40th Parliament, 2nd Session

L058 - Mon 16 Sep 2013 / Lun 16 sep 2013

The House met at 1030.

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



Hon. James J. Bradley: I’d like to introduce Minister Piruzza’s guest from the great riding of Windsor West, Mr. Randall Koop, who is the president of Ridge Recycling.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: I’m delighted today to have many members of the High Park Residents’ Association, High Park Coalition and High Park Tenants’ Association here in the House with us.

Mr. Jim McDonell: Jasper Ross is the page captain today, and his mother is here from the riding: Lisa Sizeland-Ross—I think she’s just making her way through the gallery now—and her friend Maria Mujahid. Welcome to Queen’s Park. We look forward to having them see this shortened session today.

Mr. Taras Natyshak: I don’t think there’s a rule against introducing someone twice, but I would like to welcome again Mr. J. Randall Koop, who is here from my neck of the woods in Windsor and Essex county and Leamington. It is his first time in question period, so let’s give him a warm question period welcome from the members.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): On behalf of the member from Niagara Falls: Page Erica George is here. Her grandmother Linda Reid; grandfather Doug Reid; father, Edward George; sister Lauren George; and sister Vanessa George are in the gallery this morning to support our page.



Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Premier, the International Plowing Match is taking place this week in Perth county, as you will know. My caucus colleagues and I are pleased to be attending and to meet with the people from rural Ontario. These people don’t ask for much and they certainly don’t get much from this government. One of the few programs that is available to them is the Rural Economic Development program. It is a program designed to assist businesses in communities in rural areas to succeed.

Premier, can you explain to the people of Ontario why you gave funds designated for rural communities to businesses in Toronto last week?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, I’m very pleased to have a question on agriculture and food from my critic. I think it’s fantastic. If it takes the International Plowing Match to get a question, so be it. It’s great.

I want to let him know that this morning I was at FoodShare in Toronto with farmers from all over the province talking about the $30-million investment that we’re going to be making in local food. That $30 million is going to support communities across the province, and it is an absolute priority of farmers and processors—so producers and processors—that, as a government, we support the local food movement and that we make sure that municipalities and communities across the province do everything they can to support local food. I’m very proud that we’re doing that.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Back to the Premier: Premier, it’s well and good what you did this morning. The question was about what you did last week.

Premier, after six months as Minister of Agriculture, I would hope that you could recognize rural Ontario. Many of our rural communities desperately need jobs. Your spiralling hydro rates are forcing businesses to close. We’ve lost over 9,000 jobs because of your government’s decision on horse racing. And now you’re giving money from the Rural Economic Development program to businesses in Markham, Woodbridge and Toronto.

Premier, would you consider Woodbridge part of rural Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Let me just say that I understand that investment in rural Ontario is critical. The rural economic development fund, $4.5 million available this fiscal year—those dollars are helping rural municipalities. We also have invested, since 2003, $167 million in 418 projects, and, as I said, the local food fund—$30 million that we announced this morning.

But Mr. Speaker, the premise of the member’s question is that there is an unbridgeable divide between different parts of the province, that somehow promoting local food or supporting food processing in a suburban or an urban area does not support the agri-food industry. We are one Ontario; we work together. That is why we’re making investments in local food.


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


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


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): No, no. The member from Durham, no.

Final supplementary, please.

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Back to the Premier: Premier, it’s obvious from your answer that you don’t understand the premise of this question. I’d like to read you a quote from the Rural Economic Development program guide. Under “Eligible applicant(s),” it says, “For the purposes of the RED program, ‘rural’ encompasses all of Ontario with the exception of the greater Toronto area (GTA) and eight large urban areas.” That’s fairly clear to me, so when those projects were approved, in fact, they did not comply with the RED program.

Now, I can tell you that at the plowing match tomorrow, no one will consider companies in Markham as part of rural Ontario—or from Woodbridge or Toronto. Could you tell me what percentage of the program you are actually spending in those larger municipalities that are not eligible for that program according to the rules you put in place?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Again, Mr. Speaker, I think that to suggest that investment in food processing is not part of investment in the agri-food sector and doesn’t support producers means that the member opposite just does not understand how that $34-billion industry works.

In 2012-13, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food’s program investments and service investments led to $503 million invested, and created and retained more than 2,400 jobs. We are making those investments to create jobs, Mr. Speaker, and to support the industry. That is what those programs and investments are intended to do.

I hope the member opposite will support the Local Food Act, Mr. Speaker. I hope the member understands that making those investments supports producers, supports food processors across the province, across one Ontario.


Mr. Monte McNaughton: My question is for the Premier. Premier, since 2011, 9,000 jobs have left Ontario’s horse racing industry, badly impacting rural Ontario. Worse still, the McGuinty-Wynne government, supported by the NDP, has single-handedly driven thousands of owners to flee Ontario’s horse racing industry, taking with them $1 billion in investments. In fact, the very existence of a viable breeding sector is now in complete and utter jeopardy. Sadly, rural Ontario knows that your government doesn’t have even a single idea how to fix the McGuinty-Wynne horse racing crisis.

Premier, how can you justify spending over half a million dollars in consulting fees while over 9,000 men and women have now lost their jobs in Ontario’s horse racing industry?


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock, please.

We’ve started the habit again of me hearing members’ names being said in the House. I’m going to remind all members—and from here on in, I’m going to be somewhat stricter—please refer to all members by either their riding or their title. That helps elevate the debate.


Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Thanks very much, Mr. Speaker.

Well, you know, I’m sure the member opposite is aware that we had a horse racing season this year, Mr. Speaker, and it wasn’t at all clear that that was going to happen. It did happen. It was a robust season, and my intention and my objective is to make sure that that continues, that we have a sustainable horse racing industry well into the future.

We’ve committed $180 million to allow for that transition to a more sustainable industry, and the member opposite knows full well that it was one of the recommendations of the Drummond report that we take a look at this industry, but it needs to be that we move to a future where there is sustainability. That’s what John Snobelen and Elmer Buchanan and John Wilkinson are helping us with, and I am very optimistic—we’ve had a lot of success so far—that we will have a sustainable horse racing industry into the future. He should be celebrating that, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Monte McNaughton: Back to the Premier: Premier, the Ontario Racing Commission reports that the number of licensed horse owners has dropped over 30%. In fact, your plan to close the Dresden Raceway in my riding, along with six other standardbred tracks throughout the province, will result in thousands more jobs being lost.

Premier, only Tim Hudak and the Ontario PCs have put forward a plan to build on the existing partnership and strengthen Ontario’s horse racing industry. Premier, will you immediately scrap the Liberal modernization plan, stop building dozens of new casinos across the province and instead re-establish a partnership with the horse racing industry and save up to 60,000 jobs?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I neglected to welcome the member opposite to his new role as labour critic.

I haven’t heard that number before but what I can tell you is that we have been clear that modernizing the system and integrating the horse racing industry with the gaming industry has been a priority. That is the instruction that we have given to OLG. That’s the conversation we’ve been having. We have been clear, since I came into this office, that having a sustainable horse racing industry is our objective. It’s interesting to me that the member opposite would not be interested in change and would not be interested in modernization when his leader stands up, day after day, and asks for holus-bolus change that would undermine all sorts of services across the province. The fact is we want a sustainable horse racing industry and we’re working to—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Final supplementary?

Mr. Monte McNaughton: Back to the Premier: Premier, the manner and time frame with which the McGuinty-Wynne government terminated the Slots at Racetracks partnership has created a crisis throughout rural Ontario. Your decision has led to a complete and total exodus of investment, as more than 3,000 owners have fled the industry, taking with them approximately $1 billion in combined investments.

Premier, you have nearly 600,000 men and women out of work and are racing towards a $300-billion debt. Is it because these jobs and investments are in rural Ontario that you don’t give a damn about them?

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): For the sake of decorum, I would ask the member to withdraw.

Mr. Monte McNaughton: I’ll withdraw.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I will answer the substance and not the mean-spiritedness of that question. The reality is that I am committed to having a sustainable horse racing industry in this province. The fact is, having committed $180 million over the next three years will mean that we will have that. I have asked the panel for a report on a five-year program so that we can have that program in place.

The reality is that the SARP program, as it was in place, was not transparent. It was not accountable. There was a fractious industry that lost track of the client. It had to be changed. We’re changing it, and we admitted that there needed to be a sober second look at the process. We’ve done that. The panel is giving its recommendations. We’re going to have a sustainable horse racing industry and it’s going to be part of the overall gaming strategy in the province. Again, I would think the member opposite would be supportive of that.


Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is for the Premier. Later today, the Premier and I will be meeting in person but I want to be very clear that I’ll be saying later today exactly what I’ve been saying since the House returned: People expect the government to deliver results; results that create jobs for youth, cut home care wait times, lower auto insurance costs and make government accountable.

Is the Premier ready to deliver on these results for people?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Absolutely. I want results for the people of Ontario, and that’s why we’re making the investments that we are. That’s why we’re developing programs to invest in the people who need support, to invest in infrastructure and to invest in businesses so that we can get the economy going and we can continue to create jobs. That’s the objective of the measures that we put in our budget, and I look forward to our meeting later today.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: People have heard the government make promises but when it comes to actually delivering results, they see the same old spin from the Liberals and nothing getting better for them. For example, drivers paying the highest auto insurance premiums in Canada are still waiting for relief. They want to know if their rates are going to go down at all this year or just keep climbing. Will the Premier commit to an actual decline in rates this year for good drivers in Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The Minister of Finance has spoken to this publicly, that we are going to be working with the industry to move those costs. That will bring the overall average costs of auto insurance down. We’re committed to doing that. We have said we are going to do it within a reasonable time frame. It’s not the kind of thing that can happen overnight, but we are committed to doing it. We will see those reductions.


The fact is, we have done this before. When we came into office, auto insurance was, similarly, a very difficult challenge for people. The rates went down—on average, I think it was 11% over a number of years. We will continue to remove those costs so that auto insurance rates can go down. It’s a priority for us; we’ve been clear about that.

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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Another example: Young people in Ontario are facing double-digit unemployment, and they want to get out of their parents’ basements and into the workforce. We made it clear that we expected to see results for young people when we put forward a plan to get those results in the budget. The government promised them by September. They even tried campaigning on the promise in the by-elections.

When will the Premier actually get started on the First Start proposal that the NDP put forward and start delivering for young people who are desperate for work? Will they start delivering those results—maybe this month, maybe next month? When? Maybe next year?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Just to go back to the first part of the question, there actually are companies in the province that have already announced a reduction in auto insurance rates: CAA and Co-operators have put out releases. So we are going down that road.

On the issue of youth employment, the leader of the third party knows this is a priority of mine, and I was glad that she put it forward as one of her priorities. In fact, the applications for the youth employment fund are available for the end of this month. We are taking action immediately, and young people will have an opportunity to take advantage of those challenges.


Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is also to the Premier, and I’m going to continue on this theme of results. Across Ontario, seniors facing health problems tell us that they would prefer getting support at home rather than languishing in hospital beds. It’s better for them and it’s better for the health care system, I think everybody realizes that. Yet, seniors are waiting weeks, even months, to get the home care support that they need in this province. The government promised to boost home care support. When will we see wait times for home care actually start to go down for people?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: As the leader of the third party knows, we made a commitment to put, I think it’s three times the amount that she suggests—

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Six times.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: —six times the amount that she suggested that we put into home care. Those dollars will be flowing and—


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, come to order.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, what we want is reduced wait times and we want those services to be delivered in a timely manner.

We also want the right services to be delivered, and I know the leader of the third party understands that there’s a whole range of services that people need in order to be able to stay in their homes—some of them are medical, some of them are non-medical, some of them are different kinds of support. What I’ve heard from my seniors’ advisory group over the years is that it is those acute medical issues that need to be attended to, but they also need some support for the things that need to be done around the house, in the community, that will allow them to stay in their homes.

So we want to make sure that they get care in a timely way and that they get the right kind of care.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, Speaker, I hate to tell the Premier this, but it’s not about spending; it’s about actually getting results with those investments. When it comes to getting results, in the lead-up to the spring budget, we made it pretty clear that we need a fair and balanced approach to balancing our books.

The government plans to create $1.3 billion in new tax loopholes for corporations so they can write off the HST on wining and dining their clients. We thought that that was just a cost that Ontarians simply cannot afford at this point. Earlier this week, the Premier said she was going to “keep pursuing that.”

When are we going to get some results when it comes to these corporate tax loopholes, or at least an update on whether or not the chase is ongoing?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Let me just talk about results, because I think the leader of the third party is framing a number of issues within this question of results. I just want to give her some numbers and to say that it is necessary to spend more money on home care, because there are more people who need home care. So it is actually about spending more money and it is about spending it smartly. It’s about investing in those services.

In 2003, the number of clients served in community settings in Ontario was 348,110. In 2012, that number is 637,727. So we have been getting results. We will continue on that trajectory. But having said that we need to invest $185 million acknowledges that there is an acute need for that kind of investment because of the increased numbers.

In terms of the tax issue that the leader of the third party raised, I know that the Minister of Finance will continue to pursue that with the federal government.

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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: The bottom line is that people want to see results, not political games and empty promises. They want action that will create jobs, that will make life affordable, that will reduce the time that they spend waiting for the health supports that they need and that will take a balanced approach to balancing our books.

They’ve heard the Premier’s promises, and what they want to know—and what I’ll be discussing later today with the Premier—is: When will she actually deliver?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Let me just review, Mr. Speaker. We’ve got two companies that have said that they are reducing their auto insurance rates. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of people more getting community care, and there will be more. We’ve got a youth employment fund that will be available for young people at the end of this month.

I would suggest that those are results. Those are changes and improvements that will make a huge difference in people’s lives. I’m interested in results, and I look forward to our conversation, but make no mistake: We have delivered results and will continue to do so.


Mr. Todd Smith: My question is for the agriculture minister this morning. In the words of an egg farmer in Hastings county, “Red tape is killing agriculture.” The time it takes for a farmer to get the permits and approvals he needs from your ministry to build an extension onto an existing barn can take months or even years. The red tape runaround is discouraging innovation, growth and expansion for the family farm and for agribusinesses.

Farmers know better than most how much the cost of doing business will go through the roof every time a bureaucrat carrying a clipboard walks up their driveway. Minister, if a farmer wants to extend a barn to the same length as his existing barns—a project that will create about $250,000 in construction work for local contractors—why should he have to wait through not one but two building seasons to get an approval from your ministry?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I just want to acknowledge that the member opposite raises a very real issue in terms of the need to look at regulations and make sure that we have the right regulations. Remember, a regulation has to balance the business imperatives and safety imperatives.

We have a one-window process. We have a regulation reduction process that is making changes. We replaced two outdated egg regulations with a single regulation that reflects industry practices. We’re streamlining packaging and grading standards to give fruit and vegetable growers and packers more choice in how they market their products to meet new market demands.

We are making changes that are real, but at all times we are going to balance the market imperatives and the safety imperatives.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Todd Smith: Minister, I spoke with hundreds of farmers just a couple of weeks ago at the recent Hastings County Plowing Match and Farm Show in the Stirling area. They’re insulted that you’ve reduced the role of agriculture to a part-time position. They’re disgusted with the notion that the number one industry in Ontario is nothing more than photo-ops in red rubber boots by a downtown Toronto Premier who thinks a furrow is an expensive coat.

Minister, the fact of the matter is that there is no reason why it should take more than two years to get these kinds of projects approved. The overregulation of our family farms and agribusinesses is getting worse, not better; 77% of farmers indicated that their red tape burden is getting heavier, not lighter, in Ontario under your government. The number of forms, questionnaires and studies is making it nearly impossible for them to grow.

Minister, why is your government intent on putting our farmers in Ontario out of business?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I have to say, the young people to whom I was handing out 4-H awards the other day didn’t seem to think that it was a problem that the Premier was paying attention to the work that they were doing.

Again, I would just say that this question from the member opposite shines a light on the fact that the party opposite wants to divide. The party opposite doesn’t want to help people understand that we live in one province, we live in one Ontario, and that people who grow our food and produce and process our food are integrally connected to the people who live in our suburban and our urban areas. If we forget that and if we undermine that connection, then we are doing future generations a huge disservice.

The farmers I have talked to want a high profile for agri-food. They want everyone in the province to understand that it’s a priority of this government, and it is.



Mme France Gélinas: Ma question est pour la ministre de la Santé et des Soins de longue durée. Almost everyone in Ontario has had their life touched by cancer. We rely on our cancer system and this is something that we all value, but for 3,500 Ontarians who have received letters or phone calls telling them that their diagnostic images may have been read incorrectly, this trust has been shaken.

People are telling the Canadian Cancer Society that they’re worried that they can’t trust the results that they’re getting. Will the minister agree to call in Ontario’s Ombudsman to start rebuilding people’s trust in our health care system?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: I expect the highest quality of care from our physicians and from our hospitals, and I know everyone else in this province does as well. We take these questions very seriously, and I know that Trillium Health is reviewing 3,500 individual cases to ensure that any patients who need follow-up care get that follow-up care.

I have spoken to the CEO of the hospital. I’ve spoken to the chief of radiology and the chief of staff of the hospital. They have a strong, and getting stronger, quality assurance in place. I know that they, as much as we, want to get this review done as quickly as possible.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mme France Gélinas: So far we’ve learned of a woman that was given a clean bill of health but now finds out that she has a stage-4 tumor. We’ve heard another woman say that she received a notice for her husband, who has been—clear bill of health, and eight months later, died of stomach cancer.

The government knew about this in August, but we are only finding out about this now. The minister doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to learn what was wrong and rebuild confidence in our health care system. She can call in the Ombudsman right now to start getting answers and to give people faith that there is an impartial, non-political advocate in their corner. Will the minister call the Ombudsman to start looking at this now?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: I know that the member opposite does in fact know that our health care system is amongst the best in the world. People who get cancer in Ontario have amongst the highest survival rates of anyone in the world, and I know she would not want to shake the confidence of people in our health care system.

In fact, there is an external review under way at Trillium Health. Dr. Brian Yemen, from McMaster, has come in with a team of 20 radiologists so they can review these files as quickly as possible. They are hopeful that the 3,500 files will have been reviewed by the middle of October. As those files are reviewed, patients will be notified whether they can rest easy or whether in fact follow-up care is required.


Mrs. Laura Albanese: My question is for the Minister of Labour. Minister, as you’re aware, my riding of York South–Weston is home to a large community of newcomers. Newcomers face a variety of challenges entering the workforce and finding good-paying jobs. Many of my constituents are working in low-paying jobs and living off the minimum wage. A number of organizations that I know very well and have met many times are rallying to have the minimum wage raised. They held a province-wide day of action just this past weekend.

Speaker, through you to the minister, when so many Ontarians rely on the minimum wage in order to afford the basics of day-to-day life, what is the ministry doing to provide some assistance and help those who need it the most?

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: I want to thank the member for asking a very important question. She’s right: In fact, there are too many Ontarians who live on minimum wage, and we have to do everything in our capacity to increase and enhance their livelihood. That’s why it was extremely unfortunate that during the previous Conservative government, for nine years straight, there was a freeze on the minimum wage in this province. Not a single penny was raised; it was stuck at $6.85.

I’m very proud and our government is very proud that, when we came into government, we raised the minimum wage by 50%, from $6.85 to $10.25. We did that during the good economic times and during the great recession. We did not stop from raising the minimum wage to $10.25, making it one of the highest in the country.

Now, the question is, Speaker, what do we do next? What direction do we need to go in next? That’s why we have created a minimum wage advisory panel that is consulting Ontarians across the province to give advice to the government.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mrs. Laura Albanese: Thank you to the minister for that answer. Recently, there has been a lot of attention from the media with respect to minimum wage, and everyone seems to be coming out on one of two sides. The Workers’ Action Centre is very active on one side, and they have actually made the 14th day of every month their day of action to raise the minimum wage to $14 an hour. The other side of the argument is that further raising the minimum wage would be troublesome for some businesses that employ these workers, resulting in less jobs for minimum wage workers.

The minimum wage advisory panel, before making their recommendations, will need to ensure that all viewpoints are taken into consideration. The needs of the workers and the needs of the employers need to be heard on this important issue.

Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister: How will the panel seek to achieve this?

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: This is a very important conversation that is taking place across the province, and I am very encouraged to see representatives from all sides taking part. That’s why we have ensured that the panel is a representative panel. It is led by Professor Anil Verma, an expert in human resources and industrial relations from the University of Toronto. But then, we also have representatives from unions, anti-poverty advocates, students and small businesses so that we’ve got all points of view taken into account. They represent the breadth of the province from Windsor to Ottawa and all other communities in between.

The panel is travelling the province right now. In fact, there’s a consultation taking place this Thursday in Mississauga, and I encourage members from those communities to participate in the process. We also have a dedicated website, Ontario.ca/minimumwagereview, where there is information, and folks can write in to the minimum wage at Ontario.ca.


Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: My question is for the Premier. Premier, as of last Wednesday, Ontario ratepayers are paying wind turbines not to produce a single megawatt of energy now. But your government is still moving ahead, intent on building thousands of turbines across rural Ontario. How can you justify building more turbines in unwilling host communities when you’re paying the ones already built not to produce energy? Industries can’t afford it, families can’t afford it and seniors on fixed incomes cannot afford it.

Premier, will you finally admit that your government’s green energy scheme is a failure and call for an immediate moratorium on industrial wind turbine development?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I would suggest to the member opposite that an industry that has 2,700 clean tech firms and employs 65,000 people in the clean technology sector is not a failure. That is a huge success.

On top of that, Mr. Speaker, we knew that the coal plants needed to be shut down, and we knew that we needed to jump-start—


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock. I just want to make a comment. Earlier, I asked you to raise the debate by using people’s titles or their riding, and now I’m asking you to try to stop shouting people down. It boils down to just simple decency. Thank you.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

We calculate that $4.4 billion has been avoided in health care and environmental costs by shutting down coal plants: 668 fewer premature deaths per year; 928 fewer hospital admissions per year; 1,100 fewer emergency room visits per year. I think that those kinds of results and that kind of success speak to the efficacy of the direction that we’ve taken. We’ve jump-started an industry, we’ve created jobs and we’ve improved the health of thousands of people across the province.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: Premier, no one is buying your government’s rhetoric anymore. The fact is, your energy ministry is an absolute unstable mess. You have had colleagues stand up in this House and say that good things grow in Ontario, but sadly, the only thing growing in Ontario right now are hydro rates, unemployment rates and the number of industries running away from this province because they can’t afford your energy rates. The number one issue in my constituency offices is the stress over Hydro One’s ever-increasing hydro bills. It’s shameful.

Premier, we have had enough. Will your government finally position energy as an economic driver as opposed to a policy that is driving away industry from Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I would just ask that the member opposite talk to some parents of children with asthma and ask them what they think about having cleaner air in the province.

We have acknowledged that we need a better process for siting these large energy infrastructures; we’ve been clear about that. The Minister of Energy is developing and has announced a better process for siting those pieces of infrastructure. We acknowledge that. But the fact is, we needed to jump-start this industry. It has created jobs and it has cleaned up the air. You cannot put a price on that.


Mr. John Vanthof: My question is to the Premier and Minister of Agriculture and Food. For the past 10 years, Ontario’s small processors—not just the farmers, but small processors—have been under a lot of pressure due to constant regulation changes that are not really practical for them, and in most cases nor do they improve food safety. In fact, many mom-and-pop abattoirs have closed simply out of frustration. In 1998, there were 267 abattoirs, and now there are half. You can’t have local food without local processors, especially in rural areas. What will you, as Minister of Agriculture, do to ensure that small processors can keep their doors open?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I want to thank the member opposite for his question, because he’s right that we need to continue to look at regulations, particularly around small abattoirs. He’s absolutely right, because what I have heard from food processors is that some of those regulations are very onerous for some of the small abattoirs. We are looking at that. But again, I want to just be clear, as I said to the member from the official opposition, that regulation is always a balance between the business imperative and safety. We are not going to put people’s safety at risk. We are going to make sure that all of the rules that need to be in place are in place, but I acknowledge that there are some small businesses that we need to look at—if there’s a way to lessen that burden.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. John Vanthof: Once again to the Premier: I think no one in this House wants to jeopardize food safety, and that’s not the issue here. But currently, the regulations facing processors, large and small, are one-size-fits-all, and that just doesn’t work for small mom-and-pop processors, the ones who are processing local foods. And this is a case where it’s a good thing for the Premier and the Minister of Agriculture to be the same person, because if there’s one thing the Premier can do is push it through. So once again, what will the Premier do to ensure that small processors are not buried by red tape?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: As I said, I understand the concern, and I have heard the concern. We’re continually reviewing and adjusting the Meat Inspection Program and policies, and we’ve listened to the meat plant operators. We’re proposing some changes to the regulation that will not compromise food safety. As I said, we understand that this is a concern, particularly for small abattoirs, but I will never sign off on anything that will compromise people’s safety. There has to be the balance between the business and the safety. We’re making changes, we’re proposing changes, but we are going to make sure that those safety regulations are in place.


Mr. Grant Crack: My question is to the minister responsible for seniors affairs. Over the next 20 years, communities across Ontario will face a significant shift in demographics. The number of seniors aged 65 and over—of which I will be one—in Ontario will double to 4.2 million persons.

Last month I attended, along with many of my colleagues, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s annual general meeting in Ottawa, and it was made clear to us that municipal leaders are facing not only new opportunities, but challenges presented by this significant demographic shift. Can the minister inform this House of what our government is doing in taking action to support our seniors in communities across this great province of Ontario?

Hon. Mario Sergio: I would like to thank the member from Glengarry–Prescott–Russell for his important question. Yes, while I was attending the AMO conference, I met with a number of leaders from the municipal sector and stakeholders. I was also very pleased to launch the Finding the Right Fit: Age-Friendly Community Planning guide. It is an invaluable guide which was extremely well received by both municipal leaders and seniors stakeholders.

Every distinguished member of this Legislature has also received individual copies. I hope that they will enjoy it, and they can order some more. But first, let me say that age-friendly communities respond to both the opportunities and the challenges of an aging population, and I look forward to providing further details in the supplementary question.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Grant Crack: Thank you, Minister, for the update. I did have the privilege to serve as mayor of Alexandria, and then North Glengarry, for 11 years.

Interjection: A beautiful town.

Mr. Grant Crack: It’s a great town in the great riding of Glengarry–Prescott–Russell.

It was so refreshing in 2003 to finally have a government that actively supported municipalities across this great province in planning for communities and allowing seniors to continue to contribute in all aspects of their life. I can tell you that the nine mayors and councils in Glengarry–Prescott–Russell certainly appreciate the good work that this government has done, because we do have a very high, large population of seniors in our riding.

Recently, I had the honour of having the minister responsible for seniors affairs in my riding to visit Résidence St-Mathieu in Hammond and the manager, Nicole Normand. We discussed many of the challenges that were being faced by seniors. I’m just asking, through you, Speaker, if the minister could just update us on some of the details of that valuable tool.

Hon. Mario Sergio: Indeed, it was a real pleasure to visit with the honourable member in his riding, meeting many seniors wishing to remain in their own homes and in their own communities for as long as possible.

The principles of this guide include both physical and social dimensions that contribute to independent aging and living, such as outdoor spaces, transportation, housing and social participation. The way it helps local municipalities is in this way: assessing community dimensions, defining local principles, conducting community needs assessments and developing, implementing and evaluating their own community-based action plan.

Supporting age-friendly communities is a key component of Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors, helping seniors stay healthy, active and engaged in their communities for as long as possible. It is my interest and the interest of this government.


Mr. Bill Walker: My question is to the Premier. Premier, we need to fix the Endangered Species Act. In 2003, there were 19 species listed. Today, there are 121, and I dare say that a profitable farmer is one of those, sadly. Your administration has obviously politicized the ESA rules by basing its decisions on supposition, not on verifiable science. When a farmer is unable to harvest hay because your supposition deems his farmland an endangered turtle habitat, then you’re grinding our production to a halt.

Premier, this overzealous act is out of control and desperately needs reforming. Will you quit your war against farmers and commit today to fixing the ESA?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Natural Resources.

Hon. David Orazietti: I appreciate the question from the member. The member knows full well the importance that we place on farming and agriculture in the province of Ontario. I want to commend the Premier for her leadership on this issue. I also want to commend the Premier on her commitment to reforming and changing the ESA. After a number of years of implementation of this legislation, I think all members in the Legislature agree that the changes that were brought recently, this spring, to the ESA are more reflective of the views and values of Ontarians and the values and views of everyone in this Legislature.


I say to the member opposite that the Endangered Species Act is a very effective piece of legislation. Let’s not forget that it continues to be the gold standard in North America for protecting species at risk in this province. But we’ve now made changes to it that make the implementation of this legislation much more effective and much more balanced.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Bill Walker: We’ll try this again to the Premier: During these challenging economic times, Ontarians cannot afford runaway regulations. It’s disturbing to see this government ignoring the call for transparency and accountability in the Endangered Species Act.

May I suggest other measures as outlined in Paths to Prosperity: Make analyzing the socio-economic impact of changes to the ESA mandatory, publish the scientific analysis along with the proposed rules, and make the committee an advisory board to the minister, with the minister having final say on decisions related to the ESA.

Premier, our hard-working farmers want to know: Will you make these common-sense proposals a reality?

Hon. David Orazietti: Again, we have listened to the farmers and the agricultural community in this province, and we’ve made those necessary exemptions so that we can continue to work for solutions that deal with endangered species.

This is a complex issue. The member opposite wants to try to simplify this issue. But if we’re going to have legislation in this province that is in fact the gold standard in North America for protecting species at risk, we need to find the right balance, and it means working with all of the sectors.

We’ve put together a working group at our ministry that includes a broad cross-section of individuals and organizations to address this issue, and we’ve reached a fantastic balance, I think, on this issue. The farmers know that. We’re listening to them. We’re working with them to ensure that they can continue to ensure that their livelihood is protected in this province and that we can also protect the species that are at risk in the province of Ontario.


Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is for the Premier. On Tuesday morning of last week, over 200 litres of diesel fuel leaked from a Sun-Canadian pipeline in Sarnia, but the Ministry of the Environment didn’t call for the closure of the downstream drinking water intake pipes until more than 10 hours after the leak. Why didn’t the ministry act before residents of that community noticed diesel floating in the river and a nasty smell in their drinking water?

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

Hon. James J. Bradley: As the member would know, under the Environmental Protection Act, the company, which is Sun-Canadian, is responsible specifically for notifying the Ministry of the Environment of the spill, and the municipality within the boundaries wherein the spill happens to have occurred.

The spill did reach the St. Clair River via the Cole drain, and the ministry notified downstream drinking water plants to monitor their intakes. The operators for both Wallaceburg and Walpole Island plants decided to close the intakes as a precautionary measure.

The ministry also notified other downstream users, including First Nations communities and Michigan authorities. Environment Canada, TSSA and the National Energy Board all have been notified. Ministry staff attended a multi-agency meeting with city officials, including the mayor, the fire department and police—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Answer.

Hon. James J. Bradley: —to discuss the status and the next steps.

I will wait for the supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: The point is, all of this activity took over 10 hours to actually take place.

Thousands of residents in Wallaceburg and Walpole Island First Nation depend on the St. Clair River for their drinking water. Shockingly, this isn’t the first time that they’ve had their drinking water contaminated by chemical spills. Worse yet, the warning system failed people, needlessly exposing children and elders to contaminated drinking water for several hours.

The people of Sarnia deserve to know what went wrong last week and what the government will do to take real action to prevent future spills and, more importantly, to protect the drinking water of downstream communities. What exactly will they do?

Hon. James J. Bradley: Ministry staff are continuing to monitor the company’s progress with the cleanup. Additional catch basins were cleaned out overnight. Cleaning of the storm sewer was occurring overnight, and water treatment plants were reopened on September 11.

If there are any incidents that would require, let’s say, an investigation which would result ultimately in charges being laid—the ministry always ensures that there’s an investigation that takes place after each one of these incidents. I can assure you that that kind of investigation, should it produce any particular offence against the laws of the province of Ontario, will result in the ministry proceeding with the necessary action against those who would be responsible.


Mr. John Fraser: My question is for the Minister of Transportation. Our government is making record investments in Ontario’s highway infrastructure which will benefit my riding of Ottawa South. My constituents rely on safe roads for all vehicles, from cars to bicycles, to get to work and to school. There are many people in my riding who cycle, and this has many benefits to our environment as well as helping to reduce congestion on our roads. I am pleased that cycling has been a priority for this government.

Cycling has a central role to play in reducing gridlock, improving air quality and building stronger, healthier communities. I understand that the government has recently announced its new cycling strategy. Could you please update the House on this new strategy? I know this is something my constituents would want to hear about.

Hon. Glen R. Murray: It’s great to be joined in the House by the member for Ottawa South, who has a long history of being a cycling advocate. As I’ve said to my colleagues on both sides of the House from Ottawa, Ottawa is really one of our most dynamic communities in cycling. They were heavily involved in the development of this policy, and we’re very pleased with that.

This is one of the most comprehensive policy strategies to come out. It was started by the Premier when she was Minister of Transportation. We’ve evolved into a very exciting new partnership, because not one order of government can build cycling infrastructure or develop the rules. This is a partnership with municipalities, the Canadian Automobile Association, the Ontario Trucking Association, many regional advocacy groups and bicycle retailers to look at safety. Initiatives include everything from strategies for stronger penalties—I’ll conclude by saying—to organizing our existing infrastructure and additional infrastructure investments.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Fraser: Thank you to the minister for that update. I’m glad to see that our government is encouraging cycling as a viable means of moving people around our communities. One topic of concern that I’ve heard from my constituents is the issue of dooring, which occurs when a parked motor vehicle’s door is opened into the path of an oncoming cyclist. This is dangerous and has resulted in many injuries. In 2012, there were 104 convictions for dooring incidents registered against drivers and passengers throughout Ontario. This is a concern for all cyclists.

Could the Minister of Transportation please update the House on the government’s position regarding dooring?

Hon. Glen R. Murray: The minister’s working group on cycling is a really interesting group across industry. Dooring has been identified as one of the big challenges, so we will be looking at this at multiple layers, which is the reason for a community-centred approach to this. We have a one-year action plan coming up and we expect that dooring will be part of it. It will involve the Attorney General of the province, a former mayor and big cycling advocate, who will be working with us on the laws and regulations. The CAA is part of this, as is the Ontario Trucking Association, so they will be working on educating drivers on dooring, as it’s highly dangerous.

We’ve also been working with municipalities. Councillor Layton from the city of Toronto and Councillor Chernushenko from the city of Ottawa are also members of the working group. Members of other parties—we’re very proud this is a non-partisan approach.

In conclusion, I also want to thank MPP Fife and my friend from Kitchener; the member for Parry Sound– Muskoka; and my parliamentary assistant, the member for Eglinton–Lawrence, who have the parliamentary cycling caucus going, and—

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


Mr. Rob E. Milligan: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Minister, while the horse racing industry languishes in limbo, seeking leadership for the last two years, you have been pretending to care about rural Ontario and the loss of 9,000 jobs in the horse racing industry thus far. You and your panel of three put on a good pony show at over half a million dollars’ cost to taxpayers, but what have you done as Premier and part-time agriculture minister to address the crisis facing the horse racing industry in this province?


Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I’m very pleased about this renewed interest in agriculture and food, and I look forward to having questions when it’s not the day before the International Plowing Match, Mr. Speaker.

Let me just say that we have made huge progress on moving to a sustainable horse racing industry. I’ve acknowledged that the original changes to the Slots at Racetracks Program were not as well thought through as they needed to be. My predecessor, the Minister of Community and Social Services, began a process whereby he put a panel in place to take that second look at how we could have that sustainable industry. We put $180 million in place for transition funding for three years. The panel is going to come forward with a five-year plan.

We want a sustainable industry, and the way that’s going to happen is that we’re going to have an industry that is integrated with the overall gaming strategy in the province. I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done, and we’ll have a sustainable industry going forward.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Rob E. Milligan: Well, Minister, if you’ve read the Good Book, you would know there are four horsemen when the apocalypse is to come. Given your financial policies and now your lack of action for rural Ontario, and the horse racing industry in particular, Ontario is witnessing the apocalypse of financial ruin. You and your panel seem to be symbolic of the four horsemen.

What are you going to do to save the horse racing industry in this province from the apocalypse and save over 50,000 jobs from being eliminated from rural Ontario?


Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: My friend the Minister of Community and Social Services, who is much more of a theologian than I am, says that the first thing that Noah did when he got off the boat was to plant a vineyard. But I was going to say, Mr. Speaker, that we have the three horsemen—Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Snobelen and Mr. Wilkinson—who are working with us to make sure that we make the decisions to have in place a sustainable horse racing industry.

I have visited horsemen; I’ve been to the tracks. I’ve talked to people about what’s needed. I know there was a lot of disruption in the sector. I know there was a lot of angst. I also know that they were concerned because there was no integration between the horse racing industry and the overall gaming strategy. That has changed now. That integration is happening, and with the advice of the panel, those three horsemen, we’re going to have a sustainable horse racing industry in Ontario.


Ms. Cheri DiNovo: My question is to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

There are large-scale condo developments proposed and already under way across from High Park, which is a precious resource not only to Torontonians but to all Ontarians. There are serious concerns about the environmental impact of these developments. Already, 200-year-old black oak trees—they’re heritage trees—across the street are gone. The development also impacts nesting birds, migratory patterns and various other human health and safety concerns.

This is yet another example of undemocratic decisions made by the OMB in favour of developers. Why has the minister failed to ensure the protection of this environmentally significant park and its boundary areas?

Hon. Linda Jeffrey: I thank the member for her question. This actually has not been raised with my staff yet, but I appreciate the question and I certainly have heard from municipalities from across Ontario about the planning system and their concerns with it.

I want to publicly thank the member from Trinity–Spadina for the work that he’s done on this file. I know he wrote an editorial this morning regarding this important issue, and my ministry, obviously, is still reviewing it.

I would like to remind the member that the city of Toronto already has the authority to establish local appeals boards under the Planning Act. In fact, only last week, Councillor Adam Vaughan publicly mused about the possibility of Toronto creating a local appeals body. Strengthening our land use planning system is certainly a priority, and we believe good land use planning ensures long-term economic prosperity, environmental health, which I think is what you’re raising today, and the social well-being of all Ontarians. That’s why only a few weeks ago, I announced a consultation, and I’ll speak more about it in the supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: The minister knows full well that what Adam Vaughan is talking about, and others, are minor variances and not major changes, and that the OMB does rule supreme. My friend here wrote about this very fact, and she should read the article.

This is a matter relating to environmental protection. The province has designated sections of High Park as environmentally significant due to the rare black oak savannah. The OMB does not have expertise in this area.

Hon. John Gerretsen: The city has—

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: No, they don’t.

Despite promising more environmental expertise on the OMB board, this government has failed to deliver any significant reform of the OMB after over 10 years in office. The government is allowing the OMB again and again to override local environmental concerns.

Will this government protect High Park or is even High Park for sale to developers because of this government?

Hon. Linda Jeffrey: Speaker, when I was at the AMO convention, I announced an upcoming review about consultations with regard to Ontario land use planning because we want to find better ways to reform land use planning, and we want to work better with our municipalities across Ontario because we want to make them livable communities. I look forward to working with the members of the third party with regard to consultations.

We believe the OMB provides an important role in hearing land use planning acts and we certainly want to balance that with local planning decisions and community interests. Certainly, I look forward to making this system better, and I look forward to your input in the consultation period.


Mr. Phil McNeely: My question is to the Minister of Consumer Services. Minister, over the summer months I met with some of the not-for-profit organizations that are operating in my riding. There is a variety of them providing essential and supportive services to residents in my riding and across Ontario. I met organizations focused on advocacy to educational opportunities to recreation. They not only vary in their focus and specializations but also in the size and complexity of the organizations. While providing me with an opportunity to learn about their significant contributions to our community, they raised questions about the not-for-profit act and its requirements.

Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, can the minister please share with the House more information on this act and what requirements will not-for-profits face under this legislation?

Hon. Tracy MacCharles: I’d like to thank the member from Ottawa–Orléans for this very important question. As I’ve shared with the House before, there are approximately 52,000 not-for-profit corporations currently operating in Ontario, offering a variety of services and meeting the needs of Ontarians in very unique ways. Not-for-profits not only help people in their everyday lives, but they’re an important element of job growth and economic development in our province.

The new act will provide a more modern legislative framework to meet the unique needs of this growing sector. The Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, once proclaimed, will make it easier for not-for-profits to operate in today’s dynamic market. It will enhance corporate governance, accountability and transparency. It will simplify incorporation processes, it will better protect directors and officers from personal liability, and it will clarify that not-for-profits can engage in commercial activities if their activities support not-for-profit purposes.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Before we leave, we do have a visitor in the east members’ gallery. That visitor is a former member from Stormont–Dundas–Charlottenburgh in the 38th and Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry in the 39th, Mr. Jim Brownell.

The member from Northumberland–Quinte West on a point of order.

Mr. Rob E. Milligan: Mr. Speaker, I know it’s not a point of order, but it saddens me to announce the passing of Howard Sheppard, MPP, this morning. I just wanted to let the House know that our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Bernice, and with his family. I just want to extend that to all members.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member is correct: That’s not a point of order, but I do also want to remind all members that there is a co-operative effort in this House that we will continue to honour all of those who have passed away as august members of this special place.

There are no deferred votes. This House stands adjourned until Wednesday, September 18, at 9 o’clock.

The House adjourned at 1140.