to insure themselves when it comes to any damages they may cause by their actions within the mining operation. The larger companies of this world, like Inco and Placer Dome, I don't think we have to worry about. They've got a corporate image, I would hope, that they want to protect. But allowing some of the smaller operators to self-insure means that the crown doesn't have the type of insurance it needs. If this mining operator were to create an environmental disaster, who would be left paying the bill? It would be us, the taxpayers, again.
I just say, "Buyer beware," when the government brings red tape into the Legislature and says they're doing it in the guise to make government better. I know, as the people of Walkerton and many other places across the province know, what that means: it's another disaster waiting to happen.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Peterborough has two minutes to respond.
Mr Stewart: I may have misquoted John F. Kennedy. I probably did that, but it's just a darned shame that John F. Kennedy and a few more Liberals don't ask the people what they can do for them. I'm very pleased and privileged that we're going out and consulting and asking the people, "What would you like? What are your problems? What are your concerns? How do we enhance accountability? How do we enhance efficiency? How do we enhance effective government?"
The member for Timmins was talking about red tape. Let me tell you this: when the NDP was in government for five years, to establish a landfill they changed the criteria five times. You talk about red tape.
Mr Stewart: Fact: I was there; I know it. Five times they changed it, and now they are suggesting that we are creating red tape.
I can tell you this: if we are to continue to create jobs, if we are to continue to have the robust type of economy we have now, if we are to continue to get people off welfare-and we're doing all of that-then I suggest to you it's because of the policies this government has created as well as many of the red tape things we have done.
Yes, we've got a long way to go. All you've got to do is try and do a few things in this province, for those of you who sit back and do nothing. But for those who want to be progressive and try to do a few things, you will find out what type of red tape there is. I suggest to you that all of that red tape has been created by your two governments over the last 10 or 15 years.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. If there are two of us standing up, one of us is out of order and it's not me.
There's talking going on back and forth. I would like to suggest that you tiptoe across and whisper in the other member's ear or you will be asked to leave. It's not required and I won't allow it.
Mr Stewart: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Just because of your stern reply to the people across the way, is it possible that I could get another two minutes?
The Deputy Speaker: I was going to say there's nothing wrong with having aspirations and dreams, but in your dreams you would get another two minutes.
Mr Parsons: We've seen a number of runs tonight at trying to remember exactly what the quote was that JFK gave, and I hope we've now settled on it. I believe he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." For the students out in the province who are reading and trying to reconstruct exactly what happened, I hope that's beneficial in some way.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this bill. As I mentioned a couple of minutes ago, I think the title is misleading. In fact I'm not exactly sure, when we talk about red tape, what red tape is. Red tape can be very bad if it's inefficient and costs money. Red tape can be very good if it's paperwork that generates a cheque that comes to your home once a month. So, by definition, red tape I think is in the eye of the beholder.
I did find it interesting, though: a group spoke to me that wished to appear before the Red Tape Commission and they had to fill out 15 pages of red tape in order to appear before the Red Tape Commission. I thought there was a little bit of irony in that, but nevertheless I'm sure there was a sound reason for it in someone's mind. Perhaps the Red Tape Commission in its next bill could examine the Red Tape Commission and introduce some efficiencies into it.
I appreciate the objective of reducing costs, I'm sure everyone does, but it is a compromise between reducing costs and preserving service. Quite frankly, democracy costs money; dictatorship is relatively cheap. But we believe that the people of Ontario are prepared to pay the money that ensures we have democracy.
Let's look at some of the effects of red tape that has been reduced over the past four or five years. We've seen all that red tape reduced that was used when the testing labs for water sent their reports to the Ministry of the Environment. The Ministry of the Environment sent copies to the medical officer of health and to the city or the town. There was paperwork flowing all over the place, telling each other what was going on, and the forms were in four or five parts. That was considered waste. I'm not sure it's considered waste any more, but we reduced what's perceived as red tape there.
Special education in Ontario used to work on the basis that parents knew their children, teachers in the school knew their students, and school boards, being right in the community, were able to make good decisions as to what children needed in the way of education.
This government has not reduced the red tape, but has in fact complicated it to where every child who is identified by a school board as needing special education has to have a portfolio put together, which is sent to an anonymous group in Toronto, which makes a decision as to how severe the challenges are that this young person faces and what the appropriate funding should be. That strikes me as somewhat inconsistent with the objective of reducing red tape, because in fact it has generated a phenomenal amount of additional paperwork to get the necessary educational assistant or the necessary classroom for a particular student.
Amalgamations: this government certainly believes in amalgamations. We've seen some voluntary ones and we've seen some forced ones. When I talk to the employees in the amalgamated municipalities, they indicate they have never, ever had so much paperwork; they have never spent so many hours trying to replicate in their own community a system that already existed and was in place and running in the province.
I'd use land ambulances as an example of that. We had a system that was absolutely second to none in the world, and now all over the province we have little groups working, trying to get the best system for their area. It wasn't broken. We generated no end of additional work by this simple transfer. I know that even some of the government members may not believe in the transfer, but the accountants said, "If we take the dollars off here, we've got to put them somewhere else," and so we did a financial balancing for it.
A very similar thing to special ed, I was shocked to discover, was the paperwork required to determine the funding for a resident in a nursing home in Ontario, again premised on the logic that the local people really don't understand the needs of the people they work with every day. I was shocked to discover that in order to get funding for a particular client or a resident in one of these nursing homes, this government requires that a file be built up on them describing their needs, their weaknesses and strengths, and so forth. It's given to an individual within the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, who is forbidden to see that person, can't actually talk to or visit that individual to help to assess their needs, but must do it all off paperwork now. That surely runs counter to Bill 119, which says they want to reduce paperwork. Somehow there has to be some sense that the government should be consistent right across the board.
Provincial testing of students: the paperwork generated by it-and I'm not opposed to provincial testing. I'm probably somewhere near one of the last groups that graduated from grade 13 in Ontario with the requirement that we write the tests or exams that came out of Toronto on a magic day. We all wrote them. We sent them away and we got the final mark, although we never did find out what part was right and what part was wrong. We simply knew we had passed and what the mark was. If we had put down incorrect information on that departmental, we were never told it was wrong. It was simply kept a secret from us.
But some of the provincial testing where the marks have to be done by people coming to Toronto, the government paying teachers to come up and do the marking, paying their accommodation and their travel expenses, while teachers have every week of every year in Ontario been able to mark their students' papers-there would have been some rationale for standardized testing but having the marking done locally, because the money going into the marking is money not going into textbooks, money not going into the classroom. We've seen an increase in paperwork.
If I want to present a wonderful example of this government committed to increasing paperwork, we can look at the $200 permanent campaign cheques that have been mailed out in the last week to people. The rationale was that too much was collected from each taxpayer in Ontario, not $200 from each person. On a personal note, I am dismayed when I get calls at the office from single parents, people with disabilities. I've had a number from people with disabilities. People on disability make about $11,000 a year in this province and have had no increase in 10 years: nothing to adjust for the cost of living, whether it be rent or whether it be food. They call wondering when their $200 cheque will arrive. I'm forced into the position of having to tell them it's not coming. This government is interested in taxpayers, not necessarily citizens.
The paperwork to generate all these cheques, and the postage, could easily have been avoided by simply saying, "We don't need to collect that much tax." This government has shown a wonderful ability to adjust the tax rate. Why was the tax rate not adjusted to reduce the amount of taxes being paid by an amount equal to what they're giving out now? Well, because it wouldn't have the same political impact.
One cannot say, "We're opposed to paperwork," while at other times taking on tremendous costs, to be borne by the taxpayer, which is in many ways a political statement with the mailing of the cheques. I think that's wrong.
This government is committed to the reduction of paperwork. I chose one evening to drive on Highway 407 to see what it looked like. Traditionally in Ontario, we built our highways by people paying their taxes, building the highway and then we drove on it. We paid a certain amount of taxes all the time to fund that road. Now when I drive it, companies had to spend a lot of money to invest in a system that picks up my licence plate number, and I get a bill in the mail that I can pay. In fact, people tell me that sometimes they don't even drive on the highway and they get a bill in the mail. But I take that bill, and I get a certain penalty on it because I don't have a transponder and a certain charge on it for a number of items, and I have to send in a cheque covering my driving on the 407. Is that increased efficiency? It may be for the company that was sold the 407, but it certainly hasn't increased efficiency for the average person in Ontario. So while purporting to increase efficiency, Bill 119 certainly doesn't reflect all the needs.
We can go too far in these efficiencies. The 1-800 numbers: we're making all the services available to the people of Ontario with 1-800 numbers. As members, we are somewhat spoiled, because we or our staff can phone a number somewhere within the ministry and get a response. I chose to phone a number at the Ministry of Agriculture to ask a question. We have a small farm, and I was interested in a particular item-there is no ag office left anywhere in my riding now for me to go to. I phoned the 1-800 number, and this very pleasant computer told me that at that very instant the average wait was 17 minutes. I waited 17 minutes, and evidently the number changed while I was waiting, because I waited 30 minutes and I waited 45 minutes and then I gave up. I simply couldn't afford that amount of time. A farmer in our community can't afford 45 minutes or an hour waiting on the phone. So I caution the government: you take some risk in saving the province money when all you're doing is simply lowering service.
Let's look at the bill itself, because the bill has just about everything you can imagine put together in it. Some of it is rather minor in nature. Some of it is simply to correct a clause to reflect the actuality. The bill is not inherently all bad, but there are some items in there that I believe are of great interest.
There's a little item I'm interested in because of my school board background: the Ontario Parent Council. The Ontario Parent Council isn't a council made up of parents who have been elected to reflect their community; it's a council made up of people appointed by the government, and these appointees tell the government whether or not it's doing the right thing. There may be a little conflict of interest in there. I haven't read yet where the Ontario Parent Council has been particularly critical of government. The Ontario Parent Council is made up of 18 individuals appointed by the government. We're going to make it more efficient in this bill. We're going to 20. I struggle with the explanation that that actually makes things more efficient. I was told, and believe at times, that the best committee to get a job done is a committee of three where two of them never attend. So I suggest going from 18 to 20 actually worsens the situation rather than making it better.
There's an amendment to the Public Guardian and Trustee Act. Some months ago I shared with this Legislature that this government now charges orphans to administer their money. In my riding there's a situation of a young man whose parents were tragically killed in an automobile accident. There was some money from an insurance company, an insurance settlement, that was given to him. Being a minor, it was held in trust for him. Although the government collects the taxes on monies earned by this trust fund, they implemented a charge for any money going into the account or any money coming out of the account. This is for an orphan. I believe that what this does is legalize it. It allows the Attorney General to gouge people with more user fees.
One cannot analyze exactly what has happened in this province. It is clear to see the number of tax cuts and the effect they've had. This government very kindly provided that for us when they mailed out the $200 cheques with a breakdown, but it would have been nice to have had another page added with the new user fees. If you are 17 years old, these are the additional user fees you would be assessed for increased college/university tuition. If you want to go to your community rink and play hockey or simply skate, there is an increased cost to it.
That is disturbing when you consider that for user fees, the very lowest income earners are the ones who are impacted the most. The group of our citizens who will not receive the benefit of the tax cuts receive the full impact of the user fee, and a user fee that may be relatively minor to a well-to-do person can be enough to prevent a low-income individual from participating.
In this bill, the Ministry of Transportation is going to save a few cents. Instead of sending licence suspension by registered mail, they will go to regular mail. For the individual who has had their licence suspended, they will not know if an error has been made and their licence has been suspended when it should not have been. They will not be aware that it's suspended, and that has major ramifications for their car insurance and for their employment. I humbly suggest that for the few additional pennies, you get a confirmation that it has been received. I think this is penny-wise and pound foolish.
The Tenant Protection Act is going to be amended. Some of it is good. At the present time, when the landlord gets an eviction notice, it can hang over a tenant's head for months and months or a year. It is an extremely good idea to have it automatically cease to be effective, to have it die after six months. Interestingly, it was our member from Don Valley East who put that forward in the last session, that it was not fair to tenants.
The Tenant Protection Act is in itself a very difficult act. I have been a tenant; I have been a landlord. There are some really bad tenants; there are some bad landlords. But there are a lot of great tenants and a lot of great landlords. This Tenant Protection Act swings the pendulum to the point that I think there is a lack of fairness in it.
I have not been a tenant for some time, but when elected, I, with a number of other members, chose to rent an apartment in Toronto for evenings such as this when we will not be able to return to our homes. The amount of rent that I am paying is nearly double the rent being paid by some members who were here before. As each apartment becomes vacant, landlords are entitled to raise the rent to pretty well any number they want. What we're seeing really-and it's a phrase that I did not originate but I do believe it's accurate-is deregulation by stealth. In the apartment buildings, one apartment at a time will leave the protection of the Tenant Protection Act. It's far better to be upfront and acknowledge that we don't believe in the Tenant Protection Act, rather than to take and dangle it like that.
There is a clause in there that also causes me concern. This is now my 24th year as a board member for children's aid societies. School boards: I had a practice of visiting schools two noon hours a week and chatting with the teachers and visiting classrooms. We have a wide range of individuals in this province and we have a wide range of incomes.
If it is passed, this will allow that a tenant can be evicted with only 10 days' notice, grounded on an illegal act. I don't know what that means. I don't know what "grounded" means. I'd feel a lot better if it referred to a conviction, that there was actually a decision made. But this one says that if there's an allegation, potentially you're guilty.
I can understand the need for something along this line. I don't think anyone in this House condones an apartment being used for drug dealing, an apartment being used for the purposes of crime. But what does "grounded" mean? I can think of examples I'm aware of where you may have a family and one child. Children, thank goodness, are not robots. Children have their own minds, make their own decisions. If a child in a family makes a decision to be involved in drugs or to sell drugs, I would suggest that in most cases the family would be as flabbergasted as the community over that. But if one of their children or one member of the family chooses to do an illegal act, the family is not necessarily going to be given the opportunity to rectify it and to deal with that member and to move that member out of the apartment. The entire family can be confronted with a 10-day notice to move out of there.
So much of this bill is premised on the fact that people in communities outside of Toronto and people outside of this government have no brains and can't make their own decisions and that decisions have to be made here. This is zero tolerance. For families who perhaps have a child who is developmentally handicapped and commits an illegal act, there's no allowance in this.
As a critic for disabilities, I believe the objective of this government should be to pass legislation that will remove barriers. This in fact increases the barriers being faced by so many of the financially disadvantaged in our community. I believe the right and ethical thing to do would be to take this bill, break it down into components that deal with the specific areas, give the public an opportunity to comment on that area, rather than concealing it behind a title that is absolutely meaningless. To include the words "good government" automatically draws support without people realizing what they're agreeing to.
This bill does not make life better for the vast majority of people in Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker: Comments and questions?
Mr Bisson: I'd be interested to see what kind of public hearings we get for this bill. My experience with this government over the last little while has been that when they have a bill that they feel warm and fuzzy about, they send it out for all kinds of public consultations. I was on a warm and fuzzy bill this summer as we toured the province of Ontario with regard to snowmobile legislation-a good piece of legislation; I've got no argument about it. But the government consulted widely when it came to figuring out if we should put in place a permit system for snowmobilers.
When it comes to something fairly significant, when it comes to public policy, this government's record is not too good; in fact, it's pretty darn bad. They will probably give it one or two days in committee here in Timmins-here in Toronto. Here in Timmins-talk about talking about your own riding. Well, we should move the Legislature up there. I think we'd probably do a better job. Anyway, I would say to the member who spoke before me that I would be very surprised if they were to give some type of public hearings.
As for the issue of what a red tape bill does, as I said a little while ago, whenever this government comes in with a red tape bill, supposedly in order to make things easier for people, what it basically means is this government absolves itself again of its responsibility, throws things out into the marketplace, allows things to run the way they will, and if somebody gets hurt, killed or whatever in between, it's not the responsibility of this government.
We saw that with Walkerton. We saw what happens when a government decides not to take its responsibility, when a government says, "We don't have a vested interest in making sure that drinking water is safe." Unfortunately, a number of people died because of that. I say beware. When government brings in red tape bills, what they're really talking about is doing away with government and the protection that government offers people. I don't see that as good news.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): I know the member from London West has spoken many times on this, and I'm actually anxiously awaiting some of his remarks. But the member from Prince Edward-Hastings sort of concluded the way he started, that this doesn't make it easier. For the record, these initiatives have been commenced as a result of initiative taken by people asking, saying that these changes do represent a barrier to opportunity or a barrier to doing business or keeping things in plain language. Perhaps the bureaucratic approach that the honourable opposition members are advocating speaks to the whole issue of the Liberal government. Whether it's federally and their going to the election prior to it being necessary, it's kind of their track record. Lack of accountability is how I summarize that.
A couple of things I think are important to bring to the attention of those listening tonight. The Provincial Offences Act, under section 13.1 and section 76.1 of the act-I think it's important-electronic copies. This is updating and modernizing and making sure that the regulations and the legislation reflect what's actually going on in the economy. I'll just read for the record: "When a document is filed in paper form, an electronic copy may be retained instead of the paper original." I think it's appropriate to recognize the business practices of today. It's important to upgrade not just the Provincial Offences Act but all of the acts that are being amended here. Much of that is being dealt with by this government, which has the courage to take on the difficult challenges.
I think there are a couple more in here-the Business Corporations Act. I like the financial assistance by corporations: a corporation may give financial assistance to a person for any purpose or means or loan to guarantee. But also it outlines the disclosure requirements, so the shareholders and the public know exactly what's going on. It's changes like this-
The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired. Comments and questions? The chair recognizes the member for Sarnia-
Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): Lambton.
I'm going to address for a couple of minutes this issue of the reason this bill is, again, not credible in the way it's encompassed: because it has many changes. This bill really is going to have far-reaching effects that are hidden in this omnibus format. It should be debated on its own merit.
I'll give you one example. This example is of the theatre projectionist licensing as part of red tape review legislation and what it does. Having untrained, uncertified people operating complex projection equipment is dangerous. I don't know if you realize this or not-and obviously the members on the other side of the House don't-there are a lot of potential dangers. They include high-pressure xenon bulbs that have the potential to explode, for instance, or high-voltage sources which require proper grounding and if mistreated could result in deadly electric shock. There's a great deal of equipment, and you need equipment maintenance, and it presents potential fire hazards.
You're talking about huge theatres that have a lot of people attending, and now we're going to allow projectionists to be unregulated, and therefore they don't have to have the training. You can pay anybody to come in and work these very, very highly mechanized and dangerous pieces of equipment. Again I'll say that having untrained and uncertified people operating complex film projections is dangerous. In this red tape bill, you've sneaked it in with a one-liner, but you don't see what the long-range effect is going to be.
The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired. I apologize to the member. I forgot the Lambton part of your riding. It was Sarnia-Lambton and I apologize. Comments and questions?
Mr Wood: The member who spoke referred to a lengthy questionnaire used by the Red Tape Commission for complaints. In fact, in that he is mistaken. We do have a questionnaire. It's one page long. We do, however, encourage, people to make complaints. He referred to a number of problems that have come to his attention. I would encourage him to have those people make complaints to the commission. They will be processed, and we'll try to give satisfaction where we can.
We also heard some discussion about the method of collection of tolls on the 407. I would invite the member to answer this question: would he like to go back to the old system? Would he like to go back to the best system the 18th century could devise? Surely, we have a 21st century system that works. That's the kind of service we're trying to give overall to the people of this province.
We also heard some comment being made on the length of time you have, after being found to have committed an illegal act on the premises, to leave. The proof, by the way, is proof before the tribunal on the balance of probabilities; that's how you establish it. How long would the member have a tenant who has committed an illegal act stay on the property? Thirty days? Six months? Perhaps the member could tell us that. If he thinks 10 days is too short a period for someone who has committed an illegal act, maybe he can tell us what he thinks a fair period is. How long would he like to live in a premises where someone else has committed and may still be committing an illegal act? He says that we have zero tolerance for illegal acts, and that is absolutely correct. If you're occupying a unit, you have to make sure that illegal acts are not being committed in the unit. We make no apologies for being tough on those who engage in illegal acts.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Prince Edward-Hastings has two minutes to respond.
Mr Parsons: I appreciate the comments made by fellow members in here.
I was asked a couple of questions by the member for London West. Would I like to go back to the old system on the highways? Yes. I'd like the old system on the highway where we pay for it with our tax dollars and then we drive on it. As we look at the process for the privatization of highways, I think it's somewhat insidious, the whole concept that this government wants more private highways. As I understand it, only the government can expropriate land, so this is a wonderful arrangement where the government will expropriate the land for a private firm for a new highway and let them build it. We pay tax dollars. We pay tax dollars not to run millions of dollars of ads on there. I'd suggest the money would be better spent on highways and highway maintenance and getting rid of the gridlock that takes place here in Toronto each and every morning without exception.
Now, how long would I like someone to be able to stay in an apartment if they commit an illegal act? As little time as possible. But I would like them to be found guilty by a court, not by a rent tribunal. I believe they are entitled to a court, with all of the rules of justice that take place. It is not for an appointed body to make a decision as to whether there is guilt or not. There needs to be a real, legitimate opportunity for a family to make a case as to whether there's guilt or not, and then, if they believe there was indeed guilt, for them to deal with it by having that individual move out of the apartment, not necessarily an eviction notice for the entire family. If one member on that side, heaven forbid, ever committed something wrong, you would not want-well, you wouldn't; we would-the entire group turfed out. I think a family in an apartment is entitled to that same protection, to get rid of the offender but not necessarily the entire family.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Bisson: It's with pleasure that I have an opportunity to comment on this bill.
I just want to say, starting out, that I'm really always amazed listening to the lines from the government across the way. Just now, when they had an opportunity to respond to the speech by the member from the Liberal benches, they spoke with a lot of passion about how tough they are on crime. They really feel good about that. I say to them, tough on crime? What about being tough on the causes of crime? The reality is, you can build as many jails as you want-this is a little bit off topic-you can send all the cops you want out into the streets, and yes, that will make us feel a little bit better, I guess. But at the end of the day, if we don't deal with the issues that cause crime, I think we're just spending a lot of money without really looking at what the net effect is. Yes, we need to have a strong policing presence; that's not my argument. Yes, we have to make sure we deal with those people who have offended in a realistic way that takes into account what they have done and makes sure they are properly punished. But my point is that you can't do one without the other.
For once, I'd like to see this government come in with some kind of policy that actually deals with the issues of crime from the perspective of being tougher on the causes of crime. You never hear this government talking about that, because it's much more politically sexy, as you might say in this place, to talk about being tough on crime.
I've had the opportunity to watch this government introduce a number of bills where they say, "Look at us. Look at what we're doing for victims. Look what we're doing to be tough on crime." The problem is, once you bring the bills into the courts, they don't do anything. I remember Justice Day, who looked at the Victims' Bill of Rights. What did he say? It wasn't worth the paper it was written on. It didn't give victims one additional right. It didn't give them anything. So I say to the government that you talk a good line, but when it comes to actually dealing with it, you don't do a heck of a lot.
On the issue of the red tape bill, I want to focus on a couple of things that are topical today, considering the government is bringing yet another red tape bill into the Legislature. I want to take a look at what's happening at the Ministry of the Environment.
First of all, this government, when it got elected in 1995, declared war on government: government's bad, get rid of it, get it out of the way of people. They're nodding their heads on the other side. All the brilliant lights on the other side are nodding their heads. The lights just went on; they've got their lines straight.
They got in and declared a war on government. When they stood in the House they said, "We don't need that Ministry of the Environment. It gets in the way. Somebody trying to do business in Ontario doesn't need the Ministry of the Environment watching what they do. Let's get rid of half of them. Cut 50% of the budget and get rid of all those pesky environmental inspectors. They're always in the way." Mike Harris basically says, "You know, can't do business in this province because of the Ministry of the Environment," and gets rid of them all, promptly goes out and does that.
People at first stood up and applauded and said, "What a great thing. It's about time they socked it to them public servants." "We know they don't do nothing important," say the Tory-minded people out there, until we found out the kinds of things that happen when you don't have a government that works for you, when you don't have a Ministry of the Environment, in this case, out there looking out for the interests of the public.
We saw what happened at Walkerton. What happened there was no big surprise as far as knowing that something like that eventually would happen. Is it to say the water would never have gotten polluted? Probably. But the issue is that it wasn't caught on time. That's the issue. Why didn't we catch it? Because this government decided we didn't have to have a presence by the Ministry of the Environment overseeing our water supply in the way it did before. As a result, people died. This time they're nodding their heads this way. Yeah, people did die. Nod your heads that way. The reality is, when government forgets its responsibility and removes itself from its responsibility, those kinds of things happen.
The problem with the Conservatives is they have no sense of history of this place. I don't mean the Legislature; I mean no sense of history of our own province. They forget why governments in the past-Conservative, New Democrat and Liberal-put in place, in the case of the Ministry of the Environment, various pieces of legislation, regulations and, yes, staff, along with programs and funding. Why? Because we learned by our mistakes of the past. We learned by way of what happened when it came to tragedies in Ontario when it came to the environment-environmental tragedies-that if you don't have in place good regulation, in order to make sure you prevent people from doing things they shouldn't be when it comes to putting the environment in danger, things will happen, tragedies will happen. By way of explanation, more times than not what has happened is that coroner's commission has gone out and looked at an event and recommended to government that a certain action be taken by way of either legislation or a program to prevent something from happening.
I'll give you a small example. I come out of the mining industry. I worked underground in the gold mines and copper mines in northern Ontario for a number of years. Unfortunately, it is a dangerous environment to be working in, and people die in that environment. When people died we used to have a coroner's inquest. It was automatic. You had a coroner's inquest, not to lay blame-it was the company's fault, it was the workers fault, it was whoever's fault; that wasn't the issue. You had a coroner's inquest to determine the problem. What happened? Why did this man die? At the end of that a coroner's inquest came a series of recommendations. Then those recommendations were brought before the Ministry of Labour and they said, "Here's what the government should do in order to prevent such an accident from happening again." So, yes, government brought in regulation by way of the coroner's inquest based on somebody's death. And, yes, they even brought in legislation and programs and policies that cost money. And, yes, that meant you had to have people within the Ministry of Labour or the Ministry of the Environment, or whatever ministry, to make sure we safeguarded ourselves from those things happening again. As a result, our industry got safer. We stopped killing people.
What did this government do by way of red tape? Unbelievable. They got rid of the requirement of the government to have a coroner's inquest in the case of a death in the mining industry. You guys can be smug all you want. The reality is that you have no understanding what the hell you're doing. The reality is that a lot of these regulations that have been put in place are based on our experience of the past-unfortunately bad experiences.
Does that mean the government should never go back and re-look at those regulations to make sure they've kept current with the times? Of course they have to. Governments do that on a daily basis. But you guys have declared a war on government: "Government is bad. Regulation is bad. Laws are bad. Get rid of government. We don't need it." They're nodding their heads again. These guys hate government.
If you guys hate government so much, why don't you all resign and get the heck out of here? Let people govern this province who actually want to do something positive instead of destroying it like you guys are.
That's what this government does by way of stealth in their red tape bills. If you look, there's an interesting amendment to the Environmental Assessment Act. Under the environmental assessment tribunal, "The bill clarifies that when the environmental assessment tribunal decision becomes final, the parts of the undertaking that the minister did not refer to the tribunal also become final." What does that mean? "That don't mean nothing. It's just a couple of words. Get rid of them words. They're terrible. Regulation is bad. Declare war on government," say the Tories.
What this means, in the case of Adams mine, is a good example. The government decided to have a sham environmental assessment. They did what they call a scoping EA because of other red tape they got rid of before in the Environmental Assessment Act. They went to take a look at the mine, and what they did was look at one issue only. That's like walking into a minefield in the time of war with one eye closed, hopping along on one leg trying to get your way through the minefield. Eventually you're going to fall over and kill yourself.
But these guys are smart. Tories are so smart. It's amazing. "Get rid of them regulations," they said. What they did was change the legislation, both by way of the red tape bills and by way of amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act, in order to allow the minister to basically scope an environmental assessment. That means that if you have a major project, such as building a garbage dump, you as the Minister of the Environment have the ability, as he has, to have only one issue looked at at the Environmental Assessment Board. Even though there were a myriad of other issues that should have been looked at, they only looked at one. Now they're coming by way of this legislation-because I guess they finally figured out they had a bit of a problem with the previous legislation-to say that the ruling of the tribunal on the one matter, in this case the leachates, is final, by way of definition and by way of action, when it comes to all other matters that may be pertinent to that project.
Members will know that in the Toronto city council chamber last week, when they were going through the debate on signing that agreement, New Democrats on council-Jack Layton, Olivia Chow, Dave Miller and a number of others-were there posing questions. Basically they found out, by looking at things a bit and questioning, that there's a clause in the agreement that allows the city of Toronto to build an incinerator, something that was banned in Ontario before, and then take the residue waste from the incinerator and ship it to the Adams mine. It's toxic waste. What's left from an incinerator is the most lethal chemical cocktail you could put together by way of trying to reduce a large volume of garbage to a small one once it's been incinerated. The government is going to throw this on trains, by way of the Adams mine project, and send it up to Kirkland Lake.
This is directly related to this bill. It means that because the Minister of the Environment had a sham environmental assessment that looked at but one question-where there was not unanimity at the end, I might add-all other matters are dealt with. Never mind, close the eye, put one hand inside your pocket, hop across the minefield on one leg, Mike Harris is going to lead us through this thing. You guys are nuts. The last time I checked, it is parliamentary to call you nuts. But frankly it is completely nuts in its approach to its responsibility as government.
I say to the government across the way that if you're trying to create a business climate, if you're trying to create an opportunity for people to invest in northern Ontario, there are better ways to do it than by trying to clear up red tape. I look at what happens in northern Ontario-I wonder if I have it with me, because it's interesting. I went through North Bay the other day, and I noticed the Nugget had a very interesting headline. I think I brought it with me. I have it in my briefcase here. It's interesting that the government says, "This is the way to do things. This is how you do economic development." Anybody who knows anything about northern Ontario knows our economy is not doing too well. Why? Because you guys have decided you don't have a role to play in economic development in northern Ontario. Southern Ontario is doing well, I don't argue. I'm the first to admit that southern Ontario-Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, Oshawa, all those places-is doing great.
The American economy is gangbusters. Do you know why? Because Mike Harris did a tax cut, the American economy took off. I can't believe it. Amazing fiscal policy these Tories have. They got rid of red tape in Ontario, they eliminated a number of pieces of legislation in the province since 1995, they gave a number of tax cuts, and the American economy took off like gangbusters, and we're leading the way across North America. I'm telling you, these Tory economic policies are unbelievable.
But in northern Ontario we're having problems. Our economy is not doing as well as it is in southern Ontario. I look at my friends Rick Bartolucci and Shelley Martel and others from northern Ontario and, quite frankly, we're quite worried about what's happening in the north. Why? I'll tell you why we're having problems in the north: our primary sector is not doing well; mining is very depressed. By way of revenue, since 1995, since these guys have taken power, revenue in the mining industry is down 50%, and there is not anything happening when it comes to trying to help and develop secondary industry in northern Ontario. The only industry this government knows about is creating a garbage dump in Kirkland Lake. As I said before, it's kind of nuts.
I was driving through North Bay the other day and I noticed in the North Bay Nugget it said, "North Losing Workers in `Skills Drain.'" Out of the Premier's riding, young people are leaving. They're going to southern Ontario. Why? There isn't the work in northern Ontario for our young people and, I would argue, not only young people, a lot of older people, because of what's happening in the northern economy.
I say to the government across the way, you can come in with a pile of red tape bills that high; as a matter of fact, you can make them that high. At the end of the day, it's not going to do anything for us in northern Ontario. It's not going to create this climate of economic investment that you guys talk about. You can give five more tax cuts and the American economy will be five times stronger, I can guarantee you. I see that coming, yeah. Bill Clinton gets up in the morning and says, "Thank God for Mike Harris's tax cuts. Boy, is my economy doing good." I was just talking to Bill the other day. He's just tickled pink. He can't believe how good the American economy is doing since Mike Harris's policies have hit the Ontario economy since 1995; a very powerful economy, the Ontario economy.
Anyway, in the north we have a problem. The problem namely is the Conservative government. As a northerner, I would think if we had a Premier from northern Ontario we would be better represented. I'm sad to say the only thing he comes up there for is a fundraiser; $300-a-plate dinners, where people come out to greet him. That's the only reason he comes up. Then he leaves and he comes back down south and he creates more tax cuts for the American economy, or does more red tape for the American economy. It's just amazing.
If you guys want to do something positive, why don't you look at putting in place some economic investment vehicles that we need in the north in order to help our industry and our entrepreneurs get things off the ground? You can make some very interesting stuff as far as changes to legislation that I would be prepared to support with proper debate, and that's how we can make changes when it comes to investment vehicles by way of credit unions and caisses populaires and other types of investment vehicles so that we can allow them greater latitude to play a more important role in our communities.
I listen to the Tories across the way and they're saying, "What about the five lost years of the NDP? You were government for five years. What happened in northern Ontario?" Don't ask the question; you might get one. Quite simply, there was the building of 10 brand new mills in northern Ontario in the forest sector, because of what happened under the Sustainable Forestry Development Act and the hardwood management policies of our government, under the NDP; mills like Jager, expansions such as Malette Waferboard. There were expansions and there were creations of new mills all across northeastern and northwestern Ontario. Those mills are still running and they are profitable.
The other thing we did, by way of the mining industry, was invest a lot of time and effort-and yes, even money-in order to make sure that the mining sector had a bit of a chance to compete and to get dollars necessary to get things going in the mining sector.
I say to those across the way, if you're talking about trying to create the proper climate for investment, it's not by doing red tape; most of this stuff, quite frankly, was pretty dangerous when you take a look at it. As I said earlier, you have a bill that says when the environmental assessment tribunal decisions become final-and we're talking about scoped EAs where they were able to do environmental assessment on one issue when there's a myriad of others they should be looking at-the parts of the undertaking that the minister did not refer to the tribunal also become final. Wow, some red tape.
That means in the future, in a town somewhere near you, southern Ontario as in northern Ontario, somebody's going to go out and try to build a dump, they're going to try to build some sort of a plant that may be environmentally sensitive, and the government's going to have the right to scoped EA. That means they will decide what environmental assessment matter should be dealt with, and then they will look at one issue even though there are 10, 15, 20 or 30 issues to look at, and then they're going to get a ruling in their favour because they get to pick the board. After that, everything else is final because of that one little change in legislation.
If this government wants to declare war on government, I think they should change that tune. If they don't like government, why don't they resign and get the heck out of here? There are people in this province who would love to serve, to be able to work on behalf of Ontarians to make sure that we create the proper type of mechanisms in order to create economic development, not only in northern Ontario but across the province, making sure that we safeguard people from abuses of power and also from the abuses that are potential within the environment.
Those are things that would be better done, but instead this government continues to bring in red tape legislation, saying that somehow or other this is a good thing. You'll rue the day, because the reality is that much of what you guys are doing is potentially very dangerous, not only economically but when it comes to lives.
There was one red tape bill that they brought in last spring and I'm not sure if it's contained within this one, if it's a continuation. It was to get rid of elevator inspectors. Can you imagine, a government saying, "We don't need elevator inspectors in the province of Ontario. We can relax inspections on elevators"? Sure, you won't have a problem for the first six months, a year; they're fairly well-maintained. But once you take the inspectors out, I can tell you what will happen: somebody's going to get hurt, somebody's going to get trapped, or somebody could get killed. I'll say it in this Legislature today: very dangerous stuff.
You forget why government is there. Government is there to make sure that we protect people and that we have a system of running things that is environmentally sound, that is financially viable and, at the same time, to safeguard the public. These types of moves are not a step in the right direction. They're taking us back to the cave ages.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Michael A. Brown): Questions or comments?
Mr Brad Clark (Stoney Creek): I have in my hand a copy of the Parliamentarian from July, and in it there's an article from the Prime Minister of Antigua, the Honourable Lester Bird. I'd like to read something into the record, since the member raised a couple of points here:
"The people of this country elect a government. In doing so, they expect the government to govern.
"At the same time, they elect an opposition. The purpose of that opposition is not, as was infamously said during a debate in this House, `to undermine the government.' The purpose of the opposition is to keep a watchful eye on the government's policies and programs and to criticize them constructively where the opposition considers them to be flawed. The opposition should offer alternatives if, after due consideration, it finds the government's policies and programs to be defective.
"Undermining the government is the job of anarchists-confusion makers and irresponsible people-who simply want disorder instead of order; who want the reign of lawlessness instead of the rule of law."
I remind the member that it was only a few days ago that the leader of the third party was removed from the Toronto city chambers by the police-
Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa West-Nepean): What was it-
Mr Clark: On Kirkland Lake.
It's fair to talk about policies and it's fair to debate policies in the House, but the over-the-top rhetoric has to stop. The member also started to talk about Walkerton. I have stayed out of that debate, awaiting the results of the inquiry, trying to find out exactly what happened, but they keep throwing it up constantly.
I remind the member opposite that it was his government that allowed Hamilton-Wentworth to privatize water and sewer treatment. It was his government that brought that in, not our government. We're now living with that. As a matter of fact, I caution the member, if he hasn't read the Toronto Star from this past Sunday, there's a very interesting chronology of events. So before the finger pointing starts on Walkerton or anything else, you might want to read it, because a lot of the fingers are pointing backwards, not forwards.
Very clearly, we have to be a little bit more careful in our comments in the House.
Mr Ted McMeekin (Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot): Mr Chair, I'm finally up. There were two of us rising at the same time because we were so anxious to speak to this particular bill.
I'm pleased that my colleague from the Hamilton area just spoke. He chatted at some length about responsible government and doing government differently and the tragedy of undermining government.
Mr McMeekin: Of course, and with every good reason. I've got to tell you, as the mayor of that great town of Flamborough, I know something about this government's ability to cut red tape and undermine government. We took six municipalities and hammered them into one. It was just red tape, cutting your election promise that you wouldn't proceed with the forced amalgamation. You took those municipalities and banged them together. That's undermining government, as the member from the Stoney Creek area certainly knows.
This is a piece of red tape. I carry it everywhere I go. I often get to clip it on weekends, as I'm sure some of you do. It represents, at its best, creative entrepreneurs who are moving forward, making investments and building a stronger, healthier community. But at its worst, I think it represents a callous attempt to streamline and to forget the history that's got us here. I would feel a lot more comfortable about cutting red tape if I had any reason to believe that we could begin by focusing right here in this chamber and cutting some of the red tape that my honourable friend on the other side talks about when it comes to doing government differently.
The Acting Speaker: The member would know that props are not in order in the chamber.
Questions and comments?
Mr Wood: I'd like to remind the member from Timmins-James Bay that what the Red Tape Commission favours is good regulation and effective regulation. I would draw to his attention that under the government in the last five years, our air, water and soil are all cleaner now than they were under his government. That is a result that has done a lot for the people of this province. The NDP, and indeed our friends in the Liberal Party, seem to confuse more bureaucracy with stronger regulation. Oftentimes less bureaucracy brings us to stronger regulation.
He also offers some comment about more efficient processing of regulatory and adjudicative applications, and that's quite true, but that also leads to better regulation. The Commercial Registration Appeal Tribunal under his government took 30 months, start to finish, to process an application. Of course it was way past any useful solution of the problem by that time. We have reduced that to four months. That's good regulation and that's effective regulation.
He talks about the Ontario economy being led by the US economy. Actually, it's the other way. Our growth rate is stronger than the United States' growth rate.
He talks about unemployment in the north. There are areas of the north that have a problem. There are also some areas in the north that are doing very well. Take a look at the unemployment rate in Thunder Bay, for example.
He also talks about the delegation to the Technical Standards and Safety Authority of certain regulatory functions. We don't have all the results in, but we have some. Serious injuries on amusement devices: the year before the TSSA took over, 21; in 1999, the last year for which figures are available, four-an 80% drop in serious injuries under the TSSA's regulatory watch. That is a result we can all be proud of.
Ms Di Cocco: One of the problems with this huge omnibus bill, which again is a way to hide legislation-
Mr Dave Levac (Brant): Ominous bill.
Ms Di Cocco: I guess ominous, as the member for Brant says. It could possibly be ominous.
I can attest to the cutting of red tape in my riding of Sarnia-Lambton, and we have Safety-Kleen to prove it. We now have a mega toxic landfill that you guys fast-tracked in 1997, and do you know why you fast-tracked it? Because you cut the red tape. You figured those regulations can be a real bother. It was approved in 1997, I believe under Minister Sterling.
We still haven't got the regulations we need when it comes to treating hazardous waste when we landfill it. We still don't have a full-time inspector, because maybe that's more red tape. Maybe the Ministry of the Environment feels that that again would encumber Safety-Kleen from being able to do what it wants. I don't know. We've had a leak there, and again we don't have any kind of experts coming forth from the Ministry of the Environment to oversee what goes on there, because again we have to cut red tape to help Safety-Kleen expand its market share. We expand its market share from what? From importation of hazardous waste. We have become the toxic waste dumping ground for North America. That is what lack of red tape does.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Timmins-James Bay has two minutes to respond.
Mr Bisson: I forget which government member across the way said, "There was a good article written in the Star that points the finger to the NDP when they were in power. It's their fault that Walkerton happened." They were pointing the finger. I just remind the members of one fact: nobody died drinking water under our watch or under the Liberal watch or under the Bill Davis watch. They died under Mike Harris's watch. Why? Because you guys gutted the Ministry of the Environment. You got rid of the inspectors and the mechanisms within the Ministry of the Environment to safeguard this from happening. It happened under your watch, and you should be darned well ashamed of it.
I say as well to the government member across the way-I forget who it was; they're all the same, the bunch of automatons that they are. They talked about, "Under our government, you know what? OMB hearings are faster. Everything's lickety-split." Yes, that's my point. They are lickety-split, because we're not looking at the issues that should be looked at when developing certain projects. The Adams mine is an example. The dump that the member for Sarnia-Lambton just got up and talked about is another example. Basically you're allowing everything to go through and there's no public scrutiny, so what we've got are projects that are going ahead that are environmentally unsound. Are you proud of that? I'm not.
I say to the government across the way: that was my point when it came to the economy. I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek, but he gets up and tries to defend himself by arguing with me. Listen, I agree that the American economy is doing so much better now that the Harris government put their policies in Ontario. It's just lickety-split, the economy in the United States, and I think the Mike Harris government should take credit for it. As a matter of fact, they should get involved in a presidential debate.
To the member who made a little bit of a warning about the role of opposition as somewhat that of anarchy, I wouldn't be surprised if you tried to get rid of opposition altogether.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Raminder Gill (Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale): I'm very pleased to be able to join this debate on Bill 119, the Red Tape Reduction Act, 2000. I promise to stay on track, unlike some of the speakers opposite who have been all over the place.
This government knows that citizens and small businesses have better things to do than spend their time filling out redundant forms or following outdated and archaic regulations. They need to be out living their lives, creating wealth and jobs to benefit everyone. Our fight against red tape and regulation is a fight that people in this province demand we fight every day, and it is a fight that must continue always.
The term "red tape" is an 18th century phrase-I don't think anyone touched on this, so people opposite might want to listen to it-that comes from the red tape formerly used to bind legal documents in England. I don't know if the fact that the tape used is the colour of the Liberal Party means anything in particular, as the Liberal Party did not come into existence until the 19th century. Perhaps they picked their party colour to honour that red tape.
How we approach problems such as red tape depends on how we view government and its role. Common sense tells us that every government operation should be efficiently run, but we must look at why we are regulating at all. Regulatory controls always impose a cost on individuals and companies. These costs are only acceptable if a regulation is needed to protect the health, safety or environment of Ontarians. This must be the test applied whenever a regulation or law is considered. In almost any situation you could think of, I would trust an individual to make a decision about how to lead their life rather than have some government agency or official making that choice. This is why I am a Conservative, not a socialist or a Liberal. Conservatives know that freedom of the individual is what makes our society thrive.
State regulation is only necessary to stop those few unscrupulous individuals who seek to advance their position or cause by harming others. To me, this should be the true test of any regulation: will any individual citizen or family be harmed if we do not pass this regulation? If the answer is no, then the regulation is not necessary. It is as simple as that.
This government has fought red tape since it was first elected in 1995. Look back to page 14 of the Common Sense Revolution and you'll see where we first put our commitment down on paper. The Common Sense Revolution says, "We will appoint an arm's-length commission on red tape to review all regulations affecting business. Any regulations which can't be justified will be eliminated." This commitment was made to the people of Ontario and it has been honoured. It is only unfortunate that there are so many changes needed that it has taken a little longer than we had anticipated.
It amazes me to think what small businesses had to go through to satisfy the bureaucracy during the 10 lost years of NDP and Liberal governments. Many employers had to devote the equivalent of a month's work every year to completing forms and complying with regulations, all this to make some bureaucrat happy, instead of being out there creating jobs. This terrible situation is what made the red tape review necessary.
The Red Tape Commission appointed by Premier Harris did amazing work to identify those regulations that should be repealed. I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to all the members who have served on that commission. I would like to particularly thank the current co-chairs, my colleagues Bob Wood, the member for London West, and Frank Sheehan, the former member for Lincoln. Our follow-through on the Red Tape Review Commission's report meant the elimination of 1,000 regulations that had previously hampered job creation.
We provided a computerized business registration that cut registration time from three months to 20 minutes. Now it can be done at one of 54 Ontario Business Connects computer networks across the province. There are also 26 small business self-help offices throughout the province to assist small business entrepreneurs with start-up and provide information, advice and resources.
We also scrapped unfair job quotas and made the labour laws fair.
We responded to the public's wishes for change by passing 12 red tape reduction bills. These bills have eliminated red tape in almost every sphere of government activity. I know this bill will not be the last needed, as fighting red tape is a continuous process.
I'm proud to have joined a government that has given entrepreneurs and businesses the freedom to succeed by removing the barriers to growth and opportunity.
Our Blueprint plan in the last election promised to go even further than the Common Sense Revolution. Mike Harris and his team committed to a permanent red tape watchdog to prevent and eliminate job-killing regulations. The plan promised to make all new regulations pass a business impact test to ensure they didn't stand in the way of new jobs or threaten existing ones.
As a first step in fulfilling these commitments, the Premier in July announced the Red Tape Commission's extension. Premier Harris said that the commission's number one priority will be to fulfill the Blueprint commitment to create a permanent red tape watchdog that will prevent and eliminate job-killing rules and regulations. The Premier stated, "We need to build a culture in the government of Ontario that eliminates red tape wherever it's found, and one that prevents additional red tape from creeping in." I agree with the Premier 100% and I know that my colleagues, along with most Ontarians, agree.
Bill 119 is quite a lengthy bill, as the opposition also realizes, which I think indicates how much of a problem red tape represents. The improvements to government it makes reach across at least 14 ministries at a quick count.
It would be impossible to describe all of the changes in a short speech, but I would like to talk to you about some of the provisions that illustrate the value of this bill, provisions that to me just reflect old-fashioned common sense. For example, the Change of Name Act would be amended to eliminate the requirement to apply for a name change within 90 days of marriage to allow the change to be applied for at any time.
In the Ministry of Labour, the bill would extend workplace insurance benefits to volunteer auxiliary police officers if they're injured while on duty. As a parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Labour, I think it is high time to make this change to protect those who risk themselves assisting the police and protecting communities.
Another change that I think is timely would amend the Municipal Act to allow a municipality to change its name without having to come to the province for approval. As a member of the standing committee on regulations and private bills, I sat in committee with my colleagues to debate Bill Pr8, An Act to change the name of The Corporation of the Township of Burleigh-Anstruther-Chandos to The Corporation of the Township of North Kawartha. It might seem obvious to the ordinary person that a township in Peterborough county should be able to pick the name it wants to call itself. However, at this point in time, if a municipality wants to change its name, it needs an act of the Legislature to do so. The government has overseen the merger of a number of municipalities in the past few years, making special provision to allow new names for new amalgamations. It only stands to reason that some towns, cities or townships may change their minds about their new names.
The township of North Kawartha is a perfect example. It was itself an amalgamation of two townships, which canvassed local residents about which name they would prefer. Eventually they settled on the name of North Kawartha, but too late to meet the name change deadline. Under Bill 119, if passed, local governments, in consultation with the residents, won't have to endure the time and expense of coming to Queen's Park for a name change. The red tape is decreased, taxpayers save money and everybody wins.
Reducing red tape to allow businesses to create jobs is a process that does not have an end. Laws and regulations that are necessary today may be redundant tomorrow. New ideas to make government simpler and easier to deal with are brought to us all the time. Just the other day in the regulations and private bills committee, we considered a bill to revive a corporation that had been dissolved because a form had been filed incorrectly. The company had, perhaps by overlooking, missed a follow-up letter from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. The question I would ask is, is it really necessary for this company to secure an act of the Legislature to deal with this problem? I would hope this issue could be addressed in the next red tape bill.
Mr Speaker, as you heard in some of these comments, many of the members said that this bill is massive, that this is an omnibus bill. Some of them said it's ominous. It is a hefty bill, but a lot of work had to be done and a lot of work still remains to be done. I can assure you that the job of the government is not over with this bill. I'm sure there will be many other amendments, many other bills coming forward, because we cannot sit on our laurels.
We have to work hard. We have to make sure that these kinds of amendments, this kind of red tape is decreased on a daily basis so that we can do a job, so that we can give small businesses the opportunity to create these jobs. Even the members opposite know that because of our reductions we have been able to create 786,000 new jobs, and everybody benefits, even the members opposite.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Ms Di Cocco: In discussing this, when we talk about the Red Tape Reduction Act, it's a misnomer; just the title of that bill is definitely a misnomer. There are a lot of areas where this government should be reducing red tape and isn't. One of them is the Trillium Foundation. There's an area here where monies are supposed to go to charities and organizations and communities, and yet they're having such a difficult time accessing funding from the Trillium Foundation. Here's an area where the elimination of red tape would certainly assist those community groups.
Unfortunately, where we're taking out some of this red tape is really for the convenience of businesses and not necessarily for the protection of public safety. I'll speak again to this issue of the projectionists, for instance. It has to do with public safety, and yet here we are, again making it easier for big business, for some of the huge film industry like Famous Players etc. Now they don't have to license their projectionists. I believe it jeopardizes public safety because of the complex film projection equipment that has to be utilized. These high-pressure xenon bulbs can potentially explode if you don't know what you're doing in that field. There is a potential fire hazard in the cinemas if your projectionists are not regulated and licensed.
Mr Wood: I think the member for Bramalea-Gore-Malton hit the nail on the head when he spoke of the importance of this bill to small business. We tend to forget sometimes, when we're involved in a large organization like the Ontario government, some of the challenges small business has to deal with. One of the most important reasons we have our complaints procedure is to help small businesses when they have to contend with a very large bureaucracy, as they often do when they're dealing with the Ontario government, and they have to contend with a very tight budget in their own organization. They need help.
That's why, when someone comes forward with a red tape complaint, we make available to them the resources of our civil servants who go and meet with the civil servants in that ministry, discuss the problem and, by the way, in most cases resolve it at that level. That's why if that process fails to achieve a satisfactory resolution, we then go to the minister's office and, if necessary, to the minister to discuss the matter, suggest solutions and try and work something out. If that fails, of course, we seek advice from the Premier as to how to go about solving the problem.
That process gives a small business person a chance to actually resolve a problem, because without that it's pretty tough when you're a small number of people against a large organization. I think that, because of his background and experience, he is particularly well placed to speak to that issue and point out how important that sector is.
We have to bear in mind that the vast majority of jobs are not in the big business sector in this province, they're in the small business sector, and if we are not friendly to that sector, if we don't show them that we're able to resolve their problems when they come up, that's a very serious blow to the potential for economic growth in this province.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): I'm very pleased to join the debate this evening. Just to make a comment to my colleague from London West, who I know is on the Red Tape Commission, maybe he can explain why it takes a 15-page document for somebody to complete in order to appear before the commission and then the individual isn't even allowed to make his presentation. Why would the Red Tape Commission create a 15-page document? I, for the life of me, can't understand that.
With respect to the member from Bramalea-Gore, what we have to understand is that this bill is not about cutting red tape. All it is doing is replacing one kind of red tape with another kind of red tape. As a government member said here the other day, there have only been two statutes that in effect have been repealed and one statute has been added on. All the other matters referred to in this bill merely change one kind of red tape for another kind of red tape, so to call this a red tape reduction bill is a total misnomer.
Let me just talk about one other thing and that deals with a comment that was made earlier by the member for Stoney Creek about the Toronto Star article this weekend. I agree with him that there may be at times too much rhetoric in this place and that perhaps we should tone it down and talk about the issues. But let me just remind him that this article very clearly points out-and this is the article that goes through the whole Walkerton experience over the last six years-that there's one thing that's absolutely necessary, and that is that there has to be government involvement, regulation and inspection of the water sources that each one of us drinks from in our homes, or in our wells etc. That, if nothing else, is strictly pointed out in this article.
Mr Bisson: I'm interested again to hear the mantra from across the way. A government member gets up and says, "You know, if regulation gets in the way"-I guess I'll have to paraphrase because I don't remember it word for word, but basically the point he was making is that he trusts people to get things done when it comes to getting projects underway and he doesn't think that government should get involved.
I agree in a sense that for entrepreneurs and people who want to get involved in the economy and want to build a business, obviously it's their responsibility, and God bless them, but the reality is that we need to have some checks and balances in place. I think a good example of that is what's happening in regard to the environment. This government is removing much in the way of environmental protection legislation. He says it gets in the way. In the end I think it's going to make things dangerous when it comes to the environment.
I would say again to the government across the way, the whole guise of why you're doing this is supposedly because you're going to make it easier for business to operate within Ontario. A member got up and talked about the importance of small business. I would argue that all this red tape isn't going to do anything for small business. All it does is help the big guy. What the small, independent business people need help with are ways and strategies of how they are able to compete with the larger entities out there in the economy. How do you, if you're an independent retailer, compete with the likes of Wal-Mart and others? I would argue much of what you're doing by way of red tape is going to assist those guys off the way.
I noticed that the Minister of Trade and Technology was here, along with the Minister of Transportation. This Legislature went down the road of red tape by getting rid of the regulation within the trucking industry and look where that brought us. Shippers got the windfall and the truckers are starving, and now we have a trucking crisis in the province because the trucking companies can't make a buck under your deregulated system. So I say there's a place for regulation and that's what this Legislature should be looking at.
The Acting Speaker: Response?
Mr Gill: I want to thank the members for Sarnia-Lambton, London West, Kingston and the Islands, and Timmins-James Bay for taking part in this debate this evening.
Twice today the member for Sarnia-Lambton, in perhaps the last hour, talked about the projectionists. One of the things we must keep in mind is-and I can say this from a little experience because my background happens to be engineering, which is a very finite science-as you know, Mr Speaker, and the members opposite will know, things have changed over the years. For example, even in the computer industry, when somebody said that the PC is the ultimate computer piece that ever came along, of course the next day it is a 286, 386, 486, 586, Pentium 75, 100, 200 and now 800. At one time we thought everybody had to know how to write a program. Now you get these user-friendly programs that even I can use and my kids can use. I think my kids can do a better job than I can do. Therefore, what I'm coming to is that you don't need 16 hours of training-
Mr Clark: No, 16 weeks.
Mr Gill: Or 16 weeks. That's even worse; I thought it was only 16 hours. You don't need 16 weeks of training to become a projectionist, just because the xenon lamp happens to be very hot. This is unheard of. I think we need to cut through that. The VCRs, the VDPs and whatever else has come in demand that we have to change with the new technology. We have to cut through the red tape. I'm sure the member opposite realizes that. She may get an opportunity, if she speaks tonight, to retract that statement perhaps.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'll be sharing my time with the member for Sarnia-Lambton.
This is Bill 119. The title is An Act to reduce red tape, to promote good government through better management of Ministries and agencies and to improve customer service by amending or repealing certain Acts and by enacting two new Acts. The people of Ontario have been watching this debate. They're listening to the government members who are saying, "We're making it so easy for you to do business." Let's read a few of the things that this act is doing.
One of the things it's doing is the Dog Owners' Liability Act. Listen to this: "If a proceeding is commenced against the owner of a dog under the act, the Ontario Court of Justice may make an interim order before a court makes an order under the act." Now here it is: "If a court orders the destruction of a dog and it is not taken into custody immediately, the owner is required to restrain the dog by means of a leash and muzzle until it is taken into custody." But we're not finished: "If the court finds that a dog has bitten or attacked a person or a domestic animal, the court may make an order prohibiting the dog's owner from owning another dog during a specified period of time."
I'm laughing because you people on the government side think you're so great at reducing red tape. But do you know what isn't so funny? We have had the Attorney General here this evening, we have the Solicitor General here now, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, the Minister of Transportation and the corrections minister. We're not talking about important issues that these ministers deal with. I would love to debate with the Attorney General the importance of An Act to protect Children involved in Prostitution instead of the Dog Owners' Liability Act.
Listen, what are you as a government and we as parliamentarians all about? We should be about protecting children, about having our priorities straight. So don't talk to me or this side of the House or the people of Ontario about an act to reduce red tape. Let's talk about an act to reduce sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of kids through prostitution. Let's talk about Bill 6; let's forget about talking about Bill 119.
The people of Ontario want to know a little further about what's in the content of this act, so let's go to the Mortgages Act. This says-and listen, because this is really important-"The true copy of a mortgage that the mortgagee is required to deliver to the mortgagor may be a facsimile." Well that's really important. Do you know what? I think the people of Ontario would like to talk about Bill 32, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to require a driver's licence to be suspended if a motor vehicle is used when purchasing sexual services from a child. I suggest to you that, as heavy as this bill is, if the people of Ontario weighed Bill 119 against Bill 32, this one-page bill, the people of Ontario would choose that Bill 32 should be enacted.
Listen, people, we are supposed to be putting laws in place that are in the best interests of the different groups of people we're charged to mandate laws for. I've got to tell you, when it comes to sending a fax of a mortgage or protecting a child from being picked up by some pervert who wants to have sexual relations with that child, there's absolutely no question that Bill 32 is far more important than Bill 119.
Let's go further and see what else is contained in this act, because I know the people of Ontario have heard how very important this bill is to the people of Ontario. Here's a Municipal Act amendment: a new section 12.1 of the act-listen to this-would allow a municipality, including an upper-tier municipality, if there are any of those left, to change its name by bylaw, but the change of name would not affect its municipal status. Well, that's really important, and I know that that's going to be the first item on the agenda when the new city of greater Sudbury takes shape on January 1, 2001. I'm sure they're going to want to enact a new bylaw to call it the city of Sudbury again, the way it was in the past.
This is not important to the people of Ontario. You have to understand that you put together all these things. You're making very few changes to red tape. What you're doing is shuffling the deck, but the deck still has 52 cards, and when you throw it on the floor, you still have to play 52-pickup. It doesn't make any difference. You're not making an impact on the people of Ontario with this red tape.
I want to continue and I want to deal with another amendment or change, and this deals with the Ministry of Transportation. Section 52 of the current act provides that notice of a driver's licence suspension must be given personally or by registered mail. That's going to be changed now. The re-enactment of section 52 allows for notice to be given by mail for suspensions unrelated to Criminal Code offences. It also provides for other methods of service to be prescribed by regulation. Again, "by regulation" is very, very important.
What we're saying here is that when somebody had their driver's licence suspended in the past, they received registered mail notification that their licence was suspended, or they were sent that message personally. Now we're going to trust the mails to do that. I have a bit of a problem with that, not because I don't have the most respect for our letter carriers, but what happens in the event of a change of address and the person doesn't receive the notice? In fact, you have a person driving without a licence and he's not aware of that. I would suggest to you that again you're only trying to save money with this-that's all you're doing-but what you're doing is putting the people of Ontario at risk. You're ensuring that insurance companies are going to be very concerned about this because their liability is going to increase greatly.
There are other amendments that you're making to this act. For example, a driver's licence suspension can now be sent by mail, but you're also going to impound vehicles of drivers who are under suspension. They're expanded a bit, and I must say they are expanded only a bit. What I would much rather you do is implement my bill, Bill 122, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to increase the penalties for driving with a suspended licence. Never mind dabbling with the impounding of a vehicle for 45 days. Let's talk about some real tough measures to ensure that those people who are driving while their licence is suspended are punished.
I'm talking about, on the first conviction, one year. Your government and I agree on that point. On the second suspension, you people have a three-year suspension, while mine says 10 years. Do you know what? This government says, "Let's not be too hard on them because we'll put some remedial measures in place." On the third offence, this government says a lifetime suspension, reducible to 10 years if certain conditions apply. I tell you, my friends on the other side, my bill would ensure that there is a lifetime suspension without any reduction to 10 years.
Here's the difference between a government that is soft on crime and an opposition that believes we should be tough on those people. I say that you don't impound the vehicle, you confiscate the vehicle, you sell that vehicle and you make sure that money goes to the Attorney General to promote safe driving programs like MADD, SADD and RIDE.
I look at the Minister of Transportation with a grin on his face. He doesn't know yet that police forces across Ontario are in support of this. He doesn't know that SADD and RIDE are in support of this. He doesn't know that those people who have had people in their family killed by people who were driving with a suspended licence appreciate and support this. Do you know what? The soft-on-crime government that talks the talk but won't walk the walk, I would suggest to you, and I ask the people of Ontario, to weigh Bill 119 with Bill 122. What is more important to you, the people of Ontario? Is it to make sure that you send a fax for a mortgage, or is it to ensure that drivers who are driving with a suspended licence are punished? What is more important, Bill 119, which deals with dog liability, or Bill 32, an act that would ensure that children are not picked up by perverts and sexually abused or exploited? What is more important to the people of Ontario? I ask you, the people of Ontario-not this government; their minds are already made up-what's more important, Bill 119 or Bill 6, An Act to protect Children involved in Prostitution? The answer is simple: Bill 119 has very little impact on the people of Ontario; Bill 6 protects children, Bill 32 protects children and Bill 122 protects the public.
I would suggest to you, stop your rhetoric-the people of Ontario don't buy into it any more-and start acting the way a government should act. Enact legislation that promotes safety and encourages people in Ontario to co-operate with government instead of confronting it.
Ms Di Cocco: I have to say that the member for Sudbury understands real legislation that is relevant. He has a good understanding. As I said, I believe that on this side of the House we have proven that we understand relevant legislation that is going to make Ontario a better place to live.
One of the things about this bill that is interesting, as we went through this-and the member from Brant isn't here. We sat down and went through all the ministries that this omnibus bill actually attempts to look at. You've got the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of the Attorney General has 15 sections. The Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations has 17 sections being amended. The Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology has a couple of sections that are being amended. There is the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The Ministry of Labour has nine, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has six and the Ministry of Natural Resources has 10 sections. The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines has seven sections that are being amended. The Ministry of Transportation has six sections that have to be amended. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has two, and the Management Board Secretariat has four.
You look at all of these changes and, again, you're putting it all into one bill. As I said, some of the sections, as the honourable member for Sudbury suggested, such as the one about dogs here, are definitely not a high priority on the agenda. But then there are other sections that are really relevant and they do have a great deal to do with public safety.
I'm going to speak to the member for Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale. He said, when he was heckling, that the only thing a projectionist has to do is flick a switch on and off. I would suggest that the honourable member has no understanding of what a projectionist actually does. I would also suggest to the honourable member-I looked at the contributors. Famous Players Inc in different parts of this province has contributed a great deal of money to the Tories, just by chance. They got quite large donations. I also wonder if that happened to be the reason why they decided to deregulate projectionists. If they are deregulated and they don't have the expertise, maybe they don't have to pay them as much either. That is one of the issues-
Interjection: Oh, no.
Ms Di Cocco: I don't know. It's your bill, not mine.
The other thing that's really noticeable-and again, I have to go back to what the honourable member for Sudbury stated about some real issues, important issues of note in this province. The Ontario Trillium Foundation was set up to provide money to agencies in communities that provide community services. Do you know what's happening now? You want to talk about red tape? You try to get some funding from the Trillium Foundation and then you can see what red tape is all about.
In my community, the Alzheimer Society, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Canadian Hearing Society, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian Red Cross, Family YMCA, Goodwill Industries, Huron House boys' home, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Sexual Assault Survivor Centre, the United Way, the VON, the Women's Interval House, Rebound and Senior VIP all got together and wrote about the situation, about the funding process at the Trillium Foundation being restrictive and time-consuming. That's what red tape is. It costs a lot of time and it's very restrictive in how you can access the monies. Do you know what's happening to these organizations? They have had their funding-not only their funding, but their ability to raise funds-reduced by 45% because we have a charity casino and slot machines in our area and they cannot raise-
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education): Where do you think the Trillium money comes from?
Ms Di Cocco: That's right, but the problem is, that is competing-
Hon Mrs Ecker: They're getting more than they had.
Ms Di Cocco: No, they're not. They are getting 45% less, because the former way that they were able to access funds, through bingos, they can't access money there, and the Trillium Foundation won't give them any. What they're saying is that the Trillium Foundation is saying it's got to take a look-another year yet-to decide whether or not they're going to be able to provide money, because the Trillium Foundation has no provision for funding to cover the maintenance of existing programs. All of these groups have existing programs. So if you want to talk about red tape, that is a perfect example of red tape.
I have a letter from the Atikokan Barrier Free Committee. This barrier-free committee formed to address an issue on barrier-free accessibility to the library in Atikokan. So what did they do? They applied to the Trillium Foundation. It says here, "The Atikokan Barrier Free Committee is extremely disappointed that the Ontario Trillium Foundation funding criteria make this worthwhile community supported endeavour ineligible for funding."
I say to you that there are a lot of areas where red tape is going to protect public safety and there are other areas where red tape is prohibitive to many community services in this province. Do you know what responsible government does? It knows the difference. It knows where red tape is required so that you have a protection in place for public safety, and good government knows when you can be flexible because of community services that are required and it encourages and it adds to and enhances the community. If you end up-
Hon David Turnbull (Minister of Transportation): You Liberals are so deep in the trough, you need a snorkel.
Ms Di Cocco: Again, the Minister of Transportation is suggesting that these organizations are deep in the trough. I would suggest that the honourable minister doesn't know what he's talking about if he's suggesting that registered charitable organizations are deep in the trough when in fact-
Hon Mr Turnbull: I said the Liberals were. Get it right. Take effective listening.
Ms Di Cocco: Oh, well, I apologize if I-
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Questions and comments?
Mr Bisson: It's interesting to listen to the quips that go around in the House when somebody is speaking. It was interesting when my colleague from Sarnia-Lambton raised the issue of projectionists. She tied it to how it's interesting that the-was it Famous Players?
Ms Di Cocco: Yes.
Mr Bisson: Famous Players theatres gave large sums of money to the Conservative Party in the last election. She was trying to make the point, "I wonder if there's a coincidence between the large sums of money given by Famous Players theatres to the Conservative Party and all of a sudden the lessening of regulation within the theatre industry and how it applies to the projectionists."
I thought that was a really good point. What was interesting were the comments from across the House. "Oh, I'll tell you, they're giving us large amounts of money because we're doing such a good job," says the government side.
I really wonder about that one, I'll tell you. It has nothing to do with a good job. I think the member is right; I think there is a bit of a connection here. You wonder why, on the one hand, large sums of money are taken when it comes to campaign contributions and all of a sudden-poof-the regulation is out the door. Is there a coincidence? I think there is.
I listen to the members across the way talk about regulation being a hindrance to business. They forget what the job of government is. The job of government is to make sure that we safeguard the public when it comes to matters that might put the public in danger or put the environment in danger etc. I used the example a little while ago in the mining industry, where we've gotten rid of the requirement of making sure there are coroners' inquests at the time of the death of a miner by way of accident in the mining industry. The government got rid of that requirement. It said it was red tape and it got in the way of the mining industry. I would argue that it made mining safer and it saved lives. By taking away that requirement, you're putting miners in danger.
Mr O'Toole: I have a couple of comments with respect to the member for Sudbury. I'm very surprised and disheartened with his insensitivity and compassion. I would say that I'm somewhat surprised with the somewhat dismissive tone he took with the Dog Owners' Liability Act. I'm just going to read a section, if he's trying to trivialize this important change in Bill 119: "When, in a proceeding under subsection 4(1), the court finds that the dog has bitten or attacked [a child], the court may make an order prohibiting the dog's owner from owning another dog during a specified period of time." It goes on to engender the responsibility of the dog owner so that children and other people aren't injured. They don't seem to care.
I suspect the member from Sarnia-Lambton-I just want to put something on the record here. I would recommend the viewers tonight-that's who I'm speaking with, you, the viewers of Ontario-read the Toronto Star article on October 14. It says, "How Walkerton was Poisoned." I can tell you, from what I've heard tonight and what I've read here, it's clear that this has been a problem for 20 years. The previous two governments both had an opportunity-and I can cite examples here. A survey was sent and "The Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Health Unit, headed by McQuigge, reviewed the report and did nothing." This will all come out. Not much more needs to be said.
In the small remaining time, with the disarray we have before us, the Liberal opposition, I believe that Brian Tobin should run Newfoundland-federally, the Liberals could use him too-and he should come here, because Dalton McGuinty isn't up to the job. That's been evident for the last couple of years.
This bill is responsive, and this bill makes Ontario the best place in the world to live, to work and to raise a family.
Mr Parsons: When I first got this bill, I believed that in error there had been two pages stapled at the end that didn't really belong with it, because they have to do with the Wine Content and Labelling Act, and surely that's nothing to do with red tape. But when I pursued it, I feel in a way it's a betrayal of our wine industry. In my riding, Prince Edward county is an absolutely perfect location for the wine industry. There are a number of individuals who are gambling their life savings to plant vines, to harvest grapes, and indeed there is now a winery under construction to crush the grapes.
This bill says that if a wine contains 30% Ontario grapes, it can be labelled as an Ontario wine. I believe the average consumer, if they purchase a bottle labelled as Ontario, believes it's Ontario. I understand that to get certain flavours in wine there is a need to mix grapes from one region with grapes from another, and grapes from offshore. The grape growers themselves, who are taking the gamble, believe that 75% is a reasonable number to identify it as an Ontario wine, not 30%.
This red tape bill is in fact protecting the growers in Chile and protecting the growers in Argentina, but it's not protecting the growers in Ontario. Growers in Ontario are small businesses. This does not in any way help the small businesses in our province that are trying to make a go of it as a wine industry. We have the potential to be a world leader, with some encouragement, some support from the government. With the loss of the ability to have 75% Ontario wine, we run the risk that growers will not be able to stay in business, will go out of production and probably never go back into production, and will see that land go into other use.
I believe the government needs to rip the last two pages off. This is a meaningful bill that needs to be dealt with separately to protect our wine industry.
Mr Wood: I notice that the member for Sudbury-
The Acting Speaker: Order. Stop the clock. It is generally not good to heckle, especially your own members. The member for London West.
Mr Wood: I notice the member spoke about the Dog Owners' Liability Act. I have two questions, which I'm sure he will want to answer in a couple of minutes. Has he ever spoken to someone who has been attacked by a dog? Is he really opposed to this provision?
He spoke about the copy of the mortgage being a faxed copy. I have a couple of questions for him on that. Would he like to reduce the cost of borrowing money on a home? I hope maybe he would. Is he really opposed to this change?
I would also like to comment briefly on the matter of projectionists. In this, the member for Sarnia-Lambton is confusing good regulation with excessive regulation. All health and safety regulations are still in place. The only thing that's eliminated is the need for certification, which has long been outdated.
She spoke about some problems with the Trillium Foundation. Well, I would invite her, or people who are speaking to her, to make a red tape complaint to the Red Tape Commission. Our questionnaire is only one page long. We will indeed help those who wish to make a complaint to fill it out. What we will do is make sure they get an answer.
I would also like to draw to members' attention our definition of red tape, which is any process or procedure that we put anyone through that is not essential to achieve an identified public objective. It does not in any way weaken health, safety or environmental protections. I hope members will not confuse red tape, which is something other than that, with effective regulation. What the Red Tape Commission is trying to do, and I think is doing reasonably well, is to make our regulatory regime stronger, more efficient and of better service to the people of this province.
The Acting Speaker: Response?
Mr Bartolucci: I would like to thank those members who responded.
In our world, the priorities are protecting children; that's the world we come from. We want laws in place that will protect children. That's why we believe and that's why the people of Ontario, certainly the people I talk to, believe that Bill 122 is far more important than Bill 119. That's why the people I talk to say Bill 32 is far more important than Bill 119. That's why the people I talk to say Bill 6, the act which will protect children who are being sexually exploited or abused from prostitution, is a lot more important than Bill 119.
We might want to remind the people of Ontario that there are some more very exciting and very relevant acts that are changed in this act that is going to change the course of history in the business sector in Ontario.
In the Collection Agencies Act, here's what this government is doing: "The definition of `collector' is amended so that sales representatives who do not collect debts or deal with debtors are not required to be registered." Well that's really important to the people of Ontario. I'll tell you, I think Bill 6 is far more important.
But let's talk about the Public Service Act, because this is really important. We've spent now over seven hours-this government has-suggesting that "Clause 29(1)(m.1) of the act is repealed because it relates to another provision of the act that has been repealed."
It doesn't make any sense to the people of Ontario. They want us to debate relevant issues like the trucking issue, like education, like policing issues, like corrections issues, like transportation issues. They are not fooled by your rhetoric any longer.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The Minister of Correctional Services.
Mr Bartolucci: Shave off his moustache.
Hon Rob Sampson (Minister of Correctional Services): I am honoured by the reply, and I will speak to the moustache issue later, perhaps.
I want to start off tonight's debate, at least my section of it, by saying thank you to the Red Tape Commission for the tremendous work they do in ferreting out redundant, very difficult to manage regulation.
I should say, because there has been a lot of debate in this House, that the Red Tape Commission is also involved in putting forward effective regulation that may not currently be there. I am actually going to speak to some of that today. The co-chair of the Red Tape Commission, from London West, has spoken quite eloquently a number of times in this House that his job, with the rest of the commission, is not necessarily to go through the reams and reams of regulation that we have on the books in the province of Ontario to try to find regulation that frankly has done its time, but it's also to stand and put forward regulation that isn't there now but is indeed needed to protect consumers or to protect businesses or to make this province a little bit more functional and practical.
I will speak very briefly to a section in this act that I find quite interesting, and that's the section that refers to consumer reporting. I know the co-chair, who is quite diligent in these matters, has spent a considerable amount of time talking to the people of Ontario about the challenges involved for those who have to face what's called a credit repair in society.
The member opposite from Sudbury may say that this particular act does not contain relevant legislation for the average citizens of the province of Ontario. I say to him quite honestly, he needs to take an unbiased approach to this act and look at it from the perspective of those who are faced with, as this particular section of the act deals with, credit challenges and the need to repair those credit challenges, people who have come up against defaulting loans, perhaps, or people who have had their Visa card or their credit card extended a bit. Those individuals frequently, unfortunately, although less, I would say, in today's economy because of the efforts of the Mike Harris government but it does happen, will come to the point where they will have to have the obligations they owe people reconciled and dealt with in a fair and equitable manner so they can have their credit repaired and can continue as good credit risks.
When this happens, many people go to what's called a credit repairer and ask for some help. This act actually puts in place some very effective regulations that say to the consumers in this province, "Listen, if the credit repairer isn't able to help you repair your credit, you don't have that much of an obligation to pay them, because they didn't do their job."
That would seem to be quite a natural response in a normal commercial relationship between a credit repairer and a person who needs his or her credit repaired. Because of the diligent work of the Red Tape Commission, they have gone forward and said, "This business needs to be effectively regulated for the benefit of consumers." So they've gone through the process of saying, "Listen, Mr and Mrs Consumer, if you go to a credit repairer and you need your credit repaired, and the credit doesn't get repaired, you don't have to pay them."
A contract needs to be established between you and the credit repairer so that there's a fair understanding as to what they can do for you and what you're going to have to tell or disclose to the credit repairer. There's a natural five-day cooling-off period. If you sign a contract and you get back to the house or back to your office and you say, "I really don't need this service," or, "That's not exactly what I was looking for in this credit repair," you can rip up the contract with no obligation.
These are very good consumer initiatives that the Red Tape Commission, under the leadership of Bob Wood and Frank Sheehan, has decided are necessary to protect the interests of the consumer. It goes on and on. There's quite an extensive section that deals with that. With all due respect to the member for Sudbury, I believe that's a very important piece of legislation to bring forward, new regulations, if you will, but cast in the form of law that are very important in dealing with the relationship between somebody who owes a lot of money and needs to have their credit record repaired and somebody who is capable of helping them out.
The member for Sudbury spoke about allowing mortgages to be represented in the form of a facsimile. I should say to the member opposite that he may think that's not a very important matter to have dealt with and properly regulated, but I say there are probably fewer and fewer citizens in this province who haven't had to deal with a mortgage company and the very complex process of exchanging documents to validate the existence of a mortgage. Why wouldn't we try to make it easier to accomplish that transaction?
The Liberals, I gather, would want to make it more difficult. They would say, "No, original documents are required," and so couriers have to move documents back and forth. One of the biggest problems in closing a mortgage document transaction is the cost of moving physical documents from one person to another person to another person. In today's electronic commerce age, why? Why wouldn't we try to make that process simpler so that individuals can complete their business transaction, complete their refinancing, complete the mortgaging of their institution or their house, or whatever it is, as efficiently and as effectively as possible?
Absolutely there will be an original of the document in some location and an original of the document will be required eventually, but at closing time when you want to move into the House, when the movers are waiting at the door and you can't get the key because the original document isn't there? That's the inconvenience the Liberals would impose on average citizens. I can't quite understand that. Certainly, I would say it's important to many Ontarians who are in the process of dealing with their mortgage.
I didn't really mean this delivery to be speaking to the member for Sudbury's particular issues, but he spoke in general to the bill, so I shall as well. I believe this is an important piece of the legislative puzzle that Ontarians are expecting us, as the Mike Harris government, to deal with. I dare say we don't go through a moment in our day that's not affected one way or another by government, either in the form of legislation or even in the form of regulation. I think the people of Ontario would probably find it quite overwhelming if they were to see not only the volumes of legislation that various governments and various parties have passed in this province, but to see the attendant regulations, which are even more overwhelming. We sometimes stand in this House and we say yea or nay to legislation, and regulation is passed with the Lieutenant Governor's approval, but what we don't consider is the impact that has on the average citizen who is trying to live his or her daily life as much as possible without government interference.
I should say to the members here today that a very important part of the Red Tape Commission is to try to make sure that when new laws are passed and their attendant regulations are brought into force they are indeed designed to do what they were supposed to do, which is to make our lives as Ontarians a little bit easier, a little bit more comfortable, but to make sure that it's done in the least intrusive way. I can't believe that there are people in this province who are truly looking for government to be more invasive. I think they would like to see us less involved in their daily lives, and I certainly welcome the continued involvement of the Red Tape Commission, as new laws are passed and as they bring forth things like this, to help us make sure that we indeed are doing what is right for Ontarians and doing it in a way that does make their lives better but doesn't put government any more in their faces than it absolutely should be.
The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?
Mr McMeekin: I think that while it's fair to be critical, it's also critical to be fair. I want to say at the outset that some good work has gone into parts of this bill. But it's difficult, given the all-encompassing omnibus nature of the legislation, given some of the examples that have been cited here, for members on this side of the House to support it.
The other thing I want to say is that it raises the matter of trust too. There are all too many examples of when this government has tried to present itself as moving forward with eliminating red tape that have just led to backfire on us. There were some earlier kidding references about John F. Kennedy and attempts to get the quote right. I was tempted to say that I knew John F. Kennedy, he was a friend of mine-you folks aren't any John F. Kennedys over there-but that would be too cute by half. I can say that while I didn't know John F. Kennedy, I did happen to get to know his nephew recently, who was in town talking in part about some of the red tape that has been cut around mines and specifically the Adams mine. He suggested that the streamlining there had equated to a situation where we might as well be taking the garbage and throwing it directly into the Great Lakes. He was gentle compared to David Suzuki, who described it very pointedly as an act of political terrorism. I thought that hearing from these two environmental gurus about the cost of red tape was important.
Times change. I don't have any hassle with fax machines and faxed documents. That wasn't the way things were under Frost and Robarts and Bill Davis, back when you got a straight answer to a straight question, and that was part of cutting red tape. That was part of doing government decently and differently.
So I would say just in closing-I'll close.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member for Stoney Creek.
Mr Clark: I want to concur with what the Minister of Correctional Services stated earlier, that the bill itself has some very valid points to it. It's truly unfortunate that the member for Sudbury did his dog-and-pony show not too long ago, where he was flashing three bills on one side and flashing another bill on the other side and then questioning the value of those bills. I would never in this House at any time question the value of any bill that is brought into the House by any member. Let's be realistic. The bills that come into this House are brought into this House because of true concern of parliamentarians or the government itself. So for anyone to question the validity or the importance, or say that one is more important than another, is a big stretch and we should never go there. If they're in the House and the parliamentarians have brought them forth, clearly they're valid, clearly they have value.
I would like to offer a suggestion to the Red Tape Commission. You should look into the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act. The business brokers are required to have a real estate licence, even though they're selling businesses and they're not necessarily selling real estate. So you've got a small problem where you have business brokers who are clearly just selling business and never ever sell real estate, but they are required under the act to have a real estate licence. That's the type of thing we're trying to ferret out and see where it impinges on business and opportunity. So I would encourage the Red Tape Commission to look at that act also.
In closing, I think it's very important that we look at the bill and the face value of the bill and the importance of the bill and all bills that come before the House and not criticize-one is more important than another. That's not the case at all. The reality is that if the bill is before the House we should be debating the bill and not doing a dog-and-pony show.
The Acting Speaker: It being 9:30 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 2127.