L020 - Mon 8 Apr 2013 / Lun 8 avr 2013

The House met at 1030.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Good morning. Please join me in prayer.

Prayers.

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS

Mr. Rob E. Milligan: With us in the west gallery this morning are two very fine gentlemen from the great riding of Northumberland–Quinte West, Mr. Barry Adamson and Earl Ashby. I’d like to welcome them to Queen’s Park. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

Mr. Michael Mantha: Joining us this morning from my riding of Algoma–Manitoulin is Mrs. Kimberly Arnold, who is the mother of our new group of pages, one of them being Callum Arnold. Please welcome her.

Mr. Kim Craitor: I’m extremely proud to introduce two people from my riding of Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie: Donna and Don Cormier are here from Niagara Falls to see how efficiently we operate up here in Parliament. It’s a pleasure to have them here.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Although they’re not here, I’m sure that everybody in Ontario is very proud that the Nepean under-19 women’s ringette team won a gold medal this weekend; it defeated Winnipeg. Of course, they’re from the great city of Ottawa, so I know we’re all very proud that that team got the gold medal on behalf of this province.

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: How are the Senators doing?

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: The Senators? We’ll talk about those guys later.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Do I suspect that they’re somewhere here in the gallery and you’re introducing them?

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Speaker, I’m here and I’m very excited to introduce the fact that they won the gold medal.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you—and I’m glad to see quite well.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: I’m pleased to introduce trainers and workers formerly of Marineland who are here today in the Legislature.

Ms. Helena Jaczek: In the west public gallery, we have a number of medical students who are here with the Ontario Medical Association leadership day. Many members will no doubt be meeting them later on today. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

Mr. Ted Chudleigh: I’d like to introduce Jack Greenberg’s father. Jack Greenberg is one of our pages here today, and Mark, his father, is in the gallery.

Hon. Michael Gravelle: I’m looking forward to introducing a constituent of mine, a first-year medical student at the University of Western Ontario, here with the Ontario Medical Students Association to meet with the Minister of Health: Mathias Fricot. Matt, welcome.

Hon. Reza Moridi: It’s my pleasure to introduce Kitty Chen, mother of Bonnie Wu, the page from Richmond Hill.

Ms. Sylvia Jones: While it’s not formally an introduction, I did want to acknowledge that our own Ernie Hardeman, on Friday night, received an honorary professional agrologist designation from the institute of agrologists.

Ms. Cindy Forster: Speaker, I would like to ask this assembly to have a moment of silence this morning for Peter Kormos, who passed away on March 30.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I believe the member from Welland is asking for unanimous consent to observe a moment’s silence, and if I would indulge her to accept that after we finish the introductions, I think that would be appropriate.

The member has asked for unanimous consent. Is it agreed? Agreed. Thank you.

Further introductions?

Mr. Frank Klees: My great riding of Newmarket–Aurora has been declared the centre of the universe, and I want to introduce two very special guests from my riding, Mr. Wes Playter and Todd Jackson. Wes is the director and manager of Roadhouse and Rose Funeral Home in Newmarket. We welcome them very warmly today.

Mme France Gélinas: I would like to welcome Kayla Sue Marie, who is here representing medical students who will be coming to Queen’s Park today.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Further introductions?

In the Speaker’s gallery today, we have a delegation from Potenza, in the province of Basilicata, Italy. The delegation is being led by Mayor Michele Mastro, Deputy Mayor Rosella Di Tullo, chief executive officer Luca Festino, councillor Antonio Paradiso, past mayor Mario Romanelli, Giuseppe Romanelli, Michele Romanelli, Bruno Cautela, Ernesto Sessa and Vincenzo Mastrangelo.

How did I do, Rosario? Okay?

Accompanying our delegation is Sam Primucci, president of Pizza Nova; Dan Montesano; and Joe Volpe, a former MP.

I would now ask all members in the House to stand and observe a moment’s silence for the deceased Peter Kormos, former MPP.

The House observed a moment’s silence.

ANNUAL REPORT,
CHIEF ELECTORAL OFFICER

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I beg to inform the House that, during the adjournment, the following document was tabled: on April 2, 2013, the 2011-12 annual report of the Chief Electoral Officer.

BOARD OF INTERNAL ECONOMY

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I beg to inform the House that, in accordance with section 87 of the Legislative Assembly Act, the name of the following person appointed to serve on the Board of Internal Economy has been communicated to me as chair of the Board of Internal Economy: The Honourable John Milloy, MPP, is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council from among the members of the executive council to replace Dwight Duncan.

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ORAL QUESTIONS

TEACHERS’ COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Before I start, I just want, on behalf of Tim Hudak and the Ontario PC caucus, to convey our deepest sympathies to our colleagues in the NDP as well as his family. Peter Kormos was a man whom those of us who were able to serve with him not only enjoyed but learned an awful lot from. So, at this hour of your need, we are there with you, together.

Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Last fall, your government implemented Bill 115. For months after, and during that period, your government said it was the only way to control costs and prevent chaos in our schools. When you ran for Liberal leader, you promised you would not reopen the collective agreements imposed in this House, because there was no new money in the wage envelope. Then you had secret talks with union leaders, and you promised parents around the province that those talks only revolved around process, not more entitlements. You also started talking about the ministry envelope, not the wage envelope. Then, last week, you broke not one but three promises to parents: You opened up the legislated contracts, you caved on union demands, and your secret talks weren’t about process at all.

The question is: What is being sacrificed in order to pay for these new perks being promised?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I wanted to take a moment to express my deepest sympathies to the families and friends of, actually, two former members of this Legislature: Peter Kormos, the former member from Welland, whom we have acknowledged today, and Robert Elgie, the former member from York East. Regardless of where we sit in this Legislature, I think we owe a debt of gratitude to each of these men who dedicated their lives to public service in the province of Ontario. My thoughts are with their loved ones, Mr. Speaker.

To the question from the member, Mr. Speaker, I would just say this: I was very clear during the leadership that the process that had been undertaken over the previous year had created fracture, had created, I think, a very difficult and disrespectful conversation between government and the education sector, and I was determined to rectify that. I will say more in my supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: It’s estimated that the retirement gratuity alone is going to come in at about $63 million. That’s four elementary schools or two high schools in this province. That’s what’s happening, Mr. Speaker. Our $63-million figure came from consultation with school boards and others, and it’s an easy calculation based on the ministry’s own facts.

So if there’s nothing wrong with the deal that the government has now reopened and renegotiated and given more to, then why won’t they—I’ll tell you why, Speaker. They won’t because of this: They initially said there was no more money in the wage envelope. Then, when they made the secret deal, it became the ministry envelope. When it became clear that that meant taking more money from full-day kindergarten, textbooks, technology and what have you, they said they found efficiencies. When they realized after a decade in office that not one person in this province believes they could find efficiencies, they said they found miraculous saved money. No one believes that, Speaker.

If there is so much new money found in the education budget, why is the government willing to give away the money to unions when students and boards desperately need this money for technology, textbooks—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The money that was in the envelope that was negotiated under the first agreement, that was part of the deal, is the same money that is in the envelope today.

What I said, Mr. Speaker, is that there were implementation details, there were changes that needed to be made and that the money could be moved around. There is no new money in that collective agreement. There’s no new money in those contracts. The money has been moved around.

Here’s the reality, Mr. Speaker: We have reopened our respective dialogue with the education sector, and I know that there are schools in the member’s riding where extracurriculars are back on track, where kids are having the opportunity to take part in extracurriculars—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I guess asking for order is not enough, and I’ll just jump right to it. I will now be going after individuals.

Final supplementary.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Thank you, Speaker. If the Premier thinks that anybody in Ontario believes that this deal doesn’t cost anything, I have a power plant in Mississauga, and I’ll throw one in from Oakville just so that she can make the deal. Because that is just completely false.

You can’t increase retirement gratuities for sick days from 10 cents on the dollar to 25 cents on the dollar—that costs money; making sure that there are more unpaid days—that costs money. This Premier knows that there is more money being spent, but she won’t be truthful to the people.

The late, great Margaret Thatcher once said, “If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you will achieve nothing.” This Premier has achieved nothing for the residents and the students of this province. It is more about this Premier trying to help her electoral coalition with the Working Families coalition than anything else.

So I ask her again: What has this deal cost? Where is it going to be cut from in the rest of the ministry’s budget?

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Before I turn to the Premier, I’m going to ask the member to withdraw that comment.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I withdraw.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Premier?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: We’re not spending more. The money that’s in the contract is the same money that was in the contract when I came into this office.

I would ask the member opposite to talk to the kids who are practising for soccer. I would ask the member opposite to talk to the kids who are practising badminton, who are getting ready for their proms, who are getting ready for their graduations. I would ask the member opposite to talk to the teachers and the support staff who want to work with their kids, who want to work with government and who want to improve the education sector. I would ask the member opposite to go to some of her schools, look in the eyes of the kids who thought they weren’t going to be able to have a track season this year and ask them how they feel about the fact that they are going to have a track season.

That’s what this is about. It’s about those kids in the 5,000 publicly funded schools in this province who are going to have an enriched experience because we’re having a respectful dialogue with their teachers and support staff.

ONTARIO PUBLIC SERVICE

Mr. Peter Shurman: My question is also for the Premier. Premier, you’ve sent a very clear message to every union in the public service. That message is, “Don’t worry; we’ll take care of you no matter what it costs.”

There are about 4,000 union contracts in place or in negotiation with the Ontario government, as you know. A contract is a legal document that binds the parties to the articles in it, and by reopening them, you’ve hung out a giant sign saying “a contract doesn’t mean a blessed thing.”

So, after Bill 115 and the unwarranted hardship your Liberal approach placed on Ontario kids and their families, you spend tax dollars you really don’t have, you justify what you’ve done by playing a shell game with taxpayers, and now everything is just peachy. Does your new policy mean you are prepared to spend your way out of this mess? Is it your intention to buy union support in the next election by telling them to just come back for more?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: As I’ve said, the money that is in the contracts is the same money that was in the contracts when I came into this office.

To answer the member’s question, the message that I have sent—the message that we have sent to every student in this province, to every teacher, to every support staff and, I would say, to people in the public sector is that we want those services delivered, that we want to work with you, that we want a good rapport between us, because, Mr. Speaker, that’s in the best interests of students, it’s in the best interests of patients and it’s in the best interests of the people who receive the services that are delivered by the public service. I don’t think that having a conflict is any way to progress, is any way to create the conditions that are good for the kids in our schools.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Peter Shurman: You’re maintaining that the changes being made to teachers’ contracts won’t cost taxpayers any additional money. Where I come from, changing formulas that were there for sick days and special leave, among other things, carries a specific value, but, hey, if there’s still some spare money kicking around, you’ll just use that, right? Because last time I looked, we had a $12-billion deficit—more this year, I suspect—a debt of some $250 billion, we pay interest of about $11 billion per year, and that’s before you and the minister raise taxes. Credit rating agencies were onside with the restraint approach your party has thrown out the window. You yourself have said that Ontario just plain has no money. Oh, I forgot: Taxpayers shelled out over a billion dollars for power plants that were never built.

Premier, am I missing something here, or have you borrowed a printing press from the mint?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: We were committed to finding savings of $1.8 billion in the teacher contracts. We have found savings of $1.8 billion. I would have thought that the member opposite would have been impressed by the reality that there was the possibility of making some changes within that envelope.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Renfrew will come to order.

Carry on.

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Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I really believe the underlying issue is that we believe, on this side of the House, that it is possible to work with people. It is possible to find common ground with folks who are delivering the services in our schools, in our hospitals and in public services across government.

That’s what we’ve done since we came into office: We’ve worked with the people who deliver those services. This is just another example of that. Being able to have a respectful dialogue with the teachers and support staff in this province means that young people in our schools will do better.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Mr. Peter Shurman: The bottom line is that you simply cannot get away with this double-talk and nonsense. No one is buying it. Ontarians—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member will withdraw.

Mr. Peter Shurman: Withdraw.

Ontarians will make you and your party pay for what you’ve done. You and your predecessor imposed contracts with some unions. You negotiated with others. Then you caved in to labour terrorism and turned contracts on their head after you had screwed up the year for hundreds of thousands of innocent children. Worse, you have thousands of contracts that, by these standards, can all be reopened if the unions don’t like them. What makes public service workers and your government so special and so different that the rules for every other taxpayer in Ontario do not apply? Your message to unions is this: peace at any price.

I challenge you to tell Ontarians how much their taxes are going up and why anyone should ever trust you or your government again.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated please.

The Minister of Citizenship, come to order, please.

Premier?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Just listening to the rhetoric, it’s hard to know where to start. But let me start here: My belief is that the work that we have done in education, the work that we have done in health care, the way that we have been able to improve the outcomes for people across the province, whether it’s in education or health care—that’s our legacy. It’s not about a particular political interaction. It’s not about a particular election. It’s not about whether our party is losing ground or not. It’s about whether we are finding ways to provide opportunities for the young people in this province, to make sure that kids have extracurriculars and people have reduced wait-times in the health care system. That’s what it’s about.

That’s why I’m here. I’m not sure why the member opposite is here, but I’m here to make life better for people in Ontario.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock. Be seated, please. Thank you.

New question.

CANCER TREATMENT

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Before I put my question to the Premier, I also, on behalf of New Democrats, want to mark the passing of Peter Kormos, who was a friend and a colleague, and give our condolences to his friends and family around the province, and to Bob Elgie as well. It’s tough when we lose these people. They’ve served a great number of years and have done the people’s work for many years. I just want to make sure that we’re acknowledging their passing.

My question is to the Premier. Last week, nearly 1,000 Ontarians found out that they were given the wrong cancer medication. This is a serious error that happened over the course of an entire year and affected hundreds upon hundreds of Ontarians. People need to be able to trust that our health care system works and that it works well.

What is the Premier going to do to provide that assurance to people?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I agree with the member opposite that it’s unacceptable that doses of these chemotherapy drugs were not accurate.

At this time the hospitals have reached out to all of the patients affected. Every patient is different. As I said last week, I really encourage all the patients to be in touch with their oncologists and to have that conversation with their own doctors.

The Minister of Health is bringing together an expert panel to review the quality assurance, and I believe that group is meeting this afternoon. So we’re taking action very quickly. In addition, we will be appointing an independent third party to provide recommendations on this.

But our first concern is with the individual patients, that they have that conversation with their oncologist and make sure that their treatment is on track.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Ontarians want to know how this happened and how we can make sure that it never happens again. It’s clear that we need a real and truly independent look at what went wrong here. Will the Premier ask Ontario’s Ombudsman to conduct a full and transparent examination, with a clear timeline, of how nearly 1,000 people received the wrong cancer medication, and how we can make sure that it doesn’t happen again?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I have said it is unacceptable that this happened. We have to get to the bottom of it. We absolutely have to understand how this happened and whether there’s a systemic aspect to this. We absolutely need to get there. The expert panel, as I said, is being pulled together. They’re meeting this afternoon. We do need an independent third party to review the situation. We will be announcing that independent review.

I agree with the leader of the third party that we have to get to the bottom of this. We need an independent look at it, and we are going to be putting that in place.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: The Ombudsman’s office has everything it needs in place right now to provide the systemic review that the Premier is talking about.

There are nearly 1,000 families that are wondering what went wrong, and they want to know what they can do—what we can do—to make sure that other people don’t have to face these same kinds of questions in the future. This means an investigation that doesn’t just look at the symptoms but actually gets to the root causes, and it means that the investigation has to be more than simply a review of quality assurance.

Will the Premier give the Ombudsman of Ontario a mandate to conduct a full investigation of how nearly 1,000 Ontarians were given the wrong cancer medication, why it happened and how we can prevent it from happening again?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Again, I completely agree that we need the experts; we need experts to look at this. The group that’s being pulled together, the expert panel—Cancer Care Ontario, hospital leaders, the College of Pharmacists, Health Canada—we need people who really understand the sector to get to the bottom of this.

Everyone in this Legislature and so many people across the province have been touched by cancer in their families or personally. We can all empathize with the families of the people who are involved, and with the patients.

So it is absolutely my determination that we will get to the bottom of this, that we will have expert recommendations, and that we will get to the root causes of what happened and whether this was an isolated incident or there is a systemic aspect to this. We have to find that out, and that’s what we will do.

TAXATION

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is also to the Premier. Media reports last week indicate that the Premier is planning to move ahead with plans to implement a new corporate tax loophole that will allow Ontario’s largest corporations not to pay any HST on meals, entertainment, gasoline and a whole bunch of other expenses. Does the Premier think that makes sense in these tough economic times?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know that the Minister of Finance is going to want to speak to the specifics of what the leader of the third party is speaking about. There haven’t been those decisions made, so I’m not sure exactly what she is talking about.

We’re in the process of listening to people around the province, talking to them about what they think should be in the budget. I’ve had input from the leader of the third party, and I really appreciate that, and there are issues that we’re working on that have been raised by the leader of the third party.

But the reality is that the budget isn’t written yet, and we’ll be working diligently between now and the day that the Minister of Finance reads the budget in the House. I hope she’s here, and we will have a good discussion thereafter.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Tough times mean we have to make some tough decisions. The Premier says she’s open to the idea of new sales taxes and fees that are going to hit household budgets, and at the same time, she’s giving Ontario’s largest corporations a break on paying their HST.

The Premier says she wants a balanced approach. Does she believe it’s balanced to ask households to pay more while Ontario’s largest corporations get to pay less?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I hear now the direction that the leader of the third party is going, and this is a question of whether we need to address the concerns of people around infrastructure and particularly transit in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area. I believe that we have a very urgent problem in terms of the ability of goods and people to move around this region.

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I think the leader of the third party and I disagree on the way forward. I believe we need to continue building transit. I believe that we have to have a dedicated revenue stream to be able to fill in the gaps that have been left because of decades of neglect. We have been building transit since we came into office in 2003, in the GTHA and beyond. But if we don’t continue that in an ongoing way, if we don’t take the responsible step to make sure that there is a long-term plan, then we’ll miss a generation and we will be having this conversation 50 years hence, and I’m not up for that, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, we agree that there is certainly an urgent problem that we need to deal with: infrastructure, and transportation infrastructure particularly, in this province. But the new tax loophole the Premier is creating will let Ontario’s largest corporations stop paying HST on entertainment, on meals and on gasoline and other things, while families are being told that they’re going to have to pay more yet again in tough times by the Liberals. This is not fair, Speaker. It is not balanced. And for people dealing with tough times, it simply doesn’t make any sense.

Will the Premier commit to a balanced approach to balancing the books that starts with closing this tax loophole?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: We are committed to a balanced approach in writing the budget; we’ve said that over and over again. But part of that balanced approach is making sure that we make responsible investments in infrastructure, whether it’s roads and bridges in our rural and northern communities or whether it’s transit in the GTHA, transit in Kitchener-Waterloo, transit in Ottawa or transit in London, making sure that people have the transportation infrastructure across the province that they need to be able to move around.

It actually is the question, Mr. Speaker. The question is, are we willing to, yes, deal with our manufacturing sector, make sure our businesses have the supports they need, but at the same time, make sure that people can move around their region, that their transportation infrastructure is in place and that we have dedicated revenue streams in order to make that happen.

HYDRO RATES

Mr. Victor Fedeli: My question is for the Premier. Premier, your Liberal seat-saver gas plant scandal has finally come home to roost on the hydro bills of Ontarians. On Friday, we learned hydro bills for seniors, families and businesses are going up nearly 3%. On page 18 of the Ontario Energy Board’s report, this sentence details the latest hydro hike: “The cost of the turbine purchase that is part of the Oakville gas plant cancellation agreement is included in the forecast of global adjustment costs.”

Premier, can you tell us today, how much is the Oakville cancellation really adding to our hydro bills?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: To the Minister of Energy.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: The opposition critic is speaking to the rates that the ratepayers pay. I have to say that over the last nine years, we have been investing in infrastructure, which is reflected over the ratepayers’ base. We have created 11,500 new megawatts of electricity. We have created 7,500 new kilometres of transmission, at a cost of $9 billion. We are investing in clean, reliable energy as we phase out dirty coal fuel generation.

The energy board sets electricity rates. It’s stable, predictable, and rates reflect the actual cost of energy, including the cost of new infrastructure. We have clean, reliable grids that our homes, businesses, schools and hospitals can rely on.

They left us a stranded debt, Mr. Speaker. They did not invest in infrastructure. We are investing in infrastructure. It’s reflected on the rate base, and we’ve been addressing that—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Durham, this is the second time, and it’s the same thing that I keep reminding people to do. When I get quiet, that’s not the signal to go ahead and continue again.

And the member from Lambton is not in his seat.

Supplementary?

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Thank you, Speaker. Premier, I was hoping your minister would clarify if the Ontario Energy Board was referring to the $250-million payment that appeared on TransCanada’s year-end financials or if that payment is going to be something new.

Down at the justice committee, we’ve heard sworn testimony that puts the total for the gas plant cancellation up to $991 million. Yet, after the Ontario Power Authority’s JoAnne Butler confirmed that Oakville would cost hundreds of millions more than the $40 million you’ve clung to, you sit over there and shrug your shoulders.

Premier, if energy expert Bruce Sharp and OPA Vice-President JoAnne Butler could tell us how much more than $40 million this is going to cost, why can’t you tell us the total? Can you tell us how much more is going on the hydro bills of ordinary Ontarians, or do you need a little more time to get your stories straight?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, we feel it’s important that Ontarians have all the facts. That is why we asked the Auditor General to look into the cost, and he’s doing that. That’s why we extended the mandate of the committee. That’s why the committee is having ongoing witnesses to look into the situation.

But let’s listen to what Mayor McCallion had to say. “The people of Mississauga are fed up hearing all this controversy at Queen’s Park over something that they wanted cancelled, the government agreed to cancel it.... Come on. Let’s get on with the business of the province, folks.”

Mr. Speaker, that’s why a couple of weeks ago, I was in Niagara Falls to announce the opening of a new hydro generation facility that’s going to provide hydro to the province of Ontario for another 100 years. Clean, reliable energy, that’s what we’re all about. We have a committee that’s all about looking into this issue. Let’s deal with the business at hand and let the committee deal with the business—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.

MANUFACTURING JOBS

Ms. Catherine Fife: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. On Friday, when the Premier was asked about the 350 workers from A.O. Smith in Fergus who are losing their jobs, she said, “The problem with the manufacturing sector is that we haven’t celebrated it enough, we haven’t shone a light on it as much as we should.”

Since last year, Ontario has lost 25,000 manufacturing jobs, and in the past seven years, we’ve lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Will the Premier admit that the lack of celebrating isn’t the problem but rather that her only job creation plan is just to create more loopholes for corporations like the Royal Bank to lay off workers?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: To the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.

Hon. Eric Hoskins: Of course, I appreciate the question from the member opposite. I know that she would want to join me in expressing the obvious, which is that, in the case of Fergus and the job losses, our primary concern as a government is for the future of these individuals and their families who, unfortunately, are being laid off. So it’s important that all of us focus our efforts on helping these families that have been negatively impacted by the announcement of this closure.

I should add as well that the Premier, apart from being in Kitchener–Waterloo that day, the previous day spoke with the leadership in Fergus, spoke with the local member from Wellington–Halton Hills, as in fact did the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

This is an issue which is never easy, especially for a town like Fergus, which is dependent on this particular firm, I know, for more than 100 years. It’s an issue that we’re working closely on.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Catherine Fife: Well, the people of Fergus don’t need our sympathy; they need a plan. They need leadership. Last month, 17,000 more Ontarians found themselves without a job, and youth unemployment is almost double that of the workforce as a whole.

Instead of investing in jobs, the Premier seems more interested in creating new tax loopholes for Ontario’s wealthiest corporations so that they can cut the HST when they wine and dine. Ontarians want to see new job initiatives, especially for youth, instead of new HST loopholes for wealthy corporations.

Why is the Premier more interested in creating new tax loopholes than creating new jobs?

Hon. Eric Hoskins: There are so many parts to this supplementary, I’m not sure where you would like me to go on this.

I appreciate the fact that you were also at Communitech on Friday, when the Premier and myself were there, and Minister Milloy as well. We were engaging in—I think it was—the 11th jobs round table the Premier has had thus far across the province. We were engaging the business leadership, the community leadership and the local chambers to do exactly the sort of thing that the member opposite is asking us to do, which is to learn how the government can continue to support industries, whether it’s manufacturing or whether it’s start-ups like the more than 800 that are being supported through Communitech, which of course is being supported through the Ontario government.

We are concerned about job creation. We’ve created nearly 400,000 jobs since the bottom of the recession.

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TEACHERS’ COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Mr. Bas Balkissoon: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Education. Since 2003, our government has made tremendous gains in education. Graduation rates and literacy rates are up. There are smaller class sizes, and full-day kindergarten for our youngest learners. But it is important to constituents in my riding that we continue to improve our education system and ensure stability in our schools.

My constituents have also heard in the news that we have made progress on agreement in principle with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. Mr. Speaker, through you, can the minister please update the House on the progress made with our secondary school partners?

Hon. Liz Sandals: I’d like to thank the member for Scarborough–Rouge River for this very important question.

Our government has been having positive collaborative discussions with our education partners, both unions and school boards, over the past few weeks, and those have been successful. We have reached an agreement in principle with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and the public school boards and the more than 60,000 members that that represents in terms of secondary teachers. The agreement resolves implementation concerns identified in a number of areas. Those include sick leave, maternity leave, retirement gratuity, unpaid days and local bargaining.

But it’s important to know that I’ve been very clear that this fits within the ministry’s envelope. In fact, the $1.8 billion in savings that was announced by the previous finance minister in January is still $1.8 billion in savings.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Bas Balkissoon: Once again, my question is to the Minister of Education. I’m pleased that our government has reached an agreement in principle with OSSTF. It is important that we continue to work with our partners in education so that our students can succeed. It is important to everyone in my riding that no new money is spent and that we remain within the funding envelope for these agreements.

I also understand that our government is having ongoing discussions with our elementary partners. Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, can she please provide an update on the ongoing discussions with the elementary teachers?

Hon. Liz Sandals: I’m pleased to report on the progress that we’re making with all of our education partners. We’ve actually come a long way with both the elementary and secondary teachers’ federations, and both have now agreed to lift their ban on extracurriculars, which is great for the students.

As ETFO announced last week, we’ve come to an understanding with ETFO, the elementary teachers’ federation, on a number of issues. We’re going to continue to work with them this week, working towards a final agreement, and I’m confident and optimistic that we will be able to come to an agreement with our elementary teachers as well.

We believe that positive, collaborative conversations with all of our education partners are important, not just to the teachers, the support staff and the school boards involved but also to the parents and to the children.

MANUFACTURING JOBS

Mr. Ted Arnott: My question is for the Premier. Last week’s jobs report showed that in March we lost 24,000 manufacturing jobs. And on Friday, while visiting Kitchener, when asked about the job losses, the Premier said, “We’re trending in the right direction.”

I wish she’d been in Fergus last Thursday, as I was, to see the faces of the A.O. Smith—formerly GSW—workers, 350 of whom had learned the day before that they were losing their jobs.

My question to the Premier is this: How could she possibly say we’re trending in the right direction when so many people are losing their jobs?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I want to address this question, because I did say that, and I was talking about in general. I was talking about February, I was talking about previous months, and I was talking about the reality that since the depth of the recession, we have increased jobs in Ontario by more than 380,000. That is a very good record.

But the reality is I did speak to the member last week about the situation in Fergus. I spoke to the mayor of Fergus. We’re in the process of setting up workers’ reception centres and making sure that we put the supports in place.

Of course, my heart goes out to families. I know that there are some families where both of the adults in the family worked in that plant, and it’s a very difficult transition and a difficult situation for families.

But the reality is that we are working very hard to put the conditions in place so that more jobs will come to the province, and that is the trend about which I was talking.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Ted Arnott: Mr. Speaker, eight years ago I stood in this House again and again and urged the government to assign the finance committee the task of undertaking public hearings on the competitiveness issues facing our manufacturers. I envisioned us working together to develop a plan for action to strengthen our industries, but the government steadfastly refused.

In the past eight years, Ontario has lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Again, last week the Premier also suggested that the loss of manufacturing jobs is a myth. If the Premier had come to my riding last week, she would have discovered that the loss of manufacturing jobs is not a myth; it is real.

How much longer will our manufacturing sector bleed good jobs before this government wakes up and takes effective action?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.

Hon. Eric Hoskins: Thank you for that question. I have to say that, of course, the closure of A.O. Smith, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, is something which is extremely difficult for the individuals employed there and families employed there. This is a company that has been around for, I think, about 120 years if not more. In fact, my own uncle worked at Beattie Brothers, as it used to be known as, for 50 years. He started newly employed and worked his way up so he was running a form into the sheet metal.

We’ve set up an action centre to work with those individuals—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I will consider that completed.

New question.

CASINOS

Mr. Michael Prue: My question is to the Premier. Communities across this province are not being given a chance to have a say in the decision on whether to host casinos or not. To make matters worse, there is total confusion on revenue-sharing mechanisms.

Today, the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, in his open letter, states that Toronto will profit up to $150 million annually from casino revenue-sharing alone. The Premier met with Mayor Ford. He obviously thinks he has a deal, yet Ontarians are in the dark on casino revenue-sharing formulas.

Does Mayor Ford have a deal from this Premier?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: First of all, people around the province have got the opportunity to have a say in whether they want a casino in their communities. Municipalities will make those decisions. The province is not going to make those decisions. Municipalities will, and municipal councils are required to do a consultation with their constituencies.

The letter that the member opposite refers to that was put out by Mayor Ford is what it is. I have no idea where the numbers come from; they are not numbers with which I’m familiar. You’ll have to speak to Mayor Ford about where those numbers come from because they are nothing with which I am familiar.

As I said, every municipality is going to have to make this decision in consultation with its residents about whether they want a casino in their jurisdiction or not.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Michael Prue: Back to the Premier: It’s very clear that this province has a plan to force casinos on communities, even those that don’t want them, but there’s no plan to share with Ontarians exactly what the deal is. Mayor Ford, in his open letter, has already started to look at how he wants to use the $150 million, even though we have no idea what other communities will get. Keeping communities in the dark, as this government is doing, is not the right approach.

Will the Premier finally come clean and let communities know what will be the revenue-sharing agreement for casinos in Toronto and everywhere else?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I have tried to be as clear as possible. Municipalities will choose whether they want to have a casino or not, and they will do that in consultation with their constituents—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, the member from Northumberland, the member from Hamilton East–Stoney Creek, come to order.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: A couple of weeks ago, I said that the formula that applies in terms of the revenue across the province is going to be the same, that it is going to be a fair formula, and there will be no special deals for one jurisdiction, Toronto or any other jurisdiction; I was very clear about that.

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As for the numbers that are in a letter that one mayor has released to the media, I have no knowledge of those numbers. I have no way of verifying those numbers, and you will have to speak to Mayor Ford to find out where he got those numbers from. They are not numbers that originated with us.

STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

Mr. Grant Crack: My question today is for the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. College and university students in my riding of Glengarry–Prescott–Russell, like so many across the province, face significant academic and social pressures that can negatively impact their mental health and well-being. One in five of Ontario’s young people experience mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and eating disorders.

Minister, you’ve mentioned in this House that you have been engaged in consultations with various post-secondary partners on mental health, and I’m pleased to hear that your ministry and our government are taking mental health and our students very seriously. Early identification and intervention of mental health issues are vital to giving students the help and support they need to succeed both on and off the campus.

Speaker, through you to the minister: Could he inform this House of what the government is doing to help ensure that post-secondary students have access to the mental health services that they require?

Hon. Brad Duguid: The fact is that while most of us recall our post-secondary days as a positive time, it is also a very stressful time for young people. Think about it: It’s often the first time a young person is away from home. They’re dealing with the stresses of everyday student life, including exam time. Now imagine putting those stresses together with some form of mental illness that may have just been diagnosed. That’s pretty challenging.

Those students need our support, and that’s why I was very pleased to announce that our new government will be investing $12.3 million as part of a $27-million, three-year commitment to provide support for students dealing with mental health issues. Ten projects, spanning from Niagara to Thunder Bay, have been approved in round one of the Mental Health Innovation Fund. This is a team approach involving partnerships with colleges and universities, student associations and local mental health providers, who have all stepped up to make this important program happen.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Grant Crack: Thank you, Minister, for your response. It’s great to hear that our government prioritizes our students’ mental health and well-being. Students in my riding and in campuses across Ontario believe that mental health services are an important part of creating healthy campuses, so I’m sure that they will welcome this announcement.

You mentioned that through the Mental Health Innovation Fund, students will have improved access to the services and supports that will help them lead happier and healthier lives. Students in my riding of Glengarry–Prescott–Russell want to know what kinds of programs and services will be available to them on campus. Speaker, through you: Could the minister inform the House of some of the ways in which the Mental Health Innovation Fund will truly improve mental health services and outcomes for Ontario’s post-secondary students?

Hon. Brad Duguid: I’d be delighted to do that. Our government has announced that the Kids Help Phone line will be up and operating, likely by the fall. That will offer a province-wide hotline to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to college and university students.

In addition to the health line, there are the 10 projects that I mentioned previously. For example, there will be a centre where all institutions will be able to access expert advice to better help students with complex mental health needs; 2,500 college and university community members across the province will be trained to identify and address mental health issues earlier; and a partnership with northern colleges will help tackle the challenges of providing support and services in northern communities and other projects that will help address challenges for aboriginal students.

These important investments will enhance supports for students dealing with mental health issues and help those students continue to learn and succeed throughout Ontario.

TAXATION

Mr. Michael Harris: My question is to the Premier. I want to go over some recent developments with your government’s eco tax system. Last year, the environment minister approved huge eco tax hikes on electronics, some as much as 1,000%. In January, he created a new regulation to send eco taxes on tires through the roof, with some fees increasing by more than 2,000%. But he wasn’t done there; in February, he approved yet another massive eco tax hike on big-screen TVs. Now the environment minister claims that he doesn’t know why there are eco taxes.

I’m seeking some clarification from you today, Premier. Last week you said that businesses and consumers need to understand that these taxes are the cost of dealing with waste. Is that still your position?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of the Environment.

Hon. James J. Bradley: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Member from Oxford, come to order.

Interjection.

Hon. James J. Bradley: I’m delighted to be able to—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Excuse me.

Some people just keep talking; they don’t even hear that I’ve asked them to come to order. The member from Oxford, come to order.

Minister of the Environment?

Hon. James J. Bradley: The first thing the member will want to do is correct his leader. I know that’s a difficult thing to do. You get into trouble for correcting your leader, Mr. Hudak, who referred to this as a tax, as though somehow, the Ontario government gets even a penny of it.

Interjection.

Hon. James J. Bradley: He knows that’s true, so he will want to correct his leader in that regard. He knows that these fees—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Leeds–Grenville, come to order.

Hon. James J. Bradley: —are established by the private sector organization.

I happen to believe, and I hope he agrees with me, that they don’t have to include this as a separate “eco tax,” for instance, as you call it, or fee. They don’t do that if there’s an increase in the minimum wage, if there’s an increase to the cost of transportation, if there’s an increase in the cost of rent. That’s simply part of doing business, and they should be innovative in including that inside that cost of doing business.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Michael Harris: Minister, they charge these eco taxes because you signed off and allowed them to do so. I’ll send over to you this letter that you signed.

Premier, I hope you can understand why I’m actually seeking the clarification. I was hoping for an answer from you earlier. After all, you yourself admitted last week that Ontarians need more clarification on the Liberal eco tax system. So let’s recap. After your environment minister rubber-stamped a series of new eco tax hikes, he suddenly developed a case of selective amnesia before going on the radio. In fact, it was so bad that while he was on the air, he claimed to not even know why eco taxes are imposed on consumers and vowed to eliminate them. However, the next day, you told Ontarians that these taxes are just the cost of dealing with waste.

Premier, who should Ontarians believe—you or your environment minister, who suddenly forgot it was the Liberals who created these eco taxes?

Hon. James J. Bradley: First of all, this is a fee that is applied to products or producers, not consumers. That’s on producers, I can say.

Second, I want to say that I think the member has identified a problem—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The frustration that I’m having is that as soon as I sit down, or as I’m standing up, getting quiet, people just keep chirping. It is very frustrating. Particularly, it’s the same people I keep asking, and then I get the eyes looking at me as if I’m the problem.

Minister?

Hon. James J. Bradley: The fee, as I was saying, is on producers; it’s not on consumers.

Now, having said that, I think the member has identified a problem. The problem is the legislation that was passed by the Conservative government in the year 2002. We are going to change that legislation—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.

ANIMAL PROTECTION

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: My question is to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Last year the minister promised action to protect marine mammals and other animals at Marineland. The only action that has happened since then is that Marineland has sued former trainers, who are here today in attendance. They’re the whistle-blowers who originally brought attention to the animal abuse at Marineland. So I ask, when will the minister take real action to end animal abuse at Marineland?

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: Thank you very much for this excellent question. I’ll say to you that in Ontario, there’s no place for animal abuse, and this government is going to take every step to make sure that this does not happen.

That’s why recently I launched—last October I announced that our ministry will begin consultation on a three-point plan that seeks to improve province-wide enforcement of the OSPCA Act and strengthen governance to create new regulations to further protect marine mammals in captivity and to explore options for the licensing of zoos and aquariums.

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The consultation has been going very well. We make sure that everyone who needs to be consulted or wants to give us their opinion are giving us their opinions and that we’re meeting with them.

In the supplementary, I’ll go on in detail.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: I’m glad the consultation is going well, because it’s not going well for Phil and Christine here, for the animals at Marineland, and it hasn’t been going well for over 10 years. For over 10 years, we’ve had examples of abuse brought forward. The Toronto Star has covered examples of abuse for over 10 years.

Animal protection agencies have filed actions against John Holer and Marineland, and yet absolutely nothing has been done to protect the animals or the humans who care for them.

Eighty-five thousand people have signed a petition demanding action, Mr. Speaker. When will the minister finally act—not consult, act—to protect animals at Marineland and the former employees who have risked everything to speak out about them?

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: Monsieur Speaker, on this side of the House, we believe in consultation. We believe in reaching out to the people and asking them to give us their opinion. That’s why our partners wanted to meet with us. We have the OSPCA. We have the Canadian council on animal welfare. We have the Ontario Veterinary College. We have the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. We have Zoocheck. We have the inter-ministerial partnership—and I can go on. We wanted to hear from them. We reviewed the legislation in 2009. This legislation had not been reviewed since the passage of the legislation in 1919.

When that party was in power, they did nothing. This party is the only party that’s going to move forward to make sure we have the proper legislation to protect these animals.

AUTISM SERVICES

Ms. Helena Jaczek: My question is for the Minister of Children and Youth Services. Last week, when members were in their respective ridings, an important day was commemorated across Ontario. World autism day was held on April 2, with events in communities across the province.

Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is having a growing impact in Ontario, with roughly one in 88 children being diagnosed with this disorder.

In my riding of Oak Ridges–Markham, we are very fortunate to be served by the York region chapter of Autism Ontario, whose members I’ve met with many times.

World autism day increases awareness of ASD and has helped the South Asian community in Markham raise funds for their autism awareness centre.

My question is, in light of last week’s event, Minister, can you tell me what our government is doing to make combatting autism a priority?

Hon. Teresa Piruzza: I’d like to thank the member from Oak Ridges–Markham for this important question and for bringing forward that last week was world autism day. I was very pleased to be able to attend the flag-raising back home in Windsor last week on world autism day. The day, of course, is a day to celebrate the achievements of people living with autism and the front-line workers, advocates and professionals who support them. Together, we have broadened the range of provincial supports and services that help young people with autism develop independence, communications and living skills. As well, as our understanding of autism continues to grow and we learn more about it, we’re better able to nurture the gifts of children and youth with autism.

Moving forward, we are determined to build off of our progress and make further advances for young people with autism and their families.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Helena Jaczek: It’s certainly clear to me and my constituents that supporting children with autism is a priority for our government. But as the minister said, we can always do more.

I’ve heard from parents in my riding who have questions about the Intensive Behavioural Intervention program. They are asking for more transparency in the way decisions in the program are made.

At the same time, we know that new information about ASD is coming forward all the time. As we learn more about autism, the way we deliver services must change as well.

Minister, I know that your ministry is focused on enhancing services. Can you tell my constituents what you are doing to improve services, and IBI in particular?

Hon. Teresa Piruzza: Thank you, again. Yes, I will agree that our ministry is very focused on this issue in terms of developing our programs and improving our programs, and I am pleased to speak to some of those changes that we’ve made within the ministry.

In December 2012, we established an arm’s-length committee which is providing important expert advice to inform future policy design and program development. As we learn more, we need to change our programs and we need to continue to evolve with our families and our partners.

Also in December 2012, we established the Independent Review Mechanism for the Autism Intervention Program. This review mechanism now allows families to request an independent review of decisions made regarding their child’s eligibility for, or discharge from, intensive behavioural intervention. We heard from parents, loud and clear, that this was a priority. By listening to parents, experts and service providers, we continue to improve autism services.

SKILLED TRADES

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: My question is for the Premier. Premier, today your unwanted and unnecessary College of Trades begins its commitment to the tradespeople of Ontario who currently hold a certificate of qualification in a particular trade—that, according to a letter sent out by the chair of the board of governors. Tradespeople will now see a 676% tax increase on their membership fee from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to the Ontario College of Trades, where they will receive absolutely no new benefits.

Premier, could you give us a date and a time frame when those new members of the College of Trades will get an opportunity to vote on who will represent them on the board of governors of the College of Trades?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Hon. Brad Duguid: The one thing the member is correct in is that the College of Trades is fully operational as of today, which is good news for people in the skilled trades, who will now have a voice of their own.

I guess my question to the member is—it is going to be operational as of today; the decision was made some time ago. Why is the member still trying to tear down the skilled trades? Why does he not believe that they deserve an independent voice? Why does he not think people in the skilled trades deserve a voice like doctors have, that nurses have and that teachers have?

On this side of the House, we respect the people in the skilled trades. We have confidence in their ability to very much govern themselves and make decisions that impact their sector. I don’t understand for the life of me why the member has so little confidence in people in the skilled trades.

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: Minister, tens of thousands of Ontario tradespeople are outraged by the horrible communications, by the greedy tax grab on the membership tax and by the complete lack of transparency by your new College of Trades. It is quickly becoming a boondoggle of a magnitude similar to Ornge or the power plant closures.

For example, do the regular people know that the HST alone on the new yearly membership is only $4.40 less than the cost of the complete fee under the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities? That’s from $20 to $15.60 for the HST. Also, it is now mandatory for tradespeople to join the College of Trades. They have to join the College of Trades or they’ll lose their licence. It’s mandatory.

I’m going to ask you this slowly: When will tradespeople be able to vote on their own chair and members who sit on the board of governors? It’s a simple question. What’s the date that they will be able to—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Minister?

Hon. Brad Duguid: Incorrect facts in the member’s question, and I don’t have time in the minute that I have to address them, all those incorrect facts. I’m happy, Mr. Speaker, in debate later on in the week to do that one at a time.

I think, really, what we need to know now is why would the member in the PC Party be against enhanced consumer protection for Ontario families when it comes to hiring people in the skilled trades? I think the question that Ontarians need to know and people in the skilled trades need to know is, why would you be opposed to better protection on unfair competition in the underground economy for people in the skilled trades and Ontario families? Why would the member be opposed to empowering this sector to make its own decisions?

I have confidence and this government has confidence in the leaders in our skilled trades sector. We have a lot more confidence in their judgment than we do in the judgment of the member opposite.

That’s why we’re supporting the skilled trades with their own college—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.

CANCER TREATMENT

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: My question is to the Minister of Health. On Friday I called on the Minister of Health to do the right thing and allow the Ontario Ombudsman to investigate how cancer patients in my riding and across the province were given diluted chemotherapy drugs. Out of the approximately 1,200 people affected, 665 were from London.

The people of my riding and the minister’s riding are not hearing the answers they need from those who are supposed to be in charge, and they are beginning to lose faith. Will the minister agree to do the right thing and ask the Ombudsman to investigate how things could have gone so wrong?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Patients deserve answers; their loved ones deserve answers. I can assure you that we will not rest until we have answers to those very legitimate questions that all of us have: What happened in this case? Why did it take a year to discover the problem? How can we ensure that this never happens again? We also have to ask the question: Are there broader cancer drug supply system challenges that have come to light in this situation?

Speaker, we have the best cancer system in the world. We have the best cancer survival rates in the world. We have a lot to be proud of. But we must be ever vigilant; we must always make it stronger. I commit to the member opposite and to all Ontarians that we will get answers and we will share those answers.

MEMBERS’ BIRTHDAYS

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): A very reliable birdie has indicated to me that we have a few members in this House who deserve our attention. The member from Wellington–Halton Hills, the member from Simcoe–Grey and this Speaker share a birthday. Happy birthday.

There are no deferred votes. This House stands recessed until 1 p.m.

The House recessed from 1142 to 1300.

MEMBERS’ STATEMENTS

YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I’d like to speak directly to the grade 4 students in Carol Ann Aubrey’s class at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton school in Barrhaven, not too far from my constituency office. They’re watching from their classroom today as students, but they deserve big congratulations from this assembly, because they’re also entrepreneurs.

This Friday, April 12, the students will celebrate the launch of an entrepreneurial project as part of the Learning Partnership’s 2013 Entrepreneurial Adventure. The students have undertaken research with local businesses and unemployed youth to address gaps faced by job seekers and employers through their very own hiring guide. The profits from sales will be donated to Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

This is very impressive for a grade 4 class, and for that I congratulate them, Speaker, because I think you can agree that they are going to be using the skills they have adopted during this process into the 21st century. This Friday, I’m looking forward to attending their launch with other business leaders in the community. But until then, I wanted to let them know that on behalf of this assembly, the residents of Nepean–Carleton congratulate them and want to encourage them to keep going.

So, kids, have a great day, listen to your teacher and I look forward to seeing you on Friday. Have a great day.

PETER KORMOS

Ms. Cindy Forster: On March 30, 2013, the Welland riding, the Niagara region and constituents across this province lost a friend, a colleague, a mentor and a fiercely outspoken advocate committed to the values of equity, fairness and justice.

Peter Kormos represented his constituents and the people of this province for more than a quarter of a century as a city councillor, an MPP and, finally, a regional councillor, and he represented them well. His loyalty to his constituents was unwavering, and theirs to him.

He was an eloquent orator, an intellect and well read, and he used these attributes and skills to provoke controversy and ensure good public debate. As the NDP labour critic and the NDP House leader, he served us well. His command of parliamentary rules and procedure was second to none, and his challenges were rarely overruled.

On picket lines across this province year after year, he defended the rights of workers. He lifted their spirits on their lowest days, telling them to be proud of their strengths and courage, and not to apologize for trying to have a better life for their families.

I’ve encountered hundreds of people over this past week, from a public school teacher to his Cub leader—imagine that; Peter Kormos was a Cub—to the organizations that he helped. And every day for the 18 months I’ve been here, a day has not gone by that somebody— from the maintenance and cleaning people to the Attorney General—hasn’t asked me, “How is Peter Kormos?”

Peter wouldn’t want us to be sad about his passing. He would want us to spend this time continuing to fight for fair and equitable access to public health care without having to use your credit card, for affordable public auto insurance, for improved health and safety, for good collective bargaining processes, for a living wage for all and for improvements to human rights. He may not be with us here today in body, but he’ll continue to inspire all of us for years to come.

Rest peacefully, my friend.

ÉDUCATION EN FRANÇAIS

M. Phil McNeely: Le Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est, le CECCE, est le plus important réseau canadien d’écoles de langue française à l’extérieur de la province de Québec, avec 50 écoles et 21 000 élèves.

Le 27 mars dernier, le CECCE lançait, lors d’une conférence de presse, le programme d’accueil des élèves internationaux. Ce programme est le premier de ce genre offert par un conseil scolaire de langue française en Ontario. Il existe déjà dans 20 conseils scolaires anglophones ontariens. Ce programme permettra à des élèves de la septième à la 12e année provenant d’autres pays de recevoir une éducation de haute qualité en français dans la région de la capitale nationale.

Je suis surtout très fier que l’École secondaire catholique Béatrice-Desloges, située à Orléans, soit parmi les trois écoles ciblées pour ce programme novateur. On y trouve aussi l’École secondaire catholique Franco-Cité et l’École secondaire catholique Pierre-Savard.

Comme le mentionnaient MM. André Ouellette, président du conseil, Bernard Roy, directeur général du conseil, et Mario Lajoie, responsable du programme au conseil, ce programme permettra de répondre à la demande croissante de permis d’études d’élèves étrangers. Il nous permettra aussi de faire rayonner la francophonie d’ailleurs dans nos écoles et surtout de faire rayonner la francophonie ontarienne à l’échelle internationale.

Merci, monsieur le Président.

CAMBRIDGE WINTER HAWKS

Mr. Rob Leone: It gives me great pleasure today to inform members of this Legislature that the Cambridge Winter Hawks are the Cherrey Cup champions. This past week—

Applause.

Mr. Rob Leone: I think it does deserve a round of applause.

The GOHL Midwestern Junior B title was contested in front of 1,300 fans at the historic Galt Arena Gardens, and it was the home side that came out on top. Cody Gratton found the net twice, while Nick Caldwell stopped all 27 shots he faced to seal a 4-0 victory in a 4-1 series win over the Stratford Cullitons.

I’d also like to apologize to the members from Perth–Wellington and Kitchener–Conestoga. I know this had to be a particularly heartbreaking month of playoff hockey for the two MPPs, with the teams from Stratford, Elmira and Kitchener no match for the team from Cambridge. However, I encourage them and the rest of my colleagues to get behind the Winter Hawks as they continue their run to the Sutherland Cup.

ELECTRICITY SUPPLY

Ms. Sarah Campbell: This past week, I visited seven remote First Nations communities in my riding. The single biggest concern of the places I visited is access to affordable and reliable energy. The reality for many of these communities is that electricity is created by burning diesel fuel in generators. This future success of these communities depends on their access to a reliable and affordable power supply, yet these communities cannot keep up with demand as their capacity is limited by how much fuel they can transport in during the short winter road season.

Most remote First Nations communities are prohibited from building more houses to ease their housing shortage, which is already at a crisis level; building new schools that are healthy and mould-free; and upgrading their water and sewer systems to address serious environmental concerns, all because of the limitations of their electricity system.

Remote First Nations communities aren’t alone; communities like Red Lake and Pickle Lake face ongoing supply and reliability issues when it comes to power as well.

When communities approach the provincial government and ask to have their basic needs addressed, they are told to present a business case, which begs the question: Why do we in northwestern Ontario have to present a business case to convince the provincial government to invest in basic infrastructure such as electricity, when every other area of the province is afforded this basic right? Are we not equal citizens in the province of Ontario?

COPTIC COMMUNITY

Ms. Dipika Damerla: Saturday, April 6, marked a historic day for Canada and Mississauga when Canada’s Coptic Orthodox Christian community got its first bishop ever. In a church overflowing with the faithful, the air full of anticipation of this historic first, His Grace Bishop Mina was enthroned for the newly established Coptic Orthodox Diocese, which includes western Ontario and western Canada, serving over 10,000 people.

Bishop Mina, appointed by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, becomes the first Coptic bishop to take office in Canada. It is indeed a matter of pride for Canadian Coptics that the community is now large enough to merit a bishop—a pride that I could see in the eyes of the community at the service. That the first Canadian Coptic bishop will serve out of Mississauga is evidence of Mississauga’s pride of place in the Coptic community.

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As a Mississauga MPP, I feel privileged to represent this vibrant and remarkably successful community. I feel particularly grateful to have been invited to the historic ceremony enthroning His Grace Bishop Mina. Divine, moving and beautiful, it was hard not to feel the weight of history on Saturday evening.

I once again congratulate the Canadian Coptic community.

SPRINGWATER PROVINCIAL PARK

Mr. Jim Wilson: I rise today after attending a rally on the weekend about the Wynne government’s recent closure of Springwater Provincial Park. I would like to begin by thanking Dale Goldhawk from AM740, Zoomer Radio, for his presence at the rally, and Les Stewart from the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition for organizing the event. Both Dale and Les have been integral in keeping pressure on the Wynne government to allow the Springwater park to remain open.

The loss of this unique resource in our community has been immense. In fact, in recent months I’ve been inundated with emails, letters and petitions from concerned residents and local councils who share this sentiment. For example, here’s an excerpt from one of the many letters I have received.

Carol from Wasaga Beach writes: “This park is a gem that we the people of Ontario cannot afford to lose. The fact that this park is the only provincial park … with a wildlife sanctuary for injured or orphaned animals native to Canada, it houses a World War I cenotaph dedicated to the Vespra Boys, and is located just outside Barrie (one of the fastest-growing cities in Ontario) should be reason enough to overturn your decision!”

I’m pleased that the new minister, David Orazietti, recently gave me a phone call and said he supports reopening the initiative to explore options that will allow the park to remain open. I look forward to these discussions in the weeks ahead, and I know the minister will keep his word to keep an open mind. In the meantime, as the park is now closed, I urge the government to reconsider their decision and give us more time to come up with all the available options.

MAPLE LEAF FOODS

Mr. Bob Delaney: It’s time to talk about jobs and to welcome and recognize one of western Mississauga’s newer corporate citizens, Maple Leaf Foods, now located in our ever-more-vibrant Meadowvale neighbourhood. Maple Leaf is Canada’s largest meat, meals and bakery company, with 2011 sales of $4.9 billion and operating earnings of $259 million. We know the firm through such brands as Dempster’s, Schneiders, Olivieri, Tenderflake and, of course, Maple Leaf.

Like many leading Ontario companies, Maple Leaf got smarter and more efficient as the value of the Canadian dollar rose against the US currency and as the world coped with the recent recession. Like other leading Ontario companies, they’ve become more competitive, less complex and more export-oriented. In Ontario, Maple Leaf operates 38 plants with 8,900 employees and $2.8 billion in direct economic benefits. Maple Leaf has transformed itself by closing older and outdated facilities and opening new state-of-the-art centres like the $12-million ThinkFOOD! centre in Meadowvale, where the company learns what its consumers in retail and in the food and restaurant business think and want. With upgrades in capital spending planned or in progress across Ontario, Maple Leaf is another Ontario company building our province, our communities, and our citizens’ high-value careers.

TIRE DISPOSAL

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Last week my colleagues and I were out meeting with farmers. We heard they are frustrated that once again this government has implemented a policy that negatively impacts them, with no consultation. This time it’s the massive increase in eco fees for agriculture tires. The government approved fees that will download millions onto farmers, with no consultation or understanding of the impact on our rural economy. The fees on a single tire can be over $1,000.

I’ve been contacted by hundreds of farmers concerned about the costs. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture said, “It’s a drastic price increase that will be detrimental to Ontario farm businesses and the rural communities they support. The increase is all the more devastating because it has come as a surprise. There were no opportunities for the public” or the OFA “to comment on these increases.”

We launched a petition which is being signed by people across Ontario. We put forward proposals to lower the cost. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is meeting with the OTS. Why isn’t the government taking action? The Premier acknowledged the problem weeks ago. She could have fixed it, but instead, on April 1, the new fees went into effect, and every day farmers across Ontario are getting hit with these massive fees.

Our farmers need a Minister of Agriculture who will stand up with them. They need a government that will consult with them before making policies that impact them and cost them millions of dollars. And they need these massive increases in the cost of agriculture tires reversed.

I thank you very much for allowing me to bring this statement forward.

NOTICE OF DISSATISFACTION

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Pursuant to standing order 38(a), the member for Kitchener–Conestoga has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of the Environment concerning eco taxes. This matter will be debated tomorrow at 6 p.m.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Introduction of bills? Introduction of bills? Finally, introduction of bills.

Motions?

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Slow off the handle. You forgot you did all that writing, the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton.

Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for recognizing me.

CONSUMER PROTECTION
AMENDMENT ACT
(MONEY TRANSFERS), 2013 /
LOI DE 2013 MODIFIANT
LA LOI SUR LA PROTECTION
DU CONSOMMATEUR
(TRANSFERTS DE FONDS)

Mr. Singh moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 47, An Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 with respect to money transfers / Projet de loi 47, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2002 sur la protection du consommateur en ce qui concerne les transferts de fonds.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member for a short statement.

Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I was paying attention this time.

This bill essentially has three components. It seeks to limit the fees that money transferors may charge to a consumer to 5%, to cap those fees at 5%. It also requires disclosure of all the fees that are being paid—whether they’re transfer pays, whether they’re fees, whether they’re exchange rate fees—to require transparency; and also to have an enforcement component.

I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that ACORN of Canada has been integral to making this bill possible. They’ve seen that many communities across Ontario are sending money internationally, and much of the money they’re sending is caught up in fees. They’re not being able to send all that money to those who need the money in, often, developing countries.

This is a bill that would seek to protect those consumers, to add some level of fairness, to ensure that the folks who are worse off in the world are receiving the funds that they’re entitled to.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

I will offer another round: introduction of bills?

STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
AND RESPONSES

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY

Hon. Eric Hoskins: Mr. Speaker, today, we mark Yom ha-Shoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. This is a day to remember the more than six million Jews who were killed in the death camps and ghettos of Nazi-occupied Europe. It’s a time for us to stop, to mourn and to remember the men, women and children who perished. We think of the families that were torn apart, and the talents, the hopes and the dreams that were lost when they perished.

But our memory of them, Mr. Speaker, and our memory of their struggle did not perish. Holocaust Memorial Day is a time to pay tribute to all those who fought, all who suffered and all who died.

We think, too, of those who survived, those who emerged from the darkness, who bore witness and who told the world of all that had happened there. Through them, we learn not only of the horror but also of the bravery of resisters. We also remember and honour today the righteous Gentiles or the Righteous Among the Nations, who, acting on their own initiative, risked their lives, their freedom and their safety to save Jews during the Holocaust—not because they had to, but because it was the right thing to do.

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Mr. Speaker, this month also marks the 70th anniversary of the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw ghetto of Poland. Yesterday, I was honoured to attend the Yom ha-Shoah Holocaust commemoration with a number of my colleagues in Vaughan. There, we heard a very difficult but also moving recount of that uprising from a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto.

On April 19, 1943, a group of Jewish fighters—men, women, boys and girls—stood up against their enemy. For nearly one month, they fought heroically and magnificently against insurmountable odds. In the end, they fought with dignity and died with honour. The Warsaw ghetto uprising was the first urban uprising in German-occupied Europe, and news of their brave resistance inspired others as it spread. They were an inspiration then and remain so today for all who fight tyranny and oppression.

It was this same strength of spirit that helped Holocaust survivors rebuild their lives once the war was over. Today, we give thanks to those survivors who made their way to Ontario and to Canada and who have, through their many contributions, enriched the cultural fabric of our great province. Ontario has gained immeasurably through the richness of their faith and heritage and through all they and their families have contributed to our communities, our economy and our society. Their heritage is our heritage. Their struggle is now a part of who we are and who we aspire to be.

We stand together today as Ontarians and indeed as members of that intrinsic community called “humanity” with a vow to never forget. We must continue to fight anti-Semitism and racism and hate of any form to be champions of human dignity and human rights for all. We must defend the vulnerable, foster tolerance and compassion, and strive for justice and peace for everyone. And we must always remember those who died in the Holocaust, those who stood in resistance, those who fought for life and humanity and bore witness to evil.

So on this Yom ha-Shoah, we pledge never to forget—never to forget the victims or the lessons of the Holocaust. We join together with the Jewish community and with all of humanity to make that simple but enduring pledge: Never again.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Responses?

Mr. Ted Chudleigh: Today, the province of Ontario joins with the state of Israel and many other countries around the world in officially observing Holocaust Memorial Day or Yom ha-Shoah. Yom ha-Shoah, the day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust, compels us to consider not only the nature of evil, but the determination of people everywhere to triumph over it.

Today in Ontario and throughout the world, Jewish communities recall both the unbelievable tragedy of genocide, but also the courageous efforts of ordinary people to resist, to rescue and to record the truth so that the world will never forget.

We honour the memories of six million Jews and millions of other innocent victims whose lives were tragically taken during the Holocaust over 60 years ago—those who saw the horrors of deportation, ghettos, the concentration camps that witnessed humanity at its very worst—and know too well the pain of losing loved ones to senseless violence.

As we reflect on the absolute horror that was inflicted on so many innocents, we pay tribute to the incredible strength and determination of those who survived. We also recognize the courage of those who provided refuge at tremendous risk to their personal safety. The Holocaust profoundly transformed our perception of humanity and what humanity is capable of. It is our duty to remain vigilant against intolerance, racism and hatred, and ensure that such a tragedy is never repeated.

While this is a time for mourning and reflection, it is also a time for action. On this day, we recall the courage, the spirit and the determination of those who heroically resisted the Nazis, exemplifying the very best of humanity. Like these courageous individuals, we must commit ourselves to resisting hate and persecution in all its forms. By remaining vigilant against those who seek to perpetuate violence and murder, we honour those we lost during one of the darkest periods in human history, keeping their memory alive for generations to come.

Despite the fact that genocides have occurred in the world’s history, the tragedy of Yom ha-Shoah will always stand apart as one of humanity’s greatest shames. Today we see the faces of Holocaust survivors and read in their eyes what God gives us the strength to comprehend.

Mr. Speaker, in 1998 I had the honour and privilege of introducing Bill 66 at Queen’s Park, establishing Holocaust Memorial Day in Ontario, the first such time an act was enacted outside of Israel anywhere in the world. Please allow me to once again thank each and every person who helped in those efforts each and every step of the way. By establishing this day of commemoration, we provide an opportunity to reflect on and educate others about the enduring lessons of the Holocaust. This day shall also provide an opportunity to consider other instances of systematic destruction of peoples and human rights issues around the world.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our leader, Tim Hudak, and the entire PC caucus, thank you for allowing me to add my voice to today’s proceedings. Our thoughts and prayers today are with the Jewish community and indeed all those throughout the world who are threatened on a daily basis.

May we never forget.

Mr. Michael Prue: It’s my privilege and honour to stand today to talk about Holocaust Memorial Day, Yom ha-Shoah. Yesterday being Sunday, I was reading the local newspaper, Beach Metro News. I opened it up to see events and things around the Beach, and I saw a tiny ad for the Beach Hebrew Institute and that they were going to be opening their doors and they were going to have a Yom ha-Shoah. Although I have been to Yom ha-Shoahs before in other places, it was the first time I had ever seen one advertised in that location. Of course, I went there to be with my friends, with my neighbours, with people I know from the Beach.

It was a very small institute—a synagogue, a very tiny building. Oftentimes, they have difficulty finding the 12 men or so that they need to hold a service. There were about 20 people there, the families of survivors. There were no actual survivors there. The people there were much too young to have survived the Holocaust. One after another, they stood up and told their stories.

A young woman talked about families that she and her family had known in Europe. She talked about a woman hiding out with her young daughter and how she was protected for over a year in a household, only to be discovered at the end and shipped off to her death. Her daughter was never heard from again, nor the woman. Even to this day, the family wonders what became of her, although they probably know what did.

There were poems of horror; there were poems about the camps and poems about the survivors.

A young woman who was brought up in London talked about the air raids and how, even in the midst of all the bombing that was taking place, she was much, much safer than those who were in Europe.

A young woman, as well, stood up and read a newspaper. It was the first newspaper published by people who were in the camps, after they were liberated. It was entirely in Yiddish, and she was having a hard time getting it translated these days. But she did translate a couple of paragraphs for the audience about what life was like in the camps.

At the conclusion of all of that, of course, there were the customary prayers, the Kaddish; the lighting of six candles, each one representing one million souls who perished—and we all, in unison, said, “Never again.”

It was a very moving ceremony, although a very small one. The Jewish community in Beaches–East York is very small.

People talked, both during the ceremony itself and after, about the troubling aspects of what happened back in the 1930s and 1940s in Europe and, in fact, some of the fears we have of things that we are seeing reoccurring today in parts of Europe and around the world with the rise of neo-Nazism and xenophobia.

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We need to be true to our words—and I committed to them that we would—to always remember, never again: never again places like Rwanda, Cambodia or the former Yugoslavia; never again to the sectarian violence in so many parts of the world that we read about each and every day. We have an opportunity as a society to stand united. We have an opportunity to speak about racism and against racism and anti-Semitism. We have an opportunity to uphold the dignity of all peoples and to work for justice. We owe it to the six million people who died. We owe it even more to those who survived and came to Canada and elsewhere in the world, who built our societies and who have given us the living legacy of knowing the brutality of those times. We owe it to them to make sure it never happens again.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I thank all members for their thoughtful and heartfelt comments.

PETITIONS

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): It is now time for petitions. I’m going to mix it up: The member from Simcoe–Grey.

SPRINGWATER PROVINCIAL PARK

Mr. Jim Wilson: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas we oppose the termination of the operating budget for Springwater Provincial Park in Springwater township on March 31, 2013;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“We ask that the park remain operating and facilities such as the animal sanctuary, cabins/shelters, playground equipment and ground maintenance remain intact and operating.”

I agree with the petition, and I will sign it.

HOSPITAL FUNDING

Ms. Cindy Forster: A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Re: Dr. Kevin Smith’s Niagara Health System report to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care proposed changes to the hospital services in south Niagara.

“Whereas the residents of south Niagara will not have equal, fair, safe and timely access to in-patient gynecological, obstetrical and pediatric services due to distance; and

“Whereas excessive travel times and lack of public transportation for residents in south Niagara will put patient safety at risk; and

“Whereas, if implemented, Dr. Smith’s recommendations and the proposed location of a new south Niagara hospital in Niagara Falls is approved, a two-tier health system in Niagara will be created, where north Niagara will be overserviced and south Niagara will be underserviced in relation to the safe and timely access to health and hospital care; and

“Whereas if hospital services including in-patient gynecological and mental health, and all obstetrical and pediatric services from the Welland hospital site and the Greater Niagara hospital site will be relocated to the new north Niagara St. Catharines site in 2013, it will undermine the continued viability of these two sites as full-service hospital sites;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“We request the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to maintain existing services at the Welland hospital site and the Niagara Falls hospital site and that no services are to be moved until this new south Niagara hospital is open and request that any approval for a new Niagara south hospital include a site that is centrally located in Welland.”

I support this petition and will affix my signature and send it with page Bonnie.

TIRE DISPOSAL

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I have here a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, presented to me by the Eringa family from my great riding of Oxford.

“Whereas the Ontario government has approved massive increases to Ontario Tire Stewardship’s eco-fees for agricultural tires, increasing some fees from $15.29 to $352.80, $546.84 or $1,311.24;

“Whereas Ontario imposes tire eco-fees that are dramatically higher than those in other provinces;

“Whereas other provincial governments either exempt agricultural tires from recycling programs or charge fees only up to $75;

“Whereas these new fees will result in increased costs for our farmers and lost sales for our farm equipment dealerships;

“Whereas the PC caucus has proposed a new plan that holds manufacturers and importers of tires responsible for recycling, but gives them the freedom to work with other businesses to find the best way possible to carry out that responsibility;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“Please suspend the decision to significantly increase Ontario Tire Stewardship’s fees on agricultural and off-the-road tires pending a thorough impact study and implementation of proposals to lower costs.”

I affix my signature to this petition. Thank you very much for allowing me to present it, Mr. Speaker.

TIRE DISPOSAL

Mr. Bill Walker: “To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas the Ontario government has approved massive increases to Ontario Tire Stewardship’s eco-fees for agricultural tires, increasing some fees from $15.29 to $352.80, $546.84 or $1,311.24;

“Whereas Ontario imposes tire eco-fees that are dramatically higher than those in other provinces;

“Whereas other provincial governments either exempt agricultural tires from recycling programs or charge fees only up to $75;

“Whereas these new fees will result in increased costs for our farmers and lost sales for our farm equipment dealerships;

“Whereas the PC caucus has proposed a new plan that holds manufacturers and importers of tires responsible for recycling, but gives them the freedom to work with other businesses to find the best way possible to carry out that responsibility;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“Please suspend the decision to significantly increase Ontario Tire Stewardship’s fees on agricultural and off-the-road tires pending a thorough impact study and implementation of proposals to lower costs.”

I support it, will sign my name and send it with page Annie to the Clerk’s desk.

WIND TURBINES

Mr. Rob E. Milligan: “Petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas residents of Ontario want a moratorium on all further industrial wind turbine development until an independent third party health and environmental study has been completed; and

“Whereas people in Ontario living within close proximity to industrial wind turbines have reported negative health effects; we need to study the physical, social, eco-nomic and environmental impacts of industrial wind turbines; and the Auditor General confirmed wind farms were created in haste and with no planning;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“That the Ontario government place a moratorium on the approval of any wind energy projects and a moratorium on the construction of industrial wind projects until further studies on the potential adverse health effects of industrial wind turbines, their effect on the environment, the potential devaluation of residential property are completed; and that any industrial wind projects not currently connected to the grid be cancelled.”

I agree with this petition and I’ll affix my name to it.

TIRE DISPOSAL

Mr. John Yakabuski: I have a petition here to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas the Ontario government has approved massive increases to Ontario Tire Stewardship’s eco-fees for agricultural tires, increasing some fees from $15.29 to $352.80, $546.84 or $1,311.24;

“Whereas Ontario imposes tire eco-fees that are dramatically higher than those in other provinces;

“Whereas other provincial governments either exempt agricultural tires from recycling programs or charge fees only up to $75;

“Whereas these new fees will result in increased costs for our farmers and lost sales for our farm equipment dealerships;

“Whereas the PC caucus has proposed a new plan that holds manufacturers and importers of tires responsible for recycling, but gives them the freedom to work with other businesses to find the best way possible to carry out that responsibility;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“Please suspend the decision to significantly increase Ontario Tire Stewardship’s fees on agricultural and off-the-road tires pending a thorough impact study and implementation of proposals to lower costs.”

I support this petition. I affix my name to it and send it to the table with Callum.

WIND TURBINES

Mr. Robert Bailey: This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas local citizens’ wishes regarding the development of wind turbines in their vicinity are not being properly consulted or informed;

“Whereas local government decision-making in regard to wind turbines has been rendered powerless;

“Whereas wind turbines have been divisive in other Ontario communities;

“Whereas electricity costs in Ontario have escalated since the introduction of the Green Energy Act;

“We, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to demand that no further development of industrial wind turbines take place until citizens are properly consulted and informed, and local government processes are respected.”

This is from the residents of Plympton-Wyoming. Thank you, sir.

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AIR QUALITY

Mr. Jim Wilson: I have a petition regarding the Drive Clean program, and I want to thank Larry Moore of Tottenham, in my riding, for sending it to us.

“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas Ontario’s Drive Clean program was implemented only as a temporary measure to reduce high levels of vehicle emissions and smog; and

“Whereas vehicle emissions have declined so significantly from 1998 to 2010 that they are no longer among the major domestic contributors of smog in Ontario; and

“Whereas the overwhelming majority of reductions in vehicle emissions were, in fact, the result of factors other than the Drive Clean program, such as tighter manufacturing standards for emission-control technologies; and

“Whereas from 1999 to 2010 the percentage of vehicles that failed emissions testing under the Drive Clean program steadily declined from 16% to 5%; and

“Whereas the environment minister has ignored advances in technology and introduced a new, computerized emissions test that is less reliable and prone to error; and

“Whereas the new Drive Clean test no longer assesses tailpipe emissions, but instead scans the on-board diagnostics systems of vehicles, which already perform a series of continuous and periodic emissions checks; and

“Whereas the new Drive Clean test has caused the failure rate to double in less than two months as a result of technical problems with the new emissions testing method; and

“Whereas this new emissions test has caused numerous false ‘fails,’ which have resulted in the overcharging of testing fees for Ontario drivers and car dealerships, thereby causing unwarranted economic hardship and stress;

“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:

“That the Minister of the Environment must take immediate steps to begin phasing out the Drive Clean program.”

I agree with this petition, and I’m happy to sign it.

CATARACT SURGERY

Mr. Norm Miller: I’d like to thank Ron Struthers of Huntsville, who gathered 500 names on this petition. It is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it reads:

“Whereas the government of Ontario has identified cataract surgery to be a key health service for which it aims to reduce wait times under its Wait Time Strategy; and

“Whereas the current wait time for cataract surgery at Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare exceeds the provincial wait time and the provincial target under the Wait Time Strategy; and

“Whereas demand for health services like cataract surgery is expected to continue to rise with a growing retirement population;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“That the government of Ontario maintain adequate funding levels to Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare for cataract surgery procedures so that it may reduce wait times for cataract surgery.”

Mr. Speaker, I support this and give it to Jack.

WORKPLACE INSURANCE

Mr. Jeff Yurek: “To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas the WSIB has mandated that effective January 1, 2013, all independent contractors and small business owners operating in the construction industry must have WSIB coverage;

“Whereas many of these business owners have their own private workplace insurance that in most cases is more affordable, more efficient and provides more extensive coverage;

“Whereas mandatory WSIB premiums add significant costs to small businesses and adversely affects their growth prospects and in some cases their solvency;

“Whereas the government provided minimum notice about the change to businesses with WSIB sending out an official letter dated November 25, 2012;

“Whereas at a time when Ontario is facing a jobs crisis with 600,000 people unemployed, the government and its agencies should not be discouraging private sector job creation and growth by levying additional, unnecessary costs;

“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“To direct the Minister of Labour to issue an order in council eliminating the requirement that mandates compulsory WSIB coverage on all independent contractors and small business owners in the construction industry.”

I support this petition, as do all the residents of Elgin–Middlesex–London, and affix my signature to this and hand it to Annie.

WIND TURBINES

Mr. Jim Wilson: “To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas we, the residents of Clearview township and neighbouring townships, oppose the wpd Canada Fairview wind project on Fairgrounds Road and all wind energy projects in Clearview township; and

“Whereas we support the petition of mayors and councillors from 80 municipalities, farm organizations, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, which petition requested that the province place an immediate moratorium on all wind projects until an independent and comprehensive health study has determined that turbine noise is safe to human health, amongst other things; and

“Whereas wpd Canada’s Fairview wind project violates the OLS airspace and usability of registered aerodromes in Clearview, including Collingwood Regional Airport and Stayner field, and, and wpd Canada’s draft renewal energy approvals reports do not recognize these impacts or the jurisdiction of the government of Canada; and

“Whereas wpd Canada is seeking final approval from the province for the Fairview wind project prior to completion of the federal Health Canada study and prior to federal actions to protect aviation safety;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“That the government of Ontario agree and accept that until the federal health study is completed and federal aeronautical zoning is in place, that it will immediately take whatever action is necessary to give full effect to a moratorium on all wind turbine development in Ontario, including all projects for which final approvals have not been given.”

I agree with this petition and I will sign it.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

AMBULANCE AMENDMENT ACT
(AIR AMBULANCES), 2013 /
LOI DE 2013 MODIFIANT
LA LOI SUR LES AMBULANCES
(SERVICES D’AMBULANCE AÉRIENS)

Resuming the debate adjourned on March 28, 2013, on the motion for second reading of the following bill:

Bill 11, An Act to amend the Ambulance Act with respect to air ambulance services / Projet de loi 11, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les ambulances en ce qui concerne les services d’ambulance aériens.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate? I recognize the member from Beaches–East York.

Mr. Michael Prue: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I do believe it is my opportunity at this point, so that’s why I stood. I understand that we have 10 minutes as of now, so I would like to get on with it, because that’s not a long time.

Originally, I had planned to talk about the merits—or perhaps, more so, the lack of merit—to this particular bill. In doing some research around it, it became apparent to me that this bill cannot and should not continue as it is currently written.

We parliamentarians have a choice to make in each and every bill: We can oppose it or we can try to change it. Especially if you’re on the opposition side, those are really the only choices you have. So we’ve made a decision within our caucus to simply try to make the changes to actually make the bill of some value because, as it’s presently constituted, it has very little merit to it at all.

The best thing about having a minority government is that changes can be made. The government has to listen to the opposition, at least in committee. I explained to some people who came into my office today what they thought were the rather arcane rules of the Legislature. If you go to a city council meeting, there’s a motion that passes or doesn’t pass; it’s over. But if you come to the Legislature, you have first reading, which is just to announce what it’s all about; you have second reading, which is approval in principle to send it off to committee; you have committee hearings and you have changes to the legislation, and then it comes back for a third and final reading.

I was explaining all of this to the two people who came to my office this morning, but I told them that it works. It only works in a minority government, and they agreed with me because they have been before this government in the last number of years on a couple of issues and they found the government unwilling or unable to make the changes that were requested because they had a majority then, and everything that the public or the opposition had to say, no matter how valuable, was generally not listened to. Things have changed.

I’m going to direct the rest of my speech to my Conservative colleagues because I don’t know whether you’re going to oppose this bill or not, but probably it’s going to go into committee. If it goes into committee, we have an opportunity to make this bill something that it should be, as opposed to what it is. We all know that this bill has very little substance to it. We all know that, as it’s presently constituted and has been constituted for months and months and months, through prorogation and brought back, there’s nothing of any substance in this bill that’s going to help the people of Ontario.

We believe that a couple of things have to happen and must happen when this goes to committee. If it doesn’t happen in committee, I don’t intend to vote for it at third reading, and I don’t think anybody else in this place should either.

The first thing that has to happen is that we have to make sure that the Ombudsman has oversight. If the Ombudsman had had oversight from the beginning, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in today with Ornge and this government wouldn’t have to be wiping those slices of orange off their face every single day when the committee meets. Every single day there’s a new revelation of who knew and when they knew or what they knew, and every single day this government looks worse and worse around this entire file.

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The second thing we need to do is that we need to have the ability to have Ornge brought before Government Agencies. That’s a committee that can call various ministries or parts of ministries before it in order to discuss what their mandate is and what they’re doing. Many, many government agencies are brought before the committee, and some of the most valuable things I’ve learned in my last 12 years here have been before the Government Agencies committee, as when groups such as MPAC are brought forward to talk about tax rates. The Ontario Municipal Board was once brought forward and made to explain their rationale for being and why they were doing what they’re doing.

We believe that a group like Ornge should be subject to the same kinds of questions from members of the Legislatures. That’s not contained within the body of the four walls of this bill, and that cannot continue.

We also think that this bill must have words in it that force the ministry to examine its own funding role for Ornge and literally for everything else, because it’s not in here. The bill contains very little.

Last but not least, we think that within the body of the bill there should be an assurance that all future governments are held accountable—not what we have seen under Ornge since this began. What has happened is that the minister has said repeatedly that she didn’t know, then she said she found out and fired the staff, then she said, “No, they all quit,” and all the other things in order to try to get around that accountability.

As I said, every day there seems to be some new problem surfacing in committee about Ornge, and the answer is not what is contained within this bill. The answer is for all of us in this Legislature to seize the opportunity, when and if this goes to committee, to change the bill, because there is no sense having a bill on a government agency that’s been dissected from top to bottom and is being resected, if there is such a word, back together again every single day. We know the problems of Chris Mazza. We know the problems of Mr. Apps. We know the problems of people who were putting their hand collectively in the pockets of taxpayers. We know the shenanigans about buying helicopters in Italy—

Interjection: And speedboats.

Mr. Michael Prue: —and speedboats. We know all of those things. This bill, had it been in existence, would not have helped any of that. It would not have helped a thing.

So this bill, in and of itself, is not going to prevent future Ornges, because this bill is confined to the Ornge group itself. It’s not about all the other government agencies, as it should be. It’s not even about the Ministry of Health and the power the minister has over the many, many agencies that report directly to her. It’s about one small group that has been dissected. I can’t even believe we’re still asking all those questions, but I don’t blame us for asking them, because the answers as they’re coming out are so perverse that it’s hard to believe this minister or this ministry had any accountability whatsoever over the money that was being spent throughout the time.

Virtually nothing has changed from when the bill was first introduced. We all need to remember when this bill was introduced in this Legislature to much fanfare by the minister about how this was going to solve all the problems at Ornge, how she was going to get a handle on all of this, how things were going to be so much better. Then we got prorogued, and the bill died. The bill was there for four months with absolutely nothing happening to it, only to be resurrected and brought back to this Legislature after four months.

The only change we saw within the body of the bill that amounted to anything was that Ornge was finally going to be subject to freedom of information. We in this House know freedom of information. You know what you get when you make a freedom of information request from this government? You get stalling, you get weeks and months that go by, you get asked to pay up front monies you don’t have in order to try to get a few pieces of paper, and when you finally get them, everything’s redacted; everything’s blacked out. You don’t know anything. You don’t even know why you sent for it. That’s the reality.

This is what they’re put in here. This is the only change. It’s now subject to freedom of information, which means you’re going to get redacted documents. That is of no great consequence to the people of this province. That, in and of itself, although the government will stand up and say this is a good thing, is not really what the opposition or the people of Ontario are looking for. We’ve had four wasted months. A lot of bills needed to come forward; this was but one of them.

Now we have other things that we’re worried about. If I can digress just for a second here, Mr. Speaker, the estimates committee continues to meet, and we’re not even constituted for the upcoming estimates session. We’re still meeting on the estimates from the last time, although the report has already been given, because part of the problem is, again, the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health has a number of documents—we’ve heard, up to a million pages—which have been demanded by the opposition and which have now been produced, but they haven’t been put on the keys yet to put into the computer. We’re waiting for those. Estimates has to meet again tomorrow because they’re not forthcoming. This government makes everything be dragged out—dragged and dragged and dragged.

That’s why we in the opposition need to send this to committee; it’s why we need to send this bill for radical and major changes. The people of Ontario have an unqualified right to find out what’s going on inside of government. They have an unqualified right to find out how their tax money is being spent. The members of this Legislature need to do everything in their power to make sure that right is there. I ask especially my colleagues in the Progressive Conservatives, if this goes to committee, to do everything you possibly can to open this up so that we can find out how the government is working on the inside and to make the changes the people of this province demand.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Ms. Helena Jaczek: Certainly, it’s good to rise in this House on Bill 11 yet again. I do agree with some of what the member for Beaches–East York said. Certainly, I think we’re all very anxious to get this bill into committee. As our Premier and as our Minister of Health and Long-Term Care have said repeatedly, we’re most interested in the ideas the opposition has to bring forward, to perhaps improve and strengthen this bill.

However, I would like to remind the member for Beaches–East York what exactly is in Bill 11, because it is, as I’m sure you know, modelled on the Public Hospitals Act, and I’ve never heard you particularly object to the Public Hospitals Act.

Like that particular piece of legislation, Bill 11 does provide cabinet with the power, upon the recommendation of the minister, to appoint a supervisor to exercise the powers of the board, officers and members and other corporate powers of an air ambulance service provider—surely an important step forward. It also gives cabinet the power, upon the recommendation of the minister, to appoint one or more provincial representatives to the board of an air ambulance service provider. It would give the minister the power to issue directives to an air ambulance service provider. It would give the government the ability to include provisions in an agreement between Ontario and an air ambulance service provider. Furthermore, it provides cabinet with the power to appoint a special investigator to investigate and report on certain activities of an air ambulance service provider.

These are all strong measures. I think they’re extremely important. I cannot agree at all that there’s nothing in this bill. There are new and, I’d say, extremely strong powers very much in parallel to the Public Hospitals Act, which I think we would all agree has provided a measure of safety and oversight for the government in these essential institutions.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Rob E. Milligan: It’s great to be here in the House again, back to work. I want to wish you a happy 50th birthday, Mr. Speaker. You look very good in the chair. I only hope I can aspire to look as good as you at 50, sir.

I will be addressing Bill 11 here later on, when I have some more time to actually peel back the onion, if you will, and show exactly how toothless this piece of legislation is. This is, echoing the member from Beaches–East York, a lot of fluff. This is what we’ve come to know of many of the Liberal pieces of legislation that are brought forward, Mr. Speaker.

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It’s a shame that we’re actually presented with this piece of legislation. I do agree with the member from Beaches–East York: This will eventually make it to committee. We’re going to have to do some serious overhaul of this bill. In fact, when it comes out of committee—if it ever does come out of committee—it won’t even look like the same piece of legislation that went to committee. That’s how much work has to be done on this piece of legislation if we’re going to prevent the scandals at Ornge under this government and this health minister from continuing.

We’re going to have to fillet this piece of legislation like a well-caught fish and gut it and make sure that it actually has some bone to it. We’ll talk about that a little later, Mr. Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Hamilton Mountain.

Mr. Paul Miller: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In reference to the member from Oak Ridges–Markham, I appreciate her statement; however, what she did say in her statement was that it was up to the minister. Well, we can’t even get the minister to do an Ombudsman on anything around here without a major fight—and we still haven’t succeeded, I might add. So to leave it up the minister is not making me feel warm all over.

Secondly, if we want to look at the big picture, we saw how much was wasted at Ornge: hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’—folks, that was just one thing. Then there was eHealth and the electronic health card that was supposed to be set up for Ontario; it’s still being worked out seven years later, and they’ve admittedly blown $188 million and they only have $100 million worth of hardware and software out of that. They admitted that at committee. That’s one part of one ministry.

There are 22 ministries. If I could save, say, $300 million or $400 million in one ministry—or $1 billion, for that matter—if you multiply that. That’s not counting the 140 agencies, tribunals and other things that the government has immediate control over. I think it would be safe to say that we could save billions around here. You want more money for education? You want more money for health care? You want more money for poverty and you want more money to help all the other people? If you just clean up your own backyard and all the ministries and all the things you govern over, you could save billions. We wouldn’t have to be in the budget situation we are in now if we had been practical, if we had watched every ministry, if we had watched the dollars, if we had done what we’re supposed to do. And if they, in the last eight years, had done what they’re supposed to do, we wouldn’t be in the position we are in now.

When I hear that the minister is going to make the decision, that’s a scary concept.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Thank you to the member for Hamilton East–Stoney Creek.

I am pleased to recognize the Minister of Northern Development and Mines.

Hon. Michael Gravelle: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

We don’t want to forget, I think—at the very beginning and express our appreciation to the paramedics, the pilots, the front-line staff at Ornge, who, from the very beginning and throughout this challenging process, have always put patients first. I think all the members of the Legislature would agree with that.

I think it’s clear that Ornge is into a new chapter and on a positive path forward. Certainly, we’ve got new leadership which has been very, very positive as well. There have been a number of measures that have been in put in place, a number of changes that have been put in place, including appointing a new patient advocate, installing the new medical interiors in the helicopters, expanding the service in Thunder Bay—something of great interest to me as the MPP for Thunder Bay–Superior North—let alone a dedicated flight service in northern Ontario. So there are a number of measures that have been put in place that that are indeed positive, let alone including submitting its first quality improvement plan. Those are things that I think we all agree are positive measures.

This legislation takes the very important next step, and it’s one that I know is important. It is also about restoring public confidence in Ornge. If the legislation is passed, it will entrench protections for employees who disclose information to an inspector, an investigator or the ministry itself. It will allow the government to take control of Ornge in extraordinary circumstances which may be through the appointment of a supervisor—again, measures that had been in place before—or to employ special investigators, much as we have done in serious cases with our hospitals, and also, very significantly, allow the government to change the performance agreement with Ornge at any one time.

So certainly there are some important measures here. We all need to have a good debate about this, and that’s why we are debating it today.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes the time for questions and comments, so I return now to the member for Beaches–East York for his reply.

Mr. Michael Prue: I thank the members from Oak Ridges–Markham, Northumberland–Quinte West and Hamilton East–Stoney Creek, and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, for their contributions and critique of my debate.

To the Liberal members: Every government, especially this one, will talk about taking small, tiny, incremental steps towards a long-term goal, with which we are never familiar; we never know where they’re actually headed. That is in fact what is contained within the body of this bill. Is it a small, incremental step? Perhaps. Is it what is necessary? Absolutely not.

What is necessary are two things. Number one is to give the Ombudsman control over Ornge and all the other government agencies. We in this party fully believe that the Ombudsman should be there for the entire MUSH sector—the municipalities, the universities, the schools and the hospitals. My colleague from Hamilton Mountain wants to get the Ombudsman involved around the whole issue of children and children’s aid. She is absolutely right. For the government to stop the fundamental institution of this province from looking into things that matter most to people is a shame.

The other thing that has to be done and that the government’s not talking about is to have Ornge and other governmental agencies akin to Ornge be subject to discussion by or to be called before the appropriate legislative committees. It’s not in there. It is not enough, as the member from Oak Ridges–Markham said, to give the minister some authority to do or not do what he or she wishes to do in the future; that is not enough. If government is going to be transparent—and I take the new Premier at her word; she wants transparency in government—it can only see the full light of day when parliamentarians and members of this Legislature have the right to question and when the Ombudsman has oversight over the entire thing so that he can look into the needs and the best outcomes for the people of this province. That’s what’s needed. That’s what’s not in the bill, and that’s what should be in the bill when we’re finished with it.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Rob E. Milligan: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for this opportunity again. I have a little more time to go into depth as to what Bill 11 actually represents not only for ourselves here at the Legislature, but also the people of the province of Ontario, the hard-working men and women who pay their taxes faithfully and expect government to respect how those tax dollars are spent.

Let’s look at Ornge before it became Ornge. We here in Ontario actually had at one time one of the finest air ambulance services not only here in the province of Ontario, but in Canada as a whole and, I would dare to say, across international boundaries as well. When this government came to power nine and a half years ago, all of a sudden it was warranted or deemed that we needed new air ambulance services, new helicopters. And don’t get me wrong: I understand and I can appreciate the fact that an aging fleet obviously needs to be replaced etc. But the manner in which it was done—and this health minister knew full well within her department what was going on with Dr. Chris Mazza and the purchase of those 12 helicopters from the Italian company which has since fallen into other international scandals throughout the world and has actually had fraud charges brought against many of their executive members.

Right from the start, this deal was destined to come off the rails, if you will; it was destined to be a true disaster not only for the health and well-being of Ontario citizens, but also the front-line workers at the Ornge air ambulance service.

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We don’t really see much changing in Bill 11. The minister has not come forward and apologized publicly for the role she played in the Ornge scandal. This minister was in fact promoted to Deputy Premier when the new Premier became Premier of the province. I find that rather insulting to the people of Ontario, but it’s something we’ve come to appreciate and realize from this Liberal government: how out of tune they actually are with the people of Ontario and how government should actually function and represent the people. I think that for an individual to be promoted who has shown that her ability in the health care file has been less than adequate speaks volumes of the new Premier and her judgment of character, or lack thereof, and I think it speaks volumes of the minister herself, who has yet to apologize for any role she played in the Ornge scandal.

As mentioned in my two-minute hit, this legislation has no teeth. It’s posturing at its finest. I have to give the Liberals credit where credit is due; that is, they are master spinners. They can spin a web that even spiders would actually—

Interjection: Spiderman.

Mr. Rob E. Milligan: Spiderman would have trouble. It’s almost something to behold, to see how they’re going to actually spin their way out of this one yet again. If this is what passes for an apology to taxpayers and citizens and the individuals who have actually lost their lives because this minister and this Premier have failed to do their duty, it’s a far cry from what I think we deserve as taxpaying citizens.

Again, this piece of legislation, Bill 11, is very much what most legislation this government has been bringing forward since I’ve been elected. It’s all window dressing; it’s all fluff; it’s an appearance. Again, it’s posturing to make it look like they’re making changes to a broken system. It looks like they’re actually caring about what goes on, on the front lines of our air ambulance service, and I just want to talk to you a little bit about that, Mr. Speaker.

The men and women on the front lines of the Ornge air ambulance service are doing a fantastic job. I don’t believe any party would disagree, or challenge the fine work those individuals do on a daily basis. But one of the disparaging things I see from Bill 11 is that it doesn’t protect those individuals who see the day-to-day operations and have come forward to myself, but have to remain anonymous because they feel they’re going to be persecuted should they step forward and show the inept movements—policies—this government is directing the Ornge air ambulance service in.

I have had no less than three individuals, whom I know personally, who are front-line workers at Ornge, come to me and say, “You know, Rob, here’s what’s going on. This is what’s happening.” Bill 11 does not address any of the concerns these individuals have. These are the individuals who put their lives on the line on a daily basis, and if they’re not happy and they see the inefficiencies or the scandals that are still going on and feel they’re going to be persecuted for bringing forward their recommendations, their challenges that they see the broken system doing, is a shame.

As mentioned by the member from Beaches–East York, anytime we try to ask for freedom of information documents, whether it’s eHealth, Ornge, the gas plants that were cancelled in Oakville and Mississauga, all we get is resistance. If this Premier is honestly serious about being transparent and actually getting down to the business of protecting the taxpayers and the health and well-being of the citizens of this great province, it’s time to do it now. The time for charades and shenanigans is over. We need to get back to work, some serious work that can actually improve the system.

This Bill 11 does not do that, and it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for myself and it’s frustrating for my colleagues here on both sides of the opposition and the third party to sit here and watch as this government under the new Premier, Ms. Wynne, and the health minister—who is the same as under Mr. McGuinty’s government, and we know what kind of a disaster that was—

Interjection: And then she got a promotion.

Mr. Rob E. Milligan: Yes, and then she gets promoted, as I alluded to earlier.

The morale of the front-line workers at Ornge is at a low. I know this first-hand. The minister says that when she talks to front-line workers, that’s not what she’s hearing, but I can honestly tell you it’s what I’m hearing and it’s what other members of the opposition and third party are hearing from individuals from Ornge. The fact is that morale is at a low, and those individuals point out that they see through what the Liberals are trying to do: They’re trying to do damage control. They’re doing damage control, and it’s not working. It’s not going to fly, if you will, Mr. Speaker—not this time around.

Here we have a party who I believe are scratching at desperation, trying to put forward legislation like Bill 11 that isn’t going to actually have any real positive influence. As I alluded to and spoke to during my two-minute hit, we also see that this, when it gets to committee, is going to have to go through a major transformation before we will even consider looking at it. I don’t know if that’s going to actually occur, but it definitely needs some major, major face and plastic surgery. It won’t even be recognizable if it does come out of committee.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Before I ask for questions and comments, I wish to remind all members of provincial Parliament in the House at the moment, and others, that questions and comments—or, as we call them, two-minute hits—are intended to relate back to the member’s speech that was just given. I would encourage all members to make sure that their questions and comments relate back to the remarks that were just given by the member for Northumberland–Quinte West.

I recognize the member for Hamilton East–Stoney Creek.

Mr. Paul Miller: Thank you, Speaker. I’m glad you mentioned that; I’m going to actually do that.

The member from Northumberland–Quinte West hit on a good topic. He talked about accountability in different agencies that are governed by this Liberal government.

If I remember correctly, if memory serves me correctly, I believe that this government tried to fire André Marin, and the opposition kept him in place. They wanted to get rid of him. Why? Because he was doing a good job and he was digging into places where they didn’t want him to dig.

Now they talk about this Bill 11. Bill 11 is simply one category, one small part, of the big picture. Like I stated before, and I’ll reiterate, we have 22 major ministries and another 150 agencies, tribunals and other things that this government oversees, which could relate to hundreds and hundreds and billions of dollars. They, for some reason, are afraid to give the Ombudsman oversight so he can look into these things and save hundreds of millions of dollars which we could put forth to the government, this what they call new government, which is really the old government with a new mask. The bottom line here is that they’ve never liked oversight and they’ve never liked to dig up information.

I’ll give you a perfect example, from when I was on committee, on the electronic health cards that they were doing. I happened to be on committee that day, and to make a long story short, because I don’t have a lot of time, I asked them what the money situation was, how much the taxpayer got for their money, and they wouldn’t tell me. I had to put in for freedom of information. It came back to me, and they said, “Well, we spent $288 million. We got $100 million worth of hardware and software.” I said, “What happened to the other $188 million?” The other $188 million, Speaker, went to three Liberal-friendly consulting agencies; 60% or better of the budget was spent on their friends.

If that isn’t a waste of money, I don’t know what is.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments on the remarks by the member for Northumberland–Quinte West? I recognize the member for Oak Ridges–Markham.

Ms. Helena Jaczek: Thank you, Speaker, and thank you for that reminder. I certainly will be addressing my remarks to those by the member from Northumberland–Quinte West.

It appears that he has the belief that all was well with air ambulance prior to the structure that led to Ornge, so I’d like to ensure that he’s aware of what the Auditor General thought of the previous air ambulance situation in Ontario. From his report in 2005, he found that in fact Ontario’s air ambulance system was fractured, with disjointed services and multiple structures in the system that made it difficult to align resources. There was a shortage of critical care air paramedics. That meant that air ambulance flights were frequently down-staffed, especially in northern Ontario—this is going back to 2005.

There was no centralized way to track the air ambulance system’s performance, nor were there outcome measures used in operating the system. The system was confusing and difficult for patients to navigate. The system lacked transparency and accountability, and there was a poor structure for patient privacy protection. Several coroners’ investigations found that the air ambulance system, as it was then structured, contributed to the deaths of Ontarians.

What has happened since then, of course, is that Ornge was a rogue agency. Its board of directors apparently was unaware of their fiduciary responsibility to the Ontario taxpayer. The CEO clearly was paid salaries that were far in excess of what was reasonable. So what we have now with Bill 11 is every effort to rein in what has become an agency that was out of control, and I’m glad to say that there has been progress under the new management. In fact, at this point in time, some 97.3% of base aircraft are available at all times. They’re hitting almost up to that 100% figure with that kind of availability. They’re making steps forward, and we need Bill 11 to ensure that Ornge never happens again.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Jim McDonell: It’s a privilege to get up and speak to the member from Northumberland and his new look: 15 pounds lighter since the last time I saw him; getting ready for the Legiskaters game coming up, so looking for good things.

Listening to him talk about the lack of transparency—although I haven’t been able to sit on many of the committee meetings, I’ve heard back a lot of the discussions and some of the points of the key witnesses, who talked about how the information was given back to this government. The intent not to—you wonder if they had an intent to listen at all.

We also heard from the member of the third party, the leader at the time, in the December before all the news hit the Toronto Star, where they talked about people disappearing from the sunshine list, a key indication that something was going wrong. When the member from Newmarket–Aurora stood up and asked questions about issues on Ornge, again, he was reassured that they had checked into it and there were no issues. I guess it seemed more of—I don’t know if you can use the word “scheme” or not, but a program to get by the upcoming election, so the information wasn’t brought up.

But even after the election, the Auditor General was being blocked from looking at things. That should be a warning, when the Auditor General comes to you and says that they’re being stonewalled and not able to see things. It’s surprising that when the news broke in the Toronto Star, there was a keen interest to get to the bottom—more than a year after the first indications that we would see. In my time on TV, I’ve heard that witnesses have said that they had full oversight, that certainly not writing a cheque would get full attention.

It’s just a matter of: Are they interested or are they not?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments, one more?

Mr. Michael Prue: To the member from Northumberland–Quinte West: I listened intently to what he had to say. I especially like to listen to some of the newer members of the House to see the kind of mettle they have and how they are able to respond and pick up the concepts. I think he has got it exactly right. Even though he’s only been here a relatively short period of time, he understands intuitively, I think, that the government cannot continue to hide behind the things in the ways that they have.

He outlined about getting redacted documents, which I think is frustrating to all members in the opposition. He talked about the need for the Ombudsman to have some kind of oversight to make sure that the government is held accountable. He talked about the need for the committees in order to do the job that I know he wants to be able to do. Those are the important things that are being said to this government. I commend him for those. These are the important things we are trying to say from this side of the House to over there.

In the past, when you had a majority government, you never paid any heed to the wisdom of this side of the House. I call upon the members over there to remember: You’re staring up there at the owl. The owl is to be wise. The motto of the House is to listen to the other side.

You need to be listening to this particular member. You need to be listening to what he has to say, because what he has to say will make this place function better. But more importantly, what he has to say will make the people of Ontario much more confident in their politicians and in the process of this House.

One thing that the people of this province do not like is to see their tax dollars wasted. If there’s ever an opportunity to try to rein that in, they will take it. This government needs to be fully aware, before the Premier goes out looking for revenue tools, that the revenue tools she has now are being wisely spent.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): We now return to the member for Northumberland–Quinte West for his reply.

Mr. Rob E. Milligan: I do want to thank the members who spoke: the members for Hamilton East–Stoney Creek, Oak Ridges–Markham and Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry—thank you for those nice comments—and of course the member from Beaches–East York.

There are some very good points that were made here on this side of the Legislature, Mr. Speaker. I think we’re doing our due diligence. We’re doing what we were elected to do, and that is to hold this government to account. It’s to make sure that this government doesn’t run away with and lose sight of what they were actually elected to do, and that’s to run the province of Ontario in a fiscally responsible manner and also to make sure that those tax dollars are not being wasted, which obviously has been very disappointing for us on this side of the chamber.

The member from Oak Ridges–Markham made a point that our helicopters previous to Ornge needed some repairs. The Auditor General did make out some improvements that could have been desired. But to actually enhance or implement those recommendations by the Auditor General and then turn around and allow a completely different entity under the guise of Ornge is completely devastating. We have helicopters here where the front-line workers cannot perform the CPR that’s required to stabilize a patient in transfer to hospital before they get the care that they need.

So there’s a lot of things that we do right on this side of the chamber, and I’m proud to say that we do that.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Jonah Schein: As always, it’s my great pleasure and honour to rise and speak on behalf of my community in Davenport. I’m happy to join the debate on Bill 11.

I want to welcome folks up here to the Legislature today and just mention this to Grandma Grace at home: If you’re tuning in today, Grandma Grace, as you often do, this is a bit of a rerun. This is a repeat show. This is Days of Our Lives, but we’ve seen this one already, I think, because, in fact, this bill was introduced previously. There was a very, very long break. We were all anxious to see our favourite show resume here at Queen’s Park. A year later, we’re back here, and we’re still debating this.

So I would say that this is important. We obviously need more transparency and accountability in this Legislature. Nothing could be clearer to the people of Ontario. We will be working to strengthen this bill and to send it to committee to make it stronger.

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In her lead, our health critic made an important comment. She talked about, back when the bill was first produced, way back in March 2012, she understood that there were shortcomings, but she realized that this was a bill put together in a rush at that time and it was an attempt to make things better. But now it’s April 2013, and we’re seeing the exact same bill, with all of its flaws, being introduced for a second time.

During the second reading debate last session, the NDP talked about the changes we wanted to see in this bill. These changes were reasonable. They would increase oversight. They would improve transparency within our health services.

Just this morning, our health critic asked the Premier to launch an independent investigation into the chemo drug underdosing scandal and to have that headed up by the Ontario Ombudsman.

I know that Health Minister Deb Matthews has said that she will conduct an independent third party review of quality assurance in our cancer drug supply chain, but that’s just a first step, and it’s not enough. The minister has not guaranteed that the findings will be shared with the people of Ontario or how this happened in the first place. An Ombudsman investigation would be open and transparent and it would provide answers for the families of the 1,000 people who were affected.

As this most recent event unfortunately shows, it’s important that we have this kind of third party objectivity. People trust the Ombudsman as someone who objectively investigates government actions on behalf of the people. That’s why we suggested in our amendments to Bill 11 that there be Ombudsman oversight of Ornge, to provide real accountability and transparency.

Oversight of Ornge by the Ombudsman was denied by this government. Instead, the government has given itself the power to appoint representatives to the board of Ornge, to appoint a supervisor or special investigator without notice and to issue directives to designated air ambulance providers. I think our health critic said it best when she said that “everything that is in this bill gives the government more of a say; it does not give the people of Ontario more of a say.”

While the government claims this will increase accountability, it has ignored the facts, and this government did not fulfill its obligations under the previous accountability agreement. So if the problem wasn’t the accountability measures or the powers given to the government in the first place, it raises questions of how this new act will actually prevent another Ornge.

Another significant concern about this bill is that it does not apply to other government-funded organizations or services. Speaker, I’ve said this before: Ornge is going to be a very well-scrutinized agency in the future. It must be. Nobody will let anything go by without notice. But will this government be extending this kind of scrutiny and this kind of accountability to other organizations and agencies? We have an opportunity here to be proactive, but this government has, I think, completely chosen to ignore that chance.

The NDP advocates for strong whistle-blower protection. Our health critic has made important comments on the whistle-blower protection that this bill offers. She has said that it recognizes that “in theory, the whistle-blower cannot be dismissed, cannot be disciplined, cannot have a penalty, cannot be intimidated, coerced or harassed.” But if it were to occur anyway, if a whistle-blower was dismissed, what then? They’d have to fight it out in court. Where is the support for a whistle-blower once they are dismissed?

Speaker, this bill cannot obscure the fact that the Ministry of Health has refused to look at their own role in this. The reality is that this bill will do nothing to prevent future scandals from occurring at other government-funded organizations. I wasn’t around for the years preceding, but I know that my colleagues raised issues about this. They spoke up to this government constantly, and they were ignored continuously. This bill is not addressing the continued arrogance of this government to listen to other members of this Legislature, to be responsibility and accountable to the people of Ontario, and to change the model in which they operate in this province.

Speaker, we need real public health care in this province that has proper oversight and accountability and transparency. Instead, we’ve seen just example after example of this government offloading their responsibility, downloading and privatizing. This is just the latest result of this kind of method that the government seems so attached to.

In the last year, since March 2012, the government, in fact, has done very little to strengthen this bill. I would say that I’m not the only person who feels very frustrated about this. When we talk about Ornge, it’s important to remember that not only were millions of dollars wasted but, unfortunately, lives were wasted. People died. This government allowed Ornge to mismanage its services, and many of those who ended up alerting the public to this mismanagement within this agency, the whistleblowers, lost their jobs and their livelihoods.

It’s important to remember that this bill was originally introduced the very same day that the Ornge scandal came to light. As my colleagues have all mentioned before, this bill was clearly an attempt to change the channel, an attempt to make it look like the government was taking steps to address this issue. But as I’ve mentioned already, the government hasn’t really shown any commitment at all to make things better. Before reintroducing this bill, the government should have taken into consideration the changes that we had proposed last session and come back with a stronger bill.

It’s these kinds of political games, I believe, that people are tired of. This government has played these kinds of games with the people of Ontario, and as a result, people are losing faith in our government and our health care system. People are fatigued with the politics of this province and these types of failures from this government.

Even as Ornge is still under investigation, we hear news that their top executives are getting bonuses this year, even after all this mismanagement. It’s easy to understand how and why this upsets people. I’ve had constituents in Davenport write to me in dismay. “How can this be happening?” they say. They’re angry and they’re frustrated with this government.

There are people who have been disappointed and disgusted with the government for quite a few years now, and we have a long road ahead of us to repair their faith and restore their faith in this process. But some of this stuff starts to wear at people who are most active and most hopeful about the positive role that government can and must take in this province. Each time that government lets us down in these ways, we lose a little bit of our hope in the democratic process in Ontario.

My constituents in Davenport wish that the government was dealing with this scandal appropriately. They wish that Queen’s Park was moving faster. They wish that we were actually addressing issues that matter to them and not just discussing pretty empty legislation for a second time around. Instead, there are a number of things I know they wish we were discussing here in Queen’s Park. The 600,000 people who don’t have work wish we were taking this time to talk about a real jobs plan in Ontario. The young people in the gallery today might have concerns about the cost of their tuition for post-secondary school, for college and for university. The fact that when you do graduate from school after paying the highest tuitions anywhere in Canada right now—probably five times what I paid when I went to school—you’ll be graduating without very many job opportunities. The jobs that you will be eligible to get will not go very far in terms of repaying your tuition. In fact, unfortunately, most people will be left still at home with their parents in their parents’ basement. Sorry to break the bad news to you guys up there, but that’s true. Right?

Whether it’s jobs or the issue of transit that we desperately need to take action on—if anybody took transit here today, you know that we are 10, 20, 30 years behind when it comes to investment in our public transit system. I wish that we were having that debate here today instead of this second go-round on this pretty empty bill.

Folks up in the gallery, please don’t lose hope. We’re going to turn this around. It might not happen today, but it will happen. Stick with it. We’re going to do things better.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I want to thank the member for Davenport for his presentation. Questions and comments to the member for Davenport? The government House leader.

Hon. John Milloy: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I listened intently to the honourable member’s speech and I want to pick up where he left off and this whole idea of moving faster. I think it’s time that we brought to everyone’s attention that we have now spent over 12 hours debating a bill that is very similar to one that had already been seen by the Legislature last fall. I think that there’s agreement on all sides of the House that what happened at Ornge was unacceptable and that we need better oversight at Ornge.

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We’ve seen yeoman service by the Minister of Health, who took a number of steps, including the unfortunate step of calling in the police to look into it. We’ve seen new governance at Ornge. We’ve seen new safeguards put in place. Yet this bill represents the final step in terms of making sure we have proper oversight of Ornge and that we can make sure that it is—

Interjections.

Hon. John Milloy: I’m sorry, Mr. Speaker. It’s hard to hear with the heckling.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I would ask members to come to order and allow the government House leader to make his two-minute response.

Government House leader.

Hon. John Milloy: This is the final piece, put in place to make sure we have proper oversight of Ornge, that we can make sure it is a strong organization, which the people of Ontario expect, and that we can also provide protection to the employees of Ornge, particularly the front-line staff, who I think all of us, on all sides of the House, respect.

It has been over 12 hours. Those who are following this debate may note that the government has not been putting up speakers to participate in the formal debate, just in the two-minute portions, which I’m participating in right now, because quite frankly, we think it’s time that this bill went to committee.

Members of the opposition are saying they see weaknesses in the bill and they look forward to discussion in committee. Mr. Speaker, I’m calling on them to allow this bill to proceed to committee so that we can have that sort of debate and discussion and make sure we come forward with a piece of legislation that is strong and provides protection for the people of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments to the member for Davenport?

Mr. Jim McDonell: I’m happy to rise to speak on the comments made by the member from Davenport. He brought up some good points about the need for the role of the Ombudsman. We hear a government that is talking about the need to find out or have oversight. But of course they’re not listening to the opposition when they talk about options that would allow them—if the ministry is unable to provide proper oversight, we have the wherewithal in this House to look after that.

I really question that they talk about the debate, the 12 hours, the rush to get through here. But I remember that they prorogued the House back in October, so there wasn’t that big a need to get this through. It sat for four months, and now we’re restarting the whole process.

We hear about different witnesses coming forth. I was a bit shocked the other day to hear the commissioner of the OPP answering some of the questions coming forth. One of them was that one of our key witnesses, after a year and a half, still had not been interviewed. It shows the slow process to get through some of these investigations and where this government really, with the list of witnesses to go through—whether there’s really an interest.

We also saw today two whistle-blowers who have lost their jobs. Again, they talk about protection, but where is the protection for the people who have come forth and really let the public know that there was an issue there? Would we know today if people hadn’t come forth?

We on our side saw a letter—I don’t think the House saw it—where Ornge issued a statement to its employees, threatening them with not only firing but lawsuits if they continued to let information out.

So, lots of questions, and we look forward to more answers.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments to the member for Davenport?

Mr. Michael Prue: I want to go right along where the last speaker was just coming from, and that’s the whole issue of whistle-blower protection. I’m glad that the member from Davenport raised this issue, because we in this House often forget that a great many people who work for the civil service of Ontario, a great many public employees, are very, very dedicated to their jobs. They’re dedicated to the point that when they see inaction, when they see wrongdoing, they have an obligation and, I think, a moral responsibility to come forward and talk about that.

Very often, a whistle-blower will find himself or herself on the wrong end. They’ll find themselves unemployed, they’ll find themselves disciplined, they’ll find themselves without a job, they’ll find themselves blackballed from the civil service. When you take that extraordinary step of coming forward, you need to know that there’s some protection at the other end.

What was just said is absolutely right. We saw whistle-blowers who were threatened with their jobs and with their livelihood, who were told there were going to be civil suits—they were told all kinds of things—and this is why people have not come forward in the past. This is the same Ornge we’re talking about, and the same Ornge that we’re demanding to have Ombudsman protection, because if you have an Ombudsman, you can go to the Ombudsman in confidence, you can talk about those kinds of things, and you’re not going to put your job at risk.

We saw last night on the news—and it’s not right on point here, but—a whistle-blower at the Royal Bank who came forward and talked about how he was being downsized, how 45 Canadians are being put out of a job so that the jobs can be outsourced and people brought in from India to take those jobs. There is a hue and cry across this country, and that whistle-blower needs to be protected, even though he’s not in government. Those are the kinds of people who need to be protected if we are going to secure jobs and keep things moving well in this province and in this country. We ought to be taking our hat off to them, not firing them.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: Again, I am going to repeat it: The board of directors of Ornge and the CEO of Ornge, Dr. Mazza, failed Ontarians, failed the employees, failed the patients and failed every one of us. It’s an embarrassment. It should never have happened, so I hope that we will proceed to committee to make sure that the new act, Bill 11, passes through committee, because it’s not here that we’re going to amend the bill.

I am wondering: Why is there this delay? For the Conservatives, the official opposition, is it because this mess was started by their Minister of Health, Tony Clement? But I don’t understand why the NDP are stalling the process.

We should move forward. We have an excellent bill here in front of us. We have a Minister of Health who wants to clean up this process, so she put forward new governance, and I hope that the new board of directors—and I’m calling on every member of every board of directors in Ontario who are managing the precious tax dollars of Ontarians who pay their taxes—will administer that as if it was their money. We have a new board of directors; we have a new CEO, Dr. McCallum, who is the president and CEO, who was the chief coroner in Ontario—I worked with him—a very fine person, a very qualified person. We also have all sorts of processes that were put in place to make sure that Ontarians have value for their dollar.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes the time for questions and comments, and we go back to the member for Davenport.

Mr. Jonah Schein: Thank you to all those who rose to speak to this bill.

As I said at the beginning, we would like to get this bill into committee. We would like to strengthen it and, as my colleague from Beaches–East York said, we, in fact, believe that there needs to be strengthened whistle-blower protection in this bill so this will not happen again. As I said in my comments, this should be extended to other public agencies as well. We see this over and over again.

While I welcome the comments of all folks in this chamber, I do have a difficult time being lectured to by the government about this bill. I said in jest that my Grandma Grace, who does tune in to this channel, was tuning in for a repeat, but it is true. This is the second time around. This has been over a year now, and we have not seen progress here. We have a big job to do to restore people’s faith in this political system, and this does nothing to do that work.

To be lectured to by the Minister of Correctional Services on this issue when I remember that for years as a citizen of this province, we would ask her office, when she was Minister of Social Services, to take action on poverty, to help people out when it comes to welfare, and we have reports sitting here to reform social assistance, we have regulations that could have been enacted yesterday, weeks ago or a year ago that would make people’s lives easier, and yet we have a government that likes to stand there and lecture us about slowing things down here.

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Last October 15, when this place was shut down—the new Premier likes to boast about how fast she brought the Legislature back after being elected as leader, yet in fact we’ve seen the government return with no agenda. They have the same tired agenda as when we left. I would like to go back to Davenport and assure people that things are under control in this Legislature, that there is a plan to move things forward, yet it’s times like this when I actually don’t have that much faith—certainly not in this government.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Furtherer debate.

Mr. Peter Shurman: This is déjà vu. I remember debating Bill 50, which is this bill in its previous incarnation, before the prorogation that my friend from Davenport just referred to.

I might say, although this is not in response to my friend from Davenport, that he has a very good point when he says he doesn’t need lectures from any minister, in this particular case the Minister of Community Safety and francophone affairs, standing up and talking about how she’s embarrassed, and there is embarrassment about what Dr. Mazza did. In fact, if there’s any embarrassment associated with how Ornge deteriorated to what it became, to the point where it perpetrated, I think, grave injustices on the province of Ontario and its citizens, that embarrassment should be on the part of the current and then Minister of Health.

I can’t believe that that same minister is sitting there to this day and feels that somehow or other, by bringing Bill 50 and now Bill 11 before this House, the government is absolved from what is clearly implicit in terms of how they didn’t manage the affairs of Ornge. I’m going to tell you something. For you, Speaker, and for other members listening, for people at home who are watching on television and wondering what we’re doing discussing how to fix Ornge through a bill like this—because by the way, we’re not going to fix anything with a bill like this. At this point, you’re confused; you’re not half as confused as we are in the House.

Back probably over two years ago, and unbeknown to most people in this House, I was somewhat involved behind the scenes in what was transpiring as my colleague from Newmarket–Aurora began to gather information, in his role as our transportation critic, on what had become apparent to us behind the scenes at that point as a major mess called Ornge. I was involved because some of the whistle-blowers came via me. I had a number of meetings in my office where I heard stories and received files that related to things like boats and foundations and chopper motorcycles and something called the “crystal palace,” which housed the headquarters of Ornge; and the unbridled excesses of the person who ran it, and how he was recruited as what had been by reputation a great emergency room doctor from Sunnybrook who became a power-drunk, crazy person in terms of how he ran a $150-million-per-year operation on behalf of the province of Ontario without any supervision, tutelage or oversight by this government whatsoever, under the stewardship of this very minister who brings a bill that is supposed to be a band-aid that covers all of this. It’s absolutely inconceivable.

Ornge was, to the points raised by some of my government colleagues, originally designed to replace the Ontario air ambulance service, its predecessor. That indeed did start under a Conservative government but was brought to fruition in the incipient stages of the new Liberal government after 2003. So the germ of the idea was a good idea, and it was inherited and adopted by the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty as a good idea.

Interjection: In fact, embraced.

Mr. Peter Shurman: It was embraced by that government. What they did was, they dropped the ball on how to do it. That’s what happened.

Here we are today and what we’re talking about is a bill that effectively, to coin a phrase, locks the stable door after the horse is gone. That means we’re operating on the basis that we’re way too late. To use another cliché, during the period of time that Dr. Mazza ran Ornge, what we were doing was, we were giving the keys to the henhouse to a fox. That fox had his way with all of the hens in the henhouse, and now we’re here putting the band-aid on.

So it pains me to be standing here today talking about this. When we finally do see this bill go to committee, as I’m sure it will, despite the fact that I have no intention of voting for it, it will be discussed. It will come back in some form and it will still be unacceptable, because at the end of the day, unless serious oversight clauses and controls are brought into this bill, and until reasonable protections for whistle-blowers are brought into this bill, this bill is not worth the paper that it’s printed on.

The McGuinty-Wynne Liberals are in a position where they want to use this bill as a screen, but they can’t use this bill as any kind of a public relations ploy to erase the fact that they sat idly by as millions of taxpayer dollars went down the drain with Ornge.

This happened over a period of years—years. People knew, and I would have to suggest that there were some signs inside of the ministry that this was going on. Yet the ability for it to trickle up to the minister or find its way up to the minister—it should have been a red flag in her eyes—just wasn’t there.

I will recall for this House another day. It was several Christmases ago. This House was on its last day before Christmas break, and I guess it must have been 2010. The Ornge situation was bubbling to the surface. It hadn’t been brought to the fore in this House to any extent. I was on media point that day, so it was my job to be spokesperson for my party. I was making the rounds to the different media outlets to talk to them about Ornge. I related this story when we were debating Bill 50. Interestingly, at that time as I went from one media office to the other up on the third floor of this building, I kept criss-crossing paths with Minister Matthews. What was she doing? She was going to the same media offices I was to put out the fires that she would contend I was starting. I didn’t start the fires; the Liberal government started the fire and fanned the flames by not doing what it should have done in a situation that was under its tutelage.

The bottom line is, here we are with Bill 11, which is indeed that PR ploy.

Ontarians paid a lot of money for this. Indeed, one could say without my trying to sound overly melodramatic that some Ontarians probably paid with their health; maybe some paid with their lives. Ontarians paid for Chris Mazza’s $1.4-million salary. They paid thousands of dollars in expenses for luxurious trips and $1.2 million in loans for mortgages and such for Ornge and its different subsidiaries. They paid for a classic chopper motorcycle that, I think, at auction went for—what is it, $40,000? Something like that, some ridiculous amount of money. They paid for special commissions to the tune of about $6 million that came in to a web of companies that were not even known by this government to exist under Ornge as a commission for buying helicopters that were never countenanced by this government to be bought. These are the kinds of stories that we heard as the Ornge scandal unfolded.

AgustaWestland sold those helicopters when nobody ever said that we needed new helicopters. There was a company, Canadian Helicopters, that was providing, from everything I understand it to be, a very, very good service before we decided somehow that we needed our own owned-and-operated fixed-wing aircraft and rotary aircraft.

The people who ran the Ornge organization at that time raised the money for that by setting up companies that floated bond issues and pulled $200 million or $250 million out of the air to buy those helicopters. And still this government didn’t step in.

I could go on with stories about how this all unfolded from my own recollections or from testimony given at committee. But the fact of the matter is, all of this went on under Liberal noses, and no Liberal noses smelled a rat.

Old habits die hard. The McGuinty-Wynne government cannot help but have one taxpayer spending scandal after another, one after the other. The big wheel just keeps on turning, doesn’t it? Ornge is an example, but there’s a long list. What have we been discussing in this House in every question period and outside of question period since we’ve been back here? I don’t mean back here today; I mean back here after prorogation and before prorogation. In fact, what was the reason for prorogation? The Liberal government does not want to admit it blew $1 billion—probably more than $1 billion—on killing two power stations as a result of its electoral imperatives.

That’s the kind of government that the people of Ontario have. That’s the same kind of government that allowed Ornge to operate to the tune of 150 million taxpayer dollars per year and have it subverted. It’s the same government that took $1 billion and said, “We’re going to build an eHealth system that will be something to behold,” and we don’t have an eHealth system here except where it has been assembled by the private sector in small, little pockets. We don’t have a pan-Ontario system where other jurisdictions do. Why? Because a billion dollars was shoveled out the door to Liberal-friendly consultancy firms. That’s what this government does.

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I’m debating Bill 11 under a fairly large umbrella here, talking about scandals, but that’s what this is. This is a bill that seeks to address scandals perpetrated by the Liberal government or allowed to fester under its nose without any supervision, without any tutelage and without any protections for whistle-blowers who actually wanted to do the right thing. So I’m adding my voice to debate, but I have no intention of voting for this bill.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I want to thank the member for Thornhill for his comments. We now return to questions and comments to the member for Thornhill, based on his presentation.

I look to the member for Hamilton East–Stoney Creek.

Mr. Paul Miller: You’re confusing me, Speaker. Anyway, thank you.

First of all, I’d like to address a comment that was made by the House leader and the minister, both delays which—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That’s exactly what I was trying to say. Questions and comments are supposed to go to the member for Thornhill based on his remarks, and I would ask him to confine his remarks to that.

Mr. Paul Miller: Okay. In your presentation, you mentioned you were concerned about some of the delays that go on around here, and they were talking about certain groups stalling and not getting things. In reference to your comment, for the Speaker’s benefit, let me give you some examples of delays by the government which affect your position:

—not showing up for subcommittee meetings, which require all three parties to move the agenda for the main committee;

—asking for 20-minute recesses on committee to slow down the process—they didn’t like the motions; and

—stalling on House leaders’ meetings if it wasn’t suiting their agenda for the order paper and for their friendly Liberal agenda.

You talk about exposure and public outcry for exposure. Well, here they are limiting on Bill 11—limiting it to just one category and to one specific situation, which was Ornge—as opposed to doing it for the entire ministries, where they could have saved hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. If you had oversight by the Ombudsman, you wouldn’t have all these kind of cloudy areas—grey areas—that you can’t get to and get delayed. That’s the problem.

The waste that’s gone on for years around here, why didn’t they deal with these problems—I don’t care—30, 40 years ago? Why didn’t you plug these holes, that things are delayed or things that should have been dealt with years ago? We probably could have saved billions of dollars in this province that could have gone toward education, health and all the things that our citizens really need. But no—until they get caught, until they get exposed by a newspaper or they get exposed by a whistle-blower; then something gets done. I think that’s called johnny-come-lately.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments to the member for Thornhill? I recognize the minister responsible for seniors.

Hon. Mario Sergio: Thank you very much, Speaker. I’ll do my very best to follow your directions and address the remarks from the member from Thornhill.

We are addressing Bill 11. By listening to the various comments, I can’t disagree that the front-staff people have been doing a tremendous job and they are continuing to do a tremendous job at Ornge.

Now, if there is something that we all understand, that we all agree on, it’s the oversight that has been somewhat missing over the years—no excuses for that. I mean, this happens with every government at any time, anywhere, with some of the people who are really not being overseen on a regular basis. You can’t fault the whole team because of one player.

The minister, Speaker, has made a lot of important changes, a lot of good changes, and they are being shown the changes that have been made. The question is that we have a bill now, and I hear from a member of the opposition saying, “Well, unless you do this, we can’t support it.” Well, the bill is here for discussion. Let’s send it to our committee. Let’s see what improvements we can make. We are looking for their ideas on how we can make it better. So bring it back, Speaker, and then we can bring it to the House, amended according to their wishes, so indeed, the bill can be better.

But to say, “Over the years, this happened”—this is something that started under a different government.

Mr. John Yakabuski: No, Ornge was 2005.

Hon. Mario Sergio: Absolutely, absolutely.

The thing is this: We are debating Bill 11. I hope that we can move it along. We look forward to the members of the opposition coming up with those ideas to make some changes so we can indeed make the bill much better than it is today. We look forward to that, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments to the member for Thornhill?

Mr. Jerry J. Ouellette: I very much appreciate the opportunity to comment on the member from Thornhill’s remarks.

He spoke about Bill 11, and he mentioned quite a few things there. He also went into some of the other areas of difficulty that the government has brought forward, whether it was eHealth and what happened there—those were mentioned in his comments—along with a number of other aspects that have come forward.

I think that the essence, which hasn’t really been discussed from my perspective, is that when a government is given the privilege and honour to govern in our province, they are given the ability to bring individuals to the table to make decisions on behalf of the public at large. What we’re seeing here is incorrect decisions, whether, as the member from Thornhill mentioned, about the eHealth and what took place there, and the billions of dollars there. He also mentioned what happened with the power plants. But here in Ornge, it’s the same aspect. It’s the ability of the government to come forward with individuals to make those decisions on behalf of the public interest.

We’re seeing billions of dollars that are being wasted. It’s costing the taxpayer billions of dollars on a regular basis. And guess what? The end result is that the public service at large is now being punished for those actions of the incorrect decisions or the inability to bring the correct people to make those decisions on behalf of the province of Ontario.

We’ve got great individuals in Ornge. I called in at Ornge once, when I happened upon a site, and it was great to see the individuals doing great work there. But the inability to have the correct individuals at the helm, on behalf of the province, is where the essence lies.

Quite frankly, we need to ensure that when these individuals come forward, they’re making the best decisions so it’s not costing the taxpayers or individuals in the incorrect decisions we’re making. I certainly hope we’ll be able to see that coming forward in further debate.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Michael Prue: I listened intently to my colleague the member from Thornhill. It’s always a pleasure to listen to him.

He did divulge—and this was new to me—his role in the whistle-blowers. I commend him for that, because oftentimes we don’t know anything about things that go on around here. For your part, listening to the whistle-blowers and bringing that information forward to your colleague the member from Aurora was a good thing.

In terms of whistle-blowers, I neglected earlier, when I was talking about whistle-blowers, to also mention the people at Marineland who were here today, and the travail they’re going through at this particular point, because they are being threatened with all kinds of action for doing what I think is an absolutely noble thing.

Animals cannot speak for themselves, and it’s only people like whistle-blowers who can talk and protect those animals that are at Marineland and other places. We need to make sure they don’t get fired, and that people who act like them don’t get fired. Whether they’re in the civil service or on the outside, everybody deserves that kind of protection for coming forward and doing the right thing.

I also listened to what my friend had to say about not supporting the legislation. I’m not surprised. The Conservatives have chosen not to support any legislation, really, for the last while.

But in all likelihood, as he stated, it will go to committee. If it does go to committee, I am asking the members of the Conservative Party, and this particular member from Thornhill, to do everything in his power to make sure that the legislation is strengthened to the point that the government might not even want to pass their own legislation.

What we need to do, and what the opposition needs to do with legislation that is so weak and so improper is build it into something we would do if we were in government, and then make sure it’s done right. I’m hoping he will at least give that a thought.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I return to the member for Thornhill for his reply.

Mr. Peter Shurman: I listened with interest to my colleague from Hamilton East–Stoney Creek; the minister for seniors affairs; the member for Oshawa and the member for Beaches–East York, each one of them bringing a bit of a different perspective to what I had to say.

If I can go in reverse, I think it’s germane to address what the member from Beaches–East York had to say about the fact that the Progressive Conservative Party seems to be—these are my words, not his—disengaged from some of the legislative effort here.

Look, let’s be candid: The Progressive Conservative caucus, at this point, has taken a look at what’s coming from other side since the so-called new government of Premier Wynne. There’s a reason why we call it the McGuinty-Wynne government: because it’s business as usual, and that’s not a business that we can accept. If we appear to be negative, it’s because we believe that this has got to change. It’s only by change that we’re going to get to a point where we don’t need Bill 11 band-aids to go on wounds that are open to the heart of the people of Ontario. That’s what Bill 11 really shines a light on at this point.

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The member from Oshawa talked about what a privilege and an honour it is to govern, and what it means is that you have to be in charge. You have to be vigilant. That’s what I spoke of. That’s what Bill 11 speaks to and its predecessor Bill 50 speaks to. If the government, through the government House leader, wonders why we’re practising what he terms delaying tactics—these are not delaying tactics at all. This is legitimate debate on the subject at hand, and the subject at hand is only evidenced by Bill 11; it is not Bill 11. Bill 11 talks about redress by giving some kind of strange protection to whistle-blowers, that kind of thing, and by saying in words that they’re going to do something they haven’t done. We have no reason to believe it now any more than we did before prorogation and any more than we did before Ornge came to light.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Jeff Yurek: I’m proud to have the opportunity to speak on Bill 11, and I’d like to point out that the heart of this whole debate going on today is the aspect of trust and accountability. The Ornge scandal represents a textbook case of government mismanagement and cover-up, the likes of which form the basis of political cynicism. Every day, as an elected official, I am driven by my sense of duty to the constituents. They are my employer, they pay my salary and expect that I serve them to the best of my ability.

With the complexity of the Ornge scandal, one might lose that fact, but the reality is that we’re all here to serve the people of Ontario. They put their trust in us, and we have the duty to act in the best interests of this province.

The story of Ornge’s origin is fairly straightforward. It started out as a divestiture of a government service to a non-profit organization in an attempt to serve the people of Ontario. Divesting services to a capable service provider does have merit. It can allow for more efficient and cost-effective operation of a service. With a clear vision and adequate government oversight, divestment can achieve superior results for the people of Ontario. And yet, since the time of divesting air ambulance services to Ornge, we have seen these services devolve. Millions of scarce health care dollars have been squandered, front-line health care professionals have had the ability to carry out their responsibilities compromised, and above all, patients’ lives have been put at risk.

My colleague from Newmarket–Aurora has waded into the murky waters of this scandal, Mr. Speaker. Through his efforts, we’ve been able to paint a disturbing picture of the gross mismanagement and appalling lack of oversight that occurred at Ornge. The allegations against Ornge’s CEO Dr. Mazza are severe. A full investigation by the police will reveal the degree to which his actions were criminal, and he will be reprimanded appropriately.

However, the activities of Dr. Mazza and his organization could only carry on with the approval of the Ministry of Health. Just because taxpayer dollars flow to an organization outside of the ministry does not mean the ministry suddenly sheds responsibility for how these dollars get spent. Ontario people trust that if we’re paying for the services, however they are procured, we are getting the most out of every dollar. Unfortunately, the current Minister of Health has breached this trust by neglecting proper oversight of a vital health care service; Ontario’s trust in the current government has been rightfully shaken. Despite this failure on the part of the minister, not only did she not lose her job as Minister of Health; she was promoted to deputy leader. I’m at a loss when asked by constituents why the minister kept her job. In other workplaces, if you fail to perform your duties, you lose your job—plain and simple. Obviously, this did not happen.

So, now we have to contemplate a set of reforms that will install controls that enhance accountability and restore trust in our air ambulance service, but what we have before us is Bill 11, the successor to the government’s Bill 50. What concerns me, Mr. Speaker, is that despite 15 days of public hearings and 57 witnesses, Bill 11 remains hollow.

Our new Premier had an opportunity to chart her own course on this particular issue, one that could have separated her from some of the past mistakes of her party. Instead, she has chosen a business-as-usual approach and left us with an inadequate piece of legislation. Not only has this government failed to hold to account the one minister who had the ability to oversee Ornge, it has offered us an empty piece of legislation to fix the problem.

If we actually look at the bill, we see that it empowers a team of special investigators to investigate and report on Ornge. The Ombudsman has made valuable reference to these special investigators. While he acknowledges they will have similar authorities as the Ombudsman, there’s one key difference: They will be overseen by ministry staff, rather than be an independent body. The Ombudsman went so far as to say that, the special investigators, “Far from being watchdogs, they would operate on a ministerial dog leash.” These are the words of the Ombudsman.

Mr. Marin goes on to speak about Bill 11:

“Every year, our office responds to tens of thousands of complaints, consistently demonstrating its value to elected representatives and the public. As ‘Ontario’s watchdog,’ we are the gold standard in keeping government maladministration at bay. It simply does not make sense to perpetuate our exclusion in a bill that purports to bring credible accountability to Ornge. I would respectfully request your support in bringing the necessary amendments to Bill 11 to ensure that it meets the purpose for which it was presented to the Legislative Assembly.”

This letter says it all. Bill 11 will be impotent, so why bring such a weak piece of legislation forward, despite having ample time and testimony since Bill 50 to craft something with teeth?

I can’t speak for the government, but it does sound like they’re less concerned with actually addressing the problems than to appear that they’re addressing the problems. This is no way to restore Ontario people’s trust.

Being an elected official for Ontario, the people from Elgin–Middlesex–London have put their trust in me to ensure that their money is spent wisely and to ensure that their health care system remains safe and accessible. The actions of this government over the last few years with regard to this Minister of Health have shown that we do not have the oversight or the accountability in our health care system to have trust in the system. When you get sick, you expect to get better and you expect to have the system there behind you to treat you.

This government has failed. This government has lost the confidence of myself and the rest of the PC Party, not only through this action of Ornge but through the gas plants, through eHealth and, recently, through the problem with the chemotherapy in London and the rest of Ontario.

We’re asking the government to step up to the plate, become accountable, tell the people what they know, open up with Ornge, make the amendments necessary in this Bill 11 and actually do the job that they’ve been voted to do—not to always react. It’s time to become proactive in their government, and they have definitely failed.

I ask the NDP to think hard on the confidence that you have in this scandal-plagued government. You brought up really great points on this Ornge scandal. I hope that you’re there with us in committee to make the necessary amendments. But to continually support a government that is letting the people of Ontario down—I’m sure the voters in your ridings have mentioned to you many times, “How can you support a government that’s scandal-plagued?” If you take note of the students here, the pages, I’m sure they’re held to account every day of their lives from their parents, their families and their schools. They mess up. I’m sure you guys get in a little bit of trouble from moms and dads and aunts and uncles and cousins and teachers. We can have no more but to expect from our government that when they mess up, it’s time that somebody takes responsibility and takes action. For the government to continually promote their ministers when they fail in their duties is wrong—it’s wrong. We are here to do our job for the people of Ontario. Even though the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals have stayed on the same course, it’s time to turn around. It’s time to actually do your job as elected officials. Ontario has their trust in us, and we hold this job very dearly to our hearts on this side of the aisle. We, in turn, expect you to do the same.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Jonah Schein: I’m pleased to join in the conversation here. Thank you for the comments from the member from Elgin–Middlesex–London.

As this is going on, a debate that has been over a year right now, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight the ways that government in the 21st century is actually moving systemically away from an accountable process where they will actually acknowledge that the buck stops with the government. I think that’s exactly what we’ve seen with the current government. But what we don’t see in this bill is an actual understanding about this.

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We’ve seen this government continue to off-load responsibility for things. They continue to create these agencies, and then when the agencies run askew, they say, “Well, this is shocking, and it’s horrible, and it’s the fault of the individual person who’s in charge of this agency,” instead of saying, “We’re going to take responsibility for this.”

What inspires me to be with my caucus, and when I listen to the member from Beaches–East York speak in debate about what we would do if we were government—I think this is the great privilege that we have to be here. We have a chance to speak up in this House on what would make this a better province. I encourage all members to do that when they’re here.

When we see agencies like Ornge go so awry, we need to look at all the agencies here.

Just this week, we see this government feign surprise when even more fees are put on consumers when it comes to the task of waste diversion and recycling in Ontario. We all need to be part of reducing our carbon footprint, reducing waste, diverting waste, and yet this government creates these agencies like the one that is now putting the cost onto consumers. That is actually not helping reduce waste at all. In fact, I would just like this government to understand this and to change the direction here.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. John Milloy: I listened intently to the speech from the member from Elgin–Middlesex–London, and I just want to pick up on the theme that he highlighted in the end about taking responsibility, and talk about the responsibility that was taken by the Minister of Health to address the very, very serious problems at Ornge.

We have the good work that was done by the Auditor General, and I referenced this earlier. It’s always unfortunate, but the fact is that the police were called in, and it’s my understanding they are investigating it. We have the work that was done by the public accounts committee.

Within Ornge itself we’ve seen new leadership come in. We have seen changes made to the organization there, so that we have a very new culture in an organization which serves a very valuable purpose in this province.

The one piece that is missing is the oversight that is provided through this bill, Bill 11, or in its earlier iteration—a number of speakers have mentioned Bill 50.

The member, in his speech, spoke about the potential for committee study. He spoke about amendments at the committee. As we reach the 13th hour of debate on second reading, I can only reiterate what I said earlier. I think it’s time that we put this bill to a vote. I think it’s time that it was sent to committee, where committee can undertake the type of dialogue and discussion that’s ongoing, that’s needed to strengthen the bill and send it back for third reading.

Again, Mr. Speaker, this is the final piece of the puzzle. This is a very serious issue, and the type of filibustering that’s going on, in my mind, does not show an opposition that wants to take responsibility in terms of strengthening the oversight of air ambulance here in this province.

Again, I think points have been made by all speakers throughout this debate, but particularly as this is the second time around, I think it’s time that we move to a vote, and a vote that I hope will see this bill being sent to committee, where it will get the type of debate and discussion that’s required.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Robert Bailey: It’s a pleasure to rise today to comment on the member from Elgin–Middlesex–London’s comments on Bill 11.

I don’t see this as a filibuster. I see this as a good reaction to the bill. We’re going back through the bill, we’re going to go over this, and we’re going to make sure that at the end of the day, it has had a full airing here in the House. That’s what the people of Ontario send us here to do.

It’s the government of the day that caused the prorogation, and that’s why this bill had to be reintroduced. They could have put clauses in there, when they called the prorogation, that would have kept this legislation, along with a whole lot of other important legislation, alive. They didn’t do that. That was their decision. They’re the government. They like to tell us continuously about how brilliant they are.

There’s nothing in this bill that will provide for a minister’s lack of leadership which caused this to be as big a scandal as it is. The air ambulance is a textbook scandal of why people are cynical about politics today, politicians and the bureaucrats that serve this private sector in the delivery of public services.

In this one file, we’ve seen how a well-intentioned plan to divest the delivery of an essential health care service to an external non-profit corporation resulted in the waste of millions of scarce health care dollars, put patients at risk and compromised the ability of those dedicated front-line providers to carry out their responsibilities. They undermined the viability of long-standing service providers and also a number of other people who got caught up in the vortex of this scandal.

What concerns me most is that, after many days of hearings, almost hundreds of witnesses and thousands of pages of documentary evidence, it’s clear that the very structure of Ornge is dysfunctional and that it lacks the professional expertise at the most senior levels to do a good job.

I’ll retire now and await the rest of the debate, Mr. Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Miss Monique Taylor: I’m once again standing to this matter in the House. I’ve had my debate time, and I know most of the members to my right have had debate time on this. I would also like to see this moved on to committee and don’t understand the real concept behind their voting no against it because, once we get into committee, that’s where we make it strong and we make sure the government is accountable to these kinds of oversights and making sure that we can put the Ombudsman in place to be able to look at scandals that happen such as this. This is where this work needs to be done: in committee. I agree wholeheartedly: Let’s get this out of the House, where we’ve listened over and over and over again. That we’re wasting time here is the bottom line, Mr. Speaker.

Having the Ombudsman able to oversee committees and agencies within this government is crucial. I myself have called for the Ombudsman to be allowed oversight of the children’s aid society. Making sure we have protection for our children in this province and that there is an arm’s-length body that can investigate and look into these issues is absolutely crucial.

This morning, we heard our leader, Andrea Horwath, speak of the need for Ombudsman oversight when it came to the chemotherapy drugs and allowing him into that process. I know that the Minister of Health has said that they’ve put together a committee to look at this. But committees and committees over committees just aren’t helping.

We have a body and an office in place already that has the ability to do these investigations. There’s no reason why the Ombudsman can’t be looking into medical people who know the medical history as part of the investigation. We have a body in place to be able to do these things, and we should be looking at the Ombudsman to do that.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes the time for questions and comments in this round. We return to the member for Elgin–Middlesex–London for his reply.

Mr. Jeff Yurek: I’d like to thank the member from Davenport, the House leader, and the members from Sarnia–Lambton and Hamilton Mountain for their added comments to this discussion. I think it’s very important that each member who wishes to speak on behalf of their constituents gets the opportunity to bring forth their concerns to this House. I don’t think this is filibustering; I think it’s actually a good debate that we’re allowing our members, including myself, a chance to give their 10 minutes or so on this discussion.

As I said from the start, it comes down to trust and accountability. There was improper oversight on the minister’s side of things. She could have used the tools that were available to her to take care of this Ornge issue when the member from Newmarket–Aurora first brought the issue up years ago. That was not done.

You have to have accountability in your job, as I know in my position before I was a politician. I was the boss. I took any problem that went along with anything in the system that went wrong. I took full accountability for it. I held that on my other managers, that I gave them the responsibilities.

The Premier of the province had the opportunity to step forward. He didn’t. The new Premier came forward, and she has yet to step up to the responsibility in just being the boss.

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Now, with the managers who would be in a position at my store, I would hold them fully accountable. If they would step up and take accountability for their actions, we could work through a solution. But to totally ignore that you didn’t do your job, I think it’s time to make a change. We need a little Donald Trump here, maybe, to sit them down and give the old, “You’re fired.”

Thanks very much, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate? I’m pleased to recognize the member for Welland.

Ms. Cindy Forster: I’m happy to rise to have some discussion around this Ornge air ambulance act. The objectives of the bill say that it’s to provide some additional government oversight measures and to provide whistle-blower protection, but in reality there will be no Ombudsman oversight, even though we had that debate for probably more than 12 hours back in September and October, and for another 12 hours now. The bill gives the ministry a bigger stick, some unprecedented powers, and it provides inadequate whistle-blower protection, copied and pasted from the last bill. It changes Ornge from federal to provincial incorporation—to what end?—and it will not prevent another Ornge scandal from happening.

The government isn’t listening; this Liberal government is not listening to the people. It’s the same old bill. They haven’t listened to the debate from the last time. They had a year, plus four months while we were prorogued, to make amendments to the bill that we debated in this House for hours and hours. Bill 11 is kind of a reaction to being caught asleep at the wheel rather than a concerted effort to make things right and to provide proper oversight.

It’s not unlike the Niagara Health System, where the government isn’t listening to the people in Niagara. It’s not unlike Marineland, where the government is not listening to 85,000 signatures on a petition—20,000 and counting at the Niagara Health System. And it’s not unlike what we’re hearing today and over last week about improper dosages of chemotherapy and putting patients at risk in this province. So who is listening to the people in Ontario?

We want to get this bill into committee as much as anybody else so that we can make some amendments to it. I had the opportunity to actually listen to the minister without portfolio a few moments ago, who was complaining because we’d already had 12 hours of debate on this issue. Yeah, we’ve had 12 this time—probably 13. We had 12 or more the last time. But at the end of the day, who prorogued the government? It wasn’t us. Who failed to protect the bill that had already been debated? It wasn’t us. It was actually the Liberal government that failed to protect that bill when they prorogued. Democracy is all about having the right to get up here and debate an issue for as long as the rules in this House allow us to debate it for.

What happened at Ornge cannot happen again; it should not happen again. We need to make sure that there is accountability and transparency to ensure successful operation and to regain the trust of the people who live in this province. The government cannot sit idly by, as they did for five years, and watch the taxpayers’ money wasted, as it was on Dr. Mazza and the top dogs at Ornge. So we need to make sure that there’s proper oversight and we need to extend those measures to all government-funded organizations to make sure this doesn’t happen again in any ministry of the government.

Ontarians are looking for answers; they’re not looking for a watered-down bill. Unfortunately, Bill 11 isn’t the answer that they are looking for. They want a bill that will instill public trust in a ministry that has let the people down.

Why isn’t the government listening? Why aren’t they listening to people who want to ensure that those hard-earned dollars, their tax dollars, are being used effectively? How can the government expect families to tighten their belts while at the same time allowing millions of dollars to be wasted on scandals that could have been avoided? It’s quite clear the government isn’t listening.

This is a recurring theme with this government. Whistles were blowing five years ago. The employees were coming forward from Ornge, and the government wasn’t listening. The opposition parties were raising the issues in the House again and again and again. It was ignored for five years, and there was a lot of money wasted in that process. But despite everything that’s happened—the wasted money, the mismanaged services—the government still won’t listen.

I think what people really want is an Ornge air ambulance that is available to them, that’s available to their family and available to their loved ones in a timely and effective way and that is a public program. I think one of the most important pieces that’s missing from this bill is the Ombudsman oversight. Without it, it fails to achieve a level of transparency and accountability.

We have been calling on the government for Ombudsman oversight for the past year. Ontario is one of the few provinces in Canada where Ombudsman oversight does not include essential health services like hospitals, air ambulance, child care services, and family and children services. Aren’t these services worthy of being held to account? We are calling for Ombudsman oversight. We have an Ombudsman program here in this province where we spend millions of dollars, and yet we’re not prepared to allow that to be extended to these essential services. If the government wants to admit that what happened at Ornge was a mistake—that it can be rectified, that they can learn from this mistake—why do they ignore the most important step, which is Ombudsman oversight? That should be the goal here.

What purpose does it serve to withhold Ombudsman oversight? Without including it, this bill is a wasted opportunity, and it’s just really a public relations exercise, something to make the public think that things are really being fixed. The government, when they brought this bill forward the second time, had the opportunity to actually make a lot of changes to it, but they chose not to, because Bill 11 isn’t designed to try and fix the problems at Ornge—to ensure accountability, to ensure transparency of a publicly funded agency—or to protect those who were courageous enough to come forward four and five years ago to talk about the problems. Some of them lost their jobs and didn’t get their jobs back. The government needs to be dealing with that in a timely and effective way.

When you look at the specific items in the bill, there’s a pattern that emerges. For instance, the bill will change the incorporation from the feds to the province. This is a direct response to the Minister of Health’s claim that the ministry could do nothing about Ornge because it was under federal jurisdiction.

Interjection: A red herring.

Ms. Cindy Forster: A red herring; you’re right, and I don’t think that—

Interjection.

Ms. Cindy Forster: Absolutely. New Democrats are also concerned about the additional powers being granted to the ministry. The ministry had some of those powers, but they chose not to use them at the time. Unprecedented powers will shift the importance of this out of the hands of the community and into the hands of the ministry, and it will give them less of a say for themselves. If they didn’t act before, how can we trust that they will act in the future? We don’t think that this bill is actually giving Ontarians what they need.

Does allowing the government to actually appoint representatives at a board at Ornge help increase accountability to the people of Ontario? Or allowing the minister to issue directives to Ornge—does that increase the accountability to the people who live in this province? Does giving the ministry the power to amend the accountability agreement without consultation of the public increase the accountability to the people of Ontario, and does it increase transparency? The answer, I’m afraid, is no.

Just like before, only the ministry is privileged to any information. The opposition parties will still be in the dark; the people of Ontario will still be in the dark. The only way to bring transparency, accountability and the trust of the public back is to grant oversight of the Ombudsman and to extend the scope of the bill so that a scandal like Ornge is prevented from ever happening again. This is what the people of Ontario want, and it’s up to the government to listen to them; they are the people who elected us.

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Unfortunately, they haven’t been listening, and the list of grievances against the government continues to grow: 20,000 people at the Niagara Health System. Ridings in the north: The member from Nickel Belt talked about the holes in the bill being big enough that you could actually fly an air ambulance through them. The people of the north are not being served. Marineland: 85,000 people signed a petition, and there’s no action.

In my community, certainly, there are huge grievances against the government with respect to our health care services—not only the Niagara Health System but our access to mental health services.

So I look forward to this bill getting to committee and joining in the debate.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much to the member for Welland.

Questions and comments addressed to the member for Welland?

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: Again, Mr. Speaker, I repeat it: The former board of directors and the former CEO failed us all. They failed the employees, they failed the patients and they failed Ontarians. It’s unbelievable listening to what was discovered in the former administration of Ornge; it’s an embarrassment.

But thanks to the Minister of Health, who put forward some discipline in the new Ornge company. She also has directed Ornge to take all available steps to recover misappropriated funds. So you should say thank you to her for doing that.

But on a very positive note, Ornge is now well into a new chapter. We have a new board of directors; we have a new CEO. It is now a culture that puts patients first, respects taxpayers, and values transparency and accountability. I’m pleased to hear that the new Ornge, the new board of directors, the new CEO—they are all co-operating with the Ministry of Health to redress the situation at Ornge.

Ornge’s new performance agreement protects taxpayers. That’s what we want. We want that the difficult, hard-earned dollars from taxpayers in Ontario are being used to improve health care in Ontario.

I want to thank the Minister of Health, and I want to make sure that we go to committee so that we bring—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.

Questions and comments?

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: I want to address the comments from the member for Welland. She stressed very clearly that one of the things that we’re calling for, that the New Democrats are calling for: Ombudsman oversight.

I heard the member opposite talk about, “This is the new agreement.” This might be a new agreement under their definition, but if nothing has really changed for oversight, it’s the same agreement with no accountability to the public of this province.

Unfortunately, we have had an example like that in my riding recently. I mentioned it this morning, that there were some patients, 665 patients in London Health Sciences, who were treated with chemotherapy drugs that were not adequate. That really worries my constituents, Speaker, and this is why our ears have to be perked up, as I look across the aisle and I look at the members there. Perk your ears up, because here’s the wake-up call, here are the alarm bells, here are the whistle-blowers. We’re telling you that Ombudsman oversight is what is needed for the health department. If nothing else, listen to that.

We’ve had the example of Ornge, and now we have other examples that happened. I understand that the minister—I’ll give her some credit, because I’ve known the minister for a very long time, so I understand she’s passionate and compassionate about that. But really, so are we on this side of the House when it comes to oversight. We ask that you just please listen to that and really consider it, so if this bill does go to committee, I hope we can actually have a sincere and serious, honest conversation about what truly Ombudsman oversight means to the public and to their health care system.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. Mario Sergio: Just to add a few comments to the comments of the previous speakers, particularly the one from Welland.

I have to say that I caught some of the comments from one of the previous speakers where they say, you know, you’ve been talking about 11, 12, 13 hours, but still we want to do our own 10 minutes. By all means, Speaker; we are in here—this is our responsibility. Our job is to speak in this House and speak our minds.

The question we hear from the other side is that they want to see the bill proceed to the committee level. You know the workings of the legislative agenda here as it works, and we are saying, “If you want to make some improvements to the bill, this is not the place. It’s got to go through the various committees, and that is where you make those recommendations and bring the bill back.”

With all due respect, Speaker, I have to say that yes, the oversight was a problem, but the minister has been very responsible in making quick changes at the proper time.

And let me say some of the other things that the bill will do, if we were to send it to committee and bring it back and make some of these changes. Some of the things have already been done, Speaker. The minister has appointed a new patient advocate. We have new medical interiors in its helicopters. We have expanded service to Thunder Bay. We have established a dedicated patient flight service for northern Ontario. We have created a whistle-blower policy as well.

So what else is left to do in there? Perhaps there is much more, but only at the committee level will we be able to bring it back and try and get some more protection for the employees who wish to disclose information and bring it back to inspectors or an investigator or to the ministry; whatever. Only then will we be able to make the bill better. So I hope that this will move on to committee.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): We have time for one last question and comment directed to the member for Welland, and I look to the member from Simcoe North.

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: Me, or—

Interjection: Yes, you.

Ms. Cindy Forster: You go ahead.

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: Oh, thank you. I thought I was from Welland there for a minute.

Interjection.

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Just to be clear, I apologize—you’re addressing your comments to the remarks that were made by the member for Welland. That’s why I prefaced it that way. Again, I return to the member for Simcoe North.

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: I thought you were confusing me there for a second. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words on Bill 11. I’m going to be speaking a little later on today, in a few minutes, to be able to make a few comments, but one of the things I’ve been worrying about with this whole purchase of the new helicopters, one of my major concerns—and I’ve had some of the whistle–blowers come to me. They’ve come to me with their concerns about being fired or not if they said anything.

But the one thing that I’m really concerned about is that usually a helicopter has a long lifespan, because they have so many inspections on them. I’m told that because of the problems with being able to handle the cargo inside them, where they have people who need medical attention, that there have been some problems with them. One of my major concerns is that as we move forward in the next few years, we don’t see these helicopters being grounded because they’re just in too bad a condition to be in the air and have patients.

So I’m hoping that we can sort of address that too, as we move forward with some of the legislation and with some of the committee hearings, that we can actually discuss that and bring in some people who can give us a little more detail on the structure of the helicopters.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): We return to the member for Welland for her reply.

Ms. Cindy Forster: Thank you, Speaker. I’d like to thank the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services and francophone affairs, the member from London–Fanshawe, the minister responsible for seniors and the member from Simcoe North for their comments.

Now, the Premier talks about wanting to kind of work co-operatively with the opposition parties, and I think this would have been a perfect opportunity for her to do that, because she had heard all of our arguments back in September and October. So if she really wanted to work with us co-operatively, she would have instructed the minister responsible for this area to actually put our amendments into the new bill so we wouldn’t have had to stand here for 12 or 14 more hours debating this.

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Now, the minister responsible for seniors says that, well, yes, he agrees that democracy is alive here, “But we really should get this into committee where the committee can talk about it.” My concern about that is that once the amendments are made, once we get into committee and the opposition parties determine that we’re going to make amendments to the actual bill, will the bill ever see the light of day again back here in this Legislative Assembly? That’s what concerns me, because we debated many bills and we made many amendments to bills back in September and October of last year, and they all died with prorogation. So if the government doesn’t like the amendments we make to this bill, it may never come back here again either.

I think that if you really want to work co-operatively with us on future bills, you should be making the amendments in advance to bringing them back to us so that we don’t have to debate bills for 50 hours at a time.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much. Further debate?

Mrs. Julia Munro: I’m pleased to join in the debate on Bill 11, the Ambulance Amendment Act. This bill is the government’s response to its self-created Ornge air ambulance crisis. It is what I would call a typical Liberal response. They create a hierarchy of red tape after a problem appears instead of watching what’s taking place beforehand. They pass a bill or put in a policy and then walk away and forget about it until it blows up in their faces. Then the taxpayers get to pay for it all.

My colleagues have outlined very well the many scandals that Dr. Mazza and Ornge have created, but I want to address the massive failure of oversight. This bill itself offers only more red tape and bureaucracy, as if new regulations are what it takes to operate the air ambulance service properly. What this government refuses to understand is that the problem is not a lack of regulation but a lack of proper oversight. And given the Liberal record on this issue, more regulation is not likely to lead to better oversight.

We just need to look at the history of air ambulance service in Ontario to see that it is the decisions of the Liberal government that are the problem. The Ornge fiasco is not a problem that this government discovered; it’s one it created. Previously, Ontario had enjoyed an air ambulance service that worked behind the scenes to support people throughout the province. It had been providing air ambulance services since 1977. The ministry contracted with private operators to provide air ambulance aircraft, pilots and paramedics, with the ministry directly operating the central air ambulance dispatch centre.

Then, suddenly, the Liberal government decided to give a virtual monopoly to a company that owned no aircraft, either fixed-wing or helicopters, nor knew how to pick a plane that actually works—that doesn’t weigh too much, that has the proper headroom to provide services to the patients who are being transported.

Here’s what one of the former private operators told the public accounts committee about Dr. Mazza last year: “He sold the province—on the concept that the system was broken, and it wasn’t broken….”

It is important to remember that Ornge is entirely a creation of the Ontario Liberal government. Since the Liberals created Ornge in 2005, the operation has suffered from scandals and poor management. Repeated reports of the Auditor General have pointed this out. In a 2005 audit of land ambulance services, the auditor recommended that the ministry conduct unannounced reviews to ensure consistent quality of service. Even though the law allows the ministry to conduct unannounced quality reviews, the practice of the ministry is to give at least 90 days’ notice of inspections. Even with this, about one third of ambulance operations, including Ornge, did not pass their scheduled reviews the first time. Imagine how many might have failed if the reviews had been unannounced. The reviews found such things as aircraft that were not properly stocked with medical supplies and equipment and medical oxygen equipment that was improperly maintained.

Proper oversight of Ornge should have started at the very beginning. Our party has asked, “Why was Dr. Mazza appointed to run Ornge in the first place?” From everything we’ve heard, he had a good medical record but no experience in the helicopter part of the operation.

The Auditor General’s special report on Ornge connects the scandal very clearly with the lack of oversight by the government. The auditor says, “The ministry has a responsibility to ensure that the services it is paying for are being provided cost-effectively and that Ornge is meeting the needs of the public and Ontario’s health care system.” And what did he find? “[T]he ministry has not been obtaining the information it needs to meet these oversight commitments.… It does not periodically obtain information on the number of patients being transferred or assess the reasonableness of the cost of the services being provided on a per-patient basis.” He continues, “[T]he funding Ornge received for air ambulance services increased by more than 20%” between 2006-07 and 2010-11. “[O]ver the same period, the total number of patients transported by air decreased by 6%.”

On top of this are the scandals about Ornge selling and leasing back its corporate headquarters through a management company owned by members of Ornge’s own senior management; and the helicopters they bought, the patients won’t fit in. The list goes on and on, and I’m certain more will come out over time. It makes you wonder: How did the management of Ornge think they could get away with it all? Did they realize the government would never pay attention? Did they see how the Liberals ignored problems at eHealth until that blew up and figured the government would never look at an agency so long as it kept out of the news?

So now we have this bill before the House, which the government says we need because it cannot exercise its oversight otherwise. Yet testimony from civil servants in the committee has shown that the ministry had the power of oversight but just didn’t use it. My colleague from Newmarket–Aurora put the question about responsibility for oversight to Malcolm Bates, who is the director of the emergency health services branch of the ministry, which oversees the air ambulance service. Mr. Bates told the committee, “I agree that the Ministry of Health and the emergency health services branch have and had oversight responsibilities and that oversight responsibility was basically set in line by the Ambulance Act, by the performance agreement and by the transfer-of-payment accountability directive.”

My colleague told the House, “Malcolm Bates testified that he was actually directed by an associate deputy minister not to exercise those responsibilities.” He testified at our committee that he was directed to do whatever he was instructed to do by one Dr. Chris Mazza.

So now we know. The failure of oversight was not just incompetence or laziness; it was a deliberate decision to turn a blind eye to what Ornge was doing. I have a simple question: Why? What interest did the Liberal government have in not paying attention to the activities of Ornge? Who would have been upset if Dr. Mazza had stopped wasting money in mismanaging the ambulance service? No taxpayer in Ontario would have been upset by oversight. No one in this House would have criticized the government for too much time inspecting the actions of arms-length agencies. It’s a question I cannot answer.

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It also leads me to a new question. What will the next Ornge be? Which other agencies in the Ontario government are currently run by other Mazza-like characters? Where else in the government is some public servant being told to avert his eyes from what an agency or department is doing?

We know there is a continuing OPP investigation. We know that this bill will not change the issue of oversight. If you can turn your head at one point, you can turn it again. What we are really talking about is an effort to cover this episode in the history of the Liberal government by suggesting that we can legislate morality, that we can make people operate differently. The answer is no, we can’t. We depend on the integrity of every member, and every member of the broader public service. What we are witnessing here today, and through this bill, is the erosion of trust.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): Questions and comments?

Ms. Catherine Fife: It’s a pleasure to respond to the member from York–Simcoe on her comments with regard to Bill 11. We’ve been here before, after many hours of actually discussing this piece of legislation and the proposed changes within it. I think that I’m in complete agreement with the member from York–Simcoe around the oversight piece. This isn’t really a question of new rules and regulations. The member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton has said that Ornge has already put those structures in place. So what we have before us is essentially a public relations exercise.

What really was missing from the very beginning was true oversight. Most importantly, I think, the government has not yet admitted that they dropped the ball. We have heard excuse after excuse from the other side of the House that it was the Ornge board of directors or it was Mr. Mazza. Instead, we don’t have true accountability for what happened with regard to Ornge. Most importantly to the people of this province, I think we don’t have any assurance that it won’t happen again. It would be well worth going through this very bureaucratic exercise to rehash the past and revisit past mistakes, because so many were actually made, if we had some assurance that, going forward, the same mistakes wouldn’t happen again.

We’re all dealing with the fact that a major mistake in the health care sector has already occurred with the mismatched and insufficient chemotherapy doses that were distributed over the last year. So there are big trust issues in the health care portfolio. Unfortunately this legislation, as proposed, does not address those serious trust issues.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): Questions and comments?

Mrs. Laura Albanese: I’m glad to comment and respond to the member from York–Simcoe. I’m very pleased that this new proposed legislation would provide that strengthened oversight we’re all talking about that is needed to ensure a solid future for Ornge’s ambulance service.

Yes, much has happened because the government lacked the tools to bring Ornge under control and have that sufficient oversight. As many of my colleagues have said, the trust that the government had in this agency was simply betrayed.

Ornge is now well into a new chapter, and it is on the right path forward. Some of the changes that have already taken place have already been cited here, but I’m very pleased to see that they have appointed a new patient advocate. The fact that they have established a dedicated patient flight service in northern Ontario and created a whistle-blower policy—these are all very important steps. This legislation is the next step in restoring that crucial public confidence in Ornge. It would provide protection for employees who disclose information. It would allow the government to appoint a supervisor just like we do in our hospitals, and it would allow the government to change the performance agreement with Ornge at any time.

These measures really represent a common ground between the government and the opposition, I believe. I look forward to this bill going to committee and being strengthened by the voices of my fellow colleagues on the opposite side. That’s what I hope will happen as soon as possible, Mr. Speaker.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who works in the ambulance services here in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): Questions and comments?

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: You know, we’ve talked a lot about Ornge over the last couple of years, in fact. One thing I worry about, as we move into the next few months: I’m really concerned about the OPP investigation and where that’s going to fall and what we’re actually going to see out of that. I’m not sure whether the OPP will make any kind of recommendations, or there may be some kind of charges or whatever may happen.

We’re actually coming pretty close to the end of debate on this particular reading, second reading, and then it will go to committee. But I’m almost worried about even finalizing it now until I actually see some of the results of the OPP investigation, because it might open up a lot of different passages or channels, whatever you want to call it, or new thoughts that we haven’t even covered yet.

I know we’ve covered an awful lot of topics and a lot of questions. The minister certainly has had to answer her share of questions here in the House in the first session and in this session as well. But I’m really concerned about the OPP—when that report comes out from them. I’ve heard it might be midsummer—I’m not sure if anybody has got any thoughts on that—or within the next few months at least. I’m not sure when. I guess what I’m saying is that as we move for the rest of this spring—we’re going to committee, and we’ll probably go to third reading—I’m wondering, if something else comes out of the OPP investigation, it might be something to be really concerned about that we could add to that. I think it’s worth discussion at least, okay?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): Questions and comments?

Mr. Peter Tabuns: I’ve had an opportunity to address this bill in this chamber within the last few weeks. As everyone who is sitting here knows, we’ve already gone through extensive debate on this bill.

We’ve made it clear, and I want to make clear again today, that it is critical for the Ombudsman to have jurisdiction over Ornge. Speaker, over the last few years, I think going back as far as 2010, maybe 2009, our party in the estimates committee, the committee that sits on a yearly basis to allow the opposition an opportunity to question ministers in depth, has raised the whole issue of Ornge and its function. We, in fact, raised at the estimates committee much of what has become part of our knowledge of what went wrong at Ornge. Whistle-blowers came to us. Employees came to us. They said that things were going seriously wrong at that agency. Yet, we didn’t get any satisfaction in the estimates committee. It was not until it was blown wide open in the media that an inquiry was, in fact, instituted and action was taken.

We have asked, and we continue to ask, for the Ombudsman to have jurisdiction so that it isn’t just a question of us raising a point, a few points, a few questions in estimates or in the House, but giving the Ombudsman jurisdiction to use his or her resources to actually probe such allegations—substantial allegations of wrongdoing and misdirection of funds—so that the public interest is satisfied.

Speaker, it’s unfortunate that this bill doesn’t reflect that perspective. As written, it’s not strong enough to protect the public interest. That means it is going to have to be substantially changed if it has any chance of passing in this chamber.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): The member for York Simcoe has two minutes to respond.

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Mrs. Julia Munro: I want to thank the members for Kitchener–Waterloo, York South–Weston, Simcoe North and Toronto–Danforth for their contribution to the conversation.

I would just start by saying that the question of the OPP investigation that the member for Simcoe North raised is really one that we should keep at the top of our mind because of the fact that—here we are looking at what the government is offering as an answer to the problems when we don’t even know the full extent of the problems that are at Ornge. I think that’s really an important point.

The member for Toronto–Danforth made reference to the lack of satisfactory responses at estimates, and I think that was certainly one of the points that I felt was most important to make this afternoon: the fact that there have been and there are always a lot of junctures at which oversight can be inserted into a process. As we know from the information provided through testimony at the committee, these were simply overlooked or actually abandoned. To suggest that we can make a law that prevents people from abandoning or overlooking is, I think, somewhat—as one of the speakers said—of a public relations exercise, and I think that there is certainly lots of evidence to give support to the notion that it is a public relations exercise.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): Further debate?

Mr. Jagmeet Singh: I’d like to cover a number of areas in my 10 minutes today, but before I begin I’d like to start off by thanking—I think that we need to, and I think it’s been a number of times—the front-line workers at Ornge, because they have, from the beginning, done their utmost to provide excellent care here in Ontario, and the front-line workers should be commended for their efforts. At the heart of the problems at Ornge was an issue of management and an issue of mismanagement, so we shouldn’t lose focus on the fact that the true problems at Ornge lie at the feet of management.

When we look at the bill before us, it’s very concerning to me—in any area where we debate or we implement bills or laws, we should be looking for prevention as opposed to reaction. Our laws shouldn’t be reactionary and we should have a strong focus on ensuring that we put efforts into preventing problems before they occur. In this circumstance, one of my problems is that we are looking at this situation in a reactionary method. Things went wrong at Ornge and, after the fact, we’re trying to make it better. We have to keep in mind that much of what happened at Ornge was preventable.

One of the key indicators at Ornge, one of the key signals and red flags that we could have and should have—and I put the blame on the government for this—addressed was salary disclosure. A simple requirement: Any time a transfer payment agency receives money from the province, that agency should be required to disclose the salary of its employees. That basic requirement would have flagged immediately that the CEO of an organization which has an operating budget of $150 million is earning upwards of $1 million in compensation. That should have been—and that was—one of the essential red flags that tipped off that something was going on at Ornge that wasn’t appropriate.

That’s something that we could do and we should do in every transfer payment agency across Ontario. There are a number of transfer payment agencies that the Ontario government 100% funds or primarily funds, and if we are not vigilant in ensuring that we know exactly what those public sector CEOs are being paid—what the management is being paid—we can’t be said to be doing proper oversight.

First and foremost, the issues at Ornge are an indictment of a government that did not take proper steps to oversee precious and scarce resources. Ontario is in a fiscal dilemma, in a position where there are difficult economic circumstances, and that makes every dollar—every precious resource that we have—all the more important to keep tabs on and to have proper oversight on.

There were a number of red flags that were before this government that the government did not take action on. My colleagues have mentioned the fact that the NDP raised questions in estimates about the salary of Dr. Mazza, and those questions were not answered. It was quite telling that the answers to those questions that were raised years and years ago were actually offered during the committee hearings of Ornge years and years later, which kind of begs the question—coincidentally, those questions that, at the time, Howard Hampton, the leader of the NDP, had asked, were only answered during the actual committee inquiry into the scandal at Ornge—very, very coincidental.

What I don’t see in this bill and what I wanted to see—we saw that there were a number of red flags. The Meyers Norris Penny firm was hired to look at problems at Ornge and it flagged many issues similar to the ones that the Auditor General flagged. We saw there were a number of whistle-blowers who came forward and said there were issues at Ornge. We knew that there were questions raised about the salary compensation issues. None of these issues were addressed, and this bill doesn’t give us any confidence that there are any systemic or systematic changes in the way the government will oversee other transfer payment organizations.

What I mean by that is, if we had a promise or some sort of guarantee that the government will be vigilant and will ensure that, across the board, every ministry will make sure that they’re vigilant in ensuring that salaries are disclosed, that alone would put the minds of Ontarians at ease, that at least we know the salary compensation for people at publicly funded organizations.

If we were given a guarantee that any question raised by the member of the opposition would be answered in a timely fashion when it comes to the scarce resources in our province, that would also give us some confidence. These are systematic or systemic issues that could be addressed so that we’re not just looking at one transfer payment organization or agency but we’re looking province-wide.

How can we make sure that an Ornge-type scandal doesn’t occur again in Ontario? That really should be the question and that should be something this bill gives us some confidence in. If the bill had some mechanisms in place that said, “We will make sure that the government will take regular steps to make sure we have oversight. We will make sure that we have regular consultations with all transfer payment agencies, including Ornge”—something of a more systematic or systemic nature would give us some confidence that this would be a change or a step in the right direction, to have oversight across the board.

Another issue that came up during the committee hearing is that the current CEO came forward and presented a very strong case for the steps that he’s taking to make sure that Ornge is on the right track. A lot of the things he had to say were good points, very strong points. He indicated a number of steps that the current organization is taking in terms of meeting with the ministry regularly, providing updates, providing reports on a monthly basis, some daily reporting and some weekly reporting.

He also indicated that there’s a new performance agreement. We all know about the amended performance agreement. I put to him the question, “All these changes that took place, the fact that you have a new performance agreement, an amended agreement, you have all these reporting conditions and reporting practices in place—did you need a bill to do these things?”

He said, “No.”

“Would a bill stop you or encourage you to continue doing this?”

He said, “No, a bill or a law would not change what I’m doing right now. I’m going to continue to have this reporting. I’m going to continue to have a good relationship with the ministry, and I’m going to continue to provide feedback and reporting on what we’re doing.”

To flesh out my colleague from Kitchener–Waterloo’s point, yes, this bill, in a lot of ways, is simply window dressing, because all the steps that are currently being taken at Ornge are being taken without any bill being passed. There’s no bill passed right now, yet we have reporting. There’s no bill passed right now, yet we have an organization that is providing full salary disclosure of all their employees. Really, why is there the necessity for the bill?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: It’s about the future.

Mr. Jagmeet Singh: The Minister of Health and Long-Term Care indicates it’s about the future. What would help us to have some confidence in the future would be if the government had a list of proposals on how they would guarantee that they would fulfill their oversight requirements, by saying, “Yes, we will make sure that every transfer payment organization in Ontario is going to disclose their salaries, and we’ll ensure that they disclose their salaries. We’ll ensure that we have regular contact with and reports received from every transfer payment agency.” Those would be future-oriented goals that would be more expansive and would create more confidence in this province. That’s what we want to see.

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We want to see that there is a guarantee that, if we have a piece of legislation, the government would actually utilize the tools in that legislation. In fairness, the previous performance agreement had a number of tools, but those tools weren’t utilized. The previous performance agreement had a number of areas where the government could have applied pressure on Ornge to find out and to ascertain certain things that were going on, but they weren’t used. We could have any type of legislation pass in this House, but if there’s no requirement on the government to actually utilize that legislation, to actually take advantage of the tools and the mechanisms and the pieces of the act that are before it, then what confidence do we have in that bill having any benefit whatsoever for this province, if we don’t have any commitment or guarantee that the government will actually use those tools?

So we come to this bill and some of the problems that we see in it. One of the major concerns that has been brought up time and time again, and I’ll close off by addressing this again, is that we want to have transparency. Transparency is at the heart of uncovering any scandal. It’s at the heart of uncovering any issue where we have a misuse of funds. The great work of André Marin and the Ontario Ombudsman’s office has been shown time and time again to have uncovered serious issues. I ask the government to seriously consider ensuring that this bill has Ombudsman oversight to make sure that we have some true transparency here in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): The member from York West.

Hon. Mario Sergio: Speaker, the only way that we can ensure that the bill proceeds in its natural course is to go to the committee level and bring it back with some recommendations that will suit the desire of the opposition. We have heard many times in the House that the Minister of Health has taken quick action to correct some of the measures; for example, by installing Dr. Andrew McCallum as the new CEO of Ornge, and many other changes that have taken place as well. But something that perhaps the opposition would like to see, Speaker, and something that has not been mentioned before is that in addition to this legislation as it is proposed, the government is also proposing to make Ornge retroactively subject to freedom-of-information requests. I think this is a very important step that the government is proposing. It’s something very important that I think we should all be looking for. It’s something that all the members of the House should be addressing and looking for when the bill goes through the committee level there. This is an important step, Speaker, with respect to making it very transparent.

We have heard before that it has been difficult to try to get information, and we are the ones—the minister has been proposing and the Premier has been saying, “You know what? We are willing to propose that we make Ornge retroactively subject to freedom-of-information requests.” I think this is a good step. I think it’s one of those things that we should be bringing forward to be debated at the committee level, and then bring the bill back. I would hope that at that stage we can move on instead of letting the bill die. I would hope that we would put enough improvements into the bill that we can bring it to the House, approve it and send it forward.

I thank you, Speaker, for your time.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): The member from Simcoe North.

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: I want to kind of continue on that train of thought that I had. We’ve heard comments referring to the Ombudsman and Ombudsman oversight. That does make a lot of sense, and I have to admit that I think André Marin has done a pretty good job in most of the reports that he’s come out with as the Ombudsman.

However, this particular case is very complex, and it goes back to some of the people who actually came to me, Mr. Speaker, as whistle-blowers. I’ll mention this a little bit later on, but they were very, very concerned about finding out that they’d actually passed on information to MPPs.

I heard that they had actually called in the OPP to do an investigation on this, and I’m hoping—I still have this thought in my mind that maybe we’ve got all this discussion, and I’m hoping now there’s good oversight while this debate is going on and the committees are hearing and we’re waiting on the Ombudsman for all these reports.

However, I really am concerned about what will come out in the OPP report. Will there, in fact, be charges laid or will there even be some recommendations? I don’t know how a report like that comes out. I’ve never heard of the OPP giving a report of this magnitude on such an interesting case. So on one hand, I’d like to see the legislation passed and know that we’ve got a path for the future, but on the other hand, I’m really concerned that if the OPP report comes out later on, there may be things in that report that should have been included in the legislation. I think that’s something we should be concerned about.

It would be interesting to hear some of the thoughts of the government members or anyone else on that particular thought because I think it does make some—at least an opportunity to debate because this is a very interesting case when the OPP are actually involved in it.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): Questions and comments?

Ms. Cindy Forster: I want to thank the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton for raising some important issues around this debate, particularly the ones around compensation and why we didn’t know about the compensation practices and how that could continue on for four or five years.

Certainly, we’ve talked a lot this past year about capping CEO salaries. When we have publicly funded agencies and we have CEOs making in excess of a million dollars, there is something wrong with the system. We should have some policies in place, some practices in place that actually prevent boards of directors from allowing CEOs to take loans to buy houses or do renovations on their houses. I mean, that should just be something that can’t happen.

And I ask you, do you do a better job because you’re making $1 million instead of $400,000? I think not. I know there are many front-line and middle managers who work in the health care system who make far less than the actual front-line workers because of overtime and weekend premiums and shift premiums and those kinds of things that health care professionals actually have the right to because they work 24 hours, seven days a week. I would suggest that those managers do a great job even though they’re sometimes not making anywhere near what the people are making who they supervise or manage.

I think the issue of compensation is a very important one. When we’re dealing with taxpayers’ dollars, we need to be very vigilant about how those dollars are spent.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): The member for Oak Ridges–Markham.

Ms. Helena Jaczek: I’m pleased to rise in response to the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton’s comments.

First of all, I’d like to say that it’s very clear to me that Bill 11 is an important and needed piece of legislation. It is modelled on the Public Hospitals Act. It includes the same type of provisions in terms of patient safety and fiduciary responsibility of the board as we have with our public hospitals. This is going to be a very important safeguard in terms of air ambulance service provision in this province.

I think we all acknowledge that mistakes were made in terms of Ornge and what I have described before as a rogue agency: a board of directors that neglected their responsibilities. Certainly, our Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, when she heard about the Auditor General’s concerns with Ornge, acted immediately and she called in the OPP. She made sure that the board of directors resigned, as did management personnel, and introduced a new interim CEO.

As I’m a member of the public accounts committee, we’ve been hearing now as to what’s been happening at Ornge in the last year since control was taken back, in fact, by the new board of directors and the new CEO, and I’ve been really impressed. Dr. Andrew McCallum, the former chief coroner of the province and now the CEO, is making solid steps. Their quality improvement plan is showing these kinds of positive steps in terms of response times, improvements to patient safety and accountability to the public. We need Bill 11. The sooner we get it to committee, the better.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): The member for Bramalea–Gore–Malton has two minutes to respond.

Mr. Jagmeet Singh: I’d like to thank all the members for their comments and for participating in the debate. I appreciate your input.

Again, we’re left with a bill before this House that, as it is, I still will contend, is simply window dressing. The underlying problems have not been addressed, and I hope that the members here today can take back—the take-home message from my comments is that we need to make sure we implement something in this province that’s systemic, not just a bill, one at a time, that reacts to a problem that occurs. Let’s be—

Mr. Grant Crack: Proactive.

Mr. Jagmeet Singh: —proactive. Thank you very much. That’s exactly what I was looking for. Let’s be proactive. Let’s make sure that we prevent these types of scandals in the future. Let’s make sure that we take steps to ensure that they don’t happen—and we can; there’s a very easy mechanism. The simplest way we can ensure that there is not an abuse of the scope and nature of Ornge, the easiest thing we could do—because time and time again, everyone has said the number one red flag was when we saw the CEO compensation get to the level it got to. That was the major red flag.

What we can do is implement a procedure that the government, with any transfer payment agency—if you receive funding from this province, if you receive, as a primary source of your funds, funding from the province of Ontario, then you must disclose the salaries of all your employees. That, at a minimum level, would give us some oversight to know what’s going on with our precious dollars, to make sure that the dollars, the resources, are being allocated to front-line workers and are being allocated to providing service for Ontarians. We can ensure that. That’s one level of oversight that, at a minimum, we should implement across the province. I hope that can be something that the government takes to heart and, in the future, we implement here in this province.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bob Delaney): Further debate? I recognize the member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Speaker. You’re having an extended sojourn in the chair today. I can’t imagine why. Actually, I do know why.

Anyhow, I’ve been listening to this debate, not just today but for some time, and it reminds me—I was just talking to my friend from Sarnia–Lambton here, Mr. Bailey—of an old Ernest Tubb song. We’re going back a little bit here, but he had a song that was called “Another Story, Another Time, Another Place.” We just keep hearing from these Liberals Another story, another time, another place. One day this is the story, and the next day we have a different story.

It’s interesting: I’m listening to the Minister of Community Safety today talking about all of the changes that have been made at Ornge and how it’s all fixed. It’s all working. But then, on the other hand—another story, another time, in another place—we’re told that we absolutely need this piece of legislation to get the job done.

What we’ve got here, quite simply, is—the member for Bramalea–Gore–Malton had some good points, and he used the word “proactive.” Well, I’ll tell you, there’s one thing that Liberals are extremely proactive in, and that is protection, protecting their you-know-what. That is their political MO: Whatever has to be done to protect themselves politically, they will do. Here they are, holding up Bill 11—and I have a copy of it here. There’s not a lot to it. Bill 11: They’re holding it up and they say, “This is what we need.”

Yet they didn’t really need it that badly, I guess, because just last fall they decided to prorogue the House, shut her down, batten down the hatches, lock the doors. All winter, we were closed. Right up until the middle of February, we were closed. So they really needed Bill 11. You see, at that time it was Bill 50. They really needed it, yet they shut this place down because they didn’t really care.

So here we have it. They wanted that new piece of legislation, and the reality is it died on the order paper because they prorogued the House. But they could just as easily have brought in a programming motion that said, “This bill lives, and we’ll pick it up where we left off when the House returns.” But no, it was such a priority that they let it die.

Now, here we are back, and they’re saying we shouldn’t be debating the bill. We shouldn’t debate the bill. This is their new story now. We shouldn’t debate the bill—another story, another time, another place. Well, the standing orders provide for the ability of every member in this Legislature to debate the particular bill before it. The government can bring in a time allocation motion after six and a half hours. They choose not to, yet they chastise the opposition parties for continuing to voice their views on this particular piece of legislation—not only on the legislation, but why we’re here debating the legislation.

There is only one reason that Bill 50, now Bill 11, ever came forward: because of a scandal at Ornge, a scandal that has cost this province hundreds of millions of dollars. In my mind—no question about it—criminal acts have taken place. How Chris Mazza is a free man, I don’t know. He should be in jail. You know, people go to jail for stealing a loaf of bread. This guy has robbed us blind, enriched himself, and he’s still out there on the lam somewhere, waiting for some police probe that now has taken well over a year to finish their investigation. Please, Speaker, there’s not a person out there who doesn’t believe this person ripped off the people, enriched himself, hired his girlfriend, a ski instructor, and made her a vice-president at Ornge. I mean, the scandal just goes from one thing to another.

Let’s look at what they did at Ornge to enrich themselves, okay? They bought a headquarters for $15 million. But then they remortgaged it through an entity for $24 million. The $9 million was then sent to another corporation of which the board of directors of Ornge were the shareholders. You want to talk about Bernie Madoff? I mean, he’s jealous of these guys. He says, “Hell, if I was that smart, I’d have stayed out of jail.” You know, that’s what went on at Ornge under the watch of this government.

Ornge started out in 2005. George Smitherman made a sweetheart deal with his buddy Chris Mazza. He said, “You’re going to be the president of this corporation. You’re going to run the show, and I’m going to close my eyes. I’m going to close my eyes.” When the scandal finally broke—and I’ve got to take my hat off to our colleague from Newmarket–Aurora, Frank Klees. He was, little by little, digging into this mess and, little by little, getting some incriminating evidence that he could raise in this House. He raised the issue in the House. He was sloughed off: “No problem.”

All of a sudden, this stuff started getting bigger. I can’t use the word “better”—you know, you use the phrase “bigger and better.” No, it was bigger and worse. And you know what? It went from worse to worser. That’s what happened. The government on the other side, Premier McGuinty and the Minister of Health, Ms. Matthews, shrugged their shoulders and put up their hands. All of a sudden, they couldn’t ignore it, and then they pretended that, “Well, we don’t really have oversight over Ornge.” Oh, tut, tut, tut. Then the auditor did his report and clearly indicated that the ministry did have oversight over Ornge and simply failed to do its due diligence. The ministry failed to do its due diligence.

But who is the head of the ministry, Speaker? In my mind and, I think, in the minds of most of the people out in TV land watching this, the head of the ministry is the minister. So when the ministry fails to do its job, we’re not suggesting that it’s the minister’s job to go in there, do a forensic audit of the books and check to see whether they’re conducting themselves within the parameters of the performance agreement this government signed with them and gave the government the ability to go in and see what Ornge was up to. When Ornge failed to do that, the ministry was negligent. We don’t expect that it’s the minister who actually goes in and does that, but it is the minister who is supposed to direct their people, to say, “Something’s wrong there. Something’s rotten in Denmark. Go in there and find out.” It took the Auditor General to say, “This thing is rotten.”

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That’s why they bring out this bill, because it’s a smokescreen, Speaker. It is designed to deflect the issue from the ministry and the minister and the Premier of Ontario and to try to say that, well, the legislative ability to conduct proper oversight wasn’t there.

This bill isn’t necessary. As the member for Bramalea–Gore–Malton said in his address earlier, when he was interviewing the new CEO, he concurred that the bill isn’t necessary. The bill isn’t necessary. All that’s necessary, as was the case before Bill 11, as was the case before Bill 50, and as was the case before this scandal broke and before 24 people, including Judy Dearman in my riding, lost their lives—and the possible involvement of mismanagement of Ornge cannot be ruled out. That is what the coroner said: It cannot be ruled out.

I hate to open up this wound for Clyde Dearman in my riding, because he has suffered enough. But before those situations took place, the ministry and the minister still had the right to conduct oversight on Ornge. So let’s not pretend that this bill is going to change the world. It’s designed to protect the government, to conceal their faults, and to hide behind a piece of legislation thinking that’s going to heal the wounds.

Ornge was a disaster, and as long as this ministry and this minister don’t accept responsibility for it, then the people of Ontario have not been treated properly and fairly with regard to a final adjudication of what this disaster caused.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: I’d like to talk to the point that the member from Renfrew was talking about: that this government wouldn’t admit their part in this fiasco.

As mentioned by the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton, in spite of the fact that in the estimates committee there were questions upon questions in 2010 to be answered, they still went unheard. This government ignored those warning bells.

They also ignored the fact that there was a freedom-of-information request that was put in for Chris Mazza’s salary. That was presented to this government, and that, right there, would have been a wonderful tool that they could have implemented at that point. We would have had disclosure a lot quicker than now, and we wouldn’t be in the House—and this is an important issue—to regurgitate it over and over again, from the last session, the 40th session, to the 41st session now.

I would have loved to have had this bill previously, Bill 50, resolved back then so we could have a full conversation, go to committee and have some conclusions. But that didn’t happen.

One small thing, and I’ll give the government a little breadcrumb. One small thing that it is doing is giving us the freedom of information now. That is a small piece of some kind of accountability, but it’s not enough. As we’ve said before, the Ombudsman is the key to a full transparency in this particular instance.

I do agree that it should be a full scope, where departments have the funds transferred to them. But if we want to compromise, if we want to get to a middle ground, let’s put Ombudsman oversight in Ornge. Thank you.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Oak Ridges–Markham.

Ms. Helena Jaczek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m pleased to respond to some of the comments made by the member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke.

First of all, I want to reiterate again that when the minister was made aware of the Auditor General’s findings, she took strong action. She called in the OPP. She ensured that there was a new board of directors at Ornge and new management staff. They’ve been taking some very positive steps to improve Ontario’s air ambulance system. Certainly, the advice of the Auditor General has guided many of the actions that are now being undertaken to improve operations and restore confidence in Ornge.

Certainly, Bill 11 is one of these important measures that we’re taking. Certainly, it is a good bill. It’s modelled on the Public Hospitals Act. It contains many of the same provisions that ensure patient safety and good workplace relations that in the future will be there with our air ambulance system, things like hiring a patient advocate that can work with families and patients to address their concerns—it’s a wonderful step forward; whistle-blower protection; and, of course, the opportunity to potentially appoint a supervisor by the minister or by cabinet, should the need arise.

These are all very positive steps. I think we’re all anxious to get this bill to committee. I think we’ve heard the same discussion over and over again in this chamber. We’re certainly interested in the opposition party’s ideas for improvement on this bill, and I look forward to the conclusion of this debate and getting Bill 11 to committee.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Robert Bailey: It’s a pleasure to rise and make a few comments on the remarks from the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. I think he took us through quite a trail of the lack of oversight that was given by the minister and the ministry staff of Ornge.

Obviously, this Bill 11 is only a resurrection of Bill 50, as a number of people have said. This bill is a way to give cover to the single biggest weakness that perpetuates the existing sector of the air ambulance service rather than recognize what was flawed in the first place and that it requires direct oversight by the Ministry of Health.

The bill also references whistle-blower protection, but the scope of that protection is very limited. The bill imposes limits on which individuals are protected and who can approach with that information. The legislation ought to provide for a formal process to the Ombudsman that will ensure proper protection will be followed, but it fails to do that.

The bill, as the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke also said, is an attempt to divert attention away from the fact that the minister had the power from the first days of Ornge, when it was first created, to provide that accountability and oversight of the original board right from the very beginning. The minister had that power to intervene at Ornge under the original Ornge performance agreement as well as the Independent Health Facilities Act. Article 15 of the original performance agreement gave her those powers of intervention.

I think, as the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke also said, this is another example of another story, another place, another time. As we think about this, there’s a number of these scandals that have come up from time to time. I think, as we do our due process here today in this debate and a number of people are going to speak to different aspects of this bill and the lack of oversight, I’m sure that the people of Ontario will have a better feeling for what took place here.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Ms. Cindy Forster: Well, you know, at a time where we have 6,000 people on a wait-list for home care services in this province, we’ve got hospital services being cut and we have hospital budgets being frozen—there was just a report this morning that I heard on the CBC, where they surveyed thousands of nurses across this province, and 25% of those nurses said that they would tell their family and friends not to come to the hospital they’re working in and to go somewhere else; another 50% or 60% of them saying that they are burnt out and overworked because of the overcapacity in the beds in our hospitals here in the province and because of the overtime that they have to work because of all of these cuts—that we would be worried about how we spent these Ornge air ambulance health dollars. We don’t even know, at this point, how many millions of dollars were actually wasted. We’re guessing. But as other members have spoken about today, the shell game—it will be interesting, at the end of the day, once the OPP has finished their investigation, to see how many millions of dollars could have actually been spent on seniors, on sick people who are waiting for home care services, who are waiting for physiotherapy, waiting for all kinds of services out of this health care system instead of having their money wasted because of a lack of government oversight on a program that funds millions of dollars to the air ambulance system here in the province.

As I said when I spoke for my 10 minutes, what people want is a reliable service that is accessible and timely and where they can actually do CPR in the ambulance.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes our time for questions and comments. I return to the member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke for his two-minute response.

Mr. John Yakabuski: I want to thank the members from London–Fanshawe, Oak Ridges–Markham, Sarnia–Lambton and Welland for their comments. I wish I had a little more time, because I haven’t even gotten into all of the mess. I’m not even talking about the fact that these clowns bought helicopters that wouldn’t work—they’re too heavy—and some of them wouldn’t even accommodate the patients if they were suffering from a cardiac incident. It’s like this was just a massive—oh, I can’t say that here. It was a massive mess.

Interjections.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Yeah, it was a mess.

But to the comments of the member from Oak Ridges–Markham: She’d like us to just move on like nothing happened. Well, the way it works in society, I say to the member for Oak Ridges–Markham, is when you do wrong, you can receive forgiveness, right after you do your time. We don’t just say to the people who go through our court system, “Oh, well, look, everything’s fine now. Just forget about it. Forget about the fact that you robbed that bank. Forget about the fact that you did this or that. We’ll just move on.” That’s what the member wants us to do.

You know what? The honourable thing to do would have been for the Minister of Health to say, “Look, this is my responsibility. This is my ministry. While I don’t run everything personally”—they should have looked at the example of the previous government. When a minister or their people screwed up, they were gone. They were gone. They honourably resigned and, at the very least, spent some time in the penalty box so that the people of Ontario would understand that there is accountability, there is ministerial accountability, and when you make a mess of it, somebody has to pay.

Yes, we’re going to have to move on because, you know what? In life, you’ve got no choice but to move on. But in this party over there, in the Liberal Party, they think forgiveness should come before the penance. Well, it doesn’t work that way, Mr. Speaker. Somebody should have paid the price.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Jim McDonell: Am I able to transfer some more? You know, it was such a heart-wrenching debate from my member from Pembroke, who has been here long enough, longer than I have. He’s seen some of these atrocities across the floor.

I’ve heard people talk about this, I guess the former Bill 50, now resurrected as Bill 11 due to the prorogation. Now all of a sudden, it sounds like it’s a panic: “We’ve got to get this out.” But we sat here for four months when we could have gotten down to some real good business and got this through.

It’s one of the worst scandals in history. It’s hard to rate it against the other scandals over here because really, we’re only measuring this in hundreds of millions. To be ranked up there in that class with the other scandals like eHealth or the cancellations of the power plants, you have to be talking about billions, and we’re not right there.

We see how this government addresses such a serious issue. One would have expected the minister to immediately take, not credit for it but accountability for it, look into it, step down temporarily, at least until it could be resolved. But we see none of this. We see this bill being put forth—I’ve heard it called before and I’ve referred to it myself as the red herring bill. Put up as a smokescreen. Try to give people the impression that you had no say. From the limited witnesses I have heard through the committee, they’ve said everything but that. This minister—this government—has full rein of what goes on here. It’s hard to believe that they want to govern, but they constantly say, “Well, we had no oversight ability. We didn’t have the ability to stop cheques.” I guess they have lots of ability to write cheques. It’s interesting how that goes. And sadly, they’re ignoring it. Even when the opposition parties brought it up, they reassured us that things were under control; they knew what was going on. All that did, I guess, was magically defer it till after the election of October 2011.

We heard afterward that the Auditor General had made inquiries and was being blocked; had asked the minister to be involved, and what did we hear? “Well, we had no minister.” But clearly, the House rules say that ministers are there till they’re reassigned. So that didn’t buy it either.

When the Auditor General came back—really, not any interest until the Toronto Star broke the story. Of course, then it was out in public, and they jumped up and, I guess, started flailing and looking for reasons why this failed. So they called in the police. We’ve seen that the OPP have been at it for almost a year and a half, and they still haven’t been able to interview the witness we asked them to look at in the first place. Just delay tactic after delay tactic, and you really wonder, “Is there any interest in getting this right?”

We’ve put this through a second time—same bill. Obviously, they didn’t listen to our comments the first time around. If we want to get to the bottom of this, it looks like the only way to do anything is to change the government.

Witness after witness has testified how this minister had oversight, all the oversight she needed. One thing we have heard from witnesses is conflicts in the testimony: things that are said under oath, so we’d have to take it as a court of law, but the government says different. We hear a simple thing, as from the current CEO: “Have you ever been asked to meet with the minister?” His answer was a definite “Never met; never been asked to meet.” It’s hard to believe, after more than a year in that role, something of a high-profile role, I would think—Ornge has certainly dominated the news over the last few years—not even a request for a meeting. The next day, of course, the minister said, “Oh yes, we met last week.” So you really wonder where we are getting this information. Even if you take that at face value—your first meeting more than a year after being assigned—what’s that really telling you?

Ornge is a textbook example of a classic failure: massive lack of oversight; many, many warnings, with the two opposition parties asking questions; being—I don’t know what you’d call it—reassured by the government that everything is under control; you’ve looked into it; but now we hear that they couldn’t look into it. So I’m not sure what it was. Either they looked into it and they were happy with it, or they couldn’t. We’re hearing different stories as we go along.

The minister and her department knew exactly what was going on with Chris Mazza—the air ambulance service. They put him in place; they put the contract in place. Was the contract they put in place that bad that they couldn’t—there was no oversight allowed?

It’s all a matter of looking at public safety. Right from the bright orange helicopters they were so proud of—bad designs; couldn’t do CPR; ordered too many of them. They’re hiding them in hangars, trying to sell them. I don’t know how you sell something that everybody now knows is defective; the design is faulty. I guess that’s just an example of this government: just a faulty government that needs to take accountability for something.

The public relations around this has had a lot of effort put into it: the refusal to create a select committee, making it sound like it was our fault; having to put a contempt motion to actually get the documents, as prescribed by parliamentary law in this country. I guess some of those laws apply to everybody but the current government, but the Speaker has set them straight.

They talk about protection of whistle-blowers. We hear whistle-blowers here who are being fired, and no interest to reverse that. I don’t know how you give the rest of the employees at Ornge any idea that you really are there to look after them.

But this is not just the first file. We talked about this government and the Green Energy Act, the Auditor General’s report and, again, just after the election, talking about how it was up to this government—you know, it was their responsibility to let people know what this file was costing. They had no interest in that, and we see that today. They contradict the very independent report by the Auditor General that talked not about the millions or hundreds of millions but the billions of dollars wasted.

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What’s worse, we’re giving the money to our competition, to the neighbouring municipalities and jurisdictions that are actually in competition with us. They’re attracting our businesses. Whether we look at Xstrata in Timmins moving to Quebec because they’re getting all that free hydro from Ontario—they can offer it to attract 700 jobs and the tax money that goes with that.

It’s time that this government takes credit or takes ownership of some of the issues here. Every day, they talk about the number of jobs they’ve created and how great it’s been since the recession. But, you know, the figures don’t add up. StatsCanada has been telling us for 75 straight months now that our unemployment rate is above the national average. So where do they get these magical jobs? We see again last month another 58,000 jobs lost; 5,700 manufacturing jobs. Something’s not adding up. There’s a good reason why they prorogued the government. It was to get away from these questions. I guess when you don’t have the answers, you’ve got to do something.

Mr. Rob Leone: If you don’t have the answers, then make them up.

Mr. Jim McDonell: Yes. And I guess they couldn’t make them up anymore—that’s a good point—because people were starting to see through them. They couldn’t stand the hot water—you know, let things cool off. I guess that’s one thing that has worked. It has cooled off for them. But it’s our job as opposition to bring these things up.

Oversight: The latest eco tax increases: I mean, 2,200%. When you present that to the minister, the answer is, “Well, we have no say in that. We don’t know anything about it.” If you don’t know anything about it, if you have no say in it, where is the oversight? This is your ministry, your regulations. If they’re not following your intentions, then get rid of them. From my understanding in talking to the farming industry, there was no discussion with the stakeholders; just the announcement that the fees were going up 22%.

It’s interesting. I had a phone call from a tire dealership in my riding; I won’t say where. He was saying that he’s going to be forced to move down the road about four kilometres, because at those prices, nobody is going to go out and buy his tires. He can move into Quebec and he can sell these tires and not charge the tax. I guess they’re able to recycle the tires and they’re able to sell them at the same price we do, but they don’t have the eco tax. So you can imagine, you can buy a combine tire from him at $1,300 a tire—you’re talking $5,200 for duals on the front—or you can go there and pay nothing.

There is no forethought put into this. All we’re doing is closing down our businesses. Actually, you know, it’s a wonder we don’t get a letter of thanks from Quebec, because we’re really doing them—whether we’re removing 700 jobs in Timmins or the small tire companies around in my riding that just can’t make a go of it because they can’t afford to pay the taxes that this government is laying on them.

Anyway, there’s just example after example—I guess we’re running out of time here—of places where there’s lack of oversight. This is not the first time, and I guess, with this government, it won’t be the last.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Ms. Catherine Fife: It’s a pleasure to stand up and respond to parts of some of the comments by the member from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry. Something that he said actually stood out for me. He said that the only way to deal with this, to get this straight, is to bring down the government. We have a bit of a different mindset over here. We’re trying to hold the government to account, because that’s the job of the opposition. Also, we’re more concerned, actually, about getting some real results through this process.

Let’s actually talk about one good thing that came out of this process, and that has to do with providing whistle-blower protection to air ambulance providers. You know, those people are on the front line. They have the real hard jobs. They came forward and they tried to raise awareness of this issue. At the time, the government didn’t listen. Actually, nobody was listening. Thank goodness for the media, and then finally we made some progress. Even Marineland employees who were here today—they’ve come forward with concerns about animal cruelty, and what has happened? They’re in court. They have no protection whatsoever. So if anything good came out of this process, it’s whistle-blower protection to those front-line workers, but it needs to be more comprehensive.

Let’s talk about what’s not in this bill. There’s still no oversight of Ornge by Ontario’s Ombudsman. It’s still not granted, and the Ombudsman himself, André Marin, has expressed strong concern that his office will continue to not have oversight of Ornge. He has said that without his oversight, there will be no credible accountability. The patient advocate role reports to Ornge’s vice-president, not the public or even the board of directors.

So, here we are. I mean, there’s lots of talk about trying to make it better. We want that, but why not do the right thing at the very beginning? Earlier, I think it was very telling. The Minister of Health said, “What about the future? This is about the future.” I think we all know in this House that this piece of legislation is about the past and about changing the channel on Ornge, and we all have a collective responsibility to make it better.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. Mario Sergio: The sad thing, in discussing this particular piece of legislation, is that a very few people make the rest of the people, including us politicians, look bad, because most of the people at Ornge are hard-working, honest people, doing their job. And we really shouldn’t resort ourselves to pass a piece of legislation as it is, or better, when it comes back—there shouldn’t be any need for that if we had no problem with all the employees. But, unfortunately, Speaker, we are human, and sometimes the human side takes over. But the fact is, the legislation proposes some important changes.

The member just mentioned, for example, protecting the employees from bringing information out either to the government or investigators or to the media, whatever, and why not? Why shouldn’t we do that? We said that we can appoint a supervisor or investigators, and why not?

During the various questioning, one thing that came on very often: information, getting information. How come we cannot get information? So this piece of legislation contains exactly that, that in addition to what we are proposing, the government is also proposing to make Ornge retroactively subject to freedom-of-information requests. This alone would go a long way in providing necessary information not only with Ornge but with any other piece of legislation.

So I can appreciate—I was listening to the member from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry, and I hope that we can move on this piece of legislation, bring it back, bring it even better and move on with it, Speaker, and I thank you.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Bill Walker: It’s a pleasure to speak to my colleague from Glengarry south—

Interjection: Stormont—

Mr. Bill Walker: Stormont whatever; anyway, Jimmy Mac. I can never get his out. It’s a challenge.

He brings a lot of good points to this House, and he’s always bang on. He sits and takes copious notes when other people are talking. He’s been here all day, listening to everyone. What he brings up is a really true, valid fact. What he talks about is, where is the accountability on the other side of the House? This is a boondoggle of boondoggles.

Frank Klees, our member, raised issues way, way back, and all we keep getting is, “We’ve changed house. Someone else made a mistake. We’ve changed him out.” Well, how many times are we going to hear this? It’s back to the gas plants, and the campaign team member made the decisions there, and we still don’t get any apologies for that, but we’ve cleaned house again and now we’ve brought in a new leader.

We just can’t accept this anymore, Speaker. What we have to get back to is, what are we doing to serve the people of Ontario? What are we all doing, 107 people in this House if everyone ever gets here every day—and ensure that we do our jobs every day, that we represent those people who gave us the privilege and honour of representing them in this hallowed hall. We need to ensure that things like Ornge are going to always serve the people first. We’re not going to be creating bureaucracies upon bureaucracies. We’re not going to create things where people are getting patted at the end of the day and getting basically rewarded for poor management and poor behaviour.

What we need to do is ensure that there’s accountability. Who’s going to pay for the mistakes that have been made with this? This bill does absolutely nothing to correct the situation that we found ourselves in. It does absolutely nothing to ensure that another Ornge boondoggle won’t happen on their watch yet again.

What we need is, first and foremost, for the governing Liberals to step up and apologize to the people of Ontario. They need to ensure that we’re talking about things that are actually going to stop and prevent this from happening again in the future, and they need to always put the people of Ontario first with everything they do, rather than their partisan needs.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): We have time for one last question and comment.

Mr. Jagmeet Singh: One of the things that we’re seeing is that we all agree on a number of things here, and I think that’s a positive sign. We agree on the fact that there is a need for transparency and accountability, and we agree that Ontarians deserve no less than that. Now, it’s a matter of, how do we achieve that? How do we make sure that this is not just a one-off situation where we see a problem, we react to it quickly and brush it under the table?

We need to make sure we do something long-lasting, something meaningful, something that will actually make sure that every single precious dollar that’s spent here in Ontario is spent effectively and meaningfully. That’s why I repeatedly say that we have to make sure that we think beyond just this example, this scandal, and we look to ways of preventing and being proactive. That’s really the direction we need to head in with any initiative here in this House, particularly when we have fiscal difficulties and economic restraint. We have to make sure that we stretch each dollar effectively. To do that, it’s even more important that the government oversees each and every agency that it provides funding to.

That’s why, again and again, we have to make sure we implement systemic changes—not just one-off change—not just for Ornge but for every transfer agency. We need to make sure that these steps are taken in a way that we have some confidence that the government will actually use the tools to make sure that they protect each and every dollar that’s spent here in Ontario, and that every resource is committed to front-line care, every resource is committed to protecting and caring for and ensuring the good health of the people of Ontario. The people of Ontario deserve no less than our best efforts to ensure that we do our utmost to protect each and every precious resource for their benefit.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): We now return to the member for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry for his reply.

Mr. Jim McDonell: Thank you, Speaker. I hope my member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound has been listening to that.

I want to thank, Speaker, those who spoke. The member for Kitchener–Waterloo talked about real results. I guess I can’t agree with that. I don’t think we’ve seen real results here, because without accountability, without taking responsibility, I don’t think that we’re going to see real results. It really comes down to that they’ve always had the oversight that they needed; we’ve heard that many times. But you’re going to have to want to do it. You’re going to have to not want to hide it from the people. When you’re trying to hide something, the oversight’s not there.

The minister for seniors talked about front-line workers and, yes, they are good workers. There is no shortage of them trying to contact us because, in their efforts to get the word out that there were things rotten in Denmark, as somebody said earlier, they were getting nowhere. When they came to us, what happened? They were threatened with lawsuits and firing. I mean, this is what we’re seeing for transparency, and it’s quite scary to see that happen in this province.

The member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound talked about the gas plants and the Premier. One thing we’ve never heard is an apology; we’ve never heard anybody accept responsibility. Lots of people are being blamed, even the campaign team, even though some government members are chair and co-chair. But it’s always somebody else. You’re talking a couple of billion dollars there, and this is a serious problem.

The member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton talked about the need for transparency, and we can’t agree with him more, but we can’t support this bill because we don’t see a change. I mean, you can’t guarantee transparency with a government that will never accept responsibility. What happens is, a person stands up and you make a mistake, you say, “Look, it’s my fault. I should’ve fixed it. I didn’t,” and move on. That’s not something that we’ve ever heard, I guess in the eight, nine years this government has ever been here. It’s something that we’ve heard in all other governments, but not this one.

Thank you, Speaker, for my time.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate on Bill 11?

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: I’m pleased to be able to say a few words today on Bill 11, An Act to amend the Ambulance Act with respect to air ambulance services. I’ve actually had a chance to—I’ve tried to get on a few times on this particular bill, but each time it seems that the time runs out. But I do want to make a few comments on it.

The second reading of it: We have spent a lot of time and certainly we’ve had numerous questions to the minister and to the Premiers—both Premier McGuinty and Premier Wynne—on this particular issue, which has really been an issue very important to the people of Ontario.

I just want to back up a little bit and try to figure out—for someone who’s been here, I’m in my 14th year now—what I’ve heard about the air ambulance. I do know we’ve always had a good air ambulance system in Ontario. Prior to Chris Mazza, prior to Ornge, we’ve had an air ambulance that, I’m told by people, by doctors and by the medical community, is second to none and it always has been. Then along came whatever the arrangement was with Dr. Mazza to create the Ornge system.

I do remember when the governing party, the Liberals, were in power—in their early years—being at a reception over in the Mowat Block. Some of the staff people were there from Ornge, and it was in their early years. They were basically wining and dining all of the MPPs, and they were giving us an opportunity to go over and to say hello; there were all these beautiful pictures of ambulances and new buildings on the wall, and what a wonderful thing it was. Basically, if I recall, it was almost like we were finally reaching the modern times: “We’ve got this wonderful system now,” and everything you had before was archaic and outdated. But when I talk to the pilots today, it was never archaic. Someone said earlier, “We tried to fix a system that wasn’t broken.” I think, in fact, that is what happened. I’m sure that is what happened. A lot of trust was put in this—these brand new shiny helicopters, Ornge; you can be quite proud of them.

Let’s go back again and look at something else. Let’s give credit to our pilots and our paramedics and everybody that’s on those particular units. They are amazing people, and if it wasn’t for them, the problem would still be going on, because they are the ones who came forward; they came forward right across this province, many to people right in this room today, myself included.

But when those things started to happen—basically, when the whistle-blower work started happening—I got a few emails. I was thinking, “Oh, well, it’s a disgruntled employee. Blah, blah, blah,” that kind of thing, and then it got stronger and stronger. They’d say, “Can we meet with you?” but the problem was, “Can we meet with you 75 miles away from where you live?” and 75 miles away from where they live, because they did not want to be seen with me, in case it got back to them what had actually happened. So I’m meeting 75 miles away from my house because a guy was afraid of losing his job. That’s what actually happened, and there’s no question about that. They gave out this information, and then more things started hitting the media.

My friend from Oak Ridges, Frank Klees, he did more—

Mr. Rob Leone: Newmarket–Aurora.

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: Newmarket–Aurora—he did a lot of work in the House, questioning people and meeting with people, and it got stronger and stronger. Then, all of a sudden, what appears out of nowhere, after years, is a lobby day here at Queen’s Park. One of the ministers brought this up in the House; I think it was Minister Milloy who said, “Oh yes, the member from Simcoe North. He was involved in lobbying here.” Well, the guy came to tell me how wonderful Ornge was. Two or three people came; they gave me this glossy brochure, a memory stick—I’ve still got it upstairs in my office—and a little orange teddy bear with the Ornge logo on it, telling me how wonderful it was. They realized then that they had huge, huge problems at Ornge. The whistle-blowers started to ask questions, the media started to get a hold of it, and they could see nothing but trouble in the future. That was the end of it.

It was funny, though. It was interesting to watch how the governing members tried to twist it as though we knew all about it. We knew nothing about all these things that were going on with these numbered companies. We only knew that they would come with a little orange teddy bear and a memory stick to tell us how good they were. I still wish I could be called to the committee. I hope they can invite me to the committee, because I’m bringing that teddy bear with me, because this is what Ornge was giving out that day. That’s all I got out of that, because they didn’t give me any other information. I thought it was really interesting to follow that process.

So then we get into the actual units, and I’ve said this a few times. This is where the paramedics, the staff and the pilots actually informed me. It’s why I’m still worried about it today. They tell me they’re a beautiful unit—they’re fancy orange—and all helicopters, of course, have to be maintained meticulously with proper mechanical inspections all the time, but these particular units don’t really carry—they’re not really meant to be for the air ambulance business, because it’s hard to do CPR on bigger people. There have been problems with the doors falling off and that type of thing. I’m not sure of all the exact mechanical details.

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But for the hundreds of millions of dollars they cost, those are the kinds of investments that you would want to see last for two or three decades, because they are maintained very carefully.

I said earlier today that I certainly hope we’re never in a position in the next couple of years where we’ve got to start throwing these things away or saying they’re no good anymore because they just aren’t mechanically fit. That’s a real concern that I have, along with the fact that the people who are the paramedics and the whistle-blowers basically said, “You know what? These just aren’t the right pieces of equipment for our business.” But then, they didn’t know what deal was made. They never knew how many they had bought. They didn’t know there were a couple stored in Philadelphia or wherever the heck it was, where there were a couple of spare helicopters. They did know about the fancy motorcycles and the boats and all that kind of thing. I have no idea what that had to do with air ambulance work, but you know what? That’s in fact what was happening. It was interesting to talk to the whistleblowers on that.

Again, as I said a little bit earlier, I’m really concerned about a lot of things. I look at the oversight. What are we really doing here in Ontario, and how many other Ornges are there? That’s my worry.

For example, I’m worried about these RTOs, these regional tourism organizations. I’ve brought this up a few times to my friends. I’m trying to figure out what they do. They’re for tourism, and I can’t find out what they do. I had been told by the one in my area that they were told not to talk to the politicians: “Don’t talk to the politicians.” So there are millions of dollars flowing into these RTOs, the same as there were millions of dollars flowing into Ornge, and we’re not supposed to know about it? These are our tax dollars, the dollars that our families and the people we represent in our communities earn, and we’re not supposed to know where that money goes?

I’m also concerned about the LHINs. I get along fairly well with the people in the LHINs in my area, but I’m also told now there are deals made by the ministry outside of the LHINs that the LHINs know nothing about. Obviously, Ornge was one of them. Is that still happening today? I thought when money was spent in a community, it had to go through the LHINs. That was my understanding. That’s not the case, I’m told. There are other things happening with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term care right today where the LHIN does not give the approval. It’s approved by the ministry, it’s announced by the minister and that’s the end of the story. The LHIN has nothing to do with that particular announcement.

Of course, I see the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities here today, and he’s got the beauty of them all, the college of trades. Talk about transparency there, and how that’s going to be impacted and how many dollars have already flowed into that organization that we know nothing about. Basically, all that is is a new membership fee so you can hire cops to patrol yourself. It’s like the biggest boondoggle.

It will be interesting to see how the LHIN cops work out. They’re going to hire 150 of them or so, to nail every electrician and carpenter they see. They’ll go into some hairdressing salon and say, “Someone complained you gave them a bad haircut. You’re going to get nailed for that”—this kind of crazy nonsense, in an economy where we’re going into debt at $1.9 million an hour. Give me a break. It’s unbelievable.

My time is almost up. I know everybody in the House would like to hear me speak for many more minutes. We’ve done a lot to worry about this, but right now I’m really concerned about the OPP and their final results and their final report. I hope, in fact, that whatever comes out of that report is what we really, really take seriously, because that is a criminal investigation.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Peter Tabuns: It’s a pleasure to follow the member for Simcoe North in this debate about the bill on air ambulances. As I had the opportunity to say earlier today, a critical piece missing in this bill, this piece of legislation, is the conveying of authority to the Ombudsman of Ontario to investigate this agency where complaints are lodged by the citizens.

In my riding, I have a constituent, Maria Daskalos, whose mother died in a hospital here in Toronto. Her mother, according to my constituent, had been put into a room with a person who was infected with an antibiotic-resistant disease. My constituent complained to all and sundry and the patient advocate, but ultimately, her mother contracted that antibiotic-resistant disease and died. She needed access to the Ombudsman because no one would call for an inquiry—not the hospital, and not the Minister of Health.

Similarly, when it comes to Ornge, there’s no question that citizens don’t have the resources or the authority to investigate when things are going wrong and actually bring things out in the open. In this situation, the NDP, and most likely the Progressive Conservatives as well, have been asking questions about Ornge for years. It wasn’t until it broke out wide open in the media that anything was done whatsoever. We don’t have the resources to investigate the kinds of allegations that were brought to us. We ask questions; we press where we can. If in fact, the public is going to have real accountability and real ability to push on this, the Ombudsman has to be given jurisdiction.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments on the speech given by the member for Simcoe North?

Ms. Helena Jaczek: I’m pleased to make a few remarks related to the comments by the member from Simcoe North—a rather broad-ranging set of comments, I must say. But he did allude to history at one point. I did want to remind the members opposite that the whole structure of Ornge, the whole concept originally in 2002, was in fact initiated by the then Minister of Health from the party opposite.

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: Who was he?

Ms. Helena Jaczek: Tony Clement, I think you will recall, yes. I just wanted to point that out. That has been clearly documented in the public accounts committee.

Now, he also did refer to accountability and transparency. So I’d just like to remind him of the components in Bill 11, which, of course, is the subject of the debate this afternoon, that relate to accountability and transparency.

First of all, the amended performance agreement raises the level of oversight with the following measures and obligations so that there are much tougher funding conditions based on key performance indicators. There are increased audit and inspection powers by the ministry; more detailed financial planning, monitoring, control and reporting obligations; and a committee to advise the board on quality improvement initiatives. In fact, the quality improvement plan that we have looked at at public accounts is a product of that, and it’s showing considerable improvement in terms of a number of performance measures.

The new patient advocate will, I’m sure, be able to respond to issues raised by our colleague from Toronto–Danforth. There will be a complaints process to ensure patient safety, just like the one used in Ontario hospitals. Of course, just to remind everyone yet again, this Bill 11 is modelled on the Public Hospitals Act, which serves Ontarians very well.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Rob Leone: I do want to comment on the debate and the speech made by my friend the member from Simcoe North, who eloquently, I think, expressed his great frustration about the lack of progress that we have seen on the Ornge file to date.

Certainly, the member from Oak Ridges–Markham stated that this was created in 2002, or that the structure was created in 2002. But the reality is that the Liberals have been in power since 2003. We are now in 2013. The problems that we’ve seen emerge are problems that emerged largely under their watch. Again, hearing comments like that just speaks to the fact that I don’t think they really understand the problems that they have created and the maladministration that they have before them.

This ultimately is about responsibility and ministerial accountability. We have yet to see that. We have yet to see an apology to the people of Ontario for what has happened at Ornge. Lots of public money has been spent. Certainly, we’ve heard the stories about lavish spending by the CEO and an enormous salary and all the goodies that that administration had.

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But let’s be clear: That happened under the Liberal watch. We have still not heard—at least I haven’t heard; someone can correct me if I’m wrong—an apology from the government on the administration that they have, or lack of administration that they’ve had, on Ornge. At the end of the day, that’s what I think Ontarians are looking for. They’re looking for an apology. They’re looking for a way forward, of course, but they want to at least see some remorse on the part of this government. That has not been forthcoming to date.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): There’s time for one last question or comment. No? The member for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry.

Mr. Jim McDonell: I am glad to have the opportunity to talk on my colleague from Simcoe North and the work he’s put in on this file. Unfortunately, as far as he’s concerned, he has been here for the almost 10 years to watch the formation of Ornge and a lot of the administration being put in place. It’s funny now to hear, after all that work and the credit taken for that, all of a sudden, there’s no credit taken for some of the issues.

As one of my colleagues first said to me just a couple of weeks ago, it’s not that people would expect you to do everything perfectly; it’s how you respond to your mistakes and take accountability for them, apologize for them and move on. Her take on it was that that should be enough. But we don’t hear that on this side. We never see any accountability. There seems to always be a smokescreen go up with the issues of the day, whether it be the power plants or Ornge. There’s a lot of thrashing around and finger pointing, but I think they forget that classic rule, that when you point your finger, there are always three pointing back at yourself.

I think it would take a lot of the wind out of our sails if they would just stand up and say, “We’re sorry it happened, and we won’t do it again”—stories like “I had no choice” or “I couldn’t find out about it” when clearly time after time information was provided to them. Questions were well documented; they were asked in this House, and they were in Hansard. But still, they take the attitude of “How could we know?”

If that’s the case, how would any minister be accountable for anything? Are they not responsible for their ministries and everything that goes on? I think that members of our party are quite proud to look back at issues that came up under the former Mike Harris government. Ministers were—the rules were: Step down; do the investigation. Then, if the issue was resolved, you can step back into the portfolio or come back to cabinet. If not, well then, that was your chance.

We’re not seeing that in over 13 years. I’m not aware of any of that happening. It’s hard to believe it when you hear the billions of dollars that have been wasted in numerous portfolios, that never has there been a minister who has taken any accountability. It’s constantly that smokescreen that we’ve seen. The deficit is always somebody else’s fault. Overspending is somebody else’s fault. We see numbers provided with no data, but I guess that’s the staff’s problem.

It’s time for this government to take some accountability.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): We now return to the member for Simcoe North for his two-minute response.

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: I’d like to thank the members from Toronto–Danforth, Oak Ridges–Markham, Cambridge and Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry for their comments today. I appreciate this opportunity to say a few words.

The member from Oak Ridges–Markham—I couldn’t believe she went back to 2002. I guess it was Minister Clement at the time. I don’t think he bought the motorcycle. I don’t think he stored two or three helicopters in buildings in the States. I don’t think he would have ever picked out or had someone choose these poorly designed aircraft. So I think that’s a pretty weak argument. But anyhow, it’s always interesting to hear the government after you’ve made a few comments.

I go back to—you know what? It’s oversight. It was very poorly done. It’s a boondoggle, the magnitude, like these power plant closures. We’ve seen all of these boondoggles, one after another—eHealth and it goes back. Now the eco tax. God only knows where the eco tax boondoggle is going to end up. Obviously, all these things have a way of driving jobs away from Ontario. You wonder why we’ve got a $12-billion or $13-billion deficit? Just look at the actions of the government. One thing after another, they keep building—they have people who would like to invest in Ontario; they no longer invest in Ontario.

By the way, Mr. Speaker, I was sorry to hear about the former GSW, the Beatty plant. That’s a sad situation; that’s a wonderful plant in Ontario. That tells you the story right there. There’s no reason that plant should be moving away or shutting down in this province. It’s a tragedy for that to happen. That’s why we have to change governments.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate? I recognize the member for Cambridge.

Applause.

Mr. Rob Leone: Thank you once again, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to my good friend from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry, who gave me that small applause there for speaking today.

You know, I haven’t been in this House as long as some members have, and certainly I can speak in terms of what I’ve seen from this government in the months that I have been in this Legislature.

There seems to be a strategy that’s employed when you are knee-deep in scandal. That strategy seems to be, when you’re knee-deep in scandal, what you do is you say, “I’m sorry; we made a mistake. It’s okay,” and then trot along a piece of legislation—Bill 11 here—to save the day with respect to Ornge. That’s what we see as a strategy from this government. They make a mistake, they don’t say, “I’m sorry”; when they’re knee-deep, they trot out some legislation to make it all go away.

I know we’ve heard during the debate today—and I’ve listened intently to many members who have spoken on this matter, that this bill is what they call a PR stunt—a PR stunt in the sense that it really is a smokescreen with respect to avoiding accountability for the wrongs that have happened at Ornge. That to me, Mr. Speaker, is a strategy that I simply cannot accept. I think we’re all mature people in this Legislature. I think at the very least, we deserve an apology for the wrongs of this government. We haven’t seen it at Ornge, we haven’t seen it at eHealth, we haven’t seen it with gas plants, and the list goes on and on.

I know my colleagues will talk about their ridings in particular, where there are wind turbines. I’m going to say that there haven’t been apologies for placing and setting wind turbines without local consultation. The list is so long, I can’t take the remaining time to even go through it. But the reality is that this seems to be the strategy, and it’s that strategy that speaks to all that is wrong with this government.

I know earlier today, one of the members spoke about how this issue actually temporarily and briefly came to the estimates committee, where we had the Minister of Health, who spoke at it last year. She spoke briefly, and I know that public accounts is certainly continuing its ongoing negotiation.

But I want to give special mention to the Auditor General’s report of March 2012 on the Ornge air ambulance and related services, because it speaks to some of the issues that we are currently going through at the estimates committee. I’m going to try to get you a page number after I take this clip off—page 6 of the special report. I want to read a quote. From the Auditor General:

“In order for us to fully understand the fiscal and operational context of Ontario’s air ambulance services, we requested a number of documents relating to these arrangements. We were given access to only those documents relating to entities that were controlled by Ornge or of which Ornge was the beneficiary.” It continues: “We were refused access to the records of any ... other entities,” and it goes on and on and on.

Then again, we want some accountability; we want to ask some questions. We seek some assurance that we’re going to get some answers. They’re not forthcoming. The Auditor General is sent in, and even the Auditor General himself had some issues accessing the kinds of documents that he finds necessary to do his work. I find that particularly troubling, Mr. Speaker. I know the government, in the course of investigating the politically motivated decisions to move some power plants, is ushering in the Auditor General to perform such an investigation, and I hope that in the scope of the Auditor General’s investigation, we don’t see a couple of paragraphs denoting the problems of accessing documents, as the Auditor General has listed with respect to his report of March 2012 with respect to Ornge air ambulance and related services. We have to be very cautious about these kinds of things and what we’re seeing with respect to the two separate issues, but the problems, I think, are similar.

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Another issue that we’ve discovered under the scope of looking at the politically motivated decisions, to find out who made some decisions on moving gas plants, is the question of, who’s driving the bus? Who is making the decisions? Who is saying yes or no? These, actually, are questions that are related to what we’re seeing with the air ambulance service as well. At various times, we’ve heard that it was Chris Mazza who was driving the bus. At various times, we were saying that the Ornge board of directors was driving the bus. At other times, we’ve heard that, really, the issue is not Ornge or Mazza; it’s even the federal government. Never once did we hear that this government and the Ministry of Health were driving the bus. And we now know we have a piece of legislation denoting the fact that at some point in time maybe we do want the minister to have some say in what’s happening in one of its agencies, boards and commissions, Mr. Speaker.

This is, I think, a little too similar to what we’re dealing with in the justice committee today: with respect to: Who is actually driving the bus? Who’s making these decisions? The fact that the government says, “That’s somebody else,” automatically avoids any accountability being thrust upon them. Well, that’s not the intent of special-purpose bodies. That’s not the intent of agencies, boards and commissions that are providing public services to the people of the province of Ontario.

We have to be very forthright with respect to trying to get some accountability from this government. It just seems that these bodies are created to avoid blame. The fact is, when there’s good news to be had, the ministry delivers it; when there’s bad news to be had, it’s these special-purpose bodies that get the blame. Mr. Speaker, I think that has to certainly be addressed at some point with respect to how this government operates.

I’ve heard the word “filibuster” a few times, Mr. Speaker, and I want to make special reference—I first spoke to Bill 50, which was in the first session of the 40th Parliament almost a year ago, on May 3, 2012, and then I had a little bit of a break because it was at the end of day, and I got to speak to it again and resumed finishing my—I think it was a 20-minute rotation. I had 18 minutes left. I did that a whole month later. The reason why it took that long was because the government simply didn’t want to listen to the opposition. We asked for a special committee on Ornge; we never received it.

The reason why we’re looking for these answers and asking these types of questions is that the first step in actually getting something positive in terms of public policy is defining a problem. We still have public accounts looking at the Ornge air ambulance service and its investigations. We have the OPP that is currently investigating potential criminality with respect to what happened at Ornge. We have lots of questions that we’re asking. We don’t have those answers yet. So, frankly, if we’re talking about creating a bill to fix Ornge, perhaps we might want to wait for some of those questions to be answered. But no, no, we’re knee-deep in scandal, so what do we do? “Let’s trot out a bill that doesn’t address the problems, because we don’t know what those problems are, and make everyone think that we’re actually doing something positive for the people of Ontario.” Frankly, I find that pretty disgusting, Mr. Speaker.

I know that the Premier was in the Waterloo region on Friday and Saturday of last week. Certainly, she was at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival in the good riding of Kitchener–Conestoga—my friend from Kitchener–Conestoga’s riding. I’m pretty sure she was flipping some pancakes at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, but she would have woken up, Mr. Speaker, to a Waterloo Region Record story that morning that talked about 26 paramedics in Waterloo region being disciplined for failing to—well, essentially fudging the response times with respect to getting to the scene of the incident where they were requested. In essence, Mr. Speaker, when there are code 4 calls, that means lights and sirens; you’re going as fast as you can to get to those calls. But in many instances—documented instances, on account of an investigation by the ministry—those responses weren’t being met and the documents, frankly, were being doctored.

Imagine if you were on the other end of a code 4 call, where you want lights and sirens and where you want those paramedics to get to the scene as fast as you can, and they’re not coming; they’re not there, based on some systemic failure. The last thing we want to happen with paramedics in Waterloo region or the Ornge air ambulance service is for people who need those services most not to have those services on account of the mismanagement and the operational dysfunction that we see in those organizations. That needs to change.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments relating to the member’s speech?

Ms. Catherine Fife: It’s a pleasure to respond to my colleague from the Cambridge riding.

I’ve been thinking—because this has been a long afternoon; for some reason it’s going really slowly—but I was trying to think of what former MPP Peter Kormos would be talking about. As many of you know, he was a maverick. He was a champion of the people. He cared so deeply about his responsibility in this House, because he always knew that he served at the pleasure and the privilege of the people from the riding, and he knew that the money that we are responsible for—the budget, from a fiscal responsibility perspective—was the people’s money, and therefore our responsibility and our oversight of that money needed to be at the utmost, at the highest level.

He had a huge respect for the role of the Ombudsman in the province of Ontario, and André Marin in particular. He always made the point—because I used to watch this channel a lot—that oversight was needed, because it was the key to true accountability and it added an additional layer of trust that the public needed and which it has been proven we all need, in order for those agencies that are delivering public services to the public—that oversight is absolutely needed.

He might have also been concerned about the money that is spent on the huge increase in the ministers on the other side of the House, the money that’s being spent in that regard. What’s the value for money in general? What are the people getting for an increased state of government? I think, when you look at this bill, that we see that this is basically a little bit of surface, and when you scratch it you get a little bit more surface. He would have been standing in this House, I believe, asking for better, asking for more, from the people of the province.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. John Milloy: It’s a pleasure to share a few thoughts on the honourable member’s speech, particularly because I have some guests here in the gallery: Joan Euler, Raj Saini and Matteo Sestito, who are here visiting Queen’s Park and who have ties to Waterloo region.

I listened with interest to the member’s comments. He spoke a lot about ministerial responsibility, and other members of the Conservative caucus have spoken about it. In my two-minuters that I’ve done today, I’ve talked about the good work that the minister did in terms of recognizing her responsibility to address the problems at Ornge—the changes that had been made there, the work that was done by the Auditor General, the unfortunate role that the police have had to play because it was such a serious situation—but the minister took the helm and moved forward, with this bill being the final piece of the puzzle.

But the honourable member raises ministerial responsibility, and I thought I’d quote an expert on the whole issue. As this is questions and comments, I’d ask him to perhaps respond. I quote, “The minister is under no obligation to resign for something a civil servant alone has done. This was never what ministerial responsibility meant, and is not how it should be understood ... the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, therefore, cannot always mean that a minister must resign for everything that goes wrong in his department.”

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I further quote: “A minister cannot know and oversee everybody within a department.”

I quote again: “The doctrine of ministerial responsibility contained two main assumptions; first, that a minister had to be able to explain what was going on in his or department. This does not mean that the minister is responsible for actions of his or her subordinates.... Ministerial responsibility, according to Bagehot, was never about taking the blame for somebody else’s actions.”

Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member recognizes those words. They’re from his very own PhD thesis.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Jim McDonell: It’s a privilege to stand up and—my colleague from Cambridge. Some of the points: You talk about the smokescreen and the urgency for this bill. He talks about first talking about it a year ago, and then, the next time the bill comes up to finish this discussion is a full month later. How many more times did that month get delayed till the famous October date when the House was prorogued? It’s interesting.

I have to agree with the member from Kitchener–Waterloo and the recount of Peter Kormos being taken too young—somebody who put a lot of heart in this House.

To the House leader, when he says that ministers can’t be responsible to know what goes on for everybody in their ministry, we can’t help but to agree with that. But this was simply a case where, time and time—we have many cases where things were pointed out to the minister at the time, whether it be from members of the opposition—we’ve heard in Hansard it was placed—or members of the Ornge organization. The Auditor General finally was pointing out that he was having issues.

At what point should you not know that there’s an issue? I think that’s the real question. It came up over and over again. There were many opportunities to say that there was something wrong. You don’t have to be an expert to certainly know that when that many people are saying there’s an issue and they’re being squashed, maybe we should look into it.

More than a full year after the story breaks in the paper, the reporters are all over it, we’re all over it, and they still aren’t taking accountability for it. I think that’s the issue here. When you mess up, fess up. I think I’ve heard that a few times around here. That’s what we’re asking for.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Ms. Cindy Forster: I’d like to speak to that issue of ministerial responsibility as well. This was going on for around four years. There were employees who came forward, who were blowing the whistle, who lost their jobs, and the minister and the ministry responsible chose to ignore that over a period of a number of years.

The thesis from the member from Cambridge—

Mr. Rob Leone: It’s a good thesis.

Ms. Cindy Forster: And I’ll take an opportunity to read it.

We’re not talking about 100 bucks here or 1,000 bucks; we’re talking about millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars. We’re talking about people’s lives that were lost. We’re talking about people waiting eight or nine hours for an air ambulance that never showed up. We’re talking about huge risks here, not only to the public purse but to the people who actually foot the bill for taxes here in the province of Ontario.

To say, “Well the minister, you know, isn’t responsible,” and, “The minister doesn’t need to resign over these kinds of issues”—ministers have resigned in this Legislative Assembly and in the federal Legislative Assembly for a lot less over the years. I don’t know how you actually get back the respect of the public and the public trust unless somebody takes responsibility for this. If the minister isn’t taking responsibility, what bureaucrats in the ministry actually took responsibility? We haven’t heard that anybody lost their job over this in the ministry.

Mr. Robert Bailey: They got promoted.

Ms. Cindy Forster: Yes, some of them probably got promotions. I think that there has to be some responsibility from a ministry point of view over this whole mess.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Cambridge has two minutes to respond.

Mr. Rob Leone: Two minutes to recite my dissertation for the government House leader, I think.

Interjection.

Mr. Rob Leone: You think so?

I want to first say to the members from Welland and Kitchener–Waterloo: My deepest sympathies are with you today. I know we’ve paid some respects to the great Peter Kormos in this Legislature already. I wanted you to know that my thoughts and prayers are with you at this time.

I want to thank my seatmate, the member for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry, for his comments. Also to the government House leader, who clearly has read my dissertation—although I’m not sure how far he’s read the dissertation, how far along, or if he’s read the whole thing, because there are certainly some answers that he could find if he actually got the totality of that dissertation.

In the minute and 10 that I have here to go through my whole dissertation, first of all, responsibility doesn’t always mean a resignation. Sometimes, it just means an apology. We’ve received neither a resignation nor an apology with respect to what’s happened at Ornge. That’s the first comment I would make.

The second comment is that, sure, it’s true that, obviously, if you don’t know, you can’t get the whole scope of what’s going on in your ministry, but that doesn’t mean that you can plead ignorance of things that you ought to have known. If you ought to have known something and you don’t know, and you’re clearly turning a blind eye to that, again, we can ask you to resign for that.

Also, I think that in the course of talking about these things, not answering questions, misleading the House—these are also resignable offences or events that you could actually ask and seek responsibility from the minister for.

Mr. Speaker, this is the scope of what we’re talking about, totally within the realm of what—I’m glad the government House leader has read my dissertation to have learned those aspects as well.

Second reading debate deemed adjourned.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Before I adjourn the House for the day, I would refer the members to standing order 146, which permits the Speaker to welcome special guests into the chamber. I am very pleased and proud to introduce my family: my wife, Lisa; our sons Dean, Phill and Jack; and Jack’s friend Pier Zuk. Welcome to the Legislature.

This House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 9 a.m.

The House adjourned at 1757.