LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Monday 19 June 2006 Lundi 19 juin 2006
The House met at 1330.
Mrs. Christine Elliott (Whitby-Ajax): I rise today on behalf of the PC caucus to recognize the beginning of the 26th annual celebration of pride here in the city of Toronto. Fearless, the theme of this year's Pride Week festival, will focus on defeating prejudice both outside and within the queer community, with the goal of ensuring that people from all walks of life can live without fear.
Every year the Pride Week festival attracts more and more tourists to Toronto. People travel from across the province and Canada, from all over the United States and from countries around the world to celebrate here in Ontario's capital.
This year, there will be over 40 official events held throughout the course of the week, including the annual parade on Sunday, expected to draw more than a million people to its sidelines. In all, media reports the Pride Week festival generates approximately $80 million annually in revenue for the local economy.
We would like to congratulate the organizers of the Pride Week festival on winning the award in 2005 for best festival in Canada, given by the Canadian Events Industry Awards, the Star Awards, and wish everyone a warm welcome to Toronto. This week's festivities will provide countless opportunities for friends, family and many different organizations to gather, and we wish all participants a safe and happy Pride.
Mrs. Maria Van Bommel (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): I rise today to express my condolences to the family and friends of Dorothy Doan, who passed away on June 10 at the wonderful age of 90 years. I can't help but feel that I need to express my condolences to the entire community of Strathroy for their loss.
Dorothy took a path in life that was not an easy one for a woman in the traditional rural community of her day. After graduating from the Strathroy hospital school of nursing in 1935, she enlisted in the army and served as a nursing sister in South Africa, Cairo, Egypt and Italy. Upon returning to Canada, she enrolled in the University of Toronto and worked at Toronto Western Hospital. By 1956, she returned to Strathroy as the superintendent of the Strathroy hospital. Ms. Doan was one of the first Canadian women to become a fellow of the American College of Hospital Administrators and a charter member of the Canadian college of hospital administrators.
Dorothy saw the building of a new replacement hospital and the addition of two new floors before retiring in 1981, but she remained involved with the hospital for the rest of her life. Dorothy not only made an invaluable contribution to rural health care, but she continued to work for the betterment of her community long after her retirement.
Although she never married, she was treasured by three generations of nieces and nephews. Anyone and everyone who knew Dot loved her, and we were all rewarded by her through her sense of humour and her determination.
Ms. Doan was a mentor to me during my days as chair of the Strathroy-Middlesex hospital board, and long after. She lived a life of service to mankind, and I, for one, will always remember Dot Doan.
VILLAGE OF NEWCASTLE
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): It's a pleasure to rise today to pay tribute to the village of Newcastle for the celebration of their 150th anniversary in 2006. The Newcastle sesquicentennial steering committee has organized a year-long birthday party for the community in which everyone is invited to take part and enjoy. Newcastle's anniversary celebration will culminate over the Canada Day weekend from June 29 to July 2, featuring a street parade, heritage show, gala dinner and many other events.
The village of Newcastle has a rich and storied history. In 1871, the population reached 1,109. Newcastle is the birthplace of many industry innovators, including the Massey tractor factory, which produced world-class farm equipment sold in over 100 countries. The history of Massey-Ferguson dates back to 1847, when Daniel Massey first established a workshop producing farm implements. The Massey family produced many philanthropists and distinguished Canadians such as Vincent Massey, amongst others, who worked hard and lent their talents and skills to the benefit of Ontario citizens. The antique car and tractor show to be held on Sunday, July 2, will feature Massey antique farm equipment.
Newcastle has come a long way from its origins in 1856, and today enjoys unprecedented growth and prosperity. I'd like to congratulate the members of the organizing sesquicentennial committee -- Charlie Trim, Valentine Lovekin, Myno Van Dyke, Ron Hope, Francis Jose, Joyce Kufta, Ron Locke, Marilyn Martin, Rod McArthur and Murray Paterson -- for a job well done. Everyone's invited to the celebration of the sesquicentennial in Newcastle this coming weekend.
Mr. Brad Duguid (Scarborough Centre): All too often, when society speaks about our young people, we spend far too much time on the very few who engage in anti-social behaviour and youth crime and violence rather than the thousands of young people throughout Ontario's communities who do great things.
Today, in the Ontario Legislature, I'd like to pay tribute to one of those great young people, Logan Earhart. Logan is an 11-year-old constituent who plays hockey for the Toronto Aces AA minor peewee hockey club. In an effort to raise money for Sick Children's Hospital and his minor hockey team, Logan decided to ride his bicycle from Toronto to Kingston.
Last Wednesday, Logan, riding alongside his father and Toronto Aces hockey coach, Barry Earhart, set out from Toronto's Hockey Hall of Fame to ride the 400 to 500 kilometres to Kingston along our bike trail. After four adventurous days, Logan arrived in Kingston approximately at noon on Saturday.
On behalf of your hockey teammates, on behalf of those receiving care at Sick Children's Hospital, on behalf of my colleagues here in the Ontario Legislature and all Ontarians, I want to thank and commend Logan Earhart for his courage, his determination, his generosity and his leadership. I'm sure his father, Barry, his mother, Michelle, and his sister, Arden, are all very proud of him.
There may come a time when we see Logan again, a big, gifted defenceman, perhaps even on TV taking that big slapshot, or maybe we'll see him leading his community the same way this 11-year-old has demonstrated through this ride. I encourage everyone to support Logan's efforts by writing a cheque payable to Logan's Run and sending it to the TD Bank at Lawrence and McCowan. Logan has earned our support.
Mr. Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): In a few minutes, the House will vote on Bill 102 at third reading. Before the vote, I want to commend the member for Kitchener-Waterloo for the excellent work she has done to shed light on the serious flaws in the McGuinty government's drug legislation. As our health critic, last Thursday she offered a very interesting explanation of what happened with Bill 102: the unseemly rush to push it through, the draconian time allocation motion, the lack of consultation, the farce of a committee process that the Minister of Health organized, the manner in which the minister bullied health stakeholders on this and other issues.
The member for Kitchener-Waterloo deserves enormous credit for her hard work on this bill: the way she listened, in contrast with the minister's lack of consultation; the way she fought for Ontario's families, patients and pharmacies, especially those in small-town Ontario, in contrast with the way the minister initially ignored them. Credit also goes to the Coalition of Ontario Pharmacy and my constituents Joe Walsh and Heidi Hanna, who made presentations at the standing committee.
I also want to commend this member for the months of dedicated effort she put forward in support of the victims of Fabry's disease, for last week the federal government announced a $100-million agreement to help these patients, some 200 in Canada, with the cost of the medication they need to continue to live. She showed remarkable persistence and compassion, raising the issue some 17 times, each time bringing forward new, relevant information to underline the need for the provincial government to help Fabry's victims and their families. She did a fabulous job, and we're grateful that the federal government, the Honourable Tony Clement, has responded to help solve this pressing health care issue.
Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): I'm grateful to Brock University for letting me join them last Thursday during their Wellness Conference, where I had a chance to talk about the principle of presumed intent when it comes to organ donation. As I promised them I would, I brought greetings from Jim Bradley, the member from St. Catharines. But more importantly, I was incredibly impressed, overwhelmed by the positive response to that modest proposal. It's time for us to change dramatically the attitude towards organ donation. Simply calling upon people to sign an organ donor card, even the very agreeable proposal of mandatory election, is not going to change the culture, is not going to change the value system.
I find it incredible that in the year 2006, as the capacity to transplant organs becomes increased by virtue of the new technology and medical science, the need for organs grows higher and higher and higher: 4,000 people a year across Canada, almost 2,000 people a year in Ontario, dying on a daily basis because not enough organs are being donated. I say that presumed intent would solve that problem.
I was so proud to receive a letter today from Howard Lacey on behalf of the Champlain Seniors' Service Club of Orillia -- he had given it to Garfield Dunlop as well -- a petition from the membership of that service club calling upon this government to pass Bill 61, calling upon people in Ontario to acknowledge that the time has come for presumed intent. Let's start saving some lives instead of burying and burning good organs on a daily basis.
Mr. Tony C. Wong (Markham): Recently I had the good fortune to attend Arya Samaj Markham, the Vedic Cultural Centre's annual seniors' day, and bring warm greetings to the residents on behalf of our minister responsible for seniors, the Honourable Jim Bradley. Along with President Amar Chand Erry and the board of directors of Arya Samaj, I was pleased to honour 17 volunteers who have contributed to their families, their communities and our province. All over the age of 75, these individuals set an excellent example of how giving back to our community helps foster the prosperity that we all enjoy today.
Active Living: Healthy Living is the theme of this year's Seniors' Month, and Arya Samaj Markham puts this theme into action daily. General secretary Shailesh Joshi has made sure the centre's programs and services help seniors in the community to meet new friends and stay active and involved.
I am proud to be part of a government that has invested $155 million in new funding this year for long-term-care homes so that our seniors can live with dignity and independence in their communities.
Please join me in congratulating all of our senior volunteers, both at Markham's Arya Samaj and across Ontario, for their hard work and dedication to causes they believe in and for helping make Ontario a great place to live.
Ms. Kathleen O. Wynne (Don Valley West): Today is the start of Toronto's 26th annual Pride Week. Earlier today I joined Mayor Miller, George Smitherman, Councillor Kyle Rae and the Pride committee to raise the Pride flag at Toronto city hall to kick off the week of festivities. These events are the public manifestation of the gay, lesbian and queer community's expression of their equal place in our society as mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, grandchildren and friends.
Pride in Toronto is a happy, safe celebration. Many gay, lesbian and queer people come to Toronto during this week because where they live it's not safe to be who they are, or they fear it's not safe. For that reason, this year's Pride theme is Fearless in 2006.
I'm a lucky woman to be living in a city, in a province, in Canada, that allows me to live with my spouse, Jane, without fear of persecution. The fears are many: the fear of rejection from circles of friends, from family, from the workplace and from community and exclusion from a birthday party if you're young.
At the extreme -- and this was the case for James Loney, the Christian Peacemaker, who will be honoured during this year's celebrations -- the fear is that being gay will lead to death. Children learn very early that to be gay is bad. They hear the word "gay" as pejorative in the schoolyards long before the bully or the victim has any idea what those words mean. Fear is sown early and deeply. Mothers fear ostracization for their children; children fear disappointing their fathers.
If you join us on Sunday for the parade, you'll hear the warmest cheer of all for the mothers, fathers and friends of lesbians and gays who march with the PFLAG contingent. We all want to be accepted by our colleagues and our society, but the greatest pain of them all is to be rejected by family. Please join me today in wishing the Pride Toronto committee and the queer community a happy, safe Pride.
Mr. Dave Levac (Brant): Last Friday, this government launched a growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe that will continue to build opportunities for economic prosperity and build opportunities for the people of Ontario by assisting our municipal partners to create better-planned communities. We are working to ensure that communities are able to grow in a more complete way, which includes focusing on initiatives to stimulate the local economy, create greater access to shops and services through encouraging the development of more compact communities, cutting down on car dependency through strengthening our public transit, preserving green spaces and agricultural areas, as well as promoting other important community-building initiatives.
This is in stark contrast to what the previous Tory government did. Instead of investing in vital capital municipal infrastructure, the Tories demoralized cash-strapped municipalities with years of downloading when they were told not to do so by their own experts and the municipal experts. The Tories also allowed development of sensitive environmental areas and weakened regulations to allow continuous urban sprawl, whereas this government is protecting our environment and actually combating urban sprawl.
In my own riding, we just announced an environmental assessment and planning process for Highway 24. We believe that it should be Highway 424. This will attract more jobs in my riding of Brant, and enable my constituents and those of the Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge and Guelph areas to have access to jobs that are close to home. This is what long-range planning is all about.
I invite the Tories to thank us and join us as we begin --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you.
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I wish to recognize Linda Vandendriessche and John Dumanski of the Tobacco Marketing Board. They're here today as all sides work together co-operatively for a fair settlement for our tobacco farmers.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): I would like to welcome on behalf of members Peter Partington, who was a member in the 33rd Parliament, representing Brock. Good afternoon, sir.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
PEACE OFFICERS' MEMORIAL DAY
AND MEMORIAL ACT, 2006 /
LOI DE 2006 SUR LE JOUR DE COMMÉMORATION DES AGENTS
DE LA PAIX ET LE MONUMENT COMMÉMORATIF À LEUR MÉMOIRE
Mr. Levac moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 131, An Act to proclaim Peace Officers' Memorial Day and to honour peace officers who have died in the line of duty / Projet de loi 131, Loi proclamant le Jour de commémoration des agents de la paix et rendant hommage aux agents de la paix décédés dans l'exercice de leurs fonctions.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
The member may wish to make a brief statement.
Mr. Dave Levac (Brant): This bill, if passed, will established the last Sunday in September of each year as Peace Officers' Memorial Day. The bill will also require that a memorial be established in or adjacent to the legislative precincts of the Legislative Assembly to honour the memory of peace officers who have died in the line of duty.
Many people have come to me to encourage the creation of this memorial. I would like to especially thank Scott Roberts, who is in the east members' gallery today, and Vince Murray, who couldn't be with us today, for providing us the research and information about peace officers' memorials in Canada and especially those in Ontario. Thank you very much for joining us, Scott.
CONSIDERATION OF BILL PR28
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): I believe we have unanimous consent to move a motion without notice regarding Bill Pr28.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Mr. Bradley is asking for unanimous consent to move a motion without notice regarding Bill Pr28. Agreed? Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I move that standing order 87, concerning notice of committee hearings, be waived with respect to consideration of Bill Pr28, An Act respecting Master's College and Seminary, by the standing committee on regulations and private bills on Wednesday, June 21, 2006.
The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): I move that, pursuant to standing order 9(c)(i), the House shall meet from 6:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, June 19, 2006, for the purpose of considering government business.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All in favour will say "aye."
All opposed will say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
This will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1353 to 1358.
The Speaker: Mr. Bradley has moved government notice of motion number 175. All those in favour will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Cansfield, Donna H.
Chambers, Mary Anne V.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Flynn, Kevin Daniel
Mossop, Jennifer F.
Racco, Mario G.
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Van Bommel, Maria
Wong, Tony C.
Wynne, Kathleen O.
The Speaker: All those opposed will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 63; the nays are 5.
The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Donna H. Cansfield (Minister of Transportation): I am proud to rise in the House today to highlight the announcement I made last Friday to launch the southern Ontario highways program.
The McGuinty government is investing $3.4 billion over five years to ensure the safety and accessibility of one of our province's most important economic assets, our highway system. Ontario is the engine that drives the Canadian economy. We are the third-largest financial centre in North America, and our highways are the lifeblood of our economy. Keeping our economy healthy is critical to our government because it supports the high quality of life that we've come to expect in Ontario. The long-range, proactive southern Ontario highways program will create a highway system capable of addressing the economic and safety needs of the province's growing population.
I'd like to share with the House some astonishing statistics about how vital our highway system is to this province's success. Every year, $1.2 trillion worth of goods are carried on Ontario's highways. Every day, $670 million worth of goods cross the Ontario-US border by road. More than 90% of all Ontarians live in southern Ontario: that's more than 11 million people. There are over 9.7 million registered vehicles in our province.
Our government is committed to keeping this traffic along Ontario's highways moving safely and efficiently, not only for today, but also in the future. We know that without immediate improvements to the province's transportation infrastructure, Ontarians face highway congestion that could cripple the economy and lower the standard of living for future generations. The southern Ontario highways program anticipates the province's booming growth and is designed to accommodate our burgeoning population.
This is what people can expect from this $3.4-billion investment in southern Ontario: Our government will expand Ontario's highway system by 130 kilometres, we will replace 64 bridges, and we will repair almost 1,600 kilometres of highways and 200 bridges. This will mean smoother and safer pavement and bridge conditions, less congestion and easier passage across our highways, less time spent in traffic and more time to spend with family and friends, and ultimately better air quality.
One of this government's top priorities is keeping people and goods moving safely and efficiently across our highways. The southern Ontario highways program is evidence of the McGuinty government's commitment to high-performance highways. The program we announced complements the $1.8-billion northern Ontario highways strategy launched last year. In the first year of this program alone, six kilometres of new highway were built, seven new bridges were built, 19 bridges were repaired, and 383 kilometres of highway were repaired.
Last Thursday, Premier McGuinty and Minister Bartolucci announced this year's plans for northern Ontario highway construction, including 36 new projects and 16 projects carried forward from previous years. The 2006 construction plan includes repairs to 43 bridges and 420 kilometres of highway.
Northern highways are literal economic lifelines for northern communities. Linking northern and southern Ontario is vital to the prosperity of the entire province. The northern and southern Ontario highway programs are evidence of our government's commitment to leave a legacy of safe highways that will support Ontario's economy for generations to come. The Ministry of Transportation has prepared a detailed report, appropriately called the Southern Ontario Highways Program -- 2006 to 2010, and it is available online.
When we took office, our government promised accountability and transparency in the way we managed taxpayers' dollars. The report shows exactly how money is being spent to strengthen our province. Ontarians can expect improvements on highways in all regions across the province. Every year, my ministry will publish a report providing an update on the five-year program.
These changes are in addition to the significant improvements my government has already made to Ontario's highways. Some of those changes already in progress include:
-- Opening the first-ever high-occupancy vehicle, or HOV, lanes on provincial highways in Ontario. The new lanes on Highways 403 and 404 encourage carpooling, which translates to fewer vehicles on the roads, cleaner air and a more enjoyable commuting experience.
-- We've also started extending Highway 410 from Bovaird Drive to Mayfield Road to improve traffic flow and to provide a link to growing communities in Brampton; and
-- We are building new bridges at Bronte Creek and Sixteen Mile Creek to accommodate plans for HOV lanes on the QEW in the future. This is an important part of our international trade route through Oakville and Burlington.
In 2006 alone, Ontarians can expect: 29 kilometres of new highway, 828 of kilometres of highway repairs, 77 bridge repairs, and preparations for 10 kilometres of new HOV lanes in the northbound lanes of Highway 404. The end result of these improvements will be safer and more efficient highways and a stronger economic outlook for our province.
It's very important to note that our government is keenly aware of the effect all of the planned construction can have on the environment. We work hard to protect wildlife, fish habitats and migratory and nesting birds.
Tackling congestion is also crucial to improving air quality. Our record investments in highway infrastructure and public transit will mean less time idling in traffic, less fuel consumed and less pollution. We will do everything we can to preserve Ontario's ecosystems and air quality for future generations.
I'd like to conclude by saying that Ontario is already a great place to live and to do business, but it has the potential to be even greater. The McGuinty government is committed to strengthening the province's infrastructure to maximize our competitive advantage on the world stage and to encourage further investment in our province.
The southern Ontario highways program and northern highways program are forward-thinking initiatives that will help to counteract growing congestion, take care of our existing highway infrastructure and deliver prosperity to future generations. I know all honourable members will want to support these programs, for they are in all regions of our province.
Hon. David Caplan (Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, Deputy Government House Leader): I rise today to inform this House and the people of Ontario of an exciting and historic event in the way we will stimulate economic prosperity, manage growth and protect the environment in the most rapidly growing region in our country.
I'm referring, of course, to the growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe, which was released just this past Friday. I had the pleasure of announcing the plan's release in Mississauga, at an event hosted by the Canadian Urban Institute.
I want to acknowledge that we have indeed been very fortunate in having some very strong supporters -- some of whom are in the gallery today, and I'd like to introduce them to you. We have with us the Mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion; Mayor Rob Hamilton of Barrie; Mayor John Gray from Oshawa; Mayor Mike Hancock from Brantford; Peter Partington, regional chair of Niagara region; Chris Winter, Conservation Council of Ontario; Ken Seiling, regional chair of the region of Waterloo; Victor Fiume from the Ontario Home Builders' Association; Neil Rodgers from the Urban Development Institute; and Bob Finnigan from the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association.
The McGuinty government has an incredibly positive vision for the greater Golden Horseshoe as a great place to live, now and far into the future. It's a vision that's based on a strong economy, a clean and healthy environment, and opportunity for everyone. That's why we've developed this plan: because it supports working families and businesses and protects our environment.
The growth plan will build opportunities for the people of Ontario by creating better-planned communities, with more options for living, working, shopping and playing. It will build opportunities for new investment and more jobs. It will revitalize downtowns to become vibrant and convenient centres. It will provide greater choices in housing types to meet the needs of people at all stages of life. It will curb urban sprawl and protect farmlands and green spaces. It will reduce traffic gridlock by improving access to a greater range of transportation choices.
This plan places Ontario amongst the leaders in promoting strong communities, not just in Canada but in North America and worldwide. We heard, for example, from US organizations such as the Congress for New Urbanism, the Urban Land Institute and the Smart Growth Leadership Institute that what Ontario is doing is a model for North America -- a model that puts us at the forefront internationally for building vibrant cities and communities. The world-renowned planning expert and the public policy chair at the Urban Land Institute, William Hudnut, has said that Ontario's Place to Grow initiative represents "a better and smarter way: strategic government planning and investment that produces communities with the right mix of housing, a good range of jobs, convenient transit, and easy access to stores and services to meet people's daily needs."
The honourable members will remember the discussion that led to the passage of the Places to Grow Act last June. That groundbreaking legislation, supported by this Legislature, authorized the province to designate growth plan areas and develop growth plans. The greater Golden Horseshoe is the first designated growth plan area, and this growth plan is the first to be developed under the act. It is first because the need here is urgent. The greater Golden Horseshoe is indeed the engine of Ontario's economy. It's our largest urban region by far. About two thirds of Ontario's people live here now, and this region will grow by approximately 3.7 million additional people and almost two million additional jobs by 2031.
But without the growth plan, we could all expect more of what has happened in the recent past: urban sprawl and damage to the environment, longer commutes to work, and excessive costs for infrastructure needed to support that kind of growth. Instead, we will create, with our partners, communities that will meet the needs of Ontarians, not only today but for generations to come.
Transit is the plan's first investment priority. For instance, Move Ontario, an initiative announced by my colleague Dwight Duncan in the March 2006 budget, provided more than $830 million to municipalities in the GTA, including Toronto, York region, Brampton and Mississauga, to use to expand public transit. The plan also addresses employment lands to make sure that municipalities maintain enough lands to accommodate manufacturing and major office and institutional development as well as other employment uses.
Last year, our government established the greenbelt to protect natural and agricultural areas, demonstrating our commitment to our environmental heritage. The growth plan confirms that commitment. In fact, it goes further by making sure that the region's growth happens in the areas that can best accommodate it while taking pressure off the areas we value most.
Investments in public infrastructure are being used to support this plan. More than $7.5 billion will be invested to improve infrastructure right here in the greater Golden Horseshoe over the course of the next five years. If passed, the legislation we've introduced will be creating the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority to promote the seamless movement of people and goods right across the greater Toronto area.
This plan is the result of countless hours of public consultation, policy analysis and engagement with the stakeholders. I'd like to acknowledge the work of assistant deputy minister Brad Graham, who leads the Ontario Growth Secretariat in that work.
The consultation doesn't end here. We will continue, as we have, to listen, to engage stakeholders and public bodies as we implement the plan. The time is so very right for this initiative. People in the greater Golden Horseshoe are well aware of the rapid growth of this region. They want to avoid the potential negative effects of traffic gridlock, long commutes, poor air quality and the loss of green space, and they want realistic goals and a clear plan to achieve them, and that's what the growth plan delivers. That's why I'm so optimistic that it will promote economic prosperity and an improved quality of life in this region for decades to come.
ÉDUCATION EN FRANÇAIS /
L'hon. Sandra Pupatello (ministre de l'Éducation, ministre déléguée à la Condition féminine): C'est vraiment une période excitante en éducation en Ontario. Sous le gouvernement McGuinty, l'éducation en langue française est une histoire à succès. Le taux d'obtention de diplôme des élèves de langue française en 12e année est supérieur à celui des élèves de langue anglaise. Les élèves de 6e année dans les écoles de langue française de l'Ontario obtiennent de meilleurs résultats que les élèves de langue anglaise. In fact, this morning in Ottawa, I did call them "show-offs."
Notre gouvernement a à coeur le besoin des francophones de l'Ontario. Nous voulons leur assurer une éducation de langue française de qualité. Nous voulons aussi contrer l'assimilation. C'est pourquoi nous avons lancé la politique d'aménagement linguistique.
Nous avons également mis sur pied le tout premier groupe de travail permanent sur l'éducation en langue française, qui a tenu sa première rencontre au début de juin.
La semaine dernière, j'ai eu le plaisir d'annoncer que le financement de tous les conseils scolaires en Ontario va augmenter de 600 $ millions l'an prochain pour atteindre 17,5 $ milliards. Le financement des conseils scolaires de langue française franchira le cap du milliard de dollars. That's good news. Le financement des conseils scolaires -- the French boards in particular are reaching their cap of $1 billion.
Les conseils scolaires de langue française vont recevoir une augmentation totale de 34 $ millions ou 3,5 %.
Lorsque le gouvernement McGuinty a pris le pouvoir, les conseils scolaires de langue française recevaient 774 $ millions. Le financement actuel représente une augmentation de 34 %.
C'est avec plaisir que j'annonce que le gouvernement accorde 10 $ millions supplémentaires aux conseils scolaires de langue française l'an prochain afin de reconnaître les coûts de prestation des programmes pour la petite enfance.
J'annonce également que le gouvernement va financer, sur quatre ans, 220 $ millions en nouvelles constructions d'écoles de langue française.
J'encourage toutes les écoles publiques et catholiques de langue française à continuer leur excellent travail pour améliorer le rendement des élèves et augmenter la confiance du public dans la qualité de nos écoles.
J'aimerais aussi remercier la directrice de l'École secondaire catholique Béatrice-Desloges, Mme Julie Matte, qui nous a accueillis ce matin.
Mrs. Christine Elliott (Whitby-Ajax): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I'd be grateful if my colleagues would join me in welcoming the students and teachers from the Wasdell Centre for Innovative Learning in Ajax. I'm happy to say that my son John is here as part of that class today.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Responses?
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): Often, I get quite nervous when the Liberals stand to make announcements and commitments to the people of Ontario. I've become somewhat cynical over the last while of the number of broken promises, and here yet again today is what I consider to be another broken promise.
Quite frankly, in the very few short weeks since this minister has taken over, we've found that the amount of slippage here is about $1 billion that's been taken out of the capital budget for that ministry under her watch.
During our term in government, we had committed $1 billion per year. The former Minister of Transportation was courteous enough to follow that template for a 10-year plan. Now we have $3.4 billion over a five-year plan. Do the numbers: It's actually a cut to the people of Ontario. In fact, I would say quite sincerely, it's another Liberal photo op. There are no shovels in the ground. There's nothing actually happening. It's an additional photo op announcement. I think the evidence is before us.
In Durham region, the single biggest issue that I hear about is the east completion of the 407 highway. Building it -- and you talk to Mr. Caplan; your minister's announcement as well on Places to Grow. There's nothing there for Durham region. You've ignored us. You've ignored Durham region, and despite that, you've ignored other parts of the province.
What about the promise to complete 600 bridges? There are over 10,000 bridges in this province. With the Liberal government, you promise more and you get less.
In conclusion, in the limited time we have to respond, the evidence is before us each day. What do I witness? I witness gridlock and I witness the poor management of incidents on our highways. Have a happy summer motoring in Ontario.
Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): In response to the minister of infrastructure, there's a long way to go from announcement to accomplishment on this one. First of all, it's unclear as to how the province will oversee the plan, which must coordinate local authorities and citizens in 25 urban growth centres, rural communities, and stakeholders in new development in designated greenfield areas.
Many low-density sprawl developments have already been approved. It's easier and less expensive for developers to build single-family homes in the suburbs rather than mixed-use communities where the minister hopes people will live, work and play.
It appears that these developments will be exempt from the new rule, putting off results too far in the future. There's a great deal of emphasis on reserving enough space for commercial activity in the hopes that people might live and work in the same space, enabling them to walk or bike to work and spend less time in gridlocked traffic. However, it's unclear as to how these new communities would be able to attract employers or how they would encourage employees to live nearby.
Municipal councils will have three years to bring their OPs in line with the province's vision, and only communities that co-operate and reach their density targets will be eligible to share in the billions spent by the province each year on infrastructure projects. Rebellious cities and towns can be hauled before the OMB and forced to obey the plan, and Queen's Park could refuse to grant permission for the expansion of municipal boundaries. This is just another example of the McGuinty Liberals announcing grandiose ideas without a specific action plan.
Mr. Frank Klees (Oak Ridges): In response to the Minister of Education, I'm surprised that the minister wouldn't take the opportunity to commend the former Progressive Conservative government for its vision and support for French-language education. The minister may not know that it was that former government that first created French-language school boards and, through the investments of the former government, that French-language schools are funded at standard levels. I'm encouraged to see that the current government is continuing to support these fine educational institutions, and we support every effort that the government may well make to ensure that that fine education continues in this province.
I would suggest to the minister that what she should be concentrating on, instead of making additional one-off announcements, is keeping her government's promise that they would update the funding formula. Boards would be much better off if they kept that commitment to fund school boards to the level of the commitments that this government has made on behalf of school boards across the province.
So I want to take the opportunity today to commend all of the teachers and all of the staff and the students who participate in French-language education. To their credit, it is a place for us to stand proud as a government here in Ontario. We encourage the government to meet their commitment to other school boards across --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. Responses?
Mr. Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): To Minister Pupatello: She says they're investing $10 million to support early childhood education and $16 million over four years to drive approximately $220 million in capital construction for French-language schools.
With respect to the $10 million, I'm assuming it's new money; it's hard to say. I'm assuming it's provincial dollars. That too is hard to say, but we can only hope.
As to the $16 million over four years for capital construction, all I want to say to the minister is this: Minister Kennedy said that he was going to spend $270 million that would generate $4 billion in capital projects. So far, in three years, this Liberal government has only spent $16 million, by the evidence provided to me by this government and this minister. So when they say that they're going to spend another $16 million over four years, they've already spent $16 million over three years for all of the schools in Ontario. That's not a lot.
By the way, if you want to reduce the assimilation of francophone students and help retain francophone students in French-language schools, the best way to do it is to encourage bilingualism; the best way to do it is to encourage French immersion; the best way to do it for your government is to make sure that kids who are not studying French are studying French, as a way of promoting French-language students to stay in their own schools.
Mr. Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth): I'm going to speak to the announcement by the Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal and that of the Minister of Transportation.
It's very clear from the documents presented to us that the Liberals' final plan to govern growth in the greater Golden Horseshoe area will not reach its target: It will not curb sprawl and it will not stop gridlock on our highways. I say this to our guests in the gallery today: You will be dealing with worse gridlock in the years to come.
What this community, the greater Golden Horseshoe, needs is a strong plan to control urban sprawl, it needs a plan to control gridlock, to eliminate gridlock, and it needs a plan that will deal with the social, economic and environmental impacts that sprawl imposes on communities. What we have had presented in this House is a growth plan that puts the interests of communities, the interests of public transit and the interests of increased urban density behind the interests of developers.
The Liberals' final growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe states that 40% of all new residential development must be constructed within built-up areas by 2015. The Neptis Foundation did research on this issue, often cited when we're talking about this area and the challenges to it. They say that at this rate of intensification, the amount of new residential development to be shifted from farmland to genuine intensification is too little to do what has to be done to reduce gridlock and congestion.
Mr. Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth): One of the factors that's going to impact on all of this is the highways plan that was announced by the Minister of Transportation. The proposed extension of Highway 404 north to Ravenshoe Road is particularly problematic. It provides the essential infrastructure to further a series of low-density developments proposed for York region, north of the Oak Ridges moraine. These are in the Queensville, Sharon and Holland Landing areas. This will not curb sprawl; this will facilitate it. So everyone who's going to be sitting on the 401, the 407 and the QEW in the years to come is going to get to sit there a lot longer, they're going to get to listen to radio a lot longer, and they're going to get to spend more time thinking about being with their families instead of being with them, because the plan before us will increase sprawl, not reduce it.
The economic corridor, the GTA east-west corridor: How is this going to affect the amount of transportation that we need, the sort of transit that we need? It will facilitate more investment in cars and more sprawl.
The NDP is disappointed with the plans that have been brought forward. The key elements for reducing gridlock and sprawl are not there. In fact, this plan is extraordinarily weak, and the very problems that this government decries, the very problems that politicians in the GTA and the suburban areas are working with, are facing with their constituents, are going to get worse. There are going to be profound problems for this area.
TRANSPARENT DRUG SYSTEM
FOR PATIENTS ACT, 2006 /
LOI DE 2006 SUR UN RÉGIME
DE MÉDICAMENTS TRANSPARENT
POUR LES PATIENTS
Deferred vote on the motion for third reading of Bill 102, An Act to amend the Drug Interchangeability and Dispensing Fee Act and the Ontario Drug Benefit Act / Projet de loi 102, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'interchangeabilité des médicaments et les honoraires de préparation et la Loi sur le régime de médicaments de l'Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Call in the members. This will be a 10-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1430 to 1440.
The Speaker: Mr. Peterson has moved third reading of Bill 102, An Act to amend the Drug Interchangeability and Dispensing Fee Act and the Ontario Drug Benefit Act. All those in favour will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Cansfield, Donna H.
Chambers, Mary Anne V.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Flynn, Kevin Daniel
Mossop, Jennifer F.
Racco, Mario G.
Sorbara, Gregory S.
Takhar, Harinder S.
Van Bommel, Maria
Wong, Tony C.
Wynne, Kathleen O.
The Speaker: All those opposed will please rise one at a time to be recognized by the Clerk.
Runciman, Robert W.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 53; the nays are 22.
The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.
Mr. Tim Peterson (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I rise today to recognize four people from my riding. They are Sandy and Grant Jones and Bob Fasken, and they are escorting Mitch Fasken. Mitch Fasken will not be running for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada this year, but he will be in 2026. Thank you for recognizing them.
NATIVE LAND DISPUTE
Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): My question is to the Acting Premier. Acting Premier, last Friday your Liberal government announced the purchase of land now under native occupation in Caledonia. At the time, the minister of aboriginal affairs indicated that the purchase price was confidential. We're now hearing that the price paid will exceed 50 million taxpayer dollars.
Minister, why is the purchase price confidential, on what basis have you determined that it must be confidential and what is so confidential about using taxpayer dollars to clean up a problem your government can't fix?
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): I'm happy to have the opportunity to say to the honourable member today that I'm not in a position to share that particular detail with him, but what I can say is that because our government has been able to reach an agreement with the local developer, that has enabled those parties at the main table -- federal representatives, provincial representatives and representatives of the First Nations community -- to move these negotiations along, as is appropriate. We're very pleased that achieving this agreement with the property owner has enabled those at the negotiating table -- the main table -- to focus on the issue and get this matter resolved as soon as possible.
Mr. Runciman: I think some could fairly construe that response as contempt for the Legislature and contempt for the hard-working taxpayers of this province.
John Tory and the Progressive Conservative Party believe the people of Ontario deserve to know just how much Dalton McGuinty's lack of leadership is costing us. Last week in court, officials from the Ministry of the Attorney General indicated that the McGuinty government is handing over property at the former Burtch Correctional Centre to Six Nations. Would the minister advise the House and hard-pressed Ontario taxpayers what the assessed value of that property is?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: I find it quite appalling that a member of this Legislature, who would formerly have been an Attorney General, would ask a question of that kind, knowing that there are very serious and important negotiations underway at this time. You are asking for information that would be inappropriate and that I know you, as a minister in this position, would not have provided either.
We have a very serious situation that the federal government, provincial representatives and First Nations representatives are dealing with. We encourage them. With the property issue being resolved, we believe we have provided them with a situation that will enable them to achieve a resolution to this in a more expeditious way. That has been our commitment from day one of this, and we are encouraged, now that there has been a property deal, that that will enable those parties at that table to get that deal done.
Mr. Runciman: That was an unbelievably feeble response. I mean, the Attorney General's officials already indicated they turned over property at Burtch to Six Nations. This is not something that's part of negotiations; they've turned it over.
To date, the McGuinty government has committed probably in excess of 50 million taxpayer dollars for a property purchase, millions to disrupted businesses, given away at least a hundred hectares of government property, dropped conditions for a return to the bargaining table, recognized a no-go zone for police, permitted criminal fugitives to remain at large, shattered public confidence in the rule of law, turned a blind eye to the destruction of a hydro transformer, the blockade of highway and railway and on and on, and still no deal. Mr. McGuinty's approach -- bargain from weakness and reward continued resistance -- is setting the table for many more Caledonia-type confrontations.
Minister, will you, as Acting Premier, tell the people of Caledonia and the people of Ontario if this is how Dalton McGuinty defines being up to the job?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: First of all, I would like to say, on behalf of the government -- certainly it has been stated many times by the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs -- that we truly appreciate what the people and the community of Caledonia have had to endure, and we thank them for their continued support.
I know that the honourable member and the members of the opposition are not happy that we find ourselves today in a situation where, at the main table, federal partners, provincial partners and First Nations partners are negotiating a resolution to this issue. That has been our goal from day one. We are there with all the challenges the member has identified, that have happened and that have been dealt with. We feel that it's important for people in the community to know that we are committed to their safety, to their well-being and to ensure that there is a peaceful resolution to this outstanding --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. New question.
Mr. Runciman: To the Acting Premier, again on Caledonia: one of the explicit conditions Mr. McGuinty laid out last Monday for a return to the bargaining table with the Caledonia occupiers was that the First Nations leadership co-operate with police. We know that isn't happening, and I believe it's quite appropriate for one to ask for assurances that your government will not broker any deal with the occupiers until the six wanted individuals, including one charged with the attempted murder of an OPP officer, are turned over to police. Will you give us that assurance?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: The Premier was very clear when he said that in order for negotiations to continue on this very serious issue, the barricades had to come down and there had to be a demonstration that the First Nations people were co-operating --
Mr. Runciman: He said the leadership.
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: Well, the leadership of the First Nations were co-operating with the police. We have heard from the Ontario Provincial Police, who have confirmed that that is in fact has happened at Caledonia, and that is why we have returned to the negotiating table, along with our federal partners. Obviously, the federal participants at this table believe it is appropriate to be there so that we can gain a resolution to this very serious issue.
Mr. Runciman: The regrettable truth is that Mr. McGuinty displayed incredible weakness last week when, on Tuesday, he backed down from explicit conditions for a return to the bargaining table that he set just the day before. Talk about backing yourself into a corner.
You are negotiating with people who are openly obstructing justice by admittedly hiding, or assisting to flee, individuals wanted for very serious crimes, including attempted murder of a police officer. Minister, why would you continue to negotiate with the Caledonia occupiers unless or until they co-operate and hand over the six wanted men?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: You asked this question of this government and this Premier. Are you asking the same questions of the Prime Minister of Canada, who has seen fit to have representatives of the federal government at the same table we are at for the same reasons? We understand why it is so important that we achieve a settlement to this very, very serious issue.
I remind the honourable member that the conditions that were placed by the Premier of Ontario have been met -- the barricades are down; the Ontario Provincial Police have told us. And if I have to choose between taking their word or your word, I'm taking their word. That's why we're at the table.
The Speaker: Final supplementary.
Mr. Runciman: She's taking the word of the spinmeisters in the Premier's office; no one else.
Minister, you've attempted to put a happy face on your land purchase announcement, but the Caledonia occupiers are saying that's not good enough until the 50 million tax dollars and the land title are in their pocket, along with the Burtch property. And given the Premier's lack of intestinal fortitude to this point in time, who knows what else you're offering?
We know that 15 OPP officers have been injured during the occupation, people have been assaulted, a highway and railway span blocked, thousands plunged into darkness through the destruction of a hydro transformer, individuals facing serious criminal charges have been hidden, yet all we hear about are giveaways by the McGuinty Liberal government.
Minister, what are you looking for in return for your generous concessions? What are you bargaining for?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: I would offer the honourable member that the position that has been taken by our Premier has been strong and clear.
I would also offer to the honourable member -- maybe he hasn't read the papers lately -- a quote that has come from Karl Walsh, who is with the Ontario Provincial Police Association. This is what Mr. Walsh has said in terms of how our government has conducted the affairs around this particular incident. He indicates that he appreciates the government's hands-off approach to policing in Caledonia, and says that the opposition should stop playing politics with this standoff. I would suggest that the honourable member should heed the advice of Karl Walsh and stop playing politics with this very important issue. We are working for a resolution.
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Acting Premier. Last week, the environment minister secretly exempted the McGuinty government's $40-billion nuclear mega scheme from a thorough, effective provincial environmental assessment, and thereby deprived Ontarians of the opportunity to examine greener and more affordable energy alternatives. Today we learned that the secret backroom exemption you gave to your nuclear mega scheme also contravenes the requirements of Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights.
Acting Premier, it's bad enough that the McGuinty government has undermined Ontario's Environmental Assessment Act. Why has the McGuinty government also ignored Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights?
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): I want to say to the honourable member that he is simply wrong. New energy projects in the province of Ontario will require an environmental assessment. I think it is unfortunate when it is presented otherwise. I would also point the people of Ontario to the record of this government when we have constructed new energy projects.
I would remind the honourable member that with respect to the Glen Miller hydroelectric facility, we have completed an EA; the EA is done. With respect to Kingsbridge wind farm, phase 1, the EA is done. With respect to Erie Shores wind farm, the EA is done. Prince wind project, phase 1: EA done. Prince wind project, phase 2: EA done. Ripley wind power: EA done. Portlands Energy: EA done. Our government --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you, Minister. Supplementary?
Mr. Hampton: The question was about Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights. Section 16 of the Environmental Bill of Rights Act stipulates, "If a minister considers that a proposal ... could, if implemented, have a significant effect on the environment, the minister shall ... give notice of the proposal to the public at least 30 days before the proposal is implemented."
Any reasonable person in Ontario knows that a $40-billion nuclear mega scheme is going to have very significant effects on the environment now and for hundreds of years. Ontario law says you have to give 30 days' notice before you try your secret backroom exemption. You gave zero notice; in fact, you tried to hide the exemption. My question is this: If you think your nuclear mega scheme is so good, why are you trying so hard to hide it from the people of Ontario?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: To suggest that the government is trying to hide anything is absolutely ludicrous, given the fact that you found out about it on the website. Where's the secret there? I would remind the honourable member, as was indicated by the Minister of the Environment, that it is the position of our government that with broad government policy direction, there is not a need -- it is not subject to the requirements of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act. That is what the minister has said.
With respect to individual energy projects that will be undertaken in the province of Ontario, for each and every new project there will be an environmental assessment. The people of Ontario should be very confident that they will have every opportunity to participate in that process, which will ensure public participation.
Mr. Hampton: Here is the history: Dalton McGuinty exempts his nuclear mega scheme from a thorough provincial environmental assessment, breaking Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights in the process. Then he says there will be some sort of federal environmental assessment. But your energy minister on the weekend confessed, "I'm told by people who are more expert than I at these things that the federal process is not as fulsome as the Ontario process." In other words, the federal process doesn't provide an independent, expert-based review of the nuclear megaproject, nor does it consider alternatives.
So here you go: You undermine the Environmental Assessment Act and you try to get around the Environmental Bill of Rights. I say again, if your nuclear mega scheme is as good as you claim it is, why are you trying so hard to hide it from the people of Ontario?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: Again, it's important that I correct the honourable member. The regulation that this government has brought forward is on the website; it's not hidden anywhere. You found it there.
I say to the people of Ontario, we remain committed to ensure that there is a public process for new energy builds in the province of Ontario. The Minister of the Environment has committed to that. Our government is committed to that.
With respect to the environmental assessment that's carried out at the federal level, I find it interesting that in the quote he shared with this Legislature, he neglected to finish the comment that was made by the Minister of Energy, where he made it very clear that he believed it was time that the federal government would review their criteria for environmental assessment to make it more rigid and more stringent. You forgot that; you left that out. We are committed to a very comprehensive environmental assessment process for new energy in the province of Ontario.
The Speaker: New question?
Mr. Hampton: To the Acting Premier: I think I've heard it all. The McGuinty government does a secret backroom deal to hide your nuclear mega scheme from a provincial environmental assessment, you toss it off to a weak federal environmental assessment, and then you suggest the federal government should toughen up their procedures. Why not just do the right thing in the first place: subject your nuclear mega scheme to a thorough, effective Ontario environmental assessment instead of trying to hide from it?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: First of all, it's very important that I take every opportunity on behalf of this government to remind the people that there is absolutely nothing hidden about the regulations that we brought forward. They are public and on the website.
I am also in a position today to say to the people of Ontario, with respect to new energy builds in the province of Ontario, that there will be an environmental assessment. That has been the case with new builds to date under our government, and that will continue.
With respect to the building of new nuclear, again, I say to the people of Ontario that nuclear is federally regulated. They have the responsibility to ensure, going forward, that the environmental assessments are carried out and that the communities have an opportunity to participate. Our own energy minister has encouraged them to review those to make them even more responsive to what the community will expect from that process.
Mr. Hampton: Minister, you say the McGuinty government has been public and open in terms of the environmental assessment requirements for your nuclear mega scheme, but we had to go looking for the exemption order. When the Minister of Energy was holding his press conferences, doing his one-on-ones and making his announcements, there was not one whisper about your exemption from the Environmental Assessment Act process, not one hint of your exemption from the requirements for an environmental assessment under Ontario law.
And I'm not alone. I want to quote Ian Urquhart from the Toronto Star this weekend: "When it comes to the question of an environmental assessment of its nuclear plan, McGuinty and his government have been anything but direct. Indeed, they have been downright misleading."
The Speaker: You know you can't say that, even if it is a quote. Withdraw.
Mr. Hampton: I withdraw the quote, Speaker.
Then Mr. Urquhart said, "This was Broten's first true test as a cabinet minister, and she flunked it...."
I say again, people are catching on to the McGuinty government's failure to provide openness, failure to provide environmental leadership. Why are you so determined to hide your nuclear mega scheme from the people of Ontario, who will have to deal with the environmental risks and the $40-billion cost?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: It is absolutely inappropriate that the honourable member suggests there is anything being hidden, especially when it's on a website -- when it's on a website. How more public in today's society can we get than to put something on a website? I would also remind the honourable member that if he was looking on the website, he would also see that our government has passed regulation 424. This regulation actually strengthens the requirement of the Ontario Power Authority to consider environmental impacts. He suggests our commitment to the environment is not what it should be. We have demonstrated that we want to ensure that the consideration of our environment is definitely a part of any process that any energy facility would consider moving forward with -- a new bill. We are committed to ensure going forward, as we build a power supply for the people of Ontario that they need, that they expect from this government, that we will do so in a responsible way.
Mr. Hampton: I must cite another example of the McGuinty government's failure to be straight with people and their attempt to hide the real evidence. Last week, at the Minister of Energy's news conferences, technical briefings and the one-on-ones with the media, at no time did he fess up that the McGuinty government is breaking its national commitments to reduce the level of mercury in air pollution. He had lots to say about everything, but at no time did he mention that the McGuinty government was going to break that commitment too. But he did leak the information to Saskatchewan's Minister of the Environment. Tell me, Acting Premier, why didn't the McGuinty government fess up about that one? What are you trying to hide from the public when you leak the information to a minister in Saskatchewan but nowhere last week did you admit that you were going to be allowing more mercury pollution in Ontario's airshed?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: First of all, with respect to the supplementary, I'm not exactly sure what it has to do with the environmental assessment and nuclear plants at this point in time, but I will gladly take this opportunity -- and maybe if you have another question come your way, you can ask me more particularly about that -- to say to the people of Ontario that our government is absolutely intent on ensuring that we have a stable energy source for the people of Ontario. We are committed to doubling our conservation in the province of Ontario. We are committed to doubling renewable energy sources in the province of Ontario. We are committed to eliminating coal. We are committed to refurbishing and replacing nuclear. But one thing we're not going to do: We're not going to buy rainforests in Costa Rica. We're not going to cancel conservation programs in the province of Ontario --
The Speaker: Thank you. New question.
NATIVE LAND DISPUTE
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): To the Acting Premier: On Friday, we knocked on doors in the Caledonia subdivision adjacent to the occupied site. Acting Premier, you will know the turmoil and the tension within those families, within that subdivision. People are off work on stress leave; people have blood pressure out of control. I'm reading e-mails from terrified children, children who sometimes can't even go outside during recess. In spite of your government's spin, the barricades are still up, and life is much worse now than it was on February 28. Acting Premier, have any members of your government been to Caledonia to communicate with these forgotten families, or do you hope they will just quietly go away?
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): First of all, I can say to the honourable member that the Minister of Economic Development and Trade is there as we speak. This also provides me with an opportunity to say to the people in the community that we certainly appreciate that there have been challenges in the last weeks. To that end, our government has worked to establish the community liaison table. David Peterson had a hand in leading the establishment of that table. Now, at that table, are municipal representatives, business representatives, as well as the local member, Dave Levac. It is their responsibility to be that finger on the pulse of the community, to determine what their issues are, what their needs are, and bring recommendations forward on how they might be addressed.
Our government is very happy about the good work that is being undertaken by the community liaison committee, and we do look forward to hearing from them and understanding what we might do to continue to support those in the community.
Mr. Barrett: Acting Premier, in addition to knocking on maybe 300 doors on Friday, I attended a large neighbourhood meeting in that subdivision. As at the door, people are asking questions about renewing their mortgages, the value of their homes, and the title on their property.
We know that your government has tried to buy its way out by purchasing the Douglas Creek Estates from the land developers. You have set a precedent. Some homeowners next door to the site are asking me, "Will you please purchase our homes as well?" A precedent has been set, Acting Premier. Is this now an option on the table, to purchase people's homes?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: I think that it is important that we clarify for the record that our government has made investments in the community that we believe will support the businesses and the homeowners in the area. We have committed $500,000 in emergency assistance for the local businesses. We have delivered $50,000 to the local council to help them deal with the phone calls that have been coming into their offices and to assist them with staff for that. We've delivered $50,000 to help develop a marketing and economic recovery plan. Last week we delivered a further $160,000 to the local council to implement that plan. We've provided interim relief to the developer and businesses, and we've also provided a toll-free line.
I would say to the honourable member that the most significant contribution to date has been the establishment of the community liaison table, where there are businesses, members of council and the local member. People of the community know who they are and should go there --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): New question.
Mr. Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth): My question is for the Minister of Energy. Toronto Hydro has introduced two new programs that essentially pay people and companies to reduce their demand on hot days. The problem that they have and that other utilities have is that they can't implement these programs on the scale required without substantial new financial support from the province. Will you, Minister, order the OPA to make these kinds of programs mandatory throughout the province and provide local utilities with the financial resources to allow them to implement these programs on the scale needed to make a real difference in this province?
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy): I will remind the member opposite that those programs he has referred to are the direct result of the $160 million and the so-called third tranche money that this government made available two and a half years ago. You weren't here, but your colleagues -- Mr. Hampton, Mr. Kormos and the others -- voted against that. It's unfortunate they did that because that was the first step we made in terms of really creating a culture of conservation.
We're glad to hear that you support those programs now. We welcome your input into that debate. I wish you could convince your colleagues that they should have supported us in those programs. Hopefully you'll support us as we move forward on conservation initiatives -- something that you and your colleagues never did when you had the chance.
Mr. Tabuns: I can only take from that indirect response -- that response taking us in a variety of different directions -- that the minister would rather spend 40 billion bucks on this nuclear boondoggle than actually put the money into the conservation programs that Ontario needs.
Local utilities throughout this province want the support to deliver the programs that we all know will make a big difference here. We know that demand response programs are a lot cheaper and safer than your nuclear power program. Again: Will you direct OPA to make demand response programs in this province mandatory and will you provide local utilities with the resources to allow them to make it happen? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Duncan: The answer is yes. We've already done it, and unfortunately he and his colleagues voted against it every step of the way. It's a shameful record. Let's talk about it. They're off in wonderland when they think you can't have an integrated system plan. You need one. You need conservation. That's why we've incented them $160 million in the first two and a half years and $1.5 billion by 2010. That's the largest investment in conservation in the history of this country, and one of the largest in North America. It's an excellent start. That's why we think it's important to double our efforts on conservation. Your leader suggested we can't make the goals we set. We're going to make them, and we trust the people of Ontario to help us make them.
I am reminded that you and your party cut conservation. Every program was cancelled under your policy. The three Cs of the NDP energy policy: cut conservation, cancel Conawapa and buy Costa Rican. That's a shameful legacy. This government's --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. New question.
Mr. Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I'm a bit confused here. In the previous question, I heard the Acting Premier --
The Speaker: What standing order are we talking about?
Mr. Murdoch: The number is -- I'll figure it --
The Speaker: New question.
Mr. David Orazietti (Sault Ste. Marie): My question is for the Minister of Transportation. I want to commend Minister Cansfield for her support of the northern Ontario highway infrastructure program. It's a welcome change from past governments.
Minister, you said in your statement today that our highway network is literally an economic lifeline in northern Ontario. That statement couldn't be more accurate. The state of our highways is vital to the economic success of northern businesses and to the personal safety of our region's motorists. Drivers in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie have expressed concern about the state of disrepair that our roads have been in for much of the last decade. Can you tell members of this Legislature what the government's long-range plan is to ensure that we'll be able to travel northern highways safely and efficiently for decades to come?
Hon. Donna H. Cansfield (Minister of Transportation): I'd like to thank the member for his continued commitment to northern Ontario. I've heard from many members across the north about the issues that face them with their highways, and that's why we released the $1.8-billion plan in new funding this year: $1.16 billion for pavement and bridge repairs and $700 million for highway expansion.
We were just in the Soo with the Premier and Minister Bartolucci, where we announced the first-year program. Six kilometres of new highway was built; seven new bridges were built, one at a time; 19 bridges were repaired; and 383 kilometres of highway were repaired. There is no question that Ontario in the north is as important as Ontario in the south, that altogether, we have an integrated plan on how we're going to proceed to ensure that we have sufficient highways in good shape to move not only goods but our people throughout this province.
Mr. Orazietti: I want to thank the minister for providing that update on the status of the northern highways strategy. This document has been a huge success throughout my riding and clearly demonstrates the McGuinty government's commitment to northern Ontario initiatives.
Minister, there are several highway projects currently under way in the Soo and area and throughout the north. My community is pleased to see that work has started on upgrading our vital infrastructure, after years of neglect under the previous two governments. Can you please update me and members of my community on the initiatives that are taking place in the Soo and area?
Hon. Mrs. Cansfield: Again, I'm delighted to be able to respond to the question. There is a significant amount of work under way in Sault Ste. Marie, valued at well over $100 million, on Highway 17 east of the Soo, which is new, as well as seven kilometres of a new four-lane highway from Bar River Road to Garden River First Nation and 16 kilometres of a new four-lane highway through Garden River First Nation. That's in addition to a 1.2 kilometre trunk road access that was recently started.
Mr. Speaker, there's no question: In December 2005, we announced accelerated completion dates of three important projects, from the end of 2008 to be completed instead by 2007. The completion of these three projects will provide a new, continuous four-lane highway between Sault Ste. Marie and Bar River Road. We look forward to putting additional resources into the north to ensure, again, that our highways are not only the safest in North America, the most travelled in North America --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. New question.
NATIVE LAND DISPUTE
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): To the Acting Premier: On Friday night, I attended a town hall meeting about the Burtch Correctional Centre and the Six Nations land dispute. The Burtch lands, 385 acres, are south of Brantford. It was expropriated from area farmers by the federal government in 1941 to create a World War II landing field by the Air Services Branch, an RCAF Wireless School flying squadron. My question: Is the Burtch property up for grabs at the land rights negotiating table?
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): The honourable member would know that for any member of this House -- and by the way, it would be inappropriate to talk about what's up, what's being considered, at any negotiations. These are very, very serious negotiations. You and others on all sides of this House have identified how sensitive they are.
What I am very comfortable saying to the honourable member is that we have federal representatives, provincial representatives and First Nations representatives at the table. These negotiations are under way and moving in a positive direction, and it is our hope that very soon there will be a resolution to this issue in Caledonia.
Mr. Barrett: Acting Premier, there were 150 people at that meeting from area homes, area farmers, and they do want to know; they're in the dark. They want to know, is it on the table or is it not? Did Mr. Petersen offer up Burtch or did he renege on the deal, as they've indicated in the Six Nations press?
Burtch is a very large area, two miles immediately west of the Six Nations territory. If it is handed over, homes and farms on that two-mile strip will be sandwiched between two very large native areas. You've already caved in, I'm told, and allowed Six Nations people on the property to plant soy beans. There are 200 acres of beans that got in.
Acting Premier, how can you now negotiate Burtch -- if you are negotiating Burtch -- if you've already handed over its use?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: Again, the honourable member knows it would be totally inappropriate to talk in this Legislature about anything that's being negotiated. I would also remind the honourable member that when it comes to land claims with First Nations people, the federal government has the lead for that. I would encourage him that the point he's raising here should also be brought to the attention of the federal representative from the area.
I would also say to the honourable member that I am in receipt of the most recent media release from Haldimand county. What these people are saying is, with respect to the announcements that had been made to date, that the expansion of financial assistance for businesses in Caledonia is very welcome. With respect to the financial relief for residents who've been impacted by this situation, the municipality will be releasing details on this program very soon; this is from the municipality. I would encourage the people in your community to continue to be in very close touch with municipal representatives --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): New question.
Mr. Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): My question is to the Minister of Finance. A week ago, Statistics Canada reported that there has been a one-month loss of another 13,000 -- and I underline -- manufacturing jobs, bringing the manufacturing job loss total in Ontario to over 100,000 since June 2004. Today we learn that another 300 jobs will be lost at the closing of the century-old Nestlé plant in Chesterville in eastern Ontario. The Nestlé layoffs are on top of the 1,300 layoffs in nearby Domtar and the loss of jobs at Consoltex in Alexandria and Gildan Activewear in Long Sault.
The McGuinty government has stood on the sidelines, and you have shown, I would suggest, no leadership in protecting these manufacturing jobs. We introduced a bill called the Job Protection Commissioner Act. Will you show some leadership, pass that bill, and save the thousands of manufacturing jobs in this province?
Hon. Greg Sorbara (Minister of Finance, Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I have a great deal of affection and admiration for my friend from Beaches-East York. I know, had he had more time, that he would want to acknowledge the leadership of my friend the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Mr. Cordiano, who has, with the assistance of a half-billion-dollar investment from the treasury, brought about a $7-billion investment in the auto industry. Ontario is now the lead jurisdiction in all of North America; similarly, the work that we've done to ensure that we have a strong Stelco, the work that my friend the Minister of Natural Resources has done to ensure that we have a strong forest industry up north and, as I speak, the Premier of this province is up to celebrate the opening of the first diamond mine in the northern part of the province, showing that mining also is very strong.
I want to tell him that I personally, as Minister of Finance, am proud of the fact that over the past two and a half years the businesses of this province have generated more than 280,000 jobs. We should all be proud of that, including my friend from Beaches-East York.
Mr. Prue: Minister, I'm talking about manufacturing jobs. Ten per cent of all of the manufacturing jobs in this province have disappeared in the last two years; in total, 101,700, to be exact. We have a manufacturing job crisis in this province and your government refuses to acknowledge it. Eastern Ontario's manufacturing base is being devastated. The north is experiencing unprecedented mill closures and you have shown no leadership in protecting those manufacturing jobs.
A jobs commissioner could save many of these jobs. Will you show the kind of leadership I know you are capable of and pass the bill that will save those thousands of jobs?
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: I want to tell my friend from Beaches-East York that, were there any evidence whatever that the proposal put forth by the leader of the New Democratic Party, a proposal that was in British Columbia and abandoned holus-bolus -- they got rid of it. It did not help with the loss of manufacturing jobs. It's similar to a proposal that the New Democratic Party brought about while they were in power for five very long years in this province, and it didn't do anything to help the economic crisis that they helped bring about.
I want to tell him that the challenge in manufacturing is to make the kind of investments that Mr. Cordiano has made in the auto sector, to make the kind of investments that my friend David Ramsay has made in forestry, to make the kind of investments in education that will give us a strong manufacturing base here for the next decade and beyond that. I'm very proud of our record. I want to tell my friend that his proposal for a jobs commissioner will not work.
Ms. Judy Marsales (Hamilton West): My question is for the Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal. Minister Caplan, your statement today is indeed a landmark growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe area, a historic initiative that will plan strategically for the population growth coming to this region. I understand that the greater Golden Horseshoe -- which includes the great city of Hamilton, I might add -- is the fastest-growing urban region in Canada and the third-fastest in all of North America. Indeed, I understand that growth projections anticipate an additional 3.7 million people moving to this area over the next generation.
However, growth of this magnitude offers many challenges, some potentially with negative impacts if not managed properly: issues such as more traffic congestion, the provision of employment lands, air quality, and the potential loss of prime green space and agricultural lands. This requires great planning and vision. Minister, can you explain how the growth plan will support our communities and prepare them for the growth we are anticipating in this region?
Hon. David Caplan (Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, Deputy Government House Leader): I really appreciate the question because, without a growth management plan, communities, families and Ontarians would experience more of the consequences of unplanned development, some of which the member noted, such as traffic congestion, poor air quality, and ongoing loss of valuable green space and prime agricultural lands. But the consequences of unplanned growth affect more than just the environment and human health. Ontario's economy relies on the efficient movement of goods and the availability of employment lands, both of which are limited with unplanned growth. Our government sees growth planning as an important aspect of Ontario's future economic prosperity and an exceptional quality of life.
That is why the growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe is so vital. It's a coordinated strategy that will help us to realize our vision of: (1) making the best use of land and infrastructure; (2) creating livable, vibrant communities that support healthy lifestyles; (3) preserving valuable green space; and (4) strategically promoting economic growth.
With the release of the growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe, we finally have the leadership --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. Supplementary?
Ms. Marsales: Earlier today you recognized a number of guests in the Legislature, and you noted that a diverse group of stakeholders are supporting the growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe, including municipalities, environmentalists, developers, community groups and planners. Such broad-based support is both notable and laudable, and indeed unprecedented when it comes to land use planning. Can you tell this House how this consensus was achieved?
Hon. Mr. Caplan: Achieving that degree of consensus was critical, but it was no easy task. It was based on two years of intensive consultation and engagement with stakeholders and with the public, listening to their perspectives and incorporating their best ideas. It was a challenging process, but an extremely gratifying one -- one that was accomplished in partnership, one that was based on a shared vision of how this region will grow and prosper over the next 25 years.
We collectively recognized very early on that the status quo was unacceptable, that ongoing, unplanned growth would only worsen air quality, traffic congestion, car dependency and loss of green space. Together, we had to act; that much was clear. The province had the leadership role and the responsibility, and the reward for our efforts will be a legacy of economic prosperity, clean air, more green space, agricultural lands and better planned communities for future generations.
Ms. Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Victoria-Brock): My question is for the Acting Premier. Today, we are not alone in our frustration with the McGuinty government, with their patchwork policies and their broken promises. We are in the good company of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
Last year, the McGuinty government, together with provincial and territorial environment ministers, agreed to reduce highly toxic mercury emissions by 50% by 2010. Your government is now breaking that promise -- not a big surprise. But the Minister of the Environment, a champion for mercury and air issues, reminded us on May 18, 2006, right here in the Legislature, that one of her very first announcements as Minister of the Environment was to improve our air emission standards. Clearly, the minister is not willing to support that statement with a firm plan and commitment. On April 5, 2006, again in this very room, Minister Broten indicated that the McGuinty government is tackling the serious issue of air pollution head on. Breaking your promise is certainly a phenomenal start on that.
My question to the Acting Premier is, why at this late stage is your government backing out of a Canada-wide agreement --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Acting Premier?
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): I'm very happy to have the opportunity to educate the member opposite, because I was at the federal-provincial-territorial meeting where Ontario, identified as the champion, agreed that we would move forward with a mercury initiative. I think it would be important that you direct your research folks to do more than just read the paper.
In fact, I have with me the letter that the Minister of the Environment sent to the Minister of the Environment from Saskatchewan, where it indicates very clearly, as champion for mercury and air issues within the CCME forum -- and that is Ontario's privilege -- Ontario strongly supports the work that's being done by CCME in developing Canada-wide standards. I would say that's actually a very solid commitment and that our commitment is followed by results, in that we have reduced mercury emissions by 33% since we've come to government.
Ms. Scott: The bottom line is that the McGuinty government broke a key campaign promise in 2003 to shut the coal-fired plants by 2007. In your usual patchwork approach to policy, you've just realized that this means you can't keep the promise to reduce mercury levels either. What we have here is a snowball effect of broken promises, policy created in a vacuum and a definite lack of leadership.
The McGuinty government and the Minister of the Environment have paid lip service to reducing emissions, but you have done precious little to create a comprehensive strategy or plan that works in conjunction with all of your last-minute policy flip-flops and broken promises. When can the people of Ontario finally see a comprehensive plan to reduce harmful mercury emissions and meet the standards that the rest of the provinces in Canada are working hard to meet? What deadline date have you given to the OPA to respond to you with their emission plan?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: This is really rich, coming from a member of a government that reduced emissions by 11%. We have tripled that. We have reduced mercury emissions by 33%. Those are results. In addition to that, I would like to say to the honourable member that we have reduced our reliance on coal by 17%, we've reduced SOx emissions by 28%, we've reduced NOx emissions by 34% and we've reduced CO2 emissions by 15%. I would set that record aside the record of the previous government any day.
We are committed to cleaning up the air. Our minister is committed to establishing a Canada-wide standard for mercury. What she has indicated to the minister from Saskatchewan is that she very much looks forward to doing that face to face with them in the very near future.
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Acting Premier. I asked you earlier today why the McGuinty government is so desperate to hide your $40-billion nuclear scheme from the people of Ontario. I asked you specifically how you could justify breaking Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights. I've just been handed a press release by Ontario's Environmental Commissioner, where he says, "The government made the decision to bypass Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights. They escaped the process whereby the people of Ontario should have been able to review and comment on the regulation to exempt the nuclear plans from an environmental assessment."
I ask you again: What is the McGuinty government trying to hide? Why have you not only undermined the Environmental Assessment Act of Ontario, but why are you also breaking the requirements of Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights?
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): Our government is absolutely committed to environmental protection in Ontario. I believe the record is very clear. Our government is the government that has recognized that the environmental assessment process has not worked well for many projects in Ontario, and that is why we undertook a review. That is why we've had sector tables provide the government with recommendations going forward on how we might improve this very important tool. Just recently, the Minister of the Environment has brought forward legislation that will amend the Environmental Assessment Act, that will in fact enable it to be a more effective tool for the people who use it. So I would say that to suggest that our government is somehow looking for ways not to be consultative or inclusive, or is in some way ignoring our responsibility to ensure the environment is protected, is not accurate at all.
Mr. Hampton: I want to quote the Environmental Commissioner again. By the way, Minister, the Environmental Commissioner reports to this Legislature; he doesn't kowtow to the McGuinty government. That's probably why you have a problem with him. But this is what he says about the McGuinty government:
"This is the first regulation under the Environmental Assessment Act that has not been posted on the Environmental Registry for public review and comment in the 12-year history of the Environmental Bill of Rights. This decision goes against the whole principle of government accountability and transparency enshrined in the act. Exempting the province's long-term electricity plans from the environmental assessment process -- to consider the possible impacts of those plans -- is clearly environmentally significant and should have been posted on the registry for public comment."
Tell me, Minister, why is the McGuinty government so determined --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): The question has been asked.
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: Again, I say to the honourable member and to the people of Ontario that it is because we are concerned for our environment that we have embarked on what I believe is one of the most ambitious energy plans undertaken, not just in Ontario but in North America. It is our intention to double our conservation efforts. It's our intention to double --
Mr. Hampton: Even Ernie Eves wouldn't have tried this.
The Speaker: The leader of the third party will come to order. Minister?
Hon. Mrs. Dombrowsky: The leader of the third party said that even Ernie Eves wouldn't try this. Of course not. He let this energy situation get to the point where we have more demand and less supply than when he came to office. Our government is not prepared to let that happen. Our government is committed to ensure that we double conservation and we double renewables. We are also committed to ensure that we have a safe, reliable process in place when we --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr. Mario G. Racco (Thornhill): My question is to the Minister of Health Promotion. Last Tuesday, Statistics Canada released this year's Canadian Community Health Survey, which polled over 130,000 Canadians on various health issues, one of them being smoking. The good news from the survey is that smoking rates across the country are decreasing. In fact, the number of people regularly exposed to second-hand smoke has fallen from 20% to 15% of the population. Although this is good news, 15% of Canadian non-smokers, or 4.8 million people, are still exposed to the dangers of second-hand smoke. Minister, how will our government's recently passed Smoke-Free Ontario Act work to further decrease this rate and ensure better health conditions for my constituents in Thornhill and in Ontario?
Hon. Jim Watson (Minister of Health Promotion): I want to thank the honourable member from Thornhill and congratulate him for the good work he did first as a city councillor in the city of Vaughan and now as a member of the McGuinty government on the smoke-free Ontario legislation.
Our approach to the smoking issue is the threefold: prevention, protection and cessation. The province-wide ban on May 31 fulfills the protection component.
I want to give members three quotes from individuals on how this legislation is affecting people in a positive fashion. Sheri Burnett, a Casino Windsor employee, said, "In talking with patrons at the casino over the past few days, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, even to the point of some diehard smokers admitting that it is more pleasant inside, the air is fresher etc.; already that is noticeable." In Pembroke, Glenda Croghan, manager of Bingo Country, also hasn't noticed a drop-off in customers, and the establishment is getting a facelift. Finally, in Sudbury, bingo business is strong at the Valley Bingo gaming centre, where owner Don Lebreche "saw the smoking bylaw as a chance to renovate and take down some walls that were like barriers."
Mr. Racco: As I have been out in my riding of Thornhill over the past two weeks enjoying the spring weather, I have noticed that most establishments seem to be following the new law. However, I continue to read complaints from some Legions, which feel they should be exempt from the legislation and that their membership will decline because of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. Minister, how are Legions being affected by this law and what has been the experience in other jurisdictions?
Hon. Mr. Watson: I have the utmost respect and gratitude for members of the Legion and our veterans. My father served overseas in World War II. But many Legionnaires have not been able to enjoy their Legion halls because of the haze of smoke, which also puts the staff in those facilities in danger. Many Legions and municipalities that went smoke-free through municipal bylaws have seen increases in their membership ban. Ottawa public health tells me that in Ottawa, in the beautiful community of Richmond at the Richmond Legion, the membership has increased since they went smoke-free and they've made more money on fundraising activities, coffee hour, exercise classes, the dart league, hall rentals and so on. "Jim and Shirley Stewart from the Belleville Legion will appreciate the new smoking ban. Jim is a smoker who takes it outside at home. Thanks to the smoking ban, Shirley, who recently underwent a bypass operation, can now join her husband at Legion functions." Says Shirley, "`After May 31, I'll be able to go.'"
Mr. Frank Klees (Oak Ridges): My question is to the Attorney General. I'm not sure who wants to respond in his place. Is he here? Is the Attorney General here?
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): The Attorney General is coming down, if you'd just wait for a moment. Is the Attorney General here? If not, you may place your question.
Mr. Klees: In that case, I'll direct the question to the Acting Premier. Acting Premier, last Thursday the Attorney General presided over a dramatic photo-op in a desperate attempt to convince the people of Ontario that your government is doing something about street racing. Hours later, in this chamber, members of your cabinet and your backbench refused to give unanimous consent to a bill that's before this Legislature to give quick passage to the street racing bill.
My question is, if your government is serious about dealing with street racing and putting a stop to it, why will you not support passage of this bill before this House rises this coming Thursday?
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): I appreciate the question. I want to remind the honourable member that we do have very strict laws for racing in Ontario at the present time. I appreciate the perspective, however, that the honourable member represents at this time, and I would encourage you. As you know, matters of this nature are regularly dealt with by House leaders of the Legislature. I would encourage you to work with your House leader. I will speak to the Attorney General and indicate that this is the direction that I have offered to you, so that perhaps there can be a negotiated resolution to the issue that you've brought before us today.
ONTARIO JOINT REPLACEMENT REGISTRY
Mr. Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the government has identified the reduction of wait times for total hip and knee replacement surgeries as a priority; and
"Whereas the current government has cancelled the Ontario Joint Replacement Registry (OJRR); and
"Whereas the ability for Ontario to capture its own surgical and patient outcome data on total hip and knee replacement procedures will be lost; and
"Whereas the current government has declined to reverse its decision and continue to collect the necessary data required to provide the best possible surgical outcomes for patients and reduce their need for revision surgeries; and
"Whereas improving patient outcomes after surgery and preventing costly revision surgeries will help reduce the wait times for all patients;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the government of Ontario reverse its decision to cancel the Ontario Joint Replacement Registry and continue to collect the surgical data and patient outcome information that is necessary to ensure that total hip and knee replacement patients in Ontario are not waiting unnecessarily and are achieving the best possible results and the greatest quality of life after their surgery."
I've also signed this.
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): I am pleased to present a petition from numerous Ontarians concerned about the lack of independent oversight of CAS decisions. The petition reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas Ontario is one of the few provinces that does not have independent oversight of child welfare administration; and
"Whereas eight provinces now have independent oversight of child welfare issues, including child protection; and
"Whereas all provincial Ombudsmen first identified child protection as a priority issue in 1986 and still Ontario does not allow the Ombudsman to investigate people's complaints about children's aid societies' decisions; and
"Whereas people wronged by CAS decisions concerning placement, access, custody or care are not allowed to appeal those decisions to the Ontario Ombudsman's office;
"Therefore, be it resolved that we support the Ombudsman having the power to probe decisions and investigate complaints concerning the province's children's aid societies (CAS)."
I agree with this petition. I have affixed my signature to it and I'm sending it to the table by way of Hartford
Mr. Tony Ruprecht (Davenport): This petition is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:
"Whereas access to home care for seniors and persons with disabilities allows them greater independence within their own homes and the ability to limit the amount of time that they are forced to stay in hospitals and/or long-term-care facilities; and
"Whereas doctors, nurses and health care workers need to be recognized and supported for the outstanding work they do within their communities, which must translate into increased funding and resources for their efforts; and
"Whereas implementing the Caplan review will contribute to a more stringent set of guidelines for ensuring that home care and community support services are more effective and far-reaching;
"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
"That the Liberal government's commitment to contribute $117.8 million to improve home care and implement the Caplan review be supported by all members of" this Legislature.
Since I agree, I am delighted to sign this petition.
SERVICES FOR THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED
Mrs. Julia Munro (York North): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas, without appropriate support, people who have an intellectual disability are often unable to participate effectively in community life and are deprived of the benefits of society enjoyed by other citizens; and
"Whereas quality supports are dependent on the ability to attract and retain qualified workers; and
"Whereas the salaries of workers who provide community-based supports and services are up to 25% less than salaries paid to those doing the same work in government-operated services and other sectors;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to address, as a priority, funding to community agencies in the developmental services sector to address critical underfunding of staff salaries and ensure that people who have an intellectual disability continue to receive quality supports and services that they require in order to live meaningful lives within their community."
As I am in agreement, I have affixed my signature and am giving it to Evan.
HIGHWAY NOISE BARRIERS
Mr. Jim Brownell (Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh): I have a petition here from some of the residents from Eamer's Corners in the city of Cornwall. It reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the residents of Eamer's Corners, in the city of Cornwall, (including, but not limited to Patrick, Wellington, Ross and Edgar Streets), have, during the past decade, been irritated and bothered by the increased noise created by the traffic along the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway (provincial Highway 401), in the vicinity of the above-mentioned streets; and
"Whereas the Ministry of Transportation for Ontario has erected an incomplete and unsightly berm adjacent to Patrick Street, along the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway (provincial Highway 401), in the city of Cornwall;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario as follows:
"(a) Construct a noise barrier along the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway (provincial Highway 401) adjacent to Patrick and Wellington Streets in the city of Cornwall;
"(b) Incorporate and properly maintain the dirt berm, now only partially completed and landscaped, along the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway (provincial Highway 401) adjacent to Patrick Street in the city of Cornwall."
I have affixed my signature to this petition as I firmly believe in what they have asked. I'll send this by page Luke.
SPEECH AND LANGUAGE SERVICES
Ms. Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Victoria-Brock): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas over one million Ontarians of all ages suffer from communication disorders relating to speech, language and/or hearing; and
"Whereas there is a growing need for awareness of the profound developmental, economic and social consequences that communication disorders have on people and their families; and
"Whereas persons with communication problems require access to the professional services of audiologists and speech-language pathologists who provide treatments to improve and enhance quality of life; and
"Whereas effective treatment of communication disorders benefits all of society by allowing otherwise disadvantaged persons to achieve their academic and vocational potentials; and
"Whereas investments in treatments for communication disorders pay economic dividends in reduced reliance on other social services,
"We, the undersigned, in conjunction with the Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, call on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to proclaim the month of May as Better Speech, Language and Hearing Month."
This was brought to me by Beth Ann Kenny, the executive director of the Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists. I'll hand it over to page Juliet.
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): I'm pleased to present a petition from numerous Hamiltonians urging the McGuinty government to raise social assistance rates. The petition reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas people relying on assistance from Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario disability support program (ODSP) face increasingly severe hardship because the McGuinty government failed to keep its promise of regular annual increases; and
"Whereas in 2003, McGuinty promised to tie OW and ODSP rates to the real cost of living but broke that promise once elected; and
"Whereas current OW and ODSP recipients often don't have enough money for food after paying the ever-rising cost of living for rent, utilities and transportation costs; and
"Whereas the McGuinty government continues to cut back on necessary supports such as the special diet supplement and the national child tax benefit, taking even more money away from Ontario's most vulnerable;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the McGuinty Liberal government raise OW and ODSP rates immediately by 3% annually; and
"That the McGuinty Liberal government close the 21.6% gap left by the Harris Conservatives; and
"That the McGuinty Liberal government immediately end the clawback on the national child tax benefit; and
"That the McGuinty Liberal government immediately reinstate the special diet supplement to Ontarians who have seen the benefit cut."
I agree with the petition. I've signed it and send it to the table by way of page Tyler.
Mr. Tony Ruprecht (Davenport): This petition is to the Parliament of Ontario and it reads as follows:
"Whereas improving job retention rates has a positive effect on developing valuable work skills, confidence in one's abilities and creating a greater economic foundation for the province; and
"Whereas JobsNow allows workers access to valuable resources such as job-matching services, pre-employment supports and up to 18 months of job retention and follow-up services;
"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
"That the JobsNow program continues to be supported by all members of the House; and that we work together to ensure that workers on social assistance find a meaningful and long-term solution to meeting their employment goals."
Since this is a great petition, I'm delighted to sign this as well.
SERVICES FOR THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): I present a petition on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Durham. It reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas, without appropriate support, people who have an intellectual disability are often unable to participate effectively in community life and are deprived of the benefits of society enjoyed by other citizens; and
"Whereas quality supports are dependent on the ability to attract and retain qualified workers; and
"Whereas the salaries of workers who provide community-based supports and services are up to 25% less than salaries paid to those doing the same work in government-operated services and other sectors;
Therefore "we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to address, as a priority, funding to community agencies in the developmental services sector to address critical underfunding of staff salaries and ensure that people who have an intellectual disability continue to receive quality supports and services that they require in order to live meaningful lives within their community."
I'm pleased to present this to Madeleine and sign it on behalf of my constituents.
Mr. Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): I'm pleased to present this petition. It's from a group of Canadian Auto Workers in Brampton and it deals with fair auto trade with South Korea. It reads as follows:
"Whereas more than 260,000 Ontarians make their living and support their families through their careers in the auto industry in Ontario, which has become the pre-eminent manufacturer of motor vehicles in North America; and
"Whereas Canada imports more than 130,000 vehicles annually from the Republic of Korea, which imports virtually no vehicles or parts from Canada and does none of its manufacturing or assembly in Ontario or in any other Canadian jurisdiction, even though Canadian auto workers make the best-quality, most cost-effective vehicles in the world; and
"Whereas the government of Canada aims for a free trade agreement that would include the Republic of Korea in 2006, does not address the structural trade imbalance in the auto sector, and includes no measures to require Korea to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers to Canadian-made vehicles, auto parts and other value-added services or components;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the government of Ontario insist that the government of Canada either cease free trade discussions with the Republic of Korea or make any proposed agreement contingent on fair and equal access by each country to the other's domestic markets in manufactured products such as motor vehicles and in value-added services, and ensure that Korea commits to manufacturing vehicles in Canada if Korea proposes to continue to sell vehicles in Canada."
This makes perfect sense. I'm pleased to support it, to affix my signature, and to ask page Meghan to carry it for me.
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): I continue to get petitions titled "Save Courtland School"; another one, "Our Lady of La Salette School Should Remain Open."
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the Brant-Haldimand-Norfolk Catholic District School Board along with all boards in Ontario was required to submit a long-term capital plan to the Ministry of Education for the schools for which they are responsible; and
"Whereas this long-term accommodation strategy was to include an indication as to whether the boards would be considering consolidation of schools within their jurisdiction; and
"Whereas a funding formula for boards to follow has not yet been determined; and
"Whereas the Ministry of Education has acknowledged that they support and acknowledge the extreme importance of our small schools in rural communities;
"We, the undersigned, would like to inform the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that we:
"(1) acknowledge and support the efforts currently underway to achieve small class sizes in primary grades, with built-in flexibility to ensure it does not force the closure of any small rural school;
"(2) support you in your goal to provide a funding formula that does not negatively affect small rural schools."
I support Courtland and La Salette and hereby affix my signature to these petitions.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): It is now 4 o'clock and time for orders of the day.
Mr. Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I'm confused, and I hope you can help me out on this. When we were in question period, a question on Caledonia was answered by the Acting Premier, who is the Minister of Agriculture and Food and the member from Tweed. It was twice -- not once, but twice -- mentioned that the local member sat on a committee that dealt with the local businessmen and the local people. I understood that the local member in Caledonia was Toby Barrett, who sits in front of me, and he informs me that he doesn't sit on that committee. I was wondering if the minister, tomorrow maybe, or in a statement, could clarify that, that the local member doesn't sit on this committee.
I was just confused and I wanted to ask that in question period. I didn't get a chance to. So I'm hoping you, as Speaker, can clarify who actually is the local member in Caledonia, and hopefully that this government is working with them.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): I want to thank the member for his point of order. I don't know that the Chair can clarify who the member is, the member the minister was speaking of. So I think you've perhaps answered your own point, that if you choose in question period to address that question to any minister whose responsibility it is under, you are quite free to do so.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ACT, 2006 /
LOI DE 2006 SUR LA RÉGIE
DES TRANSPORTS DU GRAND TORONTO
Mrs. Cansfield moved third reading of the following bill:
Bill 104, An Act to establish the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority and to repeal the GO Transit Act, 2001 / Projet de loi 104, Loi visant à créer la Régie des transports du grand Toronto et à abroger la Loi de 2001 sur le Réseau GO.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): The floor is yours, Minister.
Hon. Donna H. Cansfield (Minister of Transportation): Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I would like to share my time with my parliamentary assistant, the member from Ottawa-Orléans.
I rise in the House today to talk about how our government is taking steps to boost the province's economy and to improve the quality of life for all Ontarians, today and in the future. I refer to the proposed creation of the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, or GTTA.
Traffic congestion has become common in the greater Toronto area and in the surrounding areas. There are 5.5 million people living in the cities of Hamilton and Toronto and the regions of Halton, Peel, York and Durham. Our highways are at full capacity and the number of cars on our roads continues to grow. Our government realizes that unless we take immediate action, we're putting both our quality of life and our economy at risk.
Over the next 25 years, Ontarians can expect to see an increase of nearly two million vehicles on area roads. The amount of time spent in traffic could increase by four times and the province could lose as much as $28 million a day in congestion costs. Our quality of life will suffer as commuters spend even more time in congested traffic, and increased vehicle emissions will further contaminate the air we breathe.
The McGuinty government is on the side of commuters who want to spend less time on the road. That's why we are creating the GTTA: to help move people across regions more efficiently. The GTTA's first priority is to create an integrated multimodal transportation plan for road, rail and transit. The plan will consider the unique needs of all regions and provide a blueprint for convenient, seamless travel from Hamilton to Durham region. This plan will also work toward reducing transportation-related emissions of smog precursors and greenhouse gases.
We are taking a holistic approach to transit and to transportation. We want the number of people taking transit to grow significantly in the coming years so that there will be fewer cars on the road and less congestion on our highways. To make transit as easy as driving a car, we're setting the foundation to create a coordinating system that harmonizes all transit systems across the various regions -- all nine.
The GTTA will play a critical role in planning a transit network that will become the first mode of transportation that people in this region choose in their daily commute. If passed, our legislation will bring together local transit agencies, the regions and the cities of Toronto and Hamilton. Together we'll create a transportation network that will address today's needs and anticipate the needs of future generations.
Making transit systems more attractive to Ontarians is pivotal to our province's economic success. The more we can get commuters to lay down their car keys and choose transit, the better. Our highways are the hub of our economy. They carry nearly $1.2 trillion in goods across the province each year. The 400-series highways that pass through the area are some of the busiest in North America. Much of the $900 million in two-way trade that crosses the Ontario-US border every day travels on these roads. It is estimated that one hour of congestion on Highway 401 costs businesses $600,000 per hour in lost revenue. To build and maintain our economic advantage, we are doing everything in our power to avoid these costs.
Under our proposal, the GTTA will: integrate municipal and regional transit planning; oversee the GTA fare card system; coordinate transit bus purchases on behalf of municipalities; and allow municipalities to take advantage of a bus procurement initiative. By working together, municipalities can create efficiencies which bring savings to all.
By bringing together representation from all regions, we can ensure that transit schedules are coordinated and that regions get the best possible value for their transit vehicle purchases. We can also ensure that a plan is in place to invest in priority transit projects for the region as a whole and not just for individual municipalities.
Our vision is to create a GTTA that would bring together the province, municipalities and local transit agencies to create a seamless and a more convenient transportation network -- to plan, to coordinate and to set priorities for public transit investments and major regional roads and highways.
The GTTA would take a region-wide approach to transit and to transportation, one that would meet the growing number and the growing needs of commuters in the region. Picture the future commuter travelling from Hamilton to Oshawa. With the changes the GTTA will bring, the commuter will board a bus in Hamilton and relax, knowing that the transition between the various transit systems will be easier and more convenient. A simple swipe of a fare card will give the commuter access to all connecting rides, and there will be little or no wait times between the connections, as all systems will coordinate arrival and departure times.
The proposed GTTA will report to the Minister of Transportation. The authority will be overseen by a board appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. Under our proposed legislation, the GTTA will be governed by representatives from Durham, Halton, Peel and York regions, the cities of Hamilton and Toronto and the province. An advisory committee of stakeholders who are affected by transit and transportation will also be created. It will include representation from seniors, Ontarians with disabilities and the business community.
My colleague the Honourable David Caplan has released the landmark growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe. It is a visionary blueprint to create better-planned communities and more opportunities for economic prosperity. For the first time ever, Ontario is taking a long-term approach to regional growth and development, and this includes our vision for the GTTA. Our government's numerous investments in public transit and our proposed GTTA will encourage the development of more compact, vibrant and livable communities that are no longer car-dependent or struggling under the huge costs of maintaining the infrastructure needed to support unmanaged growth. The growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe and the proposed GTTA will place Ontario among the leaders in urban planning, not just in Canada but in North America.
Our government has moved decisively to make transit a more plausible alternative to spending long, frustrating hours in highway congestion. Our highly successful provincial gas tax program has already significantly increased ridership and taken the equivalent of 18 million car trips a year off our roads. Our government is doing what previous governments have failed to do: We're implementing solutions to address the problems of congestion and gridlock. Our highway investments will focus on moving goods safely and efficiently across the province, establishing a robust economy that will protect quality of life for generations to come. We see transit as the most intelligent solution for moving people today and in the future.
Our government believes that it's time for immediate action on the constant and economically crippling problem of congestion. By supporting this legislation, all members can play a major role in creating a vibrant economy and a successful future for everyone.
Mr. Phil McNeely (Ottawa-Orléans): As my colleague the Honourable Minister Cansfield points out, making public transit more attractive to Ontarians is pivotal to our province's economic success. Our proposed Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, the GTTA, will make public transit more convenient and reliable for commuters by creating seamless and integrated transportation in the greater Toronto area and Hamilton.
The greater Toronto area occupies less than 1% of Ontario's land area, but nearly half of the province's 12.5 million residents live in this region. Our proposed GTTA is key to improving public transit in Ontario's most densely populated region. It is the latest in a series of bold moves and investments our government has made to improve public transit across the province. We've invested $1.3 billion this year, including $838 million to expand and modernize public transit in the GTA alone.
Ours is the first government in Ontario to offer municipalities a reliable and stable source of transit funding through the hugely successful provincial gas tax program. Over the first five years of the program, we are investing more than $1.3 billion in transit across Ontario, providing municipalities with funding to purchase new buses and other transit equipment and to expand transit services. In this, the second year of the program, 110 municipalities are sharing $232 million in gas tax funding, up from $156 million in the first year. Ridership on public transit is up 3.4% across the province. To put it in perspective, that's the equivalent of taking 18 million car trips off our roads every year.
We've created Move Ontario, a new, one-time $1.2-billion investment in Ontario's public transit systems and municipal roads and bridges. Under Move Ontario, $670 million can be used to extend the TTC subway to York region, $95 million can be used for the Brampton AcceleRide program and $65 million can be used for the Mississauga Transitway. I'm proud that we were the first government to open high-occupancy vehicle lanes in the 400 series highways. These lanes save valuable time for carpoolers and public transit users by allowing them to bypass congestion in the general traffic lanes. High-occupancy vehicle lanes are another example of our commitment to improving public transit, another example of our commitment to creating well-planned, less car-dependent communities.
I was pleased to attend Smart Commute Brampton last week. Traffic congestion costs our economy $2 billion every year. It means our goods are delayed getting to market and employees can't get to work on time. It affects our productivity, the bottom line and quality of life. If we don't act now, it's only going to get worse. As the minister mentioned, the population of the greater Golden Horseshoe area is expected to grow by 3.7 million over the next 25 years. How do we keep all those people and our economy moving? We simply must encourage more people to leave their cars at home. Fewer cars on the road mean less traffic congestion and cleaner air. That's why Brampton-Caledon has embraced Smart Commute, and that was where the announcement was made last week. It's very interesting to note one thing on Smart Commute in the literature they put out: "If every commuter left their car at home for just one day a week, we could have summertime traffic levels every day of the year." That is what the Smart Commute is about. It's about carpooling, it's about the HOV lanes our government has supported and it's about making transportation more sustainable in our city.
To summarize, the McGuinty government is making public transit a priority by providing a stable source of funding through the provincial gas tax program, by opening HOV lanes to help public transit users to save time, by investing $1.2 billion in public transit and municipal roads and bridges through Move Ontario and by introducing legislation to create the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, which is the bill at third reading today. I urge all honourable members to support our legislation. Our prosperity and quality of life depend on better public transportation. That is what the GTTA will deliver for commuters in the greater Toronto area and Hamilton.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): It's my pleasure to add some comments on the speeches by the member from Ottawa-Orléans and the minister to do with Bill 104, An Act to establish the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority and to repeal the GO Transit Act, 2001.
I would like to briefly comment about the fact that the government has made a transportation-related announcement today in the north. I understand the member from Nipissing has sent out detailed information on that announcement, and comment on the fact that I had inquiries from the Almaguin News wanting to know if my office had that specific information. I have to say that the government didn't have the courtesy to share that information with my office. I'm sure we'll be able to get it, but you would think it would be common courtesy for the government, when it's making an announcement that affects a riding, to share that information with the sitting member, whether that member happens to be a Liberal or is a Conservative.
On a number of occasions, I have had the Almaguin News specifically ask me about other announcements that have been made by the member from Nipissing that affect the riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka, when we have not had that information and have had to then go and ask and dig for it. I would say that the government should show some common courtesy and give that information to all members of this House, whether they are NDP, Liberal or Conservative.
That is a transportation-related item that I would like to relay in this short couple of minutes because it has been raised with me on a number of occasions by the Almaguin News in my riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka.
Mr. Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth): The reality is that any transit plan is only as effective as the foundation of sustainable planning that it rests on. If in fact you have an urban growth, if you have an urban form that makes it impossible to economically sustain transit, if you have an urban form that is without a centre in which you have different elements chaotically mixed through it -- strip malls, a mixture of retail and industrial with no rhyme or reason -- ultimately, it doesn't matter what kind of act is passed by this House or what sort of funds are put into transit; the problem of congestion and gridlock will not be solved. That is the first and most fundamental problem with the act before us, because it rests on a foundation of sand, and that is the lack of sustainable planning in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton. It alone will not be able to do anything.
After that is the simple reality that what's been put before us is a bill providing authority to a body which, in fact, has no promise of future resources, future money. This is a body that will meet the same fate as the Greater Toronto Services Board. It will flounder around. It will meet. It will put out plans. It will administer GO Transit. Maybe it'll make some advances on the smart card. But in the end, the fundamental problems of gridlock, congestion, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions that add to climate change -- all of those problems will continue largely untouched. That's not solely my analysis; that's the analysis of the Toronto Board of Trade and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce when they appeared before committee.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments? The member for Hamilton Mountain.
Ms. Judy Marsales (Hamilton West): Well, Hamilton West, but thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: The minister is from Hamilton Mountain. Sorry. Hamilton West.
Ms. Marsales: I'm very proud to stand and support this legislation, and even prouder of the Minister of Transportation for bringing this legislation forward. I am a commuter, so I have first-hand experience in terms of the gridlock on our highways. The opportunity cost of many businesses that rely on the infrastructure to move their goods and services is just huge. Businesses every day see their trucks and services sitting in traffic for hours upon hours.
Commuters don't use or even see municipal boundaries. That's why we need a seamless transportation system.
Hamilton is at the pulse of transportation systems with our airport, with our network of highways, with our port authority. We rely on transportation to support our industry, to support our businesses and to support employment in the general Hamilton area. Whether we're moving goods and services from the United States to other parts of Ontario, whether we're moving goods and services around the Toronto area in general, it's very important that Hamilton is a part of this greater Toronto transport authority. We're very pleased and proud that we have been included in this legislation. When we see the need for innovation with respect to how we move people and services around, this innovative legislation is really a step forward.
I am so proud that Hamilton has been invited to the table to speak to some of our challenges as we move our community forward as we try to create employment opportunities and a new vision for our industry in Hamilton and to be a successful, vibrant community as we move forward. This is a great piece of legislation.
Mr. Norman W. Sterling (Lanark-Carleton): The greater Toronto transit authority is sort of a good idea, but the problem is, you can't implement the idea because there's a gap between the people who have the money and the taxing power, and the people who are going to sit on this board.
So you're going to have a great deal of frustration shown, as was shown on the Greater Toronto Services Board, with the whole role of the individuals who are on this particular board to effect change. That is one very glaring fault with this bill, and, as mentioned before, it was raised by the Toronto Board of Trade and a number of other groups.
The other problem with this is that it allows the Ministry of Transportation to back away from their provincial responsibility in this area. It's my feeling that it should be the Ministry of Transportation for the province of Ontario that should be fulfilling these functions. The Ministry of Transportation for Ontario should be making plans for the greater Toronto area, in consultation with municipal governments, and spending the money where it is best suited and most efficient to use. I have a great deal of fear that this government's agenda with regard to the GTTA is to say, "Well, we've finished with that problem. We can just throw the whole problem over to the greater Toronto transit authority and blame them for gridlock as we go forward."
We have a tremendous Ministry of Transportation -- of which I had the privilege of being the minister -- in this province, with a long, proud history. This is an abrogation of their responsibilities, trying to throw them on a powerless board.
The Deputy Speaker: Member for Ottawa-Orléans, you have two minutes to respond.
Mr. McNeely: I'm pleased to have participated in this leadoff debate with the minister today. Some of the documentation and some of the planning that has been going forward in the last couple of years -- the greenbelt plan, the Places to Grow plan and the proposed growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe -- are excellent planning documents that are available now to the GTTA to move forward.
The member from Toronto-Danforth said otherwise, but I believe there's an excellent foundation for the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority. It's going to have a specific focus on sustainable transportation. The foundation is strong and the dollars are there for a great start-up, with the $838 million for the extension of the Toronto transitway, $95 million for the Brampton AcceleRide program and other dollars such as the gas tax dollars.
The member from Hamilton West expressed the desire of Hamilton to be part of this planning process that's so important -- not only planning initially, but the five-year plan that must be brought together for capital works. This will be seamless public transportation from Hamilton to Oshawa. If public transportation is going to work, it has to be in a coordinated fashion. The planning will be done in coordination with all the municipalities; it's not a top-down thing. I'm sure the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority will be very successful as it moves ahead to improve transportation in our area.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): I first want to advise the table and the Speaker that I would like to share my time with the member from Burlington, Mr. Jackson, as well as with the member from Whitby-Ajax, Mrs. Elliott, in this leadoff response to Bill 104.
I just want to briefly cover three or four points, respectfully. We did participate in the hearings on Bill 104, and I acknowledge the work of my NDP colleague from Toronto-Danforth, who made some very valid recommendations and amendments, as did our caucus. I found a serious reluctance on the part of the government to adopt even the most modest of those amendments, many of which, by the way, we in the opposition -- that is the NDP and Conservatives -- found agreement on, addressing what I'd consider the new urban forum.
It brings to mind, as I sort of digress here, that we'll probably be supporting this bill, even though we're not sure what it does. That's not a very polite thing to say. We support the need to have a strategic plan for the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, and that's what's missing. Both opposition parties tried to move meaningful amendments, some of which we agreed on and some of which we didn't. But there's a real willingness to move forward to deal with gridlock and the impact on our quality of life in a very busy economy and in the very busy quality-of-life issues that are at stake here. We all use the terms "gridlock" and "congestion." We see in the media and on television almost every day of the week the burden on our overtaxed, overutilized infrastructure in Ontario.
When I say that we tried to move amendments, we did this in consultation. We were active in working with the Toronto Board of Trade and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. I'm looking at the first memo I got from them in early May -- I guess it was April; I'm looking at the one from May, this one here, and I want to put it on the record: "The Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Toronto Board of Trade represent the interests of a large cross-section of the Ontario business community, small and large. For the past three years, our organizations have strongly supported the establishment of the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority."
I should remind those listening today and those paying attention that this is another one of those promises that the Liberal Party made during the election, and here we see an empty shell dropped on the table three years later. Quite frankly, it's disappointing. There is really nothing in the bill: There's no money, and the governance model is designed to fail. This isn't me trying to be hard on the government; I know they are trying to solve this problem. But it isn't a very high priority, and that's what's really disappointing.
In trying to relate this debate to what happens on a day-to-day basis, as the critic for transportation, there were two announcements made today, one by Minister Cansfield -- I congratulate her; she's new at this ministry, and she's certainly doing the best she can with what limited resources she's been given -- and also Mr. Caplan's on Places to Grow. Those two policy directions, or those commitments or announcements by the government, are very, very important to deal with gridlock, congestion, pollution, all the rest of it -- that whole "How many people can you cram into how much space?" That's kind of what this debate is about, and it's related to 104, which is the governance model of how we're going to put these policies and plans in place as we go forward over the next number of years.
But I go back to one of the comments made in the May 26 letter from the Toronto Board of Trade: "Expand or set criteria ... to ensure the board of directors has majority representation from the private sector." That's one of their recommendations. What they meant by "private sector" is experts, academics, those who aren't politically biased or bound -- we admitted in the hearings that when we set up in the process of changing responsibilities of who does what, who pays for what, called the Crombie commission, we set up a delivery model called the Greater Toronto Services Board. That services board represented pretty much a similar mandate here. They had Halton, Peel, York and Durham, and the city of Toronto. That's the area this governance model was supposed to address. On that board they were all politicians. We're politicians, so we're not just casting aspersions on those people, but they were gridlocked themselves; they couldn't make a decision. That was the problem the caused the Greater Toronto Services Board from our government to fail. As such, we gave them the best advice on what we did in our experience.
They've got one member from the regions I mentioned, as well as from the city of Hamilton, in this governance model, and four from the city of Toronto. They are the largest. They have the greatest number of utilizers of transit, I suppose, the greatest number of people. There are two appointments by the province. It's an 11-member board, and the two appointments from the province will be political appointments -- order in council -- and they will be the chair and vice-chair. So, at the end of the day, the minister will say, "This is what you're doing." The chair and vice-chair have the controlling votes. If you look -- four from Toronto and four from the regions and one from Hamilton -- they run it, they own it, they have the control and they will do as Minister Cansfield says.
How I'm trying to relate it to the other statement made today, the Places to Grow document, quite frankly, is an outgrowth of a document we started, called the Smart Growth Panel, or whatever it was called, but a similar process of policy development by the government. I think it's led by civil servants, and good for them; I'm not casting aspersions on them. They're trying to move forward to address growth, gridlock and the drag on the economy and our environment, and they're trying to make policy recommendations to the government. But what's missing from Bill 104? There's nothing in it.
Most of the experts on this panel that I talked to on the day of the hearings and the one day of clause-by-clause were not what I'd call politically active, partisan type people. These were board-of-trade people who are working with David Miller and all the rest of it. Most of the stakeholder presenters -- and I could read them to you. The city of Mississauga was there, and Hazel made an appearance. We had Len Crispino from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. They had the city of Brampton. Mayor Susan Fennell wasn't there; they had Clay Connor, I think it was. Then they had Neil Rodgers from the Urban Development Institute. They had the Toronto Board of Trade, Angela Iannuzziello. The city of Toronto made a presentation. It was quite interesting, because Howard Moscoe was there; it was the day he got rid of the head of the TTC. There was John Best of the Southern Ontario Gateway Council, and he had quite an interesting presentation.
One of the more interesting presentations -- again, these were primarily, I thought, quite good. I know the member from Ottawa-Orléans would probably love to agree with me, and I'm sure he's been given instructions not to. There was a presentation, I felt probably the most interesting one, from the SMART group from McMaster. This was the Student Math Action Research Team. I thought it was quite a good presentation; if you go back and look at it, Mr. McNeely, you'll find that it was an excellent presentation. It was talking in a broader sense about what a transportation plan would do for the economy and the environment and the choices the government has to make to make those things happen.
The paper that they submitted brought to attention one thing that I would say is related to congestion. We talk about how much gridlock is costing the economy. Just put your head around this one fact that these math students and their professor presented to the committee. It says:
"If a car and a half produces a tonne and a half of greenhouse gas in a year and a half, then how many tonnes of GHG does a car produce in a year?
"The answer would be two thirds of a tonne, similar to the two thirds of an egg in the ... chicken and egg question. But you might be interested to know that two thirds of a tonne would mean the car burned" -- this is important -- "278 litres of fuel over the 52-week period or only 5.34 litres per week. The reason for that is that a tonne of GHG is produced" -- this is the key for all of it -- "for every 417 litres burned," and the amount of emission of greenhouse gas increases with congestion and gridlock. They are saying that by not having an efficient flow of transportation, you are producing a huge amount of greenhouse gas, which at the end of the day is what this is all about.
I thought it was quite interesting, and it demonstrates to me that the hearings were truncated. In fact, these people only had 20 minutes to make very technical presentations, and I thought it was a disservice to those groups I've mentioned that took the time to research the bill.
The bill itself is quite small; it's 26 pages. It's in both official languages, so it's 13 pages. In fact, if you look at the number of amendments, the vast majority -- there were 63 amendments. Here are the amendments and here's the bill. This thing here has got a lot of serious work. First of all, the governance doesn't work; secondly, there's no money in it; and thirdly, I'm questioning whether or not the government really has the heart to make this thing work.
I'm going to say, in concluding my remarks -- just to notify subsequent speakers -- that with this bill we did make presentations, recommendations and amendments, which were voted down. They were with the best of intentions, often supported by both opposition parties. We worked in a non-partisan, non-biased way, because I believe at the end of the day we've got to work together to get this right, for all the right reasons -- for the economy, for the environment and for the whole waste of human time, of people sitting, as many do, in gridlock today.
The evidence is before us: What you've done in three years is absolutely nothing. In fact, the announcement today is a disappointment to those people paying attention to this file -- and as the critic, I am. The previous government committed, over a 10-year period, $1 billion a year in the budget. What they announced today was $3.4 billion over five years. That's a reduction. Furthermore, the money they announced in the last budget was some $650 million for a transit system into York, extending Spadina into the York University area. That isn't happening for years. That's five or 10 years away. This is money that's not going to be spent in their mandate.
What I want to see here is a commitment to doing what you say, in policy and in financial commitment. There's nothing in this bill that assures me in the governance that it will work. There's nothing in this bill that has money to make it work. The Toronto Board of Trade and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce are disappointed, as well as the Canadian Urban Institute and others watching this file. I will encourage our caucus -- and our leader, John Tory, supports the need to find workable solutions. But I'm disheartened. I'm cautioning. They voted down all of our amendments. There's no strength or teeth left in this piece of legislation.
We'll persist over the summer. Our leader, John Tory, and our caucus will be meeting with whoever will listen: the Canadian Automobile Association, the truckers' association, the tow truck operators. We are trying to get a group of people to solve this thing on gridlock and to make Ontario's economy and our environment work.
There's more work to be done on this file. Again, I'm saying we're going to probably support it. I'm disappointed in that -- I can only just say in good faith that we'll be voting for it because this problem has to be resolved.
With that, I'd like to pass the floor to the member from Burlington, who's ready to start right now, I think.
Mr. Cameron Jackson (Burlington): Apparently, I'm ready. I want to commend my colleague for the work he has been doing on the transit file, and not just as the recent critic. This has been a long-standing concern of his as someone who, like myself, commutes virtually every day from the bookends of the GTA. He's in Durham and I'm in Halton, and we certainly put up with a considerable amount of gridlock. In fact, I was talking to a friend of mine, Graham Murray. Most people in the room know Graham Murray of GP Murray Research. We were talking about my coming here for 22 years, and he was saying, "Well, Cam, let me figure out how much time you spend in your car." I said, "Well, about two and a half hours every day, and some days three hours, but the average is two and a half." That's four days a week, times 42 weeks of the year that we're busy here at Queen's Park, times 22 years. It works out to the fact that I've spent one year and eight months of my career at Queen's Park in my car. That's how much time I've spent in my vehicle. Of course, I have the mileage to back all that up, and it hasn't been pleasant. I'm sure people are saying, "Why weren't you commuting on GO Transit?" I would have, but just for the first --
Mr. McNeely: You cut the funding.
Mr. Jackson: We didn't get full service until a Conservative government, so I'm glad Mr. McNeely reminded me of that. We didn't have full service to Burlington in my first 10 years in this Legislature. That's just something we've enjoyed in the last 10 years, thanks to the previous Conservative government.
That's not to say that the current government isn't making a commitment to GO Transit -- it is. However, this legislation is an important step. My colleagues have spoken about the concerns on the record with respect to the fact that it's late in happening, that it doesn't have the full authority to raise capital and to manage directly some of the programming and to have what we call here oversight of the program. This is going to be a bit of a challenge. It shouldn't limit our ability to support the principle that is being applied here to have a Greater Toronto Transportation Authority.
Coming from Burlington, I also would like to put on the record that we have an excellent candidate, if the minister is interested: the mayor of Burlington, Rob MacIsaac. I've indicated on many occasions that he would be an outstanding nominee to be considered for this. I think the same of Rick Ducharme, whom I have had the pleasure of working with over many years when he worked for GO Transit before he went to manage the TTC. It's unfortunate that the citizens of Toronto won't benefit from his leadership, his stability and his professionalism, but I wish Rick well on a professional and on a personal basis. Either of these two men would make an outstanding nominee to be the head of this new agency.
In the debates in this House, I commented as follows: On the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, the mayor of Burlington, Rob MacIsaac, would make an outstanding nominee. He is on the list for consideration to head up the GTTA, and I personally would support that. Here is a person with great municipal experience who understands the transit tension between upper-tier and lower-tier municipalities, and I think Rob MacIsaac would make an outstanding contribution.
So I am hopeful that the government will take the time to seek out a candidate of his calibre. He has announced to our community that he is leaving political life, but he's not necessarily prepared to leave public life in support of the community or the province which he has been serving.
I think it's important to note that as a mayor in a regional municipality, he is aware of the fact that there is tension between upper-tier and lower-tier municipalities in the GTA as to who should be delivering these services. Sometimes the region feels that it is the best way to coordinate. I think of communities in the Niagara Peninsula, for example, when I was the minister looking at the disability act and looking at access to disabled transit services. In Niagara this was very difficult because, if I remember correctly, they had 17 different transit systems inside one regional government umbrella. That really makes it very difficult to coordinate integrated fare structures, which is what the real promise and the hope is for the GTTA. The government is admitting openly that it will not be able to put together and to make available to commuters in the GTA an integrated fare system and a common transit card until at least 2010. It's going to take that time to iron out the wrinkles between those communities within the GTA that operate their transit at a local level and those communities within the GTA that operate at a regional level. This is not easy, because mayors and regional chairs don't like to give up turf. It is an unfortunate thing, but frankly, what I have learned with all my years in public service is that the public asks of its politicians, at whatever level of government, "Please tell us or demonstrate to us as taxpayers where we can get the best service for the best price and to be the most effective deliverer of those services." I think the public increasingly, looking at transit, is saying, "Look, this should not be a turf war between the region and the city. This should be all members of council at the upper or lower tiers coming together to ensure fare integration and these other elements that come into play with Bill 104."
I'm also pleased that it will allow for large bulk purchasing of rolling stock and others. Again, this is very tricky to do because there isn't really a direct authority to spend given here. However, the province is responsible for much of the transfer of the funding. The federal government now has tax revenues in place that they are making available to municipalities for transit purposes. Those dollars may not have as much oversight on the part of the GTTA or from the provincial government. That's my understanding of it, that the federal government is allowing for a little more latitude of the municipalities in their expenditures. I consider that to be one of the challenges. But like any level of government, you sit down, you work out what your problems might be and you deal with them head-on in the hope that resolutions come in the best interests of taxpayers, who ultimately are footing the bill.
Much has been said about some of the deficiencies in this legislation. Hopefully, the government heard that message in clause-by-clause and with public hearings. We would have liked to see a little more time spent on developing a much better, stronger plan that would have true authority to it with some spending powers.
On that note, I wish to thank my colleague from Durham for his support and presentation on this matter. I would now like to defer to my colleague from Whitby-Ajax.
Mrs. Christine Elliott (Whitby-Ajax): I am very pleased to be able to join the discussion this afternoon on Bill 104, on the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, and also to commend my colleague the member from Durham, who has done an excellent job as the lead for our party with respect to this particular piece of legislation. In my view, he's done a very good job with it.
Certainly, there's no question that a strategy needs to be developed to deal with the development of transit and roadways in the greater Toronto area, because there are many areas -- like Whitby and Ajax, in my riding -- that are exploding with growth and population. There needs to be something done in order to address this and address it fairly quickly.
But as has been expressed previously by the member from Durham, there are still some concerns with respect to the operation of the authority and how effective it will be. Particularly, there is the fact that the authority is going to be an advisory rather than an operational authority. The language that's used in the legislation deals with advising, recommending, working together and so on, leading one to wonder at the end of the day whether it's going to be a really effective body or whether it's just going to be another place for people to get together and have a disagreement. Hopefully, it is going to have the proper advisory capacity that it requires, in order to be able to work with confidence and effectiveness in this area.
Secondly, the authority deals primarily with transit issues, which of course is necessary, but I would submit that the issue of roads is of equal importance. Having spent time recently in the by-election campaigning in Whitby-Ajax, I can tell you that the infrastructure issue was one of the most pressing issues to the constituents in Whitby-Ajax, along with health care funding and education. The frustration that people feel on a daily basis trying to get primarily to Toronto and back to Ajax, Oshawa or further, is really starting to wear people down. It's affecting the quality of life, and not just the economic activity. So something needs to be done with respect to the roads. What I'm hearing in terms of feedback from my constituents is that there is a pressing need for Highway 407 to be extended to Highway 35 and 115, that it's necessary in order to be able to accommodate not just the population growth that we have now but the anticipated population growth that is expanding tremendously on a daily basis. This I heard at almost every door that I went to during the most recent by-election.
Then, dealing with Durham region specifically, when one takes a look at the March 2006 budget by the McGuinty government, there was $1.2 billion that was allocated for transit and roadway funding, of which $670 million was to go to the city of Toronto and York region for the expansion of the subway up to Vaughan; $65 million was going to Mississauga; and $95 million to Brampton. A notable exception here was the region of Durham, which got absolutely nothing of substance. In my view, the needs of Durham have to be addressed, in conjunction with all of the other municipalities in the GTA, for this to work. In my view, the transit authority is going to need to recognize the equal importance of all of the regions in developing a comprehensive plan that's going to meet the needs of all of the residents of the greater Toronto area. Those are my submissions.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr. Tabuns: I appreciate the comments from my colleagues in the official opposition about this bill that's before us today. As I commented on briefly in my last round of comments, it's not just the opposition that has concern about the effectiveness of this bill, and it's not just the NDP that has concern about the effectiveness of this bill. On June 1, during the hearings into this bill, we had presentations by the Toronto Board of Trade and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, who spoke very strongly in favour of the need for just such a body, a body that had the resources, the powers, the direction to actually come to grips with the congestion problem here in the greater Toronto area and had, ultimately, the task of reducing that congestion and gridlock which all have identified as a significant -- in fact, a profound -- problem in this area.
I asked deputants for both those bodies if this bill, as written, would actually deal with congestion and gridlock. They had made a variety of suggestions for amendments, many of which were brought forward by the opposition. I asked them, "Will this bill deal with the problem at hand?" Both were very clear: It will not. I may not have supported some of their approaches, but in the end, they wanted to do something that would be effective. The amendments that they wanted and the amendments that were put forward by our party to actually make a difference, to provide this authority with the background, the strength, the foundation to deal with gridlock and congestion, were not adopted by the government.
So, in the end, I think that the prophecy of the board of trade and chamber of commerce will come true: This bill will come to nothing. Gridlock and congestion will continue to become greater and greater problems.
Mr. Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): It is a rare treat to agree with a statement from my colleague the member from Durham, but he's certainly right when he calls the former government's Greater Toronto Services Board gridlocked. Truer words were never spoken, and that's why our government has brought forth a far superior structure, the greater Toronto transit authority. The members of the opposition may speculate on how functional the GTTA will be once it is operational, but the homeowners in northwest Mississauga don't share one iota of their skepticism.
Next year, those people in northwest Mississauga are going to be getting on the train at Lisgar, where 10th Line crosses the tracks, at the first new GO train station in Mississauga in 25 years. The party now in opposition -- and likely to stay there for years and years -- did nothing, absolutely nothing in eight long, bleak years. They could have built Lisgar, but they didn't. They announced and reannounced and recycled their reannouncements, but the roads just got thicker with exhaust-spewing traffic. Next year, the train will stop at Lisgar between Milton and Meadowvale. At least 750 fewer cars will be on the roads because they can be parked at Lisgar. The buses will drop off homeowners from Lisgar, Churchill Meadows, Meadowvale and other areas, and some of Mississauga's choking traffic is going to have a reason to stay home courtesy of the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority.
Lisgar is just where the future starts. The GTTA has the resources, the power and the mandate to resolve the gridlock in the greater Toronto area. In fact, one of my constituents in Streetsville, a certain Hazel McCallion, also agrees. This is the solution.
Mr. Miller: It's my pleasure to add some comments to the speech on Bill 104 made by the member from Durham, as well as by the member from Burlington and the newly elected member from Whitby-Ajax, who has been very active speaking in the Legislature whenever she has an opportunity, particularly where it's an issue that relates to her riding of Whitby-Ajax. Certainly, gridlock is an issue that affects the people in Whitby-Ajax, so she again today was speaking up for those constituents.
The member from Mississauga West talked about announcements being made and no action. Well, this bill has been announced in two throne speeches and a number of budgets, yet there's still a lot of detail missing. The GTTA's role is advisory, not operational; it will only be able to recommend. It will have to use its powers of persuasion, not any legislated authority, to have its advice accepted by the TTC and other municipal public transit authorities. There is actually no power in the bill, no language to get anything done or to get any transit built.
We have a real problem with gridlock in southern Ontario, particularly around the Toronto area -- anyone who drives in the city would be aware of that -- yet so many issues are not being dealt with. Also, in this bill there's no legislative requirement for the provincial or federal governments to agree to the GTTA's recommendations on transit improvements. The implementation of a single fare card, which was announced last year, will not be implemented, if you can believe it, until 2011, which I would say is an eternity in terms of something so needed and simple as a single farecard. So we're greatly lacking in details on this bill dealing with the GTTA.
Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): It was a pleasure and most insightful to listen to the comments during the course of the lead speech, if you will, by the Conservatives, Ms. Elliott's refreshing voice, with great insight, here in this chamber. I say this in all sincerity: It's delightful to have somebody who has such a strong grasp of the issues and someone who knows the GTA area, the 905 area, oh so intimately. I'm as much looking forward, however, to the upcoming comments by Peter Tabuns, who of course is the critic for the New Democratic Party, the member from Toronto-Danforth, who knows Toronto, knows the region. He sat through the committee and worked incredibly hard in an effort to improve this legislation -- quite frankly, not just to improve it but to try to perform some alchemy to make something out of what will end up -- because it is -- nothing. Almost 30 amendments -- thoughtful ones -- reflecting the experience of this member, 30 amendments reflecting the input from interested, concerned parties -- not one accepted by this government.
This is the Dalton McGuinty that he and the Liberals say is going to engage in democratic renewal, give more effect to the role of individual members and display some modest amount of respect and regard for the public participation in committees? Hooey. I say to you, one of the saddest lack of responses on the part of this government was to the obvious request and suggestion that there be a labour rep on this authority. Think about how valuable and useful that would be in the context of some of the recent problems. When you're talking about having to integrate, in a small-i sense, any number of authorities with any number of bargaining units, what an absolute failure on the part of this embarrassing government.
The Deputy Speaker: Member from Durham, you have two minutes to respond.
Mr. O'Toole: I won't repeat the member from Whitby-Ajax and the member from Burlington's very valued comments and their willingness to participate in this with the hope that we will get something, not just for our ridings but for the province of Ontario. We're all somewhat disappointed.
The member from Whitby-Ajax did a marvellous job in putting a voice to the concerns that we both, working together, hear about the expansion of 407, as well as enhancing transit and the GO service in our area. With over 500,000 people, there's more to be done; not just that, but the 401 interchanges and the work that needs to be done there.
We'd like to leave three main messages here that we heard during the hearings and consultations as we went through.
First of all, providing the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority with more power: We moved amendments on that. We heard that from the chamber of commerce; we heard that from the boards of trade. Indeed, we heard it from some of the municipal councils as well -- well aware of the political gridlock that threatens the viability and success of this important decision.
There's no strength in here -- that's item number 2. There's no financial backing in this. There are no provisions outside of the minister and cabinet to allocate sums of money. There's no ability to raise funds or to go to the market in any way that's clear and independent, to give them a sense of autonomy.
The addition of outside experts, both from the financial community as well as the business community broadly, dealing with transportation issues as well as academic research, would add some real strength and meat to the skeleton here.
Those are the three things where we find it is an unfortunate early demise only to fulfill a failed election promise. Once again, they're at broken promise 55, I think.
But you know, even the announcement today -- and I'm looking forward to the NDP member from Toronto-Danforth as well, because he knows so well that this is not going to work. Even though we've tried to work and we're going to vote with it, they took money out of the announcement today. That leads me to be very suspicious, looking forward on this bill.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Tabuns: It's my pleasure to rise and speak today about Bill 104 to constitute a Greater Toronto Transportation Authority.
I want to take us all back to the comments initially made by the Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Harinder Takhar, on May 1, 2006. At that time, he made a leadoff speech about this bill. He put it before the House and set out his reasons for taking action on this issue. He talked -- in fact, he used the words why it was "critical to act." He noted that there are 5.5 million people living in the greater Toronto area and Hamilton and that the highways in this whole area are close to capacity. Now, we all know that this region is going to continue to grow. We know it's an attractive region. We know that people are coming here. We know that for the well-being of Toronto, the well-being of Ontario and, frankly, the well-being of Canada, there needs to be an intensification of this region.
He pointed out, however, that the cost of congestion, given the current way that this region is structured, given the current way this region is served by transit and highways, is $1.6 billion annually, which is a huge amount of money -- $1.6 billion means a lot to the productivity, the well-being, the incomes of people who live in the greater Toronto area and Hamilton.
But in fact, what we're looking at is the opener, not the end, not the final case. What we're looking at is the opener, because the reality is that, as this region continues to grow, as it continues to add more residents, hopefully more employment, it will become more congested. In fact, he suggested that, on a business-as-usual basis, with no action taken to deal with our transit crisis, to deal with the unsustainable sprawl that we face here, commute times by 2021 would be 50% greater than they are today and the cost of congestion would go from $1.6 billion to $7 billion a year.
Now, this is pretty substantial. The year 2021 is about 15 years from now. So I would say seven years from now 25% longer commute times; three years from now 12% longer commute times. In fact, within a term of government, people will see that it will take longer and longer to get from point A to point B in the greater Toronto area and Hamilton. People will see more of their lives and their productive time taken up sitting in traffic, listening to radio morning shows, evening news shows, in fact probably listening to late-night news shows as they sit there on the 401 outside Oshawa, hoping to be able to get close to their home.
In his speech, the minister, who talked about those economic costs, didn't talk about the smog impact. He could have, because as we know, within the city of Toronto about 1,800 people a year die from the effects of smog. They tend to be the very young, they tend to be the very old. Not all of that is attributable to auto, but about 63% of the smog in the GTA can be attributed to exhaust from transportation. So in fact gridlock and congestion have an impact beyond the simple problem of lost wages and people spending their lives out on asphalt; it has a direct impact on their health, their life and their death.
Today Minister Cansfield talked about gridlock, talked about a cost of $28 million a day for congestion and gridlock. These are very substantial numbers. These are numbers that reflect a substantial impact on the economy of this region. But what we have is a lack of action on this very problem. This bill will not correct the crisis that has been identified both by the previous minister, Takhar, and the current minister, Cansfield.
The parliamentary assistant, the member from Ottawa-Orléans, said that we will have to address these problems through the GTTA and other steps today, and for people tomorrow. We have to get them to lay down their car keys. We have to bring forward these solutions to congestion, to gridlock. I would say that the ministers -- both of them -- and the parliamentary assistant were quite correct in that these are fundamental problems that have to be addressed. Unfortunately, they are fundamental problems that will not be addressed by the legislation before us. In fact, the legislation before us will largely be irrelevant, and that is quite tragic because it is an opportunity missed.
There's no question that all around this House there is a consensus that we need a body -- a functioning body, a well-resourced body, a body with the authority and the backing to actually deal with transit on a regional basis. We know the time has come for that. We know we've had years of low-density sprawl. We know we've had a problem with a lack of provincial funding for transit across the GTA, and we know that's no longer desirable, if it ever was. It's certainly no longer affordable, from an economic, environmental or human health perspective.
We know that every year, that number of people I cited dying from smog, from bad air, will increase. And we know that those impacts on our environment, on our economic prosperity, those problems that arise from climate change are going to have an impact on the viability, the wealth and the well-being of this society.
Transportation-related emissions are responsible for about one third of our greenhouse gas emissions and 63% of Ontario's total emissions of smog-causing nitrogen oxides. We're talking not about an insignificant problem here; we're talking about a major problem, a substantial problem. And yet we're not seeing action on the part of the McGuinty government that will ensure that public transit is properly funded. We're not seeing action that puts funding for public transit ahead of more highways and more urban sprawl.
Last week the McGuinty government announced the finalized greater Golden Horseshoe growth plan. That growth plan falls far short of the government's stated objectives of reducing sprawl and increasing the availability and use of public transit. If you're going to have a transit plan that works -- just like an architect who knows that the foundation they build or design for a building is crucial to the functioning of that building -- you have to have a foundation of sustainable planning. And if the density is too low, if the density is one that cannot sustain public transit with a regularity and a level of comfort that takes people out of their cars, then it doesn't matter, frankly, whether you have a transit system or not, because that transit system will be irrelevant.
If in fact you have an urban form that does not have centralized nodes, that allows people to say, "Here we will develop our living quarters, here we will develop our working quarters, and we'll develop the transit that shuttles people between both," if you have a chaotic mix, then it's extraordinarily difficult to build a functioning transit system. That's the problem faced by cities in North America, like Los Angeles, where sprawl goes on to the horizon, serviced by expressways that people spend many years on. They are trying to deal with an urban form that doesn't work. We here in the greater Toronto area are replicating that urban form and, unfortunately, tragically, the plan that's been brought forward, the so-called growth plan, will not deal with that problem.
I was quite surprised a few years ago to be told that in fact in the greater Toronto area, outside the old city of Toronto, the new development has a density comparable to or lower than that in Los Angeles, which I find extraordinary; to think that we would have seen what had happened in that city and we would have allowed a replication of that urban form. Because we've done that, it is always going to be fundamentally problematic for us to establish a transit system that's going to work. So this plan for a Greater Toronto Transit Authority is built on a foundation of sand. It isn't a very big building -- in fact, it's a very spare shelter -- but it is still not built on a viable foundation.
If we're going to have a framework of planning that actually gives us what we need, we have to increase or intensify development within the existing urban envelope across the GTA. The Neptis Foundation, which has done a fair amount of work on the whole question of growth and urban form, commented on the intensification of development that we're looking at here. They've said, "Research indicates that the amount of new residential development that would be shifted from farmland to genuine intensification is likely to be insufficient to produce the plan's desired outcomes."
So in fact, this question has been studied. This government is well aware of what it would take to meet the goals, to actually have a level of intensification that would allow for sustainable transit and thus a reduction in congestion and gridlock, and yet it has ignored that. It has set aside that analysis and decided to go with a model that will only ensure that we will see more sprawl. Just to note, as well, that the plan we're talking about will be phased in around 2015. That means that for the next decade, we will continue to build at a level of sprawl that will guarantee that many people who live in the greater Toronto area, who live in the regions around Toronto, will spend more and more of their time sitting in their cars in the middle of express lanes that are not moving.
This government, for reasons that I don't understand, didn't ensure that intensification rates were at a level that allowed for sustainable transit. It opted for lower intensification rates, and those rates may well satisfy developers. If you're a developer and you've got a parcel of land somewhere and you need to have it developed, sure, it doesn't make any sense in terms of the larger urban framework that we should have in place in the GTA, but there are bucks to be made. You will do everything you can to ensure that a road goes there, a sewer goes there. You can put in a sub-development and you can roll on because there are huge dollars to be made. But that does not lead to an urban form that will allow us to actually get around in the future; it leads to an urban form that leads to paralysis.
This point about lack of action, deferral to business as usual, was made by the Pembina Institute in Saturday's Toronto Star. The research director of Pembina, Mark Winfield, stated that the Liberals' growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe, "started out quite bold and quite visionary.... It got mushier and mushier and closer to an affirmation of business as usual."
Earlier today, the Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal read a long list of people who talked about the visionary nature of what the McGuinty government was engaging in with regard to urban planning. I would not be surprised if those people spoke about the initial plan, spoke about the initial approach that was taken, but not about this final plan, because if the studies that have been done show that the plan, as proposed, as put on the table, is not one that's going to allow us to develop sustainable transit, then frankly, I can't see why anyone would be thrilled with this; no one.
If you have a growth plan that doesn't give you the density, the form of development that will actually allow for a transit system to work properly, then one shouldn't be surprised that Bill 104 itself doesn't provide the mechanism, doesn't provide the funding, doesn't provide the framework that allows one to implement a rational transit system for the GTA -- not just a transit system; a transportation system across the GTA. Although I'll go into this further, that's what one sees when you go through this bill. One sees a shell. One sees GO Transit with a smart card division and a planning section, and that's it. That is not going to resolve gridlock and congestion in the GTA. This may make some planners happy because they will have jobs. We will get plans -- and I've seen many over the last 15 or 20 years -- that sit on shelves: fabulous plans, full-colour plans, stimulating plans, exciting plans, but plans that, ultimately, because no money will be allocated and no political capital expended, sit waiting for the next millennium.
I've talked about the growth plan, which is the foundation for any useful transit plan, and I've found it, at a minimum, to be wanting. I can assure you that the minister or her parliamentary assistant can say that this plan is a solid plan, that the foundation is strong, and I think the parliamentary assistant made exactly that statement earlier this afternoon. I want to just look at some of the numbers that are involved in this plan, because I had a chance on Saturday morning, reading the Toronto Star, to look at the summaries of some of the densities and the transit plans that flowed from those densities.
I'll give you an example of a neighbourhood, and I'll try to pick a few other neighbourhoods in Ontario. The Annex neighbourhood in Toronto, in the Spadina-Bloor area, supports about 150 people and jobs per hectare. If people have walked through it, it's well treed, it's comfortable. It's wonderful in the evening to walk around. People are out on the street. It's an extremely comfortable neighbourhood and very desirable. Similarly, if you go to Ottawa Centre, just north of the Queensway above the Glebe: reasonable density along Bank Street, lots of shops, regular transit down Bank Street, a mix of homes and apartment buildings; a density that, just eyeballing it, looks comparable to the Annex. The east end of Hamilton, where I grew up, Kenilworth and Main area, Barton and Ottawa Street: you see a density, again, comparable to the Annex. Maybe it's not as fancy as the Annex but solid and a really good place to live; a density that can support transit. That's in the range of 150 people and jobs to a hectare.
In these new suburban developments, the target that's been set is 50 people or jobs per hectare. That's the new, denser target. I gather the average is about 30 now, so you go up to 50. That's dense enough to support bus service every 30 minutes. I don't believe that bus service every 30 minutes will get people out of their cars; frankly, bus service every 30 minutes is going to mean that everyone who can possibly afford to buy a car is going to buy one. That is what we will see in the GTA in the new development with this growth plan.
I'll give you some examples. I grew up on Hamilton Mountain around Upper Wellington and Mohawk. Bus service there is every 20 to 25 minutes. You can go up there now and you will see driveways with one and two cars in them, constant use of cars, and the bus that serves that area not full because the bus service is infrequent. My colleague here, the member from Beaches-East York, lives in Parkview Hills in East York, a very nice, residential area, developed in the 1960s or 1970s; bungalows, low density. It has rush hour service of buses every 20 to 25 minutes. If you go through that neighbourhood, it is car-dependent, because at 20- to 25-minute frequency intervals, people don't want to rely on the bus to get around if they possibly can afford a car.
So we look at this plan, this foundation that the GTTA is supposed to be built on, and I have to say very simply that it is not going to get people to lay down their keys. It is not going to get people out of their cars. It is going to ensure that the prediction of a 50% increase in travel time in the GTA by 2021 will come true: more smog, more congestion, more economic loss due to gridlock and congestion. You can't do it with 30-minute bus times; forget it.
Frankly, having sat in a municipal government, having dealt with these issues before, people cut deals. They say, "Well, 30 minutes is the target. We can't quite make the density to support 30. How about 35 in there?" I think you need to shoot high, recognize that there will be variations, fluctuations in your planning over time, and plan accordingly. That hasn't happened here. Again, this greater Toronto transit authority is faced from the very beginning with an urban form that will not allow it to carry out its stated purpose, which is to reduce gridlock and congestion. We are going to have to deal with those costs, and we are not going to be happy to do that.
We have, in many ways, a crisis. It was interesting to hear the member for Durham talk about the issue in the GTA. When I first spoke to this issue in the House, I spoke about why this bill was before us. There's no question it is a huge political issue in the GTA around Toronto. People are fed up spending this much time in their cars. I have no doubt that's why the official opposition is going to vote for this bill, because people want to hear that something is going to happen. But in the end, it isn't going to happen. They'll get a bill, they'll get a bill with a title, they'll get a bill with a title and all kinds of promises, but they will not get their issue addressed. In fact, they should be prepared for an intensification of the problems that they face, not an intensification of the densities that are needed for sustainable transit and sustainable communities.
There is an underfunding problem with public transit. There is a problem with funding of highways before funding of transit, and that is counterproductive. The experience in Los Angeles was that they tried to deal with their congestion and their gridlock by expanding their highways, by building more and more expressways. Their experience over the decades, because they didn't put in place an intensification program, because they didn't put in place the kind of transit system you need to service intensified communities, is that they saw the average speed of cars on these expressways dropping, decade by decade. We seem to have bought into all of that. We've decided that we'll go for Los Angeles-type densities, we've decided that we'll go for Los Angeles-type solutions and, frankly, we will go for the Los Angeles experience of longer time spent on the highway.
Look at some of the funding issues that transit systems have to deal with. The funding for the Toronto Transit Commission is $180 million less per year than it was in 1995 when the NDP was in government -- $180 million less. Let's set aside questions of inflation, let's set aside questions of the age of the transit stock or the age of the roads, any increase in population -- there's $180 million less for transit in the Toronto area, and that is a concrete problem.
This week the province announced almost -- what? -- $4 billion in money for new highways. That includes highways like the extension of Highway 404 to Ravenshoe. This is an extension that environmentalists and planners have pointed out will only serve to fuel further sprawl north of the greenbelt. It's not going to solve the problems we have; it's going to intensify those problems. It's going to allow a developer with a small package of land that otherwise couldn't be developed, that otherwise isn't going to be serviced, to build, to make a dollar, and that means that another group of people somewhere in the GTA are going to be spending a few more minutes, maybe a half an hour more, on the highway, hoping that eventually traffic will clear and they'll be able to get to their destination.
We have a lot of examples of how public transit -- and the movement of people out of their cars and into mass transit is something the McGuinty government has said is important, but then has failed to develop the framework that would be necessary to deliver mass transit across the GTA. If you don't do the fundamental planning work on the infrastructure of the city, then you can't move on to the whole question of transit that will work.
I want to make a note here about the concrete reality of new developments. About 20 years ago, I was in London, England, visiting some friends. They were living in a house at that time that had been built in the 1870s. In fact, the whole neighbourhood of red brick, fairly plain, Victorian housing -- not fancy Victorian housing like I've seen in Toronto, but very plain housing -- was well over 100 years old. When we build these suburbs, when we set the urban form, we're dealing with something that will be in place for many decades. So we are going to have to deal with the environmental but also the fuel problems that arise from a very wasteful structure.
Last week I was given a paper that was presented to the American Department of Energy on the whole question of peak oil, peak fuel supplies. There's a fair amount of controversy about the issue. It was suggested, or has been increasingly suggested in the last decade, that the world will face a point, either within the next 10 years or the next 20 years, when world production of oil will peak, and when it peaks, then it will start to decline. We're not about to run out of oil, we're not about to have to turn off the taps, but the reality is that many expect that we will see a disjuncture between world demand for oil and world availability of oil. That means price volatility, it means shortages, and for a society that has built an urban form that requires large volumes of gasoline to function, substantial social problems. Now, it's interesting to me that if you look at Wal-Mart and Costco and all these big box stores and you look at the urban form that existed in Toronto, say, around the turn of the last century, where you had small stores lining not main commercial routes but secondary commercial routes, what's happened over the century is that as people have increased their ownership of individual cars, it's possible for large stores like Wal-Mart and Costco etc., in these sprawling suburbs, to cut transportation costs. They set up a warehouse that in the past would have had to transport goods to small retail outlets. The small retail outlets increasingly fade, and what we have are the large warehouses where people pay for the transportation. They go to the warehouse, they get the goods, they bring them home. But in a situation -- and I don't know if it will be this decade or in the 2020s -- where you face a problem of peak oil, the cost to service that whole infrastructure will become extraordinarily high. Those in the suburbs will face rising and problematic energy costs to get around. What we're doing by building this urban form is setting in place a form that inherently is expensive to service with transportation networks. That is a fundamental problem not just for us, but for decades, for generations of people to come after us. I think, aside from this bill, that is an issue that should weigh on the minds of this government.
I've touched on many of the reasons why New Democrats, although we think that a better coordinated central transportation system is needed -- a central transportation system across the GTA -- don't support this very weak, very ineffective institution that Bill 104 is going to bring into existence. As I've said at the beginning, it's not only the NDP that's concerned; the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, when asked, said no, this bill, if it's not amended, will not deal with gridlock and congestion. I asked the Toronto Board of Trade the same question: "Will the bill, unamended, deal with the problem that we're talking about?" No, they didn't see that it would deal with it. In the end, the bill was not amended. We still have, substantially, the bill that came before the House about a month ago.
So I want to talk about some of the structural issues with the GTTA, some of the structural problems with the GTTA, as presented in Bill 104. I would say that the central, key issue is the lack of information on how the GTTA is going to fund its transportation plan. That's profoundly problematic. There is no explicit provision of detail on how the province proposes to fund the GTTA's mandated transportation plan. That leaves this a shell of an institution. That's created concern with the city of Toronto -- and that was clear from their deputation before the committee, from their testimony before the committee -- and concern from other GTA municipalities, like Mississauga. They're concerned that a lack of funding details could negatively impact their present and future funding levels.
When I was preparing for committee discussion of this bill, I looked at the GO Transit Act. If you go to section 22 of the GO Transit Act, it reads, "The money required for the purposes of this act before April 1, 2002, shall be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund and thereafter shall be paid out of such money as is appropriated therefor by the Legislature."
I asked for a similar section to be placed in this bill so that we would know that there was a statutory requirement to fund, so that not only the NDP as a party considering this legislation in the House, but the city of Toronto, the city of Mississauga -- all the GTA municipalities -- would know where the funds would come from. The fact that no such section exists in this bill, that it's going to be left to regulation and thus not to the consideration of this House, is of great concern.
Will this bill simply be a Trojan horse for private sector financing of transit and roads, or will it deepen the download on municipalities? There seems to be some sort of thought that if you simply coordinate the actions of the municipalities, you will be able to substantially improve transit across the GTA. Frankly, I don't see that. All of those transit authorities face financial problems. The city of Toronto is the biggest, at about $950 million a year. It tries to hold itself together and provide service to Toronto. Mississauga, Markham, Oshawa, Whitby and all the other municipalities have their own systems. GO Transit runs at about $340 million a year. So we've got $1.3 billion per year that's spent on the largest systems, but there's no commitment to operating funds. I've heard the parliamentary assistant to the minister refer to proposals of capital funds, and although capital funds are welcome, they are not adequate to deal with the transit problems faced by Toronto or the other municipalities. As I said a while ago, the amount of funds made available to the city of Toronto's transit system, the TTC, is $180 million less now than it was in 1995. That problem cannot be solved by a smart card division, it can't be solved by a planning division, and it can't be solved by GO Transit operating well. It can only be solved by putting money in, and that's the key problem here.
Obviously, when the bill was under discussion, there was concern by the city of Toronto that it might have to deal with costs being downloaded to them. They're already funding many, many services out of their property tax base -- services that used to be covered by provincial funds, that used to be covered by provincial money. Now it's put on the property tax base. They don't want yet another round of downloading put on their shoulders. They are skeptical.
The city of Mississauga suggested that in fact what was needed were development charges levied across the region to help pay for this; what was needed was a whole allocation of funds from provincial revenues to actually ensure that this system ran well. We didn't get that in the amendments. What we got in the amendments was essentially a variety of small tinkerings, a variety of small touches around the edges on this bill, but nothing dealing with the fundamental issue of making sure that the funds were there so that you had healthy, well-funded transit systems that in fact could be integrated, that were big enough that an integration might add to the value that passengers would reap from being part of them.
I moved an amendment in committee to put in that funding, to put in a mechanism for funding. That was rejected. Again, I think a rejection of that funding section will mean simply the development of plans that will sit on shelves.
When you look at transit systems in other countries and in other cities -- New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, even Los Angeles -- you see a substantial influx of funds from senior levels of government, because that's what's required to make the system run properly. It was interesting to me -- I've been in Amsterdam on business. I've been in the downtown at rush hour in winter and in summer. In their downtown, things move fast. You don't get the sort of total clog up that you get here on Yonge or Bay at 5 o'clock or 5:30. You've got buses, streetcars, cars, bicycles, all moving rapidly through the downtown because the frequency of transit is high enough that people see it as a practical way to get around their city. That's possible when dollars are put in. When you don't put in the dollars, when you don't have an urban form that allows for very rapid, very frequent transit, then frankly what you get is people going to their cars. Again, that's where this bill leads us. It leads us simply to business as usual and a greater, higher level of congestion.
Many people have recognized this. It isn't just the NDP that has said, "Hey, we need to have an adequate level of resources for this kind of activity. We need to have an infusion of cash so that transit will function well, so that we can deal with congestion."
During the 2003 election campaign, Dalton McGuinty's election platform stated, "The new GTTA will be given the clout and resources to tackle gridlock and ensure free movement of people and goods in a rapidly growing region." That's from Growing Strong Communities, 2003, page 21. But that didn't materialize. We didn't see any of that in this bill. What we saw in this bill was nothing. It's almost a Seinfeld bill, a bill about nothing. At least it has smart cards. You can say that's something. But in terms of dealing with the problem that we have, this is not going to move us to where we have to go.
Now, there are environmental implications to this bill -- environmental implications to failing to actually come to grips with the problem that's before us. One of the things that this authority could do, if it was properly constituted and resourced, would be to deal with the whole question of greenhouse gas emissions. Both the government and I introduced amendments to Bill 104 that were aimed at the cause, the purpose of reducing greenhouse gases and smog-causing pollutants in the GTA. The government amendment was interesting. It stated that the GTTA's transportation plan "must work toward reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the reduction of smog-causing pollutants."
The Deputy Speaker: Order. No, go ahead, sir. I'm just trying to --
Interjection: Way to go, Speaker.
Mr. Tabuns: I'm happy to have you call order, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Jim Watson (Minister of Health Promotion): That woke us up.
Mr. Tabuns: The level of cruelty at times is boundless, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Tabuns: Yes. So, Mr. Speaker, thank you.
The Deputy Speaker: I'm calling order. I didn't mean to interrupt you. I'm anxious to hear what you have to say. The member from Toronto-Danforth.
Mr. Tabuns: The government's amendment talked about working toward reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and my amendment stated that the plan "must" reduce greenhouse gases and smog-causing pollutants.
Frankly, now is not the time for a faint heart. Now is not the time for motions that give the appearance of action. Now is the time for amendments that actually will give this bill and whatever authority comes out of it the direction to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We all recognize that we face profound problems in Ontario, in Canada, globally, with climate change, with global warming. Frankly, the fact that this government was willing to put forward a very weak position, a soft position, is not one that's defensible.
I had an opportunity a number of years ago to be at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg and, at that time, listened to the Canadian representatives speak. I had an opportunity to have the Canadian representatives come to a meeting of NGOs to talk about how exactly Canada was approaching the Earth Summit and the problems before us. Something that came up time and again was, those of us in the environmental movement and the social justice movement and the fair trade movement would say, "You have to have targets and timelines. You have to have something firm so that we can measure progress against your actual statement." And I have to tell you that the lead negotiator, the head of the Canadian team, was very straightforward. He said, "We're against targets and timelines. We don't like it. We want that sort of stuff set aside. We're talking about setting general direction." In other words, we had an opportunity there to actually do things that were concrete, and yet we would not do that. And frankly, that's what we have here: language that softens, language that undermines, language that talks about "working towards" instead of direction. If you have a plan, it has to result in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and smog emissions. That has got to be a fundamental part of what you do.
That was defeated by the government in committee. It should not be an afterthought. Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and smog emissions from transportation should not be an afterthought, should not be something that's simply worked towards, but should be a requirement of plans that are brought forward by any transit authority in this area.
The McGuinty government says they support the Kyoto accord. With the breaking of the coal promise, one has to ask, "Really, is there anything left to this? What shreds of commitment are left?" We don't know if these coal plants will ever be shut down. I've asked the Minister of the Environment, does she have a Kyoto plan? She's never produced one -- talks about investment in transit, talks about shutting down the coal plants. Well, that was last week; I doubt I'd get a similar answer this week. But when a government has an act in its hands where it can give authority, and not just authority but direction, to a body to deal with a profound social, political and environmental problem, it drops the ball; it forgets about it. And that, I think, is a fundamental failure of this government with regard to this bill and a fundamental failure of this bill itself.
It was interesting to me working on the Kyoto issue in Ottawa. I haven't dealt with the Conservatives on this issue; I had to deal with the Liberals on this issue. Again, their whole approach to climate change was to put forward soft programs like the One-Tonne Challenge that looked good in literature, looked good on television, but in fact didn't deliver the goods.
That's what this greater Toronto transit authority legislation is about. This is about looking good, having something to put on a flyer, because I have no doubt that in the next election in every municipality in the GTA outside of Toronto itself, where I don't think this is as much of a draw, this authority will be alluded to, but in fact, concrete results will not be there. I would say, if this legislation is put in place, you probably won't even have a plan on the ground; you won't have a plan to present to people by the time of the next election, which is great, because it allows everyone to ascribe to this authority what they would like to ascribe to it. They won't have to worry, because, frankly, the votes will be in before the plan is actually produced.
One of the things I proposed was that whatever plan comes forward should have modelling showing how many trips that plan would reduce. So if you're putting in the smart card, how many car trips will that actually cut down? I have serious questions as to whether or not a lot of measures would reduce the number of car trips. Putting things in those terms would allow one to determine what was worth investing in and not worth investing in. That was an amendment that was set aside by the government. I think that doesn't make sense, because, again, it takes away the ability of politicians, and thus it takes away the ability of voters, to judge whether or not actions were taken that were consistent with the promises that were made. I think that's a fundamental issue, because when the people can't measure the actions, when they can't look at the modelling and the promises, they can't know whether or not they were sold a bill of goods. They can't hold people accountable.
I know that this can be complex, but in fact modelling has been done on a lot of things. When there was a proposal to provide a tax credit for the purchase of transit passes, some fairly sophisticated modelling was done to show what the impact would be on the number of passes actually acquired, the number of car trips reduced, and thus the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would be avoided. That sort of modelling is doable and, frankly, with regard to this legislation, should be done for every plan that's brought forward so that we don't just get a statement of good intentions.
This growth plan that was proposed --
The Deputy Speaker: When I can hear the members' conversations over that of the member who has the floor, I think it's getting a little loud. I'd ask for your co-operation. Conversations can be taken outside.
Member for Toronto-Danforth, you have the floor.
Mr. Tabuns: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
This bill presented this government with a lot of opportunities, and those opportunities were missed. This bill presented this government with an opportunity to put in place a rational planning system for transit in the greater Toronto area. This bill could have put in place a planning system that costed the different transit options. Frankly, it could have costed the different highway investment options, and given politicians and voters a better sense of what could and could not be done to make transportation work in the GTA.
This bill will not have the impact that the greater Vancouver regional transit authority has. It won't give us that. That transit system, imperfect as it is -- the reality is, gridlock and congestion are still present in Vancouver, and I would say for many of the same reasons that we have a problem here in Toronto: too much sprawl, densities that are too low. But at least there's a regional transit system that makes some substantial investments in regional transit systems. That isn't what's before us, not even faintly what's before us.
When you read the legislation, what you have essentially is an authority that will try to cajole, try to coordinate the different transit bodies to work together. You will have a body that will not have the money to provide inducements for co-operation. You will have a body that is going to spend a lot of time figuring out who pays for the smart card system and who benefits from the smart card system. I would say that this body is not going to do much more than ensure that a smart card process is put in place for a debate that will probably happen in the 2008-09 years.
That's unfortunate, because I do see a need for that coordination, let's say between Mississauga Transit and the TTC. There's no question that if we could expedite the transit experience for those going from Hamilton to Oshawa, that would be a useful thing. But without those resources, without the authority and, frankly, without the urban forum to have as a foundation for really making this happen, this board, this body, will become an interested talking shop, one that ultimately will not produce the results that anyone is hoping for and is expecting.
I would hope that the government, in looking at this bill afterwards, will at least try to do something useful in regulation. I don't like the idea that it's all left to regulation because, as I've said in other speeches and will say in this one, you don't know what the next government will be. No one can predict that they will win an election, that their policies will be carried forward. Regulations, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, are something quite mutable, something that can be changed by the government of the day. Legislation at least gives one an opportunity to have public debate. But in setting so much out of legislation and leaving it to regulation, this government may well, assuming this body continues on and does not simply collapse like the GTSB, find itself dealing with a less friendly government in relation to this issue in the years to come.
I would say that they have to go back. I would say that there's an opportunity, first of all, with the growth plan for this government to step back and say, "We need to deal with growth in a way that will allow us to have a transit system that's functional." There perhaps is the area where they need to be spending time. We've had a growth plan introduced; it can be amended. We don't have to have ridiculous density standards or targets that in fact will only sustain transit at 30-minute intervals, which, as any practical person will say, will not encourage people to leave their cars. It doesn't work; it won't work. Any teenager who can afford to pull together the money to get a car so they don't have to wait 30 minutes for a bus is going to do that as soon as they possibly can. What we have before us, between the growth plan and the focus of funding on expressways, is a plan that is not going to take us where we need to go.
The Deputy Speaker: It being 6 of the clock, a time that I know the member for Ottawa-Orléans, Mr. McNeely, would like to go and celebrate his birthday, this House is adjourned until 6:45 of the clock.
The House adjourned at 1801.
Evening meeting reported in volume B.