LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Monday 4 June 2007 Lundi 4 juin 2007
The House met at 1330.
WEARING OF PINS
Mr. Bruce Crozier (Essex): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: On behalf of the International Diabetes Federation and the Canadian Diabetes Association, I ask for unanimous consent for members to wear the blue "Unite for diabetes" pin in the Legislature today.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand–Norfolk—Brant): Welcome to Ontario, land of broken promises and tax hikes. Dalton McGuinty is again promising not to raise our taxes. In today's National Post we read a headline, "McGuinty Pledges Not to Raise Taxes." This is déjà vu all over again. In 2003, Dalton McGuinty went on TV to promise he wouldn't raise our taxes and then brought in the largest personal income tax increase in the history of Ontario, the health tax, where you pay more and you get less; raised taxes on employers; raised taxes for parents who send their children to independent schools; hiked taxes on seniors; cancelled the personal income tax cut; eliminated the increase of the personal surtax threshold; hiked tobacco taxes; tripled the taxes on the diamond mine up near Attawapiskat; and don't forget the increased electricity rates and increased driver's licence fees.
An increased fee is a tax, a cancelled tax cut is essentially a tax, a health tax is a tax, and a promise from Dalton McGuinty appears to be—proves to be—a future broken promise. So I put out a word of warning: There is a serial promise breaker on the loose. He's considered armed and dangerous: armed with a Liberal caucus and dangerous to your wallet. His name is Dalton McGuinty. He goes by the alias of Pinocchio, and when you see him, his pants are usually on fire.
Ms. Jennifer F. Mossop (Stoney Creek): I rise today to point out a small change in the rules around the consumption of wine in this province. For a long time you could go to a winery, you could enjoy all the things that were there, but you could only buy a bottle of wine. You couldn't buy a glass of wine to wander around in the vineyards and the lovely areas, but now you can. This government has moved to allow people when they visit a winery to buy a glass of good wine from Ontario and enjoy it while they're visiting.
I want to take this opportunity, which might be one of my last to speak in this Legislature this session, to raise a glass of good Ontario wine to all the remarkable people who work inside this building—from Harold in the northeast parking lot, to all the people in security, the pages, the folks at the table, our foodservices, our cleaning staff, everybody who is so amazingly kind and professional, who have made this experience for me very special.
I also want to comment on not just the people in this Legislature, who are here mostly because they believe in something and so they have become political, but on the people in my riding and across this province who will never make a headline but work every day, through their work, through volunteerism, to make this society of ours a more civilized and wonderful place. It has been an honour and a privilege to work alongside them to make those improvements.
In my maiden speech, I wondered if I might have made a grave personal and professional error in doing this, but I have not. I have no regrets. It has been an honour.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Coming once again to a television near you: More promises that you can't believe from Dalton McGuinty. Almost four years ago, Dalton McGuinty's advertising friends put together a slick commercial where Dalton made his memorable promise. We all remember Dalton McGuinty standing in front of a red brick wall looking Ontarians in the eye in living rooms across the province and saying, "I won't raise your taxes, but I won't lower them either."
The people of Ontario believed him. Then, in record time, Dalton McGuinty broke that promise with the single largest tax hike in Ontario history. He went ahead with the tax hike even though he had to change the law to do it. He had to amend the Taxpayer Protection Act, the very law that was meant to protect Ontario's taxpayers from people like him.
Now he has the nerve to make the same promise again, but he says he really means it this time. He says that he won't break it this time, and he expects Ontarians to believe him again. The people of Ontario are smarter than that. They have seen this movie before, and they know how badly it ends. They know that Dalton McGuinty tried to make fools of them, they know that the Dalton McGuinty government will say anything to get re-elected, and they know that a man is only as good as his word. People should be able to believe their politicians, but after breaking more than 50 promises, Dalton McGuinty has proven he is untrustworthy. No amount of slick advertising and fancy commercials will make the people of Ontario trust Dalton McGuinty or believe his promises again.
The reviews are in, the movie bombed at the box office—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you.
EVENTS IN NIPISSING
Ms. Monique M. Smith (Nipissing): It was a busy weekend in Nipissing this past weekend. On Friday and Saturday, hundreds of Callander residents, young and old, and visitors from across the province enjoyed Celtfest, which I'm proud to say is the only Scottish-Celtic festival of its kind in northern Ontario. Since its creation, the festival has attracted more than 5,000 visitors and participants directly to our community. I'd like to thank the organizers—Colleen Porter and all of her great team, as well as the town of Callander, for hosting such a fabulous event over the weekend.
On Saturday morning, I was out in Commanda at the Commanda Community Centre auction to help fundraise to support the community centre. There were incredible items up for auction, and I'm delighted to announce that they raised over $5,400 to benefit their community centre. Congratulations to Carol Hoffman and her great team, who put together such a successful event.
Also on Saturday, in Powassan, the Powassan Country Depot held a benefit in support of Justin Byers and his family. Justin, just six days before his 16th birthday, had an injury in school and is now facing life as a paraplegic. I'm pleased to tell the House that this benefit, along with several others in the Powassan community, has raised well over $40,000 for Justin's family. I want to, please, note for the House today that Morgan and Maddison McIsaac, together with their parents, Karen and Peter, are here today. Morgan and Maddison, who go to Mapleridge Public School in Powassan, participated in a volleyball-a-thon which raised over $3,000 for Justin Byers and his family.
There's so much great work going on in my riding. I'm proud to be a part of it and look forward to attending many more events in—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you.
Mrs. Julia Munro (York North): Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all of the time." The Premier fooled all the people of Ontario in the last election, when he said he would not raise our taxes. He gave his solemn word that he would not introduce any new taxes and that he would not raise existing taxes without the consent of voters. He did not keep his word even though he promised in writing, on September 11, 2003, that he would not raise taxes. He claims it was because Ernie Eves left behind a deficit, yet his own party claimed that the deficit in 2003 would be $5 billion, months before the election was held. And they claimed, up until budget day in 2004, that they would not raise taxes.
They broke their promise on taxes, as they have broken their promises on so many other issues. They fooled all of us in 2003. They will not fool us again.
Ms. Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): Today I had the pleasure to visit the Changing Diabetes bus, which had been travelling around the world, raising awareness about diabetes and encouraging people to take action on their own behalf to change the future of diabetes. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, there are over 800,000 Ontarians living with the disease, and the number is expected to rise to 1.5 million by 2016.
It's important that Ontarians learn about diabetes and how best to manage it. Prevention is critical to avoid serious complications such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, blindness and amputations.
That said, each and every day, people with diabetes experience many medical and financial burdens, and they deserve our support. Living with diabetes costs money, and OHIP does not cover all that is needed. It's difficult for many to afford to buy healthy foods while also paying out of pocket for medications, devices and supplies to help manage diabetes. Approximately 25% of Ontarians with diabetes say they cannot afford to buy the medications, devices and supplies prescribed by their doctor. Only eight of the 17 diabetes medications approved as safe and effective for care are available to Ontarians under the Ontario drug benefit plan. Yet, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association, for every dollar invested in government up front in helping people manage their disease, $4 is saved across the health care system in treating later diabetes complications.
We need to expand fair and equitable access to medications, devices, supplies and other social assistance supports such as ODSP, OW, special diet and the Trillium drug program, and we need to do it now.
Mr. Kevin Daniel Flynn (Oakville): I rise in the House today with a wonderful story to acknowledge a very special constituent of mine in Oakville who should be an example to us all. His name is Jack Yeilding and he's four years old. Jack has epilepsy, but he recently decided he was going to help the Sick Kids Foundation by raising money to help those in need at the hospital. This remarkable four-year-old organized a garage sale and lemonade stand, which was held on May 26. His original goal was to raise $1,000. He has raised, to date, $13,000 for Sick Kids hospital, with more donations still coming in.
His commitment to Sick Kids has resulted in their inviting Jack to now be an official ambassador of the hospital, and the Toronto Argonauts have invited Jack to their home opener as their guest.
On behalf of the entire Legislature, I'd like to congratulate Jack. We're all very proud of your accomplishment and your desire to help those who are in need.
On the afternoon of the event, it was attended by the mayor of Oakville, and all the firefighters from Oakville showed up with a fire truck. Nancy Clark, my former assistant, who has epilepsy herself, showed up and had a wonderful conversation with Jack's mother. The paramedics showed up and brought a donation as well. Just about everyone in the community chipped in to help this young man, who, as I said at the start, should be an example to all of us in this House.
Mrs. Carol Mitchell (Huron—Bruce): I rise in the Legislature today to congratulate an outstanding young man from my riding on a wonderful achievement. Ben Underwood, a grade 7 student at Turnberry Central Public School, was awarded top honours in the junior division at the Canada Wide Science Fair in Truro, Nova Scotia, this past month. Ben's project, titled Cultivating Cultivators, was judged to be the top project at the fair and earned Ben a platinum medal for his efforts. Ben was also honoured with a gold medal at the awards ceremony on Friday, May 18. Ben's project was one of 200 others in the junior division who had earned their way to the national competition following success in their respective districts from across the country.
Ben was awarded $1,500 for the gold medal award and $5,000 for the platinum award. In addition to this, Ben was also awarded a $2,000 scholarship to the University of Western Ontario to further his studies upon graduation.
These accolades are nothing new to Ben's parents as his brother Matthew has also won several honours in science fair competitions. Ben is also in attendance today for the annual Sci-Tech Ontario Queen's Park Science Fair.
I would like to recognize two other young men from my riding here for the science fair: Salomon Appavoo and Grant Sparling.
I ask this House to join with me in congratulating these exceptional young men on their recent achievements.
Mr. Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay—Superior North): I rise in the House today to highlight the health care renaissance that's occurring in northwestern Ontario.
Since taking office, the McGuinty government has invested more than $83 million in our communities to increase access to home care, hospital services and primary care. While the Tories closed hospitals across the north, our government is opening new ones and adding brand new services. For the first time ever, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will provide angioplasty services. Wilson Memorial General Hospital in Marathon will provide cataract surgeries, and a new long-term-care facility will be built at McCausland Hospital in Terrace Bay. Our historic investment in northern hospitals will ensure that people in my riding and, indeed, all those across the north are able to receive better care closer to home.
Our residents also have more access to more doctors thanks to our family health teams. To date, more than 12,000 northerners who previously did not have access to a family doctor now do.
Our government's record stands in stark contrast to that of the previous government, which cut funding to Thunder Bay district hospitals by 18%. Presently, the Conservative health care platform consists of slashing $2.5 billion from our health care budget. That, sadly and suspiciously, sounds like the same old story; just a different Tory.
Ms. Deborah Matthews (London North Centre): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would like to welcome three guests I have in the members' gallery today: Ryan Major from St. John School in London, Ontario; his mom, Veronica McAlea-Major, from London; and his aunt from Sarnia, Marie Ceponis. Welcome to you all.
Hon. Laurel C. Broten (Minister of the Environment): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I want to acknowledge a couple of my constituents from the great riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore who are here: Jay and Terri Brown, who are the parents of our page from Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Liam Brown. Welcome.
Ms. Jennifer F. Mossop (Stoney Creek): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would like to acknowledge the presence of the president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce joining us today in the members' gallery: Sophia Aggelonitis. Welcome.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON
REGULATIONS AND PRIVATE BILLS
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): I beg leave to present the first report, 2007, from the standing committee on regulations and private bills and move its adoption.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Agreed? Agreed.
Does the member wish to make a brief statement?
Ms. Horwath: Yes, I do, Mr. Speaker, and I thank you very much. I simply want to thank the members of committee for the work they have done on presenting this report today. I want to thank legislative counsel and legislative research for the assistance they gave to committee members in doing the committee's work. I want to thank the clerks as well, the Hansard people, the communications people and everyone that it takes to do the work and business of a committee. I thank them very, very much.
At this point, I want to move the adjournment of the debate.
The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
SIMCOE DAY ACT, 2007 /
LOI DE 2007 SUR LE JOUR DE SIMCOE
Mr. Barrett moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 234, An Act to amend the Municipal Act, 2001 to name Civic Holiday Simcoe Day / Projet de loi 234, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2001 sur les municipalités de façon à désigner le congé civique comme Jour de Simcoe.
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. Toby Barrett (Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant): My inspiration for this proposed legislation is John Graves Simcoe. The bill amends the Municipal Act, 2001. If a local or regional municipality passes a bylaw declaring the first Monday in August in every year as a retail business holiday, the day shall be known as Simcoe Day, in addition to the name, if any, that the bylaw declares for that day. The short title for this proposed legislation is the Simcoe Day Act, 2007.
ONTARIO SOCIAL ASSISTANCE
RATES ACT, 2007 /
LOI DE 2007 SUR LES TAUX
D'AIDE SOCIALE DE L'ONTARIO
Mr. McMeekin moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 235, An Act to establish the Ontario Social Assistance Rates Board / Projet de loi 235, Loi établissant la Commission ontarienne des taux d'aide sociale.
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. Ted McMeekin (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot): I believe it's time—in fact, well past time—for this bill, a bill which establishes an Ontario Social Assistance Rates Board with the function of providing specific recommendations annually regarding social assistance rates under the Ontario Works Act, 1997, and the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997.
LIQUOR LICENCE STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT
(LIQUOR LABELS), 2007 /
LOI DE 2007 MODIFIANT DES LOIS EN CE QUI A TRAIT AUX PERMIS D'ALCOOL (ÉTIQUETAGE DES BOISSONS ALCOOLIQUES)
Mr. Arnott moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 236, An Act to amend the Liquor Licence Act and the Liquor Control Act / Projet de loi 236, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les permis d'alcool et la Loi sur les alcools.
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. Ted Arnott (Waterloo—Wellington): I'm very pleased that the Minister of Government Services, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Health Promotion are present in this House. I'm sure that each of these ministers would agree with me that we need to do more to raise awareness about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
This bill that I've introduced this afternoon would amend the Liquor Licence Act and the Liquor Control Act to require sellers and manufacturers to affix a warning label to containers of liquor cautioning pregnant women about the risks of alcohol consumption.
I would appreciate the support from all members of this House on this bill.
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): 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 Monday, June 4, 2007, for the purpose of considering government business.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Mr. Bradley has moved government notice of motion number 375. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All in favour will say "aye."
All opposed will say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1356 to 1401.
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.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Flynn, Kevin Daniel
Mossop, Jennifer F.
Racco, Mario G.
Takhar, Harinder S.
Van Bommel, Maria
The Speaker: All those opposed will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Runciman, Robert W.
Tascona, Joseph N.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 46; the nays are 24.
The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
APPOINTMENT OF HOUSE OFFICERS
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): I'd like to bring to the attention of the members of the House the following appointments that have been made to the list of officers who serve the House:
Effective March 22, 2007, Lisa Freedman assumed new responsibilities as Clerk of Journals and procedural research.
Effective today, Tonia Grannum assumes responsibilities as Clerk of Committees, and she will serve at the table in a permanent capacity.
I'm certain that all members will join me in congratulating Ms. Freedman and Ms. Grannum as they assume their responsibilities. Congratulations, and welcome.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): For more than 20 years, this House has recognized Seniors' Month as a time to celebrate the contributions that older Ontarians have made and continue to make to our province: as leaders in our communities, mentors and volunteers, as friends and family. Throughout June, communities across the province are hosting awards ceremonies, information fairs, seminars and socials to honour their elders in keeping with this fine tradition.
I rise in the House today to tell you about some seniors I met last Thursday who give a whole new meaning to OLD: Ontarians living dynamically. Our Search for Senior Stars last Thursday gave us a glimpse of some amazingly talented people who all deserve applause for their willingness to embrace life. There was Mary Watts, who danced her way to first place; Charles Hayter, who sang and danced his way to second; and singer Lenny Martin, who took third place even though his taped accompaniment didn't work. These senior stars are shining examples of keeping active and involved. Sharing their talents contributes not only to their own quality of life but to their communities.
This is the essence of the theme of this year's Seniors Month—Active Living: Share Your Experience. Canada's seniors are living up to this year's theme not only by keeping physically active but by volunteering. According to the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, seniors volunteered a total of 179 million hours in the year 2000. They volunteered in arts, culture and recreation organizations, social service organizations and religious organizations.
Our government appreciates the contributions seniors make to our community and continues to recognize their work. In fact, tomorrow Ontario will be honouring 141 Orillia-area volunteers at the Volunteer Service Awards. The honourees include a number of seniors who are being recognized for 60 years of volunteer service. These volunteers are only a few of the older Ontarians who have helped build our province and who have worked hard and continue to contribute to the prosperity that we all enjoy today. All this to say: Seniors are important to Ontario.
I know that every member of this Legislature works hard to support seniors in their constituencies and all across Ontario. This government is committed to helping improve the quality of life for seniors.
There are about 1.6 million seniors in Ontario today. That number is expected to double to 3.2 million in the next 20 years. People are staying active in their senior years. They are staying strong-willed, independent and socially engaged. Ontarians are remaining healthy throughout their later years. Of course, many need services to assist them to continue living actively.
That is why our government is working on several levels to support seniors. To cite a few examples, we have made considerable progress with our wait times strategy. As of May 2007, our figures have shown reductions in knee replacements by 27%, cataract surgeries by 49%, cancer surgeries by 14% and hip replacement surgeries by 28%. We have also made substantial investments in home care and have eliminated mandatory retirement, recognizing that, while we have made progress in these areas, there is always more work to be done.
Seniors' Month is our collective way of acknowledging and thanking seniors for their tremendous contributions to our province. Each year, we develop materials to help our increasingly diverse communities promote Seniors' Month, including a poster now available in 19 languages, from Spanish, Arabic and Chinese to Cree, Tamil, Urdu and others.
In closing, I encourage all Ontarians to thank their lucky stars—their own senior stars, whether that's an older relative, neighbour, friend or colleague. Thank them for making Ontario one of the best places in the world to live.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Response?
Mr. Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): On behalf of John Tory and all members of the Progressive Conservative caucus, I congratulate all seniors in Ontario. June is Seniors' Month, a time to honour and celebrate the contributions made by our parents, grandparents and all seniors in our communities and province. Our great province and its prosperity was built by hard-working senior citizens, whose contributions have secured our and our children's future.
I'm proud to share that in my riding of Cambridge seniors are active and vital contributors to the fabric of our community. Each day, thousands of seniors come together at three seniors' centres—the David Durward Centre, the Ted Wake Lounge and the Allan Reuter Centre—to take part in a variety of recreational projects. These centres have existed for many years. They maintain a warm and welcoming environment that promotes companionship, peer support and opportunities to keep individuals mentally and physically active.
Cambridge is the proud home of the Ancient Mariners Canoe Club, a travel club for seniors; the Cambridge Seniors Woodworking Club; the Cambridge Seniors Choir; the Cambridge Mall Walkers; and the Chesley Lake Campers.
Recently in my riding, the Ancient Mariners Canoe Club hosted a canoe trip down the Grand River for a group of first-year medical students who were spending the weekend in Cambridge. It was wonderful to see these young, eager students learning from the seniors of Cambridge.
I'm also proud to share with you information about a seniors' education day that I host annually for the senior citizens of Cambridge. This event is attended by hundreds of seniors who come to learn and be entertained. The focus of the event is educating my senior constituents about issues such as fraud prevention and protection against other scams. Of course, the entertainment is also a big reason why this event is a sellout year after year.
This year's event will be held on Friday, June 15, at the Cambridge Newfoundland Club, and I should say that the club is contributing the club premises at no cost to the seniors. The speakers this year will include Yvonne Heltke of the Waterloo Regional Police fraud branch; John Grotheer, president and CEO of Cambridge and North Dumfries Hydro; Monica Morrison of Community Support Connections, formerly Meals on Wheels; city councillors Linda Whetham and Karl Kiefer, who will be explaining the programs for seniors offered by the city; Cathy Downer of the Caregiver Support Program of Cambridge; and Adam Timoon, a guitarist and comedian, who will provide entertainment. Adam was the headliner at the old Seaway Hotel in Toronto for many years, and he is contributing his services in entertaining the seniors. Also, our disc jockey is Christopher Kekes, a good friend of mine and a member of our local Kinsmen Club. He always plays some great music for the seniors.
As it is Seniors' Month, I want to take this opportunity to salute and thank our seniors for their commitment to healthy living and building healthy communities.
Ms. Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): On behalf of New Democrats, it's my pleasure to respond to the statement made by the minister responsible for seniors. It is Seniors' Month, and it's important that we recognize the enormous contribution that has been made to Ontario by Ontario seniors to the economic, social, cultural and artistic fabric of this province.
So many have made incredible sacrifices in two world wars and other international conflicts to safeguard the values and freedoms that we enjoy today. So many, through their working lives, have played a key role in the creation of the public institutions that we use and cherish. And so many, after they retired from paid work, have then spent thousands and thousands of volunteer hours supporting non-profit organizations in our communities to do the important work that they do. So we are indebted to Ontario seniors and it is fitting that we honour them in Ontario during the month of June.
If the government was really interested in honouring our seniors during the month of June, the government could do some of the following:
Number one, keep your election promise. In the last election, the Liberals said that they were going to invest in better nursing home care, providing an additional $6,000 in care for every resident. As of the last budget, the government has only invested $2,300 of the promised $6,000 for the frail and elderly who live in Ontario's long-term-care homes.
Here is what the Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors had to say on budget day, March 22, 2007. "In the lead up to the last election, the Liberals identified increased funding for long-term care—funding that would go directly to improving the level of care of residents—as one of their top priorities. Today, they failed to keep their word. This is a huge disappointment, especially after the Liberals promised after coming to power that they would lead a revolution in long-term care," stated Donna Rubin, executive director. The government only has a few months to go and a large financial commitment to make. We'll see whether or not this promise gets kept.
Another promise that the government made during the election was to reinstate hands-on care per resident per day for all seniors in Ontario long-term-care homes. As I stand here today, there is no standard of hands-on care for any senior in any home in this province, despite the election promise. There hasn't been a standard in place since 1996, when the Conservatives cancelled the standard of care that had been put in place by the NDP government. We heard again and again during the course of the public hearings on Bill 140 that there had to be a standard of care and that it should be 3.5 hours of hands-on care per resident per day. The United Senior Citizens of Ontario told the government that last year, and the government didn't respond. We don't have a standard of care in place. The government says they're going to do it by regulation. I don't know when, I don't know how, I don't know how many hours it will be, but certainly that election promise hasn't been kept either.
The government's own seniors' advisory committee, on March 22, 2005, passed a motion calling on this government to establish a seniors' ombudsman for long-term-care home residents and people receiving home care services. I just want to quote their letter to the honourable Minister of Health and the honourable minister responsible for seniors. On August 18, 2005, they said:
"Representing more than one million seniors, the members of SACLTC support having a seniors' ombudsman to advocate for long-term care (LTC) home residents, and to resolve consumer complaints about home care provided within Ontario communities. We feel the current system, which relies solely on government staff, is simply not responsive enough to ensure seniors' rights are protected.... We recommend the ombudsman be independent of any ministerial control or influence, and would have the power to investigate concerns and ... direct the government to take remedial action...."
I moved, during the course of the committee hearings on Bill 140, that there would be an ombudsman in place, and the government voted it down. So much for this government listening to its own seniors' advisory committee.
The government has been told the following repeatedly by the United Senior Citizens of Ontario. For example, with respect to P3 hospitals: "The USCO calls on the Premier and his government to immediately put an end to all P3 hospitals in the province of Ontario."
Secondly, with respect to the health care tax: "The government of Ontario must re-examine this tax. It is wrong, and the USCO strongly urges the government to withdraw this punitive tax."
Number three, delisting of services like chiropractic and eye exams: "The United Senior Citizens of Ontario implore the Ontario government to re-examine these issues."
The list goes on and on.
Yes, it is absolutely right that during the month of June we pay tribute to those seniors who have contributed so much to the development of this province. But if this government really wants to put its money where its mouth is, this government would keep its promise on funding for long-term-care homes, this government would keep its promise on reinstating minimum standards, this government would listen to its own advisory council and establish an ombudsman for long-term care, and the government would deal with the other recommendations that have been made by the United Senior Citizens of Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Today we have in the Speaker's gallery the US Special Envoy of the Secretary of State for Wildlife Trafficking Issues. Help me welcome Bo Derek as our guest.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): Mr. Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent for all parties to speak for up to five minutes to recognize the passing of a former member of this House.
The Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod (Nepean—Carleton): We were talking about the movie 10, which I never saw because apparently I hadn't been born yet. They're all making fun of me here.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod (Nepean—Carleton): On behalf of John Tory and the Progressive Conservative caucuses both past and present, I'm honoured to be able to spend a few minutes to remark on the outstanding contribution of Robert "Bob" MacQuarrie.
I want to first remark that I feel a certain kinship with Bob MacQuarrie. On the day of his visitation, I was able to become acquainted with his family, his friends and many of his colleagues and I learned a number of wonderful things about him, which I'll share with you in a few minutes.
Bob MacQuarrie and I shared a few things in common. Bob and I were both born in the Maritimes. He was from Prince Edward Island, and I'm from Nova Scotia. We both made our homes in Canada's capital—which is every Canadian's second hometown—and we raised our families there. We both became involved in civic affairs. Both of us felt compelled to serve our communities—he, from 1959 until 1985 in various capacities, whether it was with the school board, the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton or as reeve of the township of Gloucester, and, of course, finally as MPP for Carleton East.
Our paths never crossed until his passing, but since then I have learned an awful lot about and from Bob MacQuarrie.
As I mentioned, Bob served as the Progressive Conservative MPP for Carleton East from 1981 until 1985. Under Premier Davis's leadership, he was parliamentary secretary to both the Attorney General and Solicitor General of the day. It was then that Bob secured the capital funding for one of the most important projects in Orleans: the Orleans Boulevard overpass.
But Mr. MacQuarrie will be known and respected and remembered for so much more than his good work in this Legislature. He was a community builder.
He built the former township of Gloucester by becoming a pioneer in structured municipal planning.
He built a diversified economic base for the township of Gloucester so that it would become more than a bedroom community.
He built expanded recreational services and facilities in Ottawa's east end. One such facility was the Pine View Municipal Golf Course, where he would later be memorialized.
Former PC MP and National Capital Commission chair Jean Piggott, a friend of mine and Mr. MacQuarrie's, once said of Bob, "He was a dedicated public servant who gave richly of his time to help build the fast-growing municipality then known as the township of Gloucester."
Bob MacQuarrie was also a community leader.
He led the fight against the National Capital Commission's idea for a so-called model community at Carlsbad Springs.
He also led the township of Gloucester in attaining its own provincial legislation to increase green spaces and parks, which I can say the constituents of ours in Ottawa still benefit from today.
Betty Stewart, Bob's predecessor, said upon his retirement as Gloucester reeve, "MacQuarrie is usually three steps ahead of everyone else." I would say that's a pretty good place to be: three steps ahead of everyone else. But those who would know this best are Bob MacQuarrie's family and friends and his constituents.
On the occasion of his visitation on January 16 at Pine View Municipal Golf Course, I was fortunate to get to know some of Bob's family and his constituents.
For a so-called rookie in this Legislature, attending Bob's memorial was a good lesson for me. Bob showed me what the true measure of a politician really is. It's true, Bob had a distinguished and lengthy career in politics, and although Bob was successful politically, it's not going to be what people remember about Bob.
I learned from Bob MacQuarrie, albeit after his passing, that the true measure of a politician is more than just winning an election and carrying out the duties we are asked to do to serve the public. Rather, Bob taught me that it is the sincerity of every action, the attention to the little things that matter to our constituents and the genuine affection toward our communities that makes a person like Bob so special.
Yes, Bob MacQuarrie did his job. He built a city and he rose to some of the highest offices in our community. But those accomplishments pale in comparison to how Bob MacQuarrie conducted himself. What set Bob apart from the rest of the pack was his decency. His constituents remembered him as a man who was always kind, a man who always had a nice thing to say, a man who always kept his word.
He was humble too. Wesley J. Clark wrote to the city of Ottawa, saying that Bob MacQuarrie believed that everyone ought to receive fair and equal treatment regardless of their station. Bob was in many ways what everyone in this Legislature aspires to be.
During the wake for Bob MacQuarrie, I met a gentleman who had worked at the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton for Mr. MacQuarrie. He told me how extraordinary Bob really was. He told me that Bob's common touch was not so common anymore and he told me that Bob was a different kind of politician, one that everyone liked and respected, because Bob, in the smallest of ways, made him feel important. Bob was decent, genuine and sincere, he told me. That is how Bob MacQuarrie was remembered by his constituents.
On behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party and John Tory, I want to extend to Bob MacQuarrie's family, those in the gallery today, a heartfelt thank you for such a wonderful man and for how much he contributed to our party, to the people of Ontario, and more specifically for sharing him with the people of Gloucester and Carleton East. As they'd say in the Maritimes, Bob, you done good for yourself, b'y.
Mr. Gilles Bisson (Timmins—James Bay): I rise on behalf of my leader, Howard Hampton, and the New Democratic caucus to extend to the family and to those who knew Bob the best our condolences.
I did not know Bob personally, obviously because I got here in 1990. He left this place quite suddenly in 1985, so I didn't get an opportunity to know him. But what I found by researching the Internet this morning was something that I think speaks volumes to his time in politics generally, at the municipal level, the school board level and then the provincial level, and that is that he was a fellow who always understood where he came from. What was really remarkable in reading what I saw on the Internet today was that he was a type of guy who would walk out into the street and if somebody looked his way or somebody tried to get his attention, he always had the time to step over and say, "How can I help you? What can I do?"
I'm looking at Mrs. MacQuarrie, and I've got to say that those must have been pretty tough times, because sharing your husband, sharing your father, sharing your grandfather with the public is not an easy thing to do. We want to, on behalf of the constituents he represented at the municipal, school board and provincial levels, thank you for allowing us to borrow him for some time, allowing his attention sometimes to be diverted from the family and to serve the community.
What's really remarkable, as my colleague said a little bit earlier, is how quickly after he moved from PEI to Ontario that he got elected into municipal office. As practising politicians, we know that it's hard to get elected in a new community. Moving into Gloucester and some five years later being elected to municipal council and staying there for all of those years in various capacities, serving as an alderman, a deputy reeve, a reeve, a school board trustee, a school board chair and eventually the member of provincial Parliament, says that this man got to know a lot of people in that community in that short period of five years, but what's more important, that people liked what they saw. I think that says something about the individual.
The other thing that I want to say, and it has to be said, is that he was three steps ahead of his time in a number of ways. One of the things that I can particularly relate to as a person who has had an opportunity to go to Gloucester a number of times, because my brother lives there, on Alboro Crescent, is the work that was done under his leadership and others to make sure that not only Gloucester but eventually the city of Ottawa became very green cities as far as green spaces. As you travel around the city of Ottawa from Gloucester and work your way out, it's pretty apparent that there was some planning that was done early on in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s to make sure that, as Ottawa expanded, we took the time in that community to say, "Let's not just build a whole bunch of residential complexes. Let's not just allow development to happen wherever it's going to go. Let's make sure to plan this in some way so that we can build a greener city, a city where we can enjoy being able to walk with our loved ones or go and enjoy nature within an urban setting. I think that says a lot about the man.
The other thing I want to say is that my worst whuppings I ever got in badminton were at a particular recreational centre that I notice has been renamed—because I drove by and had an opportunity to go there with my brother not so long ago—and that's the renaming of the recreational complex. I want to tell you, that's a real neat facility, one that's utilized by the people—again, something that he was involved in.
I just say on behalf of all of us here in the Legislature, aside from all political stripes, New Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals say to you the family: We thank you for the time that you shared your husband with us, your father. We say to you, thank you. Gloucester, Ottawa and Ontario are better places today. You had an opportunity to bring him back and share him for some time after that in retirement. We know he will be missed, and we say thank you for sharing with us all those years.
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): I want to join with my colleagues from the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party in paying tribute to Bob MacQuarrie in the Ontario Legislature today and in front of his family, who are assembled here in the Speaker's gallery.
I did serve with Bob MacQuarrie. He was here from 1981 to 1985. He was a person whom virtually everybody in the House liked very much and could speak to on a very informal basis. He was not a hardline partisan in any way, and I think that was appreciated by those who worked with him. He had certain responsibilities that were assigned to him by Premier Davis in terms of being a parliamentary assistant—as they say in the federal House, a parliamentary secretary. He brought an expertise in the field of law which I think was very valuable to the portfolios he held and of course in the deliberations of this House.
But previous to his coming to the Ontario Legislature, where he was one of the most popular members, in my view, during that period of time, he was really a person before his time. If you read some of the things that he did as a municipal politician, you would say that that's exactly what people are doing today and making a big fuss about it, because in this particular case it looks like it's something new and different, but remember the context of the time. We're talking about before he came to the Ontario Legislature, and one of the things that was mentioned was using structured municipal planning to shape his municipality. When you have a township, what you used to often see in townships was, let's say, development that wasn't very organized. It simply seemed to be strip development here, there and everywhere else. One of the first townships he had responsibility for was to have a full-time planner and municipal engineer and to create a planning board and planning department. That's something that's standard procedure today. If you didn't have it, people would be shaking their heads in bewilderment. But he was the one who recognized early on that that's exactly what you have to do if you're going to have appropriate development, not development that is simply scattered all over and not very thoughtful.
It mentions that he was an early supporter of the benefits of the life/work concept, which promotes having workplaces close to homes so people can be less dependent on their cars. Well, where have you heard that lately, if you haven't heard it in the past year, about many people at various levels of government saying that this is exactly what we have to do? This is what Bob was promoting many, many years ago. We're talking about a couple of decades ago that he was promoting this, and today it's coming to fruition—but again, ahead of his time.
He created a system in Gloucester where citizens could actively participate in sharing their community's services long before citizen engagement was a standard of best public practice. Again, at one time there wasn't that much consultation with people in municipalities when there was planning going on for services and development. He was one who believed very strongly that that should be the case, and not only did he promote that as a municipal politician, but I know that when he was here in the House, he was a promoter of that practice as well.
He was an early adopter of public accessibility, recommending changes in the building code to ensure handicapped access to all public buildings. I think it was just last year that we passed a bill dealing with accessibility, and governments over the years have been moving in that direction. To his credit, he recognized the need and the entitlement that people who have had various disabilities would have, but they had the right to have that kind of accessibility, and he was promoting it long before it was popular to do so.
He supported glass recycling in Gloucester, along with Pollution Probe. That was just the beginning of the time when people were talking about the idea of recycling.
Gloucester became one of the early adopters of regulations requiring smoke detectors in new homes, and was the first jurisdiction in North America to make smoke detectors compulsory in existing residential buildings. This again is something that we almost take for granted today. Bob MacQuarrie a couple of decades ago was promoting this and seeing that it was put into action.
We can find many statements in the public media by people paying tribute to Bob MacQuarrie and the role he played in his own municipality, but also the role he played in this Ontario Legislature.
I join my colleagues in the Legislature, on behalf of the Premier and members of the government caucus, in paying tribute to Bob MacQuarrie and thanking his family, as others have done, for sharing him with us for a period of time where he made a very significant contribution to this House. We no longer have him with us, but those of us who knew him will retain many fond memories of his personality, his friendship and his contribution to his province and to his own constituency.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): I would convey our sympathies and condolences to the family and assure them that we will see to it that a copy of today's record is forwarded to them.
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): I believe we have unanimous consent for all parties to speak for up to five minutes in recognition of Sexual Harassment Awareness Week.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Agreed? Agreed.
Hon. Sandra Pupatello (Minister of Economic Development and Trade, minister responsible for women's issues): The McGuinty government is declaring the first week of June as Sexual Harassment Awareness Week. Many thanks to my colleague the member from Chatham—Kent Essex and women's organizations for bringing this need to our attention. A very particular, very special thanks to our member from Chatham—Kent Essex, who works diligently with my office on these matters.
The member from Chatham—Kent Essex has worked hard to see that the first week of June, proclaimed as Sexual Harassment Awareness Week, happens and that his advocacy in his community and in the province has not been in vain. The McGuinty government will not tolerate sexual harassment against women. By declaring Sexual Harassment Awareness Week, we're raising public awareness of harassment against women, reinforcing public censure of sexual harassment and helping focus community prevention efforts. Our government wants to focus Ontario communities' attention on the serious issue of sexual harassment and honour the memories of Theresa Vince and Lori Dupont.
June 2 is the anniversary of the death of Theresa Vince, who was murdered by her workplace supervisor. Lori Dupont was killed by her colleague on November 12, 2005. These two tragedies make crystal clear the necessity for all of us to work together to end sexual harassment before it escalates into violence, whether domestic or at the workplace. Statistics show that 80% to 90% of Canadian girls and women will experience sexual harassment at some point in their lives.
Sexual harassment is still a pervasive problem in our society. The McGuinty government recognizes this and is determined to protect women.
No one should go to work each day terrified that a co-worker will harass them. That is no way to work and that is no way to live life, so the McGuinty government is addressing these problems. We're changing the rules. We're getting information to the women who need it and we're changing the attitudes of boys and girls. Our government is targeting public education programs to young people to teach them about healthy, equal relationships. Our new website, at www.equalityrules.ca, and our various programs aimed at youth ages eight to 14 help young children and youth understand the benefits of respectful relationships. We're also showing children where to get help if and when they need it.
Neighbours, Friends and Families is another public education campaign geared to educate people on abuse. The campaign provides information to help individuals recognize the signs of abuse and know what action to take. Public service announcements, a website—neighboursfriendsandfamilies.on.ca—brochures, a poster and wallet cards are available as part of the education campaign. So far, we have 76 communities participating in this campaign.
The McGuinty government is investing the dollars and resources to provide services to address violence against women. We're spending over $190 million annually across ministries to help protect women so they can feel safe in their communities and in their own homes. We're spending more than $82 million in new money for our four-year domestic violence action plan. This is an increase of 25% over what we announced in 2004.
The plan is addressing the issue of violence against women on all fronts. It's an integrated and comprehensive approach. We're providing better community-based supports, implementing public education and training strategies, strengthening Ontario's criminal and family justice systems and providing better access to French-language services. We've passed the halfway mark on this plan and we're seeing results, thanks in large part to our community partners.
I encourage my colleagues and communities across Ontario to get involved and help awareness. They can use this week to learn more about sexual harassment and what can be done to prevent it by visiting the Ontario Women's Directorate web pages. By working together, we can create a better and safer future for women across the province. All women have the right to live free from the fear of violence.
Mrs. Christine Elliott (Whitby—Ajax): I'm happy to rise on behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus to speak to this very important issue of sexual harassment and recognize this first week of June as a week devoted to spreading awareness of this issue to both women and men, to both family and co-workers.
As we know, sexual harassment can occur either at work or at home, at school or in a social situation, and it's perpetrated in such a way that can be overt, but it can also be subtle and complex, building over time through a series of repeated offences. In fact, it is reported that only 5% of sexual harassment occurrences are explicit and obvious.
Sexual harassment can include name-calling and telling sexual jokes and it can include pressuring another to perform sexual activity or the act of sexual assault itself. It can consist of staring or leering, standing too close or following and cornering another or using a position of authority to get away with offensive activities. It can include making stereotypes of one gender or another. It can be incentive-based, consisting of a promise made in exchange for sexual involvement. Amidst these various examples of acts of sexual harassment, one thing can be made clear: Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual or gender-related attention and is one-sided and unreciprocated.
These varied examples of the continuum that exists, however, demonstrate exactly why it is so important that we educate ourselves and our children about the realities of sexual harassment through awareness campaigns and other efforts so that we can ensure that Ontarians are equipped with the knowledge and the resources to protect themselves.
The reality is that anyone is vulnerable to sexual harassment. In fact, one in two women will report that she has been harassed in her workplace. Most shamefully, the highest populations at risk are aboriginal women, women from minority groups as well as the disabled. This is simply unacceptable. A society will be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members and right now the judgment is, frankly, damning. We must dissolve cultural barriers with respect to this file and seriously address the language barriers that prevent some of those most at risk from accessing prevention strategies or support. It is our responsibility as legislators to make eradicating this type of behaviour a priority and pursue comprehensive efforts to achieve this end. It is imperative that governments and private companies, large organizations and community leaders take the lead and come together in a united front to prevent sexual harassment.
One of the reasons often cited for the continued prevalence of this type of behaviour is the lack of enforceable and accountable reporting mechanisms for victims. Recently, the International Olympic Committee adopted a consensus statement on sexual harassment and abuse in sport, including a commitment to employing prevention strategies such as complaint and support mechanisms as well as education efforts, and has deemed that all sporting organizations should implement the same provisions. Public statements of intent such as this are examples of efforts that should be duplicated wherever possible because, as we know, the effects of sexual harassment are insidious and profound.
Like sexual abuse and assault, the effects of sexual harassment are not only physical but can manifest themselves in all areas of a victim's life. These effects are all interrelated and can include trouble sleeping, illness, substance dependence, depression, fear, hopelessness and degradation. Should the activity have occurred or be ongoing in the workplace, a victim may avoid the office as much as possible, which could lead to a loss of income, benefits or future career opportunities.
The fact is that stopping sexual harassment is the key to preventing sexual violence and assault, something we have talked about many times in this Legislature and we addressed last month in recognizing May as Sexual Assault Prevention Month. It is fitting that we now use this time to reflect on the strategies that can be pursued in this regard, and I would ask that all members join me in recognizing this week while remembering that there is always more to do.
Working together, we must ensure that this awareness campaign continues unofficially all across Ontario for as long as is necessary and send a message to those who perpetrate these offences that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated in Ontario.
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): I'm pleased and honoured to say a few words on behalf of New Democrats in regard to Sexual Harassment Awareness Week. I have to start by saying that I would be remiss if I didn't begin by acknowledging the excellent work being done in my own community at the Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton Area, SACHA, an organization that, on May 24—and some of our local members were there as well as I was—won a 2007 Award of Distinction from the YWCA. Like most sexual assault centres—I would say, every sexual assault centre in Ontario—they do great work, and Hamiltonians need their services very much. Without the people who work on the front lines in our community agencies across Ontario and without stable, annual and adequate funding to keep them there, women and their children become increasingly vulnerable.
Late in the day on Friday, we received the McGuinty government news release announcing Sexual Harassment Awareness Week. It was almost like an afterthought. Women's organizations and labour groups across Ontario had been hoping for far more from the government this year. Frankly, the announcement was very late in the eyes of all of those groups who work hard year-round to fight, particularly, workplace harassment in all its forms. They had wanted 2007 to be the year to galvanize around the seriousness of sexual harassment and really raise its profile with tangible and lasting measures. They had hoped to see the government move to make Sexual Harassment Awareness Week a permanent fixture on the annual calendar. A Liberal private member's bill, as was already raised—Bill 110—called for this, and it easily could have been passed into law. I know that all parties in this Legislature would have agreed.
This weekend marked the anniversary of the death of Theresa Vince, who was murdered in a sexual harassment case. Eleven years later, despite lofty government promises, Ontario still has not fully implemented the recommendations of the coroner's inquest into the death of Theresa Vince. Most pointedly to the Minister of Labour, who unfortunately—I guess I shouldn't say that. To the Minister of Labour, the jury said this: "Make a priority of the ongoing study of inclusion of sexual harassment in the Occupational Health and Safety Act." It's right there: a very clear recommendation.
For years, the member from Chatham—Kent Essex has brought forward this issue. The Chatham-Kent Sexual Assault Crisis Centre has been leading the way on the call for education, prevention and, most of all, action, with the support of that member.
As people rallied at a vigil in Theresa's memory on Friday, many questioned why Ontario still does not have a law regarding workplace harassment and sexual harassment. In fact, Saskatchewan recently made their progressive legislation even tougher. In Ontario, we don't even have a law. Bill 45, my private member's bill, attacks harassment head-on and picks up on the work that former MPP and now federal candidate in Beaches—East York Marilyn Churley did while she was here. But still no Ontario law in all of this time, and still not enough funding to secure the supports that victims of sexual harassment and sexual violence—male and female—require to feel safe from the abuse.
Recently, it took my personal intervention to have the government funding for the 2007-08 year flow to the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto, and I appreciate that the funding did finally flow. That's the central coordinating agency of violence-against-women programs here in Toronto. It took me agitating the McGuinty government ministers to get the Woman Abuse Council's annual funding approved, within days of staff having to be laid off. It took my personal intervention just recently to secure over $50,000 from the Ministry of the Attorney General to save the council's counselling programs as well—and again, I appreciate that that money flowed—but it shouldn't take an opposition member to have to remind the government of their responsibilities in this regard. Everything seems ad hoc and knee-jerk, not the permanent base funding arrangement that local community coordinating committees were told to expect.
This year, the McGuinty government is reducing the budget, notwithstanding what the minister said, of the Ontario Women's Directorate by 6%, and they're reducing the amount spent on violence-prevention initiatives by a whopping 17.4%. The Ontario Women's Directorate is embarrassingly limited in its ability to provide service and appears to be relatively voiceless at the cabinet table.
On the weekend, activists from a growingly impatient women's community participated in a women's housing takeover. Why? Because the key issue for women fleeing violence is affordable housing and second-stage housing, and sustaining a decent income is a major issue. They're not seeing help materialize on any of these fronts from this government, even though they were led to believe that it would materialize. We need to listen to women and listen to groups like OAITH—really listen—and then follow their advice. If we truly want to end harassment and violence, that's what we need to do. This government has not yet done it; woe for the day when they finally will.
Hon. Caroline Di Cocco (Minister of Culture): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would like to introduce to the Legislature, in the members' gallery, Michael and Christopher Chopican. Christopher has won a national science fair award. They're from my riding. I want to welcome Christopher. He's up there.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. January 25, 2002; March 29, 2002; October 2, 2002; May 9, 2003; September 11, 2003; September 19, 2003; November 1, 2003; November 20, 2003; November 21, 2003; December 17, 2003; January 14, 2004; April 15, 2004; and April 24, 2004—On every one of those dates, the Premier said that he was not going to raise taxes. He also, as we well know, looked voters in the eye during the course of the election campaign and said, "I won't raise your taxes, but I won't cut them either."
What happened? The people of Ontario know all too well. They got the biggest tax increase in the history of Ontario after all those promises. Yesterday, the Premier promised again that he won't raise taxes. How was yesterday's promise any different than the 13 dates I cited earlier on which you said you would not raise taxes?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): Ontarians remember where we were when it comes to the management of public finances. They remember that the Tories said that there was no deficit when they knew there was a $5.5-billion deficit. Ontarians now also understand that when we passed our law to prevent any government at any time in the future from ever hiding a deficit, they voted against that law.
Ontarians also know how far we've come. They know we've balanced the budget twice. At the same time, we made investments in essential public services like our schools and our health care and supports for economic growth. I can assure you that Ontarians do not want to go back to those kinds of days. They want to keep moving forward with the Liberals.
Mr. Tory: The Premier has—and he knows it—a major, major credibility problem. He broke the signature—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): We know the rules. The rules are: One member asks a question and a minister responds. One person at a time. They're not difficult.
The Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Tory: The Premier broke the signature promise in his own election platform. He has been in office since October 23, 2003. He kept repeating the promise after he came to office; in fact, he repeated it over and over again seven times after he came into office. He did it as late as April 24, 2004. He did it after the Peters report. The next thing we're going to hear is that he's going to say that the devil made him do it.
Would the Premier please explain why we should believe him today when he has proven himself to be the champion promise breaker of all time in Canadian politics, maybe in the world? Why should we believe the Premier today when he has broken this promise, having repeated it over and over again to the people of Ontario? Why should anyone believe him?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Ontarians won't forget where we were. As I said a moment ago, they won't forget that they hit a $5.5-billion deficit. They won't forget that we were left to clean up that mess. We made some very difficult decisions along the way. We made some dramatically needed and essential investments in health care. That has resulted in more doctors and more nurses and shorter wait times. We have about 100 hospital construction projects either completed, under way or about to begin in the province of Ontario.
People will also not forget the kind of consequences that will flow from the promise now made by the Tories to take at least $2.5 billion from health care. They'll remember that the previous government said they could do that and somehow find efficiencies. Those efficiencies translated into closed hospitals, fired nurses and longer wait times. We're not going back there.
The Speaker: Final supplementary?
The Speaker: No, we're not going to interject before the Leader of the Opposition even begins to speak, or even after that.
Hon. Greg Sorbara (Minister of Finance, Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): Shortly after that.
The Speaker: No, not after that, Minister of Finance, and you can consider yourself warned.
Mr. Tory: Maybe just once before we go, to have one of them go. It would be such a pleasure to see.
It's not just the health tax; it's the promise that was made over and over again, repeated over and over again. I've cited 13 dates, some after you received the report from Mr. Peters. Three days later, you promised it again. It's over and over again, and it's not just the health tax; it's the hydro rates, the cigarette taxes, the wine cooler tax, the beer tax, the elimination of all kinds of tax incentives. And then, of course, even this year there was the tax on diamonds after you crowed about the low diamond tax rates.
The people of Ontario simply cannot afford to believe the Premier again with his track record, and who could blame them? On this latest series of deathbed repentances, given the incredible history of making the promise not to raise taxes over and over again and then breaking it over and over again, why should anybody believe anything that the Premier has to say on this?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: The Tories just never learn. They insist still that there was no deficit, notwithstanding the fact that the Auditor General found, proved and established beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was a $5.5-billion deficit. We've passed the only law of its kind, to my knowledge, in North America which requires the Auditor General to make public the true state of public finances before the election. They voted against that.
Now the official opposition is determined once again to bring us back to those years. They're telling us that they can take at least $2.5 billion from health care, but somehow they'll add still more money to health care and that it will not translate into cuts to hospitals and nurses and into increased wait times. We know as well that they intend to put money into private schools; we know that money is going to have to come out of public education.
We've seen all those kinds of stories before. The people of Ontario don't want to go back there; they want to keep moving forward. They want to keep moving forward with our government, and we look forward to moving with them.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. The Premier would be aware that there are some very serious concerns with respect to the quality of drinking water that is coming through the taps of residences, businesses and institutions across the province. Specifically, the latest concerns relate to whether or not there are dangerous levels of lead in the water that is coming out of the tap.
The government has bungled this file from the beginning, from saying they didn't believe the tests and then moving on to it being confined to London, and then it was voluntary tests and now, finally, it is some compulsory tests, but unfortunately they are totally inadequate. Today, we hear, the minister has some recommendations that the government should do what we have been saying all along.
My question for the Premier is this: Why has the government dragged its feet in terms of trying to make sure these tests are done so people will know if the water is safe, and what are you doing about the recommendations that have been made today?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): Ontarians will not forget where we were when it came to the environment under the Conservative government. The environment hit a low point during their years. They fired water inspectors. They fired meat inspectors. The chief medical officer of the day said that the government of the day turned its back on public health. Walkerton happened on their watch, and the people of Ontario will not forget that. More than that, when we brought forward our Clean Water Act, the toughest of its kind in North America, that party voted against that legislation.
The people of Ontario do not want to go back to those kinds of days and that abdication of responsibility when it comes to protecting the environment. They want to keep moving forward.
Mr. Tory: When the Premier talks about abdication of responsibility, he is describing precisely what has gone on here in this very instance. In one of her answers to questions last week, the minister crowed about putting forward new guidelines from Health Canada that could help improve the standards for drinking water. She said she did that on April 26.
But a month later, when people were drinking this water—pregnant women and young children who are at risk—when mandatory testing was finally ordered by her, she blithely ignored the very same guidelines she was crowing about, the guidelines that she is being told by a panel to implement today, a long time later. Instead, they said, "Flush the water and everything will be okay." That's what the minister and her colleagues said. When somebody gets up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water, they don't flush the taps for five minutes; they drink the water right out of the tap. Six weeks since this story broke, and the government did not do what any right-thinking person would do: adhere to the highest possible standard when it comes to drinking water.
My question is this: Why did the government drag its heels and withhold important information from the public about these tests and then do an inadequate job once they finally got started?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: To the Minister of the Environment.
Hon. Laurel C. Broten (Minister of the Environment): I'm very pleased to have a chance to provide the Leader of the Opposition with some critical and important information. The advice that we received today is from the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council, a council that we established. In a post-Walkerton era, the legacy left by the previous government, we put in place a regime that will help us as a government move quickly forward with the best advice that we can receive to ensure that Ontarians have clean, safe drinking water.
Today, six weeks after learning about the circumstances in London and six weeks after I asked this expert committee to provide us with advice, we have received important information that we will be taking a very close look at. By Wednesday of this week, we will have 36 communities that will have reported back and we will then have the information that we require to take the policy advice, with the factual information, to move forward aggressively to respond—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. Final supplementary.
Mr. Tory: It's very nice that the minister is taking a very close look at these recommendations. What they recommended, very simply, is to: implement a drinking water corrosion control and lead reduction strategy, which we've been advocating for weeks; extend the monitoring systems to sample the homes at the tap, which we've been advocating for weeks; and extend all recommendations to schools and other buildings, including this one, for that matter. Yet the minister stands in her place today and says she's going to carry on with the small sample sizes, with this ridiculous notion that people run the tap for five minutes before they brush their teeth or take a drink of water.
Why doesn't the minister stand in her place and do what she should have done weeks ago: have proper testing of the water, a proper sample size and do it the proper way, which is to turn the tap right on and take the water right out of the tap, as recommended by these people? Why can't the minister just stand in her place and do what she should do right now if she's going to do her job of protecting the safety of the water and the people of Ontario?
Hon. Ms. Broten: The advice that we received today from this expert panel is part of our government's three-pronged attack on this very serious and important issue that we learned of some six weeks ago: to provide and seek advice from the federal government and encourage the federal government to move forward more aggressively with their corrosion control; to abide by and adhere to the chief drinking water inspector's order that he issued some weeks ago to receive the information that we need so that we can have an understanding of the breadth of this issue.
The members opposite would like to put forward in this House that they are the experts we should adhere to. The experts that we stand by are those from Sierra Legal Defence Fund, the expert panel that we have retained—those drinking water experts known North America-wide—to help us get to the bottom of these critical issues. I can tell you, we will do absolutely that.
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora—Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. Ontario's working families want a government that puts their day-to-day struggles first. Working families have been hit with a major job crisis. Across Ontario, plants, mills, factories are closing almost on a daily basis, but the McGuinty government has decided that you don't care about this jobs crisis. In fact, the McGuinty government is going to shut down the Legislature almost a month early so that the Premier can go out and hit the barbecue circuit.
My question is this: How does the Premier justify his early and lengthy summer vacation when thousands of Ontario working families are being put out of their jobs?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I want to thank the leader of the NDP for this particular question because it gives me the opportunity to strike a dramatic contrast.
On our watch, during the last three and a half, close to four years now, we have generated 320,000 net new jobs. On their watch, during the course of five years overall—full count at the end of the day—they lost a total of 74,000 net new jobs. They were so concerned about putting in place the kinds of programs that would support those unemployed workers that, do you know how many days they sat during their last six months? Do you know how many bills they introduced during their last six months? Zero. They didn't sit once. They didn't introduce a single bill. I'll put our record up against their record when it comes to supporting the unemployed and supporting the economy of Ontario any day.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Order.
The Speaker: Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Mr. Hampton: If the Premier thinks that comparing himself to his new-found friend Bob Rae is going to help him, good luck to him.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr. Hampton: A few McJobs and temporary jobs do not make up for the thousands of good-paying jobs that are being lost. If people look at today's news, they see two Ontarios. In one, 175,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs have been destroyed. Just this morning, 120 workers at a mill in Longlac were told they're gone. But in the other Ontario, McGuinty government MPPs are going to take a month-early vacation and take their 31% pay increase with them.
I say again, Premier: Can you explain to the 175,000 working families who have lost good-paying jobs how you justify taking the 31% pay increase and then leaving a month early?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I've already reminded the leader of the NDP that from December 1994 until the election of June 1995, the House didn't sit a single day. Not one single bill was introduced. I don't recall the leader of the NDP putting up much of a fuss at that time about the absence of parliamentary activity.
The leader of the NDP represents a party which collectively is a great pretender. They tell us that they stand for progress for Ontario families. When it comes to the kinds of initiatives that we've put in place here, whether it's the child benefit act to help 1.3 million children growing up in poverty, whether it's lowering auto insurance rates over and over again, which is a basic pocketbook issue for Ontario families, whether it's ending the 60-hour workweek for Ontario workers, whether it's ending mandatory retirement, in each and every one of those instances that leader and that party have refused to stand up for Ontario families.
The Speaker: Order. The Minister of Health will come to order. The Minister of Health Promotion will come to order.
Mr. Hampton: The Premier calls it a benefit for children when his government has clawed back the national child benefit from the lowest-income kids in the province for four years and would plan to continue to claw it back for another five years.
Premier, it's about good jobs. People want a government that is prepared to stand up and fight to sustain good jobs in this province. What they've got is a Premier who votes himself a $40,000 pay raise and then gives himself an extra month of summer vacation. The McGuinty government has a new motto: "Take the money and run."
There's important work to be done here. Thousands of people have lost their jobs. Thousands more are at risk of losing their jobs. If you really want to do something for working families, agree to debate and vote on my jobs protection commissioner bill today so we really can take some steps. Will you do that, or are you simply going to take the money and run?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: The great pretender is at it again. He's pretending that he stands up for progress for Ontario families. Let me give you a couple of specific examples. When I went out to Thunder Bay and visited the Bombardier plant, one of the things the workers there asked me to do is the same thing they asked me to do when I met them at the CAW convention. They asked me to stand up and ensure that we continue to move ahead with that subway project to York so that we can keep those jobs growing there.
The other thing that I've heard time and time again from CAW members in particular is that they are so pleased and so proud of the fact that we are the most aggressive government in all of North America when it comes to standing up for our auto sector. We're now the number one auto producer in North America. We've landed 7,000 direct jobs, thousands of indirect jobs, because we're prepared to stand with workers rather than just stand up and pretend that you're with them.
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora—Rainy River): To the Premier: The only thing that people at the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay want to know is, what happened to the legislation which ensured they would be the factory of choice for rapid transit equipment in Ontario? What happened is that the McGuinty government got rid of that. Premier, Ontario families want a government that will stand up for them. Instead, they have a Premier who wants to take the money and run.
Premier, you used to have a climate change plan. You said it was to close the coal plants by 2007. Well, it's 2007 and we know that that plan has gone up in smoke. But you've been promising another climate change plan, except you're afraid to present it, debate it and discuss it here in the Legislature. What's more important—taking the pay hike and running or actually dealing with climate change here in the Legislature?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I'm not sure how climate change is connected with the previous questions. Nonetheless, we've done a lot of really good work when it comes to climate change.
I'm proud of the fact that Al Gore said that there are only two places in the world that are at the forefront in terms of creating a welcoming environment for renewable energy to be produced by the private sector, and those are Germany and Ontario.
We have gone from approximately 10 wind turbines to close to 700 that are now built or under construction. We also have under way the largest solar farm in all of North America. The leader of the NDP will know that's the result of this new, aggressive, entrepreneurial standard offer program that we put in place that makes us the most welcoming jurisdiction in all of North America when it comes to putting in place new renewables. I think that speaks in a very strong way to our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Hampton: It's quite something, the McGuinty government that has a $40-billion nuclear plan—to call that renewable energy. Because that's your real energy plan.
I want to contrast something. When the Premier wanted his $40,000 pay hike, he ordered a special extended session of the Legislature to force it through. We've already had one broken climate change promise, and for the last six months the Premier has been promising another climate change plan. But what do we see here today? The Premier doesn't want to present his climate change plan; he doesn't want it debated and discussed in front of the people of Ontario. No. The Premier wants to cut and run, take his pay hike and his month-long extra vacation, and to heck with climate change.
Premier, if you really care about climate change, will you debate for third reading—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): The question has been asked. Premier.
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: We understand where the NDP are coming from when it comes to climate change. They've got one climate change plan for the north and a different one for the south. Coal plants are apparently okay in the north, but they sing a different song in the south.
Even Jack Gibbons, chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, disagrees with Mr. Hampton's flip-flopping that the province also can't afford to stop closing one coal-fired plant.
I am proud to say that we've reduced emissions from our coal-fired plants by one third so far; I compare that with the previous government, which increased emissions from coal-fired plants by 127%.
We'll also shut down those coal-fired plant emissions by another full third by 2011. They'll be shut down entirely by 2014—and that includes all our coal-fired plants.
We have just the one message for all the people of Ontario when it comes to coal-fired generation, unlike the leader of the NDP, who has one for the north and one for the south.
Mr. Hampton: This is the Premier who said, "Come hell or high water, all the coal plants will be closed by 2007." This is the Premier who used to go across Ontario sermonizing to people, "All the coal plants will be closed by 2007." Then he said, "Oh, they'll be closed by 2009." Then he said it would be by 2011; then maybe by 2014. Because he might be planning a solar farm, he says, "That's a climate change plan."
The only thing we know for sure from this government is that it plans to go nuclear and go big—$40 billion big.
I say again, Premier: If you really care about climate change, why aren't we debating and discussing your promised climate change plan here today, instead of you shutting down the Legislature, taking your pay cut and running?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Every time I hear the leader of the NDP talk about his discomfort with the pay hike, I see all the other members of his caucus squirm. I look forward to seeing as a particular specific provision in their platform their renunciation, their denunciation, of that pay hike, to demonstrate their abiding conviction and their firm commitment and their decrying of that particular pay increase.
I can say that we look forward to moving ahead with our climate change plan. We've had a number of steps that we've put out, and we look forward, in the not-too-distant future, to putting out still more steps that will speak to our shared responsibility as global citizens when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions here in Ontario.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is again for the Premier, and it concerns the water again. Last week, we had a scare here at Queen's Park in that we were told there were unsafe levels of lead in the water in this building. We're told that secondary tests have revealed that the water is okay but that there are precautions that remain in place.
The testing of the water being done right now in municipalities across the province is testing the water in single-family homes only. So despite the government's claim that everything is okay if the water is run for five minutes, we see from Mr. James Wallace that that kind of five-minute flushing doesn't work in apartment buildings at all because there's too much stagnant water running through the system.
Given that the lead can be leaching into water along the way from the source to the tap and the flushing doesn't work in apartment buildings, why hasn't the government included apartment buildings in this testing regime and, for that matter, why hasn't the minister just got up in her place today, or why hasn't the Premier, and simply accepted the recommendations of this panel that says it should be done the way we've been advocating for weeks now? Why haven't you done that?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the Minister of the Environment.
Hon. Laurel C. Broten (Minister of the Environment): I will try again to assist the Leader of the Opposition to understand the steps that have been taken since we first understood the circumstance in London just over six weeks ago.
At that time, the chief drinking water inspector immediately became engaged. We provided drinking water inspectors to assist the city of London. We hired North American experts, and we brought those experts to the table to work with the drinking water advisory council that we established as part of ensuring that we have source-to-tap protection here in the province.
We took the federal government document on corrosion control, posted it on our Environmental Bill of Rights and asked for a very quick turnaround time from our experts to understand and to move forward. I've been working with the federal government to push that initiative forward. By Wednesday of this week we will have all of the information that the chief drinking water inspector believes he and our advisory council need to have in order for us to take the policy information that has come from the experts, blend it with the scientific analysis that we have by Wednesday of this week and move forward with continued action.
Mr. Tory: In fact, what the minister did was have an official write a secret letter that said that people should do voluntary testing. Then they finally got around to saying that the testing should be mandatory, but when they did that, they took a tiny sample, much smaller than recommended in terms of the number of homes in each municipality, and they told people to run the taps for five minutes first, which no one on earth does before they have a glass of water or brush their teeth.
We also know that the testing regime that the minister talked about in such a self-congratulatory tone does not include apartment buildings, so those people are left out entirely. I don't know if they think that no pregnant women or young children live in apartment buildings. There are no schools included, no hospitals included, no public buildings like this. Children are found to be the most seriously at risk, as well as pregnant women.
My question again is this: Will the Premier explain why the apartments are excluded, why the schools and other public buildings across the province are excluded and why they haven't simply done the kind of testing regime that anybody would think was sensible in a proper number of homes without running the taps for five minutes? Why not?
Hon. Ms. Broten: Again, I will suggest to the member opposite that he look at the history and the legacy that his party left in respect to drinking water in this province, something that we have been fixing for the last four years. Although my friend opposite has recently become an advocate with respect to clean, safe water, frankly, we have a history in this province where Justice O'Connor and the Walkerton inquiry pointed specifically to the cuts and the legacies left behind by the former Conservative government.
We believe in taking our advice from those who are true experts in this province. The chief drinking water inspector has ordered 36 communities to undertake a testing regime so that we can have the comparable information that our experts need in order to analyze the circumstance in this province to give us the best advice that we can have to move forward expeditiously, as we have throughout this entire circumstance.
MINISTRY OF CITIZENSHIP
AND IMMIGRATION GRANTS
Mr. Michael Prue (Beaches—East York): My question is to the Premier. Tomorrow, the committee on estimates is scheduled to hear testimony from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. For months, your minister has argued in this place that he would appear before the committee and answer questions about his slush fund. Can the Premier confirm that the minister will keep his promise and appear before the committee, or does the Premier plan to abandon his commitment to this House by having the House prorogue?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
Hon. Mike Colle (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration): I already attended the committee last week, and I will continue to attend as per the schedule.
Mr. Prue: My question is back to the Premier. Yes, the minister attended for half an hour, and not one single question was allowed to be asked. So my question, back to the Premier: It sounds like the Premier would rather take his money and run. The minister was scheduled to appear last week, but thanks to unprecedented stalling tactics by Liberal MPPs, the questions never got asked. Now we hear that the government plans to shut down the House tonight or tomorrow morning just to avoid the hearings. I ask the Premier again. Will he tell us: Is he going to provide the transparency he repeatedly promised, or is he going to shut down democracy, hide his own government's shame and start his vacation?
Hon. Mr. Colle: Again, I attended the committee last week and we went through the procedures as laid out. I gave my presentation and I will proceed to follow the committee's schedule as prescribed. At the same time, we're also undergoing the review by the Auditor General. We are proceeding in that fashion.
HEALTH CARE /
SOINS DE SANTÉ
Mr. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell): My question is to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Minister, the wait times website was implemented in 2004, and according to the latest update, the Queensway Carleton Hospital of Ottawa, the Ottawa Hospital and l'Hôpital Montfort are showing lower wait times for cancer surgery.
Wait times have been a hot topic in the media and also right here in the Legislature, but I think we need to go beyond the numbers and look at the people who are being treated. We need to start asking ourselves how we can help the patients as they battle cancer. We all know it is a terrible disease which can leave people both physically and mentally drained.
Minister, cancer patients are more than just numbers. How are you addressing the need to put patients at the centre of the health care system?
Hon. George Smitherman (Deputy Premier, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I had the privilege of being at the General site of the Ottawa Hospital on Friday, accompanied by Minister Watson, for the opening of the Champlain Regional Cancer Diagnostic Assessment Centre.
With the generous support from the Ottawa community, the Agis family, MDS Nordion and Sanofi Pasteur, we have created a cancer hub which focuses on the patient by bringing together all of the diagnostic tests, and sufficiently compressing the time that it takes, to create a one-stop shopping model that dramatically reduces the time that patients who may have a cancer diagnosis require to actually be scheduled for subsequent treatment. It's a tremendously powerful example of innovation in the public health care system, that same kind of innovation that is put at risk by the plans of the Conservative Party to cut $2.5 billion from health care and open the floodgates to further privatization. In their health care system, unlike ours, the focus will be on the almighty dollar instead of the patient.
M. Lalonde: Ma question supplémentaire est au sujet des services en français dans nos hôpitaux d'Ottawa. Il est souvent difficile pour les francophones d'accéder aux soins de santé en français. Je me souviens très bien que le gouvernement précédent a tenté, sans succès, de fermer l'Hôpital Montfort, ce qui aurait été désastreux pour les francophones de la région d'Ottawa et aussi pour les francophones du nord de l'Ontario.
Plusieurs de mes commettants sont francophones et, en tant que tels, ils ont le droit d'être servis dans leur langue maternelle. Peut-on s'assurer que vous allez continuer à protéger leur droit?
L'hon. M. Smitherman: Je voudrais remercier le député distingué pour sa question. Notre gouvernement a eu plusieurs résultats positifs pour les citoyens francophones de la région d'Ottawa, incluant un financement de plus de 185 $ millions pour la construction de l'Hôpital Montfort.
Dans le futur, notre gouvernement s'engage à affirmer que les citoyens de la région d'Ottawa auront des services de santé en français.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Order. New question.
Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds—Grenville): Now we know what the Minister of Health has been doing when he hasn't been paying attention to the health care system.
I have a question for the Premier. Last week, climatologists were predicting a hot and dry summer for Ontario. We know that predictions aren't always accurate, but I think we have to work on the assumption that they are going to be accurate. What guarantee can you give to the people in businesses of the province of Ontario that the hydro grid and supply are up to the job of meeting the needs of our citizens this summer?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I know my colleague will recognize that we have come a long way during the past three and a half years. Under the previous government, they allowed us to lose, effectively, the equivalent of Niagara Falls when it came to generation. We brought 3,000 megawatts more online. We've got 10,000 more in the works. We have expanded capacity at Niagara Falls. We've got all this new renewable energy coming online. We've also made some very substantial and significant investments in new transmission.
You will recall as well the real challenge we had in our first summer, trying desperately to make up for all those lost years under the previous government, when they failed to invest in generation and, in particular, failed to put in place a long-term plan. We now have in place a 20-year long-term plan to bring online clean, reliable electricity, which brings much more predictability, stability and confidence to our private sector.
Mr. Runciman: That was the political dance, rather than an answer to my question. I asked about a guarantee that can give comfort to the people and businesses in this province for this coming summer.
We know the Premier made extravagant promises with respect to the closure of coal plants, against the advice of an all-party committee of this Legislature. He then used the argument that he had advice from the best experts available with respect to that, but then refused to indicate publicly the name of even one of those so-called best experts.
So again, I ask him: What kind of assurance, what kind of guarantee can he give the people and the businesses in this province that they won't be faced with problems with the grid and with the energy supply this coming summer?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: My colleague is looking for the name of an expert body. The IESO, the Independent Electricity System Operator, has now said that we have enough electricity supply for the summer. I gather that they're taking into consideration the 3,000 new megawatts of generation that we brought online.
This gives me an opportunity to speak to our shared responsibility as Ontarians, not just members of this House but all of us in this province, to conserve wherever we can. There's a new advertising program in place right now. We're honoured that Dr. David Suzuki is appearing in those ads as our spokesperson. There are all kinds of simple things we can do, whether it's drawing the shades, turning up the air conditioner so it doesn't come on so quickly or hanging out the clothes to dry. All those kinds of things are simple things we can do in our daily lives to ensure that we both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make sure we have reliability when it comes to electricity supply.
DISCLOSURE OF TOXINS
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): You may know that there have been two toxic fires in as many weeks in southern Ontario. The night before last, in fact, citizens of Hamilton were very concerned as flames consumed a local computer parts recycler. Oh, I'm sorry, the question is to the Premier; I apologize.
Ontarians should have had the right to know what chemicals, toxins and health risks they may have been exposed to in their communities. They could have known that if we had had the chance to actually debate a bill that my colleague is bringing forward. But instead, the House is rising three weeks early.
So can the Premier explain why, when the House has so much unfinished business to undertake, such as passing the community-right-to-know legislation, we are rising three weeks early for vacation?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the Minister of the Environment.
Hon. Laurel C. Broten (Minister of the Environment): I had a chance to speak to my friend opposite, who represents the community in Hamilton that this weekend had the unfortunate circumstances of having a fire in a recycling services facility at 250 Lottridge Street. I can tell you that we had the ability at the Ministry of the Environment to respond very quickly, to have our trace atmospheric gas analyzer, known as TAGA, state-of-the-art equipment, dispatched into that community in the early morning. They took air samples, and our air sampling confirmed that air contaminants from the fire were well below ministry guidelines and standards. It's the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment to respond quickly. We did that. In so doing, we assured that the community in Hamilton was safe despite this difficult circumstance.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Supplementary.
Mr. Peter Tabuns (Toronto—Danforth): Contrary to the statements made by the Minister of the Environment last week that labelling was a federal jurisdiction, environmental law experts say that Ontario has the authority to put warnings on labels for products that have carcinogenic compounds in them. Shuffling a letter to the federal government asking them to protect Ontarians from toxic chemicals is simply inadequate.
Can the Premier please explain why this House is going on vacation three weeks early when the Premier should be bringing forward Bill 164 so that Ontarians will be protected from toxic chemicals?
Hon. Ms. Broten: I am so very proud to be part of a government that has taken such extensive action to ensure that we updated the standards to 40 new air pollutants. We've moved aggressively. I've been working with the federal government to ensure that they undertake labelling.
I do want to speak in this House about the fact that the member of the third party continues to indicate that we do not continue to undertake our roles as servants of our community when we don't sit in this House. I can tell you I am very privileged to actively support the community of Etobicoke—Lakeshore. I look forward to having a chance to get into my community, to help with casework, to be in my constituency office and to continue to serve the great people of the riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore.
M. Phil McNeely (Ottawa—Orléans): Ma question est pour la ministre de l'Éducation. Madame la Ministre, le gouvernement McGuinty a eu encore une bonne année car plusieurs accomplissements en éducation ont été atteints pour les étudiants de notre province. Nous avons réduit le nombre d'élèves dans les classes primaires, le taux d'obtention de diplômes secondaires a augmenté, et il y a un meilleur rendement scolaire pour tous les étudiants, tout en maintenant la paix et la stabilité. Nous avons développé des programmes et initiatives qui aideront les étudiants à atteindre leurs buts et atteindre notre objectif.
Lorsque notre gouvernement a pris le pouvoir, plusieurs classes primaires débordaient d'étudiants et les enseignants et enseignantes étaient débordés de travail. J'étais heureux de parler aujourd'hui de la réduction du nombre d'élèves dans les classes primaires à l'école l'Étoile-de-l'Est, dans ma circonscription d'Ottawa—Orléans, et cette information était bien accueillie par mes commettants.
Madame la Ministre, pouvez-vous s'il vous plaà®t dire à cette Assemblée, ainsi qu'à mes commettants, comment la réduction de la taille des classes à 20 élèves va profiter à nos jeunes?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne (Minister of Education): It was a pleasure this morning to have visited the fine école de l'Étoile-de-l'Est in Orléans. It was a great pleasure. I saw there the fruits of the investments we've made in lowering primary class sizes. We know that young students, those little children who come into our schools who receive more individual attention in reading, writing and math, will do better later on. We know that teachers can access them, can give them more support. When we came into office, less than one third, 31%, in 2003-04 of our primary classes were at 20 students or fewer. Now nearly two thirds, 65%, of classes have 20 students or fewer this year compared to then. This reduction in class sizes has been possible because we put 4,800 new teachers into the system to allow that to happen.
I want to thank all the parents, all the teachers, all of the administrators who have made this initiative such a success for our youngest students.
Mr. McNeely: While the members opposite dismiss our achievements, others recognize where we were with respect to publicly funded education to where we are now. In fact, Lou Rocha, executive director of the Catholic Principals' Council of Ontario, has said, "There is much for which to be thankful. Student achievement has improved. Teacher morale has improved, and thousands of young teachers are able and willing to take up the profession each year. For all that it has done, this government deserves another mandate."
Mr. McNeely: I believe the members opposite need a reminder of all the exciting things we're doing in publicly funded education as they continue to be johnny-come-latelies in their policies and positions. Minister, how have we improved publicly funded education since we've taken office?
Hon. Ms. Wynne: Let's start with the $3.5-billion investment in publicly funded education since 2003. That's more invested than the previous government's two terms in office. There are more high school students graduating from secondary school. There are more students with higher test scores in our elementary and secondary schools. There are smaller class sizes, as I have just said.
We have changed the funding formula every year in our budget by putting more money in and changing the grant structure. There have been zero days lost to teachers' strikes. There were 26 million days lost under the Tories. But if there's one thing that we've done that I think is the most significant, it's epitomized by the teacher this morning at the école de l'Étoile who pulled me aside and said he is grateful to us because he feels good about being a teacher. He feels respected. He feels like he's part of a government that understands what an institution like our publicly funded education is for.
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE
Mrs. Julia Munro (York North): My question is for the Premier. Residents of my riding and all of York region are fed up with the incompetence of this government's administration of justice in our courts. Your refusal to appoint the necessary justices of the peace has meant the cancellation of court proceedings, with cases being thrown out and time and money wasted. On May 15 in Newmarket, two afternoon courts were cancelled, 53 charges with officers cancelled. On May 18 in Richmond Hill, one court was closed, wasting the time of 17 officers coming for 130 charges, including two motor vehicle collision charges. Why has your government refused to give York region enough JPs to hear cases in our courts? You have been in charge of the government for four years. Why can't you get it right?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the Attorney General.
Hon. Michael Bryant (Attorney General): This government has appointed more justices of the peace than any government in the history of Ontario. That's good news for the people of Ontario and that's good news for York region.
I had a conversation with the chief of police. I also had a conversation with political leadership. I presume that you're aware of the fact that there have been a number of appointments made—and a number of very high-quality appointments made, I might add. I'd be happy to talk about those in my supplementary.
I think it's very important that the public understand that there is a new process in place. It is a fantastic process. It's a process that the Chief Justice for the Ontario Court of Justice said is the most significant change to the justice of the peace bench since 1370. That's pretty good—older than sliced bread.
Hon. Mr. Bryant: Yes, absolutely. We have a new process, we have more JPs, and we have more good news to come in the supplementary.
Mrs. Munro: These examples I have outlined come from Chief Armand La Barge of York Regional Police, sent to all York-region MPPs. The silence from the Liberal MPPs is deafening. The new JPs you have appointed do not replace those retiring. We're talking about a net number, not the number you have announced. Each JP requires months of training. York region will continue to be in crisis in our courts because of your incompetence. The time of police officers, witnesses and court officials will continue to be wasted. The threat of charges being thrown out will continue. It is clear that this government is obviously indifferent to the police, courts and people of York region. Why have you refused to do your job of providing the administration of justice, and why do you continue to shortchange the people of York region?
Hon. Mr. Bryant: I would hope that the member does not disapprove of the fact that last week we made three more justice of the peace appointments to Newmarket—three more appointments; 87 appointments in total: a former RCMP officer, a chaplain, a former principal, a former NATO official who speaks four languages, a journalist, a former mayor, a former principal of Ottawa's Italian-language school, a rear admiral and 39-year veteran of Canadian Armed Forces Naval Reserve.
We've appointed more JPs than any other government in the history of Ontario. We've brought quality appointments to the province of Ontario through the new Justices of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee, a level of transparency and independence that the province has not seen before and a level of administrative justice, as well, with the new per diem JPs, who can be brought in to deal with case flow issues, who allow flexibility within the system like never before. That is nothing but good news for the administration of justice in the province of Ontario. I thank the member for her question.
Mr. Paul Ferreira (York South—Weston): My question is to the Minister of Housing. I ask it on behalf of the more than 160,000 Torontonians who live in Toronto Community Housing. A number of them are here with us this afternoon. Unlike government members, they can't just pack up and leave for the Muskoka cottage later this week. The only homes they have are crumbling and in need of more than—
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Order. I need to be able to hear the member for York South—Weston place his question.
The Speaker: The chief government whip.
The Speaker: The Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
Member for York South—Weston.
Mr. Ferreira: Thank you, Speaker. I understand I'm having some visits tomorrow.
The only homes these tenants have are crumbling and in urgent need of $300 million of essential capital repairs, yet this government refuses to act. Its members duck meetings with tenant leaders. Its commitment to repair existing affordable housing is grossly inadequate. As each day passes, the situation gets worse.
My question to the minister is a simple one: When will his government assume its responsibility to fund the repairs at Toronto Community Housing?
Hon. John Gerretsen (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'd like to thank the member for the question, because it allows me once again to talk about the investments that this government has made with respect to housing in the province of Ontario over the last couple of years.
We promised to deliver 15,000 new housing units for affordable housing, and we're doing that. The funding has been allocated, the projects have been built and they're being occupied as we speak.
In the last budget, we allocated over 27,000 housing allowance units for the province of Ontario, and 35,000 families are going to benefit from the new housing allowance program that has just been recently announced—including all the rent supplement programs that are already in existence and that we've added to over the last four years.
In this current budget, we also allocated $127 million to our municipal partners out there for housing projects, which they can decide how to utilize. If they determine that they want to use it in order to rebuild or renovate existing housing, they can do that.
They should be speaking to the local Toronto housing—
The Speaker: Supplementary.
Mr. Ferreira: This government is obviously more interested in summer barbecue photo ops than it is in the health and well-being of more than 160,000 Ontarians.
The minister knows the problem at Toronto Community Housing very well. Here's what he said in this House in November 2005: "There's no question about the fact that something has to be done about upgrading the social housing that currently exists out there."
This minister's parliamentary assistant described the problem as "a ticking time bomb."
Well, talk is cheap. Toronto Community Housing tenants are sick and tired of talk. They demand action. That's why they're here today.
Why won't this minister commit to paying for the housing repairs before his Liberal government closes the Legislature early for summer vacation?
Hon. Mr. Gerretsen: As I've already indicated, the $127 million, including about $27 million to the city of Toronto, was delivered by the end of March in order for the cities to determine as to how that money can best be allocated. In some cases, it should go into new housing; in some cases, it should go to the repair of housing. We have left it up to our housing service managers to determine how the money can best be used.
I realize there's always more that can be done, but over the last two years this government has done more in housing than any other government over the last 12 years.
We're proud of our record. There's more to be done. We've made a darned good start, and certainly the kind of investments that we've made can only help those individuals who live in those housing units.
Mrs. Carol Mitchell (Huron—Bruce): My question is to the Minister of Finance. Minister, I know that my constituents were very pleased with the announcement in the 2007 budget that dealt with increasing the fairness and the predictability of property taxes.
Minister, as you are aware from your visits to my riding of Huron—Bruce, there are many properties that span its vast lakeshore, and these properties have seen an increase in market value over recent years. Can you please explain further to my constituents how your plan to increase the fairness and predictability of assessments will help those lakeshore property owners in my riding who are experiencing increasing current market value on their properties?
Hon. Greg Sorbara (Minister of Finance, Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I'm delighted with the question because I think the changes, the improvements, the reforms that we've put in place on property tax assessment were really one of the strongest parts of the budget.
Some people had been advocating a 5% cap system. It's interesting, because that just shifts the tax burden from one set of properties to properties that are not increasing in value that rapidly, and that would have been an unfair shift.
What we've done is put in place a new cycle so that properties are assessed only every four years, and if there's an increase in value, that value will be graduated in over the course of the four years.
We've also put in place a much stronger appeal system, so we're in a situation where we've got a system that is both transparent and fair to taxpayers right across the province.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Supplementary. The member for Guelph—Wellington.
Mrs. Liz Sandals (Guelph—Wellington): Minister, it is good to hear that you are working to provide fairness for homeowners when it comes to their property taxes, but I have a special case in my riding.
As you may have read in the Guelph Mercury, a local property owner who has built a windmill on his property is threatening to take it down because of a high assessment which would lead to a large increase in his property tax. Obviously, his intent was to save money by generating his own electricity, not to pay higher property taxes. I know that this current assessment is on hold as MPAC is looking into this.
However, I have tabled a motion in this Legislature that seeks to reinforce the government's commitment to supporting Ontarians who invest in green energy. In fact, the motion specifically reads, in part at least, that we should "revise assessment policies to ensure property tax does not act as a disincentive to the development of residential wind turbines, solar energy systems and other home green energy generation."
Minister, will you support my motion and ensure that green investments are encouraged when properties are assessed in the future?
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: The answer is simple and straightforward. I know about my colleague's commitment to green energy. Her motion is a very strong one.
I just want to answer the question, if I could, on the assessment of pieces of property where new facilities like windmills are put into place. I've asked the folks in my own shop and at MPAC to revisit this because we want to do everything we can as we're developing new green energy initiatives, whether it's solar or wind power, to make sure that the property tax assessment system does not disadvantage those who want to take those steps. They're taking steps that are going to help everyone in the province.
Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound—Muskoka): I have a petition to do with the doctor shortage, signed by many people 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.
Mr. Paul Ferreira (York South—Weston): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas every citizen of Ontario should have a safe, decent and healthy home; and
"Whereas thousands of individuals and families are denied this basic right when the province of Ontario downloaded affordable housing to the city of Toronto but refused to pay for the hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred capital repairs; and
"Whereas poor living conditions undermine the safety and security of communities, harming children, youth and families living in affordable homes; and
"Whereas failure to invest in good repair undermines the values of the province's affordable housing as the condition of the housing stock deteriorates; and
"Whereas poor living conditions have a damaging impact on the health of communities, costing Ontarians millions in health costs; and
"Whereas investment in housing pays off in better residences and in stronger, safer, healthier communities; and
"Whereas residents of Toronto Community Housing have waited five years for the province to pay its bills and bring affordable housing to a state of good repair;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to:
"Accept its responsibility and invest $300 million to ensure that all residents of Toronto Community Housing have a safe, decent and healthy home."
I agree with the petition and I hand it to page Jacqueline.
LAKEVIEW GENERATING STATION
Mr. Tim Peterson (Mississauga South): I have a petition on behalf of the Lakeview residents.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas there should be no decisions on the future development of the Lakeview generating station grounds until:
"A full, independent environmental assessment, including air, water, soil samples and a health study of long-term residents, is completed to determine the historical, current and accumulative impact of industrial pollutants on the existing environment of Lakeview, southeast Mississauga, and its citizens; and
"Government includes this Lakeview assessment and gives its findings equal weight in all mandatory environmental reports regarding future development of the Lakeview generating grounds."
I am pleased to present this petition and add my name to it and have it delivered—
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): The member for Kitchener Centre.
The Deputy Speaker: Well, thank you for your advice. The member for Kitchener Centre.
POPE JOHN PAUL II
Mr. John Milloy (Kitchener Centre): "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 would like to add that I'm in support of Mr. Klees's bill.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): Now for what each of you has been waiting for and that you all told me it was about—but my little clock here says it is about half a minute to. Anyway, pursuant to standing order 30(b), it being 4 p.m., I am now required to call orders of the day.
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora—Rainy River): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Pursuant to section 38(a) of the standing orders, a petition to the House may be presented to the Clerk. I present the Clerk a petition from the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario—
The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order. You can present it to the Clerk.
RESPONSES TO PETITIONS
Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound—Muskoka): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Standing order 38(i) says, "Within 24 sitting days of its presentation, the government shall file a response to a petition with the Clerk of the House and shall provide a copy of the response to the member who presented the petition."
We were contacted by an individual who is concerned that the government has not yet filed a response to petition number 296, which was tabled on March 29, 2007. I would ask you to direct the government to respond.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): I understand that the petition is overdue. Minister, I want to remind you that you are required, under standing order 38(i), to file a response to a petition within 24 sitting days of its presentation. Your response is now overdue, and I would ask that you give the House some indication as to when the response will be forthcoming.
Ms. Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker—
The Deputy Speaker: The same point of order?
Ms. Martel: No.
The Deputy Speaker: Just a moment. Minister?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne (Minister of Education): I will undertake to get an answer as soon as I possibly can.
Ms. Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Just before orders of the day, I want to introduce the family of our page from Nickel Belt, Faith Fraser, who have come from Sudbury today. They are Conway, Angie, Kane, Lachlan and Jensen. They are here today, and we want to thank them for being here, to see their sister and their daughter.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT
AND SCHOOL SAFETY), 2007 /
LOI DE 2007 MODIFIANT
LA LOI SUR L'ÉDUCATION
ET SÉCURITÉ DANS LES ÉCOLES)
Ms. Wynne moved third reading of the following bill:
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 Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): Ms. Wynne.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne (Minister of Education): I am very pleased to rise in the House today for third reading of the proposed amendments to the safe schools provision of the Education Act. I will be sharing my time with my parliamentary assistant, the member from Guelph—Wellington, who has done a terrific job initiating many of the changes that will come about as a result of this legislation, if it's passed, and who spent time talking to people around the province about the changes we should be making to the Education Act in the safe schools section. I look forward to the member for Guelph—Wellington talking about some of the changes that we heard as a result of our public hearings, and she will be speaking to those.
If passed, the legislation would more effectively combine discipline and opportunities for students to continue their education. When we came to office, we had heard quite clearly that the Safe Schools Act, as it was called by the previous government, was providing for inconsistency around the province, that there were issues pertaining to the changes that the previous government had made that needed to be addressed. So we set about to look at that piece of legislation and to make those changes that would make the legislation more applicable, more appropriate and more consistent around the province. That's why the concept of progressive discipline is the one that we are focusing on in our legislation. "Progressive discipline" means consistent and clear discipline, which includes, potentially, suspension or expulsion but also provides for a continuum of discipline that's appropriate to the incident that a student has been involved in.
If passed, these amendments would ensure that there are strong consequences for inappropriate behaviour and would also provide programs for students who have been suspended or expelled and allow those students to earn their way back into the classroom and complete their education. One of the things that had been happening was that students were excluded from the classroom on long suspensions or on expulsions and in some boards across the province there were not programs available to those students. We believe that every student should have an opportunity, if they are on a long-term expulsion or a suspension, to have a program in place that would deal with academic issues but also social and life skills, some of the things that lead to problems for students in our schools. Those programs, and funding to provide those programs, are part of the legislation and the policy that underpins the legislation.
In particular, these amendments address the zero tolerance approach that was introduced by the former government, which was seen by many as being ineffective and unfair. The real issue around our safe schools policies and our legislation is that whatever we put in place has to be demonstrated to work. It is absolutely critical that all of our students and all of the staff in our schools feel safe. They have a right to feel safe in the school and on the school grounds.
I'm going to talk just a bit about some of the general issues around school safety that have been on our minds recently. The safe schools legislation, the Bill 212 amendments to the Education Act, are part of what we have been doing to introduce and to ensure an environment of safety in our schools. We know that there are many factors that create safety in our schools. Legislation is part of that mix, but there are many, many factors that lead to a safe environment in our schools.
Three and a half years ago, when we came into office, our school system was in disarray on many fronts, particularly in terms of the resources that boards had to hire and provide the appropriate number of adults in the school, including teachers and education workers. There had been resources removed from the school system over the previous eight years, and there was a real sense of distress in the system among school board trustees, who were trying to run the system without the resources that they needed. If we look at the factors that lead to a safe school, one of those factors is having enough adults in the system to actually create the conditions for safety. Our response to the need for that has been to provide resources to the system to hire more adults: approximately 7,000 more teachers in elementary and secondary, 7,600 more education workers in our schools. That includes caretaking staff, it includes education assistants, it includes the people who are the front line—our secretaries, our admin assistants—who make our schools safer places to be. That factor of more adults has been responded to by resources to hire more education workers, more teachers in our schools.
We know that a well-kept building, a physical environment that instils confidence and is physically safe but also looks safe and well-kept, is another factor that leads to safe schools. Having been a school trustee, I can tell you that we had been deferring maintenance in our schools because we did not have the resources to keep our schools in the condition that they needed to be in. By that I mean being able to do ongoing repairs and maintenance as well as renovations to our schools. Our response has been to provide access for our school boards to $4 billion for repairs. There are millions of dollars in our schools, thousands of projects around the province where our schools are being painted, there are boilers being replaced, there are windows being replaced. There is work being done that had been deferred for years and years. Every member in this House can go back to their riding and talk to the school trustees in any one of the four systems in our province and talk about the school repairs that have been done in each one of those systems. That is a very good thing.
If kids can feel good and teachers can feel good about the building that they're in, if support workers can feel good about the buildings that they're working in, that is going to lead to a safer environment. That factor of a well-kept physical environment we have responded to.
Another factor that leads to a safe school is strong leadership. We know that we have many principals and superintendents in our schools who are new to the role. We know that our young teachers, our new teachers, need support. There had not been the professional development support for our teachers in the previous government; we have added professional development days. But more important than that, we've put money into the system for professional development. So we've provided the opportunity for teachers and support workers and our principals to have professional development opportunities.
We've also put in place a leadership institute so that the leaders in our system have an opportunity to share practices and talk about what actually works in the system and how to promote communities of learning, because if we can have that kind of sharing of ideas and sharing of best practices, then our children will benefit in our schools.
We've also set up a principals' reference group that allows principals to talk about the things that they need to be sharing and the resources that they need to have in the system in order to be able to provide the best possible leadership and how to do their jobs so that they are available to the schools in the best way possible, because we know that if we have a principal who is connected to the team in the school, that can lead to a much more effective school. So that leadership factor we've responded to.
Another factor that leads to a safe school and a safe school community is access to the public space, access to those school buildings, community use of schools. We know that under the previous regime our school doors were closed when teachers left the school and the children had left the school. There were no resources or very few resources for school boards to keep those schools open. It was only community groups that had a lot of money and could pay high fees that were able to access the school buildings. We've changed that. We've put in $20 million every year, and that amount has been annualized. That has allowed school boards to reduce their fees, in some cases eliminate fees, so that community groups and community organizations can use those school buildings. That creates a safe community, when you've got that public space accessible.
On that note, I am currently in conversation with the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board to look at how we might be able to work together to provide summer programming in schools in Toronto where there are very particular needs for summer access to our school buildings. So on that factor of public access, we've provided opportunity and provided funding for community use of schools.
In terms of having an engaged student body, we know that is a prime indicator of a safe school environment. We've provided student success teachers, alternative programming. We've got 6,000 more students graduating from high school every year. That means there are more high school students engaged in the learning process and graduating from high school. That means that the schools they are in are safer places to be.
We've approached this issue of safe schools with a very broad stroke. Bill 212 is a part of that overall agenda to connect and make sure that the system has what it needs. We have corrected mistakes by the previous government. More importantly, we've ensured that our students have the highest quality of education possible and that every one of our students has an opportunity to reach his or her potential. That's the agenda that we have put in place to address that broad issue of safe schools.
The final comment I want to make is to compare our approach, which is essentially a positive one that's rooted in a strong liberal—and that is small-l and capital-L Liberal—belief in human potential. It is not a pessimistic belief about human nature. I want to just talk for a second about that negative, defeatist view of humanity that was articulated this past weekend by Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente. First of all, she got the facts wrong in her column, where she said that expulsion was no longer possible in the system. Expulsion is still possible but, again, it's on that continuum of progressive discipline. In fact, we've added bullying to the list of infractions for which suspension has to be considered, so we've strengthened those provisions.
Still, we are not tied to a negative view of our students. Here's what Ms. Wente says: "Our well-meaning education-promoting Premier is about to make a sorry situation worse. He has decreed that from now on we will force students to stay in the system until they're 18, whether they like it or not. Instead of teaching the teachable, administrators will now be forced to spend countless hours attempting to track the whereabouts of sub-adults who can't be taught and have no desire to learn."
Our approach is so far from that approach. We do not believe there is a student in this province who doesn't want to learn; we do not believe there is a student in this province who is not teachable. Our approach says that we believe in the potential of every student in this province to be the very best he or she can be. That's what the Safe Schools Act is about, that's what our Bill 212 is about, and I'd like to turn it over to my parliamentary assistant.
The Deputy Speaker: It goes in rotation. Further debate? The member for Oak Ridges.
Mr. Frank Klees (Oak Ridges): Speaker, I want to make it very clear that I am not the parliamentary assistant to the minister; I am the critic for the official opposition, and I'm pleased to speak on behalf of our caucus. We will be supporting this bill. I indicated that in the course of debate during second reading. I also indicated our intention to support this legislation during committee.
But I want to take a few minutes to also express our concerns relating to this legislation, first of all to make it very clear that we certainly take the view that no piece of legislation is ever perfect. In fact, when the Safe Schools Act was first introduced by the previous government, of which I am proud to have been a part, we stated at that time that there would have to be periodic reviews of this legislation to determine how the implementation was proceeding.
It's interesting that when you look at the intent expressed in this legislation, either in the preamble to the legislation or in speeches made by the minister or the parliamentary assistant, the objective of the previous legislation is identical to the objective stated by this government, and that is to ensure that we have a safe school environment. It is also to ensure that for those students who have challenges within the existing school environment or classroom environment, be they disciplinary issues or other challenges the student may have, there be the appropriate programs put in place—alternate learning programs—that are fully resourced, that are supported both by the appropriately trained teachers as well as the financial resources, to ensure that those young people have an opportunity to integrate back into the classroom and are given the appropriate supports while they are under either suspension or expulsion.
No student in this province should ever be written off. Regardless of what their circumstances are, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, of the education system, to ensure that every student is given the opportunity to become the best they can possibly be. That was the intent of the original Safe Schools Act, it is without question the intent of this amendment act to that legislation, and for that reason we support it.
What I also want to point out, however—and we attempted to do this during the committee hearings and again during clause-by-clause when, following the committee hearings—and we heard from many stakeholders. We heard support, again in principle, in the same way that we as the official opposition support the intent of this legislation. We heard about the implementation issues that will be faced on the ground by our school boards, by the administrators in our schools, by the principals who will have the challenge of then implementing this legislation.
We heard from the teachers' federations calling on the government to implement amendments that would ensure that the intent can be realized, that it's not just one more announcement, not just a smoke-and-mirrors exercise that's fine when we talk about it here and when we roll out the intent in the public forum. Everyone of course welcomes what is being said about the intent and what we want for students across the province, but, as with every other piece of legislation, the devil is always in the details. If legislation or the intent of legislation breaks down, it's never because there was a disagreement in terms of the intent; it's always because of the challenges that are realized in the implementation.
To that end, I want to express our disappointment that the government did not listen to most of the presentations that were made during committee hearings. I have here before me the Hansard relating to the clause-by-clause proceedings on this bill. For those who are not familiar with the legislative process, clause-by-clause committee hearings is where, following submissions from the public, the government, as well as opposition parties, have an opportunity to bring forward formal amendments to the legislation that we feel will, in the final analysis, improve the legislation and take into consideration the submissions from stakeholders who came with good intentions and who expected not that every amendment that's being proposed would necessarily be accepted, but there is an expectation that at least some of their recommendations would be incorporated into the final piece of legislation.
I express our disappointment that not only were we not allowed by order of this government to proceed through the entire clause-by-clause hearings; we were barely into our clause-by-clause deliberations when the Chair brought to an end any proposals that we wanted to bring forward by way of amendment. Why? Because the very proceedings were time-allocated. The time allocation motion was read into the record again, which meant that from that point on, after I think I had an opportunity to present perhaps 10 or 12 amendments out of the many we had prepared, not even to be listened to, the time allocation motion of this government simply muzzled the opposition parties on this. They were not even able to read into the record what their amendments were, and everything was deemed to have been passed. I find that offensive, particularly coming from a government that, on the one hand, is suggesting that they will be the champions of parliamentary reform, of democratic reform. They even have a minister who was named the minister responsible for democratic reform. What a scam that is.
The fact is that, instead of having democratic reform, what we have is a shutting down of the democratic process. Even the legislation that this government introduced to initiate democratic reform was time-allocated. In other words, you have the gall to bring into this House legislation that, when it is announced, is supposedly to reform how people are elected to this place, to increase the democratic awareness, and what does the government do? The government introduces closure legislation which kept us from even debating that bill.
But back to Bill 212: There were a number of recommendations made that were ignored. I want to read just for the record a couple of recommendations and comments that were made during committee that I think are very, very important to the stakeholders and that, as I said, were ignored.
First of all, I want to read from the submission made by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association. This is being submitted by Donna Marie Kennedy and Victoria Hunt from OECTA. They made reference to the issue of progressive discipline. We just heard from the Minister of Education that progressive discipline, the concept of progressive discipline, is the foundation on which they brought forward this legislation and it was going to be the guiding principle of these changes. Here is what Donna Marie Kennedy of OECTA had to say during committee about the government's version or view of progressive discipline:
"While progressive discipline is a lofty ideal, in reality it only works if there are sufficient support services within the system: child and youth care workers, psychologists, social workers, guidance counsellors. All of these services were severely cut in the last decade. Progressive discipline will not work unless the students' behaviours and needs are being addressed. If a student is not suspended and is only to be sent back to the classroom, then the problems have not been addressed. There is no point in having a program in place without some kind of consequence, without some kind of follow-up. It sends a message that anything goes. This is not what we want. We need to be assured that appropriate actions are being initiated immediately and what the consequences will be."
I don't see any evidence, certainly not in the amendments that were put forward, that would have addressed some of the clarifications, the definitions that were called for. Certainly at this stage, the government has done nothing to respond to that concern. We'll be hopeful that perhaps through regulation some of these shortcomings will be addressed and, again, that the call by stakeholders that they be involved and consulted in the development of those regulations would be heeded by the government.
I want to make reference to another concern expressed by OECTA. On this point, I must say that I will take issue with the principle here that has been expressed. The objective of the original Safe Schools Act was to empower teachers to deal with disciplinary matters within the classroom. There were many times when teachers would complain about the fact that they were essentially powerless to deal with disciplinary matters, whether it be in a classroom or whether it be in the hallways of our schools. We have had some very interesting, very disturbing comments from teachers over the last few weeks concerning the tragic incident at the C.W. Jefferys school. One of those reports came from a teacher, a long-time area resident, who spoke about the circumstances at this particular school. I cannot believe that this is an isolated incident to just one school, and that's why it is so disturbing.
I want to, again, for the record, just read into Hansard what this teacher had to say about her experience. This is Sandra Fusco, quoted in the Saturday, May 26, 2007, Toronto Sun:
"Who is to blame for this latest act of violence among our youth? Not song lyrics or action films or video games. We are all to blame.
"First, there is the school board which is hesitant to administer effective consequences to misbehaviour for fear of legal repercussions. Next, there are some apathetic administrators who do unfathomable damage when clear messages about acceptable and unacceptable behaviours are not communicated clearly to students through consequences for actions or proper follow-up. Furthermore, they fail to ensure a safe work and learning environment....
"Also, there are the complacent teachers; many of whom use complacency as a coping mechanism in such a hostile working environment. Finally, there are some parents who, for one reason or another, are not building the basic ethics and morals of decency and respect for others and human life in their children. In short, we are all to blame."
I suggest that there is one other group of people which is responsible and is to blame, and that is this group here in this House.
I challenged the Minister of Education, following this incident, as to whether she had been asked or whether she herself had taken the initiative to launch a comprehensive investigation into what has taken place at the C.W. Jefferys school. We must all agree that the reports of the incidents at this school are unacceptable. What we're hearing very clearly is that there is a responsibility for an independent investigation and that we must, together, ensure that the appropriate mechanisms are put in place to ensure that tragedies like this never happen again. But it comes down to empowerment—empowerment of teachers, empowerment of principals—and ensuring that the resources are there.
With regard to the issue of empowering teachers, I was disappointed to hear once again from OECTA, at the submissions to the committee, "We oppose any attempt by the government to download discipline onto the classroom teacher. It's not fair to the other students in the classroom; it's not fair to the teacher. It's an impossible expectation for the teachers to handle all the discipline in the classrooms. It needs to be handled at the principal's office."
We've also heard from principals who are saying that this government has imposed an impossible burden on them. They have cut back on the amount of supervision time that teachers are required to commit to the classroom, but they haven't replaced that reduced supervision time with any other means of providing that supervision. If, in the wisdom of the government, it in fact deems it appropriate that teachers themselves should not commit as much time to supervision, then surely there must be some other way of providing that support to principals by providing additional resources for supervision.
I say to you in closing that while we support the intent of this legislation to ensure that the appropriate measures are in place to, on the one hand, have discipline in the schools and provide resources and alternative programs to students who, for whatever reason, are not coping within the classroom setting, what we cannot do is simply put out legislation and pat ourselves on the back that somehow we've solved the problem, when we know full well that in many of our schools today there are serious problems, primarily due to a lack of resources. I would appeal to teachers, principals and school boards that we take very, very seriously this issue of ensuring the appropriate resources are there and that we heed the call of this teacher, Sandra Fusco, who makes a very strong statement to us all: "We are all to blame."
If this Legislature does not take it upon itself and if the Minister of Education does not take it upon herself to do more than simply pass legislation, then it truly does rest on all of our shoulders should another tragedy such as happened at C.W. Jefferys occur in this province. Pray that it doesn't.
Mr. Peter Tabuns (Toronto—Danforth): It's been interesting to me to go through the Hansard for commentary on this bill that was made by our critic, Rosario Marchese, at second reading and to look at the analysis that he gave of this bill, which essentially takes us back to the situation we had before zero tolerance.
It's an interesting historical period because when the zero tolerance bill—the requirement—was first brought in, it was opposed by the NDP, it was opposed by Rosario Marchese, and it was opposed by the Liberals. The understanding was very clear at the time that the bill, at best would reduce some conflict within schools, but overall its impact on society would be negative. Many students would be forced out on to the street and they would not have the social supports, they would not have the psychological supports that would allow them to come to grips with the destructive or antisocial behaviour that had brought them to be expelled from school.
The worry that our critic, the member for Trinity—Spadina, Rosario Marchese, expressed when this bill was read at second reading, and I think the worry that we still have, is that the supports for troubled young people are not there within the schools. We see a situation in which teachers, who are hard-pressed to keep up with their class loads now, will have one tool, a blunt tool, that of suspension, at the direction of the principal. They will have the blunt tool of recommending expulsion to the board of education, which will have the final decision in this matter. But we don't see the other tools that will be needed in terms of social and psychological supports to actually deal with the problems in a way that will give satisfaction, that will avoid both the larger tragedies that we've seen recently in this community and the smaller, mundane, day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month tragedies that ultimately result in a person's life being wasted, being set aside, outside of the mainstream productivity and opportunity in this society.
I had an opportunity this past weekend in my riding, at a street sale, to talk to a teacher who is teaching in the west end of Toronto, a woman in her 40s who has seen a lot over the last few decades in our school system. She simply wanted me to convey to the Legislature, the minister and the minister's parliamentary assistant that she and her colleagues are very much at the end of their rope because they experience a situation in their schools, in the schools that she's been teaching in, of growing numbers of social problems, of children coming from households where they don't get the support and the nurturance they need, where the teacher, when she tries to phone parents, finds people who are either working two jobs and not able to think about the children other than making sure they have a roof over their heads and food on the table—crucial elements, obviously, but not enough to direct and shape a young person's life. She finds people who are at the end of their strength and not able to deal with the social problems she has to deal with as a teacher, not able to deal with the issues she brings to their attention because they don't have it at home. The teacher, the woman I was talking to on the weekend, doesn't have in school the supports, the framework or the culture necessary to keep kids going in the direction they have to go in.
She talked about the state of school maintenance. In her school, one janitor; 600 kids. She said simply that it wasn't possible, that when the janitor tried to keep things in order, keep things clean—and, as was said earlier, it has an impact on people's morale, on their sense of that school, on a sense of order, on a sense of being cared for, being taken care of—it was not doable. It was consistent with my experience of going back into the schools after a number of years out of the political system and just looking at the decay that was there, that is there and is not being addressed in the way it has to be addressed.
Our critic, Rosario Marchese, made a very strong argument on second reading that I believe bears repeating today, and that is that this government has been in power since the fall of 2003. This government knew from the Human Rights Commissioner that the Safe Schools Act, the zero tolerance, was discriminatory; was disproportionately affecting the disabled, disproportionately affecting children of colour, black children; and that this policy was applied unevenly across the system.
This government knew early on because its leadership rejected the Safe Schools Act prior to its election and said that, frankly, what was on the table had to be reversed. Yet instead of bringing that in in the first year—what is it?—four years have gone by. Hundreds, maybe thousands of students have been expelled; social problems that should have been addressed over those years have been left untouched; yet, at the last moment and possibly the last day that this Legislature is sitting, this act is to be passed. The question I think everyone has to ask themselves is why, given the knowledge that the Minister of Education and the Premier have about the profound failings of that policy approach, action wasn't taken years ago to spare those children who have been expelled, to end that discrimination, to end that unequal, unevenly applied policy that has done damage and has not actually helped our children and our schools.
There is no question that principals need the authority and the power when they deal with children who are disruptive, when they deal with children who are a threat to other children and when they deal with bullying. There's no question that principals have to have the power to act. But that again is a blunt instrument. It is an instrument that may temporarily take a child out of class, take a child out of school, but does not deal with the ongoing and profound social dynamics that will someday see that child who's been taken out involved in far more serious conflicts with far more serious consequences.
In the last round of debate, I had an opportunity to talk about the cause of those destructive dynamics. I think a lot of it has to do with poverty; a lot of it has to do with families that crumple under the pressure of lack of money, lack of stable housing, families that crumple under the impact of racism and lack of opportunity. The minister, I think correctly, noted that one should not simply dwell on those factors, that in fact destructive behaviour, antisocial behaviour, was a problem across the socio-economic spectrum. There's no question. If you have parents who have problems with addiction and they have money, children are going to have difficulties. If you have parents whose style of raising children is a bullying style, is an emotionally damaging style, then that damage will be reflected, will be echoed, will come out again in class. So there's no question that there are issues beyond race, beyond class, that cause problems in school. But there's no question in my mind that poverty in this society has a huge negative impact, that it corrodes families. At the most fundamental level, when you have children coming to school who have not eaten well and are not going to eat well, who are hungry, they are not going to behave in a way that is going to be conducive to their learning and they are not going to behave in a way that's conducive to other children feeling safe or other children having a good learning environment.
We had a debate in this chamber about the national child benefit, the one that's being clawed back by this government and will be clawed back for a number of years to come. That action on the part of the government to capture that money instead of ensuring that it's available for people is one that contributes to a lack of safety in our schools. That policy is a failing.
Now, children often won't speak about those issues in that way. But in the last election I was in, the by-election in my riding, I was in a Coffee Time one day just having a sandwich and a coffee, and a woman came up to me. I would say she was in her 30s. She was slender, she was neatly dressed—not richly dressed, but neatly dressed—and she asked if I was running for office. I said yes. She said, "Well, I'm on ODSP and I want you to know that we are hungry. Please do something about this." She was not running off being wild; she was just being very reasonable and direct: "We are hungry." So when this government did not end the clawback of the child benefit, deferred that for years, it said to those who are hungry, "You're going to have to wait for a while, because we're going to continue to use that money. We're going to continue to take that money to deal with our budgetary issues."
When we look at the housing situation, we know that there are tens of thousands on the list in Ontario waiting for affordable housing. In my constituency office, those are normally the most heart-wrenching stories that we get, of people who can't afford to pay their rent and pay their other expenses. These are families, these are seniors, these are single people on disability. Yet this government has approached the housing file with extreme slowness and extreme lack of urgency. Then we come back to this bill that attempts to deal with those problems that arise in large part because people are materially deprived and we say this bill is in many ways a band-aid on a profound social problem. My colleague Rosario Marchese talked about the fact that in the 1990s the city of Toronto Board of Education had youth workers, had social workers who would actually go out and work with young people, deal with those who had those social problems, those psychological problems. Although, again, I don't think that was enough, and certainly it wasn't a question of paradise at that time, but at least you had social supports working in the classes, in the schools, reaching out to deal with those problems, and we're not seeing that here.
Our critic Mr. Marchese talked about the announcement of $23 million that was going to be spent on dealing with these problems, giving support to boards so that boards would be able to provide classes or alternatives to those who are suspended. I'd say better that than nothing, but he had tremendous concern that that money, that $23 million, was not new money but simply a reallocation from another envelope that was already pretty thin.
I know that the minister has talked before about how tremendous amounts of money are going to be put forward, made available to deal with problems like the physical state of schools. I want to read what Mr. Marchese had to say at second reading about the grand promises of funding to deal with physical problems. He said:
"To correct your record a little bit, this record of putting money into schools, your claim is that you put so much money into capital projects. Let me explain why that is not accurate. The Tories did a study in 2002 and said you should spend $4.2 billion"—on capital repairs in schools in Ontario; $4.2 billion. "Minister Kennedy said three years ago that he was putting aside $275 million to leverage $4 billion in capital projects. The first phase was supposed to be $75 million. You haven't even completed your first phase. You didn't even spend more than $25 million. Your $75 million would have generated $1.2 billion worth of capital expenses, but you haven't even spent $25 million, so far behind are you. That's how bad it is."
That's the concern: that an announcement will be made and, if carried through, it may well mean—and I hate to use the phrase—that Peter may be robbed to pay Paul. That one very necessary expenditure will be undermined to deal with another very necessary expenditure, and the net effect will be to not deal with the problems in our schools but simply to give people something that will look good in campaign literature.
I know that for parents and others who are watching this debate, there's no question in their minds that they want principals and school boards to have the power to suspend and, where the problem is serious enough, to expel. I can't argue that, but I know that in order for us to actually deal with these problems, we're going to have to have those other investments. I want parents, teachers and principals who are struggling with these problems now to know that this bill and this government's commitment are not going to go far enough, are not going to go the distance that has to be gone to deal with these problems.
Don't forget that one of the things that was done when the city of Toronto last ran into difficulty with its school spending, when Paul Christie was appointed superintendent, overrode the Toronto Board of Education because the city of Toronto's board of education couldn't balance its books—he got rid of the youth workers. That was a very bad move. That was setting aside the concerns of children. That was setting aside the needs of our young people. But don't forget that although Paul Christie is gone and although the Toronto District School Board is no longer under supervision, the funds have not come back to restore those workers. That legacy of under-investing in our youth, that legacy of not actually taking care of the problem, has continued on for almost four years. This bill will deal with only a small part of the problem. It won't deal with the full range of social problems that our teachers face, that our principals face, that our children face.
I think we all have to ask why this government waited until the end of its mandate to bring this bill forward. We have to ask why a government that knew in opposition that zero tolerance, the Safe Schools Act, was a mistake, waited so long to correct that mistake, why this government has not, in fact, made the investment back into youth workers, school psychologists, social workers—a full range of initiatives to ensure that our kids are safe and well taken care of.
I expect that we will be voting for this bill, but we do it in recognition that we're simply restoring the status that existed before the Safe Schools Act, not taking the big step forward that we need to take.
Mrs. Liz Sandals (Guelph—Wellington): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill 212, dealing with safe schools and progressive discipline.
As a number of people have referenced, the Safe Schools Act was originally introduced in 2000 by the previous government, and there have been a number of concerns throughout its history around whether or not it was really working, whether it was really creating safe schools. Because of that, our government instituted a review which was conducted by the safe schools action team, which I had the privilege of chairing.
One of the strengths of our government is that before we finalize policy, we do go out to and speak to people, and then we listen to what they have to say. In this case, consultations took place in six communities: Ottawa, London, Etobicoke, Scarborough, Sudbury and Thunder Bay. We heard from literally hundreds of people. The action team based our recommendations, upon which the bill is largely based, on what we heard from those hundreds of people all around the province.
We focused our review in four areas. We looked at consistency, fairness, discipline and prevention, and we heard that with the existing bill there were problems in all four of those areas.
We found that the bill was inconsistently implemented as previously structured. In fact, the suspension rate ranged—from 2% to 35% of the students in one board had been suspended in one year. We found some students who were suspended without any consideration of the reason behind their action or whether suspension was really the most appropriate form of discipline for these kids. We also found that when kids were repeatedly suspended or expelled for a limited time, they fell further behind in their schoolwork, which meant they were more likely to disrupt classes and more likely to drop out.
We found in some areas of the province that when students were expelled, they had access to programs that would help them earn their way back in, correct their behaviour and continue academic studies. We found that in other areas of the province, there were no such programs available. In fact, these very sorts of alternative programs: One of the things that we will be doing—it was in the budget—is providing $31 million for the implementation of Bill 212. That is new money, and $23 million of that new money will be going to providing just such alternative programs in all parts of the province, not just in 12 locations as is currently the situation.
We also, as a team, met with the chair of the tribunal which hears expulsion appeals. Both the chair of the tribunal and a number of the people we talked to around the province said that one of the most serious problems with the existing act was in the whole area of something called limited expulsion, which is expulsion that could be done by principals. The observation of the chair and others was that in many parts of the province, there was no programming and that de facto became a permanent expulsion without a hearing, without any opportunity to earn your way into re-entry. Consequently, the safe schools action team did recommend that we move to a system where all expulsions are done by a board or a committee of the board to protect against that.
When we looked at discipline, we found that within the existing legislation there is some flexibility. But there was a lot of confusion around that flexibility and about how to apply discretion. We found that in some schools there was a form of progressive discipline being applied and in other schools it was strictly zero tolerance. There was a lot of confusion about what to do.
One of the things this act will do that the team recommended is that we need to be very clear about giving directions to schools about how to use progressive discipline, about how to use what are called mitigating factors, which is looking at the "why" of the action.
I would like to point out here that there is some confusion in the media—not in this House, given the comments I've heard. Progressive discipline should not be confused with no discipline. What progressive discipline means is that you look carefully at the situation and you apply the appropriate discipline. So yes, there is discipline and, in some circumstances, that may be suspension or it may be expulsion, but it will always be the appropriate consequence, not just something that is a knee-jerk reaction.
When we had the public hearings at committee, we got some suggestions about how to fine-tune the bill. I don't have time to speak to all of them, but we did listen carefully to what people had to say at committee and we have made a number of amendments. For example, the school boards said, "Now that we have to have hearings with three trustees"—because the team recommended, and the government has responded in this bill, that it's important that we have a team of three trustees as a minimum in order to have a fair hearing—"we really can't get that together in two weeks." We've given them an extra week.
We also heard from parent advocates who said, "We really don't particularly"—in the immigrant communities where language and culture are an issue—"have time for people to understand the issues around suspension and expulsion. We need longer to appeal." So we've also given those folks an extra week to appeal so that we're being fair. We're giving people time to act.
One of the things we heard from teachers is that they weren't always being informed about why the student was absent. They didn't always know that the student had been suspended. So we're actually putting it right in the act that on the list of people who have to be notified of a suspension are not just the parents but also the teacher, so the teacher knows what is going on. That's particularly important in secondary schools. We made a number of amendments.
My time is almost up. I would like to say thank you to my action team. I would like to say thank you to the ministry staff who are here, there and about. I'd like to say thank you to the opposition parties who have indicated they will be supporting the bill. I think we are going to make things very much better for the students of this province.
The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to the order of the House dated May 1, 2007, I am now required to put the question. Ms. Wynne has moved third reading of Bill 212, An Act to amend the Education Act in respect of behaviour, discipline and safety. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, say "aye."
All those opposed, say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. This will be a 10-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1704 to 1714.
The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour, please stand one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Broten, Laurel C.
Cansfield, Donna H.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Flynn, Kevin Daniel
Mossop, Jennifer F.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Racco, Mario G.
Takhar, Harinder S.
Van Bommel, Maria
Wynne, Kathleen O.
The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed, please stand and be recognized by the Clerk.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 72; the nays are 0.
The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried. Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be named as in the motion.
Orders of the day.
Hon. David Caplan (Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, Deputy Government House Leader): I move adjournment of the House.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. The deputy government House leader had moved adjournment of the House. Agreed? Agreed.
This House is adjourned until 6:45 of the clock.
The House adjourned at 1718.
Evening meeting reported in volume B.