LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Tuesday 29 May 2007 Mardi 29 mai 2007
ÉCOLE CATHOLIQUE JEANNE SAUVÉ /
JEANNE SAUVÉ CATHOLIC SCHOOL
STANDING COMMITTEE ON
STANDING COMMITTEE ON
THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
716056 ONTARIO LIMITED ACT, 2007
ST. ANDREW'S UNITED CHURCH (TORONTO) ACT, 2007
CONRAD BLACK EXECUTIVE
COMPENSATION ABUSE ACT, 2007 /
LOI CONRAD BLACK DE 2007 SUR
L'INDEMNISATION ABUSIVE DES
MEMBRES DE LA DIRECTION
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
COMMUNITIES IN ACTION FUND /
FONDS COLLECTIVITÉS ACTIVES
SAFER ROADS FOR
A SAFER ONTARIO ACT, 2007 /
LOI DE 2007 VISANT Ã CRÉER
DES ROUTES PLUS SÉCURITAIRES
POUR UN ONTARIO PLUS SÃR
The House met at 1330.
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): I rise in the House because of the loss of 137,000 well-paying Ontario manufacturing jobs under this government's watch.
In a riding with a proud tradition of employment and innovation and the auto sector, Durham residents are deeply concerned. CAW local president Chris Buckley has said that 21% of manufacturing jobs in the Oshawa area alone have disappeared. This is a loss of over 7,000 good-paying jobs.
Durham residents have raised the awareness about job loss this past Sunday with a rally in Oshawa. More than 38,000 attended a similar rally in Windsor as well.
The loss of manufacturing jobs affects communities and families across Ontario. Families and businesses are concerned over this government's lack of a plan and lack of leadership on an important economic issue. They know that McGuinty's high spending is chasing jobs and families out of Ontario. They're looking for Dalton McGuinty's government to act now, before it's too late.
The evidence is clear: Dana Corp. lost 80 jobs in December 2005 and, later, 537 jobs in December, 100 jobs in August 2006 and 90 additional jobs in September 2006. Dura Corp. as well had 280 job losses in August 2006 and 356 in April 2007. GM has lost over 1,000 jobs, Ford over 1,000 and Chrysler over 1,000–
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you.
SLEEPING GIANT LANDMARK
Mr. Bill Mauro (Thunder Bay—Atikokan): The CBC is searching for the Seven Wonders of Canada and has short-listed 52 nominees, including a magnificent one from Thunder Bay that has my enthusiastic vote.
The Sibley Peninsula, or the Sleeping Giant, as it's known in Thunder Bay, is a natural rock peninsula in the shape of a giant sleeping person. The peninsula is a beautiful place to explore, with Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, the mountain trails and Silver Islet being three of many places to visit. The rock juts into Lake Superior and frames Thunder Bay.
There are many stories around this landmark. One Ojibway legend identifies the giant as Nanabijou, who turned to stone when the secret location of a rich silver mine, now known as Silver Islet, was disclosed to settlers.
It is a most incredible sight. Majestic and mysterious, it brings a sense of peace to those who view it. This land is truly a wonder. The Sleeping Giant represents a calmness which most of us could use in our lives today.
As Thunder Bay's Eric Vander Wal, one of the CBC viewers who nominated the Sleeping Giant, said, "When viewed across Thunder Bay, the figure of a man stretched across the horizon is unmistakable: a man who has protected the voyagers en route to Fort William, or the sailors and salties bearing Canada's bread basket grain from Prince Arthur's Landing. Whether hiking through the cool air under the boreal forests, swimming in the waters that lap at its shores or climbing across his chest, the Sleeping Giant offers a majesty greater than any mountain pass or ocean vista. And surely must be counted among Canada's great natural wonders."
I agree and urge one and all to vote on the CBC website by the May 31 deadline to ensure that Thunder Bay's Sleeping Giant takes its rightful place as one of Canada's seven wonders.
Mr. Ted Arnott (Waterloo—Wellington): Sylvia Jones in Dufferin-Caledon, Michael Harris in Kitchener-Conestoga, and John Rutherford in Perth-Wellington, as well as the rest of John Tory's team, understand that we need to do more to protect our manufacturing jobs.
Two years ago this very week, I tabled a motion in this House which called upon the finance committee to begin public hearings on the competitiveness of our manufacturing industries. I was motivated to bring this forward because I was concerned that without immediate provincial government action, we would lose many manufacturing jobs. I envisioned that these hearings could take place in the summer of 2005, leading to an action plan that would protect those good-paying jobs for Ontario families.
My resolution had the express support of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Canada's Chemical Producers, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Employers' Advocacy Council, the Ontario Real Estate Association, and the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce.
While the McGuinty Liberal government dithered on this emerging crisis, Ontario has lost more than 137,000 manufacturing jobs since 2005. Last month alone, the Ontario economy hemorrhaged 13,000 factory jobs. These statistics are not just cold numbers; they are people who've lost good jobs, and most are unlikely to find similar work which pays as well as the jobs they've lost. We're talking about families who are facing severe hardship because of this government's policy of sticking its collective head in the sand and ignoring prudent warnings that our caucus brought into this House two years ago and have been raising ever since.
This afternoon the House should stand united in support of opposition day motion 5. Let's not wait until October to send a signal to the world that Ontario is open for business—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. Members' statements?
Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): Andrew Lanese is a 10-year-old boy who lives down in Fonthill with his folks, Nick and Sonia. Andrew is one of less than 24 people in this country who suffers from Hunter's syndrome. What that has meant is that he has suffered a dramatic regression in mental capacity as a result of this rare genetic disorder.
There was no hope for kids like Andrew or their families until 2006, when the US Food and Drug Administration approved a drug called Elaprase. Elaprase is an enzyme replacement therapy that improves the quality of life for people like Andrew suffering from Hunter's syndrome. It's not available in Canada, so the Lanese family applied to the Health Canada special access program. Health Canada considers the drug appropriate enough to authorize its use here in Canada, but it's very expensive. And here's the Catch-22: Health Canada authorizes its use in Canada; OHIP in Ontario won't pay for the drug and the treatments. And we're talking about hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of dollars.
This isn't opening floodgates. As I told you, less than 24 people in this whole country are suffering from this rare disorder. I'm calling upon this government to give Andrew some hope for the rest of his life by permitting payment by OHIP for this treatment.
HUMAN RIGHTS NORTHWEST
Mr. Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay—Superior North): I'm pleased to have the opportunity today to inform the Legislature about a new organization in my community, one that promotes a vision where all people with developmental challenges are treated equally, given the opportunity to live a self-chosen life and, as a result, enjoy inclusion in society.
Human Rights Northwest consists of family members, advocates, staff workers and members from the community, especially those knowledgeable in rights issues. Its mission is to provide rights protection to persons with developmental challenges, supported by agencies within the jurisdiction of their mandate.
It is often said that a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. Certainly Human Rights Northwest is there to test that standard, and I for one am grateful for their existence. As the brother of a man with developmental challenges, one who is strongly supported by Community Living Thunder Bay, I am deeply conscious of the value of this newly formed organization. Recently, I attended a supper hosted by Human Rights Northwest—an opportunity, as I saw it, to better understand the goals of the group and to offer my support. Our thanks should go to Mel and Edna Hogan, the driving force behind this group, and all of the people who are working with them. Congratulations as well to my friend Reggie Duncan, who faces his daily challenges with a spirit that lifts the heart. Reggie provided the music that evening and is keen to offer his services across the community.
So hats off to the people behind this great movement in our community. And if I may end my statement with a commercial plug: Please check out Rockin' Reggie's DJ Productions.
SMITHS FALLS ECONOMY
Mr. Norman W. Sterling (Lanark—Carleton): I rise today on behalf 9,200 people at Smiths Falls, a town where more than 1,500 people will be losing their jobs by the end of 2009. In the last budget, the McGuinty government announced the redevelopment of the local hospital. Unfortunately, despite highlighting this project in the budget, the McGuinty government has not been in touch with local officials to get anything started. They're ready to put the tender out and nothing has happened since the budget. This adds insult to injury.
When the McGuinty government announced the accelerated closing of the Rideau Regional Centre by 2009, they promised to help the community adapt to the economic impact of the closure, but no help has come forward. In February, Hershey's announced that its plant would be closing. Since then, Premier Dalton McGuinty has yet to visit Smiths Falls to offer his support to the community. Our leader, John Tory, and the leader of the third party, Howard Hampton, both have visited Smiths Falls. In addition to the 1,500 people who have lost their jobs, about 100 people who work at OPP's eastern regional headquarters, located on the same grounds as the RRC, don't know what's going to happen to them.
Does the McGuinty government care at all? Why don't they help? Does the McGuinty government have any heart at all? Smiths Falls and many manufacturing towns like it need some gleam of hope. We've got to help these towns out.
ANNIVERSARY OF SCOUTS CANADA
Mr. Khalil Ramal (London—Fanshawe): I rise in the House today to congratulate the London area Scouts on their wonderful event on Saturday, May 26, the celebration of Scouts Canada's centennial anniversary. This event was a true reflection of the wonderful work that Scouts Canada has done within communities across London, Ontario and Canada for 100 years.
It's amazing to know that the principles that Lord Baden-Powell instilled in youth a century ago continue to inspire Scouts Canada's great organization. The principles of scouting are a combination of personal challenges, outdoor activities and service to communities as well as teaching individual responsibility. I believe that these are important principles that our youth, adolescents and adults should have.
I know Scouts has brought friendship, fun and adventure to my riding of London—Fanshawe. Whether it be through their programs for youth, adolescents or adults, Scouts Canada is an organization that brings people together and creates lifelong friendships.
The celebration on Saturday was a wonderful chance for me to see firsthand the family-like community that Scouts Canada creates wherever it goes. Scouts Canada has made, and continues to make, real contributions in creating a better world for all of to us to live.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Scouts organization for their generosity and dedication and to wish volunteers, members, leaders and their families all the best on the special occasion of the Scouts centennial celebration.
ÉCOLE CATHOLIQUE JEANNE SAUVÉ /
JEANNE SAUVÉ CATHOLIC SCHOOL
M. John Wilkinson (Perth—Middlesex): L'école Jeanne Sauvé est une école catholique qui offre un programme d'immersion de langue française à partir de la première année. Les élèves étudient la plupart des matières en français. Étant donné l'amélioration rapide et constante du rendement scolaire de ses élèves, l'école Jeanne Sauvé se classe dans le premier pourcentage des meilleures écoles de l'Ontario.
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome the grade 7 class of Jeanne Sauvé Catholic school from my hometown of Stratford, and in particular I'd like to welcome my youngest son, Breen, and all of his classmates: Welcome to the Legislature.
I'd also like to applaud the students of Jeanne Sauvé for their participation in the Ministry of Education's healthy schools program. One of the many schools to take up the government's challenge, the students at Jeanne Sauvé are leading the way. Students, teachers, principals, parents and community partners are all involved in the effort. Students at Jeanne Sauvé will be serving as youth health ambassadors, planning a healthy eating workshop to present to each class.
The increased funding that the publicly funded school boards have received is making dramatic differences right across Ontario in our classrooms. Once again, I am glad to have Jeanne Sauvé here to tour the Legislature today en français. Maybe I should have hitched a ride this morning on the bus.
Mr. Brad Duguid (Scarborough Centre): I rise today to speak of something of great importance to all Ontarians: health care and nurses. The McGuinty government takes pride in our front-line health care workers. We've fulfilled our commitment in hiring 8,000 new nurses and in fact will surpass that target. We have invested in equipment such as bed lifts to help, literally, take the strain off our nurses, and most recently we've announced new nurses grad guarantees that will ensure full-time employment to graduating nurses.
We've made progress, but the Tories want to take us back. Don't just take my word for it. Today in the National Post, the Ontario Nurses' Association noted their concern on the Tories plan, where they stated unequivocally that they do not support Mr. Tory's approach. The Ontario Nurses' Association is referring to last week's announcement of John Tory's health care agenda, where they tried to slip this health care agenda under the radar in a low-profile event, hoping no one would notice.
The Tory health care agenda is a blueprint for taking us back: back to the days of cuts, back to the days of damage, back to the days of neglect. Don't just take my word for that either. The Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the Sudbury Star, the Cornwall Standard Freeholder, the Owen Sound Sun Times and the Orillia Packet and Times have now all questioned Mr. Tory's health care agenda with headlines such as, "Promise Hard to Accept," "Unhealthy Calculations," and "Tory's Stand on Health Tax Wrong-headed."
I know my constituents stand by the progress we've made in health care in our community. We won't let Mr. Tory take us back.
Mr. Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward—Hastings): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would like to welcome Carson Cross, his daughter Chelsea and his son Alex to the Legislature. Carson is a Belleville professional firefighter who also owns his own fire truck, though that's not yet a job requirement in the city of Belleville. Carson uses the trucks for charity, for children's events, for anything to support the community, and I applaud him in being here today.
Mr. Michael Prue (Beaches—East York): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I rise today to introduce and welcome supporters of my new private member's bill. Those people being present are: Stan Buell, president of the Small Investor Protection Association; Art Field, president of the National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation; Judy Muzzi, past president of the United Senior Citizens of Ontario; and Pamela Reeve, a member of the investor advisory committee of the Ontario Securities Commission. They are here to see the Legislature in its full flower. Welcome.
Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I'm asking members of the Legislature to welcome Annette Mayes, the mother of page Brianna Mayes, along with Pauline Montminy, the aunt of Brianna Mayes, who is the page captain today.
Mr. Bill Mauro (Thunder Bay—Atikokan): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would like to welcome to the Legislature today, sitting in the members' east gallery, visiting from Atikokan, Lisa and Jolene Beauregard.
RELEASE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): I beg to inform the House that pursuant to section 28 of the Auditor General Act, I have today laid upon the table the audited financial statements of the Office of the Auditor General for the year ended March 31, 2006.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): I beg the indulgence of the House to permit the pages to assemble for introduction. First off, we have Rebecca Alter from Don Valley West, Elizabeth Amos from Mississauga Centre, Elizabeth Arif from Thunder Bay—Atikokan, Liam Brown from Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Darren Cole from Toronto—Danforth, Justine Fletcher from Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, Faith Fraser from Nickel Belt, Laura Fluegel from Sarnia—Lambton, Joel Gamble from Scarborough—Agincourt, Stefan Gemnay from Kitchener—Waterloo, Grant Goldberg from York Centre, Jacqueline Janas from Hamilton Mountain, Joe Kyte from Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Brianna Mayes from Niagara Centre, Shea McConkey from Brant, Spencer McInnis from Chatham—Kent—Essex, Andrew McIntyre from Ottawa—Orléans, Hannah Nicholls-Harrison from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, Justin Stevenson from Essex, Katie Toogood from York North, Colin Tufts from Halton and Graham Tunmer from Niagara Falls. Please help me welcome our new pages.
The Speaker: Back to work.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON
Mr. Jim Brownell (Stormont—Dundas—Charlottenburgh): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on general government and move its adoption.
The Clerk-at-the-Table (Ms. Lisa Freedman): Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:
Bill 212, An Act to amend the Education Act in respect of behaviour, discipline and safety / Projet de loi 212, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation en ce qui concerne le comportement, la discipline et la sécurité.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed? Agreed.
Pursuant to the order of the House dated May 1, 2007, the bill—
The Speaker: I'm sorry? The bill is ordered for third reading.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON
THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Mr. Ted McMeekin (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot): My apologies, Speaker. I thought you were going to forget one of the most important standing committees; they're all important.
I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly and move its adoption.
The Clerk-at-the-Table (Ms. Lisa Freedman): Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:
Bill 218, An Act to amend the Election Act and the Election Finances Act and make related amendments to other Acts / Projet de loi 218, Loi modifiant la Loi électorale et la Loi sur le financement des élections et apportant des modifications connexes à d'autres lois.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed? Agreed.
Pursuant to the standing orders, this bill is ordered for third reading.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
716056 ONTARIO LIMITED ACT, 2007
Mr. Miller moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill Pr36, An Act to revive 716056 Ontario Limited.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
ST. ANDREW'S UNITED CHURCH (TORONTO) ACT, 2007
Mr. Zimmer moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill Pr37, An Act respecting St. Andrew's Congregation of The United Church of Canada at Toronto.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
CONRAD BLACK EXECUTIVE
COMPENSATION ABUSE ACT, 2007 /
LOI CONRAD BLACK DE 2007 SUR
L'INDEMNISATION ABUSIVE DES
MEMBRES DE LA DIRECTION
Mr. Prue moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 230, An Act to amend the Business Corporations Act to provide protections against executive compensation abuse / Projet de loi 230, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les sociétés par actions afin de prévoir des protections contre l'indemnisation abusive des membres de la direction.
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. Michael Prue (Beaches—East York): The Business Corporations Act, also called the Conrad Black act in short, is amended to add provisions respecting compensation of executives. Provisions are added requiring that a vote on executive compensation be held at every annual meeting of shareholders of a company that offers securities to the public. The act is also amended to provide that if certain executives do not meet any job performance standards to which their compensation is related, they must pay back a portion of that compensation.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): I'd like to inform the House and the members that we have with us today in the Speaker's gallery a delegation from Westminster, the United Kingdom. We have Austin Mitchell, Ann Cryer, Jeffrey Ennis, Roger Godsiff and Lord Rogan. Please help me welcome our guests.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne (Minister of Education): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I'd like to draw the attention of the House to the family of Rebecca Alter, one of our pages from Don Valley West. Matthew Alter, Simone Alter, Ethan Alter, Daniel Alter, Gerald Gold and Helen Bustillo join us in the gallery. Welcome.
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): I definitely have a motion, a long-awaited, long-anticipated motion. I move that, notwithstanding any other order of the House, pursuant to standing order 9(c)(i), the House shall meet from 6:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29, 2007, 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 those in favour will say "aye."
All those opposed will say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1358 to 1403.
The Speaker: Order. Members please take their seats.
All those in favour will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Broten, Laurel C.
Cansfield, Donna H.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Racco, Mario G.
Takhar, Harinder S.
Van Bommel, Maria
Wynne, Kathleen O.
The Speaker: Those opposed will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Tascona, Joseph N.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 53; the nays are 15.
The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
COMMUNITIES IN ACTION FUND /
FONDS COLLECTIVITÉS ACTIVES
Hon. Jim Watson (Minister of Health Promotion): Our government is committed to providing Ontarians with access to sport and recreation activities regardless of their age, ability or income. The communities in action fund is a part of our physical activities strategy which aims to increase the level of physical activity among Ontarians so that by the year 2010, 55% of Ontarians are physically active enough to benefit their health. It is estimated that physical inactivity in our health care system costs billions of dollars. The CIAF is working in our communities to provide access to sport, recreation and physical activity programs for Ontarians who otherwise may not have a chance to participate. Part of the program's mandate is to support at-risk youth, and to support them where it matters most: in their own communities. We are working to keep kids safe and ensure that positive options are available after school.
Dans les trois dernières années du gouvernement McGuinty, les subventions du fonds collectivités actives ont permis de financer un large éventail de programmes; par exemple, des programmes destinés aux autochtones, des programmes d'activités physiques pour les aà®nés et les programmes de sports habituels comme le basket-ball, le « soccer », la natation et le cyclisme, de même que d'autres sports et activités moins courants comme la pratique de la planche à roulette et le tai-chi.
In the first three years, approximately 548 local and provincial organizations received funding, and these grants have helped approximately one million Ontarians of all ages and backgrounds to get active. Now, for a fourth year, the communities in action fund is helping even more Ontarians to get active.
I'm pleased to note that last week we announced funding to 14 provincial and over 200 local organizations who are receiving communities in action fund grants. Thanks to an additional allocation of $2.5 million from the provincial budget in March, the fund for 2007-08 becomes a $7.5-million program.
That means we have reopened the application process so that we can provide funding to even more organizations that will create and enhance new opportunities for physical activity, community sport and recreation. These additional funds will help to address the annual oversubscription rate of approximately $10 million in demand. With this year's investment, the McGuinty government has invested over $23 million in local and provincial organizations across Ontario through this important program.
Two weeks ago, I met with several grant recipient organizations at First Avenue school with my colleague Richard Patten, and my parliamentary assistant, Peter Fonseca, met with others in Toronto. Recipients in attendance included:
—The Ontario division of the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing. Their grant will provide training to volunteer instructors to help in their adaptive ski program and expand it to six ski resorts throughout central and western Ontario.
—International Fun and Team Athletics Canada Inc. received a grant to implement their youth soccer skills and fitness programs in schools, clubs and communities for over 25,000 children across the province.
—Clean Air Champions are implementing the Clean Air Achievers and Stepping Ahead programs. Clean Air Achievers is a program that targets students in grades 7, 8 and 9 to adopt practices and lifestyles that enhance both environmental and personal health. The program explores transportation choices and the resulting impacts on air quality, climate change and health. Students achieve measurable results to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by choosing active transportation and influencing others to become more physically active.
—The Cycle Alliance of Ontario received a grant to implement a program in 26 communities across Ontario. KidFit will work to get more elementary school children active by encouraging them to ride their bikes to school.
—The Ontario Minor Roller Hockey Association will be using the grant they are receiving to implement Getting Girls in the Game. This program will help to introduce 500 girls in southern Ontario to the sport of roller hockey.
—Parks and Recreation Ontario is receiving two grants. The first grant will be used to develop a community volunteer enhancement and engagement strategy to provide increased support for volunteers and volunteerism. With their second grant, PRO plans to replicate a study that was done in 1996 about the benefits of community recreation and parks services in Ontario. This will allow for a comparison over time related to changes in leisure attitudes, as well as perceived benefits of parks, recreation and physical activity.
—York University's school of kinesiology and health science is receiving a grant that will enable them to provide higher levels of physical activity among ethnically diverse groups by providing additional resources and training new community change agents.
Our investments in these organizations help them to provide critical programming to children and youth, to aboriginal communities, to low-income families, to older adults, to visible ethnic minorities, to people with disabilities and to all Ontarians. We want to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to keep fit.
Je tiens à féliciter ces organismes sans but lucratif—nos partenaires en sport, en activité physique, en loisirs et en santé. Nous devons continuer à collaborer avec ces organismes par l'intermédiaire de programmes tels que le fonds collectivités actives.
In conclusion, I am pleased that the McGuinty government has increased funding to the 2007-08 communities in action fund program, and I want to inform all members that new applications are now being accepted for a second wave of funding. Please encourage your local organizations to apply by June 15. Application instructions can be found on my ministry's website, which is www.mhp.gov.on.ca.
Our investment in community organizations like those funded by the communities in action fund will enable the Ontario government to make significant progress towards the goal of a healthier Ontario.
Hon. Gerry Phillips (Minister of Government Services): I'm pleased to update the House on another important step this government is taking to provide the best possible consumer protection. We have now set the date, and as of October 1, 2007, cash-equivalent gift cards will never expire. This change will make Ontario the first province in Canada—the first province—to eliminate expiry dates on cash-equivalent gift cards. Consumers told us they wanted clear rules surrounding gift cards and gift certificates. We have listened, and we are delivering.
This is an issue of fairness. When people buy or receive a cash-equivalent gift card, they think they are getting just that: cash. And I'll give you an example. If you find a $20 bill in a jacket you haven't worn for a while, it's still worth $20, even if you find it two or three years later. No one would say to you, "I'm sorry; that's an old $20 bill and there's an expiry date." That's why we're taking these measures. It just makes sense. No one should lose money just because they haven't had a chance to spend it or because they haven't found something they want to buy yet. That is why we are doing this.
On October 1, 2007, this law will ban expiry dates on gift cards and also eliminate the fees, such as dormancy fees or activation fees, which erode the value of the card over time.
Also, consumers will be protected by new rules over disclosure. On October 1, 2007, we are requiring the clear and prominent disclosure of any terms and conditions related to a gift card at the point of purchase.
This is a law whose time has clearly come. Gift cards are, as we all know, a major part now of the retail economy and they're here to stay. Virtually every major Canadian retailer offers a gift card, and they have become commonplace for shoppers. I might add that roughly 80% still have an expiry date on them. We're going to fix that.
Sales of gift cards in Ontario have risen significantly in the last few years to become a multi-billion dollar industry. To make sure Ontario has the best protection for consumers, we are continuing to work with stakeholders on shopping mall cards. Mall cards, things like an Eaton Centre card, will still be covered and will not be allowed to have an expiry date. However, these cards can temporarily maintain their current fee structure while we work with them to examine options on how best to regulate these types of cards. This will allow more time to develop an approach that strikes the right balance for consumers and business.
One exception I must point out to the expiry date ban is prepaid phone cards. The reason is, they are federally regulated and Ontario's new law cannot cover them. They will continue to exist under the rules as they now are.
I want to emphasize that these changes which the McGuinty government is bringing in are fair to consumers and, I might add, fair to business. In moving forward with our changes, we have had support from a wide range of stakeholders, including the Consumers Council of Canada and the Retail Council of Canada. Their input has been invaluable on this process and I would like to thank all of them for their insight.
These provisions are part of a series of measures that make Ontario a leader in consumer protection. We're proud of this standing and we are continuing to work hard to ensure that consumers and businesses alike benefit. When Ontarians buy a gift card on or after October 1, 2007, they will have peace of mind, knowing that the card will always be as good as the day they bought it.
Hon. Donna H. Cansfield (Minister of Transportation): I rise in the House today to tell you that my ministry is hosting the first-ever sustainable transportation conference, TransForum, the first of its kind in 90 years, to help create a cleaner environment. As I said, this has never been done in the province before in its history.
TransForum began yesterday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It's being attended by leading thinkers in the field of transportation from across North America and Europe. We're showcasing the latest research and the latest technology that will help us build a world-class transportation system. We're drawing out the best thinkers and we're seeking innovative ideas that we can implement right here in Ontario.
Our government is committed to building a more sustainable transportation system that supports the needs of today while protecting the environment for future generations. We are working to reduce traffic congestion, smog and greenhouse gas emissions, and TransForum is a key step. As we all know, our roads and our highways are busy, and often they are gridlocked, which costs our economy billions of dollars every year. There are health costs associated with pollution generated by idling cars and trucks on our highways. And let's not forget the social costs. This government does not want people spending hours in their cars, simply because that's time they'll never get to spend with their children, their friends or their spouses. Around the world, standards of living are partly measured by the degree to which citizens can get around, and we must think to the future. Over the next 25 years, here in Ontario's greater Golden Horseshoe, we are expecting another 3.8 million people. That means we must act today for a better tomorrow.
This government believes that a sustainable transportation system must balance all transportation modes, including air, rail, road, marine and public transit. We need to make the connection to fuse modes of transportation. We can't build a system in isolation.
In the interests of sustainability, we are also shifting the focus away from creating more highways to using our highways better. High-occupancy vehicle lanes, or HOV lanes, are a big part of that. We've invested over $127 million to build the first provincial HOV lanes on Highway 403 and Highway 404—both are southbound—to reduce emissions by encouraging car pooling and transit use.
Last Thursday, I announced our province's ambitious plan to create a connected HOV lane network. We're adding over 450 kilometres of new HOV lanes on the 400 series highways in the greater Golden Horseshoe.
I'm proud to say we've also looked in our own backyard. My ministry is working to make its operations more sustainable by converting all of the Ministry of Transportation traffic signals to high-efficiency LED lamps and saving enough energy to continuously light almost 12,000 100-watt light bulbs for one year; making 100% of all reclaimed pavement available to ministry contractors who repair and build roads across Ontario; and we have converted the Fort Erie truck inspection station building to solar power to help reduce energy consumption.
But more than anything, public transit is the cornerstone of a sustainable transportation system. GO Transit has become the backbone of an inter-regional transit system in the greater Toronto area and Hamilton. It served over 48 million riders in 2006-07. I was honoured to be part of GO's 40th anniversary celebrations last week. Since 2003, we have invested almost $1.8 billion in GO Transit, including $457 million this year alone, making GO a better service for its commuters. These investments have made more frequent, comfortable and reliable service, provided by cleaner-burning buses and locomotives, a reality.
We're also making transit more convenient by partnering with nine municipal transit agencies in the greater Toronto area and Hamilton to deliver a single fare collection system.
We've delivered on our commitment to pump a share of the provincial gas tax into public transit right across this province. This year we are giving municipalities $313 million in gas tax funding. That means expanded service and many new, more comfortable and accessible buses right across Ontario.
We're encouraging commuters to choose transit by providing $1.6 billion in gas tax funding by 2010 to municipalities for public transit.
I'm pleased and delighted to say that these investments are paying off. Since 2003, municipal ridership in Ontario has increased by over 65 million passenger trips, in essence removing 54 million car trips from our roadways. GO Transit has increased about 10% over the last few years, or 4.4 million more passenger trips. Total GO ridership this year is expected to be around 51 million people.
Getting more people out of their cars and onto public transit means, in the end, we're all breathing cleaner air, we're burning less fuel and we are reducing gridlock. In short, TransForum, the convention, will help us change the way we think about transportation as we move forward to create a better future. It's about innovation; it's about managing transportation challenges, but managing them strategically. I'm very excited about this groundbreaking conference and look forward to taking what we learn and making transportation in Ontario better for future generations to come.
COMMUNITIES IN ACTION FUND
Mr. Norman W. Sterling (Lanark—Carleton): I'd like to respond to the minister responsible for Liberal promotion. He spoke today about the communities in action fund giving out approximately $7.5 million per year. I congratulate all of the groups that received funding under this particular program. But it's only the Liberal government that could create two agencies to do essentially the same thing: the Trillium Foundation and the communities in action fund. The Trillium fund gives out over $100 million a year, save and except for the first year, when this government cut them back $5 million from that $100 million. Why wouldn't you give the $7.5 million to the Trillium Foundation to increase their funding capabilities to $107.5 million? The same groups would receive the same amount of money, but the administration would be much less.
I'll tell you the reason why this doesn't happen: because the photo ops are not nearly as good for the government under the Trillium Foundation as they are under the communities in action fund. If a Trillium Foundation grant is given in my riding, I am called to appear when the presentation is made, as is each member in each riding. When a communities in action fund grant is given, I'm not given the same courtesy as an opposition member and called. Therefore, a member of the government shows up in my riding, giving an amount of funding to a group in my riding—double administration, less fairness with regard to MPPs and courtesy to all members of this Legislature, whether they're on the government side or the opposition side.
Mr. Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford): I respond to Minister Phillips's statement on gift card expiry dates. The only expiry date Ontarians are interested in is October 10, the date when the McGuinty Liberals will be turfed from office as a result of their dismal record and John Tory elected Premier.
The McGuinty Liberals have record high job losses in the manufacturing sector. Some 38,000 people gathered in Windsor on Sunday demanding a job strategy from their failed MPPs, Duncan and Pupatello; the McGuinty Liberals' failed record on the environment—broken promises on discontinuing coal emissions and removing lead from our water; and the McGuinty Liberals' granddaddy of all broken promises, increasing taxes by imposing the health tax on the hard-working men and women in this province.
The expiry date for the McGuinty Liberals of October 10 could not come sooner for Ontarians. On October 10, John Tory will be Ontario's next Premier.
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): I'm responding—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Order. The Minister of Economic Development and Trade.
The Speaker: Order. Minister of Economic Development and Trade, I will not warn you again.
Member for Durham.
Mr. O'Toole: I'm responding to the Minister of Transportation on her sustainable transportation plan. Quite frankly, it's hard to know where to start. When I look at it, I say that they have no plan right from the beginning.
Aside from the promise to roll back tolls on Highway 407 in their election document, it took 299 days for to us get the information, and yet they spent tonnes of money in legal fees and never solved the problem. Ask yourselves the questions.
They have no plan to deal with gridlock or congestion. In fact, if you look at the most recent response to the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, it's another failed plan, providing no funding. It indeed is stuck in gridlock.
I have moved an amendment to Bill 203, which will be voted on later today—in fact, it should be renamed the Frank Klees Road Safety Bill, because all of the legislation in Bill 203 comes from the former Minister of Transportation, Frank Klees. Quite frankly, I have yet to find a real plan from this government, to not just deal with gridlock, but when you look at the broad issues facing the economy, much of it's to do with the slow and grinding pace on our highways. The Windsor border issue is still outstanding. The 407 east expansion, the most important aspect of transportation for Durham—nothing's happening.
It's clear that they need to consult with experts, and one of those experts would be John Tory. We've had around-the-province consultations on gridlock.
I can tell you that this government is a failed government when it comes to having a plan. When you look at the roadways, when you look at the sight of the roadways, when you look at the plan, the HOV lanes that were talked about last week—
The Speaker: Thank you. Responses?
Mr. Peter Tabuns (Toronto—Danforth): I rise to respond to the comments from the Minister of Transportation. The minister gamely continues to go on talking about sustainable transportation, but I think we need to look at some recent developments.
Mr. Tabuns: I always take that as a sign that they're in trouble, but keep going.
What we had in March were announcements of highway expansions and widenings, and those expansions, those widenings, were denounced by environmental speakers, environmental representatives in this province, because they know what those announcements mean: They mean more sprawl, more congestion and more paralysis. That is the direction this government is going in. That is the strategy this government has. There cannot be a sustainable transportation system if you continue to feed sprawl, and that's what those March announcements were about.
A few days ago, the minister announced a big expansion of high-occupancy vehicle lanes, between 2017 and 2031. That's a promise not for this election or the next election, but the one after that. In IT terms, it's vapourware; it's not even software.
Given that, one must note as well that the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, which was set up with great fanfare by this government to plan transportation, to plan transit, was quoted in the Star the other day. The headline: "Transit Czars Chafe at Queen's Park." All these wonderful folks who were brought in to plan transit and transportation weren't in the loop, weren't told a thing. The quote from the regional chair for Durham: "If they're going to spend all the money before we see it, I'd like to know what the plan is." Good quote, because he knows that, more than anything, what we have is GO Transit with a new board, a new title and a little decoration.
If this government is interested in real, sustainable transportation, the puffery has to end and we have to put real authority and resources into transit.
Mr. Michael Prue (Beaches—East York): In response to the Minister of Government Services: Another day, another feel-good announcement. Show empathy and do absolutely nothing, but promise that you might make some changes in the future.
I have some questions of the minister. Why do you have to examine the options that you're so proud of examining? Why do consumers who have paid cold, hard cash in good faith have to wait? What balance is needed to express the rights of consumers who have paid to the maximum the value of those cards? Would that the government could answer those questions instead of asking consumers to wait. Would that the government could act with such dispatch when something is really important.
As limited as the announcement is today, it pales in comparison to your do-nothing policy in terms of those people who have bought new homes. Look at the case of new homebuyers. Look at what you responded to yesterday in this very House. You are saying today that you want to protect people who have maybe put out $100 for a credit card, but you said yesterday that you want to do virtually nothing for those who have spent $300,000 or $400,000 or $500,000 in the purchase of a new home. Just as you're going to study this $100 problem, you're going to study the bigger one to death. This is a study, in one case, of a procedure that needs no study at all, that people who have spent the $100 need to have that $100 protected. In the alternative, for those who have bought new homes you have chosen to do nothing, when what has happened to them cries out in the very strongest terms for redress.
This is a government that is hell-bent on making announcement after announcement to make people feel good, but a government that, at the same time, chooses to do absolutely nothing when, as a minister and as a government, you have the power to make the change. You have the power, and all you choose to do is to study it. All you choose is to obfuscate and to put off to another day what needs to be done here today. That is a government that has failed.
SAFER ROADS FOR
A SAFER ONTARIO ACT, 2007 /
LOI DE 2007 VISANT à CRÉER
DES ROUTES PLUS SÉCURITAIRES
POUR UN ONTARIO PLUS SàR
Deferred vote on the motion for third reading of Bill 203, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act and the Remedies for Organized Crime and Other Unlawful Activities Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other Acts / Projet de loi 203, Loi modifiant le Code de la route et la Loi de 2001 sur les recours pour crime organisé et autres activités illégales et apportant des modifications corrélatives à d'autres lois.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1436 to 1441.
The Speaker: All those in favour will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Broten, Laurel C.
Cansfield, Donna H.
Chambers, Mary Anne V.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Racco, Mario G.
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Takhar, Harinder S.
Tascona, Joseph N.
Van Bommel, Maria
Wynne, Kathleen O.
The Speaker: Those opposed?
The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 89; the nays are 0.
The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.
The Speaker: Order. The member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
The Speaker: We're wasting time. I can wait. Order.
It's now time for oral questions.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. At 10 after 1 this afternoon, a story appeared on the CP wire reporting that the Ford Motor Co. had closed its casting plant in Windsor today. Of course, that was announced some time ago, but 450 people in Windsor will not be going to work tomorrow morning.
Since the start of 2005, Ontario has lost 137,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs. Meanwhile, the Premier has remained idle on the sidelines.
Over a year ago, in December 2005, the Ontario Legislature called for the Premier to bring forward a comprehensive jobs plan. That call for a comprehensive jobs plan was supported by all parties. In fact, the expression in the resolution, which was voted on by Liberal MPPs as well as others, was very clear: It said, "a comprehensive action plan."
We've seen no leadership from the Premier whatsoever on this. My question is this: Why have we not seen the comprehensive jobs plan that Liberal MPPs and all others in this House voted for? Where is it?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I'm not sure that any government has done more for the auto sector in North America in the last four or five years than we have.
The Conservative Party opposed our half-billion-dollar plan. They said that it was inappropriate for us to partner with the private sector. They effectively said that we should allow the forces of creative destruction to kind of play themselves out. We decided on a different approach. We invested half a billion dollars, and with that we leveraged $7 billion worth of new investment in the auto sector. That has been successful, so much so that for the first time since the invention of the car, we are the number one auto producer in North America, and we've earned that distinction three years in a row now.
Mr. Tory: Perhaps the Premier would like to produce in the House the quote in which I've said, at any time, anything in opposition to the auto investment fund. Perhaps you could bring that here and share that with us. Maybe the Premier—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Order. I need to be able to hear the Leader of the Opposition place his question.
Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Tory: I'm sure he has that quote handy and he could tell us when it was said.
Since the beginning of 2005, Ontario has lost 161 well-paying manufacturing jobs each and every day. Some of the Premier's own MPPs—the member for Brant, for instance—have called the recent job losses in his riding, at Blue Bird Corp. when it closes its doors, "tragic." The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has referred to the "economic devastation" in Cornwall. The Premier, meanwhile, has responded by calling these job losses "a little bit of contraction," and shrugging it off as a fact of life. We have not seen any leadership.
The member for Brant went on, correctly, to say that there are things the government can do to help plants stay open. He is right.
The question is, on the border, on taxes, on regulations, on a whole host of these fronts, when will we see a comprehensive jobs plan from the McGuinty government, as was voted on by this Legislature well over a year ago? When will we see it?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: We chose to stand up for the auto industry. The party opposite chose not to. They voted against our budget, which provided for a half-billion-dollar support package. But more than that, we also have in place over a billion dollars in support for the forestry industry, which is being challenged not just here in Ontario but indeed throughout North America. We have close to a billion dollars in support for the agriculture sector. We have another half-billion-dollar plan in place to support advanced manufacturing to help that sector transition itself to a point where it's more competitive, more productive and more value-added by way of products. We are going to continue to provide supports to those sectors which come under challenge as the result of finding themselves, through no fault of their own, in an era of globalization. We know where we're going to get the kind of money we need to provide those supports on an ongoing basis. Mr. Tory is telling us that he's going to take $2.5 billion out of health care, and on top of that, he's going to invest more in health care, and apparently he's going to put more into supports for manufacturing—
The Speaker: Final supplementary.
Mr. Tory: The people will have their judgment from the man who said he was not going to raise taxes and brought in the biggest tax increase in the history of the province of Ontario. A lot of the people who have lost their jobs and a lot of people who are still working are finding it very hard indeed to make ends meet, with this man over there spending the money. We talked about a billion-dollar financial aid package for the forestry industry, one of the biggest flim-flam acts in the history of Ontario. Almost no one has taken it up because, when you talk to people over there, they don't need loan guarantees; they need real help. Of all the jobs that have been lost—
The Speaker: Order.
Hon. Steve Peters (Minister of Labour): They're certainly not afraid of you, Lisa.
The Speaker: Minister of Labour, that's not helpful.
The Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Tory: Thirteen thousand jobs were lost in April alone, and even when there's good news, like the Victor diamond mine, the Premier can't help but try and do that in by tripling the tax rate on diamonds. This is what they described as something they would normally experience in a Third World country. People look at this astonishing about-face and they rethink their own investments in Ontario, and that costs us jobs. The Premier's credibility is on the line here.
When will he decide to finally show some leadership and bring in a comprehensive jobs plan so we don't repeat the 13,000 jobs we lost in the month of April alone? When are we going to see the plan?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: We've just had a little bit more insight into the thinking, or lack thereof, with respect to economic strategy. So the leader of the official opposition tells us that even though we're putting half a billion dollars into auto, that's not enough. He says that even though we're putting $1 billion into forestry, that is not enough. He's telling us that even though we're putting $1 billion to support agriculture, that's not enough. He says that even though we're putting $500 million into supporting advanced manufacturing, that is not enough. He doesn't tell us where he's going to get the money to put more in there, but at the same time he stands up and says that, no, he's not prepared to support our plan to ensure that we receive reasonable revenues for mining of diamonds in the province of Ontario. So he's going to have to come clean and tell us how he's going to invest more than the $2 billion we have in place to support manufacturing in Ontario, and at the same time take $2.5 billion out of health care, and at the same time reduce our tax on diamond mining in Ontario.
The Speaker: New question.
Mr. Tory: My question is for the Premier. Let me say this to the Premier: You—
The Speaker: As soon as I sit down, the place just loses it. We don't need to do this. I need to be able to hear members both place their questions and respond to them.
The Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Tory: Mr. Speaker, let me say this to the Premier. You don't look investors—people who are going to invest $1 billion in this province—in the eye and extol the virtues of our low tax rates and then turn around, months later, and triple that tax. You don't do it. It sends the wrong signals. They were the ones who said they felt like they were in a Third World country, not me.
Despite the investments that the Premier talks about in the auto sector, we've still lost 17,000 jobs in assembly and parts over the last two years. The C.D. Howe Institute says the government has shown "little interest in improving business tax competitiveness." They say that we're "exceptional—in a bad sense ... with the most burdensome taxes in the country." The Premier tries to blame the global economy, but Richard Paton of the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association says, "governments are part of the problem." and "[R]unning after company executives after a plant-closing announcement is not the way to create industrial policy." That is why the Legislature said that we should have a comprehensive jobs plan. Your own MPPs voted for it.
I ask the Premier this: Why have we not seen the comprehensive jobs plan your own MPPs voted for?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: There is lots of good news in Ontario when it comes to economic growth. I know that the leader of the official opposition will, at some point, want to stand up and acknowledge that there are 320,000 net new jobs that have been created on our watch. That's entirely due to the entrepreneurialism, dedication, commitment, hard work and innovative capacity of the people of Ontario.
We have received, so far, 58 applications under our forestry sector package—58 applications which, if granted, would result in $1.2 billion of private sector investment in the province of Ontario. That would be on top of the $7 billion worth of new investment in our auto sector. So I'm just not as bleak, I'm just not as gloomy and I'm just not as pessimistic as the leader of the official opposition. In fact, I have every faith and confidence in this economy because I have every faith and confidence in the people of Ontario.
Mr. Tory: The problem when the Premier uses the numbers the way he does is that if you had talked not about the 320,000 net new jobs but added to that 135,000 jobs that were lost—if we still had those jobs, you'd be able to talk about 455,000 jobs to the better and you'd be able to talk about 135,000 families who would be working today, who are not working. We would be 135,000 jobs to the better—
The Speaker: Let's all just take a very deep breath. Remember why we're here. We need to show some respect for the place we're in and for other members and our traditions. Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Tory: The fact is, the reason the Premier uses the net number is because there are 135,000 families minus their paycheques, minus their jobs today, who would be working. And so the situation is very simple: We have a government that has brought forward no plan when they voted for one. They've punitively increased taxes on a diamond industry investment, for example, that has created new jobs, something that the investor said they'd expect from a Third World government.
What we need is leadership. We need a comprehensive plan. The Premier has failed to provide this in four years in office. He has failed to deliver real economic leadership. He has failed to deliver certainty and reliability to investors. When are we going to see a comprehensive jobs plan for the province of Ontario and some certainty and reliability from the Premier?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I kind of visualize this dark cloud over the leader of the official opposition. He's subject to a constant downpour.
In addition to putting in place those billions of dollars worth of supports that are helping manufacturing, in particular, transition itself to a point where it's stronger, we've also done something else which is really important in the knowledge economy and in an era of globalization. This too was not supported by the official opposition. We've made a $6.2-billion investment in post-secondary education. People around the world will tell you that if you truly want to be competitive, if you truly want to have in place an intelligent economic strategy, you have to develop your human capital; you have to invest in young people in particular. That's what we've done. I'm proud to report that there are 86,000 more young people in our colleges and universities today than there were just three and a half years ago.
Mr. Tory: If there are dark clouds anywhere, it is over the houses and the lives of 135,000 people who have lost their jobs on your watch, with no plan to make up for that. The Premier, I would suggest respectfully, is badly out of touch. He talks about exuberance in a part of the province where 7,000 jobs have been lost. He refers to "some challenges" facing manufacturing, when over 135,000 jobs have been lost.
The Premier triples taxes on our first-ever diamond mine and then wonders why investors say it might be our last. Mr. Paton says the parties—and he's referring to the political parties—should be working together to develop economic plans. The Legislature showed its ability to work together by voting 44 to 0 in favour of your government's bringing forward a comprehensive action plan on jobs. The Premier has rejected that and lives in an economic bubble of delusion. I only ask, why won't the Premier respect the wishes of the Legislature and bring forward a comprehensive job plan? When will we see it?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: The leader of the official opposition would have us believe that he brings some certain expertise when it comes to developing plans. I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, but more importantly the people of Ontario, to take even a cursory look at the recent health care plan put forward by my honourable colleague opposite. He tells us that he's going to invest ever more money in health care, while at the same time taking $2.5 billion out of health care. I think Houdini is alive and well and found in the person of the leader of the official opposition. There are many more tricks to come. We'll stay focused on the priorities of the people of Ontario.
The Speaker: Order. New question.
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora—Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. Thousands of manufacturing and forest sector jobs have been lost across Ontario, and yet you're quoted as saying, "I don't believe we should stand in the way of the inevitable." Premier, in Windsor, Hamilton, Kitchener, Mississauga, Oshawa, Thunder Bay and other communities, literally thousands of Ontario working families have protested and demonstrated to call your attention to the loss of manufacturing jobs. Whether it's at a manufacturing plant in Mississauga or people stopping traffic on Highway 11 between Hearst and Kapuskasing, they want to see some action from the McGuinty government. Tomorrow, thousands of workers will demonstrate in Ottawa.
My question is this: Does the Premier still believe the destruction of manufacturing jobs is inevitable? If not, where is the McGuinty government's plan to sustain and save manufacturing jobs in Ontario?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I know there was a demonstration held just this past weekend, I believe, and the Minister of Economic Development and Trade and the Minister of Energy were invited to participate in that demonstration. In fact, they were invited to stand at the front of this parade, which shows you the relationship we have with working people in the province of Ontario.
What they've urged us to do, and what I would urge my colleagues opposite to do, is in particular when it comes to forestry. We know how hard municipalities are working to attack that challenge. We know how much difficulty families have, grappling with the anxiety, pain and suffering associated with job loss. We know that we brought $1 billion to the table, but we still don't know when, and if, the federal government is going to come to the table and participate in a comprehensive national plan to lend more support to Canada's forestry sector.
Mr. Hampton: The Premier can try to find someone else to blame. The fact of the matter is that 52,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Ontario in the last year; 175,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared under the McGuinty government since August of 2004. That's over 15% of Ontario's manufacturing jobs, and they're not just numbers. These are workers and families that have lost their paycheque, their pension and their livelihood.
Premier, how many more manufacturing jobs have to be destroyed in Ontario before you stop looking for someone else to blame and you come up with an effective strategy to sustain and save manufacturing jobs in this province?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Only the NDP could argue that $3 billion represents nothing by way of commitment on the part of this government when it comes to supporting the manufacturing sector.
I know that among the other pieces of good news, the leader of the NDP is going to want to acknowledge our government's support by way of a grant of $22.5 million to Abitibi Consolidated for the installation of an $84-million biomass boiler at its Fort Frances complex. That may be easily dismissed by the leader of the NDP, but I know that the people of Fort Frances and I know that those families who are dependent for their livelihood on their employment at the Abitibi Consolidated plant there are very pleased that we have come to the table, that we're providing support by way of real dollars. We have every confidence that that plant is going to continue to grow and do well.
Mr. Hampton: Premier, the workers there want to know, when there's a 500-megawatt surplus of electricity in northwestern Ontario and when it's the lowest-cost generated electricity in the world, why they should be worrying. The reason they're worrying is because of the McGuinty government's wrong-headed policy of driving industrial hydro rates through the roof.
But that still misses the point, Premier. Today, Windsor is laying off—last day at the Ford Windsor casting plant—500 workers. Today, American Standard announced they're shutting down in Cambridge—another 60 workers. Yesterday, Kenora Forest Products announced they're shutting down for a month—another 100 workers.
I just ask the Premier again: If you don't have a plan to sustain and save manufacturing and forest sector jobs in Ontario, will you at least pass my jobs commissioner's bill so we will have an independent, credible body dedicated to sustaining jobs—
The Speaker: The question has been asked. Premier?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: It turns out there's a hidden agenda here.
You know, we have, in fairness to the leader of the NDP, taken a good look at the notion of a jobs commissioner. But I just don't think it lends any comfort, any substantive support, to families who are up against it at a time of real challenge for the manufacturing sector. We think that, instead, what we need to do is to continue to put in place the kinds of plans, the kinds of strategies and the kinds of serious dollars—I'm talking $3 billion so far to support auto and manufacturing and agriculture. We think those are the kinds of things that are of real value, of real significance and of real substance when it comes to those families.
We will continue to work with our communities. We will continue to work with industries of whatever nature in the manufacturing sector, and any others as well that might be challenged. We will continue to do the kinds of things that they tell us are meaningful to them, including the kinds of programs that we have already put in place.
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora—Rainy River): To the Premier: You talk about action. What we see is tens of thousands of jobs being lost virtually every month, and that's not action.
But yesterday, the Minister of Children and Youth Services was asked why the McGuinty government was trying to hide child care centre health and safety information from parents for two years. She held up this flimsy brochure and said it provided all the information parents needed. A few hours later, the minister admitted that child care health and safety information should be made available on a government website. But there's a catch: The website might not be up and running for four, five or six months. The Information and Privacy Commissioner said that parents should have this information now.
My question is this: Will the Premier ensure that this health and safety information on licensed child care centres is made available now, today, when parents need it, not five or six months from now?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I'm going to refer this to the Minister of Children and Youth Services.
Hon. Mary Anne V. Chambers (Minister of Children and Youth Services): Yesterday, I actually said that the website will be up in a few months, and it's been a reported commitment that it be up by the fall. The important thing is for us to get this right. My ministry knows that this is a very high priority for me, and if they can do it sooner than that, they will. But the important thing is that this site work properly so that parents can access the kind of information they require. This is not about doing a quick and dirty. This is about doing a comprehensive, helpful site of information. It will be filled with all sorts of information that parents can access and that we can keep up to date. Parents are very interested in this kind of solution.
Mr. Hampton: The question still hasn't been answered. Why did the McGuinty government try to hide this information for two years, and why now do we see a website, but it won't be up and running for months? The Information and Privacy Commissioner said today that the McGuinty government is not living up to the Premier's promise "to provide more open and transparent government."
But the information is just part of it. The other part is enforcement and follow-up. It takes this ministry months to follow up on issues of health and safety at child care centres. In Quebec, serious issues are followed up on in 24 hours.
Premier, four years ago, you promised $300 million of new provincial funding for child care. My question is this: Where is the new $300 million of provincial money for child care? Child care centres haven't seen it yet.
Hon. Mrs. Chambers: There are a few different parts to the leader of the third party's question. I would first like to address the matter of FOI requests. I'm really very pleased that the Information and Privacy Commissioner has rated my ministry's compliance at 95.5%. This is for 2006, and this result is up from 84.3% in 2005. We're going to work really hard to maintain this level and in fact improve upon it wherever possible. So this is proof from an independent officer of this Legislature that my ministry has never attempted to hide any information.
Mr. Hampton: The Toronto Star will be happy to know that apparently their exercise of having to battle with your ministry for two years was unnecessary. They'll be very happy to know that. But they also know that that is just not the case.
Now, under the McGuinty government, there is such a shortage of licensed, regulated child care spaces that parents of young children are forced to take whatever they can get. Nine out of 10 families looking for child care spaces can't find licensed, regulated child care, and those who do often can't afford the child care fees of $1,000 a month or more. It's not just the $300 million of new provincial funding that was promised by the Premier that is missing. The McGuinty government has received $160 million of federal money for child care.
My question: Why hasn't the McGuinty government invested that $160 million of federal money in licensed, regulated, non-profit child care?
Hon. Mrs. Chambers: I would also like to take this opportunity to remind the member that it was our government that created almost 15,000 new child care spaces last year, and in last year's budget we committed to sustain every single one of those new spaces.
I'm looking forward to disbursing a second batch of funding. For this fiscal year, already we have dispatched $25 million in new funding, as announced in our budget, and we're looking forward to allocating and informing municipalities as to how they will receive $97 million more very shortly.
I think it's also important for us to remember that it was the NDP government that actually cut child care spaces in this province.
Mr. Ted Chudleigh (Halton): My question is to the Premier. Since January 2005, 137,000 Ontarians have lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector. This trend continued in April, as another 13,000 Ontarians lost their manufacturing jobs. The Premier has shown no leadership on this file. All we have seen from the Premier's office is dithering, deflecting and delaying. High levels of taxation, high levels of input costs and high levels of regulation are damaging Ontario's attractiveness to employers.
In December 2005, the Legislature voted unanimously for the government to come up with a comprehensive jobs plan. We continue to wait for the plan. Premier, when are you going to realize that the manufacturing sector in this province is in peril and bring forward that comprehensive job plan?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the Minister of Economic Development and Trade.
Hon. Sandra Pupatello (Minister of Economic Development and Trade, minister responsible for women's issues): I'm very pleased to respond. There are many areas of Ontario that do have manufacturing at their very core. We know there are challenges there, and that's why we have partnered with all of those communities. We have, for these last three and a half years, come forward with very particular programs to partner with business, to bring investment and growth to that very manufacturing sector.
It is very important to note that the opposition parties did not support any of these initiatives. And so I need to ask you, as you lay out what your platform might be, which of these items would you not have invested in: The automotive investment strategy of $500 million or the advanced manufacturing program, another $500 million? What about the apprenticeship tax credit, which we've just extended to 2012? Which of those things would you not support? In fact, you voted against every single initiative that has partnered with the manufacturing sector.
We know there are challenges, but in the words of Buzz Hargrove, Dalton McGuinty's government is the largest supporter, the greatest supporter of this sector in all of the—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. Supplementary?
Mr. Chudleigh: The empathy of the minister for the unemployed is duly noted.
The minister can try to pull the wool over the eyes of Ontarians all she likes, but even in the region represented by two of the top cabinet ministers, Liberal government policies are proving harmful. The fact of the matter is that Windsor has the highest level of unemployment in Ontario and needs help now. It's already too late for the workers at the Ford casting plant, 450 workers; the Ford Essex engine plant, 650 workers; Data Corp., 23 workers; Bernard Mould, 49 workers; Brahm Industries, 185 workers—all in Windsor.
We are still waiting for a comprehensive jobs plan. Ontarians are still waiting; people in Windsor are still waiting. When is the Liberal government going to produce the jobs plan this Legislature demanded unanimously back in December 2005?
Hon. Ms. Pupatello: I guess my question for the member opposite is, where were you when we tabled our budget to promote those very same companies? Where were you? Where were you this month when we were in Windsor opening the retraining centre for those very Ford workers that you speak about? Where were you on Sunday? Were you in Oshawa with the workers there? Were you in Windsor with the workers in Windsor? That's where we were this past Sunday. That's where we were in Kitchener—Waterloo. That's where we were in St. Thomas. We are walking with the workers, and you should remember those words.
I will tell you this: When you want to go to your workers, when you go to your community, I will stand side by side with the workers every time. They know that we're partnering with them to move them forward.
The Speaker: Order. New question?
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): New question, the member for Toronto Danforth.
Mr. Peter Tabuns (Toronto—Danforth): It's always a pleasure to be greeted warmly by my friends in the chamber.
My question is for the Premier. For over 20 years, California has had community right-to-know laws that require companies to disclose to consumers carcinogens that are present in their product lines. If Bill 164 passes, Ontario will become the first jurisdiction in Canada to follow California's lead. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a staunch proponent of community right to know. If Republican Governor Schwarzenegger believes people have a right to know what toxic products are in their daily purchases, does the Premier? If so, when will the McGuinty government call Bill 164 for third reading?
Hon. Gerry Phillips (Minister of Government Services): This bill, the public should be aware, is a private member's bill and has been to committee. There was a very good debate at the committee, which we all followed very closely.
I think the advice is that there is clearly a need for this information to be available. The issue at the committee, I think, was which level of government is best suited to provide it in the best possible way. I think there was a legitimate debate around whether one standard across the country is better—is that the most effective way to handle it?—or should each individual province have a different approach? I would say to the member that there was a legitimate debate on that at committee.
I, on behalf of the government, asked the federal government to update us on where they stand on their plans for this. It isn't a question of whether or not the information is available; it's whether it is best handled with one national standard or with each of the provinces, the territories and the federal government having—
The Speaker: Thank you. Supplementary?
Mr. Tabuns: Interesting. Leading environmental groups and health advocates like the Ontario College of Family Physicians and the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario support passage of this bill. In fact, the minister's own colleagues voted for it in committee. Passing Bill 164 is in keeping with a recommendation, which some 200 of the world's leading scientists just made, that governments need to invoke precautionary measures to reduce the exposure of expectant mothers and infants to toxins.
The Premier found time to give himself a $40,000 pay raise. In this case, the minister and the government are going to pass the buck to a federal government that they denounce on a regular basis. So again, the question I have for this government is, will this government bring forward Bill 164 for third reading or are they going to tell the Terminator that we terminated the right of access to information in this province?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Minister of the Environment wants to comment on this.
Hon. Laurel C. Broten (Minister of the Environment): I know my friend opposite understands the importance not only of his private member's bill with respect to notification but, more importantly, pollution reduction.
Let me tell you about the efforts we, as a government, have made to continue to update our standards so that we reduce the amount of pollution in our atmosphere. We have provided new and updated standards for 40 air pollutants, the biggest move on this file in 25 years. Our regulation 127 has incredibly strict standards with respect to the type of notification.
That being said, I'm happy to provide my friend opposite with a copy of a letter that Minister Phillips and I wrote to Ministers Baird and Clement. It talks about the fact that stakeholders at the very public hearings on his bill are very concerned about duplication of efforts. They want national standards. We're encouraging the government of Canada to move quickly with those national standards, and we will support their initiatives in that regard, if and when they do that.
Mrs. Linda Jeffrey (Brampton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. During my time in office, one of the strongest advocates for our health care system has been nurses. In fact, the excellence of nursing care was demonstrated in Brampton on April 11 during the recent school bus tragedy on Highway 410.
In the past, nurses' contribution to our health care system was minimized, and we all suffered the consequences of that grievous mistake. I'm proud to report to the House that William Osler hospital has recently hired 78 more full-time nurses and 15 new grads to provide health care to my constituents. But there's more work to do.
Minister, the nursing profession is finally starting to recover from cuts in the 1990s, but thousands of nurses are set to retire in the coming years. How do you plan on meeting this looming crisis?
Hon. George Smitherman (Deputy Premier, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I want to thank the honourable member and thank her especially for raising the cuts in the 1990s. These remain a very, very strong memory for nurses. Linda Haslam-Stroud, the president of the Ontario Nurses' Association, said in a letter to the National Post, "The current nursing shortage in Ontario lies with the previous provincial Conservative government's planning efforts, which resulted in thousands of nurses being laid off." She also questions the leader of the official opposition's promise to "respect" nurses by linking it to Mike Harris's comparison of nurses to hula hoops.
Our record on these matters with respect to nursing is clear. We fulfilled our commitment of 8,000 new nursing positions. Those are being fully funded and evolved in health care in Ontario, including, as an example, the 78 new full-time positions mentioned at the William Osler Health Centre—10% more nurses working full-time—and new initiatives at the nursing level to take the experience of our experienced nurses and put it to work in training the new ones, alongside efforts through 19,000 bed lifts to literally take the pressure off the backs of our nurses to sustain them longer in those important roles.
Mrs. Jeffrey: Minister, we've been in government for almost four years now, and you've just mentioned some of the key initiatives to keep nurses on the job longer. But I'm worried about the future and the huge demands that an aging baby boomer population will put on our health care system. We respect nurses, and we need to make nursing an attractive profession for the next generation. Otherwise, there won't be enough nurses to help us through what are frightening times, when we need both physical and emotional support. Minister, what initiatives are being put in place so that our young people consider the profession of nursing in the future?
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: One of the things I have had the privilege to do is bring a much more strategic capacity to the Ministry of Health through the addition of an assistant deputy minister of health human resources, who also reports to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. One of the initiatives we've launched—really the only jurisdiction in the world—is with our new nursing grad guarantee. This is designed to make sure that our new nurses are quickly transitioned to full-time employment. It helps to keep them in Ontario. Unlike the official opposition's health care agenda—that is, to spend money on private delivery—ours is to invest in our public health entities. From them, it's the same story, just from a different Tory in this case. The official opposition has demonstrated very, very clearly over the course of the last week that despite years on the job, the leader of the official opposition has no new ideas and instead used language in his document last week that resorts very much to that used during the Common Sense Revolution. The reality in Ontario is that the knowledge base of nurses, who work in an evidence-based world—they remember very, very well the cuts perpetuated by the previous government.
Mr. Tim Hudak (Erie—Lincoln): I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. Sadly, Niagara and Hamilton have become poster children for the massive manufacturing job losses in Dalton McGuinty's Ontario. Working families in Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and throughout the Niagara Peninsula are concerned about the growing list of manufacturing job losses in the region: Redpath Sugar, 20 jobs; Port Weller Dry Docks, 250 jobs gone; Dana auto parts, 537 jobs gone; GDX Automotive in Welland, 200 jobs gone. The minister says she's standing with those workers. She's spending a lot of time standing in unemployment lines in Dalton McGuinty's Ontario.
Minister, this House passed a resolution to call on you to bring forward a plan; a committee of your own members have called for that as well. Why do you dismiss that call of members of the assembly?
Hon. Sandra Pupatello (Minister of Economic Development and Trade, minister responsible for women's issues): I very much appreciate the opportunity to talk about what we are doing for our manufacturing sector. We have a delegation from California visiting us today, and they're facing the same challenges in manufacturing. We know that there are world issues, but the difference in Ontario is that we have taken steps to actually partner with our companies in Ontario. We partnered with the Big Five automotive companies, a move that you actually opposed. So all of those steel companies that supply the steel for those cars, you opposed that move. As well, the advanced manufacturing strategy that has brought jobs and secured jobs to several plants around Ontario: This same member asking these questions opposed that move, even though what we need to do is break open new markets for the very same manufacturers that he—
The Speaker: Thank you. Supplementary?
Mr. Hudak: I'll tell you what we opposed. When Dalton McGuinty brought in the biggest tax hike in the history of the province, we opposed that. When Dalton McGuinty brought in policies to take electricity rates through the roof, we opposed those. When Dalton McGuinty brought in runaway spending in budget after budget, fuelled by higher taxes, we opposed that. You see the result: 140,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs gone in Dalton McGuinty's Ontario. People in Flamborough, people in Brantford and people in Stoney Creek want to know what you're going to do about Slater Steel losing 360 jobs; Stelco, 800 jobs; Hamilton Specialty Bar, 360 jobs; Rheem Canada,150 jobs, to name just some.
Minister, say to the fellow next to you, the Premier, who has ducked out on facing these issues, to get rid of that "Don't Worry, Be Happy" Bobby McFerrin tune, show some understanding for what these families are going through, and do something about the plight of manufacturing jobs.
Hon. Ms. Pupatello: This is so surprising. This is the same opposition member who was at the cabinet table when the lights went out on all the manufacturers in this province. The largest blackout in our history was under that very same government, and now he purports to ask us what we're doing. Why would this same member vote against the decrease in taxes to business tabled in the very last budget—not three years ago; the very last budget? You voted against those tax decreases to the same businesses you purport to care for. Are you going to stand and tell me that you oppose those Niagara companies, which are now bidding on and winning contracts in Alberta, seeking new opportunities? Is this the same member who opposes the Ontario suppliers that have now entered the Home Depot supply chain because of our activity with Home Depot? This is the kind of business activity that companies in Ontario need from their government—
The Speaker: Thank you. New question.
Mr. Michael Prue (Beaches—East York): In the absence of the Premier, my question is to the Minister of the Environment. Last Friday, Windsor mayor Eddie Francis was forced to declare a state of emergency when the Ministry of the Environment failed to respond to a toxic blaze that burned for three hours. The blaze on Friday is just another example of how the Ministry of the Environment is unable to protect the health and safety of residents when a toxic crisis hits because of staffing cuts.
Madam Minister, I have to ask you: Have you not got the Premier's ear? Why won't the Premier give the Minister of the Environment the funds to re-establish the capacity of the Ministry of the Environment in Windsor so that the mayor doesn't have to scramble to gather the critical environmental information he needs to protect his local residents and the firefighters who work for him?
Hon. Laurel C. Broten (Minister of the Environment): Let me assure my friend opposite that upon learning about the fire, ministry staff did promptly respond and attend at the fire scene to assess potential environmental concerns and determine appropriate next steps. Immediately, they responded and attended at the scene. The Windsor area office supervisor and the senior environmental officer were on the scene immediately, coordinating and working with fire officials. They discussed the situation with the fire chief and collectively agreed, based on the fact that the fire was nearly fully extinguished and the estimated response time of the ministry's specialized monitoring personnel—not those who were already on the scene and working closely with the fire chief—would take some time, that it would not be initiated. The fire department conducted air tests that indicated that the air quality in the community had essentially returned to normal. My ministry respected the decision of the local fire chief in that regard.
Mr. Prue: Notwithstanding the minister's answer, the reality is that there were not sufficient and adequate staff present at the time they were needed because of the staffing cuts and because you have not reinstated what the previous government did. The lack of the Ministry of the Environment's capacity is only one way the health and safety of Ontarians is being compromised by toxins in our air, water and soil. Ontarians like the ones who live and work in the 600 properties affected by the toxic smoke from the blaze in Windsor currently don't have the right to know what chemicals in their neighbourhoods are posing a risk to their health. We in the NDP have proposed the Community Right to Know Act, which will give Ontarians that long-overdue right. Minister, when will you advocate to your government to help Ontarians protect themselves from toxic threats and pass Bill 164?
Hon. Ms. Broten: Let me go back to the circumstance in Windsor because I want to speak loudly and clearly and assure the community in Windsor that the Ministry of the Environment was on the scene immediately working with those experts on that scene to ensure that that community was safe and that the health and well-being of the community of Windsor was first and foremost in our minds. If there are things that we can do to work with the community of Windsor, as we have done with other communities across the province, to ensure that we can do better—we can always do better. We can always do more. We are open to talking with the mayor. Already my colleagues from Windsor have raised with me whether or not there are opportunities for us to continue to expand our ability to respond.
But first and foremost, let me assure the community of Windsor that my primary responsibility and the ministry's primary responsibility is to ensure they are safe and their health and well-being are protected, and that's exactly what we did.
COMMUNITIES IN ACTION FUND
Mrs. Liz Sandals (Guelph—Wellington): My question is for the Minister of Health Promotion. Recently, I had the opportunity to announce $14,000 for Onward Willow Better Beginnings, Better Futures to fund its active outdoor program in my riding. This funding came thanks to your ministry's great program, the communities in action fund. I can't tell you how happy this group was to receive funding and recognition for their great work, certainly not like the negative reaction we heard from the member from Lanark—Carleton a while ago.
Onward Willow used a previous CIAF grant to fund an after-school recreation and homework program. This new CIAF grant will be used to start a summer activity program. CIAF grants are ensuring that kids whose parents may not be able to afford organized sports leagues can be physically active. The CIAF program is a great way for groups in my riding to help the community of Guelph get active.
I understand that on top of the $5 million in CIAF grants recently announced, there is an additional $2.5 million in funding for the program, thanks to the government's 2007 budget. Would the minister tell this House how groups in my riding can apply for this extra money?
Hon. Jim Watson (Minister of Health Promotion): I want to thank the honourable member for the good work she does to promote the communities in action fund. She's quite correct: Minister Sorbara in his budget a few months ago added $2.5 million. But a number of the stakeholders who have benefited from this program are very concerned about the Tory party plan to slash funding in health care under the guise of efficiency. Well, the last time we heard about Tory efficiency in health care, the government closed 28 hospitals; they fired 8,000 nurses. In my hometown of Ottawa, we saw that so-called Tory efficiency agenda at work. They closed the Grace hospital. They closed the Riverside. They tried to close the CHEO cardiac unit and they tried to close the Montfort Hospital.
The Tory party can't have it both ways. What do they consider inefficiencies within the health care system? Is it programs like the communities in action fund? As the Toronto Star said the other day, John Tory wants to have his tax cuts and spend them too.
We stand by the people who promote fitness and physical activity in this province—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. Supplementary.
Mrs. Sandals: I'm very pleased that we are being able to extend the program, but I am worried about the cuts you're speaking about, Minister. I, however, look forward to helping my constituents apply for the second round of CIAF grants. I'm proud of the investment our government is making in the health and well-being of Ontarians. I know that in my riding we've received over $160,000 worth of CIAF grants—gone to groups like the Belwood Lodge and Camp, the city of Guelph, and the YM/YWCA of Guelph, all of which have created great new programs to keep our community active. This shows our government's commitment to helping constituents stay healthy and active. But I also know that my constituents want more nurses and better health care. They want their government to provide the opportunity that helps them stay in shape. Recently, the members of the opposition have been suggesting a cut of $2.5 billion to health care in Ontario. I know your ministry has provided us with over $20 million in CIAF grants. What could these cuts that they're proposing mean to the CIAF grants?
Hon. Mr. Watson: I just don't know what the Leader of the Opposition categorizes as inefficiencies within the health care system. I don't know if the communities in action fund, which is very well received by community groups across the province—I don't think they'd consider it an inefficient program. I do know that, for instance, the Conservative Party is very unclear with respect to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. Exactly one half of their caucus either voted against it or were not there for the vote in the first place.
The Progressive Conservative Party is quickly becoming the great oxymoron of our time, a bit like jumbo shrimp. You're either progressive or you're conservative. They're not very progressive when they go down the route of trying to shut down hospitals, fire nurses and put the boots to the sports and recreation community in the province, which has benefited so much from the communities in action fund.
In a rebuttal to the Premier last week, the Leader of the Opposition referred to the scandal-plagued former PC government when he said, "We know what happened to the previous government." Well, if he knows what happened—
The Speaker: Thank you. New question.
Ms. Laurie Scott (Haliburton—Victoria—Brock): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. Over 137,000 manufacturing job losses have happened under your watch. Some of those losses in Peterborough include the closure of MasterBrand Cabinets, National Grocers service and Transcontinental Best Book printing. The Premier has referred to these job losses as "hiccups" and "contractions," and another of your colleagues had the gall to refer to small communities affected by hard-hitting job losses as "crying babies."
Minister, when will you show respect for this Legislature and the members? When can communities like Peterborough expect to see the comprehensive job plan that members from all parties supported in this Legislature over 16 months ago?
Hon. Sandra Pupatello (Minister of Economic Development and Trade, minister responsible for women's issues): I appreciate the interest that this particular member is showing in those manufacturing losses. We understand the challenges that this sector is facing. In fact, this member knows—who has called my office to see all that we have done in interacting with companies the moment we understand that there may be an issue. This member also knows full well that we are bringing a full-court press: If there is an opportunity to work with the company, we introduce them to our programming; we ask them if there is anything that we can do to help their workforce; if there is a shutdown, we introduce them immediately to our Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, which, on a regular basis, is on the site in that town literally the very next day. In many instances, and this member will know full well, we have gone wherever that corporate headquarters has been to sit down and talk about what opportunities we have for our Ontario workers.
This member also needs to recognize that when it comes to supporting budgets—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. Supplementary.
Ms. Scott: Across Ontario we still see thousands of manufacturing jobs lost monthly. But don't take it from me. How about the Peterborough Examiner? Titles like, "Jobs are Melting Away" and "Area Communities Face Uncertain Future." The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says, "The McGuinty Liberals have greatly increased the regulation and red tape faced by small businesses."
When referring to the exorbitant job losses in small communities, an article in the Peterborough Examiner states, "Stick a pin in a map of Ontario and you'll find a similar story just about everywhere."
Minister, you've broken countless promises. You've acted contrary to your own commitment by not honouring the resolution supported by members from all parties. My question to the minister is: Do you have any intention of honouring the job loss strategy plan? Do you still feel that over 137,000 job losses is a contraction? Do you still feel that our small communities that are suffering these job manufacturing losses are nothing more than crying babies? Do you still feel that way?
Hon. Ms. Pupatello: I need to understand how it is, based on this question, that this same member voted against the education property tax decrease by 40% in the very last budget. Is it this same member who voted against the last budget that we tabled for a writeoff on capital investments in two years? Is it this same member who voted against the automotive investment strategy, and in her very own riding there are companies that are part of the supply chain of our assemblers? Is it this same member who voted against the advanced automotive manufacturing strategy? Please tell me that you are not the same person who has voted against every single initiative. And you have the gall to pretend to care—
The Speaker: Thank you. New question.
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora—Rainy River): My question is for the minister responsible for native affairs. Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation has a $650,000 legal bill because it was forced to go to court to defend its constitutional and legal rights against a $10-billion lawsuit by a mining exploration company. The First Nation was forced to go to court to defend its rights because the McGuinty government failed to fulfill its constitutional obligations to consult with the First Nation before handing out mineral exploration permits to the mining company. Since it was the failure of the McGuinty government to fulfill its constitutional obligations and consult with the First Nation about its rights and interests that forced the First Nation to go to court, will the McGuinty government do the right thing and pay the $650,000 legal bill, which rightfully belongs to the McGuinty government?
Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): Let's give him the direct answer right off the bat—the answer is no—and then let's talk about consultation and the attempt of the McGuinty government to engage First Nations of this province in a consultation exercise that we launched over a year ago.
We are working with the Chiefs of Ontario and other native organizations right across the province to get that engagement so that we can have a clear understanding of what our obligation is and what, in a sort of class sense, we'll be required to do in regard to consultation for each sort of government activity. I have worked with all my fellow ministers and have had them look at their ministries and at what their obligation is for all the activities they engage in, and we're actively pursuing that discussion with aboriginal people right across this province so that we'll have a clear-cut set of the consultation guidelines over the next year.
Mr. Hampton: Minister, you might want to read what the judge said about the McGuinty government when he handed down his judgment: "Despite repeated judicial messages delivered over the course of 16 years, the evidentiary record available in this case sadly reveals that the provincial crown"—the McGuinty government—"has not heard or comprehended this message and has failed in fulfilling this obligation."
"The Ontario government was not present ... and the evidentiary record indicates that it has been almost entirely absent from the consultation process" with Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug.
"The crown (Ontario) ... [has] chosen to ignore ... the concerns and ignore the perspective of the First Nations band in question."
It's very clear, when you read the judge's decision, that the First Nation was forced to go to court to defend its rights because the McGuinty government failed.
This is a poor community. The unemployment rate is 85%. Don't you think it's fair that you finally meet your obligation and pay the legal bill instead of foisting it off on a poor—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): The question has been asked.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Speaker, I refer the question to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
Hon. Rick Bartolucci (Minister of Northern Development and Mines): I wish the leader of the third party would quote from the May 22 decision. However, let me tell you that Ontario has consistently presented solutions that are fair and reasonable as a way to keep all parties in this case moving forward to a resolution. Justice Smith has now adopted some of these provisions and timelines in his latest decision.
Our immediate priority isn't about division, the way the third party's is. Ours is to meet the timelines for information disclosure and to ensure that both parties move on in a collaborative, constructive manner.
POPE JOHN PAUL II
Mr. Frank Klees (Oak Ridges): I have petitions here signed by Dr. Andrew Caruk from Kitchener and more than 1,250 others that read as follows:
"Petition to the Parliament of Ontario:
"Whereas the legacy of Pope John Paul II reflects his lifelong commitment to international understanding, peace and the defence of equality and human rights;
"Whereas his legacy has an all-embracing meaning that is particularly relevant to Canada's multi-faith and multicultural traditions;
"Whereas, as one of the great spiritual leaders of contemporary times, Pope John Paul II visited Ontario during his pontificate of more than 25 years and, on his visits, was enthusiastically greeted by Ontario's diverse religious and cultural communities;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to grant speedy passage into law of the private member's bill by Oak Ridges MPP Frank Klees entitled An Act to proclaim Pope John Paul II Day."
I'm pleased to affix my signature as the proud proponent of this bill.
SOCIAL SERVICES FUNDING
Mr. Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): I have a petition to the Ontario Legislative Assembly. I would like to thank some of the staff at Catholic Family Services of Peel for having sent it to me. It's entitled "Fairness for Families in the 905 Belt" and it reads as follows:
"Whereas the population of the greater Toronto region will increase by an estimated four million more people in the next generation, with the bulk of that growth coming in the 905 belt of fast-growing cities located north, east and west of Metro Toronto; and
"Whereas these cities are already large and dynamic population units, with big-city issues and big-city needs, requiring big-city resources to implement big-city solutions to social issues and human services needs; and
"Whereas the 2007-08 Ontario budget proposes aggressive and badly needed increases in operating funding to build and strengthen capacity in developmental and social services agencies and to invest in helping the young, the weak, the needy and the vulnerable; and
"Whereas the social and human services sectors in the 905 belt have historically received per capital funding far below that of other regions despite facing far greater growth in the populations they serve, and this per capita funding gap has increased in the last four years;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the 2007-08 Ontario budget implementing measures to strengthen Ontario's families be passed without delay, and that the first priority for the allocation of new funding in meeting the government of Ontario's commitment to fairness for families flow to the social services agencies serving cities within the 905 belt, and that funding for programs to serve the 905 belt be allocated to established or growing agencies located within the 905 belt."
I support this petition. I affix my signature to it and I will ask page Andrew to carry it for me.
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): I am pleased to present a petition that reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the lung association's Women and COPD national report 2006 reveals that more than 425,000 Canadian women have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and more than 4,300 will die of the disease this year; and
"Whereas the women and COPD national report indicates that since 2000, female mortality due to COPD has risen at double the rate of breast cancer;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario support a call to action for early diagnosis and optimized management of COPD to reduce illness and suffering;
"That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario support the Ontario Lung Association's COPD advisory panel report to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on the prevention and management of COPD in Ontario; and
"That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario endorse a comprehensive strategy to address COPD in this province."
I'm pleased to present this to Grant on behalf of the residents of the riding of Durham.
REGULATION OF ZOOS
Ms. Deborah Matthews (London North Centre): I have a petition here signed by literally hundreds and hundreds of people from across the province. It's a petition to the Ontario Legislative Assembly.
"Whereas Ontario has the weakest zoo laws in the country; and
"Whereas existing zoo regulations are vague, unenforceable and only apply to native wildlife; and
"Whereas there are no mandatory standards to ensure adequate care and housing for zoo animals or the health and safety of animals, zoo staff, the visiting public or neighbouring communities; and
"Whereas several people have been injured by captive wildlife, and zoo escapes are frequent in Ontario; and
"Whereas these same regulatory gaps were affirmed recently by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario in his annual report;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support MPP David Zimmer's bill, the Regulation of Zoos Act."
I'm happy to support this and attach my signature to it. I'm giving it to page Justin.
Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound—Muskoka): I have a petition to do with the doctor shortage in Muskoka, with many signatures from the Gravenhurst area. It reads:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas we, the undersigned, are very concerned about the doctor shortage in Muskoka;
"Whereas, without increased funding for the Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare Centre, the administration will not be able to keep it as a full-service hospital;
"Whereas, without a full-service hospital in our area, we will be unable to attract doctors; and
"Whereas Muskoka has a higher-than-average percentage of 'senior' citizens; it is of great concern that we attract more doctors."
I support this petition.
COURT SUPPORT STAFF
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): I have a petition signed by a number of court support staff in the Hamilton courthouses, and it reads as follows.
"Whereas 1,400 members of the Attorney General's court support staff who are working under the flexible, part-time (FPT) model, otherwise referred to as appendix 32 under a collective agreement between Management Board of Cabinet, the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union negotiated in the spring of 2005, are working hundreds of hours per week in the service of the Attorney General for which they are not getting paid; and
"Whereas under the FPT agreement many court support staff are working as many as 20 hours or more per week for which payment is being withheld and will not be paid until months later, and
"Whereas when the makeup pay does eventually get paid, up to 50% may be lost to taxes because of the taxation year into which that payment may fall; and
"Whereas many of the Attorney General's court support staff who are being forced to work under these conditions are single mothers with fixed living expenses who incur employment-related expenses such as child care and travel costs for those hours that they are required to work but for which they are not getting paid; and
"Whereas in many cases these expenses are impossible to pay without the offsetting income which is being withheld by the Attorney General under the FPT agreement; and
"Whereas many of the Attorney General's court support staff have been left no other choice but to resign from these impossible working conditions and, in many cases, are being forced onto the welfare rolls by the very government for which they are providing hundreds of hours of work for which they are not being paid in a timely manner; and
"Whereas the FPT agreement which is causing such hardship for employees of the Attorney General was negotiated by and entered into between the Ministry of the Attorney General, Management Board of Cabinet and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union; and
"Whereas the employees to whom this agreement applies insist that the terms of the agreement and their practical implications were not fully disclosed to them at the time the agreement was proposed for ratification; and
"Whereas the employees affected by this agreement have repeatedly appealed to OPSEU, the Attorney General and the Premier to point out the unfairness of being forced to work hundreds of hours without being paid for that work and the hardship this practice is causing in the lives of many employees, and
"Whereas repeated appeals to the Attorney General and to the Premier that they step in to ensure fair treatment of Attorney General employees are being ignored;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call upon the Premier, the Attorney General and the Chair of Management Board of Cabinet to take whatever steps are necessary to change the offensive provisions of the FPT agreement as set out in appendix 32 and ensure that the Attorney General's court support staff receive fair treatment as employees of the government and that among other unfair provisions of the agreement, the practice of withholding pay for hours worked cease immediately."
I agree with this petition. I've signed it and send it to the table by way of a page whose name I can't see.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Pursuant to standing order 30(b), it now being past 4 p.m., I am now required to call orders of the day.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): I move that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario recognize that Ontario is facing a crisis when it comes to job losses;
That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario recognize that this crisis is evidenced by the following sampling of newspaper headlines:
"It's Tragic—It Really Is; MPP Concerned About Trend of Manufacturing Jobs Fleeing Area," Brantford Expositor, Thursday, May 10, 2007;
"MTD Plant Closes; Kitchener Loses 400 More Jobs," Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Saturday, May 12, 2007;
"Manufacturing Sector Suffers as Leaders Fiddle," Welland Tribune, Monday, April 16, 2007;
"Sweet Job Market Turning Sour," National Post, Tuesday, March 13, 2007;
"Ontario Fares Poorly in Employment Report," Toronto Star, Friday, January 26, 2007;
"Region Struck Hard by Manufacturing Job Losses," Ottawa Citizen, Friday, February 23, 2007;
"City Mill Faces Grim Outlook...," Hamilton Spectator, Wednesday, February 28, 2007;
"Nortel's Last Cuts May Be the Cruellest," Ottawa Citizen, Thursday, February 8, 2007;
"Abitibi to Shutter Fort William Mill," Toronto Star, February 21, 2007;
"Losses Called Long Term," Windsor Star, Thursday, February 15, 2007;
"One-Way Street Oil Riches Irresistible; For the First Time, Ontario Can't Make Up For the Loss of its Young People to Thriving Alberta," Toronto Star, Saturday, March 3, 2007;
That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario recognize that these headlines represent just a fraction of the 137,000 manufacturing jobs lost in this province since the start of 2005;
That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario recognize that 13,000 of these manufacturing jobs were lost in April 2007 alone;
That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario recognize that this is a situation that is untenable;
That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario recognize that, at a time when we are losing well-paying manufacturing jobs, policies like the job-killing diamond tax must be repealed;
That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario recognize that the McGuinty Liberals have still failed to act on the motion introduced by the official opposition and passed by this House on December 8, 2005, calling for the creation of a comprehensive jobs plan; and
That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario call once again on the McGuinty Liberals to bring forward a comprehensive jobs plan to spur job creation throughout the province in general and in the manufacturing sector in particular.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Mr. Tory has moved opposition day number 5. I'm pleased to recognize the Leader of the Opposition for his leadoff speech.
Mr. Tory: I'm sorry in a way that we have to bring this same resolution, in effect, forward again, because at the end of the day, you would have thought when the House voted as it did in December 2005 that this would have resulted in our seeing a comprehensive jobs plan coming from this government.
The fact is, if you go back to December 2005, at that time the number all of us were using in this House, in discussing manufacturing job losses in the preceding one-year period—going back, I think, to November 2004—was 52,000, a little over 52,000 manufacturing jobs. So that prompted us, as well it should have, to bring forward a motion saying that we needed urgently a comprehensive jobs plan in Ontario to help address the concerns of those 52,000 families and many others who were obviously seen in jeopardy at that time.
Let me just read three quotes from that day in the Legislature from Liberal members who spoke at that time. The first was the Honourable Joe Cordiano, who has since resigned from this House—but he said, and I quote from Hansard: "So we've looked at a number of options with respect to a real economic development plan that is being considered and is taking shape." That's what he said in December 2005.
The member for Perth—Middlesex said in December 2005, in that debate in this House: "I also want to say quite clearly that when the opposition say we don't have a plan, it's merely because they can't read. They can't read our budget. Our budget is our plan. That is the government plan."
Then, of course, there was the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, Mr. Arthurs, who said: "We have a sound economic strategy, and the results are showing."
Well, that day, the House voted 44 to 0 in favour of our resolution from the Progressive Conservative Party calling for a comprehensive action plan on jobs—31 Liberal members of provincial Parliament voted in favour of that resolution. You have the quotes from Mr. Cordiano, Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Arthurs, those three members of provincial Parliament, who all said, "We have a plan. It's going to come, or you've already seen it in the budget," and so on and so forth.
Well, what's happened since December 2005? Two things have happened. Many things have happened, but there are two things I want to draw attention to today. First, we have not seen any comprehensive jobs plan come forward from this government whatsoever, nothing that even resembles a plan. But, secondly, and this is the real tragedy, the total of manufacturing jobs lost since the beginning of 2005 is now up to 135,000 manufacturing jobs lost; 135,000 families without a paycheque; 135,000 people without the dignity of a job; 135,000 people who might have expected, based on that debate, that because they are citizens who pay their taxes and live in Ontario, their government would be there for them. They have been deeply disappointed, let down at their moment of greatest need by the McGuinty government and by this Premier.
It's not just that we've seen poor, inadequate action from this government—we've seen some of that: poor, inadequate action. Their answer to 135,000 jobs lost: a manufacturers' council, which I'm sure is using some of those millions of dollars worth of hotel rooms this government is famous for using at the taxpayers' expense when hospital emergency rooms are in chaos, children with autism go without help and farmers struggle day after day. So I'm sure the manufacturers' council is having its meetings. Heaven knows what they are doing. We'll be the last to know.
In northwestern Ontario, they appointed a facilitator. This is another example of poor, inadequate action—a facilitator. I'm sure there are lots of towns that have been devastated by what has gone on in the forest industry in northwestern Ontario that are deeply comforted by the fact that there's a facilitator, as good a man as he may be—and he is a good man—going around doing, again, heaven knows what to help these people. So it's not just poor, inadequate action, and it's not just no action, because no action—there's a long list of that. There is no jobs plan, there is no tax relief, there is no jobs commissioner, there is no decentralization, there is no regulatory relief. None of those things has been done by this government. That's just a list of a short number of examples of no action.
It's even worse than that. It's not just poor, inadequate action, it's not just no action, it's making things worse. They have actually proactively done things to make things worse. Of course example number one, exhibit number one, is the diamond tax. This is an example where we actually had someone coming here and investing $1 billion in creating jobs, many of which are going to go to our aboriginal people, and what is the response of this government? Having stood there, and without any ounce of shame whatsoever having extolled the virtues of Ontario's low tax environment for diamond mining, they then turn around in the dark of night and have a tax grab that could only be described as shameful and that was described by one of the people involved in that project as something you expect from a Third World country.
Even before the Third World-style diamond tax grab by Mr. McGuinty and his government, here is what the CFIB had to say about Dalton McGuinty and his government. They said that the McGuinty Liberals have "greatly increased the regulation and red tape faced by small businesses." There's an example of doing something that's worse than poor, inadequate action, worse than no action. This is the government proactively taking action to make it more difficult for businesses to decide to locate here or to stay here or to stay in business here, and we hear about it day after day after day as we go around the province.
How about the C.D. Howe Institute? What did they say? They said, "Ontario is exceptional—in a bad sense, unfortunately—with the most burdensome business taxes in Canada." You know, it's interesting; our friends opposite mock the CFIB. They mock the C.D. Howe Institute. These are people who are out there objectively looking at what is needed to spur the economy of this province and to attract investment in jobs, and the reason they mock those organizations is because they don't care about that. They don't care. They don't recognize the fact that the first thing people are entitled to have in this province is a job and an opportunity for themselves and their children, and without those jobs, without that prosperity, we can't pay for health care, we can't pay for education, unless there are people who decide to invest. So when they mock the C.D. Howe Institute and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, they are mocking the people of Ontario, they are mocking the need for prosperity and they are mocking the fact that we need that prosperity to pay for health care and education.
What do I hear when I travel around the province? I'm sure my colleagues on all sides of the House, if they were being honest, would say they hear the same thing. The number of places I visit—I have been to every riding once and almost all twice now, at least, and sometimes six and seven times. Here is what they say over and over again: The regulations and the attitude of the McGuinty government towards small businesses in particular, but also larger businesses, is crushing them. They say they are spending more time meeting with inspectors of all kinds who show up day after day than they are focusing on how to improve the productivity of their businesses and save jobs.
I was in Timmins recently, and a man came up and told me that in a one-month period he had had five different ministries in, having various and sundry officials and inspectors and paper pushers visiting his place of business. Two of them came and told him to do things that were directly contradictory to one another. He said he hardly had time between the meetings themselves, the phone calls and the paperwork to actually focus on keeping his business going and keeping the jobs going for people in Timmins.
People tell me the power supply is both costly and unreliable. The costly part we all know about because, since Mr. McGuinty took office as Premier, we have seen power rates skyrocket and go through the roof. The reliability thing came as a bit of a surprise to me. When I started to go to plant after plant, especially in southwestern Ontario, they said they have flicker after minor outage after outage and what this costs them in terms of their lost productivity, money out of their pockets. I heard it in Collingwood; I heard in London; I heard it in Strathroy. I've heard all over were the province that this is costing jobs and discouraging people from investing here.
People talk about taxes. The C.D. Howe Institute said that taxes are a big disadvantage for Ontario, or are becoming a big disadvantage, and these people across the way, the government, just shrug and say, "Well, too bad."
The border is still in poor shape. You hear about it everywhere—basically from Mississauga West, and I'm sure if you asked more people, you would hear about it everywhere in the province. They say there are no protocols in place to make sure that the border functions as smoothly as possible, and we are seeing no action from this government to actually get some things done there.
The municipalities are suffering as a result of this. They will tell you that in municipality after municipality as businesses close, as plants close, as people are laid off, the municipalities suffer because their tax base starts to erode, and it has a mushrooming effect as small stores close downtown, and things like that happen because of the loss of jobs.
Of course, displaced workers tell you themselves, when you meet with them, as I have done, that they feel they are dealt with in a kind of episodic fashion. Once in a while, if there happens to be a program that fits, then they get somebody looking after them, but otherwise they are left to fend with themselves. While some of them will tell us that they have found new jobs, they are usually much lower-paying, much less secure jobs than they had before.
So what do we need? First and foremost, we need what I asked the Premier about in this House today. We need some leadership. He doesn't know what that means. He goes around talking about the exuberance people are feeling in Kitchener—Waterloo. I will concede that there is some good news there, but there also have been 7,000 people in that area who have lost their jobs—7,000 people, and all he can talk about is exuberance. He talks about a little bit of contraction in the auto industry when 17,000 people have lost their jobs in the assembly and parts business. He refers to, and I quote, "some challenges" facing manufacturing when 135,000 people have lost their jobs. "Some challenges" is what that becomes.
This man I think has a heavy responsibility in this province. It's time he woke up and said, "We have a crisis in Ontario when it comes to jobs. We had a crisis in December 2005, when we said we needed a plan"—when his members of provincial Parliament voted for it, and yet since then he has done next to nothing about it. It's time he showed some leadership. It's not about minimizing the devastation that people are experiencing, hundreds of thousands of people and their families and other businesses that face spinoff side effects of these layoffs. It's not about blaming someone else, which is his greatest area of expertise, blaming somebody else for anything that goes on. That is what we need first and foremost: some leadership.
Secondly, we need to see people starting to work together. Mr. Paton of the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association, whom I referred to in question period today, said that political parties in this country and in this province have to start working together to develop some solutions. I thought we had a good start on that when we actually unanimously passed a resolution calling for a comprehensive jobs plan. You'd have thought that meant the 31 Liberals who voted for it might have gone to their caucus and their Premier and said, "Now produce the plan." No such luck.
I think they should try asking for advice and then following it, as a third thing to do. Why bother appointing a forest industry council of the best people from labour and business and government and the aboriginal communities and so on and then turn around and not follow half the advice they gave?
Fourthly, they've got to stop doing things to make the situation worse, exhibit one being the diamond tax, and all manner of other regulations and charges and levies and so forth that they've brought in that just make it harder and harder for risk-takers and entrepreneurs to keep jobs here, let alone create new ones.
Finally, they should bring in a plan. They voted for one in December 2005. They talk about the fact that they have one. Let's put it all together and see what they call a plan. Bring it in. It should have been in the budget; it wasn't. It hasn't been done anywhere else.
I find it passing strange that the Premier of this province can find the time to go rushing out to the airport like a little boy to stand there and await the arrival of Governor Schwarzenegger—only because he's a movie star, quite frankly. There have been people who have come to this province to discuss creating jobs here and investing here, people who have come to say that they might not create jobs here if we don't smarten up our act. Nobody goes to the airport, let alone the Premier of this province, to pick up those people. He's not out there holding a sign, like some limousine company, saying, "Mr. Schwarzenegger, your car is here." They're not there for those people. When those people come here and say that they're going to withdraw investment from this province because they're being treated like a Third World country, there's nobody at the airport to see them.
It's time we got serious about this and started to devote some time and energy to this. It's time we started to see some leadership from Mr. McGuinty in the short period of time he has left. Because I'll tell you what, Mr. Speaker: Even if he acted today, it would join the long list of their deathbed repentances. We're in the last minute of the last hour of the last days of their sorry term in government, and they finally decide that it's time to act for the environment, that it's time to act on jobs, that it's time to do something in all the areas they've neglected. People are not going to be fooled by this.
Even so, I would say that if they have four months left—and it's all they've got left—bring in a comprehensive jobs plan. We'll stay here until they bring it some time in June, because the people of Ontario deserve nothing less from their government.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Paul Ferreira (York South—Weston): I want to commend the Leader of the Opposition. not just for his motion this afternoon but for his passionate and spirited critique of this government. It was good to hear. I do quibble with the fixation on tax cuts; I think that's the wrong approach. But I do want to speak to some of his points and also to some of the points that New Democrats have articulated in this House on the crisis—and it is a very real crisis—that is leading to massive job losses, especially in the manufacturing sector here in Ontario.
As we know, during the term of this government—I would call it a failed term—we have lost now almost 175,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs across the province. In the Leader of the Opposition's motion, he rhymes off a number of recent headlines that talk about these job losses across our province: in southwestern Ontario, in the Niagara Peninsula, in eastern Ontario, in greater Toronto area, and in northern Ontario.
He could have actually referred to a couple of headlines from this very day in newspapers across the province. In Windsor, we are seeing the loss of nearly 500 well-paying jobs today with the closure of Windsor Casting. The headline in today's Windsor Star is rather poignant. It reads, "End of a Marvellous Era for Windsor Casting." The story talks about the positive financial impact that plant had for almost three quarters of a century. It is now, as of end of business today, gone, and those workers and their families are left to grapple with a most difficult future: how to pay the mortgage; how to make payments on the cars; how to send those kids to university and make those tuition payments. Those are the real-life difficulties that are being confronted by tens of thousands of hard-working families across this province.
While we took our constituency week break, I had the chance to attend two events dealing precisely with this topic, with the crisis in manufacturing faced by the province. Last Thursday, I attended a rally organized by the United Steelworkers in Mississauga at a company called CFM. There, we are about to witness the total loss of almost 400 jobs at that particular plant. I addressed the rally and I had a chance to go around and speak to the individual workers, some of whom have already lost their jobs and some who have received notice that their jobs are gone within a matter of six weeks. Some of these folks have put in 10, 15, 20 years for this company. These are well-paying jobs. These are workers who earn upwards of $20 an hour. They have been able to build strong lives with this employment at CFM and now they're faced with an uncertain future.
When I talked to these workers, two things struck me: One, how demoralized they are that their provincial government is refusing to act in their interest to speak out for them, and secondly, how angry they are that this is the case. It's not just the workers at CFM; it's workers elsewhere. But it was the workers at CFM who left quite an indelible imprint on my memory after speaking with them last Thursday.
A few days earlier, I had the pleasure of attending a town hall meeting here in Toronto, organized by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. That particular town hall meeting drew several hundred workers, not just from Toronto and York region but some of them coming from as far away as Hamilton, and a couple from eastern Ontario. They were given an opportunity to rise and to speak, to share their stories. There were representatives there not just from Queen's Park—in fact, there were only two of us there from Queen's Park: my colleague from Parkdale—High Park and I—but there were folks there from agencies like the United Way, folks who operated manufacturing concerns and of course, labour leaders. What you heard, one after the other after the other, were workers getting up—some of them in tears—and talking about the difficulties that they are facing as a result of the jobs that they have lost. It was indeed a shame that despite the invitation that was extended to every single member on the government side from the greater Toronto area, not a single one of them showed up at this town hall meeting to hear from their own constituents, to hear from hundreds of workers from this province who are facing a very uncertain future as a result of job losses and government inaction.
In the greater Toronto area alone, the tally—and it's mounting, week by week, month by month—105,000 jobs lost in the GTA alone over the past four years. That represents $5.3 billion in lost wages. Now, $5.3 billion is a huge sum, and it's useful, I think, to break it down. For a worker at a place like CFM, it's a $40,000- or $45,000-a-year job, stable income—gone. For one of the workers who worked in the auto plants sector and who spoke at the town hall meeting organized by the labour council, it was a $48,000 job gone, a job that she used to put two of her young kids through school so that they would have a better future. That is the reality that is faced by these workers. Now, 105,000, if you want to—in the greater Toronto area alone—if you want to break it down: Tower Automotive. 178 jobs lost; Mueller Canada, 158 jobs lost; Smurfit-Stone container, 140 families out of work.
In my own riding of York South—Weston, for many years—and I've referenced this in the past here in this House—we had upwards of 3,000 and 4,000 people employed by Kodak; well-paying jobs that led to a thriving community in the heart of my riding. Every single one of those jobs is now gone. Hundreds of families in my riding are losing their livelihood out of their income. Perhaps it's telling that the Premier's response to this crisis—this was from an article that appeared in the St. Catharines paper just last month. He said, "Those who lose their jobs in the manufacturing jobs can find jobs in other sectors." What kind of leadership is that?
I'll tell you what's happening in my riding with the Kodak lands, and perhaps this is what the Premier was referring to. In my riding on 52 acres of prime industrial land, what they're looking at building are big-box retail stores: jobs that will pay $8, or perhaps, if the employees are lucky, $9, maybe close to $10, per hour. That's what these workers in my riding are being faced with.
Mrs. Joyce Savoline (Burlington): With no benefits.
Mr. Ferreira: With no benefits: non-unionized, no-benefits jobs that are less than ideal to try to support a family, to try to pay the bills that you need to pay in order to be able to survive from month to month. What's happening is that in my riding, these workers who are losing well-paying jobs, not just at Kodak but elsewhere, are lining up at the job fair to try to land one of those part-time jobs with the Wal-Marts and the Home Depots and maybe even with the fellows who have the golden arches, trying to gain one or two or three of those jobs just to be able to make ends meet. It is indeed a crisis. In fact, "crisis" may understate what's happening here in the province of Ontario.
We have heard in some communities the unemployment rate. In Windsor, as an example, the unemployment rate is now more than 13%; 13.1% was the number that I heard this past weekend. In my riding, the unemployment rate is about that number; it's 12% or 13%. During a period of time when we have seen so much prosperity created, it hasn't trickled down to those who work very hard, who toil very, very hard for a good wage in the manufacturing sector.
New Democrats have proposed a number of aggressive measures to help deal with this crisis. In this House less than a month ago, I had the pleasure of speaking in support of one of those measures put forward by our leader, the member from Kenora—Rainy River. He called quite articulately for the creation of a jobs protection commissioner. It's just a start, but it's an important start. We've seen a similar office in the province of British Columbia save 75,000 good, well-paying jobs.
Mr. Ferreira: To the member from Essex: by working with not just the workers and labour but also with the employer to come up with constructive and creative ways to save those jobs. That commissioner was an honest broker between all interested parties, and that commissioner had a profound impact on some of those communities in British Columbia. In fact, if you go to British Columbia today, you'll see the very good results that that commissioner was able to impart in communities that would otherwise have seen major employment losses; in fact, the closure of the only employer in those specific communities. Again, it's an idea that's required here in Ontario. It's an idea the New Democrats have advanced and have shown great leadership on.
There are other proposals that we've put forward and that my leader is equally passionate about. First of all, Ontario is a generator of some of the most cost-effective electricity in the entire world, yet this government's hydro policy has been an unmitigated disaster for Ontario's resource and manufacturing industries. I hear some scoffing over on the other side, but that's the reality, and they can't get away from that. They may try their darnedest to get away from that record, but that is the record. Their electricity policy has been an abject failure, and that has contributed to the mounting number of job losses.
I mentioned earlier that I had to disagree with the leader of the official opposition in terms of his fixation with tax cuts. I would suggest that targeted governmental investment initiatives are a much better use of the existing tax revenue that the province collects from industry. Again, it's a concept that works in other provinces—in Quebec, where the Société générale de financement exists, which makes meaningful investments in manufacturing, in the resource sectors, again an idea that works elsewhere that can be implemented here in Ontario with a government that's willing to implement those kinds of measures.
We also think that an important way to protect jobs here in Ontario is to modernize employment standards legislation, tougher laws that would discourage plant closures and provide protection for workers who so badly need it; again, another good idea being championed by our party.
Before coming to this House, I worked in the workplace training field. Again, the province is sorely in need of increasing on-the-job training efforts and initiatives, and that's something that our party has talked about. That's something that can be done in partnership with both labour and employers, to ensure that workers are trained, that they are competitive with the global realities of today's marketplace, and that we can retain the jobs that we so badly need to retain if hard-working Ontarians are to have a prosperous future.
Mr. Speaker, we have waited in this House—and we have passed resolutions in the past on a very similar topic. We have waited three and a half long years for action from this government. We have seen, over the past few weeks, a mad dash to the finish line, legislation being brought forward, desperately trying to check off those commitments in those platform documents. We have seen very little in the way of ideas, of measures, of legislation to protect well-paying manufacturing jobs in this province. This government has been delinquent on that front. It is hard-working Ontario families who are paying the price for that delinquency.
I referenced earlier my visit last week to a place where almost 400 jobs are being lost in Mississauga, and those workers and their families are angry. I think that anger will manifest itself at the ballot box on October 10, and then we will be able to bring in effective employment protection legislation that will resolve the crisis. I'm afraid that under this present government, with this lack of leadership, we will continue to see, unfortunately, more and more job losses between now and October 10.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Bruce Crozier (Essex): It's my privilege to stand today and spend a few minutes speaking about the opposition day motion of Mr. Tory. I certainly didn't come here today thinking that there would be anything flattering in it, but I did come here today thinking there would be something in it.
The only recommendation in this motion from the Tories that we're going to spend this whole afternoon on is that there is a diamond tax that must be repealed, and you know what? That isn't even in the manufacturing business; that's in the mining business. Most resolutions that come before this House at least have some recommendations in them. This has none. It's hollow. That's all there is to it. In fact, in question period today the leader of the official opposition made reference to somebody who was suggesting—I think the words were that all three parties should be working together. One would think, then, that out of that would come a suggestion from the official opposition. There is none.
The third party has recommended a jobs commissioner. I asked, "What does the jobs commissioner do?" They said, "The jobs commissioner works with industry and works with labour." Well, we have an industrial development minister who does that, and I'll give you a few examples of how she does it. What the member didn't mention about their suggestion is why that jobs commissioner no longer exists in British Columbia.
So this suggestion about—the only thing it says here is, "Bring forward a comprehensive jobs plan." That's kind of like the people who stand around and say, "We have to do something," and they stop there. They don't suggest—not one suggestion—what you have to do or how the three parties could work together to bring forward some recommendations that he seems to support.
Let me tell you what we have done just in Windsor; I only have time today to cover what has happened in Windsor. You're right: Windsor is an area that's suffering significantly because we depend so much on the automotive business. Both the Windsor area and Michigan share some of this crisis—and I agree that it is a crisis. But you would stand there and it would sound like we're doing absolutely nothing. This afternoon, when the Premier stood up and said, "Well, Mr. Leader of the Opposition, what about the half a billion dollars that we've put into the automotive industry?" he sat there with a blank look on his face, like we've done nothing.
We have done something. The Windsor economic development summit was given $50,000 to carry out a two-day summit that will bring together stakeholders from the public, private and educational sectors to develop a coordinated strategy for regional economic development—provincial funding. I haven't seen any federal funding for it.
Machine, tool, die and mould industry support: More than one quarter of Ontario's tool and die industry is concentrated in Windsor-Essex, primarily supplying the auto industry. As a result, this sector has been significantly impacted by the ongoing restructuring in North America's auto industry. This initiative, into which we're putting $200,000, will, for instance, help in the aerospace, oil and gas, transportation and packaging sectors. Customers will benefit from hands-on workshop sessions and marketing support to assist them in new business and to make improvements in the area of innovation and productivity. We have been doing something. Isn't this something that a job commissioner would normally do? We have a minister who's doing this in the Windsor area.
Workforce development initiative: The growth in the health care, education and tourism sectors is contributing to the diversification of the Windsor-Essex economy beyond traditional manufacturing. Some $50,000 is provided by provincial funding for an initiative to focus on the development of labour adjustment services to assist displaced workers in securing new employment, which will also feature a comprehensive assessment of local skills and training. We have people in my riding who have taken up the challenge. They think that there's a growing agri-tourism business in our area that hasn't even been tapped before. Sometimes it takes a crisis situation, it takes a difficult situation, for us to think about those kinds of things, and we're helping them in the development of this new agri-business.
We have greenhouses that are still being built in our area that have been hurt by the Canadian dollar's strength, but notwithstanding that, they have the initiative to go ahead and continue to build and expand their business through new technology. We've helped the greenhouse industry with $5 million recently, as a matter of fact, for marketing.
So to stand there and say that this government has done nothing is simply not fair. That's why I have to stand up and say what we've done, because somebody has to at least acknowledge that something is being done in these areas. I'm pleased that our government has recognized the issues that are in front of us in the Windsor-Essex area and that it has made these investments, notwithstanding the investment that was made in the auto industry as a whole.
I want to quote from Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers, at a rally that was held in Windsor on Sunday. We were standing right beside labour in its effort to make other parts of Ontario, other parts of Canada, and perhaps even the federal government, which, as I say, to my knowledge has done absolutely nothing in the Essex-Windsor area—but we were standing up together. "'It's not inevitable that we lose our jobs,' Canadian Auto Workers union president Buzz Hargrove told the massive crowd, noting that 20 million vehicles will sell in North America in 2007. 'Our problem is not selling vehicles. Our problem is that people who are building them are, for the most part today, in Japan and South Korea, shipping into our market and refusing to allow our products into their markets.'
"Hargrove and other labour leaders"—like Ken Lewenza, a great leader of labour in the Windsor-Essex area—"want trade laws which require countries that sell vehicles in Canada to buy as many Canadian-made cars or build as many in this country" and allow access to their market. That too will help, if the federal government would just come to the table.
Mr. Ted Chudleigh (Halton): Of course, the member for Essex will recognize that the recommendation that we have made is for this government to bring in a comprehensive jobs program, one which we would be pleased to help them with if they could only come to recognize the fact that that's one of the areas that would be needed to start to turn the manufacturing sector around in this province.
This government has wreaked havoc on families across Ontario. There have been 137,000 high-paying, full-time jobs that have been lost in this province—jobs that you can count on, jobs that you can buy a house on, jobs that you can buy a car on, jobs that you can raise a family on. Those jobs are gone in Ontario today.
It's all across Ontario. The Dana Corp. in St. Marys has laid off 100 workers; the Dow Chemical industry in Sarnia is closing their plant, 380 workers gone; Collins and Aikman manufacturing in Toronto, 400 jobs gone through closure; Alcoa in Collingwood, 330 jobs in the automotive manufacturing business gone; Dura Automotive Systems in Stratford, 280 jobs laid off. That list goes on and on. I've got eight pages. I've read a quarter of one page. There are eight pages, and this is not an exhaustive list. This list probably captures half the job layoffs and closures in Ontario. Those jobs are gone.
Each one of those jobs on that list, and many more that aren't on that list, represents a broken dream, a family without a major income in the province of Ontario. Why? Because this government saw its way clear, in its first budget, to bring in the largest tax increase in Ontario's history. It represented $4.5 billion in tax increases. You can't increase taxes against small business and corporations and expect them to remain in this jurisdiction when you're uncompetitive with surrounding jurisdictions. And that started the ball rolling. Small business taxes went up 25%; corporate taxes went up 27%. It was the largest tax increase in Ontario's history. The second-largest tax increase was brought in by Bob Rae in the early 1990s—1992, I think it was. It was a paltry $2.4 billion. This one was almost double it, along with the increased costs of inputs such as electricity, taxes, fuel, labour, property tax—the list goes on and on. Ontario has now fallen in Canada to the last-place jurisdiction in job creation and in expansion of new business, in investments. In the escalation of electricity costs, we're number one. We have risen the fastest in that area. We're the lowest-growth in disposable income. That list goes on and on as well.
It is with sadness that we point out that this government has failed, that this government doesn't deserve to be re-elected, and that the people of Ontario will send a very direct message to this government on October 10 of this year.
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): Generally when I get up to engage in debate in this Legislature I usually start by saying that I'm pleased to have the opportunity to discuss whatever matter tends to be at hand. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that I'm not very pleased to be in a position of having to talk yet again about the significant crisis in manufacturing job losses that we have in Ontario. Not a day goes by when this issue is not hitting me straight in the face, coming from the city of Hamilton, which of course was once—many, many moons ago—one of the largest drivers of not only the Ontario economy but the Canadian economy in terms of its massive steel sector and all of the secondary employers and companies, manufacturing operations, that followed on from the steel sector.
Unfortunately, I'm here to tell you that I support the resolution provided to us today by the opposition. It goes on on a number of different issues, but the basic one is the real fact that this government has done little to nothing to stave off or stem the number of jobs being lost in this province.
I wish I didn't have to say that. But I came from a rally in a public forum Friday night in my own community where worker after worker and union leader after union leader got to the microphone and talked about the devastation that was being felt in our community. We had people come from other communities as well to talk about their particular situations. In fact, that very day—I guess it was really a day or two before—I was in Brantford at a company that is watching its product being cut into shreds in terms of the ability to provide it in the market, because the major place they supply their product to has decided to start getting that product, after having gotten it for decades from this particular firm, from China. So those workers who have been employed by a company where workers are paid a decent wage—it's organized by the Steelworkers, so there's a collective agreement in place—where there are health and safety committees, where the safety and well-being of workers are looked after, where we know that they have pensions and benefits and can sustain a decent quality of life for their families—those are the kinds of jobs, when we say "manufacturing job losses," that we're losing across the province.
That particular company, Koolatron, is in Brantford. I met with the head of the company there as well as the union. In fact, the head of the company provided the opportunity for the workers to rally on his site, have a barbecue and really bring forward these issues in that community, because he felt it was not a fight for only the workers but it was a fight for the employers as well. Unfortunately, the Liberals don't think it's a fight worth fighting. At least, that's not what appears to be the case from my own experience.
That's certainly the sense I got not only in Brantford but in the rally that took place in my own community. People came from Brantford to the rally in Hamilton and spoke very passionately about the concerns they have, but so did workers from Rheem Canada, Camco, Levi's, and Stelco's hot strip mill, which just closed down. Although Stelco itself has not closed down, we know that in the deal for restructuring that was undertaken, they have compartmentalized themselves into smaller business units. I fear that, as do many in my community, of those smaller business units, there's going to be pressure on the ones that are underperforming to eventually, one by one, close down until Hamilton Steel no longer exists in my city.
The city of Hamilton now has the highest proportion of people in Ontario living in poverty. It's definitely equal with Toronto; I don't know whether it's now surpassed Toronto or not. But that's what happens when all the good-paying jobs that provide a decent quality and standard of life are allowed to walk out the door. People no longer have the ability to not only maintain their own quality of life but to generate a secondary economy that provides all kinds of benefits and accrues all kinds of opportunity for small business and others in our community.
We watch as our children continue to not be able to learn properly at school because they're not fed properly. That's not the fault of the parents; that's the fault of the government that has turned its back, either because they are letting those manufacturing jobs go out the door or because our social assistance rates and our opportunities for helping people who are on hard times are not being looked at seriously. There's just no way we're ever going to build a decent economy in this province if we don't get serious about the fact that we're wasting one of our precious resources, which is our children. That's simply unacceptable.
Interestingly enough, I had the unfortunate occasion of seeing a surgeon just the other day, and we were chit-chatting about a number of different issues as I was leaving the appointment. He said to me that when it comes to the issues of our children, he believes that governments have failed miserably. In fact, he said, "I'm a New Democrat when it comes to children's issues and the fact that we need to not scrimp and not be tightwads when it comes to investing in our children." And yet, again today we hear a government that's not even prepared to invest federal dollars, never mind their own provincial dollars that they promised, in early learning and child care. We know that if it's done, it will be beneficial for decades to come. It will turn our economy around if we start investing in our young people when they're very young, in fact when they're mere babies. But, no, this government not only doesn't see the benefit of those long-term investments; this government is happy to watch as those kids have to see their parents end up on welfare rolls, because not only are their jobs being lost, but there are no decent jobs to go to.
The government might want to talk about how great they've done in job creation, but when you come to a community like Hamilton and ask one single person who has been laid off, one of those thousands and thousands of workers who have been laid off in my community, how many of those people were hired again or are back in the workforce at the same wages and benefits, how many of them have their pensions intact, the answer is quite startling, because it is zero. It's not 5%, 10%, 20%. It is zero.
The Premier talks proudly about a worker adjustment centre that they're setting up in Windsor for the Ford workers who just got laid off today when their plant closed. He talks proudly about their adjustment centre. Well, guess what? Go to that adjustment centre in three months or in six months and see how many of those workers are actually being paid the same amount as when they were laid off at Ford today. You'll find that not a single one of them will be. You can't put your head in the sand and pretend that the economy is generating the kinds of jobs that we need to see to replace the ones that you're allowing to walk out the door. It's simply not happening and it's unacceptable.
If the level of frustration is high around here and if the opposition thinks that they need to use yet another opposition day on a motion very similar to one that they presented in the past, very recently, then I say more power to that as a concept. Maybe if we keep saying it over and over again, the provincial government will get the picture that we are absolutely in a manufacturing jobs crisis and that it's not good enough to talk about it.
Mr. Brad Duguid (Scarborough Centre): Sure, if you keep saying something untrue over and over again, some people will believe it.
Ms. Horwath: People like my friend Brad Duguid here make fun of it and think it's a joke. He needs to come to Hamilton and look at what's happening in Hamilton.
I think the cabinet actually was in Hamilton recently. I wonder if they talked to any of the laid off—oh no, that's right. There was a rally that day. There was a sit-in at Hamilton Specialty Bar, one of the companies that's closing its door as we speak. There was a worker there who chained himself to a piece of machinery the same day that Dalton McGuinty was in town making a reannouncement about some hospital funding. He's so out of touch that he didn't even know there was a crisis happening where the workers were having a sit-in. They were taking over one of our local manufacturing plants. He was totally off the radar.
Here's the Premier going to Hamilton, one of the communities with one of the highest poverty rates in this province, to make some glossy announcement, some feel-good happiness, about a couple of dollars for our hospitals. Meanwhile, jobs are walking out the door, and he doesn't even know what's happening. It really does speak to the reality in this province that the Premier himself has no idea what's happening when he visits these communities. He thinks that getting off a plane to Hamilton—taking a plane from Toronto to Hamilton, yes—getting off a plane and making an announcement at a hospital is going to be enough for the people of Hamilton and that they're going to think he's doing a good job. Well, I've got news for him: The people of Hamilton don't think he's doing a good job and we're going to see that spoken loudly and clearly, I'm pretty sure, when it comes to October 10, and the votes start getting counted at the ballot box, because those votes are certainly not going to support a government that has turned its back on the working people of this province.
The Liberals who are in here, they're making fun and jeering and saying, "It's not good enough to be doom and gloom," and "You can't just be critical." The bottom line is that we have brought a number of issues forward in this Legislature; my leader, Howard Hampton, has. We have had a number of positive, proactive—proactive, yes. You know, that's where you actually do something and try to get ahead of the game, try to be proactive as opposed to hiding your head in the sand and hoping that everything is going to go away, which appears to be the modus operandi of this particular government. It's not working for you.
It's time you started looking seriously at some of the suggestions that are coming forward. Let's not pretend that the suggestions haven't been coming forward, because they have. My friend the member for York—South Weston had already mentioned a couple of those issues around the job protection commissioner. I know the Liberals make fun of it, but it saved 80,000 jobs in British Columbia when it was in place, and it took a Liberal government to get rid of that. I guess they're not going to support it simply because of poor partisanship, which is unfortunate.
Although they like to talk about it and say that all parties should get together, the bottom line is the only reason they're not looking seriously at a job commissioner is because it was an NDP government that thought it up in BC and it was a Liberal government that got rid of it, so they have to play the same game. It is just silly and sad that when it comes to the reality of job losses in the province of Ontario, they have to play silly partisan games.
What else is there? He talked about electricity pricing, which we've raised a gagillion times. In fact, the Association of Major Power Consumers in Ontario, which are the big manufacturers—go figure—told this government two years ago or more that their electricity pricing and their strategy for hydro was the wrong thing to do and it was going to cost them lots and lots of money and make them uncompetitive and, therefore, they were going to have to shed workers. Guess what? It came true. So you have not only New Democrats giving you advice, you have the Association of Major Power Consumers in Ontario giving you advice. But you put your head in the sand and pretend that there's nothing you can do, that it's all the federal government's fault.
Yes, I agree there are problems with trade agreements, although you seem to think that the lumber agreement is fine and you signed off on that one, which is shedding us jobs in the north. Nonetheless, now you're saying that trade agreements are the problem. Now you're saying that the high dollar is the problem. But there are things that are happening in this province, which need to happen in this province, that this government is simply not taking responsibility for.
As I mentioned, a jobs commissioner was talked about. Low-cost electricity was talked about. Sectoral investment initiatives were talked about. New employment standards legislation has been mentioned.
Pension protection: This came up again on Friday night in my community. There are workers who are all of a sudden being told, after their plants shut down and their pension plans are wound up, "Guess what? The plan's underfunded, and now you don't get your pension. The deferred wages that you've been paying into all of your working life are all of a sudden not there for you."
We put out a paper three years ago now trying to get this government to move on pension reform in this province. There's been no reform to the pension system in over 20 years in this province, and it's desperately needed. It's desperately needed in this context right now more than ever before, when workers' deferred wages are under threat day in and day out. Has this government done anything? Oh, yeah, they set up a task force that's going to report back. When's it going to report back? Oh, maybe six or eight or 10 months after the next election. Well, a heck of a lot of good that's going to do for all those 150,000 workers who have lost their jobs in Ontario over the last couple of years. So there's something they could do to lessen the pain: have some reform in the pension system.
Our pension benefit guarantee fund only tops up pensions up to $1,000 a month. That's not good enough. There's one thing right there that can be changed, just like that. All you need to do is just change it like that. I've got a whole document; I'll give it to you if you want. You want to do start doing something productive? There's a productive suggestion. Don't tell me that we're not providing productive suggestions for the government, because we have been. We've been working diligently with stakeholders and others to try to come up with some of these solutions. Unfortunately, the government hasn't.
A wage earner protection fund: What about that? That's something that was in place in the province in the past. We need a system whereby there would be a fund in place, either through employer premiums or the government itself. This fund would ensure that employees receive compensation for unpaid wages. There's another idea, right?
When there's a bankruptcy or an insolvency: Another example came up on Friday night, where workers worked overtime—they worked really, really hard—at Genfast in Brantford to make sure they could be competitive again. This is what the workers told us at that forum. The parent company in the States had bought up the local company in Brantford, and instead of actually making that company thrive and continuing to invest in it, they sucked the life out of that company. The workers were convinced that if they just worked overtime, if they worked really hard, if they put everything into it, they might be able to save their company. But guess what? They couldn't, and to add insult to injury, all of those overtime hours those workers put in were not paid. They got their pink slip on a certain day. At 3 o'clock they were told that the plant was closing and everybody went home. And guess what? They were ripped off for those last couple of dollars that they had put in. So a wage earner protection fund is something we could do.
The bottom line is, there are many opportunities in this province that can be taken, many proactive initiatives that the government needs to look at. Unfortunately, they're happy to see companies like Rheem, Camco, Stelco, Hamilton Specialty Bar, Levi Strauss—on and on it goes—walk out the door. That's not acceptable to New Democrats.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Dave Levac (Brant): I'm going to spend a couple of minutes just to explain briefly what I'm going to attempt to talk about this evening, get to that job and then wrap up.
The first thing I'm going to do is express, on a personal note, that a repeat of a quote I made in this House—I would say it again, and I continue to say it: Anyone losing a job is a disaster. For hard-working people to spend their life—in a lot of the cases 20, 25, 15, 10, even five years—doing a job and then be told that through no fault of their own they can't have that job anymore is a disaster. It is unfortunate. It is something that we should all be working towards to try to see if we can prevent—the counterpoint that I would offer contrary to what the member from Hamilton East is trying to portray.
Unfortunately, the second thing that I will do is completely reject and deny some of the things that she's accosted us with, particularly me in my riding, where she shows up and fails to find out that I had a two-hour meeting with the company owner of Koolatron. Weeks before that, we announced a loan to the company to save 170 jobs, but she failed to mention that. She was conveniently trying to score political points here. I met not only with the union members, I met with the community at large about Koolatron to ensure that those jobs continue. Quite frankly, it's unfortunate that the member opposite tried to play the rhetorical game that nobody is as perfect as they are in terms of their ideas. It's quite unfortunate.
In this House, when we try to talk about debates, let's get into an actual debate instead of trying to score political points. I'll talk about the other issues that need to be referenced.
First of all the, the last piece that I will say is that the member from Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey has given us an opposition motion. I will not be in favour of it. That might sound like a surprise, that I'm not in favour of that particular motion. What's really interesting is that some of the members on the opposite side are trying to tell us that we've done nothing and that we have all the wrong ideas, yet they fail to suggest that there are some ways in which we can try to have the environment for economic prosperity. Let's go over some of those points.
Point number one: We have, whether it's acknowledged or not by the other side, by most people's judgment across the world, a world-class publicly funded health care system. That is a factor that companies look at. Better schools and higher test scores: The test scores have gone up, drop outs have gone down. What we're looking for is the signalling that an education system is another point companies look at in locating. We have a highly skilled workforce and we have new infrastructures that have been put in place. For instance, in universities and colleges, for the first time in Ontario's history, the largest sum ever given to the universities and colleges: a $6.2-billion Reaching Higher plan for post-secondary education.
On tax competitiveness, contrary to what's been said over this side—they've tried to tell you that our taxes on the business side are not right—Ontario's corporate taxes are lower than those of our main trading partners that we export our product to, the United States Great Lakes states. That's not acknowledged by the other side. The KPMG corporate tax review of 2006 also shows that Ontario has lower rates that Japan, Germany and Italy when you combine the corporate tax structures. That's something they don't want to acknowledge: There is a corporate environment here that is allowing people to stay.
The other thing we've not heard very much of is the investments, not just in the auto sector. The auto strategy infrastructure renewal by $5 million leveraged $7.2 billion of investment in the auto strategies. That's not explained.
Here's something else that I spoke of—and I'm not sure whether or not the members on the other side are aware of this. I think it did get mentioned by the member from Hamilton East for one of the very few moments in which she wasn't parochial in her comments. That was the export-import of autos. For instance, there are 361 cars from Korea coming into Ontario for every one car that gets exported to Korea. Let's talk to our federal cousins about whether we should be looking at that trade.
The federal law C-55—and she wants to bring up Genfast. It's a good thing she realizes that she was going down the wrong road if she was going to blame any government for that except for the federal government. C-55 already exists. It's got royal assent, and it would not have allowed those members of Genfast to be ripped off for over $3,000.
Ms. Horwath: What about their wages?
Mr. Levac: If the member Hamilton East would just listen for a moment—I was respecting her comments—I will do the same thing. In the Genfast situation, Bill C-55 would have protected $3,500 of those wages: the weeks of holiday pay, the weeks of overtime and the one week of work that they went through. If the Tory government at the federal level would have simply enacted Bill C-55, every single one of those workers would have received the money that was due to them. Quite frankly, the member wants to carp and bark and chirp and yell and scream, but she does not want to listen to the actual facts. The federal government had responsibility for Genfast workers losing every dime that was taken out of their pocket.
How many province-to-province free trade—
The Acting Speaker: I would ask the member for Hamilton East, the member for York South—Weston and the member for Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant to please come to order, and I'll return to the member for Brant.
Mr. Levac: I'm awfully sorry. I apologize for striking a nerve. I didn't really mean to do that. What I'm trying to do is make sure people understand that there are two sides to this story and the second side of this story is not being covered by this motion.
It's a little bit of a set-up to try to simply say that nobody cares. Nobody's got a monopoly on somebody losing jobs here. Quite frankly, what we have to also engage in is a Wal-Mart mentality of purchasing. Whether or not anybody wants to sit here and talk about it, let's start talking about that. If everybody has the mentality that everything must be cheaper, then we're going to have a hard time protecting those jobs, period, if we can't show a reason why that product can be bought cheaper.
The agreement for border crossings, whether or not it was mentioned over on this side, the United States border crossing issue, the actual physical infrastructure of getting over the border—but what about trade? What about the idea of making sure that the United States didn't move with the passport? Our Premier was mocked, our Minister of Tourism was mocked, because they stood up and said that this passport thing is a problem. We had a member on the other side who stood up and simply said, "We can't tell George Bush what to do. Leave it alone. He's going to do whatever he wants to do." Then we had Stephen Harper put his hands up and simply say, "Well, that's the United States. They get to do whatever they want. The trump card of 911 works." But guess what? They've now decided to exempt children from passports. Thirty-nine states have embraced the Minister of Tourism's original proposal of a driver's licence improvement to go across the border, so that trade can go back and forth easily and the economics of the tourism industry can be improved again. So, quite frankly, the idea was there. It floated and it worked.
Another thing I would make quite clear over here: We're also looking at the monetary policies not just of Canada but of the United States, China, Korea, Pakistan and India. So let's put our heads in the sand and pretend that no other external influences are out there as to why jobs are moving. Or else we can do the NDP's way of doing things: Let's put up a big giant firewall and not allow anybody in or out, and see if they can take care of business.
Quite frankly, I think this is a muted argument. This is nothing more than a little bit of fluff at the end of this term so that the Tories can sit back and say, "We're trying to protect the jobs." They've not offered us anything except one thing. Listen carefully. Both members who have spoken have said, "Oh, we've got too many rules and regulations. We've got too much red tape." What about health and safety? What about the environment? What about the safety of the workers themselves? What rules and regulations are you going to throw out? What are you going to get rid of in order to say that the manufacturers are going to stay? Are you going to lower wages? Are you going to get rid of health and safety? Are you going to get rid of environmental concerns? Tell me. Let's hear what you're going to do for the people to keep those companies there. Are you going to tell the branch office that they're not allowed to close a branch? Let's make sure that you know what you're talking about in offering us the solutions.
We've got so many plans going on right now. One hour after Genfast closed, we had the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities bring in his squad immediately to try to get to work on retraining and getting those people jobs. We're doing stuff and we've got a job. It's health care, it's education. There are many opportunities in here for us to improve.
Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds—Grenville): In contrast to the previous speaker—and I've only got two minutes so I can't rebut everything he said—I'll just give you two examples of where this Liberal government, on a consistent basis, does not recognize the challenges in the business community across this province. It shows up in so many ways.
I appeared before the justice committee a couple of weeks ago to talk about concerns of a company in my riding called Invista, which was formerly a DuPont operation. It's one of the major employers; it employs over 400 people. They were concerned about elements in the legislation dealing with the definition of consumptive use of water. The DuPont or Invista facility uses water out of the St. Lawrence as a cooling agent in the plant. One of the primary reasons they located there was the access to large volumes of deep and cold water. The majority of this water is borrowed and put back into the system.
I raised these concerns and the concerns that Invista itself put on the record in a letter to the government saying that with "the need to promote a strong economy ... and the importance of being competitive with other jurisdictions, the charges" this government is moving ahead with "have the potential to further reduce the hospitable nature of Ontario's business environment relative to other sites in which Invista is located around the globe." That's just a small portion of their concern. What kind of reaction did I get from the parliamentary assistant? He read a written response from the Minister of the Environment saying, "We take [this] seriously, but the notion of consumptive use remains a very critical part of this bill, and we won't be supporting the motion."
So there's 400 jobs. They don't seem to recognize the concerns with respect to this legislation getting ahead of the curve in terms of the other signatories on the Great Lakes water agreement. So not just this plant but others could be placed in a less competitive position when they have to compete with other businesses within their own company, let alone other competitors. We could be losing 400 jobs, and there doesn't seem to be any recognition, let alone concern, on the government benches. They sit there like robots reading letters written by some bureaucrat or someone in the office of the minister.
Another one which I've had recently with small businesses is the ban on the burning of waste oil in space heaters. This is an issue which is impacting so many small businesses in my region, and I'm sure across the province. All of these uses more than meet the requirements of the Ministry of the Environment. Yet, for political reasons, they're going ahead and damaging all of these businesses and putting some of them in jeopardy. That's the approach of this Liberal government in dealing with real concerns and real needs of business and ensuring that we can remain competitive and maintain jobs and attract jobs to this province. They are not doing their job. It is a crisis. As our leader, Mr. Tory, described earlier, this is a crisis. They have to recognize it, and they have to start doing something about it.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell): I am most pleased to have the opportunity today to talk about the manufacturing sector in Ontario, a sector that is really struggling at this time. Yes, we admit that the manufacturing sector is struggling in Ontario because of global competitive pressure, and we would like to see Ottawa, the feds, get involved in this sector.
I was just looking at job creation since the election of the McGuinty government. We have created 322,500 jobs since the election of the McGuinty government in October 2003. This means that we have created 2.5 jobs for every single job lost in Ontario. I have to say that probably those jobs that were created, they're not $40-an-hour jobs, but we have to be competitive. But I'm sure that many of those jobs are well-paid jobs. Minister Pupatello, along with Premier McGuinty, recently spearheaded major business missions to China, India and Pakistan to promote Ontario's manufacturing sector. We also opened seven new offices in different parts of the world to attract investors and also to be able to sell our products.
When I look at the budget of March 22 this year, the McGuinty government has recognized that something had to be done in the business and manufacturing sectors. This is why we came up with this business education property tax reduction. We will spend $540 million over the next seven years to balance this portion which was unfair. Surprisingly enough, when I looked at it—and I don't know if it's because the former Premier of Ontario in the previous government was living in the Parry Sound area—the tax on industry per $500,000 assessment was $47.70. And when I looked at Cornwall, for example, it was over $21,000. But this is an area that we said we would look at, and it is part of the budget this year that we want to be fair with every single municipality in Ontario to help out the manufacturers.
Another point we have taken a look at is the capital tax. We have said previously that we would eliminate the capital tax by 2012. It will be done by 2010. This year alone there will be a 5% reduction.
Also, the opposition keeps referring to the cost of electricity. I think everybody is aware—probably not the new people—that in 2002, people were paying up to 11.3 cents per kilowatt hour. I remember bank managers calling me and saying, "How can we afford to pay or to have a set budget for every month when we don't know what price we will be paying for electricity?" It's true. They came back and said, "We will freeze it at 4.3 cents a kilowatt hour." What a mistake they made. They told us they had a surplus every month. At that time, no one in Ontario or outside of Ontario wanted to invest in building a hydro generating station. They couldn't do it at 4.3 cents. Today we are managing. We are repairing what the previous government did. It is costing a lot of money.
A few weeks ago I met with a representative from the Niagara Advanced Material and Manufacturing Cluster in Welland—we know who the representative is down there—and found it encouraging to see that while the community understands there have been many job losses in manufacturing in Ontario, they are taking a positive approach and are looking for new markets for their products here in Ontario, across Canada or in any other part of the world.
By forming this cluster, they have brought together industrial leaders, municipal leaders, educational leaders and government, all focused on a common goal: to improve the economic climate for the manufacturing sector in Ontario. They have also discovered that within this manufacturing cluster in southern Ontario, they have found new markets for their products even within members of this cluster. They are now talking to one another and telling each other about the products their companies manufacture and have found that many times, another member of the cluster has a need for their product right within their own community.
They also spoke very positively about the recent business delegation with Minister Pupatello in Edmonton, and a few of them indicated that they've already signed contracts. They're planning to return, now that they are aware of the opportunities that are available to them in western Canada.
They met a representative of PCL. Everybody knows who PCL is: It is the number one construction industry in Ontario—in Canada. Also, they attended this forum in Welland. He gave them a long list of manufacturing products that they need to fulfill their contracts. He stated that they need manufactured products from Ontario manufacturers to complete these contracts.
I know it is not easy. There are many job losses in the manufacturing sector in Ontario, but I would recommend that Ontario manufacturers look seriously at clusters as a way to bring prosperity back to the manufacturing sector.
Every day Minister Pupatello talks to me about the importance of the manufacturing sector to Ontario's economy. By working together, we will make it a vibrant industry once again.
The McGuinty government has already come forward with a $500-million auto investment strategy for our automotive industry. We also have been helping manufacturing businesses across the province with our AMIS program, the advanced manufacturing investment strategy. The AMIS program provides interest-free loans to support our Ontario manufacturing sector. So far, we have announced eight projects that will generate almost $350 million in new investment. These projects will create or retain over 2,500 jobs across Ontario.
When I look at it, the McGuinty government will invest over $6 billion in universities and colleges. This would mean that we do understand that we need additional tradespeople. By investing in colleges and universities, we will meet the requirements.
When I see the difference in electricity between Ontario and Quebec, I just look at the number of jobs lost in Quebec in the forest industry. They lost more jobs than we did in the forest industry. They lost 7,349 jobs as of April 19, 2007, and we lost 6,692 jobs. These are very good examples.
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant): Last week, I watched 50 jobs disappear in downtown Hagersville as masked individuals with Mohawk warrior flags forced construction equipment off an 80-unit residential development. It only took four or five hours to shut it down. That day I watched intimidation trump the vague and ineffectual policy of Dalton McGuinty, a policy in place for the past 15 months, since the Caledonia occupation. The Caledonia subdivision was a much larger subdivision. I can only begin to imagine how many jobs we've lost with the demise of that development. Take a look at Dunnville, Cayuga, Brantford and possibly Kitchener-Waterloo. How many jobs or potential jobs have gone down the river?
Speaking of Brantford, we are seeing a tragic outflow of manufacturing jobs, partly fuelled by this government's illegal, dishonest tax hike and job-killing economic model. I think of three companies in Brantford—
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: The member has used language which is not parliamentary.
Mr. Barrett: I withdraw, sir.
I make mention of three specific companies in Brantford: Blue Bird, Westcast and GenFast. That's a total of over 600 jobs down the drain. In Simcoe, we're losing 167 jobs at Simcoe Leaf, and hundreds of tobacco farming positions, and another 150 jobs are gone at the tobacco board in Delhi. In Guelph, we saw 550 tobacco manufacturing jobs go up in smoke. In fact, Dalton McGuinty's member from Guelph—Wellington, Liz Sandals, celebrated that announcements by saying, "Our plan is working."
Delhi Foundry—closed. The three car dealerships in Delhi are closed. Delhi's licence bureau is now closed. TRW in Tillsonburg: Many of its employees are on notice and could be facing layoff.
Our farmers continue to be in crisis. But Dalton McGuinty's prescription is a $191-million cut to the ag budget, coupled with a plethora of rules and regulations, paperwork and more forms to fill out.
What about Dalton McGuinty's repeated promise—the broken promise—to throw 600 people out of work at OPG Nanticoke? For the workers at Nanticoke, the past three and a half years have been life in limbo: Do you buy a new house, do you buy a new car or do you go on that vacation when Dalton McGuinty is promising to throw you out of work at any time? This is unacceptable. There has to be a better way. There has to be a comprehensive plan.
Mr. John Yakabuski (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke): It's a pleasure to join the debate on this motion today. We've heard from many speakers about the catastrophic job losses in this province under the McGuinty government: 137,000 since 2005. In my riding there are 135 at Smurfit, around 100 at Commonwealth Plywood, 100 at Trimag by the end of this year, and Pfizer in Arnprior is planning to shut down in 2008. I'm also concerned with the potential job losses.
As well, there have been many smaller layoffs within the forestry sector. I'm very concerned about what's going to happen in the forestry sector with this government's plan to reduce and apparently, it looks like, eventually shut down logging in Algonquin Park. Logging predates the park itself. For people in my riding it is the primary industry that led to the opening of Renfrew county. You've heard the stories of the great J.R. Booth and the square timber era. All of that old white pine came out of the park and the surrounding area.
There are thousands of jobs in my riding that are dependent on Algonquin Park. They are good jobs. The average job in the forestry sector in Renfrew county pays 20% more than the average wage in the county outside of the forestry industry. That applies for all of the people surrounding the park as well.
Right now we have a proposal from the Ontario Parks board that would reduce and eventually eliminate logging in Algonquin Park. That would have a devastating effect, not only on my riding but on some other, surrounding ridings as well. I hope to hear from the member for Nipissing standing up for jobs in her riding, or maybe she's been told to be quiet on this one.
This is a very, very serious issue. I unfortunately don't have time to get into all of the details today because we have other speakers for whom I have to allow some time as well. But I hope that I have some time before this House rises to articulate those points in the strongest way possible to the minister. We have a situation in Algonquin Park with logging. The job has never been done better. It has never been more productive. Why are we trying to fix something that is certainly not broke? Shelve this plan before you shut down more jobs in rural Ontario. But it seems that this government doesn't care about rural Ontario.
The Acting Speaker: Further débat—debate?
Mr. Tim Hudak (Erie—Lincoln): A Freudian slip, Mr. Speaker.
I'm pleased to join the debate on the resolution standing in the name of John Tory, the leader of the Ontario PC Party, in support of bringing back manufacturing jobs in Ontario. Folks in the Niagara and Hamilton areas have been, sadly, the poster child for manufacturing job losses under Dalton McGuinty's regime. Since the days of Sir James Whitney, the Conservative Premier who made investments in hydroelectric facilities in Niagara Falls through the Beck sites, Niagara and Hamilton have always had a booming manufacturing sector, a manufacturing core, since just after the turn of the century before last.
Today, in Dalton McGuinty's Ontario, because of high taxes, runaway government spending and a hydro policy that is sending manufacturing rates through the roof, we have shed jobs, unfortunately, like Dalton McGuinty sheds promises.
I look at the list in our area—Stelco in Hamilton, 700 jobs; Slater Steel, Hamilton, 360 jobs; Dana auto parts, Thorold, 537 jobs; Hamilton Specialty Bar, 360 jobs; Port Weller Dry Docks, St. Catharines, 250 jobs; GDX Automotive, Welland, 200 jobs; Blue Bird Corp., just up the road in Brantford, 130 jobs; John Deere, Welland, 63 jobs; Cadbury Schweppes, 26 jobs—to name just a few. The casinos have also shed jobs under Dalton McGuinty: The Fort Erie Race Track, sadly, without a change in government policy, may face closure in 2008.
Certainly, it's time for the government to bring forward a real plan, to lower the tax burden on Ontario and Ontario businesses, to reduce red tape, and to have a hydro policy that's going to encourage supply as opposed to closing it down. I'm in strong support of Mr. Tory's resolution.
Mr. John Milloy (Kitchener Centre): It's a pleasure to participate in today's debate, but I must begin by confessing that I'm a little disappointed. Like all members in this House, we've seen what's happened in terms of manufacturing across the province. We've read about layoffs in communities in various parts of the province, and in our own communities we've had a chance to witness layoffs. Certainly we've seen it in the Waterloo region area. I've had a chance to sit with workers who've been laid off. I've had a chance to meet with company representatives. I've had a chance to look at what's happening in the manufacturing sector and express the concern that you've heard today. And the idea that we would come to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and have a mature, thoughtful debate about how we should deal with the restructuring, with the changes that are happening in the manufacturing sector, not only in Ontario but across North America and indeed the world, is something which I think has a lot of value to it.
I came here today to look for a motion that we could debate and discuss that contained in it certain elements: first, that acknowledged the fact that every single member of this Legislature is concerned. The idea that we've heard from across the way—that people on all sides of this House are not concerned with what's happening in their community, are not concerned when they meet workers who are laid off—is, in my mind, offensive. We are all concerned, and we are all looking for answers.
The second thing I would look for in a motion like this is an acknowledgment that, in the search for answers, there are no simple solutions. When one looks at what's happening in manufacturing—as I say, not only across North America but across the world—one realizes that there are changes taking place through globalization and there are changes taking place through trade patterns. One looks at all that and realizes that there are no simple answers.
I think the most apparent demonstration of the fact that there are no simple answers is what we've heard from the opposition today, which is nothing. We've heard rhetoric. We've heard, "Get a plan. Do something." From the NDP we've had, "Hire a jobs commissioner." I came in one day and decided to read Mr. Hampton's legislation to see the clues of how Mr. Hampton was going to solve it. You know what a jobs commissioner is?
Mr. Milloy: I hear my friend Mr. Yakabuski. A jobs commissioner is a bureaucrat: "Hire a bureaucrat who's going to go out and make things right and work with manufacturers and work with workers." They're going to make things right by doing the types of negotiations, the types of access-to-government programming which many, many qualified bureaucrats in MEDT and other ministries across the government do every day. So I have a hard time believing that we're going to find this magic jobs commissioner who's going to wave a magic wand and make everything right, because if that was the case, I can guarantee you that we would have hired 10 of them and we'd have no problem in this province. The simple fact is that there aren't simple answers because there are pressures coming at us from both within Ontario and outside of Ontario.
This leads to the third thing I would have looked for in a motion that we could have discussed with some maturity and some clarity today, and that is the role of the federal government. As I've attended meetings and rallies and town halls in my community, I've heard about problems with the rising Canadian dollar; I've heard of problems with unfair trade agreements. Yet when I read Mr. Tory's motion today, I see no mention of the federal government, no mention on the inaction that's happening in Ottawa, and no mention of the concern that I'm hearing, particularly from auto workers, about what's happening in terms of trade negotiations on the federal front.
Finally, when I look at this sort of motion, I want to see an acknowledgment of what this government has done in terms of manufacturing.
Mr. Milloy: Mr. Speaker, if the members will let me speak, I could continue.
The Acting Speaker: I'd ask the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke to refrain from heckling the member. He had his chance.
I'll return to the member for Kitchener Centre.
Mr. Milloy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I said, I'm looking for an acknowledgment of what this government has done, and maybe I can summarize what we've done in a quote. The Leader of the Opposition likes to come forward with quotes from newspapers, so I have one from the Toronto Star from Buzz Hargrove, the leader of the Canadian Auto Workers. Perhaps our members from the NDP—
Mr. Milloy: Oh, they laugh at the Canadian Auto Workers, do they? I'm very proud of the Canadian Auto Workers in my riding and what they've done. This is what Buzz Hargrove said: "Mr. McGuinty is the only political leader in the province or in the country who understands the importance of the manufacturing sector, especially the auto industry." Why does Mr. Hargrove say that? He says that because of what we've done.
In the short term, the immediate term—and it's been highlighted by other people who have participated in this debate today—when there is a layoff, we're there right away. We're there to help laid-off workers get retrained. We're there to give them the support they need.
When it comes to the medium term, it's working with existing manufacturing companies to make them as productive and as innovative as possible. It's about programs like AMIS and OAIS that we've heard about this afternoon: OAIS, which deals with the auto industry and which took $500 million and leveraged $7 billion worth of investment. Why haven't we heard about the new Toyota plant across the way? Even though it's in Woodstock, which is some miles away, it's affecting my community. People are finding jobs there. As well, we have the supply chain. In an area like Waterloo region, where we have part of the auto manufacturing supply chain, you're going to see spinoff jobs there. Why aren't people talking about new investments by Linamar in the Guelph area, which again is positively affecting my riding?
But you know what about the longer term? It's about making the most innovative, highly skilled, highly educated economy in the world, and that's what we're aiming for in Ontario. We've invested more money in post-secondary education than any government: $6.2 billion. That money hasn't simply gone for universities. It has also gone for skilled workers; it's gone for apprenticeships.
We've also invested money in research and innovation. We've seen the Premier put himself as Minister of Research and Innovation so that Ontario can be one of the most innovative economies going forward.
We realize the world is changing. We realize there is globalization. We realize that there are new pressures inside and outside the province, and we're going to embrace them. We're going to prepare our economy for the future. We're not going to stick our heads in the sand like the people across the way.
I wanted to come here today and talk about solutions to what's happening in the manufacturing sector. Instead, from across the way, all I've heard is hollow rhetoric.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mrs. Julia Munro (York North): In the brief time I have, I want to take a different tack than some of the other speakers we've heard this afternoon. I want to talk for a moment about the fact that all of these numbers, all of these statistics, all of these people, the 135,000 people across this province who have lost their jobs, are in fact not just statistics. They are real people. These are people whose families are going to suffer. These are people whose communities are going to suffer. I think that's something that needs to be emphasized.
I can give you one very simple example of the kind of spillover effect this has. I'm acquainted with a person in Thunder Bay who was laid off. His wife has her own business, but within a very brief time she began to see that those purse strings were being tightened by the various people, like her husband, whose jobs had disappeared, so she could see that her job was then in jeopardy. It's that kind of real-life example that we need to know. We need to understand that it's 135,000 people across this province, and the multiplier effect that that has should surely cause the government great concern.
The last speaker referred to the fact that he was disappointed that the official opposition wasn't doing the job of government, quite frankly, and coming up with solutions. Let me just pose the question about a government that's done nothing about an energy policy, that has only sent out confusion and contradictory remarks in terms of developing plans for an energy policy, whether the coal-fired plants are being closed or are being reinvested in. There's the question of nuclear power, the experiments in alternative energy. These are all things that are designed, quite frankly, to give business a great deal of concern over a stable energy source.
The regulatory burden is another area. We've seen it multiply significantly in the past three years. There's taxation, but I think most important is the infrastructure deficit of this government. Without roads, without proper infrastructure, business cannot thrive.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I'm proud to enter into the debate in the limited time. There are a couple of issues I want to point out.
One of the members opposite asked, "Well, where are your ideas?" We've introduced a couple of bills. One was to eliminate the fuel consumption tax. That would substantially help the auto sector. That would mean anywhere up to $7,000 or $8,000 per vehicle. It's about $50 million income. That will have a big impact on the sales.
One of the others was the notification for goods sold in the province of Ontario, at least in the auto sector, so that individuals and consumers had the choice to realize that "This vehicle was produced 85% in Ontario; this vehicle, only 15% in Ontario." It was a way to notify the consumer and give them more choice in what was taking place.
Some of the other aspects that have been brought forward: the taxation on ethanol. It's had a huge impact as a disincentive for the E-85 being produced in Oshawa to be sold in Canada, which is very costly. It could be an incentive to promote the E-85 as a vehicle of choice in the province and in Canada, but now it's a disincentive with the taxation. I was opposed to that.
Some of the others: We now have, or we've always had, just-in-time delivery service. With the cost of fuel, though, companies are now trying to relocate closer so that they reduce their fuel costs and their transportation costs. Why not come forward with relocation proposals for these companies so that they can relocate to reduce that just-in-time delivery cost?
We talked about the colleges and universities, but one of the significant areas that's not being addressed by the government or anybody at this particular time is the skilled trades. There is a huge number of individuals in the skilled trades required in all sectors, and they are not being filled. We need some major incentives in the skilled trades areas to deal with this particular issue.
We've spoken about a couple of other things, such as the disincentives or the non-trade tariffs. For example, in Korea, insurance for a non-domestic vehicle is far more expensive than for a domestically made vehicle, which is a disincentive to purchase ours. We have to eliminate those or, as a matter of fact, maybe create some in Ontario so that we can compete with those other countries.
In closing, I just want to ask: If you are willing to purchase goods produced at a substantially reduced wage, when are you going to be willing to accept those wages they are produced at?
The Acting Speaker: The time available for debate on this motion has now expired.
Mr. Tory has moved opposition day motion number 5. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the nays have it.
Call in the members. This will be a 10-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1748 to 1758.
The Acting Speaker: Mr. Tory has moved notice of motion number 5. All those in favour of the motion will please rise.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Tascona, Joseph N.
The Acting Speaker: All those opposed to the motion will please rise.
Bradley, James J.
Chambers, Mary Anne V.
Racco, Mario G.
Takhar, Harinder S.
Van Bommel, Maria
Wynne, Kathleen O.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 24; the nays are 41.
The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion lost.
This House stands adjourned until 6:45 p.m., later on this evening.
The House adjourned at 1801.
Evening meeting reported in volume B.