LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Wednesday 2 May 2001 Mercredi 2 mai 2001
Wednesday 2 May 2001 Mercredi 2 mai 2001
The House met at 1330.
Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): I rise in the House today to honour a true hero, Captain Dennis Redman of the St Thomas professional firefighters, who died January 5 this year in the line of duty, battling an early-morning blaze that threatened the lives of senior citizens and residents with disabilities in a 102-unit apartment complex.
As he did so often throughout his 20-year career with the St Thomas Fire Department, Captain Redman fought seemingly insurmountable odds. As blinding snow and dense smoke filled the early morning air, he fought alongside his comrades to save the lives of sleeping residents, most unaware of the flames that consumed their home. It was a courageous battle that saved all but two people, yet ultimately cost Captain Redman his life.
Captain Redman's heroism spread well beyond the confines of the city of St Thomas. Those who honoured this dedicated firefighter four days later travelled from centres throughout Canada and the United States. Thousands lined city streets to parade to an overflowing arena for the funeral service.
Captain Redman was indeed a man of commitment and extraordinary courage who touched the lives of all who knew him and knew of him. But perhaps more poignantly, as his daughter Nicole Marie said, "He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things." We are all richer for having known him, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the Redman family, as our thoughts and prayers today go out to the family of Captain Patrick Joseph Carey, who died in the line of duty.
DECORUM IN CHAMBER
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): I stand today in the interest of all elected members of this Legislature and indeed all citizens of Ontario. Specifically, the lack of decorum and respect in this Legislative Assembly exhibited recently causes me and my constituents of Durham great concern.
I need only point to three recent incidents to make my point: first, the accusation on April 30 against the honourable Premier by the member from Timiskaming-Cochrane; second, the past statement made by the leader of the official opposition against the honourable Minister of Health, Tony Clement; finally, the actions of the member from Sault Ste Marie in making political statements while in the chair as Deputy Speaker on December 19.
I wish to remind all members of the Legislative Assembly that these incidents -- the actions of the official opposition and third party -- violate, if not the rule to the letter, then the principles laid out in section IV, Order and Decorum and Conduct of Members, and section VI, Rules of Debate, of the standing orders of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
By the day, statements are becoming more and more coarse and more focused on personal attacks. This is not in the interests of serving the citizens of this province. This is not in the interests of our integrity. In the interests of the greater good of the province, we ought to demonstrate the highest level of respect and civility to one another.
I believe that members of the official opposition and members of the third party ought to give careful consideration to the statement widely attributed to Voltaire, but in fact written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in 1906: "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): My statement today is to the Minister of Natural Resources. About a year ago, you started a process to find an alternate location for the duck hunt at Presqu'ile park. I met Monday night with all of the residents of the area in municipal council, who made it very clear that they do not want duck hunters in their backyards for four months a year, they do not want their property expropriated, and they do not want their safety put at risk.
Minister, you committed at the time of the initiation that if there could not be a willing host found to move it to, the hunt would remain at Presqu'ile park. I call upon you to honour that commitment. This community does not want the hunt. Please, at this stage, without spending any more public money, end the entire process and leave it where it is. The duck hunting situation was not broken; there was no need to fix it.
However, I am intrigued about the process. The evening of the presentation, we saw a 25-minute video. We saw maps produced. We have seen a team hold consultations for a year. We have seen consultants brought in. Yet on the ODA front there is no one devoted to spending any time whatsoever to improve the rights and the lot of Ontarians with disabilities. Surely the 1.5 million citizens in Ontario who have disabilities at least rank equally with ducks in Ontario. Let's take the resources that we have and focus them to help the citizens rather than, as your Premier so often indicates, the special-interest groups.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I rise today to talk about an initiative I'm taking to increase road safety. This afternoon I will be reintroducing my private member's bill entitled An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to prohibit persons from riding on the outside of a motor vehicle. Simply referred to as the "outside riders" act, this bill, if passed, will help save lives by putting a ban on riding in the back of pickup trucks.
There are many occasions when riding in the back of a pickup truck is extremely dangerous. In July of last year, two young men from Northumberland were killed when the pickup they were riding in slid off the road, ejecting them from the open box of the truck.
For those with job-related concerns, there are provisions contained in the bill that will allow individuals to travel outside the cab only under controlled circumstances. These include agricultural, construction and municipal services.
I ask all members of this Legislature to support this bill. To show their support, the families of the two young men tragically killed last July have joined us here today. Please join me in welcoming Laurie and Linda Mackey of Baltimore, and John and Judy Lawrence, and Jessica, of Cobourg.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COURTS
Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): I want to use my time today to urge Attorney General David Young to establish a domestic violence court in Thunder Bay, a court that would meet a pressing regional need.
Mr Gravelle: Thank you. While it is encouraging that the government recognizes the need for this specialized family court service within the province and has in fact already established them in 14 Ontario communities, it is frustrating that Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario have so far been left off the list of those communities. This is particularly frustrating because such a specialized service is truly needed in our region.
Whatever the reasons for the delay, I would like to encourage Minister Young to work directly with the Thunder Bay and District Coordinating Committee Against Domestic Violence, an umbrella group made up of 20 regional agencies that is extremely keen to begin the process of exploring models for a domestic violence court in our community. As the coordinating committee pointed out in their letter last year to then-Attorney General Flaherty, Thunder Bay and district's unique geographical location, cultural issues and high incidence of domestic violence more than warrant the establishment of such a court in Thunder Bay.
Minister, with the nearest such court presently located in North Bay, I trust I do not have to explain to you how truly inaccessible that is to my constituents who want to access this specialized court service. I call on you to include Thunder Bay on your next list of communities to receive a domestic violence court. Please work with our coordinating committee to remove any possible barriers that may be in place so we can ensure that victims of domestic violence in our community and district do not have to leave Thunder Bay to see real justice.
SOUTH ASIAN HERITAGE MONTH
Mr Raminder Gill (Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale): I rise today to inform all members of the House that May is South Asian Heritage Month. The month of May is significant because it was on May 5, 1838, that the first South Asian immigrants arrived in the Americas.
The first South Asians to set foot on Canadian soil were Sikh soldiers serving in the British Army. The Sikh lancers and infantry travelled by train from Montreal to Vancouver on their way back to India, after taking part in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria in 1897.
While most South Asians came to our country directly from Asia, many came to Canada from places such as Uganda, Kenya, Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. Today over three million South Asians live in the Americas, and over half a million choose to live, work and raise their families right here in Ontario.
South Asians in Ontario today are proud Canadians. They work hard, create jobs, and respect the laws. They celebrate their culture and share it with their fellow citizens. By becoming Canadians, South Asians have not lost their identity; they have only added to it.
Ontario's South Asian community provides a living social, political and economic link between our province and many countries around the world. So it is my privilege to join with the Premier, Mike Harris, and all members of this House in declaring May South Asian Heritage Month to commemorate the heritage of the past, to mark the contributions of the present and to help inspire the great promise of the future.
If I may, I have members of the South Asian community in the members' gallery, and I would like to recognize them: Mr Gary Singh, Mohinder Singh, Suresh Thakrar, Jaspal Samra, Ronald Ramdial and Ram Jagessar, who's also president of the Indian Arrival and Heritage Month.
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): Last night, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board was forced to vote to close seven more schools in our Catholic system. They were doing that because of the government's funding formula. The parents at Sacred Heart, St Patrick, St Thomas, St Andrew, St Wilfrid, Desantis and St Clare, the students there and the community know that these closures were the result of the government's failed funding formula in education.
There was a time in this province when there were growing communities where the province of Ontario would contribute additional capital monies for new schools in order to preserve and protect and maintain our existing communities. But that all ended. That ended when this government decided it would only fund a certain number of square feet per pupil. What we're left with is the very board where we just ended a five-week strike, which again was the fault of this government's funding formula, now closing seven schools.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): We fund space, not kids.
Mr Duncan: We fund space and not kids, as the member for Sudbury says, and that's just the wrong way to do it.
Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals have proposed a range of policies that will deal with the problems that we confront in our schools. Working families will look to this leader, Dalton McGuinty, and his party to solve the problems started by the Harris government through its cuts to education and taking resources away from our kids.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): Yesterday, I had an opportunity to pose a question of the Premier in regard to the plight of the ONTC, and specifically the ONR passenger rail service that covers services from Cochrane to Toronto. In that answer yesterday the Premier said that he was listening and intended to listen to the people of the north as to what has to be done in order to save that particular service that is now in place in northern Ontario.
If that's the case, then he has to listen to what people like Roger Toal said, people like Donald Brisson said, people like the mayor of Hearst, Monsieur Jean-Marie Blier, people like Ben Lefebvre from Iroquois Falls and many other people who were on the Survival Express two weeks ago, who said the first thing that the government has to do is to have a financial commitment to the ONTC in making sure that ONTC stays as a corporation in northeastern Ontario that plays its role of economic development and providing basic infrastructure to northeastern Ontario, that the Premier would listen to the issue of not selling off ONTel, because if you sell ONTel, there goes the money that is made from that corporation, a profitable section of ONTC that would then be lost, by way of cross-subsidization, to services like rail passenger service.
If the Premier is truly listening, he would look at trying to find solutions to strengthen the train. For example, change the schedule -- the schedule doesn't work -- invest in the infrastructure and help make the ONR the type of service it should be: promoting economic development, tourism and passenger rail service in northeastern Ontario.
Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill): For the past six days, Canada had the honour of hosting His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales during a visit to Canada. While here, Prince Charles honoured the town of Markham with the Prince of Wales Award for its efforts in fostering Markham's built heritage. The award honours a municipal government for an exemplary commitment to the preservation of built heritage within its boundaries. Prince Charles, known for his interest in architecture, recognized Markham's superb efforts in maintaining its heritage buildings.
Despite pressures of rapid growth and development, Markham has done an excellent job of protecting heritage buildings and districts, some dating back to the early 1800s. The town of Markham, first established in 1793, consists of a number of historic settlements, including several in my community of Thornhill. Locations such as Colborne Street, Heintzman House and Red Cottage are important historical sites that the town has preserved and promoted as part of its legacy. They help define the Thornhill and Markham community and serve as important parts of the historic, enjoyable Thornhill Village Festival.
Markham has proven that development with preservation is not an oxymoron and that responsible growth for the future can occur with an eye to history and care for historical sites. I would like to congratulate Mayor Don Cousens and the town of Markham on receiving this most prestigious award for a job well done.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I beg to inform the House that today the Clerk received the second report of the standing committee on government agencies. Pursuant to standing order 106(e), the report is deemed to be adopted by the House.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
PRICE FREEZE ACT, 2001 /
LOI DE 2001 SUR LE GEL DU PRIX
DE CERTAINS PRODUITS PÉTROLIERS
Mr Bartolucci moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 32, An Act to provide for an interim freeze in the price of certain petroleum products / Projet de loi 32, Loi prévoyant le gel provisoire du prix de certains produits pétroliers.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
The member for a short statement?
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This statement will be short because this is the second time I introduced this bill; I introduced it approximately a year ago.
The bill freezes the price of petroleum products at their price on February 14, 1999. The freeze applies from the day the bill comes into force and lasts for 90 days. If the Legislative Assembly is not sitting when the freeze ends, which is often the case, the minister may make an order extending the freeze for another 60 days.
The reality is that this will be the third time a bill like this was introduced. Premier Bill Davis introduced this in the late 1970s when, as Premier, he was concerned about the people of Ontario. The people of Ontario are tired of being hosed at the pumps and they want this government, the Mike Harris government, to do something.
(OUTSIDE RIDERS), 2001 /
LOI DE 2001 MODIFIANT
LE CODE DE LA ROUTE
(PASSAGERS À L'EXTÉRIEUR
Mr Galt moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 33, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to prohibit persons from riding on the outside of a motor vehicle / Projet de loi 33, Loi modifiant le Code de la route pour interdire à des personnes de circuler à l'extérieur d'un véhicule automobile.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): It is the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
The member for a short statement?
Mr Galt: I'm introducing this bill to prevent the recurrence of tragic deaths like the ones that so regrettably took place in my riding last July. However, it includes very specific exemptions for agricultural work and other legitimate occupations that require outside riders. I ask that all members support this bill.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
AMENDMENT ACT, 2001 /
LOI DE 2001 MODIFIANT
LA LOI SUR LA SANTÉ
ET LA SÉCURITÉ AU TRAVAIL
Mr Agostinto moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 34, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to increase the penalties for contraventions of the Act and regulations / Projet de loi 34, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la santé et la sécurité au travail en vue d'augmenter les peines en cas d'infraction aux dispositions de la Loi et des règlements.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
The member for a short statement?
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): If this bill is adopted, it would make this legislation among the toughest in North America when it comes to fines and jail terms for contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in Ontario. It would increase the fines for individuals from $25,000 to $100,000 and the jail terms from one year to two years. It would increase the fines for corporations from $500,000 to $1 million. It would also bring in a new provision that would allow for the jailing and fining of up to $100,000 of officers and directors of corporations that are guilty of violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act in Ontario.
IRISH HERITAGE DAY ACT, 2001 /
LOI DE 2001 SUR LE JOUR DU
Mr O'Toole moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 35, An Act proclaiming Irish Heritage Day / Projet de loi 35, Loi proclamant le Jour du patrimoine irlandais.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
A short statement?
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): The bill recognizes the importance and outstanding contribution of the Irish community in its inclusive culture in Ontario. Irish principles and values, such as a strong work ethic, devotion to family and service to community, are integral to the economic prosperity of Ontario, not just in the 21st century but over time. If passed into law, the act will establish March 17, St Patrick's Day, as the day on which the historic legacy of Ontario's Irish community will be commemorated and officially celebrated across the province. Irish heritage is an operative part of the cultural mosaic of Ontario, and indeed Canada. What better day than March 17 for all Ontarians to celebrate being Irish?
TRUTH ABOUT IPPERWASH ACT, 2001 /
LOI DE 2001 CONCERNANT
LA VÉRITÉ SUR IPPERWASH
Mr Phillips moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 36, An Act to provide for a public inquiry to discover the truth about events at Ipperwash Provincial Park leading to the death of Dudley George / Projet de loi 36, Loi prévoyant une enquête publique pour découvrir la vérité sur les événements qui se sont produits au parc provincial Ipperwash et qui ont conduit au décès de Dudley George.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it. Carried.
The member for a short statement?
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): This bill requires the Premier to recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council that a commission be appointed to inquire into and report on the death of Dudley George and to make recommendations directed to the avoidance of violence in similar circumstances. The commission is given powers under the Public Inquires Act. Once the inquiry begins, the commission must make an interim report in six months and a final report in 12 months.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of the Environment): In February this year, when the Ministry of the Environment accepted the report from Val Gibbons, entitled Managing the Environment: A Review of Best Practices, it signalled a fundamental shift in the way our province will go about protecting the environment. Our course of action has never been clearer. We have a new mission to make the environment a broad responsibility across all ministries and beyond, to involve community groups, businesses, academics and the public, all within a climate of continuous improvement.
This ambitious new course of action is a broad, integrated series of regulatory and non-regulatory initiatives from policy development right through to enforcement. We have a new cabinet environment policy committee and a new associate deputy minister, the only such position in government charged with implementing our framework. In short, our government will refocus the environment ministry to enable it to realize a bold, new 21st-century vision of environmental health and safety.
Also, in the coming year we will concentrate on policies and actions that protect and preserve the quality and safety of our most basic necessities: our air, water and land. We will introduce amendments to strengthen and modernize Ontario's environmental protection laws.
We will build on the success to date of initiatives like Operation Clean Water. Our government will take decisive steps to protect the province's water supply, including implementation of a comprehensive, multidisciplinary strategy to protect Ontario's groundwater. With local conservation authorities, municipalities and other partners, the government will work to ensure the cleanest and safest drinking water. At the same time, we will continue to enforce Operation Clean Water with regular and frequent sampling, stringent treatment requirements, more transparency and public access to information.
Furthermore, we must do more to protect the Great Lakes. Collectively, they are the greatest freshwater source on earth, and we have a responsibility for their preservation. To respond to emergencies and monitor the quality of the Great Lakes, our government will acquire a new high-tech monitoring vessel.
Preserving and improving air quality is one of our most difficult challenges because of the diverse sources of air pollution and the broad range of effects it has on our environment and our health. In many parts of the province, more than 50% of our air pollution comes across the border from the United States. But even as we try to encourage border states to reduce their emissions, we are pursuing and must pursue better standards here at home.
Our government has already made great strides in addressing pollution from the electricity sector, including introducing stringent new emission caps on fossil fuel plants. In the transportation sector, we have expanded our highly successful Drive Clean program as it enters its second phase.
To protect Ontario's air quality and meet the province's existing commitments to reduce emissions, the government will propose an Ontario air quality and climate change strategy. The strategy will take aim at a wider range of air pollution sources. Ontario is determined to continue setting the pace as a North American leader in air quality.
Last year we introduced our first phase of mandatory monitoring and reporting of emissions of 28 substances from the electricity generators. Starting this week, in order to further encourage emission reductions in Ontario, we are expanding this requirement to other large industries. In addition, the total list of pollutants with a reporting requirement has increased to 358, including the full suite of greenhouse gases. This makes it one of the most comprehensive plans in the world.
Mandatory monitoring and reporting will help us set future caps on emissions, track progress in our fight against smog, acid rain and climate change, and establish a foundation for future air quality protection measures. In response to the Managing the Environment report, the government will establish a comprehensive environmental monitoring and reporting strategy.
Along with mandatory monitoring and reporting, we must have the capacity to conduct inspections. Our government will improve environmental protection by enhancing the environmental SWAT team approach and related technological innovations to include inspections and enforcement activities, and the SWAT team will be permanent.
To help protect air quality and energy conservation in the future, we need to look more closely at the role of new technologies. We will propose that a legislative committee investigate environmentally friendly, sustainable alternatives to our existing fuel sources and report back within 12 months. This committee would conduct an objective, forward-thinking review of options to produce positive solutions, and in the near future we will be seeking out members who are eager to participate. The recommendations of the Managing the Environment report that addressed knowledge management and emerging issues will help guide this research.
These initiatives, guided by a clear, long-term strategy for protection and sustainability, and supported by a wide range of stakeholders both within and outside of government, give Ontario the best environmental strategy in the history of this province.
Building on the Managing the Environment report, we will stay true to the direction laid out in the throne speech and work to ensure that future generations inherit a clean and healthy province. We invite all Ontario citizens, community representatives, experts and concerned citizens to contribute to the dialogue as our vision takes shape, and to work with us in making this vision a reality.
Hon Brian Coburn (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): My colleague the Minister of the Environment has just reaffirmed this government's commitment to protect our drinking water and our groundwater.
I have lived and worked all my life in rural Ontario, and I understand that the agri-food industry is a crucial component in the well-being of our rural communities and, indeed, the entire province. It boosts our economy in excess of $25 billion each year. It supplies an abundance of safe, high-quality products, and the competitiveness of this industry must continue to be a high priority.
The prosperity of the industry relies on the goodwill of all rural residents and the careful stewardship of our precious natural resources. This is not to say that Ontario's farmers have been poor stewards of our resources; quite the contrary. Ontario's farmers are world leaders when it comes to environmental stewardship. They have voluntarily adopted best-management practices and implemented environmental farm plans to minimize the effects of agriculture on our natural resources. But they know, as well as we do, that more needs to be done.
In the winter of 2000, a province-wide consultation showed that farmers, rural residents and municipalities all believe that to manage land-applied nutrients consistently, roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined. To that end, the government will introduce a comprehensive nutrient management strategy that will provide Ontario's agricultural industry with clear environmental protection guidelines. This will ensure that our agricultural sector has accurate information on which to base its management decisions. It will help grow our businesses and our communities in a responsible manner. This will also ensure that Ontario's agricultural sector maintains its leadership role in environmental stewardship.
It is the next step on the path of continuous improvement. It is a path that is best travelled in partnership. Working with the ministries of the environment, health, municipal affairs and housing, natural resources, all of our stakeholders, we will be able to make those tough decisions required to stay the course. I put the highest priority on encouraging a strong, environmentally responsible agricultural sector, and I'm proud that with our partners we're taking another major step in that direction.
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Natural Resources): I'm proud to be making a statement on what our government is doing to help ensure that future generations inherit a clean and healthy province. As a government we are preserving Ontario's rugged beauty and protecting its rich natural resources.
This spring marks the second anniversary of Ontario's Living Legacy. It's a major milestone in natural heritage protection in the province. Living Legacy initially was a land use strategy for an area covering about half of the province, but that has since been expanded to a province-wide program. It means, among other things, 378 new parks and protected areas, totalling almost 6 million acres. It's the largest single expansion of parks anywhere. Ontario's Living Legacy includes nine signature sites, such as the Great Lakes Heritage Coast, Kawartha Highlands and the Nipigon Basin, areas with exceptional natural heritage features that merit special protection and special promotion.
Last November, the Premier announced more than $100 million to make Living Legacy the most comprehensive natural heritage program in provincial history, with funding going to species at risk, youth employment, acquisition of ecologically sensitive lands and more protection enhancement for fish and wildlife in their habitats.
On April 27 of this year, we moved to protect three more species at risk, bringing to 29 the number regulated under the Endangered Species Act. We've launched six employment programs for Ontario's young people, creating more than 2,300 jobs to help deliver Ontario's Living Legacy. We recently announced the protection of 11 natural areas in southern Ontario through the natural areas protection program, a key component of Living Legacy.
As we approach our peak camping, fishing and hunting seasons, it is worth noting that fish and wildlife are a very important part of Living Legacy. As Minister of Natural Resources, I know how important these activities are, not only to our own residents but also to visitors to our province.
Ontario is blessed with a tremendous variety and abundance of fish and wildlife. Careful regulation ensures that hunting and fishing are carried out in a sound and sustainable way. Hunters and anglers are actively involved in work to protect and enhance fish and wildlife habitat in partnership with my ministry. That's why the government will introduce a Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act to recognize the important role hunting and fishing play in many Ontario communities.
Ontario's Living Legacy is also about long-term security for resource-based industries and fostering a business climate that attracts investment and encourages growth. That is being achieved through the key component of Living Legacy, the Ontario Forest Accord. The accord is a precedent-setting approach by the government, the forest industry and the environmental community to work together in establishing new protected areas while considering the needs of the forest industry for a sustainable wood supply. The Ontario Forest Accord advisory board, with equal representation from the industry, the Partnership for Public Lands and the Ministry of Natural Resources, was set up to implement this accord. The board's recent interim report highlighted agreement on a mechanism for sharing the forest resource into the future. The board expressed confidence that there will be room for growth in new parkland, room for growth in wood supply for the industry and room for growth for jobs for Ontarians.
The resource stewardship agreements between the resourced-based tourism industry and the forest industry will also help the economy by providing greater certainty about available land use. This in turn means more long-term investment.
Ontario's forest industry leads the world in sustainable forest management practices. On March 23 we began a bilateral negotiation process that is intended to lead to formal recognition from the international Forest Stewardship Council that Ontario's forest management practices, regulations and other practices meet world environmental and social standards. Ontario is positioned to be the largest jurisdiction in the world to receive this international green stamp of approval.
I think it's clear our province is committed to sound, sustainable management of our natural resources, and the world is taking note. The government's goal is for Ontario to be recognized as a world leader in sustainable forest management and protection practices and a world leader in the protection of public lands, opening new markets for our forest industry and protecting our natural environment for future generations.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): To describe what we heard as hollow platitudes would be to compliment it, because what we have heard are several reannouncements by ministers without any kind of specific detail, minor movements in minor directions, and no overall commitment on the part of the government of Ontario to improve the environment.
We have a new minister with high expectations, but what she must recognize is that there's virtually no support within that cabinet or that caucus for the kind of aggressive environmental initiatives that are needed. All the jargon and puffery that we hear in the Legislature today cannot disguise the fact that the Harris government cut this ministry's budget by 45%, almost one half, fired one third of the staff out the door, and took away the clout of this ministry.
If it is going to play a prominent role within this government, a paramount role in controlling pollution and in promoting the environment, then it must have the necessary staff resources, funding and clout within government. I would suspect, looking at the colleagues the minister has and the fact that we have a Red Tape Commission with so much power, that when push comes to shove, the environment will get pushed to the bottom of the pile.
When I talk about staffing, for instance, you would expect the ministry would be hiring people because of the embarrassment of Walkerton. We went through the Job Mart and Topical newspapers, which talk about who the government is going to hire. Our hiring numbers since Walkerton do not indicate any government plans for what I would call a long-term commitment to environmental protection. In the critical areas of enforcement and investigation and scientists, junior environment officers, senior environment officers and science and technical, 67% of the hires are temporary positions. I guess this is consistent with the Premier's comment, "I don't think it makes sense to staff up for that bulge on a permanent basis."
MOE has hired only eight permanent junior officers since June 2000, none since November 2000. Some 72% of the senior officers hired are temporary positions. Much like the announcement of the pathetically understaffed SWAT team, these temporary positions simply put another piece in the Tory PR exercise which can be easily chopped when the spotlight is off Walkerton and the environment. The real test will be whether the funding of this ministry is restored and whether we have permanent positions in this ministry.
I wish the minister well. I will support her in that endeavour. But what has been announced today is a clear indication that this government still does not see the environment as a priority.
Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): This is an initiative that's been hanging around this Legislature for over a year and a half, and this statement today clearly shows that the Harris government is definitely not up to the job of dealing with agricultural operations in this province. Where is the definition of the strategy in this?
Instead of going forward and looking ahead with a vision for agriculture in the 21st century, this government is going backwards. At least the former minister, Mr Hardeman, had the guts and the courage to talk about legislation and regulation. This announcement today doesn't even equal the previous commitments this government made. You've abandoned this industry. You've not provided any clarity to farmers, to municipalities, or more importantly, to the rural residents of this province.
The farmers in this province right now, because of the inaction of this government, are being dragged into court. Justice Kennedy has recently ruled in West Perth that the province must take action. This statement today demonstrates that the province is not showing a commitment and is not taking action. It is also shown in Justice Kennedy's ruling that municipalities cannot be randomly allowed to impose livestock cap sizes -- again no mention in this.
The minister talks a great deal about the number two industry in this province. Unfortunately this government is stifling and stalling investment in this industry. You talk about, "We've got individuals who are prepared to invest and expand. We've got individuals who are prepared to do things," but they have no rules. You're implementing more red tape. You talk about partnerships, but what we need is leadership and this government is not showing leadership in dealing with the agricultural community in this province.
It's just another doublespeak for downloading. You're going to download this to the municipal governments when it should be a provincial responsibility with provincial enforcement and province-wide regulations.
As glaringly as agriculture was not mentioned in the throne speech, even more glaringly today there is no mention of capital support for improvements that are going to have to be made as a result of new legislation.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): It's interesting to hear the Minister of Natural Resources talk about the fact that he believes there's going to be an ever-increasing supply of wood in northern Ontario. The minister needs to get out of his office in Toronto, get into the boreal forest in northern Ontario and go and visit the mills that are all now talking about the wood supply shortage, the wood supply gap that's going to happen. Anybody who has a wood supply map knows that within the next five years a number of mills in northern Ontario are going to face a shortage of wood, and within the next 10 years it's going to hit virtually every mill and it's going to last for the next 25 years.
When I asked some of the minister's officials at public accounts what their strategy was to deal with this, they admitted they didn't have a strategy. In fact, the only thing this government can point to is 10,000-hectare clear-cuts. That is the government strategy and they call it environmentally sustainable. People need to know what a 10,000-hectare clear-cut means. It means no habitat for moose, no habitat for deer, no habitat for birds or bears or any of the other fur-bearing animals. It means destroying the natural habitat.
When I asked if this government was even consulting with First Nations, because the now available wood supply is all in First Nations territory, the response was, "We're waiting for the First Nations to come to us."
There are over 60 mills and 30,000 jobs that now face, within the next five years, a wood supply shortage, and over the next 25 years will certainly face a wood supply shortage. This government's answer? It's 10,000-hectare clear-cuts. That's their answer: cut everything in sight. Then they talk about environmental sustainability.
I want to refer to the Minister of Agriculture, because what we've seen from this government is three rounds of consultation now. A year and a half ago, in the winter of 2000, they went out and consulted on the issue of nutrient management in the farm areas of Ontario. Then they brought back a report that they wouldn't show to anyone. Then the tragedy at Walkerton happened. Seven people died and over 2,000 people became seriously ill. What was the government's response? They said they were going to go out and consult some more. Then they came back and said, "We think this should be turned over to municipalities." Imagine: municipalities are going to do the enforcement. The next thing we'll hear is that municipalities are going to have to enforce against the chemical companies and the pulp and paper companies and the mining companies -- no strategy whatsoever.
What do we hear now? Now they're going to go out and consult for the third time. There's no strategy here. This is just a strategy or a direction for delay while the problem becomes more and more serious out there.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): The most telling words in the statement from the Minister of the Environment today are that they will stay true to the direction laid out in the throne speech, because the throne speech was silent on the environment. In fact, a confidential Q&A guide to Tory members said, "Today's throne speech didn't contain a single announcement about steps your government will take to protect the environment. Isn't this a terrible oversight?"
Minister, sadly, it wasn't a terrible oversight. You said yourself the other day that this was astounding, that for the first time, "The Premier and my cabinet colleagues are committed to the environment." But your statement today proves you wrong.
It is well known by now that there are only two greens that Mike Harris understands: the green of the golf course and the green of the money he takes out of the taxpayers' pockets and puts into the rich people's pockets. Those are the two greens he understands: the golf course and the money he takes out of taxpayers' money and puts into his buddies' pockets.
Minister, let me tell you something: what we heard today was more of the same stuff over and over again. We were expecting an announcement that there would be money put back in the ministry and the staff put back in.
You talk about the Gibbons report. It's nice that you finally discovered such a thing as a horizontal model. It's been around for over 30 years. In fact, it's been discussed for over 30 years. The measures that our government took, like the green planning act and others, you've wiped out. So don't use that as an excuse not to put the resources back in the environment. That's what we wanted to hear today.
Hon David Turnbull (Solicitor General): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise today to seek unanimous consent for a minute's silence to honour the Toronto Fire Services captain, Pat Carey.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Is there unanimous consent? Agreed.
Hon Mr Turnbull: Captain Carey died while fighting an apartment fire this past Monday night.
The Speaker: Sorry to interrupt the minister. Did we want to do the moment's silence and then some speeches on it, or would you like to do it first?
Hon Mr Turnbull: Why don't I do that?
The Speaker: OK.
Hon Mr Turnbull: Captain Carey died while fighting an apartment fire this past Monday night. Captain Carey was a 29-year veteran of the Toronto Fire Services and, sadly, was due to retire in just a few months' time.
He leaves behind his wife and three children, and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with them and all who knew Captain Carey.
We honour Captain Carey and all the brave firefighters in Ontario who on a daily basis risk their lives so that the rest of us are safe.
Mr Dave Levac (Brant): I'd like to echo those sentiments that were expressed by the minister. I would also like to add that firefighters on a regular basis put their lives on the line. To know that doing your job means you may have to lose your life speaks to the professionalism and dedication to the job that's done by firefighters on a regular basis.
We also have to acknowledge that their families know that when mom or dad goes to work, they might not come back. We must recognize that the families of our firefighters go through the pain on a daily basis.
To the captain, to their families, to all firefighters, on behalf of Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal caucus, we offer our prayers and our hope that this never happens again.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): There's always something incredibly shocking to us mere lay people when firefighters die in the course of performing their duties. We are shocked and we're saddened and we're oftentimes overwhelmed, as we are in the instance of Captain Carey. But for firefighters, for those women and men who confront the realities of those dangers on a daily basis, it's a moment of great sadness but it's hardly a moment of the same shock that we respond with, because these women and men surrender, park, their personal safety as they respond to emergency calls that require fire suppression, as they respond to emergency calls in industrial areas and in industrial buildings and in high-rise apartment buildings, where the complexities of firefighting have become all that much more intense, demanding and dangerous.
The New Democrats here certainly join with our colleagues in the other two parties in paying tribute to Captain Carey, and in doing that we pay tribute to firefighters, women and men across this province -- big city, small town alike -- who have given their lives and who, as I say, set aside their personal safety on a daily basis as they act on behalf of the welfare and safety of their communities. God bless them.
The Speaker: Would all the members and our friends in the gallery please rise for a moment of silence.
The House observed a moment's silence.
The Speaker: I thank all members. Will you please take your seats.
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): We have a deferred vote on Mr Hampton's amendment to the motion for an address in reply to the speech from the throne.
Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1426 to 1431.
The Speaker: Would the members kindly take their seats, please.
Mr Hampton has moved an amendment to the motion for an address in reply to the speech from the throne. All those in favour, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Cleary, John C.
Conway, Sean G.
Di Cocco, Caroline
The Speaker: All those opposed will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the clerk
Baird, John R.
Guzzo, Garry J.
Harris, Michael D.
Molinari, Tina R.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Stewart, R. Gary
Tascona, Joseph N.
Tsubouchi, David H.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 35; the nays are 54.
The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.
Mr Miller moved, seconded by Mr Arnott, that the humble address be presented to Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor as follows:
"To the Honourable Hilary M. Weston, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario:
We, Her Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario, now assembled, beg leave to thank Your Honour for the gracious speech Your Honour has addressed to us.
Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1435 to 1440.
The Speaker: Would the members kindly take their seats, please.
All those in favour of the motion will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Baird, John R.
Guzzo, Garry J.
Harris, Michael D.
Molinari, Tina R.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Stewart, R. Gary
Tascona, Joseph N.
Tsubouchi, David H.
The Speaker: All those opposed will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Cleary, John C.
Conway, Sean G.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Clerk of the House: The ayes are 54; the nays are 35.
The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
SCHOOL EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. In the throne speech you promised Ontario's working families that, "The government will act to ensure that all students in Ontario have the benefit of co-instructional activities."
That was received in many quarters by many families as good news. Many of our young people have been affected by the loss of their sports and clubs for up to 900 days. In fact, over 200,000 families have now been affected by the loss of extracurricular activities. Premier, on behalf of Ontario's working families, I want to know what specifically you are planning to do and when specifically you are planning to do it.
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'll refer this to the Minister of Education.
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education, Government House Leader): The honourable member knows, because I certainly have stated my personal belief and this government's belief, that extracurricular activities, co-instructional activities for students, are incredibly important. They open up opportunities for students. Teachers' relationships with students can be improved because of extracurricular activities.
We took a number of steps last year to try to reach compromises that would have resolved the issue. They did not resolve the issue. In some communities the labour disputes, when they were settled, resolved the issue, in other communities it did not. So we have the task force report. There are some excellent recommendations in that report. We are studying that now to see how we can move forward with those recommendations, because students deserve extracurricular activities and we're prepared to take steps to make sure they have them.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, I don't want you to talk to me about communities resolving this issue. You have to take personal responsibility for resolving this issue. I'm not sure you understand how serious this matter is. We're talking about over 500,000 children who have been deprived of their clubs and sports. We're talking about over 200,000 families. We're talking about some children who have been affected by this for over 900 days. It is your responsibility to fix this mess, which you have created.
I put forward a peace plan. We took a long time to develop that. We tried to compromise between your government and our teachers, and by so doing to put our students first. You cast that aside and said you would have nothing to do with it. Your own task force came forward with some recommendations. You cast those aside and said you would have nothing to do with them.
I ask you once again, Madam Minister -- this has gone on long enough -- what are you going to do on behalf of our students and our families to get back their extracurricular activities?
Hon Mrs Ecker: I know the honourable member has his question written, and therefore he doesn't listen to the answer. No one has tossed aside the task force report, and to continue to put that out is being mischievous, to be very charitable.
Second, let's also be very clear: your so-called solution, the solution you are putting forward, is to increase the student workload in order to decrease the teacher workload. So students already have extra time in class, their school year has already been extended, they're doing extra work with the new curriculum, extra homework, standardized testing, grade 10 literacy, and the honourable member says, "Let's solve the problem by making students work harder so teachers can work less hard." That is not a solution.
I'm very pleased to hear that the honourable member supports the task force recommendations. Perhaps he would also like to specifically support the two that tell the union to stop penalizing members for doing extracurricular activities.
Mr McGuinty: In case you missed this, with respect to our peace plan that we put forward to you over four months ago, that is overwhelmingly endorsed by Ontario's students -- just so you know. They want their school activities back. They want their sports back. They want their clubs back. We are moving very close to a point where someone can go through an Ontario high school and never have participated in or seen a football game, never have participated in or seen a school play, never have participated in the work that goes into preparing a year book. That is happening on the watch of the Mike Harris government.
You've had two options placed before you. You said one more time in the throne speech that you're going to fix this. I'm asking, on behalf of Ontario's 200,000 families who have been affected by this mess, when are you going to fix it?
Hon Mrs Ecker: Of course students want their extracurricular activities back, and I agree with the honourable member that when a student goes to a teacher and asks that teacher to write a letter of reference for a scholarship and that particular teacher says, "No, it's an extracurricular activity, don't you know?" or when that student goes to that teacher and says, "Help us with the Remembrance Day ceremony," and that teacher says, "No, because the union is preventing me from doing that" -- those are the stories that families and students and teachers are telling this government. That's why we made compromises, that's why we invested more money, that's why we have a task force report that did an excellent job of bringing forward recommendations.
We're doing the work on that and, I repeat, the students did not endorse your so-called solution. They did not agree that the solution to this was to let their workload increase so that the teachers' workload would decrease. That is not the solution.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. Working families want to know that any young person in Ontario with good marks and hard work can become a doctor. We don't believe that how wealthy your family is should in any way dictate whether you get into medical school. Tuition fees for medical school in Ontario under your government's watch have skyrocketed, with your approval, from $5,000 to $14,000 every year. Young people from working families have been hit especially hard by your tuition hikes. The average yearly family income of Western's medical students has gone from $80,000 to $140,000 in just four years.
Behind me today, Premier, are a number of medical school students from medical schools across the province who are very concerned about this development on your watch. My question to you is, why are you shutting young people from working families out of medical school?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I appreciate the question. I think it's important to put a few things in context in one of certainly the lowest medical tuitions for quality schools in North America, which we have here in Ontario, including the University of Western Ontario.
The first thing is that when we significantly increased funding and opportunities and matching scholarships and bursaries and tuition increases, we insisted that universities must apply a third of that to bursaries. That means that all medical students who need help paying for tuition and ancillary fees above $4,500 must get it from the universities. Second, I can tell you that last year alone there were 572 medical students in Ontario, up from 532 in previous years. Applications are up this year: 3,854 students were competing for those 572 spaces. I might add as well that I am not aware of one student accepted for medical --
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. The Premier's time is up.
Mr McGuinty: Premier, you are changing the rules in the middle of the game. You are making it so that only young people from wealthy families can go to medical school. We think that is wrong. We think you are depriving Ontario from choosing among the very best, right across the socio-economic spectrum. You're saying that the only young people who can get into medical school, according to your rules, will have to come from wealthy families.
The average family income in Ontario, Premier, and you may have lost sight of this, is less than $60,000. The percentage of students who come from family income of less than $60,000 has now been cut by more than one-half on your watch. It used to be that 36% of medical students came from struggling working families. Now it's only 15%. I ask you again, Premier, why are you shutting young people from our struggling working families out of medical school?
Hon Mr Harris: Let me elaborate a little further. The government currently subsidizes, over and above tuition, $22,000 a year for the universities to run our medical programs. In addition to that, should there be a student whose parents can contribute nothing and the student can contribute nothing and there's no time to work -- absolutely nothing -- we pay the $22,000 for that spot; in addition, $10,725 in OSAP loan assistance, of which only $7,000 would be repayable; in addition, one third of those tuition increases are to be provided in bursaries. So it is possible that at the end of four years, a medical student will graduate owing $28,000. We think that's easily repayable, with a guaranteed OHIP billing number in the province of Ontario, within the first few months of work.
Mr McGuinty: Premier, if you have a study that contradicts what I have been saying, then please table it here and now. The only reliable information we have is the following: young people from working families have been especially hard hit by your policies. The average yearly family income for our medical students has gone from $80,000 to $140,000. Those are the facts, Premier.
You may feel, given your view of the world, that this is somehow unimportant and not particularly relevant. Well, I can tell you that we on this side of the House, who have the interest of working families in our hearts, think this is wrong. We think it's wrong for those families. We think it's wrong for our province. We think our province is entitled to choose from among the very best, the very brightest, those who are working the hardest and those who are getting the best marks, not simply those who come from the richest families.
I'm asking you, Premier, what are you going to do now in the face of this information and this data? What are you going to do to ensure that young people from our working families aren't shut out of medical schools?
Hon Mr Harris: Let me say a couple of things. Unlike the Liberals and the NDP, we've insisted that one third of any tuition increases be used for bursaries in addition to the Ontario student loan program. I would say that there are, in fact, some who borrow and are responsible for up to $7,000 a year in student loans and now, after three or four years, are graduating, for example, in early childhood education, with a potential of making $25,000 or $30,000 a year.
We do have a very real concern. But when you talk about students who are massively subsidized by the taxpayer in our medical schools, with a guaranteed income upon graduation five, 10 or 15 times that of childcare workers or some other lower-income workers, then I question your priorities.
Finally, I issue this challenge: bring me one student accepted into a medical school here in Ontario who has refused to go with all of the assistance we've provided. I would like to meet that person and talk with him.
COMPETITIVE ELECTRICITY MARKET
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. Yesterday, we saw you deliver George Bush's energy strategy. You admitted that you and the Liberal Prime Minister have both been working on the dirty deal to sell off our electricity system, and you both seem to think that building more nuclear plants in Ontario is a good idea. Do you and the Prime Minister really believe that the people of Ontario want to see more nuclear plants in their back yards just to serve the American thirst for electricity?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): When you talk about the whole North American demand for growth and increased energy, you can't put your head in the sand. You have to look at what are the options and the possibilities. Do you want 10 new coal plants in Michigan or Ohio blowing into Ontario, or would you like one or two nuclear plants, the number one green energy alternative in the world today?
Mr Hampton: I think the strategy is becoming clear. While you're telling us how much you endorse Mr Bush's strategy, the Liberal Prime Minister is ramming legislation through the House of Commons that will allow the burial of nuclear waste, even though environmentalists say that the system they've chosen is not safe.
Premier, I have to ask you this: will you tell the people where in Ontario the nuclear waste that will be generated by new nuclear stations will be buried? Will you tell the people of Ontario that?
Hon Mr Harris: I haven't even said there would be new nuclear stations. But a bigger question is, where are we going to put the waste from the existing nuclear stations that we have today? Clearly, we have an obligation, when we are obviously the leading country in the world in heavy water reactors, to deal with spent fuel. This is something the federal government is charged with and is responsible for and it is something that we have been pressing them to make a decision on. It's not a matter of new nuclear reactors. It's a matter of the existing nuclear reactors that we have to find long-term, safe, sustainable disposal for.
I think it's important when you consider that -- I know there are some environmentalists that are opposed to every form of energy, I suppose, including some that would say a windmill heats up the air and that contributes to global warming. But I have to tell you that of all the practical, cost-effective solutions, nuclear energy is appearing more and more to be the green energy of choice.
Mr Hampton: The problem I have with all of this is I don't remember you in the last election telling the people of Ontario that your plan was to sell off our electricity system. I don't remember you telling the people of Ontario that your plan and Jean Chrétien's plan was to build more nuclear plants to feed electricity into the United States. I don't remember you telling people in Ontario that you had a proposal to bury more nuclear waste in our province. Premier, tell us: where and when did you get the mandate to sell off our electricity system, build more nuclear plants and bury more nuclear waste?
Hon Mr Harris: As I recall, it was in 1998 when we had an all-party committee. We travelled the province. We debated the Energy Competition Act and it was passed in 1998, well before the 1999 election. It may have been brought up in the election. I don't recall you ever bringing it up, including in the debate we had. It may have been brought up, and we would have pointed to the legislation that passed and the desire among the Ontario government to proceed away from this government monopoly that had been inefficient, that had led to debt I think far in excess of where it should be in Ontario, and to move to competition and away from the monopoly. I think the voters of Ontario were well aware in 1999 of that legislation and of the intention of the government.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): New question?
Mr Hampton: The Premier might want to remember that it was the nuclear plants built by a former Conservative government that saddled Ontario with the debt, and your strategy is going to take us there again.
PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC SERVICES
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): I have a question to the Premier. Three months ago, we warned that this government had a plan to privatize water. Now we find out that the Premier has admitted that much. Privatizing our water, selling it off to corporations, makes no more sense that selling off our electricity system, especially when the people of Ontario say no, especially when the Walkerton inquiry hasn't even reported yet. Premier, will you show some respect for the Walkerton inquiry? Will you show some respect for the people of Ontario and say to people very clearly that you don't intend to privatize our sewer and water systems?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think you're well aware that the private sector is involved in some areas of our sewer and water system today, and was under your administration as well.
Certainly I respect the people of Walkerton, which was a fully public system, I might point out. We are awaiting the recommendations from Walkerton to look at what we need to do in the future to ensure that public systems like Walkerton, or private systems that exist in the province today, that all systems, regardless of who owns or operates them -- municipalities or the province or OCWA or the private sector -- meet tough standards so that we can have security and guaranteed safe drinking water in Ontario. That's our commitment.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Final supplementary?
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): Premier, I want to remind you of the information we have from what happened in Britain when they privatized the system. It shouldn't even be on the table. Costs went up for poor people. Some poor people had their water turned off. More people got sick. There were droughts like they had never seen before.
I want to say to you, Premier, that what you have done since you've come to government is taken away the measures the previous NDP government brought in to deal with some historic problems in the system. We created the Ontario Clean Water Agency and put 1,000 workers there to run it. You fired 1,000 workers. You privatized all the water-testing labs. You got rid of the programs to help farmers deal with agricultural runoff. I heard you say on the radio the other day that the private sector could do it better.
I am asking you again: will you tell us today that you will build up the Ministry of the Environment again, instead of tearing it down, so that the workers can protect, through the public system, the drinking water of Ontarians?
Hon Mr Harris: Certainly we on this side of the House and the minister very much share the concern of ensuring that we never have another Walkerton, regardless of who runs water in Ontario. We are following the inquiry and continue to express our sympathy to the families and the people of Walkerton. I appreciate the member's selective memory on her government's record and I appreciate the advice.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question to the Premier. The Ontario Medical Association indicated that 1,900 premature deaths a year occur because of air quality problems in the province of Ontario and that it costs $1 billion in terms of lost time at work and the cost to the medical system. With a good deal of fanfare, just as we had the fanfare today, your previous Minister of the Environment announced that the people of Ontario would be notified when the air quality index went over 50, in other words, when there was poor air quality. Yesterday in Kitchener it was 51; in Niagara, 51; in North Bay, 54; in Parry Sound, 61; in York region, 55; and in Algonquin park it was 62 -- all poor air quality.
Can you explain to the people of Ontario why, after the announcement by your previous minister that they would be notified and provided with a smog alert, no such smog alert was given in Ontario?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'm sure the minister can.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of the Environment): Unfortunately, despite the fact that discussions were held with Environment Canada and with the meteorologist in the state of Michigan, all the indications were that air quality was to be generally in the moderate range. As a result, this was unexpected and no alert was issued.
However, I can tell you that our forecasting data have allowed the ministry to predict poor air quality for tomorrow and we will be issuing a smog alert for tomorrow.
Mr Bradley: You see, Madam Minister, we get these announcements with a lot of fanfare about what you're going to do, and then, when it comes to the action, when it comes to following through, we don't get the action.
In the riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka, there is an air quality report which has been sitting on the shelf somewhere and, to my knowledge, has not been released. They refused to release it during the election campaign in Parry Sound-Muskoka. Your ministry kept it behind closed doors. We see that the air quality index in Parry Sound is 61, one of the highest there is.
I ask the minister, in light of the problems experienced in Ontario, when are you going to require industries in this province -- industrial sources -- and your coal-fired plants to take meaningful and aggressive action to ratchet down the amount of pollution going out in Ontario and adversely impacting children and seniors and others in this province?
Hon Mrs Witmer: If you take a look at the announcement we've made today regarding mandatory monitoring, there are 358 that are going to be monitored, that are going to be reported. I guess we are one of the first governments in the world to include an entire suite of greenhouse gases. I also remind the member opposite that in May 2000 our government actually enhanced the smog alert and air index quality program.
Again, I would remind you, based on the best advice we got in consultation with both Environment Canada and the state of Michigan -- I've indicated to you what has happened, but I've also indicated what's going to happen tomorrow, so you're aware of the fact that there's going to be a smog alert.
Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. It concerns a very serious issue, a top priority for my riding of Waterloo-Wellington, and that is the need to fix the Conestogo dam. The Conestogo dam controls water flow for the Conestogo and Grand Rivers, which affect the water supply of much of Waterloo region and the city of Brantford. The gates on this dam are broken, and estimates place the repair costs at between $1.2 million and $1.5 million. If the gates aren't fixed, in a worst-case scenario the dam could fail or collapse in the springtime, resulting in a catastrophic flash flood in which lives most likely would be lost. In the summertime, water levels could sink below normally controlled levels, putting our drinking water downstream at risk.
I want to thank the minister for meeting with representatives of the Grand River Conservation Authority and with the president of the SuperBuild Corp, David Lindsay. In these meetings, we were informed that currently there is no direct funding mechanism that would enable the province to be a major partner in repairing the dam, as should be the case. I would like to ask the minister, what can he tell the House regarding the scope of this problem, as it may be experienced by conservation authorities across the province?
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Natural Resources): I want to thank the member for Waterloo-Wellington for the question today because I know this is a concern for himself and for a good number of his constituents, and he has taken a very active role in making sure that I've been aware of this, my ministry has been aware of it and in fact going to the meetings that he's just alluded to.
As always, and as noted in the question, safety has to be the first consideration in any of these capital projects, in any of these major dams across the province. I'm pleased to note that in the Brantford Expositor in March of this year there was a story that read, "Contrary to some reports, a Grand River Conservation Authority spokesman insists the aging Conestogo dam is not in immediate danger of collapse and the organization is gaining wide support in its bid to help pay for the upgrades."
I was relieved to hear from the story, from the conservation authority and from my ministry that there isn't a real urgent safety issue for the public in this case.
Because safety is our first consideration, the Ministry of Natural Resources has begun developing and is well on the way to developing, in partnership with the conservation authorities and others, dam safety guidelines for the first time in the province of Ontario which will allow us to make sure these structures are safe.
Mr Arnott: I'm afraid I didn't see the article to which the minister referred, but I look forward to looking at it when I can.
I want to thank the minister for his answer and for his continuing interest in this issue. Clearly this issue should be no more complex than providing the mechanism for conservation authorities to come forward and request support from the provincial government for infrastructure repair that is in the interests of protecting public safety, as the minister indicated.
I will ask the minister, then, does he support my recommendation that conservation authorities be provided with this channel to obtain funding through a class of applications that would be accepted from conservation authorities, and will he assist the Grand River Conservation Authority to fix the Conestogo dam?
Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm pleased to be able to report to the member that in February, in fact, there was a report that the Grand River Conservation Authority has been very responsible in this matter. I must say, in the relationship with the municipalities that are served, and there are many of those, included in their $17.3-million budget for this year was $600,000 for repairs on the dam this year and $600,000 for repairs next year, which in fact is what they estimate to be the cost of these repairs. I'd also note that $1.5 million of the funding for the conservation authority comes from the province.
I'm also told and I'm pleased to tell the member today that the Grand River Conservation Authority funding application has been received by SuperBuild and will be reviewed by them. I'm very pleased with the approach that the Grand River Conservation Authority and the member have taken to this critical problem.
IPPERWASH PROVINCIAL PARK
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Premier and it has to do with the shooting death at Ipperwash Provincial Park. I want to follow up on an answer that you gave to us very recently here in the Legislature, where you revealed something that, in our opinion, was never known before publicly. You said that on September 6, the day of the shooting, hours before the confrontation, you met with the OPP commissioner to discuss the situation in the park. That's what you said in the Legislature. That was a new revelation to us.
The question for you, Premier, is, why did you wait five years to reveal the fact that you had this meeting? Why did you keep that fact away from the public for so long?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think I may have indicated that we did meet with the OPP commissioner. I'm told we did not meet with the OPP commissioner, and I did not.
Mr Phillips: So you're indicating you did not meet with the OPP commissioner the day of the shooting. I'm advised that your own lawyer in recent court proceedings initially strongly denied to the court that you had held this meeting with the head of the OPP hours before the police moved to confront the First Nations. I'm informed that later she was forced to tell the court that she had to change her story, and that in fact you had met with the OPP commissioner. Can you tell us which of these two versions of the truth is reality?
Hon Mr Harris: I'd be pleased to check for you, but my recollection is I was not here the day of the actual shooting and any meeting -- I certainly would not have met with the OPP commissioner, to the best of my knowledge, at that time. I'm happy to check that and give you the information.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): My question is directed to the Minister of Transportation. This afternoon I reintroduced my private member's bill to ban riding in the back of pickup trucks. It's called the outside riders act. This act was previously introduced and died on the order paper.
As you know, riding in the back of a truck is extremely dangerous. If the driver of the vehicle is forced to make a sudden stop or accidentally drives off the road, passengers situated in the back can easily be thrown from the vehicle, causing serious injuries and even death. Therefore, I want to ensure that my bill is passed so that the dangerous activity of riding in the back of a truck is banned for good.
Many provinces have already taken this step, and recently the province of Alberta made riding in the back of pickup trucks illegal. I think it's time we did so as well. It's way overdue.
Minister, I'm asking you today if you will indeed support this bill and assist me to ensure its passage.
Hon Brad Clark (Minister of Transportation): The member raises a very serious issue, which was actually prompted by a tragic accident. My predecessors in the Ministry of Transportation made road safety a priority for this government. We're very pleased that today our roads are fourth-safest in North America and second-safest in Canada. But that doesn't go far enough.
Our government is striving to ensure that we head for the safest roads in Canada and in North America. I support the member's intention; I support the principles of the bill. I'm looking forward to debating it through the standing committee and working with the member to improve the bill to ensure that we can actually help improve safety on our roads.
Mr Galt: Thank you, Minister, for that support. I'm pleased to know that you're in favour of my private member's bill. As I mentioned earlier today, this bill was prompted by the tragic deaths of two young men, Jason Lawrence and Bartley Mackey, who were from my riding. They were thrown out of the back of a pickup truck that accidentally slid off the road. Both boys' parents and a sister are here in the gallery today and have requested that I reintroduce this bill to ban riding in the back of pickup trucks.
Following question period, they will be in room 154. Since both families have come a long way today, Minister, they want to explain to you what it's like to be parents who have needlessly lost a son. They also want to explain to you how important this bill is to them, and particularly to their late sons. I ask if you would be willing to take some time after question period to meet with them in my office to talk about this initiative.
Hon Mr Clark: I can't even begin to express how important this bill would be to these families. The realities and the tragedies that can occur from youth riding in the back of pickup trucks --
Hon Mr Clark: The opposition may not agree with us, but the reality is that it's a very unsafe situation and we have to do something to address it.
The member has brought in a private member's bill which, for me, really speaks loads to the essence of democracy in this House. I support the member's bringing in the bill and will support working with him, and I will meet with the families after question period today.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): My question is to the Premier. I want to raise with you a question of accountability and mismanagement. You probably know that you are two months late in announcing how much school boards will be getting this year. Colleges and universities don't know how much money they're getting.
I know that your business friends wouldn't put up with being kept in the dark for so long. When will you tell the students and parents of this province what to expect in education funding?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'm sorry, the question was, "When will they know?" Soon.
Mr Marchese: Premier, my point was that you're two months late. Boards are waiting. You said you were going to behave like a business. Holding boards of education and colleges and universities in the dark for two months is not behaving like a business. I think it's highly irresponsible. I believe your fiscal plan is in total disarray. I'm telling you those boards, colleges and universities can't plan. They can't plan for how many teachers and professors they can hire. They can't plan with respect to textbooks and how many they can buy. I have to tell you, Premier, accountability cannot be a one-way street.
I'm saying to you that boards, colleges and universities expect to be treated with respect. When will they know how much they're going to get in education funding? When will they know?
Hon Mr Harris: Certainly I acknowledge we are later this year than we would like to be. Our partners on whom we rely to deliver these services have had some preliminary information, certainly colleges and universities have, and I know school boards have received the overall direction. The individual details per board will be out very soon, as will colleges and universities.
It has been a particularly challenging year. I think you are well aware this has been a challenging budget year. Even with our tax cuts generating record new revenues for the province, health care continues to take an increasing proportion, 19% over the last two years. As you've heard, it's a very challenging budget year.
I appreciate that in opposition you have the luxury of not having to worry about these things. We on this side of the House do, and I assure you that both the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities and the minister responsible for school boards, elementary and secondary, are trying to achieve the maximum amount of dollars they possibly can to continue the quality education --
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. The Premier's time is up. New question.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. Minister, on behalf of Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals, we want to offer our sympathy to the families of those people who lost their lives in the fiery crash at Dryden this morning. Could you please stand in your place, provide details to the House about that crash, and offer your assurances to the people east of Dryden that they have no reason to be concerned?
Hon Dan Newman (Minister of Northern Development and Mines): That question falls under the responsibility of the Solicitor General.
Hon David Turnbull (Solicitor General): Tragically, there was a collision in the early hours of this morning between two tractor trailers on Highway 17, east of Dryden. We know that there may have been hazardous materials involved. The area has in fact been boomed so that the water that was used to extinguish the fire wouldn't leak into the creeks. Federal authorities are actively involved, as well as the OPP and Emergency Measures Ontario.
We have contacted the Canadian Nuclear Safety Council and Transport Canada, who are responsible for the transportation of hazardous materials. They will be on the scene shortly. As facts become available, we will keep you updated.
Mr Bartolucci: Minister, as you know, the material that at least one of the trucks was carrying was iridium, which is a radioactive material. Would you please inform the House as to whether or not Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of Northern Development and Mines staff were dispatched to the scene? The accident happened at 1:30. It was still burning at 8 o'clock this morning. Could you please tell me whether those staff members arrived on the accident scene?
Hon Mr Turnbull: The latest information I have is that there was still smouldering and there was difficulty in getting some of the staff directly to the scene because there were, tragically, deaths involved. As I've said, we will report when we have further information, but all authorities that are appropriate are involved in this, including the Canadian Nuclear Safety Council, Transport Canada and all of our various provincial ministries, under the auspices of Emergency Measures Ontario.
IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE POLICY
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke North): My question is directed to the Attorney General and it concerns the issue of newcomers, immigrants and refugees to this fine country, this province and the city of Toronto. My riding of Etobicoke North consists of nearly 80 different diverse communities. Up until recently, from 1996, our government has financed legal aid to help those people establish themselves in this country.
They came here with very little in terms of wearing of clothes. They want to help their families and their children to get on with becoming responsible, contributing citizens of this country.
The federal government is responsible for immigration in this country, and yet in the last couple of years, nearly more, we've had not one penny of money from the federal government regarding access to legal aid for newcomers and refugees to this country.
What strategy have you been using to try to get the feds to start paying up and to turn around this deplorable state of affairs for our newcomers to this country?
Hon David Young (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I thank the honourable member for raising what is a vitally important issue. Immigration is of great importance to this country and of great importance to this province. More than half of all new Canadians settle in Ontario.
But it is also very clear that immigration is a federal responsibility. It has been since this country was founded. The federal government controls how many new Canadians enter this great nation. They control the process they follow, including the appeal process. All appearances by new Canadians are in front of federal panels, and appeals are to the federal courts.
We, on behalf of immigrants and refugees, spoke up on behalf of new Canadians over the past two years. The Mike Harris government insisted that there be a dependable, reliable, sustainable source of funding, and I'm pleased to say that at the 11th hour, the federal Minister of Justice did come and deal with this issue.
Mr Hastings: We seem to be making a little bit of progress in this uphill battle. It would be nice to have our provincial Grit friends join us in seeing that Ontario gets its fair share on this issue.
How are you going to follow up on your strategy of getting the $20 million they owe us and end up with a permanent, multi-year funding arrangement so that our newcomers, our refugees, our immigrants to this country and to this province can get themselves settled, get their families and children settled and not have to be worried about this? Across the way, you don't hear a word of help from them.
Hon Mr Young: Let's be very clear: the province of Ontario has come forward and spoken out on behalf of immigrants and refugees. As a result of that, 20 million more dollars are there and available for legal aid funding in this country. The only other province that came to bat in this very important and essential cause was the province of British Columbia, which currently has an NDP government in place. I applaud our partners in British Columbia.
Let's be very clear: the $20 million is there. It is a pot of money, and over the next few weeks we intend to pressure the federal government to ensure that at least half of those funds find their way to Ontario, because of course half of new Canadians settle in Ontario.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Health. About eight months ago, I raised concerns with this government about health problems in a neighbourhood bounded by two old, abandoned dumps in the city of Hamilton, in my riding: the Rennie Street and Brampton Street sites. Your government has not acted in these eight months on their concerns.
In the last couple of months, I took a survey of health issues in the neighbourhood around the dump sites, with some shocking results. Of 338 respondents, 74 people reported frequent headaches, 62 reported suffering respiratory problems, 41 experienced dizziness and nausea, and 15 were suffering from cancer.
This is a small neighbourhood in an old part of the city. These dumps were shut down in 1962. These people are suffering. They have legitimate, serious health concerns that they are worried about. Will your government commit today to undertake a health study in the area affected by the abandoned landfill sites?
Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I thank the honourable member for the information and will take it under advisement. I can say that some of these issues are shared, in terms of responsibility, with the public health officer in the jurisdiction. If they have any information we should be aware of or that other ministries should be aware of, we certainly would take that under advisement. I can only say that generally at this time, and would be happy to work with the member on any information he has available.
Mr Agostino: Minister, I appreciate that you are going to take it under advisement. Appreciate that I raised my concern eight months ago with the Minister of the Environment, who didn't have the courtesy to respond for four months, and that I raised this in a letter in March to the new Minister of the Environment, who then passed it on to you. So I'm shocked that you don't have any idea what the issue is.
These dump sites were shut down in 1962. Studies have shown there are no records of what was put in these landfill sites. Recent studies on the liquids coming out of these sites show PCBs 30,000 times above the acceptable level and ammonia 20,000 times above the acceptable level. These are serious chemicals. They are connected to the health issues I raised earlier.
Let me tell you about a double standard. When concerns were raised in Stoney Creek, Minister, your government did the right thing and had a health study as part of the dump issue in Stoney Creek. Why is that not good enough for the people of Hamilton East if it's good enough for the people of Stoney Creek? Those health concerns are just as serious.
Will you commit today to a health study for the people on the east side of Hamilton who are affected by these two old, abandoned dump sites?
Hon Mr Clement: The way the honourable member asked the question, he realizes this is a complex issue. There are issues of ownership, issues of liability, issues of health -- which of course should be paramount -- issues of environmental concern, issues that are more local in nature and involve the medical officer of health in the jurisdiction. By asking the question the way he did, he acknowledges implicitly that it's a complex issue. It deserves a considered and coherent answer. I'm not going to reply off the cuff. I'm certainly willing to take it under advisement. If the honourable member has information he wishes to share with me, I'd certainly welcome that.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): I have a question for the Premier. Many Ontarians are concerned about gas prices. The feds collect a lot of taxes. Can you tell us how much the federal government spends on roads and highways with this money they collect?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Certainly rising gas prices, along with rising energy prices, are big concerns to Ontarians. Indeed, they're big concerns to all Canadians. To reply specifically to the question, my understanding is that the amount of gas tax collected by Ottawa returned for transportation is around 5% across the country and probably less in Ontario since their support for roads and transportation infrastructure in Ontario is minimal.
Mr Tascona: As you know, I was on the task force on gasoline prices. I and the member for Durham issued a report with respect to gasoline prices, asking the federal government to deal with a number of our recommendations. I understand they haven't dealt with them.
I understand that in addition to the taxes the federal government collects, it also has an interest in Petro-Canada. My question for the Premier is, can you tell us how well that investment is doing?
Hon Mr Harris: I appreciate the member's question and his concern about gas prices. Some have advocated a California type of electricity freeze solution, and we saw the disaster that created in supply. Clearly it has to be a national solution; I think we all understand this.
Our difficulty with gas taxes is that I'm not persuaded that any level of tax increase is responsible for price increase, because there's not an active, vibrant, competitive marketplace there; they're setting the price on supply and shortage of it. The problem then is, is there a government benefiting from a higher price? We know that the higher the price is, the more GST the federal government gets, and we think that's wrong.
Worse than that, they are an 18% owner of Petro-Canada. The profits from Petro-Canada are up 383%. This is $893 million. The federal share of this more than tripling of the profits is $160,000,740. So we can see the federal government seems to have a vested interest in higher gas prices, and we think that for a Liberal government that's wrong.
NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): My question is to the Premier. I, along with my leader, Howard Hampton, am calling on your help today to assist us with the fairly serious problem we have in northeastern Ontario and northwestern Ontario. As you know, l'Hôpital Notre-Dame de Hearst, the Porcupine Health Unit, as well as the district health council and my office have been working to try to establish dialysis services for the patients of Hearst. This spring we had five patients who needed to travel from Hearst to Kapuskasing, more than 100 kilometres, in order to get life-saving dialysis treatments in the community of Kapuskasing. We've asked that in the interim, as we look to expand dialysis services into Hearst, your ministry at the very least approve northern travel grants for those patients who have to travel from the community of Hearst to Kapuskasing. Unfortunately, your ministry is taking a bureaucratic look and saying the communities, according to the atlas, are 97 kilometres apart, but in reality the patients are having to travel more than 100 kilometres.
Will you as a fellow northerner help us fix this problem and ensure that these patients are paid the travel grant they deserve in order to get what is life-saving treatment?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think the Minister of Health can respond.
Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I thank the honourable member for the question. Indeed, I'm aware of the issue that he has raised in this House. He has been corresponding with myself and my predecessor about this very question.
As the honourable member knows, the northern health travel grant is there to help defray transportation costs for those residents in northern Ontario who must travel a long distance to see a medical specialist or to visit a designated health care facility. It's there for that purpose. It's a unique program. There's no program like it in southern Ontario. It is specifically there for northern Ontario residents to help defray some of those costs.
One of the issues, of course, is where do you draw the line? One of the lines that was drawn was 100 kilometres. The honourable member has a case where there is a discrepancy or a disagreement over whether the particular patient is 97 kilometres or over 100 kilometres. That is an issue that is obviously on the line and that we have to have continued discussions about, and I'm willing to take the honourable member's advice on it.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Supplementary?
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): Minister, I've sent you three letters from cancer patients who have to travel long distances in northwestern Ontario to access cancer treatment. One, Mr Rudy from Red Lake, has to travel five and a half hours into Winnipeg to access cancer treatment. The second letter is from his doctor. The other patient, from Dryden, has to travel four hours into Thunder Bay to access cancer treatment. The travel grant only gives them a small amount of their actual travel costs. We know that if they lived in southern Ontario, their treatment costs to fly them to Thunder Bay, to Sudbury, to Cleveland, to Detroit, would be fully covered.
Minister, how do you justify fully covering the travel costs of some patients while these patients have to travel very long distances at very great expense to access cancer treatment and you give them the most meagre of help? How do you justify that, and will you do something about it?
Hon Mr Clement: There are a couple of things embedded in that question. First of all, the travel grant is there, a unique program for northern Ontario residents on issues relating to any health care concerns that qualify for the program.
Then you've got a travel grant program run by Cancer Care Ontario which is open to all residents of Ontario, including northern Ontario residents, if they have to travel a certain distance. So it is open and accessible to every single resident in the province of Ontario.
If the honourable member then asks how I can justify the fact that persons in southern Ontario are being paid to go to Buffalo or paid to go to Detroit, the answer is that I'm trying to fix that. That's the answer that relates to Sunnybrook, which the honourable member has opposed every step of the way. Rampant hypocrisy is not something that is pretty, and that's why --
The Speaker: Order.
The Speaker: You have to withdraw that.
Hon Mr Clement: That's what I just did, but I would suggest to the honourable member that he be consistent when he criticizes the very thing that is solving the problem of people going to Buffalo, people going to Cleveland, people going to Detroit for their cancer care. Do not hold that up as an example in the very next question about how --
The Speaker: Order. The minister's time is up.
Mr Pat Hoy (Chatham-Kent Essex): My question today is about Highway 407. Minister of Transportation, you have repeatedly refused to make public any details of your sweetheart deal with Lavalin. Tolls have gone up as much as 57%. Licence renewals were denied to motorists for non-payment when in fact poor customer service and wrongful billing were at fault. You made a deal that gave your rich pals carte blanche with no protection for working families -- at least none that we know of, because you refuse to make the contract public.
I have here a bill for over $3,000 for sign damage sent to a motorist involved in an accident on the 407 during a blizzard. It was not the driver's fault. No charges were laid. For all I know, maybe Lavalin didn't clear the roads. Here is another example of working families being gouged yet again.
Tell me, minister, are there are any protections at all for taxpayers and working families in that contract?
Hon Brad Clark (Minister of Transportation): The 407 is undoubtedly one of the biggest successes the province of Ontario has ever seen. The tolls on the 407 are the lowest in North America when it comes to that type of highway: 11 cents per kilometre for the 407; the San Joaquin in California is 14.2 cents per kilometre; Foothills in California is 15 cents per kilometre; eastern California is 24 cents per kilometre. Quite clearly, our tolls are the lowest.
But I think the honourable member should listen to the Liberal Party on the other side. When they had their big Liberalfest, they had Donald Macdonald down, who stated "Highway 407 in the greater Toronto area is an example of good public and private sector partnership" -- a former finance minister.
Mr Hoy: I assume that the minister will be revealing the contract shortly -- today, as a matter of fact.
I have the accident report and I have the bills. Once again, your corporate friends are making a presumption of guilt. Their information, once again, is wrong. The accident occurred at Weston Road, yet the bill says "east of Highway 400." It says, "overhead sign damage," yet the motorist didn't hit an overhead sign. The icing on the cake is a $565 administration cost. Wow, for all the incorrect information, $565.
Is this what taxpayers and hard-working families have in store for them when you push ahead your privatization and your toll road agenda?
Hon Mr Clark: Accidents happen on highways and roadways and they're usually between insurance companies and the driver. Highway 407 is a success. But what I find puzzling about the Liberal Party is Dalton McGuinty's response to Donald Macdonald's statement about the success of Highway 407. Dalton McGuinty said that while these types of partnerships aren't new, the concept is new for his party. "There are a number of areas where the public-private sector should work together," and he cited hydro deregulation as an example.
I think the Liberal Party has to get their act together. Do they support public-private partnerships or not? Because they can't suck and blow.
ARTS AND CULTURAL FUNDING
Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre): My question is for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. I read in the paper this morning that the federal government is today planning to announce funding for arts and culture, including funding for the CBC and the book publishing and sound recording industries. We know that the arts are a major contributor to the economy and that they enrich our lives and our communities. I appreciate that the government has reinvested significantly in arts and culture in the province, but one of the concerns I've heard from the arts and cultural organizations is that they need to be able to plan ahead. Can you tell me what the government is doing to support arts and culture in Ontario and what your ministry is doing to ensure that arts and cultural organizations have stable funding, even in lean years?
Hon Tim Hudak (Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation): I thank the member from Scarborough Centre for her question. In fact, I appreciate her ongoing interest in the arts and cultural community and I want to commend her for her work, as the minister for Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, when she brought in some major new initiatives and outlined the vision the Mike Harris government upholds today.
As part of that vision, we've made investments into programs like the arts endowment fund, providing for long-term sustainability of the arts sector to encourage private sector donations and individual donors. In addition, $30 million went to the Ontario Media Development Corp to initiate and plan for development of the cultural industries, certainly world leaders in Ontario in many of these industries, and authors, musicians, visual artists and animation, and we're supporting that in the Mike Harris government; as well, $20 million to the cultural attractions fund to help bring major events to Ontario to attract more tourists and support our cultural community, a strong, long-term commitment to sustainability in arts and culture from the Mike Harris government.
NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT
Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): There's still extraordinary frustration related to the northern health travel grant. Petitions continue to come in. We will continue to fight the battle.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the northern health travel grant was introduced in 1987 in recognition of the fact that northern Ontario residents are often forced to receive treatment outside their own communities because of the lack of available services; and
"Whereas the Ontario government acknowledged that the costs associated with that travel should not be fully borne by those residents, and therefore that financial support should be provided by the Ontario government through the travel grant program; and
"Whereas travel, accommodation and other costs have escalated sharply since the program was first put in place, particularly in the area of air travel; and
"Whereas the Ontario government has provided funds so that southern Ontario patients needing care at the Northwestern Ontario Cancer Centre have all their expenses paid while receiving treatment in the north, which creates a double standard for health care delivery in the province; and
"Whereas northern Ontario residents should not receive a different level of health care nor be discriminated against because of their geographical locations;
"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Ontario Legislature to acknowledge the unfairness and inadequacy of the northern health travel grant program and commit to a review of the program with a goal of providing 100% funding of the travel costs for residents needing care outside their communities until such time as that care is available in our communities."
I have hundreds of people who have signed these petitions and I'm pleased once again to add my name to the petition.
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I have a petition that's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it reads as follows:
"Whereas the Conservative government under Mike Harris has cut funding for regulated child care spaces in Ontario by 15% between 1995 and 1998;
"Whereas the Conservative government under Mike Harris has yet to implement the recommendations of its own commissioned Early Years report by Dr Fraser Mustard to create a seamless, integrated early years education system;
"Whereas the Conservative government will receive $844 million over the next five years from the federal government for early years development projects;
"Whereas the Conservative government lags behind other provinces in announcing its plans for the $844 million in federal money for early years development; and
"Whereas other provinces are implementing innovative, affordable and accessible child care programs, such as Quebec's $5-a-day child care program ... ;
"Whereas the need for affordable, accessible, regulated child care and family resources" centres "continues to grow in Ontario;
"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"We demand the Harris government immediately match and earmark a significant portion of the $844 million from the federal government for expanded regulated child care spaces" and family resource programs."
This is signed by about 51 parents and staff from Centretown Parents co-op daycare in Ottawa. I agree with the petitioners and I affix my signature to it.
Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas on September 27, 1997, Cambridge was legally designated underserviced, having an insufficient number of family doctors for its citizens; and
"Whereas thousands of men, women and children in Cambridge are not cared for by their own family physician and this unfortunate situation exists in other Ontario communities;
"We, the undersigned, hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the Ontario government substantially increase the number of family doctors in Cambridge and other underserviced areas by:
"1. Permitting substantial numbers of qualified and highly competent foreign-trained family doctors the right to practise in Cambridge and other underserviced areas in Ontario; and
"2. Substantially increase the number of available student spaces in Ontario medical schools and require new graduates to serve in Cambridge and other underserviced areas in Ontario."
This petition is signed by over 300 good citizens of Cambridge and I affix my name thereto.
SERVICES FOR THE
Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas it has been determined that recent funding allocations to the developmental services sector in the communities of Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent, and Windsor-Essex have been determined to be grossly inadequate to meet critical and urgent needs;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the Ministry of Community and Social Services immediately review the funding allocations to the communities of Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent, and Windsor-Essex, and provide funding in keeping with the requests made by families or their agents."
I affix my signature to this petition.
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke North): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which reads in part:
"Whereas Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo were responsible for terrorizing entire communities in southern Ontario; and
"Whereas the Ontario government of the day made a deal with the devil with Karla Homolka, resulting in a sentence that does not truly make her pay for her crimes; and
"Whereas our communities have not yet fully recovered from the trauma and sadness caused by Karla Homolka; and
"Whereas Karla Homolka believes that she should be entitled to passes to leave prison with an escort; and
"Whereas the people of Ontario believe that criminals should be forced to serve sentences that reflect the seriousness of their crimes;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the government of Ontario will:
"Do everything within its power to ensure that Karla Homolka serves her full sentence;
"Continue to reform parole and make it more difficult for serious offenders to return to our streets;
"Fight" Ottawa's "plan to release up to 1,600 more convicted criminals on to Ontario streets; and
"Ensure that the Ontario government's sex offender registry is functioning as quickly as possible."
I affix my signature to this petition.
Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the North Hastings community of Bancroft and the surrounding area is a predominantly rural geographic area that faces many of the same challenges that northern communities contend with, whereby the role of livestock plays a significant part in that economy; and
"Whereas the community is experiencing a crisis due to the fact that their veterinarian for large animals has indicated he can no longer provide services to the Bancroft area, and there are no immediate alternatives for animal care within their geographic area; and
"Whereas the only known incentive program for veterinarians is funded through the Ministry of" Northern Development and Mines;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to urge the Ministry of" Northern Development and Mines "and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to work together to find a solution to this immediate crisis. We call on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to introduce measures that would create incentives for veterinarians to practise within the described northern and rural communities in order to abate this emergency situation and to prevent similar crises in the future."
I will affix my signature to this petition.
MANDATORY INFLUENZA VACCINATION
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): I have a petition to the Legislature and it reads as follows:
"To the Parliament of Ontario:
"Whereas the government proposes through legislation to enforce mandatory influenza vaccine and amantadine administration for health care workers;
"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
"To terminate the proposal for legislation which would force health care workers to receive mandatory flu vaccines or amantadine administration. This proposal, which does not allow individuals to refuse invasive and possibly dangerous medical procedures, categorically violates the basic freedoms and rights guaranteed by our Constitution. As members of a free society, we should not be denied the right to protect our health. In addition, we should not be at risk of losing gainful employment if we choose not to comply. We want the right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated."
It's signed by in excess of 736 signatures.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): I have a petition here which is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and was given to me by Janet Collins, one of our community activists.
It states as follows:
"A citizens' petition to Premier Michael Harris:
"Whereas the cuts imposed on Ontario by Mike Harris and his cabinet target the poorest members of our province and will cause enormous harm to both the working poor and recipients of social assistance; and
"Whereas the cuts in areas of housing, social services like counselling, community centres and drop-ins, health care, education and municipal funding do not save money in the long run and will lead to high social costs and waste of potential from citizens of Ontario; and
"Whereas abandoning the moral and social responsibility of government will serve to put enormous pressure on cash-strapped municipalities, increase local taxes and will destroy the social fabric in Ontario,
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to pressure the Premier and his cabinet to restore funding that has been cut to the citizens of Ontario and protect the interests of all of its citizens, regardless of economic status."
I totally agree with this petition and I affix my signature to it as well.
HORSE RIDING SAFETY
Mrs Julia Munro (York North): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas an increasing number of Ontarians are turning to horseback riding as a recreational activity; and
"Whereas many of these inexperienced riders are children; and
"Whereas currently there are no minimum safety standards regulating riding establishments; and
"Whereas coroners' inquests into horse riding fatalities from as long ago as 1977 have called for the mandatory use of riding helmets and boots; and
"Whereas an unacceptable number of preventable injuries and fatalities have occurred while horseback riding;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows: to pass into law the private member's bill introduced by Tina Molinari, MPP for Thornhill, entitled the Horse Riding Safety Act, 2001, in order to increase the safety of horse riders under the age of 18 by requiring the operators of riding establishments to ensure that proper safety equipment is used, and to amend the Highway Traffic Act and make it an offence for any rider under the age of 18 to ride a horse on a highway without the proper safety equipment."
I add my signature to this.
Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has undertaken a massive reform of the way social service programs are managed and delivered in this province; and
"Whereas the government's language, actions and policies over the last six years have reinforced the worst kind of stereotypes about people on social assistance without offering Ontarians any proof that the policies they've put in place are meeting the needs of those whose circumstances have forced them to seek temporary assistance from Ontario's social safety net; and
"Whereas this government when challenged on how well their Ontario Works programs are working, points to welfare caseload numbers as their one and only measurement of success or failure; and
"Whereas a social audit would determine how this government's policies are impacting on low-income children and families and allow for enhancements to improve the well-being, employability and economic security of individuals and families in need;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to demand that the government of Ontario conduct a social audit of its Ontario Works program."
This is a campaign across the province. People from London, Ontario, have sent this in.
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I have a petition addressed to Legislative Assembly of Ontario from the good people of Ottawa. It reads as follows:
"Whereas the Conservative government under Mike Harris has cut funding for regulated child care spaces in Ontario by 15% between 1995 and 1998;
"Whereas the Conservative government under Mike Harris has yet to implement the recommendations of its own commission's Early Years report by Dr Fraser Mustard to create a seamless, integrated early years education system;
"Whereas the Conservative government will receive $844 million over the next five years from the federal government for early years development projects;
"Whereas the Conservative government lags behind other provinces in announcing its plans for the $844 million in federal money for early years development;
"Whereas other provinces are implementing innovative, affordable and accessible child care programs, such as Quebec's $5-a-day child care program...;
"Whereas the need for affordable, accessible, regulated child care and family resource centres continues to grow in Ontario,
"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"We demand the Harris government immediately match and earmark a significant portion of the $844 million from the federal government for expanded regulated child care spaces."
I agree with the petitioners and I have affixed my signature to this.
Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that reads as follows:
"Whereas over 500,000 people in Ontario have diabetes; and
"Whereas to the expense of treating diabetes, many people cannot afford the ongoing expense of treating diabetes and if left untreated or improperly managed, diabetes can lead to blindness, vascular disease, kidney disease, neuropathy and other problems; and
"Whereas today, more than ever before, people with diabetes can expect to live active, independent and vital lives if they make a lifelong commitment to careful management of the disease; and
"Whereas by providing the resources to successfully manage this disease, the government can ensure more efficient health care for people with diabetes at a reduced cost to the health care system;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That all diabetic supplies as prescribed by an endocrinologist be covered under the Ontario health insurance plan."
I'm pleased to affix my signature to this petition.
COMPETITIVE ELECTRICITY MARKET
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): This is the NDP opposition day, and our motion is as follows:
Be it resolved that this House declares unequivocally that the government should abandon electricity deregulation and privatization in Ontario; and that it should set up a new system of accountable public power. The Energy Competition Act should be repealed and replaced with a Public Power Act and Ontario Power Generation's sale of 65% of its generation capacity must be permanently halted. The Ontario Energy Board should be given the power to set electricity rates and approve or veto major generation projects by the major power provider. There should also be a legislative requirement that affordable energy conservation initiatives be given priority over new generation projects; and that when new generation is built, that renewable green power be given priority.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Ted Arnott): Mr Hampton has moved that this House declares unequivocally that the government should abandon electricity deregulation and privatization in Ontario --
The Acting Speaker: Dispense. I recognize the member for Kenora-Rainy River.
Mr Hampton: I cannot tell the people of Ontario how urgent this issue is because, as we've been finding out here in the Legislature every day now, the government's strategy for energy deregulation and electricity privatization is growing beyond what anyone in this province might have expected.
Let me say clearly what the NDP position is. We believe that privatization and deregulation of Ontario's electricity system must be cancelled now. This is a dirty deal cooked up by the Conservative Party to please their corporate friends. It is not good for the environment; it is not good for Ontario consumers; it is not good for Ontario industry. What this is all about is essentially selling off Ontario's electricity supply, which has provided dependable, predictable electrical power at reliable prices, selling that off to international energy corporations who will then want to take power generated in Ontario and sell it into the American market, where they can get a much higher price and make much higher profits. At the end of the day, Ontario consumers and Ontario industries will either have to pay the much higher American prices or watch our electricity being exported. At the end of it all, it will cost Ontarians a great deal of money.
We've heard the government say, "Oh, Ontario has an adequate supply of power." But as we've learned from the declarations of US President George Bush and US Vice-President Cheney, the issue of the adequacy of Ontario's supply isn't the question. The question is, what is the demand for power in the United States? They admit that there is a 43% increase in demand, that there is a shortage of supply. They have indicated that the United States would have to build another electrical generating station a week for the next 20 years to meet their demand. So it's very clear that what this government proposes to do -- and I might add, the Liberals are in favour of it too -- they are prepared to put an end to an Ontario electricity strategy and to put Ontario into a continental electricity strategy, or certainly an American electricity strategy. At the end of the day, Ontarians will either have to pay more for our own power or we'll have to sit by and watch our electricity be exported to the United States.
The price of power in a place like New York City is 123% higher than it is here. In Boston, it's 80% higher; in Detroit, it's 50% higher; in Chicago, it's 60% higher. Then when you forecast in the increasing demand in the United States, as given to us by US President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, it's very clear that the demand in the United States is going to drive prices even higher.
They're desperately trying to not tell people this: this government is simply going to open up and sell off our electricity generation capacity and basically fold us into that American market, but they don't want people to know. We in the NDP insist that people must know, that people across Ontario must know that this is the real agenda.
When we ask the Premier and the Minister of Energy, "What are you going to do to ensure that Ontarians aren't stuck with paying much higher prices?" they say, "Oh well, we are going to guarantee that Ontario's interests are looked after first." There is absolutely nothing in the legislation that can do that. Then they say, "The independent market operator will do that." Once the stations are sold off, the independent market operator will not be able to do that. Electricity is a commodity under the trade deals that Canada has signed. If those private corporations want to sell the power in Chicago, Detroit, Boston or New York, there is not a damn thing, under the trade deals we have signed, that the Ontario government or the independent market operator can do. There is nothing they can do. If they do try to do something, we will find ourselves before the WTO or a NAFTA panel faster than you can snap your fingers. This is the sellout of Ontario's electricity. This government, while trying to deny it, is having to make up a different story every day.
We need to look at what has happened in other jurisdictions when they have simply deregulated, sold off their generating capacity to international corporations. That is exactly what's happened in California. Oh yes, after California did it -- after they deregulated and privatized all of their electricity generation capacity and they saw that prices were going to go out of sight -- they tried to step in and set a rate cap and insist that the private operators deliver their power to California. That's exactly what Mr Harris says they would do here and what Mr Wilson says they would do. We've now seen what a disaster that was in California.
Once you have sold off the generating capacity, you can try whatever means you want -- those private energy corporations are not in the business of charity. They frankly will not care if individual Ontarians or Ontario industries receive access to power. They will be interested in one thing and one thing only: how much they can make in terms of money and profit. If they can make more money exporting the power to the United States, they will do it.
The Minister of Energy, when he was confronted with this, said, "There is not the transmission capacity. We don't have the transmission lines to move all of Ontario's power to the United States." So he says, "It won't happen." Well, Vice-President Cheney was here and said, "Don't worry. The Americans are prepared to build the transmission lines." They're prepared to build the transmission lines to get all of our power. So another argument by the Minister of Energy and the Premier shot down. There is no capacity to guarantee that Ontario interests have to be looked after first once you privatize. Secondly, this business that the transmission lines don't exist: the American have said they will build those transmission lines -- like that. They want our power.
All someone needs to do is look at what has happened in Alberta. Alberta, again, followed the model of California. They privatized. The city of Edmonton did not want to get into the grid. They forced everybody into the privatized and deregulated grid and we have seen the price of power increase in Alberta by two and three times. We now see industries in Alberta that cannot operate their manufacturing processes during the day because the cost of power is too high. So people have to schedule their work, and they schedule the manufacturing production between about 11 o'clock at night and 6 o'clock in the morning, which is the only time that they can now afford to buy power. That is already starting to happen here in Ontario.
Talk to anyone in the pulp and paper industry. The pulp and paper industry is very intensive in terms of its use of electricity to produce pulp and paper. I had the manager of the mill in my own hometown, Fort Frances, come in to me and say, "We now know that we face a 30% increase in the cost of our electrical power, and because we use so much electricity in the production of pulp and paper, it means that our costs of production are going to go out of sight." He literally said to me, "We have to realistically look at shutting down our paper mill during the months of December, January and February, because we would not be able to afford the cost of electricity."
The mill manager in Kenora, which is shut down right now and will be shut down for at least another week, when he was interviewed by the media said very clearly that part of the reason they are shut down is because of the increasing cost of electricity. As this government ramps up the system and prepares to sell it off and privatize, they are already increasing the prices. So the increase that was announced about three and a half weeks ago, an 8% increase in electricity bills, by the government, will add $3.7 million a year to the cost line of that mill. The manager was very clear. He said, "If there are further increases in the cost of electricity, we may be looking at shutting down. We simply will not be able to continue to afford this high-cost electricity in terms of manufacturing paper." That's 850 jobs -- like that; 850 jobs in one community. Why? Because this government refuses to acknowledge that it has a responsibility to Ontario citizens and to Ontario industry, and it thinks that it should be implementing George Bush's agenda for the United States.
I just want to say a few words about the alternative. This government tried to sell this out there to the public in Ontario by saying, "This deregulation is actually going to lead to lower costs." That's what they said. I can give you the quotations of the Minister of Energy, Jim Wilson, going back to 1998, and it's quite incredible that he said this and now he's trying to deny it.
Jim Wilson, October 29, 1998: "Anywhere competition has been introduced in this world, savings have been between 8% and 40%. Nowhere have prices gone up." I wish he'd done some research on California and Alberta before he made that statement. Then he said on October 27, 1998, "Certainly all that we're doing in terms of energy reform in this province, electricity reform, is to bring lower rates to consumers. The plan that the Minister of Finance and the group of experts put forward and presented to you yesterday indicates that prices will remain stable and indeed go down over the next few years as competition is introduced." Then on June 17, 1998, he said, "But we're also following many other jurisdictions in the world -- Australia, New Zealand, Britain, California.... We've seen over the last decade, with the introduction of competition in the natural gas sector ... that not only did it bring greater consumer choice but prices have gone down."
I invite the Minister of Energy to go out there and make those arguments today, where people have seen 70% increases in their natural gas bill, where people in California have seen the price of electricity triple and then they're facing a further 70% increase this year, but at the same time there are energy brownouts and blackouts, and in Alberta they've seen the cost of energy triple by three times.
Nothing the government says adds up. When they talk about, "Oh, this is going to open the market to green energy," I think we heard it from the Premier yesterday. There was no mention of green energy, of solar power. Today he spoke disparagingly of wind power. The Premier, like George Bush and Dick Cheney, says more nuclear, more coal, more oil, more natural gas.
This is not an energy policy, an electricity policy, that is going to lead to energy conservation. It is not going to lead to further green energy initiatives like solar power or wind power or small-scale hydroelectricity. This is all about big-scale nuclear, big-scale coal, big-scale natural gas. No matter which of those you look at, the price is going to go up. Then, when you factor in the American demand and the Americans are paying a higher price already, the prices are going to increase over and over and over again.
We put this measure forward because we want people in Ontario to know that when the government first put it forward, the government said we should follow California, even though California has been a disaster. The government said we should follow Alberta, even though Alberta's been a disaster. Then they said we should follow what's happened in natural gas, even though natural gas prices have gone through the roof. Now the Premier is saying, and he said it here very clearly yesterday, that we should simply consider ourselves now part of the American market, that we should forget about providing power at cost to Ontario consumers and Ontario industry, that we should simply sell off the generating base and then accept whatever happens in the American market in terms of however much they're prepared to bid up the price.
I think to anyone who reflects on it, if somebody is going to come into Ontario and build or buy a thermal plant or lease a nuclear plant or buy up some of the hydroelectric plants, that private corporation is not going to engage in charity. They will want to sell the power for the best price they can get, the highest price they can get. If they can get the highest price in Chicago, they'll sell it there, if they can get the highest price in New York, they will sell it there, and Ontario consumers will either have to pay that price or watch our own electricity being exported while we freeze in the dark.
Similarly, in terms of new supply, if someone comes into Ontario and wants to build a new nuclear station -- as the Premier was suggesting, as he was advocating here, as George Bush was advocating -- if they want to come into Ontario and build a new natural-gas-fed generating station, they are going to want to sell the power at the highest price they can get. If that means sending it to New York or Chicago or Detroit or Boston, that's what they will do, and Vice-President Cheney and President Bush have said they are more than prepared to build the transmission lines so that they can do that.
So I'm asking the people of Ontario to clearly understand that this is not about promoting Ontario's interest. This is not about looking after Ontario consumers. This is not about looking after Ontario industry. This is all about selling out, selling something that Ontario citizens have helped to build and should be proud of: a public power system that has given us a dependable, predictable supply of power at reasonable prices.
In terms of continuing to have a public system of power, which we New Democrats advocate, that is the only way to ensure that energy conservation is taken seriously. By having a public power system we can mandate that there be an energy conservation strategy in Ontario. We can mandate that a certain percentage of the new supply that comes on line must be green, renewable energy -- must be solar, must be wind or must be small-scale hydroelectricity.
We want to be very clear to the citizens of Ontario what the choices are. They can either have private power, where we sell off our generating capacity to international corporations, which is what the Conservatives and the Liberals both advocate, or we can continue to have a public power system, where the needs of Ontario citizens and the needs of Ontario industry are looked after, which is what New Democrats advocate.
Since I note that we have only about 17 minutes left, and I want to share this time with my colleague for Toronto-Danforth and my colleague for Nickel Belt, I will stop my remarks at this point and ask that I be allowed to share them with my colleagues.
The Acting Speaker: You may share your time.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): I rise today to speak on behalf of my colleagues in the official opposition to the resolution standing in the name of the honourable the member for Kenora-Rainy River. I want to do so in my capacity, not just as the Liberal energy critic but, dare I say it -- and I don't mean to be boastful, but this is one place I do want to invoke this -- I want, in a real way today, to offer these remarks as the senior member of this Legislature. I've been here longer than any of you. I've been around this debate for over 25 years. I think that's the context in which I want my remarks to be understood.
Against that backdrop I was thinking, as I prepared these remarks, of a famous speech made by Edmund Burke to the electors of Bristol 225 years ago, where he talked about the duty of a parliamentary representative. I want to cite a couple of lines from Mr Burke's famous speech. He talked about the obligations and duties of parliamentary representatives: "It is" the duty of the member of Parliament "to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to" those of his constituents, "and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer" the public interest "to his own" personal or private interest. Here's the key point: "But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience," says Edmund Burke, the true member of Parliament "ought not to sacrifice" to anyone. "These," he says, the member of Parliament "does not derive" from his constituents' "pleasure ... nor from ... the Constitution." But he says, "They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative," said Burke, "owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices" that judgement "to your opinion." That's going to be part of the text from which I want to speak.
Our friend from Kenora rightly brings to this chamber today a matter of urgent and pressing necessity. I will say to him and to his colleagues that I and my colleagues share, to a real degree, some of his analysis of the problem. And, make no mistake, there is a real problem for this Legislature, this government and this province. However, I cannot accept his remedy, and more of that later.
I have this afternoon roughly 32 or 33 minutes, and I want to cover some ground. Members of this Legislature, I hope, understand something about electricity in this province. I'm not going to talk about the great and storied history of Ontario Hydro. You can go to our library down the hall. There are books and stacks of reports -- over a century of good intentions and screw-ups and foul-ups and governments of all stripes not doing what they said they were going to do in the public interest.
I say this as someone who has more than his share of sins for which atonement is due. Some of you new members have more latitude, less difficulty, than some of us old geezers. It is because of my experience, both in government and in the Legislature, that I feel so strongly about the issue that is before us and, quite frankly, the issue that we are ignoring.
In a bipartisan and ecumenical way, I have been noticing and quite frankly applaud the efforts by the member for Kenora in recent days to try to heighten the legislative and public awareness about this issue. It is not going to go away.
Electricity cuts to the core of the economic and social well-being of this province. I live in eastern Ontario. Three or four years ago, my friend Guzzo and others, we had an ice storm that took electricity away from us for the better part of 10 or 12 days in the middle of the Canadian winter. If you ever needed to understand the salience and the uniqueness of electricity, let me tell you, the ice storm of 1998 was an experience to drive that point home.
This electricity is a commodity that we cannot live without and we cannot store. We must have it and we cannot store it. It's not just about the economy. It's about what goes on at the Pembroke hospital, at Algonquin College, at Lyn McLeod's pulp mill, down on the farm in Lambton county. Absolutely essential, and we cannot store it. And today we will need probably in excess of 20,000 or 22,000 megawatts to keep the lights on across the homes, schools, hospitals, barns and pulp mills of this province.
I agree with Mr Hampton that there are problems. It was only five years ago that this government asked the panel headed by the former Minister of Finance for Canada, Donald S. Macdonald, ably supported by Darcy McKeough, Jan Carr, John Grant and Professor Waverman from the University of Toronto, to look at this electricity issue and to recommend change to public policy.
Earlier today, the Minister of Highways was talking about Donald Macdonald's commentary on Highway 407. That's interesting, I am sure. But to me today and to us as a community it is far more important that we understand what Macdonald recommended. The so-called Macdonald committee, the advisory committee, recommending policy change to the Ontario government with respect to electricity, what did they recommend five years ago in the spring of 1996? They would agree with my friend from Kenora that there is a problem. There is a real problem. It was a problem building over decades. Time doesn't permit me to dissect all of that difficulty. Let me say, though, in a very bipartisan way, members on all sides of this House were in governments over decades; we all tried and we all failed to some real degree. It was not, the old hydro, public enterprise without benefit, let me say quite clearly.
But by the mid-1990s, what did we have? We had a generation facility that was in deep trouble. Sixty per cent of our generating capacity was in the nuclear power division and we were told by outside experts and by our own national regulator there were very severe and systemic problems. The national atomic regulator got very close, in the time when we were in government and later when the NDP was in government, to shutting down some of these big flagship generators. We didn't know about it. We didn't know about it in the Legislature, we didn't know about it in government, and it didn't matter whether the Premier was Liberal, Tory or New Democrat, apparently.
Let me say at this point that Ontario Hydro does represent a very important part of our economy. I want to be very clear: I and my Liberal colleagues believe that there is an enormous public interest in this electricity question, an absolutely critical public interest that must be recognized, that cannot be trivialized and that cannot be sold off to special interests who have always, always hovered around this question. Why? This electricity business in Ontario today is an annual business worth $10 billion. You betcha, there are big profits to be made. There are important assets to be looked at.
I want to say at the outset that my colleagues believe that there must be public policy that recognizes and protects the public interest in electricity. That's why we believe, for example, that an appropriate policy for the future in this province is a competitive marketplace for the generation of electricity in which there are significant public generators, but yes, there will be some private generators. There will hopefully be some large and middle-sized generators, and there will be some small generators, and they will be regionally distributed around this very large province, from Ottawa to Atikokan, from Pembroke to Petrolia.
It was never intended, I say to the House, that Ontario Hydro become a monopoly generator. Hydro was intended as a monopoly transmitter, but it was never written anywhere that Hydro was to be a monopoly generator. Donald Macdonald and his colleagues, in their core recommendation to the Harris government five years ago, said the status quo is not an option. What you need to do more than anything else, the core of good public policy, preserving and protecting the public interest, is to create a competitive marketplace for the generation of electricity. Macdonald specifically and repeatedly recommended in this report that the generating assets of Ontario Hydro be broken up into several publicly owned but competing public generators.
That basic recommendation was not accepted by the Harris government, and therein lies the crux of a serious and ever-worsening problem. The government did not accept the core recommendation, and if you don't believe me, just read Minister Wilson's white paper, responding as it did to the Macdonald report in November 1997. The white paper did not accept the core recommendation that almost immediately the generating assets of the public monopoly that was Ontario Hydro be broken up into several publicly owned but competing companies.
The issue here, if we're going to get out of a tight corner, and it is a tight corner getting tighter all the time -- and I want to say to the House, I want to say to my constituents and I want to say to the broader public: this is an issue where there are no easy answers. I share the concern of my friends, I think, everywhere in this House, to hear the American vice-president come to this city 36 hours ago and say, "It's all about supply. Conservation is really a private virtue and doesn't factor into good public policy."
I think that's outrageous and obscene. Conservation and demand management do have a more important role to play in the electricity policy of this province and other jurisdictions. If we don't recognize that, then I'm going to tell you that immorality seems to be the principle driver of our policy. If we can look at the Second and Third Worlds and say it's all about supply and we will go anyplace, into the Arctic and God knows wherever else, into the Sudan, and we will rape the resources to keep the air conditioner on in Houston or in Toronto, boy, that's not a policy that I want to meet my maker defending.
But having said that, there are no easy answers. We need, in this industrialized province, at least 25,000 megawatts. Our summer and winter peaks take us up to about 23,000 or 24,000 megawatts, and we do have some reserve. In that sense, I agree with Minister Wilson. We are not yet California or Alberta. But we do not have a great deal of time. We are growing in this province, happily. That means that the demand for electricity is also rising. The annual rate of electricity growth in Ontario in the last 10 years is something in the order of 1.4% or 1.5% per year. Add that up and you need more capacity. You can get that with new supply and you can get that with some demand management.
But I say to my friend from Kenora, which creek are you going to dam? Which natural gas plant are you going to build? I say it to myself. I've been around this debate. There aren't any easy choices. Every choice will have a consequence.
Natural gas today is three times more expensive than it was 18 months ago. Do you know why? In part -- not the only reason -- 90% of all new or planned electricity generation in North America plans to use natural gas as a feedstock. That more than anything else is driving the price of that commodity skyward. Do you think the New Democratic Premiers of Saskatchewan and British Columbia, at least until next week, or the Conservative Premier of Nova Scotia, are interested in not selling their natural gas to generators, whether they're domestic or international?
But back to what the government has not done. Yes, there's a problem. This Macdonald committee made it plain that if we were going to move forward, we were going to have to accept a rigorously regulated but competitive marketplace for the generation of electricity. I repeat: a rigorously regulated marketplace, wherein there would be several generators, many of them public, some of them private, and some of them may be local and municipal.
I agree with Macdonald. I don't think there's a way forward unless and until we get a reasonably competitive marketplace for the generation, because otherwise we will never know what the true options are, what the true costs are. We have left for successive generations at least $20 billion of so-called stranded debt. Do you know what? According to the Provincial Auditor and Energy Probe, in the first year of the new Hydro order, I'm sorry to say, under Premier Harris and Minister Wilson, we have apparently added another $1 billion to that indebtedness. That's not me talking; that's Energy Probe and the Provincial Auditor.
The minister is going to say, "Well, no, that's not quite true." My question to him is, if it is or isn't, how would we know? We know less about Hydro today than we knew two or three years ago. We have removed those successor companies from any kind of freedom of information. We know less about Hydro today than we did three years ago. Some of the commercial privacy I understand. But the story over the decades with this file is you always tell the cabinet, you always tell the Legislature years after the sin is committed what the sin was and what the residual price has been.
I repeat: the Harris government, to its credit, appointed a blue ribbon panel of smart people to give it advice about a serious problem. The core and the most fundamental recommendation these people made was that there should be a competitive marketplace for the generation of electricity. That did not happen. And it's worse, because the Macdonald commission also suggested -- and I can read the part of the report, it's page 126. They say specifically, quoting from the Macdonald report, "Ontario Hydro Retail should not pursue opportunities to expand its electricity distribution business into new territory." That was a clear recommendation.
What has Ontario Hydro Retail done under the noses of this government, in the face of this Legislature, I say to my friends everywhere? They are out remonopolizing the retail sector. They are paying 35% premiums to buy things like Brampton Hydro, Brockville Hydro, Ailsa Craig Hydro, Thorold Hydro. They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars they don't have, paying premium prices to buy utilities they don't need, and in the face of a recommendation specifically not to do it. And we sit here naked and silent and let it happen. I'm asked now --
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre): Relax.
Mr Conway: I am not relaxed because I can't believe this is happening. You see, we are asked to support a recommendation to say, "Let's keep doing it." I, for one, have had enough. I can't believe that responsible members of the Legislature want to endorse this. I'm not making this up.
We've got another report by a very able group of people, again to the credit of the government, the Market Design Committee, headed by Ron Daniels, the dean of the faculty of law at the University of Toronto. They were asked to give some advice. I don't have time to read it. You should read from their second report, June 1998, what they have to say about market power. Can you imagine a competitive marketplace with one elephant having 80% to 90% of the market capacity? Ron Daniels and the Market Design Committee said that is a mistake and all of their mitigation measures are entirely second-best.
They actually wrote a letter, talking about some of the behaviour of the government, how one of the hydro companies was out hiring lobbyists to basically undercut and change policy that the Market Design Committee had recommended after a lot of hearing. That's exactly what I would expect. These are very strong, well-resourced companies. Ontario PowerGen: Ron Osborne came to a committee. When the government said, "We're about competition and we're not about monopoly, public or private," what did Ron Osborne say to the committee? "In this business," he said, "it's eat or be eaten and we intend to grow." And they are growing.
The question the Legislature has to deal with is, are you for competition?
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Yes.
Mr Conway: If you are, you simply have to stand up as members of this government particularly and stop the madness that's occurring.
I am simply citing the expert testimony and I'm not here, like some people in this debate, to suggest easy answers. Prices are going up. I said that two years ago, when Jim Wilson and others said prices are coming down. You could not have listened to the testimony and come to any other conclusion than prices are likely to go up before they come down. I want them to come down, I do not want to see high prices. But the member for Kenora is absolutely right: we were told, "Do this and prices are going down." Do you know that bulk power rate increase of 8%? For retail customers, that's going to mean at least 12% this summer, and people I respect tell me that if the market opens next May, expect electricity prices to increase by at least another 20%.
The other problem from the government's point of view is that government is sitting in this situation in a complete conflict of interest. Let me use a hockey analogy. We've got a situation today where the Ontario government, the only shareholder basically in the two successor companies -- the power generation company, PowerGen, and the hydro retail company, Hydro One. We are the majority shareholders in those companies, the only shareholders for all intents and purposes, so we own those companies. We wrote the rules for the game in which they're now engaged. We hired the referee. We own the arena, and we have a vested financial interest in the outcome of the game.
Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa West-Nepean): Sounds like Chrétien.
Mr Conway: It may be, but I'm here, and we've got a problem, all of us. I give the government some credit: they started out as any government would have had to have done five years ago in saying, "We are at the end of a road. We cannot carry on without some change." But let me tell you, we are headed for a cliff, and I don't personally think, at the rate we're going, the government has any hope of keeping its date of market opening next May.
The government's conflict of interest here is very troubling, and I'll be quite honest, I would say this I guess of any government, not necessarily the incumbent government faced with this situation. That's why I feel so strongly, as do my colleagues, that there has to be some kind of legislative oversight. This is a place, in my view, where for the next few years there should be a standing or a select committee to hound-dog this policy, to make sure that what is being promised is in fact being delivered; to the extent that it's not, there are good and valid reasons for change or amendment.
There was an article in the ROB magazine the other day, Andrew Nikiforuk talking about the Alberta system. We're not Alberta and we're not California. We've got some surplus capacity. I personally believe we will be all right in terms of supply for a few years to come. But nobody is coming into this market really, despite what the minister is saying, because the rules -- the thing has been gained in favour of the government companies.
The best example of that is Hydro One. This Legislature, when it passed the Electricity Act of 1998, gained the rules in favour of Hydro One, and they are out taking those advantages at full sale. They have, over the last year and a half, bought up nearly 90 utilities, some small and some large, like Brampton Hydro. It's mind-boggling that we're letting them do this, because this was nobody's idea of good policy. It was clearly recommended against by Macdonald. As somebody who has been around this debate for, as I say, 25 years, there's lots of talk and there has been talk, and sensible talk, about a restructuring in the distribution network. We don't need 335 distributors. Nobody but nobody thought we would see Hydro One going out and buying up Brampton Hydro.
Let me make another quick reference. The minister made a statement here last week about all is well. Maclean's magazine, in a first-rate article by Kimberly Noble, Power Crunch: California, Alberta and Soon Ontario -- I don't have time to read it all but let me tell you, you should go to Maclean's magazine, April 23, 2001. As far as I can tell, it's a very good article. It involves one of my constituents, Mike Dupuis up at Galleta. I've got to tell you, particularly for pro-small-business Conservatives to read this would, I hope, make your blood boil, because what is being advertised is not what is happening, and ever has it been thus.
This is why I do not accept the resolution standing in the name of the member from Kenora. I don't believe any government is going to be able to manage a state monopoly charged with all of the functions that attach to the electricity business in a modern society. To me, the resolution before us today goes back to the problem -- is not really the solution -- though I accept some of the criticism that the member has made.
I've been there. I know what I was like as a busy cabinet minister and what was not happening at Hydro that probably should have been happening. My colleague Mrs McLeod actually served as a Minister of Energy in our government. But it's been the story of cabinet-legislative-Hydro relationships since almost the beginning.
Let me come back to summarize where I think we should go. I start with the comment -- again, on behalf of Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal caucus -- electricity is a vital commodity that we absolutely have to have and that we cannot store. People who talk about electricity as a commodity like the rest are fools, and the test for that is simply this: what do you do in the middle of a Canadian winter if you don't have it? I can live without lumber, I can live without a lot of things, but we cannot live without electricity, and we can't store it. We absolutely have to have it, and that gives that commodity a remarkable political power. Nonetheless, that power does not need to justify some of the excesses that have got us into this problem.
There are vital public interests that the government of Ontario must recognize, and they are public interests. I have deep concern that one of the drivers of the Harris government policy here is their interest in accommodating special interests on Bay Street to the peril of people living on Main Street. From the beginning of this business, there were always powerful commercial interests wanting to get their hands on it. That's in fact the great fear that made Beck such a powerful business lobbyist.
We had better be about the public interest. Yes, I believe there should be a competitive marketplace for the generation of electricity. We believe, as Liberals, that that marketplace should be rigorously regulated by a public regulator, where the government of the day sets clear the objectives, including such things as, "There shall be a renewable power standard," and not leaving it up to somebody. That's a public policy. I think 20 states of the American union have said before their market opens, "You shall have a certain minimum amount of green power or renewable power available in a very short period of time."
There must be rigorous, even ruthless, public regulation of a marketplace in the generation sector where there are a number of generators, some big, some small, some public, some municipal and, yes, some private. In my view, I agree with Macdonald, it is getting that competition in generation that I think will give us the innovation, will support flexibility and new technology, and just might, under the aegis of a strong regulator, give us a better sense of true price.
Today, for example, there was discussion about Beck No 3. I'm personally very interested in Beck No 3. But do you know what? Beck No 3 is going to sit on the shelf because behind closed doors the mandarins at PowerGen are probably going to be doing things on the nuclear side which may in the end be sensible, but who will know?
I'd like there to be a mechanism so that the true cost of bringing back some of the ailing nuclear capacity could be fairly measured against the cost of bringing Beck No 3, with approximately 500 megawatts, as I understand it, of renewable hydroelectric power into the marketplace.
But I can tell you that under a state monopoly system in generation, that's not going to happen. So my colleagues believe in a vital public interest that must be ruthlessly regulated by a public regulator, that the core policy has to be, as Macdonald suggested, a competitive marketplace in generation.
By the way, make no mistake about it, I say to the House that the biggest part of our generating asset base is the nuclear power division and you are never going to sell those assets. Maybe you are going to lease them, but you'll never sell them. One of the reasons you're not going to sell them is that the federal regulator has basically told us that never, never will Her Majesty be absolved of perpetual title for those properties, for reasons you can all imagine.
I support the Bruce deal, not because it was my first choice -- I hope we got a good price. But where were we three or four years ago with Bruce? Huge sunk assets, all kinds of trouble. I think we have to look, as difficult as it is, and if we can do it economically and safely, then we should do that.
The other thing this marketplace contemplates is that the consumer is going to have some choice. But to have choice and to exercise that choice, the consumer needs information. You know, we're all getting this in our mailboxes this week. I don't know what it costs. This, to be polite, is not my idea of a good use of public resources in educating the public.
I will stand in my place today and say, however, that there is a place for the government of Ontario to educate the consumers of Ontario about the intricacies of this electricity marketplace, because there are people out there now, from Pembroke to Petrolia, from Timmins to Toronto, scamming innocent people who have no idea what they're signing. The government has done a poor job of protecting individuals and families against this kind of behaviour. And let me tell you, those chickens are going to come home to roost in about 18 months, when people find out what they have signed.
I think there's an important place for consumer education, and the government has an obligation, on its own behalf and perhaps through the energy board, to make sure that good, understandable materials are in the hands of people in communities like the Speaker's and mine so they can understand what this new business of electricity competition and choice is all about.
My final point would be that we must find a way to deal with these wretched conflicts of interest in which governments find themselves in this business. I no longer will take these promises on faith. Others might; I won't. I think Edmund Burke gives me good advice. I owe my constituents, and I hope I owe this House, my mature judgment. If you don't believe me, read Nelles, read Freeman, two very good books that talk, chapter and verse, about good intentions that were never carried forward.
The great Beck plan for Hydro -- Adam Beck's notion was that there would be public power without public accountability. He said he wasn't going to run a public enterprise like that old intercolonial railway. And do you know what? He succeeded, because he was dealing with a commodity that was essential and a technology that was complicated and a financial world that was substantial. How do Conway and Beaubien, out of the bush and off the farms of Renfrew and Lambton, seriously understand that, particularly as it gets more complicated and the numbers get bigger?
This Legislature owes it to the people of Ontario and the public trust to establish a select committee that will have a clear mandate and a responsible mandate to oversee behaviours today that are completely at variance with stated government policy and that are going to exacerbate, not improve, this electricity question. I hope and I pray that before this spring session is over we can do that. That is the kind of constructive resolution I would like.
Because I see in the resolution a remedy that Mr Hampton is offering to take us back to the trouble that got us here now, I reluctantly cannot support his recommendation, although I appreciate his frustration about the situation in which we now find ourselves.
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): Of course I'm pleased to participate in this debate today. I think it's an important debate and one that I hope more and more Ontarians become engaged in, because at the heart of the debate is whether we're going to have a system of reliable power for consumers and for industry in this province or whether we are not. Clearly, we believe that the road the government is taking us down, which is a road that California and Alberta have already gone down, is not the direction we want to go in.
This Minister of Energy, when we were dealing with Bill 35, was very clear to point to California as the option that this government wanted to implement in this province. He was very clear to speak in, oh, so glowing terms and details about California and how deregulated power in Ontario would bring us the same benefits as they were seeing in California. Well, we've seen those benefits, haven't we? What benefits they are: brownouts, blackouts, huge energy prices, people not having a source of power they can rely on, industry in that state not having a source of power they can rely on. Those are some benefits. I don't think I want to go there.
Not only did the minister in, oh, so glowing terms talk about California when we dealt with Bill 35; he talked about Alberta too, and how we were going to have lower prices when we had more competition. Frankly, he guaranteed that. I sat at more than one meeting when the committee was dealing with this where the government members made it absolutely clear that Ontarians would probably have stable prices at first and then see a drop in electricity prices -- a drop, a reduction, cheaper electricity prices.
What do we have today? My goodness, we just had this government announce that we're going to be seeing an 8% rate hike increase right now. That's not stability. That's not a lower price. We are experiencing right now an 8% increase in electricity prices, and that's before we even get into the deregulated market. Of course it should be argued that that's in an attempt to get us there so that the prices will already be jacked up when the corporate friends of this government, who want to buy the assets that we have built and paid for in this province, enter the market, so that those prices can be, oh, so high already and then they can jack them up even more when they sell into the US market. Anyone who looks at this, anyone who's looked at what's happened with natural gas, will know that's the market the people who buy up our assets are going to want to sell to. That's the market they want to sell to because that's the market where the highest prices are. Anyone who is going to buy up one of the assets that Ontarians built and paid for is going to want to get a return on that purchase, and they're going to get that return through trying to get the highest prices they can for the commodity they have just bought and paid for. Those highest prices are in New York and Boston and other major American centres.
The position that we are in as a party is to say very clearly to Ontarians that that's not the direction we should be going in, because that direction puts Ontario business and consumers at risk. It's very clear. We've got two other jurisdictions to prove that.
We're saying very clearly that there is another choice, and the choice is this: we should set up a new system of accountable public power in Ontario, and our alternative is public power.
I disagree fundamentally with my colleagues from the Liberals who have the same position as our Tory friends, which is going to take us down the road of Alberta and California. I disagree fundamentally that it was the public system under us that caused the problems we are in, because I firmly believe we can run a public system where there is incredible accountability. Our proposal is that we have public ownership, but that unlike the previous public system, we ensure that it's the Ontario Energy Board that is given the power to set rates and approve or veto major supply projects, and that they should do that after full public hearings with intervener funding. That will bring accountability to the system.
If we need more power, then the first priority will go to projects that are conservation, that will reduce demand. If we need new supply after that, the priority will go to plants that meet tough standards on rates and environmental performance. And all new applications to set up generation would have to have a component of at least 15% green power: technologies like solar, wind and small hydroelectric projects.
We believe fundamentally in public power, because our public power system served us well for well over 100 years to provide safe, reliable power at a price we could afford, at a price consumers and businesses could afford in this province. That's where we need to be again. That's where we need to go, not down the road of California and Alberta.
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke North): It's very worthwhile to have this issue debated in a public forum, and we'll tell you why right at the outset. In our estimation, it is absolutely essential that we move to an open market. The minister has already detailed that and it's going to happen in May 2002.
Why is Ontario fully committed to having its electricity market open at that time? We want to ensure that we have more jobs, enhanced investment and more economic growth in this province. I fully support the opening of the hydroelectricity system in Ontario because it's going to lead to greater consumer choice, greater opportunities for growth in the private sector, a greater number of jobs, and above all, it's going to deal on a competitive basis with the pricing of electricity for consumers. That's what the fundamental objective of this whole exercise is. That's the fundamental rationale for the Electricity Competition Act being introduced and passed in 1998.
The parties opposite, especially the members of the third party, when you read the resolution, clearly indicate that they pine for the old days, that having a closed system will protect Ontario's interests. When you look at what is going on in North America, let alone the rest of the world, you are beginning to see the opening of competition. It's happening in different shapes and forms, but you don't see a retreat except in one place, California. You see that retreat because of a number of fundamental flaws that came about in the opening of their market.
This is not an issue of deregulation. It's an issue of opening a market with appropriate regulation. In the old arrangement, the old Ontario Hydro evolved from what Adam Beck saw in his early days, and you had by the 1970s and 1980s a huge powerful monopoly. How do we know that? On the ground, as a former hydro commissioner of the former Etobicoke Hydro Commission, we could see the major flaws, the deficiencies in the old system to which they advocate a return. We were on the front lines as an electricity retailer.
What happened, folks, was that budgets were created and increases were allowed essentially by the monopoly. You had ranges and ratios either for residential, commercial or industrial when they set their hydro rates.
Guess what, folks? At that time, everybody thought the cost of hydro was reasonable. It was affordable. People were reasonably happy. But when you looked behind the scenes you could see that when you have a huge public monopoly, over time it's inevitable that you are going to end up having inefficiencies. You're going to have an environment that encourages an absence of incentives. That was exactly the frame of operations in that electricity retailer, as in so many others.
Yes, there were some moves toward putting monies into recapitalization, into renewal of infrastructure, into orderly maintenance of lines, because you wanted to ensure reliability of power at a reasonable, affordable cost, but nobody really knew in those days what constituted a reasonable, affordable cost because there was hardly any situation where you had price comparators.
With that history, you had a situation where you had a monopoly, very little competition except the odd situation of cogeneration, and you ended up with a situation that became unacceptable. Why? Because we ended up with a $38-billion deficit. It's $38 billion and growing. That's the problem with this whole proposition that we revert back to the old arrangement, because when we look around the world, when we look at Ontario compared to the United States situation, particularly Pennsylvania, there are very similar themes and circumstances.
As you realize, we have not opened the market at this point, until we -- when we say "we," we mean the independent electricity operator -- have determined that we will have a sufficient supply of power at competitive pricing. Not only that, we'll have pricing the consumer has some choice in. Under the old arrangement, the consumer had no choice. You had one choice: Ontario Hydro through the municipal electric unit or the public utilities or whatever the particular designation was for a community. There wasn't any opportunity to buy from any other source.
When you look at the overall situation, it's much more effective and honest to portray our circumstances at the outset with Pennsylvania, with the United Kingdom, with certain states in Australia. Why? Because in those situations, as much as there is a perpetual and adamant denial from members of the third party, we have price decreases. Why do we have that? Because we now have competition in these jurisdictions and when you have competition, particularly at the residential rate, you get lower rates. I know those folks across the way want to continue to point out that we're California, when in point of fact it sounds like a doctor who diagnoses you with the flu, but when you go back you end up with a completely different diagnosis. It's a misdiagnosis of the circumstances. It's a misdiagnosis of what is going on in Ontario. It is patently dishonest, inappropriately ineffectual to be making this flawed comparison over and over again, because that's not the situation.
If you want to talk about the fundamentals here, the fundamental is that you have to have an adequate supply, and an adequate supply is that the independent electricity operator notes and knows that we have an arrangement where everybody has power of whatever sort, which leads to another significant benefit.
By opening up the market, you start to encourage new investment. When we look at what is happening in this province, you can see the emergence of different types of generators, whether it be wind, gas turbine or biomass. Those are forms of green energy, and you're going to see an increasingly significant number of generators taking that format of generating power. That is a key, significant benefit in this whole situation.
When we refer to the other jurisdictions like the United Kingdom, it is estimated that consumers are saving about $1.7 billion annually, or places like Australia, where electricity market reforms have resulted in an average price decline of nearly 24%. Those are the success stories. That is the path we expect our competitive market will take by the end of next year.
There isn't any doubt in my mind that Ontario has a healthy, effective supply-demand balance, whereas California and Alberta have both struggled to open up their markets in a period of rapidly growing demand. That's the real question here that's at debate, not how you deliver the product, the commodity; it is how you get the prices down.
We want to show, in point of fact, when you look at the American situation, that in the grid system of the mountain states -- and I hope, Speaker, you pay particular attention to this. In the state of Idaho, which is still -- you use this term "deregulation" or "regulated." This is an American state that is still regulated. One of their power companies came there and asked for a 34% increase. According to their mantra, this should not be happening. If you talk about the public versus the private delivery of electric power in North America, there should be a significant decrease there, but it is not occurring. Why? Because you have the traditional classic demand-and-supply equation, something that the folks across the way need to get a grasp of. That is the fundamental issue, not how you deliver the stuff, although we still want to have an effective regulated market in terms of consumer protection, and we have that through the Ontario Energy Board.
In the old Hydro arrangement prior to 1998, we certainly did not have Ontario Hydro having to make its submissions to the OEB any more than once that I can recall. They simply were the Ontario Energy Board to a great extent. Consumer protection? Primarily through marketing communications. When you have a monopoly, you make the price decisions, and if the consumer wants to take it -- you have to if you're an industry, a manufacturer or a hospital.
I think folks across the way need to look at their proposition. The world is changing, folks. It is time to get on the train. This proposition would take us back in time, back to an Ontario where they want to put up high walls. It is like the folks who were at the Summit of the Americas, I guess. If we could only protect ourselves with a huge wall and not have a supply grid, no problem like that, then Ontario would be safe. But we are in a world, realistically, where we do trade. Most of our jobs, about four in five, come from international trade.
The final comment that I would like to make today, that has been made by the leader of the third party so many times, is a reminder of what the reality was between 1991 and 1995 regarding this issue. He has called in his questions and has certainly implied in his resolution that we should not be shipping any excess power. When we talk about excess power, that would be determined by what would be available to be sold into the American market, primarily New York state, if there were an excess supply. That would be determined by the IMO. The reality is, if you look back at the recent history on this issue, between 1991 and 1995, guess what? In 1991, Ontario Hydro sold $62 million worth, exported; in 1992, $56 million; in 1993, $128 million; in 1994 -- this one really caught my eye -- $349 million; in 1995, $233 million. Why did that occur? Because we had excess supply to our needs for all our customers.
Interjection: What are we supposed to do with the excess?
Mr Hastings: I guess the leader of the third party would create -- I don't know how you would prevent it. The electrons would flow one way, and I guess you'd have a superman to stop them when they got into a grid that involves New York state. The proposition is so ludicrous that it's impossible to think through the implications.
You would think the leader of the third party would be in favour of jobs, in favour of investment, in favour of economic growth, because we need these things for our vital public services. But, no, this proposition, this resolution, takes us back in time. It wants to re-regulate everything. It doesn't really encourage the access and generation and investment in new forms of energy -- biomass, wind, solar, what have you. Those are the things we need. That is the fundamental rationale for moving to an open market in an appropriately orderly way.
That's fundamentally different as well from the jurisdictions of California and Alberta. If you want to make a true comparison, make it to some of the other American states. One of the most clearly similar cases is Pennsylvania. Look at the history there. That's what I encourage viewers to do today. Go and talk to your friends and neighbours in that state and get first-hand experience of what has happened to consumer pricing at the retail residential rate. Why did it occur? Because they made sure at the outset that they had an adequate supply in excess of the state's needs, the same as what you're going to see here. To hear the stuff from the other side, where you have an alternative that is unworkable, unjustifiable, old-style thinking, then this is the way you'd want to proceed.
I don't want to return to the old days of the old monopolistic practices of Ontario Hydro. Bless the people who worked in that situation; they provided good power. But the times have changed. We are in the 21st century and we're not going to revert to an old, 18th-century or earlier style, where the state dominates. So I reject categorically the propositions and wishful sentiments in this resolution. I guess we'll continue to have speakers as the flow goes.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): Thank you very much, Mr Silly -- Mr Speaker. Sorry, Mr Speaker, in my mind I was thinking the member for Etobicoke North must be reading the same book as Mike Harris -- the book is called Mr Silly. His entire discourse, quite frankly, was so out of touch that it certainly has to be in the realm of possibility that he's been reading that favourite book of Mike Harris called Mr Silly.
The other thing I want to say to the member from Etobicoke, before I get to my comments, is that for him to argue that our leader, Howard Hampton, and the NDP oppose the --
Mr Bisson: Why? You don't like being called "silly"?
Mr Hastings: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: To the member for Timiskaming-James Bay, I would just like to say that I am a library user and have been the chairman of the library board in Etobicoke. Please don't insult us, that we don't know --
The Acting Speaker: Thank you very much. Member for Timmins-James Bay.
Mr Bisson: Mr Speaker, first of all, it's Timmins-James Bay and I know there is more than one copy of Mr Silly in his library.
His comment that the NDP opposes the transmission of power into the United States is utterly stupid, it's silly. When we were the government and there was excess power being generated by Ontario Hydro, we facilitated and encouraged the sale of excess power into the United States because it meant revenue for Ontario Hydro. It's such a silly argument.
For him to argue that all of a sudden deregulation, where it has been put in place, has worked to lower prices flies in the face of reality. Again, I think he read Mr Silly. What you see in California, in New York state, in New Hampshire, in Alberta and a whole bunch of other jurisdictions where they've gone down this road is that it has not led to lower hydro prices. In fact, it's been the complete opposite. So I start off by saying that.
I want to bring to the record something I think is important in this debate, and that is what this decision by the government means when it comes to the industrial users of Ontario. All of us represent ridings where there are large industrial users, or most of us do across this province. We have companies like Falconbridge in my riding and in the riding of the member for Nickel Belt, companies like Tembec, there are the Big Three auto makers -- GM, Chrysler etc -- all of which use a fair amount of power. Electricity is a major part of their doing business.
If this were such a great idea, all the CEOs across Ontario would be running to the Tory fundraisers and running to the mikes in front of the boards of trade and using every opportunity they could to stand up and talk about how good deregulation is for their companies. What I've been finding as I've been going around northern Ontario talking to the CEOs of companies the likes of Abitibi-Consolidated, people at Tembec, Columbia Forest Products, Falconbridge, Dome Mines and a whole bunch of other operators, is they are nervous as hell about what you guys are doing when it comes to the viability of their operations. They recognize as business people that hydro is a cost of doing business, and that if you deregulate the market as you propose, there is by way of inference from everything else we've seen up to now -- and my colleagues will talk about this in more detail -- an increase in hydro costs. We know that in California it has more than doubled; the same thing in Alberta. It's happened across the American eastern seaboard. Where they've deregulated the market, hydro prices have in some cases gone up by more than 100%. There are some jurisdictions where they've gone up quite a bit more than that.
I've had the opportunity to say to a lot of the companies, "What does this mean to your bottom line?" As they're writing back to us, they're saying, "There's a real concern here." The competitive advantages Ontario has as an economy are, first of all, the availability of a constant supply of hydro and, number two, an inexpensive, at-cost source of hydro, as bought by Ontario Hydro. That's one of the things that's made our economy competitive.
I just want to read for the record comments made by the CEO of Falconbridge, not exactly somebody who would come to an NDP fundraiser, I think we can all agree, probably a Liberal or a Conservative, I would think, somebody who is more closely associated with the pro side of the argument for deregulation and privatization. The CEO "told analysts during a conference call yesterday that the `backwards' move will do significant damage to the Ontario mining industry." That's what the CEO of Falconbridge had to say about your backwards move to privatize and deregulate the Ontario Hydro corporation. "I think the province should try to make power available at reasonable prices because that's going to have a very positive impact on the future mining developments in the province," said the CEO of this company. "I hope we can do something to make them change their mind, but we have nothing on the table today." They're talking about your willingness to change your mind on what is a very dangerous idea. Higher energy bills will mean higher costs for Falconbridge's operations in Sudbury and Timmins. "That's a pretty significant hit," says the CEO. "We're going to have to work on the political side," to change the mind of the government. So even your own people don't agree.
I say, in the 30 seconds I have left, if for anything, please change your mind on this, because to our employers in our part of the province, as in yours, it means a significant increase in the cost of doing business. If that happens, it's going to lead to further job losses in Ontario, something we've started to see this spring for the first time in about four or five years.
We think it's a dumb idea. We think it should be a regulated market. We think it should be under public control. I agree with the CEO of Falconbridge, who said, "This is a backward move."
Mr Galt: Thank you for being able to join in the debate. I look at the resolution put forward by the leader of the third party, and it's really a resolution of going back. It's looking in the rear view mirror and looking at what has been happening before.
I can understand why they might bring forward a resolution like this, with the kind of things that happened to the cost of electricity from 1985 to 1995. I well remember talking to a representative from the Ford Motor Co. He talked about making cars in some 17 regions in North America, and he pointed out that in 1985 the cheapest electricity to build Ford cars was right here in Ontario. By 1995 it had become the 13th most expensive out of 17. I can understand why they're trying to capitalize on this particular issue, because there is a lot of emotion about it, but it really relates back to those horrendous increases. What was it, 35% or so during the term that the NDP was in government?
This debate today is about an open market; it's not about deregulation. As a matter of fact, I would suggest there is probably a lot more regulation going in than going out. This debate is not about public versus private. This debate is about monopoly versus competition, and competition is indeed healthy.
Listening to the members from the third party talking about being friends of business, I really don't quite understand where the member for Timmins-James Bay was coming from. They just don't seem to have any empathy with that business sector.
I know when we were on the road on hearings for the Task Force on Rural Economic Renewal, over and over again the people who came before that task force in the province of Ontario, some 14 communities, were saying, "Infrastructure is so important, the price of electricity is so important." At the rate Ontario Hydro was going with the cost of electricity, certainly that was not sustainable for small industry in small-town Ontario.
By moving in the direction that we're moving, it's going to provide tremendous opportunities in small-town Ontario, in rural Ontario. We were told in those hearings that they want the ability to generate their own power. There are so many opportunities out there where they can generate their own power and stabilize the cost for their businesses, whether they use natural gas, a cleaner form of production of electricity, or whether they go to true green power, whether it's solar or wind or biomass.
Something the third party brought in was that they outlawed the ability to construct a waste-to-energy incinerator. They would rather put all that resource into the ground. They didn't want to take responsibility for it and have a properly equipped incinerator that could take that resource and convert it to energy. I am pleased that on January 1, 1996, we came out with the proper regulations that would oversee waste-to-energy incineration. The reason we haven't moved ahead is because of Ontario Hydro being the big block, for them to sell into the grid, it was cost-prohibitive for them to move ahead.
I did agree with one of the comments that the member for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke made. He commented that on the production of electricity, there was always a drawback, regardless of the one that you choose. Even with a true green power, there is visual pollution. With windmills, in a field with wind power, with big solar panels, with a biomass, there are certainly even drawbacks with those. But at least with the direction we're going, you will have a choice. You'll be able to choose a source. If you want true green power and you're willing to pay a few cents more per kilowatt hour, you'll have that opportunity, that the electricity you use comes from a clean source.
I see that moving to competition with the direction that this government is going is indeed going to be good for rural business.
I think of this whole thing of monopoly versus competition, and that's really what the whole debate should be about. What if in Ontario or in Canada we only had one airline? What would it be like if we had one airline and we could only depend on that airline to go anywhere in the world, if there was only one timetable? They would sort of say to you, "It's either our way or the highway." If it was only Air Canada or, such as in Russia, it was the Soviet airline Aeroflot, just imagine where we would be. That's the kind of thing that we've been with Ontario Hydro.
Mr Galt: They're squawking in the third party about Aeroflot. That's exactly what they would like to have to fly them around the country.
I don't understand why the opposition is so concerned about moving to competition and bringing some health into the electricity market.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Timmins-James Bay will come to order.
Mr Bisson: I'm sorry, Speaker. You got me.
Mr Galt: Thank you, Mr Speaker.
There's a great advantage in moving out to competition, with the greater efficiency and having more bang for the buck. Competition rewards innovation, and that's so important in developing power in the future. Monopoly tends to stifle competition, and competition in service delivery favours survival of the helpful. No one would characterize the old Ontario Hydro as helpful. Competition boosts the pride and morale of employees.
I'd just like to spend a few minutes on the significant differences that we're seeing between California versus Ontario. In California, some 53% of the production comes from natural gas; in Ontario, 6%. How much has natural gas gone up in recent months? In California, the supply is minimal and limited in the future; in Ontario there's a surplus of supply and there are many more coming on, both our nuclear plants as well as many private companies coming on.
The sale is different here as well. We're prepared to go to bilateral contracts. In California, it has been the spot market and therefore tremendous fluctuation from day to day.
They seem to want to zero in on where there's been a problem, such as in California. The parliamentary assistant made reference to Pennsylvania, and certainly competition has worked very well in Pennsylvania, with some US$3-billion savings, and by 2004 there will be some 36,000 net new jobs created. It would appear that the third party is anti-new jobs. You would think they would be very much for them, particularly when probably a fair number of those jobs would be unionized jobs. I don't know why they would be opposed to that.
In the United Kingdom, the Auditor General reports there has been a savings of some £750 million per year. That would translate to roughly C$1.7 billion per year in the United Kingdom. In Australia, costs dropped by some 24%, an equivalent of an annual GDP increase in that country of 1.25%. So indeed there have been some tremendous advantages.
I've never said that in Ontario the price was going to go down, but certainly if we didn't do something about what was happening from 1985 to 1995, we were on a trail sort of spiralling into nowhere. It was like a suicidal situation that we were in. Certainly when we came to office we talked about a $33-billion debt. We paid off something like $3 billion, and now I find out that it's $38 billion. There's something drastically wrong with what's been going on, and I guess there's been more books found and more debt found that the third party managed to conceal quite well once upon a time. But lo and behold, when it's all put together it's at $38 billion, and I heard the parliamentary assistant make reference to "and climbing." So certainly something very drastic had to be done.
I look forward to an open market and competition in the electricity market.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): First of all, let me say in response that in my few minutes I want to talk about the environment and the realities here, but I want to say that when members from the Tory caucus say it was under the NDP and Liberals before us that prices kept skyrocketing, I want to remind the members that it was the NDP that finally brought this stuff under control. It was because of the decision a Tory government made way back on Darlington, which came on stream finally in 1992, that we had warned the Tories and the Liberals after them it was unnecessary and was going to cause a huge debt, but it was this party that brought rates under control and froze them. Let's set the record straight on that. It's now, under this government, that they're going up and up, and they keep saying deregulation instead of bringing them down.
Burning garbage has nothing to do with this debate, but I want to say to the member that the reason why the NDP still opposes that is it creates more air pollution. The better the pollution abatement equipment, the more hazardous waste that's generated that has to go into the ground. We'll have that debate another time.
What I want to say now is what the Premier said today about environmentalists, if I can find it here. He said, "I know there are some environmentalists that are opposed to every form energy, I suppose, including some that would say a windmill heats up the air and that contributes to global warming." Then he goes on to say, "It looks like nuclear energy is appearing more and more to be the green energy of choice." Let's face it: when these guys stand up and talk about and use environmentalists as a good excuse for why they're moving in this direction, why they're moving toward deregulation -- they say, "We'll bring on more green power. We'll bring on more wind, solar, biomass."
Let me remind the government of a press release put out by a number of environmental groups giving the government a failing grade. They say that, "The Ontario government has broken its promise to protect the environment as the provincial electricity sector is open to competition and are seeking a review ... under the Environmental Bill of Rights." They say, "When the government proposed to restructure the electricity market it promised true competition among fuels on price and a move toward green power generation. Instead of levelling the playing field, the government has subsidized dirty and risky generation, disavowed responsibility for consumer protection and is walking away from its environmental promises too."
That is the reality of what's going on out there. Now we have the United States cozying up to the Liberal Prime Minister of Canada and Mike Harris. What are they talking about? Are they talking about green power, wind power, solar? They're talking about building more nuclear plants and we don't know where to bury the waste we already have. Radioactive nuclear waste is a huge problem and the Liberals in Ottawa are now talking about burying it in the Canadian Shield. We're talking about nuclear plants. That's what's going on here. You're trying to dupe environmentalists and other people who want to bring in clean power here, but they're on to you. That's not what this is all about. It's more and more the direction you're moving in, and we see the writing clearly on the wall now. It's more coal-powered plants, more nuclear plants. These things are bad for the environment. The government is even trying to blame some massive rate increases on trying to clean up the coal-powered generators. In fact, all you've done so far is announce that you're going to convert Lakeview, and that was after tremendous pressure from the NDP and others out there.
You haven't even said anything about Nanticoke, which is the biggest coal-fired plant in Ontario, creating the most pollution. Things are getting worse under your government, and this deregulation has nothing to do -- stop playing that game with the environmentalists and the people of Ontario, because that's not the direction you're going. The direction you're going is more nuclear, more dirty coal plants, higher rates, and that is bad for the people of Ontario. Get real here.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): It's my pleasure to hopefully be the concluding speaker today. I first want to start on a very positive note. I commend the third party for bringing this important issue before the House. I think it satisfies two very important needs, one being awareness and the other being education. As in all things, I think in that respect the third party is doing a good job. It's being a watchdog. In some respects, they're stronger than the opposition. The official opposition quite obviously here is the NDP, dealing with the tough issues, rather than the rather glib and kind of theatrical performances we see by the opposition on a daily basis.
There is substance in many of Mr Hampton's questions. I've been following this with some interest because in my riding of Durham, and indeed in the region of Durham, there are two very important public assets, one being the Darlington nuclear plant, the other being the Pickering plant. Many of my constituents would be involved in some form with or dependent on, like all of us, the importance of those plants and those operations being safe and reliable and, in many respects, affordable as well, run efficiently.
Now, my background on this issue is not just living in an area where this has been an issue since the 1970s, when this concept of nuclear was being developed, but also we're all dependent on having a secure, reliable, affordable baseload, which I believe nuclear provides. That debate's been held.
But there's an important starting point here. In response for the last couple of days -- I want to put these on the record -- when asked by the leader of the third party, Howard Hampton, the Premier has assured me and my constituents and the people today -- this is the Premier's response with respect to supply and security -- "Certainly first and foremost our concern is that we have guaranteed access here in the province of Ontario, not only to affordable but also an adequate supply of electricity." So there it is exactly from our Premier, and you all know him as a person who sticks to his word. He's a person who's capable of making the tough commitment that as a leader you've got to be able to do, unlike the previous government and, I would say, others in the House, maybe the opposition, wishy-washy, flip-flop.
Also, in a secondary supplementary question, our Premier again put on the record for the people of Ontario: "What we're going to do is guarantee and ensure that Ontario interests are put first. We have made it very clear that there will be no -- you talk about privatization; not even any market opening until we have" all "those conditions in place that will be beneficial to the people and the industries of Ontario." I have confidence in those commitments.
What that means to me is, if you look at the bad situation -- and Mr Conway, the member for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, has used this as a baseline document, I think a very good report, A Framework for Competition. Of course, the author of this report is no stranger to these top-level decisions, the Honourable Donald Macdonald -- it's often called the Macdonald commission -- and others. There's Sylvia Sutherland, the mayor of Peterborough currently and former Liberal candidate, blah-blah-blah. Anyway, this is what I call an all-party, inclusive report.
But there's one important observation. Going forward from the 1995 Framework for Competition report, I think it's important in chapter 3, where it talks about the Ontario Hydro 1906 monopoly domination. It says, "We recommend significant changes that will enable Ontario to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Ontario must move forward ... the status quo is not acceptable."
One thing you can count on with this government is we are moving forward, and this debate is part of engaging the public in a very important -- I think Minister Wilson's been lacking the resources to adequately do a communications strategy with the people of Ontario. In fact, I think that the Ontario Energy Board, as Mr Conway said earlier, does have a role in educating people with respect to the market opening and the players who are out there selling it on the retail side. There are a lot of conditions.
But the history in this Macdonald report sort of documents a certain amount of decay over a certain number of years. Let's leave it that way. It may have been attributed to the cost overruns in nuclear plants that weren't as productive as once intended. They also weren't going to last as long as once mortgaged. They were mortgaged for 40 years. They changed that to, I think, 25 years, realizing that the cost is billions of dollars to retube these plants. In fact, I had the privilege of sitting with Mr Conway and Floyd Laughren, who was then the most seasoned member of the NDP, seasoned to the point perhaps --
Interjection: That he retired.
Mr O'Toole: He retired and took on the Ontario Energy Board. But on that select committee that I sat on, I had a deeper understanding of the history and the difficult decisions that were required by a government courageous enough to move forward and make it more accountable or competitive. I'm satisfied that the framework for competition -- many of its recommendations are before us, at least in part, as the restructuring has occurred. The viewer would know that Ontario Hydro had accumulated something in the order of, I believe, $38 billion in debt. Some of that was determined by some as being stranded debt. That's ultimately the basis of this problem.
What stranded debt really means: there was supposed to be a debt servicing charge; strategic debt retirement was supposed to be part of the rate. I question whether the Minister of Energy has even got the ear of Ontario Hydro in its powerful position, from either government. I think they just ran roughshod, in some respects. I think the NDP froze the rates in 1994. This debt was unserviceable under the current arrangement, so under the three companies that have been developed out of this they have allocated a debt equity program. We, the shareholders -- the taxpayers of Ontario, in fact the government of Ontario -- are one of those debt holders. How that debt is shown under the public accounts is really quite interesting.
That's where we're going to see the future when this market opens up. There will be a rate, and it'll be a dedicated rate, to deal with the stranded debt. That money will eventually be accumulated and put on the bill of those who use it. It would be paid directly to pay down the mortgage or stranded debt.
Of the companies that were formed, the generation side, the biggest player there, still not fully devolved, is OPG or Ontario Power Generation. I believe they still have a monopoly position. The Macdonald report made it clear that wasn't a tenable position over the longer term. I think we will see divestment of some of those generation assets, as we should. They should still be publicly accountable.
The distribution side, which is a primary player, still almost a monopoly, is Hydro One. With their tremendous asset base, they're buying out many municipal utilities. I am very proud of the Veridian organization that has Ajax, Pickering, Clarington, and I think now Northumberland as well. They are providing the services or distribution side.
The most important thing that I think the taxpayer needs to remain quite comfortable with is the IMO, the independent market operator, to actually look after the distribution, after who sells what service or power on to the lines; The Ontario Energy Board, which is really equivalent to the CRTC and will set the rates and who competes on the grid; OPG, the generation side, being joined in the future by more generators; and the municipal.
In my final few minutes -- there's a very important document, and if you have need of if you can call my office and we will get it to you. My name is usually on the screen. Sir Graham Day spoke at the Empire Club on April 17. I have a copy of his remarks. For the record, he indicated California is different. Why? Because they had 30% growth in the economy and no increase in generation.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Mr Hampton has moved opposition day number 1. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the nays have it.
Call in the members. This will be a 10-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1749 to 1759.
The Speaker: Would the members kindly take their seats, please.
Mr Hampton has moved opposition day number 1.
All those in favour of the motion will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
The Speaker: All those opposed will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Baird, John R.
Conway, Sean G.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Guzzo, Garry J.
Harris, Michael D.
Molinari, Tina R.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Sterling, Norman W.
Stewart, R. Gary
Tascona, Joseph N.
Tsubouchi, David H.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 8; the nays are 56.
The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.
It now being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.
Interjection: It's 10 o'clock.
The Speaker: Oh, I'm sorry; I apologize. It's 10 o'clock for everyone tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 1802.