The House met at 2 p.m.
PROCEEDINGS AGAINST MEMBER
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege.
On March 16, 1978, while this assembly was in session, Messrs. MacLean and Chercover, barristers and solicitors, 85 Richmond Street West, Toronto, caused to be served upon me, through my secretary, without my knowledge or permission, at my office, Room 121, North Wing, Main Parliament Buildings, a notice of action pursuant to the Libel and Slander Act.
The solicitors were apparently acting on the directions of the following persons and organizations who were shown in the notice as plaintiffs: Robert White, L. Seymour, Lorna J. Moses and Frances Piercey, on their own behalf; as officers and members of the International Union of United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America and Local 1620 thereof, and on behalf of all members of the International Union of the UAW in Canada and its Local 1620 in Ontario.
After receipt of such notice, I forthwith instructed my solicitor who, on my behalf, on March 20, 1978, replied to such notice. I am advised by my solicitor that in such notice he rendered his opinion to Messrs. MacLean and Chercover that the notice of intended action contravened section 38 of the Legislative Assembly Act.
In addition, on March 20, 1978, I received by mail at my assembly office from the registrar of the Ontario Labour Relations Board a notice of application for consent to institute prosecution by the UAW against myself and others. I instructed my solicitor in connection with such notice and he advises me that he has replied to such notice as required by the Labour Relations Act.
My solicitor informs me that he has advised the Labour Relations Board that the filing of such application in his opinion is probably a contravention of section 38 of the Legislative Assembly Act. My solicitor further informs me that the validity or otherwise of the commencement of those proceedings against me is not a matter for decision by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Notwithstanding the reply of my solicitor to the notice of intended action, the solicitors for the intended plaintiffs whom I have named, on March 30, 1978, directed an additional communication at my assembly office pursuant to the notice of action originally served upon me.
Mr. Speaker, I am quite prepared to defend these actions on the basis of the merits and the facts. As I have mentioned, I have instructed counsel so to do and such is being done. However, the continued direction of litigious material to me is, in my opinion, a molestation of my parliamentary function, rights, duties and privileges. I believe there is a clear breach of my privilege, and I would ask you, sir, to consider this matter and to take whatever action you deem appropriate and necessary in the circumstances.
Mr. Speaker: I will consider the point of privilege raised by the hon. member and report to him at a later date.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, just over eight months ago, the government established the royal commission on the northern environment with broad terms of reference concerning the economic, social and cultural future of northern Ontario, north of the 50th parallel. Since then, Commissioner Mr. Justice Patrick Hartt has travelled the vast areas of the north of the province and, largely through public meetings, the concerns and opinions of the people have been presented to the commission.
I am tabling today a copy of an interim report and covering letter from the commission and wish to add some general remarks in response.
First, I think it is fair to say that the report and the recommendations it contains serve to re-emphasize the vast distances, relatively small population and climatic conditions that contribute to and underscore the issues that face the people of the north. Evidence of the differing opinions among the population as to appropriate actions is also more than apparent.
If a single direction or purpose can be taken from this preliminary review, however, it is the call for continuing co-operative and consultative processes among all the parties involved, namely governments at all levels and the people, both native and non-native, of northern Ontario.
The government welcomes this general approach and I would only reaffirm here that it is a direction to which we are fully committed. The government views this report as a constructive outline for future consultation. It will be given detailed consideration by the appropriate ministers. I fully intend to talk at greater length with Mr. Justice Hartt to obtain from him more sharply defined terms of reference for the specific structures proposed, so that we may avoid unnecessary overlapping, duplication or misunderstanding.
As well, it is my intention to discuss with Mr. Justice Hartt his particular role in these future developments and I am delighted that he has indicated his dedication to continue to serve in the interest of assisting all of us in dealing with the many problems of the north.
In this vein also, I wish to inform the House that I have received from the Association of Treaty No. 9 Chiefs the concerns of their grand council with regard to the future role of the royal commission itself. And I would just interject here, Mr. Speaker, that the chief of Treaty No. 9, Mr. Andrew Rickard, is in your gallery. This and other responses will be referred to Mr. Justice Hartt for consideration and future discussions.
Now, Mr. Speaker, if I may turn briefly to the specific recommendations of the commission’s interim report arising from matters viewed by the commission as needing urgent attention at this time:
Perhaps the most significant proposal is for the establishment of a permanent tripartite committee, representative of the federal and Ontario governments at the ministerial level, and of the Indian people. The report states: “The committee would attempt to resolve, through negotiation, issues raised by its members, and in particular would address questions of devolution of authority to govern local affairs and access to resources for the Indian people. A small secretariat, acceptable to all parties, should be established to support the committee.”
In addition, it is proposed that the problems related to the Whitedog and Grassy Narrows Indian communities be the first priority item to be addressed by the committee.
Mr. Martel: Further delay.
Hon. Mr. Davis: The government of Ontario endorses the idea of such a tripartite committee. This principle is already an initiative of the government, in that proposals for such a committee have been discussed both with the federal government and with the chiefs of Ontario. This formal structure is seen as a necessary base for future decision-making on various issues of mutual concern. It is also planned that operational support will be provided by a joint tripartite steering committee at the staff level.
We would also endorse the notion that the circumstances affecting the communities at Whitedog and Grassy Narrows should be a first item of business for such a committee, although we are cognizant of the fact that similar types of social problems affect other Indian communities as well. Further, there may be reason to question whether a time limit of 90 days is sufficient to deal with a matter of this complexity.
It is our intention, as I have noted, to pursue these recommendations further with Mr. Justice Hartt by seeking from him detailed proposals on the creation, structure and function of this committee. All our work to date will be made available to him.
A task force of northern residents as a liaison between government and the people is also recommended. As I have mentioned before, increased public participation has been one of the major objectives of the government in establishing the commission.
At the same time, I need hardly remind the House that it has been but a year since the government created a Ministry of Northern Affairs to meet the type of need described in this recommendation. In addition, and indeed more important, there are some 15 members of this Legislature, from all parties, who represent the interests of northern communities and their citizens.
We should, therefore, perhaps look at the various roles that already exist before committing ourselves to the notion of the task force recommended in the report.
The government supports the recommendation concerning a review by the commission of the West Patricia planning process and sees this as fully within the authority and sanction granted to the commission. I might add that the recommendation is in keeping with the approach suggested by the Ministry of Natural Resources to ensure necessary public participation in the West Patricia land-use plan as the focal point for overall government planning in the area. The involvement of the commission would be most beneficial.
As to the question of the Onakawana lignite development project, the government has long since stated that the procedure will be followed under the Environmental Assessment Act. Public consultations between the Ministry of Natural Resources and local residents have been proceeding for some time. In fact, prior to any decision to issue a mining lease to Onakawana Development Limited, a series of open sessions was held with local residents.
In the supporting text of the report, the suggestion is made that the commission play an “observing and counselling role” in these proceedings. The government feels that the proposal should put the commission in a position to make constructive recommendations on the adequacy of the environmental assessment process as it might be applied to various types of future potential development in the north. In addition, it will enable the commission to provide skills in resolving possible difficulties which may arise.
The commission’s last recommendation proposes that no government licences for wild rice harvesting be issued to non-natives for a period of five years.
It should be noted that policy proposals for promoting a viable wild rice industry among the native people are included in the mandate of the proposed new tripartite committee. The government has encouraged the growth of this industry among the native people and it is important to ensure an opportunity for the natives to develop this industry on a competitive basis. The Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. F. S. Miller) will pursue this matter with Mr. Hartt to ensure in the development of this important resource a future course of action that is consistent with the objectives of involving the native peoples.
Finally, the focus on economic development in the north must not be overlooked. I would cite here the commissioner’s explicit statement of the benefits to be derived from planned resource development and his recognition of the fact that: “A general moratorium on development, even for a two- or three-year period, could needlessly cause hardship, increase unemployment and delay benefits to people which can flow from well- planned ventures.”
In summary then, the government feels that this interim report lays the ground for a thorough and systematic review over the next two years or so, which will, at the same time, enable and indeed ensure that legitimate development is not thwarted or frustrated in the process.
OMA-OHIP FEE SCHEDULES
Mr. S. Smith: I have a question for the Minister of Health. In view of the minister’s various statements that Anti-Inflation Board controls apply to the OHIP schedule of benefit payments to he made this calendar year to most doctors and other practitioners, may we take it that the government will limit any increase in its proposed schedule of benefit payments to what is permissible under the Anti-Inflation Board policy? If so, what does the minister understand the Anti-Inflation Board policy to be, both with respect to those doctors who receive only the schedule of benefit payments from OHIP and those doctors who bill on their own?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The AIB limits are on the physicians, which, therefore, dictate the amount by which the schedule will increase. I don’t recall the figures off-hand and I wouldn’t want to try to recall them from memory, lest I get them wrong. Let’s put it this way: Our negotiations are very much constrained by the realities of the anti-inflation program for the balance of 1978.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary, can the minister tell us what he understands the Anti-Inflation Board restraints to be, particularly with respect to the fee schedule as opposed to the $2,400 limit on individual doctors, and has he told the Ontario Medical Association that any increase in that schedule will have to conform with AIB policy this year?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: It is acknowledged by both sides in the negotiations that we are constrained by the anti-inflation program and the limits which are placed on individual practitioners.
Mr. Cassidy: Would the minister be prepared to explain -- and I don’t think this question has been asked of him up until now -- why it is that when it comes to these negotiations he talks about being constrained by the anti-inflation program, but when it came to imposing premiums on the people of the province of Ontario he imposed an increase of 37½ per cent and completely disregarded that program which he had endorsed?
Mr. Warner: He uses the guidelines when he feels like it.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: As the hon. member knows, in preparing the anti-inflation program, when it came to questions of price increases or fee increases it was written right into the program that, in fact, increases would be relative to cost increases, and as he very well knows the costs of providing health care have gone up by as much or more -- in fact it is much more -- in the last few years than the increases in the premium revenue.
Mr. S. Smith: That is not a fact.
Mr. Conway: In the preparation and tabling of his estimates for the year 1978-79, has the minister taken into consideration and allowed for the maximum increase permissible under AIB as he understands AIB to be?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Maybe this question would be more appropriate at estimates I suppose, but yes, we have calculated both the effect of the AIB on the increases in income as well as factoring in anticipated increases in utilization.
Mr. Cassidy: Given the fact that the incomes of individual premium payers have been held down by the AIB over the course of the past year and in future, can the minister comment on the possibility that significant numbers of Ontario residents will allow their OHIP coverage to actually lapse because of the very heavy premium increase in relation to their increase in incomes?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: That has not been the experience in the past and I certainly don’t anticipate it to be the experience at the present.
Mr. Cassidy: Does the minister have any evidence for that last reply, given the fact that the only material we have had put forward up until now, when reviewed by the Provincial Auditor, indicated that there were 12 million people in this province covered by OHIP and that, therefore, those statistics are quite meaningless?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: If the hon. member would read, if there is one, a Hansard of the public accounts committee, or at least talk to members who sit there, the problem which resulted in that anomaly is totally different from that which was the substance of his earlier question, but I am sure that when we get into the standing committee on social development some of the members of his party may want to pursue that and I will be sure that we have the officials available to give the specific figures at that time.
Mr. Martel: Our figures aren’t reliable.
Mr. Cassidy: Final supplementary --
Mr. Kerrio: You just had it.
Mr. S. Smith: He had it, as I recall. Mind you, he does us a lot of good with these supplementaries. You might want to give him a few more, Mr. Speaker.
USE OF SEWAGE SLUDGE
Mr. S. Smith: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. His predecessor in that office (Mr. Kerr) was able to answer almost a year ago, on April 22, 1977, regarding my question about the use of sewage sludge on agricultural land, I quote: “In the meantime, the guidelines are being applied in the province to those areas where there is sludge removal. The guidelines are being used now,” and then, in response to my question, and I quote: “Is the minister saying all sewage sludge in Ontario now being applied to agricultural land falls within the guidelines of that report?” his answer is: “That is what we are implementing right now, yes.” That is a direct quote.
Can the minister explain to me how his predecessor could have said those things in the House and yet a year later we still read that an internal report indicates that only 40 per cent of the sludge being utilized in Ontario meets the guidelines?
Mr. Warner: Inconsistency.
Hon. Mr. McCague: No, I really can’t explain the hon. Leader of the Opposition’s question.
Mr. S. Smith: I can appreciate the minister’s answer, inasmuch as I had a little trouble understanding all the incorrect answers I had from that particular minister when he was in that position. I would ask the minister, by way of supplementary -- and I look forward to his response afterwards -- can the Minister of the Environment explain to me why it has taken over a year to implement a report which even a year ago had been in the hands of the ministry for some considerable time, when in point of fact a possible serious health hazard is involved in the usage of sludge with heavy metals, possibly even PCBs, on agricultural land which grows crops for human consumption? Why the delay?
Mr. McClellan: He can’t cope.
Hon. Mr. McCague: Mr. Speaker, I can’t give an explanation to the hon. member. All I can tell him is that the matter is proceeding. We intend to have final drafts in about a week’s time and to meet at that time with senior management in Agriculture and Food. I think we will be in a position to have them for him shortly.
Mr. Mancini: Who is in charge over there?
Mr. Speaker: Does the hon. member for Welland-Thorold have a supplementary?
Mr. Swart: Yes, I do, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask the Minister of the Environment if it’s not true that only 14 per cent of the sludge which has been applied on farm land has been safe for application? Secondly, is it not true also that the only regulations which they’ve had up to this time have been regulations relative to the handling of the sludge and the sites, and not with regard to the quality of the sludge whatsoever?
Hon. W. Newman: Oh, it’s all fine quality.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: It helps grow things down there.
Mr. Martel: A farm boy would know that, Bill. In other words, it’s manure.
Hon. Mr. McCague: I don’t have a figure for that here. I think probably what the member is missing is that we’re also talking about treated sludge.
Mr. Kerrio: As a supplementary question to my leader’s question of April 22, 1977, I asked the then Minister of the Environment if he was aware that in jurisdictions where sludge is used on agricultural land, mainly in the state of Wisconsin, there were significant signs of polychlorinated biphenyls in the milk from dairy herds grazing on that land. The answer at that time was: “I know that PCBs have been a part of the problem as far as sludge disposal is concerned and that’s one of the reasons we’re applying the guidelines.”
I would ask the present minister, in view of the kind of experiments that have been carried out and the studies in other jurisdictions, when he will put to this Legislature the safeguard of the users of agricultural products in this province?
Hon. Mr. McCague: I think I did say in answer to the opposition leader’s question, “shortly.”
Mr. Kerrio: The minister said that a year ago.
Hon. Mr. McCague: I didn’t say that a year ago.
Mr. Conway: Don’t be so loquacious.
Mr. Swart: May I ask the minister if it’s true that the sludge which has been used may not only be injurious to health but it may permanently damage the land?
Hon. Mr. McCague: Mr. Speaker, I believe that is a possibility and we’re looking into that.
Mr. McClellan: Tell the Minister of Agriculture and Food that.
Hon. W. Newman: Why doesn’t the hon. member ask me the question? It will make his moustache grow bigger.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Premier in relation to his statement about the interim report of the Hartt commission. There are two or three interrelated questions. I want to express some concern on our part at the diffusion that may result from this report because of the splitting up of the responsibilities of the Hartt commission into two, three or even more separate areas.
Perhaps I could begin by asking the Premier this question: Can he explain why, in response to the only single, concrete recommendation for action now in this interim report -- namely, that no new licences for wild rice harvesting be issued to non-natives over a period of five years -- that the government has surrounded that recommendation with cotton wool and has not come out with a firm, clear answer that would enable Indians to develop a strong economic position in the wild rice industry?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I regret that the leader of the New Democratic Party doesn’t treat, in a constructive way, the interim report of Mr. Justice Hartt. I should point out the report has, I think, resulted from discussions with the native people and I think it has their support. I’m disappointed that he himself doesn’t sense the complexity of this and the validity of the recommendations.
Mr. McClellan: Answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Listen, the member prefaced his question with an observation that he didn’t like the report.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The member doesn’t know what it is all about.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I think it’s quite proper for me to express my regret that the leader of the New Democratic Party doesn’t have the wisdom to see the positive aspects of this report. I think that’s quite appropriate.
Mr. McClellan: We’ve already had enough cotton wool.
Hon. Mr. Davis: If the member wants to ask me a question I’ll give an answer. If he wants to make a speech I feel provoked to reply.
Mr. Martel: You are prepared to make a speech too.
Hon. Mr. Davis: The answer to the question about wild rice is very simple. This government has been committed and is committed to a policy to see that the native people are assisted in developing a viable wild rice industry in that part of the province of Ontario.
Mr. Laughren: Tell the Minister of Northern Affairs that. Are you listening, Leo?
Mr. Cassidy: If I can ask a general question, can the Premier say what role Mr. Justice Hartt will be asked to play in the future series of related inquiries which will go on? In particular, is the government prepared to ensure that there is one central focus for the issues that were originally grouped under the Hartt inquiry; that is, that Mr. Justice Hartt will continue to look at the overall questions about how northerners can be involved effectively in the development of government policy and the questions related to the native peoples which are now being split into three areas?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Justice Hartt has made his personal views known to me as to where he thinks his contribution would be the most appropriate. As I said in my statement, it is my intention to discuss this with Mr. Justice Hartt because, in order to avoid the possibility of duplication, I think there should be more definitive terms of reference for the two or three structures that are suggested in the report.
I think it is fair to say that Mr. Justice Hartt has made it known to me, and perhaps it is referred to in general terms in his letter, that he indicates that, if asked, he will pursue an involvement in this matter. I am very encouraged by that. It is my intention, after a discussion with him, to encourage him to accept a further responsibility. I think it would be wise for all members of the House to have this further definition as to the actual function of the structures that have been suggested, and that would be a more appropriate time to get into this sort of question and answer or even perhaps a period for some discussion here in the House.
Mr. S. Smith: This is supplementary to the aspect of the other leader’s first question on wild rice: Could the Premier please clarify a word on page nine of his statement where he appears to have rejected the recommendation of Mr. Justice Hartt? Mr. Justice Hartt’s recommendation has been to have no non-native licences issued in the wild rice matter for five years --
Mr. Foulds: That was the question that was asked.
Mr. Cassidy: Where were you a minute ago?
Mr. S. Smith: -- and the Premier has said “it is important to ensure an opportunity to develop the industry on a competitive basis.” Competitive with whom? Surely what the Premier means there is with non-native licensees.
Hon. Mr. Davis: That is not the intention. It is not non-native licensees. it is with wild rice from other sources.
Mr. S. Smith: Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Davis: We don’t have a monopoly on wild rice.
Mr. Foulds: Supplementary: I wonder if the Premier could give the House any information about the time he expects to have a definition for the House in terms of Mr. Hartt’s role and in terms of definition of the structure that Mr. Hartt has set out.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Because of the priority the government has given this and because of the support in a general sense by most members in this House, I would hope to have this available within a couple of weeks. I don’t want to be pinned down to an exact date but it will not be a prolonged period of time.
Mr. Foulds: Make it 10 days.
Mr. Cassidy: Final supplementary: I appreciate that the Premier will do this quickly rather than at length, but can he give some indication to the House now how the conflicts between the different bodies that are being established or proposed for the north will be resolved?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You don’t even know where the north is. Tell me where it starts.
Mr. Cassidy: I have in mind that the tripartite group negotiating with the native peoples will have as an early priority the question of Onakawana, which will also be the subject of an environmental assessment. I have in mind that some of the findings of the West Patricia study, being carried out by the son of the commission, will also affect native peoples and the question of access by northerners to government decision-making. I have in mind the fact that the area of access by northerners to government decision-making is apparently being left completely, rather than being referred back to the main commission, by what the Premier said.
How will all that be co-ordinated and brought together? Can the Premier give us a statement?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I have a feeling that some members of the hon. member’s caucus would object if I gave a statement. I will try to reply to the observation and statement that the hon. member made.
Mr. Cassidy: Is that a reply?
Mr. Martel: Why don’t you just give us a straight answer then?
Hon. Mr. Davis: It wasn’t a straight question. I have come to the conclusion that the hon. member’s leader has a lot on his mind. There are some days when we would debate how much he has on his mind; but obviously this afternoon he has a lot on his mind.
It is for the very reasons that the leader of the New Democratic Party has pointed out some of the areas of possible duplication that I said earlier that I would be discussing with Mr. Justice Hartt a clear definition. What we have in this report, really, is in some respects conceptual in terms of how he sees us operating, and I think it needs further definition. When I have that for the members of this House, with a proposal in terms of membership, et cetera, I shall be delighted to share it with the leader of the New Democratic Party and be quite prepared to discuss it at that time.
Mr. Cassidy: A question for the Minister of Education: Can the minister tell us when he intends to release the interim report of the commission on declining enrolment, which was first expected at the end of February this year, then at the end of March, and which, as I understand it now, is either at the printers or in fact is somewhere on the minister’s desk?
Hon. Mr. Wells: My friend is correct; it is at the printers. I inquired today and was told it would be two weeks before the printing is completed. As soon as it is finished being printed, he will have a copy as quickly as that.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Since the report will therefore be two months behind the original deadline, can the minister say what plans the government has to assist boards -- especially low-assessment boards with scattered school populations, such as Timiskaming and other boards in northern Ontario -- to overcome the financial pressures resulting from declining enrolment? We were in Timiskaming a week ago and found that that problem is particularly acute there because of the low assessment base and the very sharp decline in enrolment. Is the government prepared to come up with plans for this fall so that those boards do not have to wait a further year until action is taken?
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Is that the royal “we” or the plural?
Hon. Mr. Wells: I believe there was no intention that there would be any particular plans introduced before the next fiscal year. The grant regulations for this year have been printed and have been distributed and presented. There has been no indication that there would be any changes. Anything that is done of a nature that would assist the Timiskaming board in a major way would be in the 1979 grant regulations, when we will have the full benefit of commissioner Jackson’s report and any suggestions that he might make, plus any others. I would just suggest to my friend that if the Timiskaming board has any problems, we would be most happy to discuss them with it.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Since the Timiskaming board or some of its people brought its problems to us, in view of the difficulties it has been having with the ministry --
Some hon. members: Oh, come on.
Mr. Speaker: Question.
Mr. Cassidy: -- may I just ask the minister, surely the minister is aware that fixed costs do not decline at anywhere near the rate at which enrolment is dropping in some boards like Timiskaming, and that those boards have got particularly acute problems because their mill rate, their assessment base, is so low they cannot easily go back to the taxpayers for costs they cannot get fairly and squarely shared from Queen’s Park?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Yes, the minister is very much aware of all those things, as are, I am sure, the boards and the commission. I might point out to my friend that there are no particular recommendations to alleviate the problems that my friend is suggesting in the interim report of the committee on declining enrolment. The interim report is more a series of background papers and studies that will be useful as we work up to the final recommendations which will come in the summer.
Mr. Stong: I have a question for the Solicitor General. Would the Solicitor General advise the House at this time what conclusions his ministry has drawn and what course of action he intends to pursue as a result of the investigation into two separate and distinct incidents of alleged assaults by police officers? One involved the York Regional Police on January 15, 1978, wherein it is reported that a man arrested for impaired driving was handcuffed, placed in the back seat of a cruiser and then beaten, all in front of witnesses in his neighbourhood. The other involves members of the Durham Regional Police and the Metropolitan Toronto Police on July 21, 1976, wherein one Robert McGee is reported to have been beaten on the back with axe handles and had battery acid poured over his penis.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: I am not aware of the information the hon. member has given me regarding the incident he is talking about of last January. I am not aware of that, and of course I will look into it.
As far as the second incident is concerned, involving one Robert McGee, we are aware of the allegations by McGee. He wrote to the criminal compensation board last December regarding an incident that took place at the time of his arrest in July, 1976. This involves both the Durham force and the Metro force. We are waiting for a report. I have one report from the Durham force. I’m not satisfied with it, so I would assume that the commission will be looking into this.
Mr. Stong: Supplementary: Has the minister been assisted by the findings of the trial judge at McGee’s trial wherein he disallowed a statement of the accused, based on the allegations and evidence pertaining to the activities of the police department? I understand, as well, with respect to the York Regional Police that representations were made to the ministry on that issue in January, over a month ago.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: That’s right, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member is referring to the voir dire. It is part of our investigation.
Ms. Bryden: I have a further question to the Premier with regard to his statement on Mr. Justice Patrick Hartt’s interim report. With regard to Mr. Hartt’s recommendation about Onakawana Development Limited to the effect that the Minister of the Environment should discuss with the local communities and affected groups how they can participate more effectively in the environmental assessment for this project, would the government be prepared to provide public funding to these groups to enable them to participate on a more equal footing with the company in these hearings?
Hon. Mr. Davis: The recommendations in the report, as I mentioned in my statement, are being assessed by the ministry. I would point out to the hon. member that in terms of the presentations made to the interim report by Mr. Justice Hartt certain government funding was made available. It is not possible for me to give a commitment in advance of whatever structures are proposed or hearings held. I would just point out that we did, in terms of this interim report, provide funding to those groups who wished to make representation before Mr. Hartt’s commission.
Ms. Bryden: Supplementary: Does the Premier not think that a precedent has now been established and that if we don’t want a David and Goliath situation in the hearings on the Onakawana project that we should continue this precedent and make funds available to the interested groups?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Actually, the precedent had been established prior to this, but I won’t go back into history. I can only say that we are as anxious that there be a proper hearing, that there be proper public participation. It’s always one of those matters that as a government we’re prepared to look at, but we don’t make commitments in advance, not until we are sure of just what is involved.
Hon. B. Stephenson: I would like to respond to a question posed by the hon. member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie) on March 7 regarding noise levels at A. G. Simpson Company Limited plant in Scarborough. At that time the hon. member alleged that the company had failed to provide casual employees with adequate hearing protection as required by section 111 of the regulations of the Industrial Safety Act, 1971.
I’m advised by the company that it instituted a hearing protection program on June 29, 1978, which consists of the following: 1. The identification of areas in which noise levels exceed 90 decibels; 2. The posting of signs indicating that protective equipment should be worn in high noise areas. 8. The provision of ear muffs and ear plugs; and 4. The audiometric testing of workers in high noise areas.
Turning to the hon. member’s specific question, an official of the ministry’s industrial health and safety branch visited that plant on March 9, 1978, and found that all employees, both full-time and casual, had in fact been provided with protective equipment and had been instructed in the proper fitting and use thereof. Despite the company’s hearing protection program, the ministry official found at that time that only 50 per cent of the workers were actually wearing the hearing protection which had been provided. Therefore, the officer held a meeting with company management, representatives of the employees’ association and the company nurse to discuss ways to increase the using of hearing protection. Following that meeting, management of the company agreed strictly to enforce the wearing of protective equipment. An officer of the industrial health and safety branch will revisit the plant very soon to ensure that all workers, both full-time and casual, are wearing hearing protective equipment.
Mr. Mackenzie: Supplementary: Did the inspector when checking on the plant identify the 50 per cent who were not wearing the equipment, that is, which ones were permanent employees and which were casual employees?
Hon. B. Stephenson: The numbers included both permanent employees and casual employees.
Mr. O’Neil: I have a question of the Minister of Labour. Is the minister aware of the decision made by the Workmen’s Compensation Board to advance to May 20 the date that all employer payments for the year 1978 are due, when payments in previous years may not have been due until July and August? Does she not feel that this decision, made without prior notice, places an unexpected cash flow burden on employers, particularly those assessed at higher rates and on smaller employers in general?
Hon. B. Stephenson: It was my understanding that in addition to advancing the date there had been a modification to the payment program in which it could be paid in instalments rather than all at once. If that is a mistake, I shall be very pleased to correct that statement in the House but that was my understanding.
Mr. O’Neil: Supplementary: In spite of the considerable increase in rate schedules this year, was this decision made because the WCB is short of funds and needs additional cash flow at the present time?
Hon. B. Stephenson: No. It was my understanding that it was done in order to facilitate payments on an instalment basis, if you like, rather than asking for the entire payment at one specific date.
Mr. O’Neil: I have a further supplementary. Has there not been a review of the WCB under way for some considerable time with respect to both financing methods and benefit levels? Has the minister not had at least an interim report on financing, undertaken by the Wyatt Company, in her hand since November or December 1976, and did she not promise my colleague from Erie (Mr. Haggerty) during the recent estimates on the WCB that the entire report would be available to the members of this House by the end of March?
Hon. B. Stephenson: Yes, yes, yes and yes. Unfortunately, I have at this time only a preliminary report of the final report. I anticipate that by April 15, hopefully, we shall have the entire report for perusal.
The interim report was a report of the financial position, the investment program and some other actuarial studies related to the Workmen’s Compensation Board. The comprehensive report includes a number of other issues which were requested at one point by one of the members of the official opposition during our discussions of the Workmen’s Compensation Board in committee. That study had been already directed by the ministry, but we were pleased to have the hon. member for Erie support the concept that we needed to look at the funding, the financial structure of the board and the relationship of the benefits of the Workmen’s Compensation Board to other income protection and income supplement programs within this country.
Mr. McClellan: Supplementary: Since the Wyatt report was the excuse for failure to raise the rates, may I ask the minister now how much longer she is going to stall around, and when does she intend to raise the rates?
Hon. B. Stephenson: There has never been any excuse for rates or anything else.
Mr. Laughren: You are absolutely right.
Mr. Warner: Where is it?
Hon. B. Stephenson: The Wyatt report is a study of factual information which we believe is necessary in order to make responsible decisions.
Mr. Warner: Jelly beans roll uphill faster than that.
Hon. B. Stephenson: As soon as that report is available to me and I have had a chance to peruse it, we shall be making recommendations to the House.
Mr. Warner: My question is to the Treasurer. Since the Treasurer realizes that many months of advance planning are needed when basic changes are made to the municipal government structure of Metro Toronto, is he trying to avoid electoral reform, or is there some other reason for the undue delay in introducing legislation related to the Robarts report?
Mr. Conway: He is working on Chatham.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: I expect to be bringing those matters before the House in the fullness of time.
Mr. Conway: He is too busy with Chatham. They are getting regional government in Chatham.
Mr. Warner: In the fullness of time, what a gem! Is the Treasurer now informing this House that this year’s municipal elections in Metro Toronto will be on the basis of a two-year term, the retention of the board of control and no direct election to Metro?
Hon. Mr. McKeough: Mr. Speaker, I think it would be very unwise for the member to come to those conclusions.
Mr. Van Horne: Mr. Speaker, a question of the Minister of Education. Does the requirement of HS1 and the Intermediate History Guideline 1977 that “contemporary, Canadian and world concerns” must be given, preclude a board from offering a native studies course for students of native ancestry?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I think my friend is referring to a request from the London Board of Education which they have written us about and which we are looking into, and about which we are attempting to work out some agreeable solution with them that would allow them to offer this course. I am not sure we have worked out the answer yet on that.
Mr. Van Horne: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Surely the minister is not suggesting that this possibility come to the board as an integrated part of a program rather than as a separate entity; that is, a separate native studies course.
Hon. Mr. Wells: No. All I’m suggesting is that the London board has put before us a proposition and asked for an answer. We will give it an answer and we will work out with it how this can be used.
Mrs. Campbell: In the fullness of time.
Hon. Mr. Wells: As a matter of fact, I believe I sent it a letter two or three weeks ago on that matter, of which I will be glad to send a copy to my friend.
Mr. Van Horne: Further supplementary, Mr. Speaker: My understanding is that the suggestion was that they be integrated and I am suggesting to the minister that that isn’t satisfactory to the board nor for that matter to the native citizens of our province of Ontario.
Mr. Peterson: Would you not agree?
Mr. Van Horne: Do you not agree?
Hon. Mr. Wells: I will take that under advisement.
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of the Environment about the Environment Ontario reports with regard to the Red Rock mill and the other studies that have been recently done and released. I wonder if the minister could indicate why during the course of the testing -- and if the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Rhodes) would oblige; can the Minister of the Environment hear all right? -- why insufficient samples were taken during the course of the testing last summer with regard to suspended particulate matter, with regard to the dust. Secondly, could the minister indicate whether recommendation 2-1 that two monitoring stations be put into place for continuous monitoring of hydrogen sulphide and total suspended particulate matter would be established at the Village Inn and at the Bell telephone company switching locations?
Mr. Speaker: Will hon. members please keep their conversations down, please?
Hon. Mr. McCague: Mr. Speaker, I cannot answer the first part of the question as to why more samples were not taken, but I will get that answer for the member. As far as the monitors are concerned, we have recommended them and I understand that they will be in place.
Mr. Foulds: Supplementary question, Mr. Speaker: Could the minister give us an indication at this time when the report on Marathon, Terrace Bay and Thunder Bay would be available? There are three more reports -- the reports on Marathon, Terrace Bay and Thunder Bay. I wonder if he could give us an indication when they might be available?
Mr. Wildman: Are you ever sure of anything?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Of his seat.
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. If he does not feel it is specifically within his jurisdiction he might redirect it to the Minister of Agriculture and Food.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: It’s his.
Mr. Bradley: You’re sure it’s his? The question deals with generic labelling. My understanding is that at present on food products sold in the major food chains and other stores, the weight, the name of the packager or retailer, the ingredients and the grading must be listed but there is no requirement to list the country of origin of the product inside -- for instance, the can of tomatoes or the can of apple juice. Is that correct; and if so, is the minister prepared to take action which would require them to indicate the country of origin?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Can I refer it to the Minister of Agriculture and Food?
Mrs. Campbell: Both of you answer it.
Mr. Peterson: Let Frank Drea answer.
Hon. W. Newman: Just relax. Mr. Speaker, this is a great concern that we have because when the housewife does go shopping it is confusing.
Mr. S. Smith: Some men shop too, you know.
Mr. Breaugh: You sexist.
Mr. Conway: Some have no choice.
Hon. W. Newman: In my busy political life I don’t have much time, I gather you do; that’s all right.
Mr. Makarchuk: Get out there and look at the prices, and you might be more responsive.
Hon. W. Newman: In all seriousness, it is a concern of ours because when people go shopping -- let me put it that way -- when people go shopping --
Mr. Makarchuk: They buy something, don’t they?
Hon. W. Newman: -- it is very hard for them to differentiate, sometimes, between Canadian produce or Ontario produce, whatever the case may be, and imported produce. It’s different for different labels. For fresh fruit in cans it can be different than it can for fresh vegetables in plastic bags, or tomatoes or whatever it may be.
Mr. Breaugh: Why is that, Bill?
Hon. W. Newman: What we are trying to do -- and the Leader of the Opposition might be very helpful on this -- we would like to have goods produced in Canada clearly and distinctly marked on the cans or the labels. Any imported products that are coming into Canada or into Ontario would be clearly marked so the people in this province and in this country will know what they’re buying.
Mr. S. Smith: What stops you?
Mr. Breithaupt: Are you going to do it?
Mr. Bradley: As a supplementary, is this action that is contemplated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food; and is the minister looking for the support of the opposition in that regard?
Hon. W. Newman: We’re looking for the support of all parties to talk to Ottawa to clinch this situation. That should have been done long ago.
Mr. Makarchuk: Are you saying the Liberals don’t believe in it?
Mr. Ruston: No, Joe objected to that.
Hon. W. Newman: We’re asking Ottawa.
Mr. Swart: In view of the fact that many of the Ontario farm products, perhaps the majority, do not have the logo displayed on them or above them, would it not be reasonable to have the canning companies and the other packaging companies display the logo right on the package or the can itself?
Hon. W. Newman: Quite obviously the member doesn’t understand that it does take time to change. Their labels are printed long in advance. We’ve just been into this program for about seven months. We are having discussions now with the processors and many are talking about putting the logos on their cans for sale in this province and elsewhere.
Mr. Breaugh: What about putting a logo on your can?
An hon. member: It would have to be a big one.
Hon. W. Newman: We are working towards that. It’s not that easy.
Mr. Makarchuk: Friend Bill.
Hon. W. Newman: If products are processed here and in the other provinces, it may give them some problem. But we are having ongoing discussions with them on this matter right now.
Mr. Peterson: What are you doing for Ontario oranges?
Mr. Eakins: When are you going to support Ontario wine, Bill?
E. C. ROW EXPRESSWAY
Mr. Cooke: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Transportation and Communications: Is the minister aware of the latest problem that has developed in the construction of the E. C. Row Expressway in Windsor whereby the path of the expressway goes directly through native burial grounds? If the minister is aware of the problem, what action does he plan to take to make sure that the rights of the native people are protected?
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the situation that has arisen there. It’s quite a long and detailed matter. It was first brought to the ministry’s attention, I believe sometime in 1975, that there was a possibility of a burial ground in that area. It has been investigated. We have had archeologists from the Ministry of Culture and Recreation -- and I believe a professor from the University of Windsor -- working with the other ministries and being very careful in dealing with this situation. As the hon. member knows, the ministry is in partnership with the city of Windsor in the construction of the E. C. Row and, of course, we’re working with our municipal partners as well. I think that’s about all the information I have at this moment.
A few months ago -- I believe it was in the fall -- a Bell Canada telephone line was installed and no traces were found that would indicate that the burial ground was there, and when this work was going on we had representatives of the ministry and the professor from the university actually on the site to observe. We are trying to handle it in the best way possible until we find out really whether there is a burial ground there or not.
Mr. Cooke: Supplementary: Given the fact that there were 16 skeletons found in this area 40 years ago and another found in 1967, why did the people planning this expressway -- and, in particular, people from the ministry -- not discuss this problem with native leaders in the area before? Now it is only one month before the construction of that part of the expressway is supposed to start. Why did we wait till the last minute?
Hon. Mr. Snow: I won’t argue with the information the hon. member has stated. It is news to me; to my knowledge according to my files, the first indication that the ministry had that there may have been a burial ground there was in 1975.
Mr. Bounsall: As there now appears to be a delay in the further development of that site -- and it may be quite an extensive delay, should further findings turn up the fact that it is, as suspected, a burial ground that dates from the years 900 to 1100, and therefore is fairly significant -- would the minister use the intervening time that he is likely to have in ensuring that his officials shift the location of that highway, also consider in the placement of the highway, which may now be a problem, that it be consolidated to a design with a safety division down the middle of four lanes rather than the wide median strip as at present? This would also cut down the cost of construction on that particular portion of it.
Hon. Mr. Snow: I think it would be premature to say that at this moment we would redesign that highway. The statement that the hon. member makes with regard to costs, comparing a median barrier with a median strip, is not necessarily so in most cases; it may be in some, but this matter has just come to my attention over the weekend. The contract for the actual road -- the E. C. Row -- is not imminent. There is an imminent contract for some of the service road work in preparation for the main contract, but the main E. C. Rowe contract under way at the present time is not in this location.
INCREASE IN OHIP PREMIUMS
Mr. Conway: My question is of the Minister of Health. In this House on March 10, in an exchange with my colleague the member for Quinte (Mr. O’Neill), in the matter of the Treasurer’s OHIP increase in the budget of March 7, 1978, the minister indicated that in contemplation of the shift away from premiums to perhaps an alternate scheme this kind of adjustment would be difficult. To use his words, it is because: “We would have to dismiss 625 staff from OHIP.”
Could the minister explain, and perhaps amplify on that statement, with specific reference to the 625 staff in OHIP that he identified?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I think the hon. member is both getting into estimates and into what will be before the standing committee, but suffice it to say that I would have to say now that figure is perhaps a little overestimated, although there is a very large number of staff employed by OHIP whose positions will become redundant if there were not a premium system.
Mr. Conway: Supplementary: In that same exchange the minister indicated, and I quote: “We have been working in my ministry for nine months, looking at various alternatives to a premium system, which we will be more than happy to share with the social development committee.” In a letter dated March 31, to the chairman of the social development committee, the minister appends not any internal documentation to support that intraministerial discussion which he alleged he would be very happy to share, but a rather pointless bibliography of known published material. Is the minister saying that he will not share with the social development committee any of the intra-ministerial reports and studies that relate to his very intensive discussion and analysis of alternatives to the premium system?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: As I understand the intention of the hon. member and his colleagues in referring the annual report to the standing committee and on looking at the press release which he issued at that time, it is their intention to present alternatives and, quoting from their press release, “to look for a cheaper alternative to the premium system.” We will be glad to respond to their recommendations at the committee level and share with them the problems that we see.
Mr. Conway: May I have a supplementary, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker: Does the hon. member for Grey-Bruce have a supplementary?
Mr. Sargent: No, I have a new question.
Mr. Conway: Do I understand, then, that as far as the social development committee is concerned, all we can expect from the Ministry of Health is this well-worn, well-known bibliography of published materials and that we are not going to get, as was indicated in his exchange on March 10, any of the alleged voluminous materials by way of studies and analyses of alternatives to the premium system?
Mr. S. Smith: They don’t exist. There are no such studies.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Again, it is the party opposite which has been saying it has the alternatives. We’ll be glad to answer any questions and we’ll be glad to share any figures to respond to the proposals which are going to be put forward by that party.
Mr. Sweeney: You’ve had nine months of study.
USE OF SEWAGE SLUDGE
Mr. Swart: My question is of the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Pursuant to the questions this morning to the Minister of the Environment (Mr. McCague) on the use of sewage sludge on farm land, and the report in this morning’s paper by Messrs. Seto and De Angelis that a large volume of sewage sludge is being spread on agricultural land, which does not meet the safe metal and chemical levels, I wonder if the minister could tell the House what regulations his ministry has instituted to protect the farmer and the consumers of Ontario food? Has he stopped even once the use of sewage sludge on agricultural land because it did not meet the safe level criteria?
Hon. W. Newman: I think most of those questions have been answered by the Minister of the Environment. But answering the member’s last question first, I can’t tell him whether one load has been dumped in the wrong spot or not. I’m not exactly sure. I would point out to him that properly-treated sewage sludge is an excellent source of nitrogen for growing plants.
Mr. S. Smith: We know that.
Hon. W. Newman: I’m glad you know that. There is monitoring constantly going on, both by the federal Minister of the Environment and the provincial Ministry of the Environment. The pesticide lab at Guelph is working on a regular basis to make sure that the products which are being grown on these lands where the sewage sludge is going on are safe for human consumption. I have quite a lengthy report here, which I will be glad to show the member, which I picked up this morning. It points out that they are constantly monitoring to make sure they are safe for human consumption.
Mr. Swart: Supplementary: Would the minister not agree, after the report which was submitted by Messrs. Sew and De Angelis, that the monitoring and the regulations have not been adequate when far more sewage is being used than is safe? Will the ministry now run tests on the soil, and on all sludge, and discontinue the use of any sludge which does not meet the safe level?
Hon. W. Newman: As I said, properly treated sludge is quite satisfactory on the land.
Mr. Makarchuk: The minister doesn’t answer the question.
Hon. W. Newman: Does the member know what his problem is? He wants to save it but he doesn’t want to grow things on it. In the Niagara Peninsula he wants to save all the land, but he doesn’t want to grow anything on it. He wants to stop all of that. I can assure him that we are going to continue using sludge as a good source of growing Ontario food, and don’t forget it.
Mr. Swart: But grow it safely.
Mr. Kerrio: All you do is shovel it.
Mr. Kerrio: Supplementary: Is the minister aware of the fact that in this article it suggests that research showed that unless vegetables were scrubbed and washed carefully there was some danger to the people who ingest them? Is he satisfied that those crops grown on this land are safe, and should he be giving notice that care should be taken by people who are going to eat the vegetables from those lands?
Hon. W. Newman: I think that question could be directed to the Minister of the Environment, but I would point out to the hon. member that monitoring is going on --
Mr. Kerrio: I get pages and pages of that stuff from the ministry.
Hon. W. Newman: -- at this time by the various levels of government and the various departments of government.
Mr. Kerrio: Is the minister going to tell us about it or not? He spreads it around.
Hon. W. Newman: The member can spread it too. Let me tell him we are constantly monitoring to make sure there are no human health problems.
Mr. Sargent: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Premier. I haven’t had a chance to frame it properly, but I want to ask if he is aware of what is going on in all the Escarpment areas where we are having 1,000 people crowding into halls, 500 people standing in the cold for hours, and 99 per cent of them are opposed to the NEC? In view of the fact that the whole Niagara Escarpment area in the Grey-Bruce area is in complete limbo and we cannot develop -- our economy is the worst in the province of Ontario -- would he please either come to a meeting to find out what’s going on or call off and cancel the whole Escarpment, abolish the whole thing and give us a chance to run our affairs and get back in the ball game in our part of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I can only assume that the hon. member is speaking for his party when he suggests that we abandon the Niagara Escarpment plan, including the Peninsula, including the town of Caledon, and including those many historic areas of the province of Ontario which the Escarpment planning area is attempting to preserve in the interests of the general public, and I am delighted to know that it is now Liberal policy --
An hon. member: In the interests of self-preservation of all the committees.
Hon. Mr. Davis: -- that we will have no preservation of this kind, no planning of this kind and the Niagara Escarpment --
An hon. member: What about the sunset law?
Hon. Mr. Davis: -- will be abandoned to development, pits, quarries and all of those things. Is that the policy? In answer to the hon. member’s question, I understand there is a problem, yes.
Mr. Breithaupt: That doesn’t answer the question.
Mr. S. Smith: We certainly want to save the Escarpment.
Mr. Sargent: Supplementary: The facts are that 75 per cent of the Escarpment area, $1.3 billion of land involved, is in the Grey-Bruce area and we are hurting very badly. We cannot do anything. We can’t expand. We can’t even make a subdivision or anything. There are areas where we haven’t had a subdivision since 1963 and we have to have some action. Please abolish this commission.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I will not minimize the problems the member senses exist. I understand them.
An hon. member: What are you going to do about them?
An hon. member: We have them in Caledon too.
Mr. Cunningham: Supplementary: Has the Premier come to any conclusions with regard to the cost of acquiring the lands that are presently under the control orders in the Niagara Escarpment Commission, and at what price and what level the private land owners will be compensated?
An hon. member: Now they want to nationalize the land.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I am not really sure that there has been any determination made on that particular matter. I understand it is perhaps Liberal Party policy to buy everything in sight.
Mr. Kerrio: Oh, come on.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Our commitment is to acquire those areas that will be in the public interest and, of course, any time government acquires lands in the public interest, government pays the market value.
An hon. member: Get Alan Eagleson to buy some and he will free it up.
Mr. Speaker: Would the hon. member for St. George permit the hon. member for Grey to ask a question?
Mr. McKessock: Supplementary: Will the Premier take a close look at the fact that the Niagara Escarpment Commission stepped outside the intent of the Act when it developed the planning area in the Niagara Escarpment area, and take a close look at turning some of this planning area back to the municipalities involved?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, having formerly represented a part of the Niagara Escarpment Commission area I know of the problem being mentioned by the hon. members. I question whether the commission has extended beyond its legislative authority. If the hon. member is suggesting it has, certainly I would be prepared to take a look at that.
As for the possibility of returning some of the land that is within the planning area to the local municipalities, I can’t give any commitment on that. I guess if one could assume that the local municipalities would in turn zone those lands consistent with the Niagara Escarpment Commission plan, that might he a possibility, but I question whether the hon. member would be in a position to give that commitment on behalf of those municipalities.
MACLAREN HOUSE NURSING HOME
Ms. Gigantes: A question of the Minister of Health: In answer to questions I asked him in July 1977 concerning MacLaren House Nursing Home, the Minister of Health wrote to me in late August and assured me that “a condition of the sale of MacLaren House to Mr. Bordo was that Mr. Bordo would take steps to ensure that the physical plan of MacLaren House Nursing Home was in total compliance with the Nursing Home Act, 1972, within 12 months of the date of the purchase” --
Mr. Yakabuski: Question.
Ms. Gigantes: He went on to describe how Mr. Bordo was then planning to fulfill his commitment. I wonder if the minister is now prepared, one year after the purchase, to provide a full account of what firm proposals Mr. Bordo has filed with the nursing home branch; and has Mr. Bordo received ministry approval for these proposals?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Obviously I don’t carry all those figures and facts with me. I’ll take that question as notice and give the member a complete answer.
Mr. Warner: Why not? You should.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: You’re going to get another award, Warner. Just keep it up.
“THE THREE FACES OF JESUS”
Mr. Breithaupt: A question of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations: Following the comments made in the House of Commons with respect to a film, apparently entitled “The Three Faces of Jesus,” I was wondering if the minister has requested a report on that film from his theatres branch and when he receives that report will he be able to advise the House as to whether it is the intention to have this film shown publicly in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: The answers are not yet, and yes.
Ms. Haggerty: Did you get your award, Larry?
Mr. Blundy: I have a question of the Minister of Community and Social Services. In view of the fact that it was reported in the press last week that the Minister of Community and Social Services was disturbed at the cost to his ministry of the increasing numbers of deserting fathers, what plans does the minister have to seek out and find these people and to recoup these funds?
Hon. Mr. Norton: My remarks on that occasion went beyond purely the economic costs; I was also commenting upon the social costs to our communities and societies across this province of the apparent breakdown of the family unit in our society. But certainly, with respect to the part to which the hon. member has directed his attention, it is my intention to have discussions with my colleague the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) to see if we might take steps to improve even further the enforcement of orders, where orders do exist.
I would be hopeful, of course, with the new family law reform provisions, that perhaps there would be more voluntary agreements and involvement on the part of spouses to provide for the care of the children prior to the disintegration of the family unit where that should occur, and that there would be fewer situations -- that may be unduly optimistic -- but I would hope there would be fewer situations in which the families of deserting spouses would be dependent upon the other citizens of the province.
INCREASE IN OHIP PREMIUMS
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition with 2,194 signatures. The petition is as follows:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario: We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“That the recent proposed increase in OHIP premiums is unconscionable and should not proceed, and a less regressive method of paying for Ontario’s health services he instituted.”
That was signed by 2,194 people in the Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario area.
Mr. Conway: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: I would like to beg your indulgence, sir, in respect of material that I consider to be very important for the deliberations of the social development committee, which begins hearings tomorrow.
At my request, the chairman of the committee wrote to the Minister of Health some days ago asking for material which we believed to be important in the discussion of what the ministry and the government had considered as alternatives to the premium mechanism in so far as the financing of Ontario’s health care system is concerned. In this House on March 10, the minister clearly indicated they had been working for nine months and one got the distinct impression that there were at least a number of studies that had been commissioned, either by the Ministry of Health or by the Treasury, or perhaps by both ministries in conjunction.
Today we have before us, supplied from the office of the chairman of that committee, a response from the Ministry of Health which is clearly indicative that there will be no such ministerial material coming forward for members of that committee who begin very important deliberations, I think, tomorrow. I wonder, can we accept this letter dated March 31 to the chairman of that committee from the Minister of Health as an admission that in fact the nine months of studies and analyses, and whatever, produced nothing more than this bibliography of known publications, and that because we have nothing more than this bibliography there is in fact nothing more within the government -- either in his ministry or that of the Treasurer -- to supply to the members of that committee for those deliberations?
The point of privilege is simply this: We were led to believe by the Minister of Health that there had been a very serious nine-month discussion and analysis period within the government in looking at alternatives. I expected to be in receipt today, or at the latest tonight, of those ministerial or intergovernmental reports, analyses or whatever. Twenty-four hours or 22 hours before the committee meets, I have, courtesy of the chairman of that committee, nothing more than a bibliography which I dare say even I could have put together.
Mr. Speaker, I want to know, through you, if there will be no further material coming in addition to that bibliography; and if not, does that indicate that in fact the government, through the Minister of Health and/or the Treasurer, is not willing to share with members of that committee any other material? Is this an admission that while there may have been a nine-month discussion period within the ministry, there is nothing concrete, there are no studies and there are no analyses of the alternatives which the government, through the Minister of Health, can provide members of the social development committee for their very important deliberations beginning tomorrow?
Mr. Martel: You should do better than that, fellas.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, in considering the point of privilege raised by the hon. member, I ask you to consider several things. First of all, in the letter dated March 16, 1978, from the chairman of the committee to me, the way I interpreted it, I believe the letter of March 31, 1978, was in fact answering that which had been requested by the hon. member for Huron-Bruce (Mr. Gaunt).
Second, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to consider the petition of the members of the official opposition and the press release which accompanied -- or at least announced that petition to the public. It was clear from that, and the pronouncements of the members of that party since, that they intend to put forward certain alternatives and to argue for them.
Mr. S. Smith: You don’t have any studies, admit it.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Third, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to consider that during question period today I did make it clear that we would be glad to answer any questions and to provide any numbers or any facts with respect to any of those alternatives which the official opposition are going to advance. They will have our complete co-operation.
Mr. Conway: To that point, Mr. Speaker, if I might, I can well appreciate the points which the Minister of Health on behalf of the government adds to your deliberation of this point before us now. I just want to have you also consider the remarks made by the Minister of Health, remarks which we, or I at least, considered -- rightly or wrongly -- when he said on March 10 that “we have been working in my ministry for nine months looking at various alternatives to a premium system and we will be more than happy to share these with the social development committee.”
Mr. McClellan: This is out of order. Let’s get on with the debate.
Mr. Conway: Mr. Speaker, I beg you to consider when you are making this ruling, or giving the advice that is being sought, to indicate whether or not --
Mr. McClellan: Abuse of privilege.
Mr. Conway: -- this very minor bibliography is in fact a substantial enough response to what we were led to believe by the ministry was a substantial amount of material --
Ms. Gigantes: What is going on? Sit down.
Mr. Conway: -- in so far as alternatives and their discussion were concerned.
Mr. Cassidy: Boy, you are really floundering.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: On the point of privilege --
Mr. Speaker: Order, order. The hon. member for Renfrew North arose on a point of privilege and I gave the hon. minister an opportunity to respond. I was in error in allowing the hon. member for Renfrew North to speak again to his same point of privilege, and of course I’m not going to perpetuate the felony by allowing a dialogue across the House.
All members of the House know that if you have what you consider to be a point of privilege inasmuch as something is not going to be provided in a committee of this House, it is the responsibility of that committee to take whatever action it deems necessary, and if they can’t settle it to bring it back to the House for some action by the House as a result of a concerted effort by that committee; and that is where it rests at the present time.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
PREDATOR CONTROL ACT
Mr. Riddell moved first reading of Bill 54, an Act respecting Predator Control in Ontario.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to authorize the establishment of local predator control committees throughout Ontario to develop methods and procedures to protect livestock and poultry from destruction by predators. A committee is established for each predator control area designated by the minister, and the committee within one year of its establishment must prepare a predator control plan for approval by the minister. The bill requires every predator control committee to regularly review the predator control plan, and to report to the minister on an annual basis concerning whether the plan has been effective in reducing the level of predator activity.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Dukszta moved first reading of Bill 55, an Act to amend the Education Act, 1974.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Dukszta: The purpose of the bill is to provide for heritage language instruction in Ontario. The bill sets forth the procedure for the establishment of heritage language programs in order that the heritage language may be taught as a subject of instruction or as a language of instruction. When a school board decides to institute a heritage language program the bill requires that a local heritage language advisory committee be established to provide continuing advice to the boards concerning the nature and content of the heritage language program. In the case of a dispute between the board and the advisory committee, the bill provides that the matter in dispute may be referred to the minister for determination.
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, a point of order -- just a point of clarification: The Premier in his statement on the Hartt royal commission indicated he was tabling the report. I did not notice during reports that it was tabled. Could you inform me if he tabled it during the course of making the statement?
Mr. Speaker: I am advised that under the new provisional orders they are just sent to the table.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INCREASE IN OHIP PREMIUMS
Mr. Cassidy moved resolution 5:
That this House condemns the government’s outrageous decision to raise Ontario Health Insurance Plan premiums to the highest level in Canada; deplores the regressive impact of this arbitrary tax increase on wage earners in general, on farmers and small business, and in particular, on people of modest income; and condemns the government’s affront to the fundamental parliamentary principle of no taxation without legislation. For all these reasons this House no longer has confidence in the government.
Mr. Cassidy: I will not be speaking on this until later in the debate.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party has placed this motion of no-confidence in the government because of the Treasurer’s (Mr. McKeough) budget proposals to increase OHIP fees as a means of increasing government revenues.
We are opposed to this kind of fiscal gerrymandering because it violates a number of specific principles which we believe to be crucial in an equitable society.
The imposition of medicare premiums is in itself fundamentally wrong. The imposition of premiums of this level, $528 a year, is simply grotesque and cannot be justified. This party stands firm in its opposition to this increase. We had hoped -- and still do as a matter of fact -- that the Liberal Party would support us in this motion. If, in the first instance, the Liberals had indicated theft support for Our motion there is little doubt but that the government would have withdrawn the OHIP increase.
The regressive reality of OHIP premiums is not something that can be eliminated with premium assistance any more than property tax credits can make property taxes progressive or any more than sales tax credits can make the sales tax a progressive form of taxation.
The examination of just a few statistics is sufficient to demonstrate why we simply cannot accept this increase in premiums and why the government should withdraw the increase. We are not rejecting this increase, nor have we moved no-confidence in this government, simply because we are in opposition. We have done so because it is possible to generate revenues more equitably if the Treasurer is determined to raise an additional $271 million. If the Treasurer were to insist on increasing that amount of money he could do it through personal provincial income taxes and corporation taxes in the same proportion as the present tax system, 75 per cent personal and 25 per cent corporate taxes. We can show that most families will be better off if this were the system, and it would be less regressive than it is at the present time.
We know that to raise this amount of income would require a 2.78 per cent increase in personal income tax rates. The provincial rate now rests at 44 per cent of the federal tax payable, and the increase would raise it to 46.78 per cent.
This would represent a 7.4 per cent increase in the level of provincial income tax paid by Ontario residents. If this was done, sufficient revenues would be generated to negate the necessity of this $271 million tax increase that is suggested by the Treasurer.
Corporation taxes would need to rise less than one point to raise theft share of about $68 million. If this was done, all families with incomes below $28,000 would be better off than they are at the present time, or would be with this increase. Individuals with incomes below $16,000 a year would be better off than with the projected increases as suggested by the Treasurer along with the OHIP premiums.
As a matter of fact, all OHIP premiums could be eliminated with an 11.5 per cent increase in the tax rate from 44 to 55.5 per cent. Even with that substantial increase in the personal income tax rate at the provincial level, families with incomes below $26,000 would be better off, and in fact would pay less taxes than they do now with the combination of personal taxes and OHIP premiums. Individuals with incomes below $15,000 would pay less as well under that system.
We find it strange indeed that the Treasurer boasts of Ontario’s personal income tax level of 44 per cent as being the second lowest in all of Canada while at the same time he increases a more regressive tax to a level more than twice as high as any other province in this country. As a matter of fact, Ontario’s OHIP premiums, combined with its income tax rate, gives Ontario residents by far the highest level of personal taxes in all of Canada.
There is a danger that in the heat of this battle over OHIP premiums we may overlook what is just as important as the regressive nature of the tax increase. We may lose sight of the original goals of a universal health care system for our people. We must fight very hard to ensure that these goals are not forgotten.
The founding convention of this party back in 1933 adopted a policy of a socialized health delivery system. As a matter of fact, at that convention the policy drew a parallel between health care and education, which I think is appropriate. Surely we in this chamber would agree that just as for 13 years of elementary and secondary school education there is no premium, or deterrent or tuition fee at all, the same principle should apply to health care as is applicable in our educational system.
There is no question in our minds that the premium of $528 a year will cause some families simply not to pay the premium, for economic reasons they’ll take theft chances on remaining healthy. I suspect this will be particularly so with young people, who are by nature healthy anyway, and they will quite successfully refrain from paying premiums and from contributing to the plan. That’s a problem because we know that, as in any insurance program, it requires that the people who will never draw from it contribute so that those people who will draw from it most heavily will be able to receive the benefits to which they’re entitled.
The provision of health care to people is a noble undertaking. It provides both economic and social benefits to our province and its people. The federal royal commission on health services back in 1964 put it most eloquently, and I’d like to quote from that report:
“We have spoken of the opportunity society, where good health is the key to the benefits available in our increasingly wealthy country. These opportunities depend on the acquisition of education and skills as well as health, but if these are available to the individual Canadian, whether or not he has the income to purchase them, then he can make his contribution to the growth of output and income, which will benefit not only himself, but through his taxes, others in the community. Canadians with sufficiently high incomes have pointed the way by spending an increasing share of their income on health services. Low incomes and poor health have been too closely associated for us to ignore the adverse effects on income distribution of chronic illness and disability. Expenditures on good health may well be as efficient a device for equalizing the distribution of income as any subsidy can possibly be.”
That’s a comment that the Treasurer should read sometime. In this province we now have a Treasurer and a Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell) who are willing to undermine the principles of universal coverage and accessibility. The Treasurer does it by punitive premiums and our Minister of Health by carrying on negotiations with Ontario’s medical profession and illegitimate concessions he has already telegraphed to the Ontario Medical Association.
Of course, the principle of no taxation without legislation is yet another principle that the Treasurer has violated. My colleague from Scarborough-Ellesmere has documented eloquently and exhaustively the precedent for regarding these premiums as taxation. From the Magna Carta to the BNA Act, for 700 years, people have fought against arbitrary assessments such as this, and yet this government has acquiesced while the Treasurer, as a result of the fiscal myopia with which he is afflicted, pursues his single-minded goal of a balanced budget by 1981.
We in this party are proud of the role we have played in the development of universal health care coverage in Canada and in Ontario. The former Premier of Saskatchewan and federal leader, T. C. Douglas, pioneered in providing medicare. In Ontario, our party in 1969 voted against the medicare bill, and our first two reasons in that amendment were, and I quote:
“1. It fails to guarantee an immediate reduction of premiums, thereby continuing a regressive form of payment at unnecessarily high levels without meaningful regard for the patient’s ability to pay;
“2. It fails to prohibit extra billing by participating doctors, thereby supporting a deterrent to use which runs contrary to the principle of equal access to medical care services for everyone in Ontario.”
Here we are nine years later, standing as we did then against those who talk of equity but practise regressivity. They failed to raise revenues through the most equitable form of taxation available to them -- progressive income and corporation taxes. How can we as legislators justify a system of medicare that increases premiums by 37.5 per cent and then, if the OMA gets its way, will allow doctors to increase their schedule of fees, with OHIP paying a smaller percentage of the OMA fee schedule?
While this debate is centred on the OHIP increases, our motion of no-confidence takes on an even greater significance with the current negotiations between the Ministry of Health and the province’s doctors. I am appalled and disheartened that we have not been joined by the Liberal Party in this fight. Together we could have had the increase in premiums withdrawn. Sending this matter to a standing committee may result in a compromise but it most certainly will not cause the increase to be rescinded, and that is our goal.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, the Ontario health care system is the only universal service provided by the province to all of its citizens throughout their lives. This is a responsibility of extraordinary proportions. Of course, no individual or group, or even one government, can claim total credit for the health care system now in place. It is the result of the dedicated work of many people over a long period of time. I caution the hon. members in opposition that today they can do this service, and the people who rely on it, irreparable harm.
If I may, I would like to put a human dimension on the health care system as we have it today in this province. In just one generation we have seen the transition of health care from that of a solely individual responsibility, with the accompanying spectre of financial disaster or inadequate treatment, to that of a wider social responsibility accepted by the government.
High-quality health care services have come to be considered a fundamental right of all citizens -- a right predicated on medical necessity regardless of personal financial circumstances.
Ms. Gigantes: You have to pay your premiums, though, don’t you?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: We, in this government, wholeheartedly support that right and have worked with all the resources at our disposal to develop and refine the health care system.
We sometimes forget, or take for granted, the developments in health care that have taken place in the past 20 years. Let me briefly refresh the members’ memories, for the government’s record in this area is one of consistent progress.
In 1959, insured benefits covered only full in-patient hospital services, emergency outpatient services Within 24 hours of an accident and some out-of-province benefits. But through the years this government has steadily increased the number of insured services.
By 1964, emergency out-patient services had been expanded to include treatment such as radio-therapy and occupational and speech therapy.
In 1966, health insurance was expanded from a hospital-based service to include all physician services; and in 1969, universal medicare, through the OHSIP plan, was introduced.
In 1972, both plans were fully integrated into a single plan, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. At that time the premiums were reduced from what they had been under the two separate plans.
At this time, benefits were extended under the extended care programs to include patient residents in nursing homes and homes for the aged who were in need of at least one and a half hours of nursing or personal care per day. And in 1974 the drug benefit program was introduced to provide quality prescription drugs to eligible Ontario residents.
These are simply some of the highlights of the health care system as we know it today. As I look back on these accomplishments, I believe none of the members opposite can question the accessibility or the quality of health care in this province. I believe the hon. members must acknowledge that the Ontario health care system is indeed among the finest systems of its kind in North America.
But today we face new challenges in health care. We are engaged in the process of reshaping the system to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the people of Ontario. We are placing increasing emphasis on developments which will ensure that even better ways of delivering care are available to all citizens; that the system remains responsive to all citizens: that it continues to foster scientific and technological progress; and, finally, that it is managed and operated in the most effective manner so the cost of health care can be contained.
In reviewing the motion of the NDP, it must become apparent that their concern is with the short-term financing of health care. We, as the government, have a broader responsibility than that and cannot afford the luxury of a short-term partisan outlook.
Mr. Martel: Look at the 1969 debate. We said the same thing then.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The NDP has conveniently ignored the greater ongoing challenge of how the people of this province -- and I do mean all the people -- are to be served with accessible, efficient and high-quality health care within the responsible economic and financial parameters to which this government is committed.
This is not a problem faced by Ontario alone. The cost of health care has been rising dramatically throughout the western world. In the past two decades, both in terms of total annual health expenditures and per capita annual health costs, the rate of increase has exceeded the rate of growth of the gross national product -- no matter how fast the GNP itself has risen.
In fact, a recent international comparison has shown that in most similar jurisdictions, no matter how fast the economy has grown, health care costs have increased even faster.
In Ontario, as might be expected, we have had our share of cost increases. Overall, the Ministry of Health budget between 1968-69 and 1978-79 has grown by over 345 per cent, despite some transfer of certain services out of our ministry to other ministries. Much of this increase, however, is accounted for by additional services provided, such as medical and other practitioner services of the OHIP program, the extended care program and the drug benefit program, which I’ve already mentioned.
Today, out of every dollar which the government spends in the province, 28 cents is committed to the provision of health services. We see throughout the western world, the pattern of rising expectations and rising costs of health care, a pattern that often exceeds the growth of the economy. Yet our performance in this regard in Ontario can be a matter of pride.
Between 1970 and 1975, the growth in health-care costs exceeded the growth in the gross provincial product by 11 percentage points, but between 1975 and 1977, the GNP has increased by 29 per cent while health-care costs have increased by only 27 per cent. This is a positive result of the full acceptance of our financial responsibility for the development, the direction and the administration of these services.
I would like to remind this House that it is in the context that the NDP has introduced its motion -- a motion, as I have pointed out, that is concerned only with the short-term and which ignores the realities under which we must live today.
There are those who will ask the question as to whether health care has assumed unwarranted proportions as a priority for provincial spending, considering the other demands on the provincial budget. To them, I would reply “No.” I believe that the vast majority of the people of Ontario would agree with me. There is no question in my mind that health care is one of the most, if not the most, valued of all provincial services.
We must recognize that to maintain the health care system which the people of Ontario expect and deserve, we must deal rationally with the question of costs. Even in the area of simply stabilizing costs, there are those who hold the view that this will inevitably lead to the lowering of health care standards. In this respect, the Ontario Economic Council, in its report Issues and Alternatives published in 1976, cautions that this is an area that must be carefully studied because no easy assumptions can be made. Our experience leads us to agree with this proposition.
When we consider the necessary services the system requires, and the people’s demand for high quality for health care, we find it undesirable to cut back arbitrarily on either the health care services or their quality. We are, however, committed to the containment of costs without jeopardizing the system, and this commitment has engaged much of my time since I became Minister of Health.
Our philosophy in this regard is to seek a balanced system of health care and our focus is on those institutions in which efficiencies and dollar savings can be realized while still having due regard with human and humane factors of the health care system. We are using many methods, including making more efficient use of our resources, amalgamating services, changing staffing patterns and introducing other cost-saving measures such as increased emphasis on day surgery.
If I may, I will elaborate on only a few of these.
We are continuing to work with hospitals to find acceptable ways of reducing the average length of stay of their patients. In fact, the average length of stay in an active-treatment bed has fallen from 10.3 days in 1969 to 8.1 days in 1976. The significance of this becomes apparent when we realize that the average cost of a standard ward hospital bed in 1976 was $129 per day, while the per diem cost for nursing-home accommodation was $21 and the per diem cost for home care was only $11. These figures serve to illustrate the importance of the thrust in the health care system towards de-institutionalization.
This approach has been particularly successful in the psychiatric hospital area where, in the past 10 years, the number of hospital patients has been reduced from about 10,000 in 1967 to 4,300 in 1977, as care has been shifted to the community level. This has been achieved through such initiatives as the homes for special care program and increased emphasis on the community mental health program. These programs have provided benefits, not only in terms of the economy, but also in terms of the patient’s well-being.
I believe it is also appropriate to point out in this context of financial restraint, that while the cost of health services has more than doubled in the past five years, the ministry has accomplished its tasks with a staff reduction of 1,600 in the past four years. As well, administrative costs of the 011W program are now about five per cent against a claim factor of almost $1 billion. This is significantly lower than the American average of 6.75 per cent. A further comparison is with the administrative costs of the Blue Cross program in New York State, which has a claim factor roughly equivalent to that of our province. Their costs average 7.5 per cent.
It may be worthwhile, however, to refresh the hon. members’ memories as to just how large this OHIP operation really is. Virtually all of the 8.4 million Ontario residents are insured under OHIP. Last year 53 million claims were processed, which represents an increase of 60 per cent over five years ago. This represents 250,000 claims every working day, an average of over six claims per person per year as compared to four per person per year in 1972.
Under these circumstances, we believe we are doing a remarkably good job of holding our administrative costs under control -- the result, I suggest, of effective management practices based on sound business principles, principles and practices which I have no doubt are foreign to certain opposition members.
I would like to turn for a few minutes to the premium structure for OHIP. With the introduction of the Ontario Health Services Insurance Plan in 1969, it was the established philosophy of this government that premiums would cover a certain percentage of the cost of this service and that this ratio of premiums to cost would be maintained. The general expectation was that this percentage would be about 33 per cent.
Some hon. members will remember that at about the same time the federal government indicated that it would reimburse the provinces for an average of 50 per cent of the program costs. It was stipulated that the provincial plan must meet five main requirements, namely, that coverage must be universal; it must provide accessibility of services; it must be portable between the provinces, it must be administered by a public authority; and it must insure all medically required services rendered by a physician.
Even though the Ontario plan met all of these criteria, under the federal equalization formula of calculating provincial payments to a national average, this province was never to receive the full 50 per cent reimbursement. There has always been a shortfall in that area.
Throughout this period, this government has kept premiums down. By 1977-78, premium revenue represented only 22 per cent of the total cost of health services.
Mr. Cassidy: They rose by 45 per cent two years ago.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: In the budget for fiscal 1978-79, the increase in premiums brought the revenue figure up to 28.4 per cent of the total cost of health services, still below the originally expected 33 per cent. I might digress here to explain that the figures I am using, 28.4 per cent, refer to the premium revenue in relation to the total budget of the Ministry of Health. A figure of 34 per cent has been set out in the new budget statement, but it excludes several significant health care costs, such as those for psychiatric hospitals, the drug benefit program and public health.
Despite the motion of the NDP, the point is that whatever perspective one puts on the matter, premiums still cover only 28.4 per cent of the total ministry budget. It is imperative that these costs be financed responsibly. The government has studied the alternatives through a number of advisory committees that have reported their conclusions on the increasing costs of health care. These include the special program review report, better known as the Henderson report, and that of the joint advisory committee, the Taylor report, released earlier this year.
Mr. Laughren: We know. Self-serving documents.
Mr. Cassidy: It is the gospel for the Tories.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The consensus was that to finance the growing cost of health care, a premium increase was the most sensible and responsible way. The joint committee’s first recommendation was this: “The amount of revenue generated by premiums has declined from 32 per cent of total health care expenditures in 1971-72 to 22 per cent in 1977-78, with the last premium increase in 1976. The committee felt that since premium increases generate considerable additional revenue while not increasing administrative costs, coupled with the awareness of the cost of health care that is generated by this kind of personal system involvement, that this is a useful way of containing public health care expenditures.”
To carry on with a further quote: “Although most provinces have waived the premiums entirely, the committee felt that in line with its commitment through some direct fiscal involvement by the user in health care costs, premiums should not only be retained but should reflect overall health care costs. The committee also noted that although 75 per cent of total premium revenue is paid by employers, the employer contribution is negotiated with the employee and is an expense for taxation purposes, while the employee pays income tax on this taxable benefit.”
Mr. Laughren: It is a taxation and the minister knows it. It is plain and simple Tory taxation.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The exact recommendation of the joint committee is as follows: “That OHIP premium amounts be reviewed on an annual basis in order to maintain the revenue accruing from total premiums that would approximate 33 per cent of total insured health services costs.”
The Henderson report commented as follows: “Few users of Ontario health services realize that if all costs were paid directly out of pocket, the annual rate premium required from current contributors to finance the province’s expenditures in 1975-76 would be $1,300 per family and $660 per single person.” I point out that under similar circumstances, the premiums required for 1978-79 would be $1,834 per family and $917 per single person.
In addition to these reports, we have studied other methods of curtailing costs -- some very drastic -- including specific service reductions; deferring expansion of chronic care programs; elimination of some research components; the elimination of elective out-of-Canada benefits; and, as members are well aware, the closing of some hospitals or whole wings of hospitals.
Mr. Cassidy: So people are paying more money for less health.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I emphasize considered -- I did not say accepted. As well there were other considerations, such as a deterrent fee related to OHIP and the introduction of a co-payment within the drug benefit program, to mention just a few.
All of these alternatives were rejected as inappropriate at this time.
Even though we have undertaken a very responsible approach to financing the OHIP program, we do not find satisfaction in making changes to the basic premium. However, it should be restated, for it obviously is lost on some, that when all is said and done there is no such thing as free health services, just as there is no free ride for anything else undertaken by the public sector.
Mr. Laughren: What a silly statement to make. Put up a straw man and then knock him down. A really good debating point, Dennis.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: If we were to live in a world of fantasy, I suppose we could dream about never increasing premiums despite ever-increasing costs; but as a responsible government, we do not have an opportunity to live in such an Mice-in-Wonderland atmosphere. The real world offers no such escape.
Mr. Cassidy: Somewhere back with Adam Smith. There is an escape for your gang, and it is at the ballot box.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: While there has been an increase in premiums we should also keep in mind that provision has been made to increase the income ceilings for those whose income makes them eligible for full or partial premium assistance.
Mr. Laughren: Any more straw men, Dennis?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: This seems to have been overlooked -- or ignored -- in the general debate over the basic increase. As an example, under the enriched premium subsidy program free coverage will now be available to single people with a taxable income of $2,500 or less -- an upward change of 49 per cent. For families, the upward change is 50 per cent, to $3,000 or less. Subsidies of 50 per cent will be available for single people with taxable incomes between $2,500 and $3,000; and families with taxable incomes between $3,000 and $4,000. The subsidies currently apply to single people with taxable incomes between $1,680 and $2,000 and to families between $2,000 and $3,000.
Therefore, while we have made an adjustment in premiums, we have also tempered the effect of this adjustment on a large proportion of the population. All told, about 1.9 million people, or almost one out of every four Ontarians, including those 65 years of age and over and those receiving social assistance, now receive full or partial subsidization.
I ask whether these 1.9 million Ontario citizens believe, and I quote from the motion before this House, “that this government’s action is an outrageous decision that should be condemned.” I think the answer to that is obviously “No.”
Another question which I believe the opposition parties, especially the NDP, will have to answer is this: Instead of the premium increase health costs being funded out of general revenue, how do they propose raising the additional $271 million required? By enlarging the provincial debt? By borrowing more and further mortgaging the future, or what? The public will want to know this, and they deserve to be told.
In fact, we are still waiting to be told how the opposition parties would pay for some of the recent proposals they have made regarding the provision of expanded services. If these proposals to expand OHIP to include dental coverage, to include the provision of prosthetic and orthodontic devices, and to expand chronic home care immediately throughout the province were implemented, our estimate is that they would cost at least an additional $390 million per year.
It appears abundantly obvious that it is very easy to make proposals without having to accept the responsibility of making them work.
Mr. Cassidy: Who writes these speeches for you? Tell him to retire.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: We have one of the most comprehensive health care systems on this continent at a direct cost to about three-quarters of the population of an individual annual rate of $264 and a family rate of $528.
Mr. Cassidy: It is the highest in Canada.
Mr. Makarchuk: The most expensive in Canada.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: In only a few short years, we have initiated dramatic changes in the duties of government in the health care area to its citizens. These changes have developed an increased and still-increasing expectation of a very highly sophisticated health service.
Mr. Laughren: You’re the oldest Tory over there.
Mr. Cassidy: The youngest reactionary.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: We are taking new initiatives in the areas of operating efficiencies, cost control and manpower control. We are implementing our commitment to de-institutionalization and to community involvement in both health care and decision-making. We are dealing with the problem of over-utilization of the system. At the same time, we are evaluating the need for new and expanded programs. There is much to be done because we direct and operate a health care system in a state of constant transition. Change and improvement are not only possible but necessary.
In two respects alone -- those of lower infant mortality and increasing life expectancy -- we may expect increasing demands on the health care system. This, coupled with the fact that we face a declining birth rate and an aging population, will change the emphasis of our health care needs in the future. Our response to these and other changes, such as the inevitable ones in technology, must be planned and in place.
The second factor under which we must operate is the changed economic climate, as well as the program of restraint on all expenditures in the public sector. We will have to continue to watch our expenditure patterns even if the economy should move out of its present difficulties --
Mr. Laughren: You’ve ruined the economy, now clobber the public sector. You’re pretty good at setting up straw men.
Mr. Cassidy: How many people have you put out of work this week?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- because costs are unlikely to decrease and demands on services are likely to increase. In this respect, one of our initiatives is to persuade the public to accept more responsibility for the maintenance of their own health, and for controlling their use and their demands on the health care system.
Earlier I spoke of the increased emphasis on ambulatory and community-based health care.
Mr. Laughren: Why did you let the Treasurer do this to you? Why do you let the Treasurer run roughshod over you?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: In the future I see this process continuing not only as an important area in which to control costs --
Mr. Laughren: It’s the truth, isn’t it Darcy?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- but as a practical and desirable way of bringing health care even closer to the people.
Mr. Laughren: Why does the Treasurer always get his way?
Mr. Makarchuk: That was the laying on of hands, no doubt.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: We may anticipate that the process of transition will continue, but none of this can he accomplished by an instant clean-sweep approach or simply by ad hoc change. We deal, in this process of transition, with the human element, both in suppliers and users of the system, and the impact of ill-considered or ill-timed change can have far-reaching consequences.
Mr. Cassidy: That’s right -- like premium increases. Your premium increases are ill-timed. That was ill-considered.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Changes in this context will require a great deal of sensitivity and, perhaps most of all, of common sense -- a commodity which we have traditionally found sadly lacking among so many members opposite.
Speaking of common sense, I would like to suggest that the hon. members set aside the extravagant rhetoric of the NDP motion before the House and consider soberly the brief review which I have given of the services and responsibilities and value to the people of Ontario --
Mr. Laughren: You’re the one who’s dogmatic and doctrinaire.
Mr. Warner: Next time you stick your head in the sand you should open your mouth.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- of the health care system as it exists and as it functions today. We, as a responsible government, have considered many alternatives, both in operation and funding. We are dedicated to ensuring that all participants of the system -- patients, taxpayers, and health practitioners -- are contributing and receiving fairly. We will continue to give the people of this province the best possible health care program that available resources permit, a system that will provide both quality and accessibility to all citizens of Ontario.
Mr. Speaker, I say with the utmost of conviction that it would be both prudent and sensible for this Legislature to reject the motion before it. I add only that I am looking forward to the upcoming meetings of the standing committee on social development. It is high time that the people of this province received an opportunity to scrutinize fully the bombastic propositions of the opposition. It is high time that people received an opportunity to analyze the sound and the fury which has been emanating from the members opposite. It is time to see if there is substance behind their rhetoric or if it is, as I suspect --
Mr. Warner: We should have had time to debate the tax.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: -- mere posturing, void of any practical policy suggestion.
Mr. Warner: Nonsense.
An hon. member: You’ll see, you pompous jerk.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Renfrew North.
Mr. Warner: Here comes the apology.
Mr. Conway: I am pleased to participate in the debate this afternoon, having had somewhat of an opportunity last Thursday night to join with my colleague from Scarborough-Ellesmere in a related debate. I took time this afternoon to read very carefully what it was we were here to debate and I want to say at the outset that the hon. member for Ottawa Centre has before us a resolution which has a certain measure of appeal.
Mr. Cassidy: But.
Mr. Laughren: Here comes the apology.
Mr. Warner: The government apology.
Mr. Conway: We’ll leave the “buts” till a little later, because there are certain political problems I would invite the hon. member for Ottawa Centre to consider a little later on.
Mr. Lawlor: Like requiring the government to withdraw them.
Mr. Warner: This is Darcy’s brother.
Mr. Conway: Although not wanting to be too mean and nasty, because in a sense what we’re here to discuss is something that just might give us an election, I know the Treasurer will share with me --
Mr. Laughren: Withdraw the increase.
Mr. Conway: -- a certain sardonic interest in a column that appeared today in the Toronto Sun, which in part relates to an item which gave us the last election, specifically the item of rent control, and how the columnist for the Toronto Sun came upon a certain internal memo that was in part authored by the member for Ottawa Centre indicating just how it was that that party might posture, if I could be allowed to use so bold a term, to perhaps produce an election.
Mr. Cassidy: Don’t lecture us about posturing.
Mr. Conway: I have to say, in all fairness, that for all my political sins I don’t think I have ever circularized my caucus with the kind of cynical posturing that is reported on behalf of the member for Ottawa Centre with respect to the item which gave us the last election.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Go get ‘em.
Mr. Conway: For those who would have the world believe that they are truly holier than the rest, coming from the Ottawa Valley, I have watched with great interest the performance of my friend from Ottawa Centre. I have to think that what is reported in the column this morning by Claire Hoy in the Toronto Sun, which among other things alleges --
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Let’s hear it. Put it on the record.
Mr. Conway: -- for the interest of the member for Kenora, in a debate that gave us the last election, which there is no mistaking is what we are talking about here today, in the matter of rent control that hon. member who today moves this motion of no confidence, just speaking about the politics of it all and nothing about the substantive issue, to which I will quickly get --
Mr. Laughren: You are being sanctimonious; don’t be sanctimonious.
Mr. Conway: -- he is alleged to have said in that memo about rent control: “If the Tories eventually agree, as is likely, we then still” -- the NDP -- “win credit. If the Tories don’t agree, then we stand alone as the party which works for tenants. If we can make the Liberals make a clear anti-tenant vote along the way, so much the better.”
Mr. Cassidy: That is where your instincts are. You are pulling the province out of rent review.
Mr. Conway: I didn’t see the memo and happily I didn’t author the memo. But I think in its own quiet little way it speaks to the posturing capacity, not only of the NDP but of its lately arrived leader. Maybe, just maybe, it is a footnote worth considering in so far as supporting this call for an election is concerned.
Mr. Warner: He doesn’t know who the enemy is.
Mr. Conway: I may as well say now for the benefit of the hon. member for Ottawa Centre, let’s suppose I was convinced by the power of his oratory and the force of his logic to join with him in this --
Mr. Laughren: They would withdraw the increase and the member knows it.
Mr. Conway: I don’t profess to be a Senator Forsey but I want to speak for a moment, for the member for Nickel Belt’s consideration, just to the politics of it. I don’t profess to know much about the politics of it but I was wondering what the import of voting with the member for Ottawa Centre and his happy band in this respect would give us.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: They are not very happy.
Mr. Cassidy: It is a very happy band.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: They are the sourest bunch you have ever seen.
Mr. Conway: That is a very well-made point because it leads to what I want to say.
Mr. Laughren: Who is the enemy?
Mr. Conway: I have no assurance that Her Honour would necessarily dissolve the 31st Parliament of Ontario without taking into consideration two constitutional precedents which I would have some knowledge of.
Mr. Laughren: They would withdraw the increase.
Mr. Conway: These might suggest that we in the opposition -- no doubt the official opposition -- might be called upon to form a ministry. But, as the Treasurer knows, that might be difficult without the accommodation of my friend from Ottawa Centre.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Don’t hold your breath.
Mr. Nixon: Maybe next week.
Mr. Conway: I must as a private member say that while I do agree with the hon. member for Ottawa Centre’s assertions that while this policy of OHIP premium increases is an outrageous act by an outrageous ministry and is repugnant to me --
Mr. Warner: What are you going to do about it?
Mr. Conway: -- there is on the horizon only one other thing that is for me more repugnant. It is the thought, however remote and however theoretical --
Mr. Cooke: Of your leader being the Premier.
Mr. Conway: -- of being forced into some kind of short-term government with the hon. member for Ottawa Centre.
Mr. Laughren: It would be long-term.
Mr. Conway: I have to say that that is no more attractive and certainly much less attractive than the very serious matter which is before us here today.
Mr. Laughren: Who does the Liberal Party regard as the enemy in this place?
Mr. Conway: I realize that there is a certain hypothetical quality to that. Her Honour might very properly decide that there was an inherent impossibility about the union of the virtue of the Grits with the posturing insignificance of the socialists, thereby rendering impossible any such ministerial accommodation, but I do not know what Her Honour might consider if, on this day in early April, 10 months into this Parliament or following upon the last election, she necessarily felt that way.
I must say at the outset that I simply cannot support at this time a consideration that would bring about the potential dissolution of this Parliament.
Mr. Nixon: The colour is returning to the cheeks of the Treasurer.
Mr. Warner: You won’t vote against the OHIP premiums!
Mr. Conway: There is nothing which frustrates my ambition -- and it’s a very moderate ambition -- for the general health and welfare of this Ontario community --
Mr. Warner: You haven’t the strength of a jelly bean.
Mr. Conway: -- more than the thought of being forced to sit for however brief a period of time on the Treasury benches with my colleague from Ottawa Centre, who is alleged in this morning’s press to be capable of what I think to be the rankest of rank cynicism.
Now to the matter at hand in so far as the policy is concerned.
Mr. Warner: I knew you would get around to that sooner or later.
Mr. Breaugh: It’s about time.
Mr. Conway: I am happy to see the Treasurer is here, particularly --
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Policy? Did you say policy?
Mr. Conway: The member for Kenora, who is the Minister of Northern Affairs, says -- and I don’t fault him at all, knowing his expertness in the political strategies afoot --
Mr. Nixon: He’s got a Moosonee tan.
Mr. Conway: Yes, it certainly is that.
The member for Kenora says that he, like the Minister of Health and, no doubt, the Treasurer, is here to find out what the responsible opposition has to say and to offer. I will say, for the edification of the Minister of Northern Affairs and other members of the government who might have an interest in this, that we in the responsible opposition, facing the responsible challenge of this very serious matter of health care financing and health care policy, are not prepared to send this matter to the electorate for the third election in as many years without a full and responsible discussion of the matter.
Mr. Breaugh: I can understand that.
Mr. Conway: It is interesting to me, as a relatively new member in this august assembly --
Mr. Breaugh: Unfortunately.
Mr. Conway: -- to note with considerable interest the fact that the government has carefully managed the affairs of this House and its various committees in such a way as to assiduously avoid any involvement in a real way in health care policy discussion. Of course, we have had the 20 hours of consideration of the Ministry of Health estimates, and all of us who worship at the shrine of the British parliamentary system know just how relevant that is to the politics of the matter.
We have had committees, extraordinary committees of a select nature, that have travelled this province, spending considerable of the taxpayers’ dollars --
Mr. Breaugh: Some even went outside of the province.
Mr. Conway: Some even went outside of the province. Well --
Mr. Breaugh: Some even had their picture taken outside of the province.
Mr. Conway: That’s right.
Mr. Nixon: Some even went out without being on a committee.
Mr. Conway: That’s right. I am happy to see the NDP member for Oshawa recently arrived back from his sojourn to the mother of Parliaments --
Mr. Nixon: He has a golf-club tan.
Mr. Conway: -- where, presumably, that reporter from the Globe and Mail was not lurking in the darkness of a corner.
Mr. Breaugh: They never lurk when I’m out there.
Mr. Conway: I’m sure they don’t.
Mr. Nixon: They’re not interested.
Mr. Conway: We all watched that convention in early February, and there was no lurking, I must say.
But this government has studied, in select committee format, for example, all the important issues of the day. We have, very properly, spent considerable time and revenues, as the member for Elgin (Mr. McNeil) knows better perhaps than any here. The hon. member for Elgin knows the importance of a select committee examination of tile drainage and what it means to the farmers of Chatham-Kent. And I think that is an important matter that should be looked at.
Mr. Nixon: And Brant.
Mr. Conway: Similarly, we have had select committees which have taken as their task a full and purposeful examination of the important, burning issue of the after-hours use of school rooms. Even the Treasurer sits as he does in his high chair of judgement knowing that many years ago in his tender youth he was seconded to a select committee to discuss the importance of youth in this province. People such as myself profited immensely by that deliberation. I have looked across the horizon of parliamentary investigation and I have seen all these testaments to what this government considers important in so far as public policy is concerned.
But you look at all of these, and one area of increasing public expenditure, for some reason, does not appear anywhere on the horizon -- and that’s the matter of health. I believe the member for Don Mills -- the poor, beleaguered, defeated Minister of Health -- is the Treasurer’s fall guy. You know, it has to be the most pitiful, the most unenviable, the most tragic of hopeless circumstances for any aspiring Tory over there. And I say this if for no other person’s interest than that of my good friend from Armourdale (Mr. McCaffrey) who, I am sure, looks enviously upon the front benches. If I can warn him of one area where he would not wish to exercise his cabinet ambitions it would be in the area of Health.
He only has to look around to see whether they have gone. The poor present minister -- I can’t call him Dennis so I’ll call him the hon. minister -- only has to look across the political battlefield and ask, “Where have all those flowers gone?” Where is Matt Dymond? Where did Tom Wells end up? And what about Mr. Bert Lawrence and Dr. Potter and the hon. present member for Muskoka (F. S. Miller)? Not a particularly strong indication of the staying power of the Ministers of Health, particularly under the Davis-McKeough hegemony over there.
So I’m sure the member for Don Mills is very nervous when he is forced, kicking and squealing, to the order-in-council office upstairs, delivering the Treasurer’s dictum about where it is the tax dollars and the increases are going to be extracted from. I want to say at the outset that my sympathies are with the fall guy, the Minister of Health. It’s certainly, I think, a very sorrowful day when the very important area of health care planning is left to the vagaries and the vicissitudes of the Treasurer’s 19th century economic viewpoint.
I suggested last year in estimates that the time had come for a full legislative inquiry into the matters pertaining to OHIP, since at that time we were beginning to assemble the data from the substantial 45 per cent increase in premiums, as of the 1976 McKeough budget, and the Minister of Health dismissed at that time the requirements for any such matter, feeling secure, no doubt, to depend continually upon the advice of the Henderson special program review and the Premier’s task force headed by what I notice one of the press reports indicate as “a London financier, Mr. Allyn Taylor.” I guess that’s just about where this government wants to take its advice in the matters of social import like health care planning. They are really not too interested in involving the Legislature. They would rather return to the bailiwick of their London financial base for long-term planning in the areas of health care.
Mr. Nixon: They couldn’t get Marvin Shore.
Mr. Conway: Well, poor Marvin is like some of the Ministers of Health. Quo vadis is the question, I suppose.
The matter now before us is that of supporting the hon. leader of the New Democratic Party’s resolution which would presumably bring about an end to this Legislature. I think that what the New Democratic Party, outside of its posturing potential, is trying to effect in this regard cannot be accepted by me, as one member of the responsible opposition on this side of the House, because we have taken an action which has brought about the hearings of this OHIP premium matter and the general health care financing system beginning tomorrow in the social development committee.
I would be the first to admit that that committee may not produce all of the answers. I know the member for Parkdale (Mr. Dukszta), as he sits quietly agreeing with me, will share that basic position, that we will not likely solve all the problems. I want to say at the outset that as one member who expects to be involved in the committee’s deliberations -- and so that I can allay any of the fantasies which the Treasurer and his fall guy the Minister of Health may be developing in as much as what they expect my party to do tomorrow or in the deliberations of the committee in the next two weeks.
I want it clearly understood -- at least I hope it is understood by the Treasurer and the Minister of Health -- that they will appear before that committee as witnesses. They are going to be called by members of that committee to explain their actions in as much as they continue to rely upon the premium mechanism for a substantial portion of the funding for our health care system. As I see it, there will be a presentation made in explanation of an ongoing government commitment to the premium system by the Treasurer and the Minister of Health. They will be cross-examined for all of the studies which they have at their disposal indicating why they have continued in their wise way.
At the end of those deliberations, having perhaps invited others from the tax field, perhaps another individual from another jurisdiction since, as one of the socialists pointed out, we do seem to be elite in as much as we are now the only jurisdiction in the dominion of Canada which relies to such a considerable degree on the premium mechanism. Maybe, just maybe, some of the other jurisdictions are not so completely misguided in their mechanism for funding similar programs.
At the end of those deliberations, I fully expect to be able, as a member of that committee, to consider and to put forward responsible aspects of an interim and perhaps a final report. As the Speaker knows from his intimate knowledge of parliamentary procedures, I do not expect to engage in any kind of dialogue with the witnesses outside of the questions which the committee as a whole would be expected to put.
I must say, parenthetically, that it does little for the happiness of my heart to receive from my colleague, the member for Huron-Bruce (Mr. Gaunt), who is the chairman of the social development committee, a response from the Minister of Health which indicates some rather predictable things. The member for Huron-Bruce, in his capacity as chairman of that committee, wrote to the Minister of Health on March 16 requesting all such material as would be pertinent to a full and complete examination of the premium mechanism and on the alternatives which have been considered, as was indicated on a number of occasions by both the Treasurer and the Minister of Health.
The Minister of Health, in response to my colleague from Quinte, unequivocally said, on March 10: “We have been looking at this for nine months and let me tell you gentlemen and ladies in the opposition that we have looked at all the alternatives; and we, with our wealth of bureaucratic support -- ” and even the member for York North (Mr. Hodgson) appreciates the fact that the poor beleaguered opposition does not have such facilities in any way, shape or form, given the view the government has taken of what the opposition research capacity should be -- but the government has through the full-blown support of the bureaucracy, as the Minister of Health indicated, a veritable panoply of alternatives to bring to the committee.
Certainly that was said on March 10. But what do we get today? We get a pitiful example of something significant, namely this government’s attitude towards freedom of information. It simply reinforces what we all know to be the Treasurer’s point of view, that as long as the Tories rule in this province there will be nothing but the most weak-kneed, lily-livered commitment to freedom of information. In fact those requirements will be met by providing members of the committee not with any of the material which we had expected --
Mr. Mackenzie: I thought we were talking about OHIP.
Mr. Breaugh: Look who you are in bed with now.
Mr. Conway: I am getting to the point. I’m slow, I realize that but I --
Mr. Nixon: He’s doing very well.
Mr. Conway: I want to very ponderously go through what I think is very important. We, in a responsible opposition, want to see this matter responsibly deliberated in a committee framework first.
Mr. Mackenzie: You mean supportive opposition, don’t you?
Mr. Conway: Because we have neither time nor inclination for this kind of specious posturing. We have no time for that kind of socialist Valhalla.
Mr. Warner: The Speaker is over there; speak to the Chair!
Mr. Conway: You know, Mr. Speaker, without wanting to involve you in any way in this kind of partisan discussion, I know how happy you must be to sit where you sit. No movement was ever more noticeably happier than that which took you from the uncomfortable irresponsibility of that diminishing band of insignificant Fabian Marxists, or whatever, to the respectable position which we all knew your moderate temperament entitled you to, well in advance of your appointment some months ago.
Mr. Warner: Keep this up and you’ll be moved to the Senate.
Mr. Conway: Because we in the responsible opposition wanted to see this before a committee, so we could look at what it is the government has examined by way of alternatives, we are now forced to comment upon this particular want of confidence which, if we support it today, would bring about the dissolution -- or at least would likely bring about the dissolution of this Parliament.
Mr. Laughren: Make up your mind.
Mr. Cassidy: If the Liberals had supported them yesterday, we could have rolled back those premium increases. The government would have had to back down.
Mr. Conway: Mr. Speaker, they are asking me to support their resolution and dissolve this House, most likely, because --
Mr. Cassidy: You had three weeks to consider this.
Mr. Conway: -- as I said earlier, one of the choices I am left with, if this does not bring about the dissolution of this Parliament, is the formation of a new ministry. As I also said earlier, and I repeat the only thing more outrageous than this premium increase is the contemplation --
Mr. Cassidy: Of a Liberal government.
Mr. Conway: -- of a ministry in which the hon. member for Ottawa Centre would have any involvement where I was concerned. That is totally repugnant to me.
Further to that, having taken the position that we want this matter to go before the social development committee --
Mr. Warner: You’re taking another position. Mr. Conway: I am not, because the hon. members to my left know for what consistency, for what purity in our consistency, we in this party stand.
Mr. Cassidy: For all the sanctimoniousness.
Mr. Conway: We’re not so foolish as to refer this matter to a committee for responsible deliberation, only to preclude that by voting ourselves and our Parliament out of existence.
Mr. Warner: They’re not going to listen to you, and you know it.
Mr. Conway: That is simply the kind of foolhardy logic that I have come to expect from those on my left and which I consider to be a suitable testament to their seriousness in this matter.
My leader will be speaking later this afternoon. He will speak to some of the matters which I --
Hon. Mr. McKeough: To some of the things you have missed.
Mr. Conway: To some of the things I’ve missed? I will admit to the Treasurer’s comment, that I do not intend to make my remarks comprehensive, because that would be impossible and, I think, impolitic.
Mr. Breaugh: And beyond your capacity.
Mr. Conway: The Treasurer has joined us here this afternoon, and I think it fitting that he is here representing the government, which he is really now at one in terms of representation.
Mr. Warner: So are you.
Mr. Conway: It’s happy that the Minister of Health has gone to readjust to the position in which the Treasurer has placed him, because what we have in this premium increase is, among other things, a predictable if punishing tribute to the modern-day Tory economic prejudice. I won’t read it, because I indulged members to listen to me the other night as I read the very plaintiff letter that the Treasurer wrote to that esteemed government journal, so it is alleged, the Globe and Mail, of March 16. No doubt very much hurt by the affront of his fellow Chathamites, the distinguished editorial board of that journal, he explained why it was that the government was prepared to defend this indefensible premium increase. That letter to the editor is as feeble as this budget delivered by the Treasurer some weeks ago.
I want to speak to two or three points in that budget while the Treasurer is in his seat.
On page 15 -- and perhaps before I talk about page 15 I should say this while the Treasurer is here: In 1976 he announced a premium increase after a period of many years where there had been no premium increase. That says something about their planning so far as they want to continue with this premium mechanism. But in 1976 the Treasurer felt it was time for a premium increase, and at that time we had the premiums increased by roughly 45 per cent. Granted the basis for premium assistance was enriched and thereby broadened to include more people. At that time, the people of Ontario were properly invited to believe the Treasurer when he said and I quote from budget paper B of that budget: “Premiums will now generate approximately 28 per cent of the total financing of OHIP. This is a more appropriate level than the 23 per cent raise in 1975-76 and is a suitable long-run norm to maintain as ‘Health care costs in future years.’ Let me repeat that: 28 per cent of the total financing of OHIP from premium revenue would be a suitable long-term norm for the future.”
Now, two years later, with the benefit of his latest thinking, we have the Treasurer come before us and say that is no longer acceptable, that 28 per cent as a long-term norm will now be adjusted to 34 per cent. We will, therefore, have our second increase in premiums in roughly two years, or three years depending on which way you wish to look at it.
I say to the Treasurer that the people of Ontario are being asked today to believe him when he says that premium revenues will now be expected to cover 34.1 per cent of the overall cost of the insured services within our health care scheme, in OHIP. The question I simply have to ask the Treasurer -- one to which I hope he gives his full and conscientious consideration -- is why should the poor, beleaguered, directly-paying subscriber in Newmarket believe the Treasurer of Ontario in 1978, when that poor, directly-paying subscriber in downtown Newmarket is now being forced to pay, if he is a family man, $528 worth of this incredibly regressive tax, when it is clear there was no cause to have believed the Treasurer in 1976?
Not since Lyndon Johnson has any political jurisdiction seen credibility-gap politics like that which the Treasurer is preparing to offer us in this health care debate. I just have to ask and invite the Treasurer to tell us why it is the person in Newmarket should believe him today when he says that 34 per cent is now a suitable long-term norm. Realizing that my time is very limited, I want to conclude by saying that the Treasurer in his budget offers, as he has in the past, a substantive reason and cause for continuing and maintaining the premium mechanism, which is nothing more than a fitting tribute to this government’s continuing reliance upon a private Blue Cross mentality to run a public medicare scheme. They have not yet sorted out the contradictions that are inherent in that kind of situation.
Mr. McClellan: Socialist medicine.
Mr. Conway: Socialist medicine, absolutely. The only reason we are given to believe for maintaining the premium mechanism by the illustrious Treasurer in this and other budgets of recent years is that, as he says, “Premiums retain a visible link with the cost of services.” What I have to ask the Treasurer again is, taking into consideration no one more humble than myself: what is the visible link in this premium for me as a member of this assembly who has, as he points out later in that budget, the entirety of the premium increase covered as a fringe benefit? For the hon. member for Yorth North and myself this visible link is nothing more than a pay raise.
I admit there is an indirect aspect but it is very indirect, as the hon. Treasurer knows. There just is not any visibility to it. If nothing else, I want before these deliberations conclude to have the Treasurer in a quiet or less quiet way adroit to the absolute bankruptcy of that argument. When he tells us that 75 per cent of the premium revenue in this province is a function of fringe benefits within various collective agreements, he is admitting without equivocation that there is no visibility maintained today within the premium mechanism.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: Wait till you fill out your income tax.
Mr. Conway: If the Treasurer wants to maintain the premium mechanism as a good Tory like he would very possibly want to do, I invite the Treasurer to plan for tomorrow’s or next week’s consideration, an explanation as to just how visible that is for the vast majority of people who have their premiums paid without their ever seeing what it costs in terms or what we all acknowledge to be seriously expensive, but no doubt worthwhile, health care services.
The arguments which the Treasurer has put forward simply do not wash. The premium mechanism is not relevant as it is maintained today; it is clearly not a visible link: The Treasurer’s own budget is a clear demonstration of that fact.
Furthermore, I want some assurance from the Treasurer as to why we should believe him today when he forces the poor Minister of Health to go cap in hand with his order in council saying that now 34 per cent of insured health services is a suitable long-term norm, when two years ago that kind of position was prepared and then completely abandoned within two budgets.
There is a clear credibility gap in the Treasurer’s Tory and financial thought in this respect. That and other kinds of issues are what this responsible opposition party wants to invite a serious and responsible discussion about tomorrow and during the next few weeks in the social development committee. At that time I fully expect, as part of a responsible opposition, to frame alternatives that are going to meet with the approval of that vast majority of people in this province who understand, on the one hand --
Mr. Cassidy: You’re stumbling now.
Mr. Conway: -- that they have, by and large, a good health care system, but one which is becoming expensive and which must be paid for in a progressive, fair and equitable fashion.
Mr. Breaugh: I rise to support this motion. I am a little taken aback. I must say, by the vehemence that I saw during the question period today from the Liberal Party of Ontario in opposing this premium increase and yet within a two-hour period they manage to rise and somehow find it within themselves to support the government on the very same issue.
I think that tendency in that particular Liberal Party has been noted before. I believe it is now enshrined in Canadian parliamentary procedure as “flip-flopperism.”
I think this is one of the most important debates we have had in this House for some time, because there are very few things that we will find affecting the people of Ontario in such a direct and serious way. As the Minister of Health pointed out, this particular service applies to almost everyone in the province. It has been a matter of considerable controversy over the last several years, and has taken what was once a very great promise of providing a universal health-care assistance to the people of Ontario that was the best in the world, into something of a crisis situation.
The increase which is the focal point of this particular debate is a substantive one. If you really look at what an average wage earner will take home, the premium they will now pay is about 8.4 per cent of the average industrial wage for a family of four. That is a substantial amount of money for a service that is there whether you use it or not. In effect, it is a very great source of taxation which, of course, is precisely the use to which this government has chosen to put it.
It is unusual again that in the province of Ontario the premiums we are paying for health care turn out to be twice as high as anywhere else in the country. It is unusual again that in the province of Ontario we are still struggling to get parity with Newfoundland. We are looking at a province that is supposedly among the poorest in the nation yet can provide a health care service with no premium, as opposed to the province of Ontario, supposedly the richest in the nation, that has the highest premium all across the country.
I think, too, it is interesting to note that the type of taxation and the effect this will have is rather serious. You know, we seem to have a Treasurer who is very fond of saying that if you didn’t see the theft take place, it didn’t happen. And we keep hearing again and again -- and, of course, I listened to the Minister of Health say it again this afternoon -- “Well, if they are on some kind of social assistance they won’t pay, so they’re not screaming. If they’re over 65 they won’t pay. so they’re not screaming.” In effect he said that if they are not paying the premium they won’t notice the pinch. Well, that’s true.
I listened to him make the argument, and I have listened to the Treasurer make the argument, that most of these things are employee benefits and therefore they won’t feel the pinch again. Not now; but you see it doesn’t even recognize that employee benefit package is really a matter of one’s salary as well. In addition to the kind of increase one sees in terms of premium, one negotiated that package. That’s part and parcel of one’s pay cheque and that cost will be passed on eventually. If we want to run down a short list, these health benefits are taxable for the employees. If his net income is higher, then his taxation rate is also higher. Many of these benefits are negotiated as a package. Additional benefits, if paid by the employer, will be at the expense of other items.
Thirdly, where municipal governments pay all health benefits, the additional burden can only be met through increased municipal taxation. It’s another load on the taxpayer. Fourthly, these employee benefits are a tax deductible item for some employers. It seems strange in a period of high unemployment we would load onto our system one more thing that will cut down the number of jobs and will increase costs. That’s a rather strange and unusual way to go about it.
I must say I find the tendencies of this government strange in a number of ways. I read with great interest the Taylor committee report. It strikes me that once again the victim is being accused of the crime. We’re looking at people who are sick and using the health care system and saying they are the ones at fault. That strikes me as being a weird perspective indeed.
I think we may well see an opting out of this system. We may see it at several levels. We may see doctors opting out of a system that is falling into disrepute and we may well see patients opting out of a system simply because they can’t afford the premiums. I think those phenomena are there.
Once again we see this government chasing the same target group again, namely, those people who work for a living. They’re after them again and they’re going to get them with another form of taxation. This time they’re calling their taxation a health care premium. They’re at them again.
We’re negotiating a fee schedule. Even though the budget is up substantially again this year and the Treasurer is making his argument that the rate of taxation is roughly the same, we’re chasing them again; and we still have not solved the problem of the fee schedule with the doctors. I wonder how close we are in this province to the phenomenon that we see in other parts of this hemisphere, that is one pays cash before he gets a delivery of health care services. I hope we do not see that. I hope we don’t see all of these doctors opting out. I hope we don’t see a day when on presentation of one’s body at the hospital door he has to come out with his Chargex card before he gets any service. That phenomenon exists in North America. I hope we don’t see that phenomenon in the province of Ontario, but I must say we’re under rather uncertain conditions.
I find it particularly strange that though we have heard a great deal of discussion about administrative costs -- and the Minister of Health made a case again today that it’s rather good -- we’re having some difficulty getting to that information. As members may recall, we had a small disruption in the affairs of this House about a year ago when we sought that information. The information that is there and the controls that are on the administration, all of which supposedly are in place, all of which we in supposedly good faith accept, really are not subject to a great deal of public scrutiny.
We heard again today that we will not be able to get a detailed, in-house ministerial investigation of alternatives that they had. So it is very difficult to criticize a health care system that is large and expensive -- that’s true -- but doesn’t give to us as opposition members a full accounting of how it goes about its business and specifically what amounts are met for each account.
I caution that in this House we may be seeing with this particular concept of an increase in health care premiums the end of that universal health care system. I think we may be seeing a system that is virtually without control. It is perhaps not controlled as meaningfully or as openly as we as members of this particular party would like to see.
There are some dangers in all of that. I think that a health care system which has some rather magnificent people making a contribution to it in terms of medical staff is falling into disrepute. We have a real danger here that more and more people, whether they are doctors or whether they are patients, will opt out of this system. I see a great difficulty coming before the House that must he dealt with.
I find it inconceivable, frankly, that the members of this House would do anything but support this particular amendment. I think it’s so important to say to this government at this time that they have acted in an unacceptable manner to this House, that they have sought to tax the people of Ontario for a service that’s in question, but which is certainly much needed.
I do wish that for once in their lives the Liberals would vote the same way at least twice in succession. I would hope that this afternoon when we call the vote on this one we will see them vote in a manner that will be precisely the same as when they begin questioning the minister before that committee hearing tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately, I am not sure that that is going to happen. We will see, but it strikes me that one either supports this premium increase or one doesn’t, and if one doesn’t support it one votes for this particular no-confidence motion. That is clearly and precisely what it is all about. I will be grossly disappointed if I hear them posturing on one hand that they don’t like the OHIP premium increase --
Mr. Stong: You are shunning your responsibility.
Mr. Breaugh: -- and on the other hand not voting at all this afternoon.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to take a few minutes to lay before the Legislature some of the facts that brought about the decision in the budget to increase the premium levels of OHIP beginning on May 1.
Much has been written in the past few weeks about the financial imbalance in the health care sector of Ontario. This imbalance occurs because expenditures under OHIP increased considerably faster than revenues earmarked for OHIP, namely premiums. As a result, there is constant pressure to finance this chronic revenue shortfall. The pressure was particularly strong this year because of our balanced budget objective. Everybody now realizes the importance of balancing the budget; the benefits to each citizen will be substantial.
Mr. Cassidy: Like seven per cent unemployed.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: But if we do not have the revenue to finance our day-to-day services we will have to cut back on those services. And no one wants this to happen, especially if those services are health related.
Mr. Wildman: How about balancing the economy?
Hon. Mr. McKeough: I think that even the members opposite will agree that new funds for health care are needed. Anyone who can add and subtract must reach that conclusion. The question then becomes one of where does the government find the new money.
Mr. Laughren: That’s right.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: The financing of health care is now the total responsibility of each province, since we established the programs of financing a year ago. We cannot go to Ottawa and ask for a better deal on a cost-sharing arrangement that no longer exists. We must therefore look to our own sources. I felt the responsible way to increase revenue was to raise premiums.
The leader of the New Democratic Party has called for hundreds of millions more in government spending, financed by a massive increase in corporation income tax.
Mr. Samis: Massive? How massive?
Mr. Wildman: Massive? Two per cent?
Hon. Mr. McKeough: So I would imagine that he would also suggest that the revenue raised by the OHIP premium increase could be found by increases also in corporation income taxes.
I will be frank. I considered increasing the corporation income tax, but I don’t think it would be appropriate to load the entire $271 million increase onto the corporate sector.
An hon. member: Why not?
Hon. Mr. McKeough: It would take three points of corporation income tax to raise that kind of revenue. Such an increase would give us the highest corporation income tax in Canada.
Mr. Wildman: Instead we have the highest premiums.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: That would cut profits, reduce incentives, and seriously undermine our competitive position. That, of course, is of little importance to New Democrats, because they have no use for corporate competitiveness or profitability.
Mr. Samis: Baloney.
Mr. Martel: That’s nonsense.
Mr. Cassidy: That’s nonsense.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: But let’s face it, profits are the foundation on which our economy has grown and renewed business confidence is crucial to the economic resurgence in Ontario. Business expectations are extremely sensitive to changes in the corporation income tax. Any increase in the corporation income tax would be paid for by the more successful corporations -- precisely those corporations to which I look for much of our new investment and new jobs.
Ms. Gigantes: Like Inco.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: At the same time, by increasing OHIP premiums, I did not let the corporate sector escape untouched. As I have often pointed out, the OHIP premium increase is shared between corporations and individuals. It is my opinion that an affordable increase on both employers and employees is better than leaving either the corporation or the consumer to pay the full shot. As well, the OHIP increase is diffused over a large part of the corporate sector, because those firms who do not show taxable income contribute as well as those firms paying income tax.
In the formulation of any budget strategy, maintenance of our competitive position must be of crucial importance. As my budget demonstrated, the increase in OHIP premiums still leaves Ontario more than competitive in the field of payroll taxation -- a direct cost of doing business.
Ms. Laughren: Talk about personal taxes.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: Considering that we also have one of the most competitive corporate tax structures in North America, I believe the OHIP increase will raise much-needed revenue in a way consistent with our policy of maintaining a competitive climate.
Mr. McClellan: It’s consistent with your policy of regressive taxation.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: Of course I would expect the New Democratic Party would have fundamental objections to our way of doing things; ideology dictates that position.
Mr. Laughren: So does yours.
Ms. Gigantes: So does common sense.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: But I think I might have expected more from the official opposition. To me, the input of the Liberals and their leader has been distinctly second-rate.
Mr. Cassidy: They are supporting you. Why get so nasty?
Hon. Mr. McKeough: The member for Hamilton West has informed everyone that we should have prevented the OHIP increase by cutting back on expenditures. That is easy to say but he has yet to suggest how to do it.
The Leader of the Opposition is aware that public federal figures show that Ontario has by far the lowest increase in provincial local spending per capita on health for the five-year period ending March 31, 1977. With our spending control in 1977-78 and this year, we expect this performance has been maintained. The budget shows for 1978-79 expenditures by the Ministry of Health as $3.945 billion. Payments to hospitals are tightly constrained by an average inflation allowance of only 4.5 per cent. Payments to doctors are targeted to grow in line with our constraint approach.
Where does the Leader of the Opposition suggest, then, that we find the $271 million which premiums will yield? Would he freeze the wages and salaries of hospital employees? Since the projected increase in wages and salaries in the hospital sector is only about one-third of the $271 million target, would he reduce hospital staff by 10,000 or so positions to find the remainder? Or -- I say to the member for Brant -- would he cut back on payments to doctors? The budget shows only a $37 million increase over last year. Perhaps he would suggest OHIP not cover out-of-province claims? The savings would not be substantial, but Ontario travellers would be subjected to the potentially disastrous situation of footing their own health costs abroad. Or just perhaps the member would remove government support for psychiatric services. If he dropped psychiatric services and the related homes for special care, he could save us the $271 million. The good doctor should tell us -- the member for Renfrew North did not -- what his prescription is for reducing health costs. We should have his answer in writing so that we could all read it.
The Leader of the Opposition also stated that should cost reductions not be possible, then we would need increased revenue. He suggests that this revenue should be raised for example through the personal income tax. So now we differ only in means.
Increasing the personal income tax at this time is just as bad an idea as the suggestion of increasing corporation income tax. Economic performance is also very sensitive to personal income tax. A personal income tax increase could damage consumer confidence --
Mr. Wildman: So could an OHIP increase.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: -- and the implications of this are unacceptable as are the implications of reduced corporate confidence.
Mr. Wildman: Oh come on.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: Even the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson) thought better of his leader’s idea to raise income tax, although he left us with the helpful suggestion that there must be “a better way.” That has been the contribution of the financial critic of the Liberal Party to date. It is, I would point out, the opposition’s prerogative to play cute rather than come up with good, workable ideas.
There is the obvious suggestion, of course, of raising the retail sales tax from seven per cent to eight per cent. The beauty of that scheme is that is roughly the amount of money which would be raised by one percentage point on the RST happens to be roughly equivalent to the amount being raised this year in OHIP premiums.
It has also been suggested that the answer is using lottery proceeds to finance part of health expenditures. I believe the member for London Centre mused about that possibility. I agree, it is an alternative. But it is important to view this alternative in light of some hard facts. For 1978-79, there will be an estimated $100 million in lottery proceeds. This is a considerable revenue, but it represents under 40 per cent of the OHIP premium increase. So a full year’s lottery revenue would cover about $2 of the $6 per month OHIP increase for single persons and $4 of the $12 per month OHIP increase for families.
But we do not have a full year’s revenue, since part of those proceeds from the lotteries are already committed. Proceeds from the Provincial for example are earmarked for health and environmental research, while Wintario proceeds are spent for cultural and recreational projects which improve the quality of life in Ontario. Such expenditures, I would suggest, are not to be dismissed lightly in the hope of finding a quick way to offset some of the OHIP increase. We can all think about the lottery approach, but it is important to keep it in the proper perspective.
It is our intention to continue to maintain quality health care services and I firmly believe that I have found the route to ensure this. Both corporations and individuals will pay more for our health care system, but in a way that does not have the negative implications for confidence associated with income taxation. This is what is accomplished by the OHIP premium increase. As well, an increase in OHIP premiums emphasizes the need to control usage of the system. For most Ontarians, OHIP premiums are a visible link with the costs of health care and, as such, an increase in premiums acts as a signal to continuing cost pressures.
Mr. Cassidy: That’s a specious argument.
Mr. Wildman: You can’t prove that and you know it.
Mr. Cassidy: There is no visible link there at all.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: I believe it is important to maintain this relationship between health revenue and health costs.
Mr. Laughren: Mainly because it’s regressive.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: The OHIP increase will not be squandered. Constraints of the magnitude that we have applied squeeze any waste from the system. Our health care system is efficiently administered; administration costs are more than comparable with privately run plans. The premium increases will allow us to continue to provide top-quality medical and institutional services, without infringing on the financial resources that we must have to meet our other important public responsibilities.
I would be the first to admit that the OHIP premium system is not without its drawbacks. I am specifically referring to the impact the new levels have on certain individuals and families. While we substantially broadened the taxable income ranges within which premium assistance is available, there will no doubt be some persons whose income just slightly exceed the criteria.
Mr. Laughren: You’re not kidding.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: I want to assure the Legislature that I am currently reviewing ways to alleviate any sharp changes arising through the new premium levels.
Mr. Cassidy: Roll back the increase.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: I would hope, however, that all members read my letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail of March 16. This letter dispelled the notion --
Mr. Cassidy: It didn’t dispel it -- never to your satisfaction.
Mr. Samis: That’s in your estimation and yours only.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: -- that at the new premium rates, the tax structure in Ontario is not comparable with the rest of Canada. There had been some press coverage that indicated this was so, and I feel that was misleading. The record shows that we have a tax structure comparable with that of other provinces in Canada.
Ms. Gigantes: Where are your figures?
Mr. Cassidy: Where are your figures?
Hon. Mr. McKeough: The motion put forward by the New Democratic Party obviously should be rejected.
Mr. Laughren: You don’t have to worry.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: I imagine that this debate will be rekindled again in the standing committee on social development. I look forward to that debate. I thought it appropriate that I explain to those committee members, and to the Legislature, some of the thinking that shaped my decision with respect to premium increases in this year’s budget.
Mr. McClellan: It is not thinking; it is instinct.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: I would hope that it would assist the committee members in their review and I am looking forward, as I have said, to the deliberations, the discussion and, most of all, the suggestions which will be put forward, I am sure, particularly by the official opposition, and we do wait, breathless, for their suggestions.
Mr. Sargent: You are looking for somebody to bail you out.
Hon. Mr. McKeough: Their leader approaches now. Perhaps we will hear something from him, because we sure didn’t hear anything from their first speaker, the member for Renfrew North.
Mr. Dukszta: Mr. Speaker, the present OHIP premium increases will make health care for Ontario workers the most expensive in Canada. Those increases, which will cost the average family $528 per year, are symptomatic of deep-seated structural problems in Ontario’s health care system.
What are we paying for and why are we paying so much? We are paying for an inequitable, unjust and expensive health care system. It is a system where control mechanisms are non-existent, where the product is often inferior and where profits or money to be made are more important than the concept of humane and essential service.
There are six essential problem areas which stand out in the existing health care system in Ontario.
1. That the focus of the system is on the cure of illness rather than on the elimination of those elements within our society which destroy health;
2. That those services which do exist are not equally accessible to all citizens as a result of economic and regional disparities;
3. That available health funds are badly misallocated.
4. That the quality of care is uneven and one’s class origins determine how good is the care one gets and our “public” health system is significantly private and profit-oriented.
5. To pay for the health services even partially by the way of premium is a regressive form of taxation which penalizes the poorer segments of our society.
Ontario’s health care system is publicly funded but its organization and logic is that of a private system. When public insurance system now called OHIP was introduced, no attempt was made to redesign the system itself. Consequently, physicians and health institutions behave much as they would in a private care system. Physicians, for example, behave as if they owned the system and believe that, in the name of helping the patient, the whole field of medicine is their private field and the rest of the health field professionals are their helpers.
Health care is hospital oriented. Hospitals are overwhelmingly oriented to capital-intensive, technology preoccupied systems. The high technology, capital-intensive system is very expensive. Ironically, the use of public funds to pay for the system has not resulted in substantially increased access to services for poor and moderate income earners, but has turned the health care field into a high profit area for capital.
It is instructive to look at health care systems from a point of view of a capitalist investor. Parts of the health care system are extremely profitable for an enterprising capitalist, especially in Ontario. One can invest heavily and very profitably in laboratories, in nursing homes, and in industries providing drugs, equipment and high technology.
Mr. Cassidy: That’s right.
Mr. Dukszta: The high profit areas are left to the private interests which are largely controlled from outside Canada. Labour in the health field is tamed and prevented from striking by being legislated as an essential service and consequently underpaid in comparison to other industries. The managers of the system, the physicians, are so well paid for their labour and so independent of the patients, their shareholders, so to speak, that they behave as masters of the system.
But this type of industry has its problems. It is after all a service industry and service industries left to the vagaries of a free enterprise system are notoriously expensive and the market -- this is the patients -- can fail at times to pay for the system. The solution for that problem of profit irregularity is to have the whole system publicly funded. And, even better, to pass off the whole profit-oriented system as a public service. In the perfectly ordered capitalist Ontario, those who cannot afford to pay pay more, and those who can pay easily pay less. What is just in the Tory-governed world is that a family that earns $8,000 per year and a family that earns $80,000 per year both pay $528 in annual OHIP payments.
The Conservative government continues to open the public Treasury to medical entrepreneurs, saying, “This money represents not tax money raised in the name of better health for all Ontarians but a marketplace. Treat it as such. Take what the market will bear.”
The NDP does not agree that illness, pain and suffering should be a happy hunting ground for free enterprise. It believes that curative treatment is less efficient than a comprehensive system of preventive care. Therefore, a government which wishes to be truly effective in improving health must be willing to acknowledge the interaction of health, work and education and shift resources and manpower away from the sham “curative” system into preventive health, primary care, and a broadly-based social services system.
Five principles underlie our own approach:
1. We must focus in positive health measures, not on illness treatment.
2. The person’s biological, emotional and social needs are inseparable. Therefore, they must be dealt with together.
3. All members of society have a stake in the health system. As a result, people must participate in the making of those decisions which directly affect their own health.
4. Health is a right, not a privilege. Consequently, necessary quality health care must be equally accessible to all.
5. The right to health services is as basic in a democracy as the right to education or the right to vote. Experience has proved that the only way to provide these health services for all who need them is through a plan to which all contribute according to their means and upon which all can draw in time of need.
Consequently, a New Democratic government would progressively abolish health care premiums, financing the entire cost of health services by means of the graduated income tax and corporate tax. Health workers would he remunerated in accordance with a schedule determined in negotiation with the provincial government. In a health care system based on community clinics and the team approach, the fee-for-service method of payment would have become progressively an anachronism and would gradually disappear.
Since the establishment of the community centres would be on a pilot project basis and would take time to implement, the present system of family physicians paid on a fee-for-service basis would remain temporarily, although incentives would be provided, concurrently, for physicians to enter the community centres. Eventually, the balance would shift decisively, perhaps entirely, to the community health and social services centres. While regional health councils and local clinics would determine community health priorities, control of the amount of provincial resources allocated to the health system and the guidelines for the distribution of these resources within the system would still be the function of the province.
In summary, let me say that the NDP government would take steps to reduce the profit motive in the health care system and return the health care to the public sector. I ask everyone here, especially the Liberal Party, to vote against this unconscionable increase in OHIP premiums which strikes directly at the particular segment of the working class of Ontario.
Mr. Warner: I certainly want to allow a little extra time for all the government members to resume their seats in the House. I know they’re scurrying through the corridors to be here.
It’s pretty obvious the health tax increase is wrong. It’s absolutely wrong. The Treasurer is mistaken if he tries to suggest that not everyone in this province will suffer. In fact, almost everyone in this province will suffer from this regressive kind of taxation. It’s painfully obvious to us and to anyone who has examined the situation that very few people can escape. That’s a very large part of the argument. Very few can escape from the tax. Everyone understands that.
For the people who pay directly into the plan, the premium has suddenly gone up a great deal and they’re going to have to pay that amount. But it’s more than that. The large municipal governments, in fact any municipal government which hires civic employees, is now faced with paying a double tax. They’re not only going to have to pay on behalf of their employees, but the taxpayers are going to have an extra burden on the property tax. The bill for Metro Toronto, for example, is $2 million. An extra $2 million is going to be added on to the property tax which the taxpayers in Metro have to pick up because of the Treasurer’s move. We have a double tax.
It was outlined earlier by my colleague from Oshawa that the AIB will consider this to be part of a six per cent increase. It’s allowable. It’s exactly what they’ll do. In addition to that, it will be considered to be taxable income. The $528 paid out for family coverage is taxable income. It’s included in the amount of money. We already have so many workers in this province who are falling far behind the rate of inflation. The rate of inflation is about nine per cent and they’ve been held to pay increases of six per cent or less. Now, in real dollar terms they will receive even less money because of the OHIP tax increase.
Small business, obviously, has to pay directly out of their pockets to cover employees. Almost everyone in this province aside from those extremely rich people and aside from the presidents of corporations, is faced with a burden which is both regressive and extremely oppressive. Why the health tax increase at all? It should be quite obvious to all of us here. It was the one major source of revenue that the Treasurer could impose without legislation. It was his way of balancing the budget.
While previously in his terms it was quite all right to have the premiums account for 28 per cent of the cost, suddenly today it’s not; it has to be higher, for reasons we don’t know and for reasons which we are never given. While it was okay a couple of years ago for it to be 28 per cent, today it has to be 34 per cent.
That was never explained, but the reason is quite obvious. He did his accounting, he required $271 million and so he decided to use the health tax as the way to raise it.
Mr. Wildman: And he didn’t have to bring in legislation.
Mr. Warner: He could do it behind closed doors. And make no mistake about it -- Mr. Speaker, I know that you can appreciate this -- the health premiums are a tax. There’s no question about that, and everyone in here should understand that. It is a tax. When I put forward my private member’s bill last Thursday, I was involved in discussing the matter with a constitutional law professor and it was his considered opinion, as it was of others, that there’s absolutely no argument: it is a tax.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The courts don’t agree.
Mr. Warner: The courts, in fact have agreed in past circumstances. The stumbling block in constitutional terms, quite unfortunately, is that this Legislature in 1972 gave away its rights and powers with respect to taxing as applied to OHIP. The government granted unto itself the power to levy taxes by order in council. They did that in 1972. It was wrong but the deed has been done and we must now live under that unfortunate mistake.
The real concern, of course, is that we can see an erosion of the principle of no taxation without legislation. Should we ever -- I shudder to think of the day -- be faced with a majority Tory government, they could amend whatever Acts they wanted to -- the Tobacco Tax Act, the Liquor Act, you name it -- to allow them to set taxes behind closed doors. That’s what they are doing with every major source of revenue as one goes through the list. OHIP is one, of course; the others include the student tuition fees and car licence plates. They continue to erode the power and the stature of this Legislature. It’s clearly a tax.
The question for all of us here in this assembly, knowing that the tax is wrong, knowing that it’s the most regressive form of health tax found anywhere in Canada -- six provinces are without a premium and the remaining three provinces, aside from Ontario, charge less than half the amount that’s charged by Ontario -- is, how do we oppose the government? That’s a question which I am sure the Liberal Party must have discussed in their caucus meetings. We certainly did.
How do we oppose the government? The Liberals came up with a suggestion that they should oppose the government by way of a committee that would look at alternatives. That’s a very reasonable suggestion. The stumbling block to it, which I think they realized later, was that the Treasurer had absolutely no intention of paying heed to that committee, and he still hasn’t.
The fact of the matter is that the order in council was issued on the day following the budget, but it was not filed until after the Liberal Party had put forward its proposal for the committee. And it’s on the day that the order in council is filed that it becomes law, and the government knows that. It was a defiant gesture to the Liberal Party, saying to them: “You can suggest whatever you want by way of committee, but we have no intention of doing anything else except to increase the health tax.”
Mr. Martel: And the Liberals continue to delude themselves.
Mr. Warner: It is deliberate.
So we are left again. How do you oppose the regressive measure that has been brought forward? Because there is no legislation, as would have been in keeping with our parliamentary democratic principles, and because the committee is meaningless to the government, what is left? There is only one possible opposition, and that is a vote of no-confidence. We have no confidence in a government which would impose such regressive and oppressive health taxes upon the people of this province. I certainly have no confidence in that government. Maybe the Liberals do; but I don’t.
That’s why I am very proud today to stand and oppose the government in a very direct and honest way. I certainly feel sorry for those members of the Liberal Party who cannot do likewise; who can just allow the tax to be instituted without raising their voices in opposition and without doing the only practical thing which can be done; that is to oppose a government which does not understand how to deliver a health care system in Ontario, it cares only about balancing the budget by 1981.
Mr. Samis: I don’t believe in that.
Mr. Warner: I support the no-confidence motion. I would hope that before the debate is over, the Liberal Party can reassess its position and force this government to do the only honourable and proper thing. That is to come back with a brand-new budget, without a health tax increase and to recognize the errors of their ways. The Liberals still have time; the people of Ontario may not have time.
Mr. S. Smith: I feel that the position of the parties on these matters is already very well known. I think the fact is that one is going through a ritual at this moment. We are here in this assembly on the fourth day of April --
Mr. Cassidy: It is only a ritual because you made it one.
Mr. Laughren: You made it a ritual.
Mr. S. Smith: -- to vote on a motion which would plunge the province into an immediate election, when on the fifth day of April we shall be gathered here to have before us the minister responsible for this increase in the OHIP premium --
Mr. Cassidy: To do nothing.
Mr. S. Smith: -- with an opportunity for us to examine what flimsy reasoning they may have had on which to base this increase. We can force them to face the people and explain their actions in this regard, and finally put before the people of Ontario alternative methods to deal with the financial situation now being faced by the province.
This, as far as I am concerned, is an opportunity for the opposition parties to participate in a constructive way in the process of being in opposition and the process of making the minority government operate in the interests of the people of Ontario.
I want to be very clear about this. The government will have an opportunity to deal with a number of alternatives which will come forward after we have had a chance to see all the information on which the government has based its present policies. Once we have had a chance to consider the various studies the government has made to justify its present policies, then we will be able to put forward alternatives for the people to judge, then we will expect action from the government.
Our objection to the NDP motion is not the words in the motion, it is simply the time of it. One day before the committee will be sitting down to look at this matter and come up with alternatives, strikes me as a highly irrational time to bring the entire assembly down.
Mr. Cassidy: And you will have the committee still sitting when the increase takes effect
Mr. S. Smith: We will still have time before the new increase on May 1 to put forward alternatives. The government will have an opportunity to accept them in whole or in part, and I hope that the government will take that responsibility very seriously.
I had the opportunity to listen to some of the remarks that were read in this assembly by the Treasurer in his effort to explain why it is he raised the OHIP premiums $271 million. Some of his explanations really bear looking at.
In particular, what he seems to have said to the people of Ontario is that it’s important for us to use the OHIP premiums to raise revenue, even though the money will have to come out of the pockets of ordinary citizens just as though it were coming out of income tax, and out of corporations just as though it were coming out of corporate tax, but he says the psychological effect will be less. He apparently has somehow or other divined that the corporations, when they pay the tax as a payroll tax, won’t notice it as they might if it were part of the corporation tax.
He has somehow divined that when that 25 per cent of individuals who have to pay theft own OHIP premiums are suddenly hit with the most regressive form of taxation available, which will hit a person earning $10,000 much, much harder than a person earning $100,000, he has divined that if you don’t call it a tax on income, people won’t realize that it’s a tax on income and psychologically he will have preserved, somehow or other, a picture of Ontario, an imaginary picture which he is fond of painting throughout Canada, as a place with a marvelous tax structure.
Maybe in the circle in which the Treasurer happens to travel at the Albany Club they may like to hear about how wonderful his tax structure is. But the recent report which was put forward only two or three days ago in Ottawa indicates that because of these premiums those with incomes under $20,000 a year are now being more heavily taxed in this province than anywhere else in Canada.
That is a record which I think is shameful for the people of Ontario. We still have a sense of fair play in this province. We’re going to have to have sacrifice in the future in this province because of the mismanagement of the present government. We know that people will be asked to sacrifice for the benefit of future generations, but this is a heck of a way to start -- to start the sacrifices by burdening the people at the very bottom of the income ladder -- and even worse than the people at the very bottom of the income ladder, we are burdening those who are still attempting to keep their head above water by actually working, in this day and age. when so many people find it easier to receive handouts from government.
Mr. Wildman: Who?
Mr. S. Smith: The people who are going to be hit hardest are the people who are trying to work, trying to keep their head above water, who are not getting their premiums paid for them by the government and they’re being hit with the toughest stroke of all.
What does the Treasurer have to say for himself? First of all, two years ago he assured this province that the OHIP premiums had to be increased 45 per cent in order that the premiums pay for 28 per cent of insured health services. He said that was a suitable long-run norm.
Two years later he changed his mind, and what does he base it on in his statement today? The first thing he bases it on is the Henderson report. But he had the Henderson report in front of him when he brought forward his budget statement of 1976.
The other day he said he based it on the Ontario Council of Health report of 1973. Surely he must have already considered that report when he made his statement in 1976.
Now he says he bases it on the Taylor committee. Well, the Taylor committee based their statement entirely on the Treasurer’s own statement of 1976, plus the Ontario Council of Health report of 1973, which pre-dated the Treasurer’s statement by three years and which presumably had already been considered by the Treasurer.
He then adopts his usual tactic, which is the horror story tactic. Whenever we on this side -- my predecessor as leader and since I have taken over as well -- whenever we on this side say that the government is wasting money and over-spending and should cut a few hundred million from its budget, we hear from the Treasurer the horror story routine, You know what that routine is, Mr. Speaker? You say to the people of Ontario, “Smith wants to cut $200 million. Well let’s just see where he’d cut it. If we cut it from the schools, that means 45,000 students would be huddled together in freezing classrooms, shorn of their teachers, bereft of heat and light probably, because schools will be shut down, furnaces will be shut off.
“If he saves the whole $271 million by laying off hospital staff, thousands and thousands” -- 10,000 persons, says he today -- “will be without work.”
He tells us year after year how impossible it is to cut any funds from his spending. He says his budgets are cut to the bone. He has the audacity to stand here and tell us this year after year, as though anyone would believe him.
Last year, after telling us in his budget he has cut things to the bone, that he had the most stringent budget cuts of anybody, after one quarter he saved $92 million in his expenditures without, as far as I can make out, anyone freezing in the schools or anyone being bereft of teaching possibilities. He saved $92 million, and he saved it throughout the budget in various ministries.
Then, only a few months later, when he realized he hadn’t paid the teachers’ superannuation fund and he needed another $105 million, he saved $84 million in one quarter from his budget. He was able to save $16 million in Health, $7 million in Colleges and Universities, $9 million in Transportation and Communications and $14 million in Housing -- all in one quarter.
That is the kind of fat he builds into the budget of the province of Ontario, and then has the nerve to come before us to say that anybody that says we can cut expenditures, anybody who says that, must surely mean that we are going to close hospitals, must surely mean that we are going to lay off thousands of persons and so on and so forth.
Mr. Foulds: The $14 million for housing was fat, was it?
Mr. S. Smith: The people of Ontario no longer believe that kind of utter rubbish which is all we have been getting from the Treasurer of Ontario.
Mr. Wildman: Both your arguments are fatuous.
Mr. S. Smith: He says an increase in OHIP premiums emphasizes the need to control usage of the system. I have never heard such drivel. The Treasurer, as a person who prides himself on facts, ought to be able to tell the truth to the people of Ontario.
Mr. Foulds: The Treasurer prides himself on drivel.
Mr. S. Smith: There are now two groups of people in Ontario; those who pay their own OHIP premiums and those for whom the government pays the OHIP premiums. According to the Treasurer, if one pays his premiums he is somehow going to be conscious of health costs and cut the usage. The facts indicate the opposite. Those who pay their own premiums actually have a higher utilization rate of the system than those for whom the government pays the premium. The Treasurer knows perfectly well that his so-called argument that if one raises the OHIP premiums people will use the system less does not hold water. In fact, it is just as reasonable to presume that once one is paying through the nose for a system his neighbours are using he might figure to get his money’s worth and start using it even more himself.
Nowhere have the Minister of Health or the Treasurer told us what they are going to do to get doctors to stop doing unnecessary surgery. Nowhere have they told us how they are going to get the private lab system to stop its incredible growth from $4 million to $90 million over the course of about four years, all the while having been warned within their own ministry that that is precisely what was going to happen, even though we are no healthier as a consequence of that growth. Nowhere do we see indications that those hospitals with utilization committees which cut down the length of stay are going to be rewarded in their budget rather than punished by having budget cuts that cut into the bone, whereas other slothful hospitals have their budget cuts merely trimmed of a little of the fat, if even that much.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Which one are those?
Mr. S. Smith: Nowhere do we see how the Minister of Health or the Treasurer of Ontario are going to trim expenditures incurred by keeping patients in hospital too long or by admitting people to hospital for unnecessary surgery that could be done as outpatients. Nowhere do we see how they are going to trim the cost in these areas. Instead we see a so-called psychological program which is going to fall very heavily on the poor.
Who else will pay this particular OHIP premium. The Treasurer is very proud that it is going to be paid by corporations, even those who do not make a profit to have income tax.
Listen to this on page 3 of his statement today. “The OHIP increase is diffused over a larger part of the corporate sector because those firms who do not show taxable income contribute as well as those firms paying income tax.” He is actually proud of that fact that companies that are hardly making enough money to pay any tax in the province of Ontario are now going to have a payroll tax piled upon them, which will have only one possible outcome --
Mr. Wildman: Oh come on!
Mr. S. Smith: -- and that is to encourage people to hire fewer people. That is a fine policy by a Treasurer of a province with over 300,000 unemployed people at this time. The fact of the matter is that I do not know how the Treasurer has the ability to live with his own conscience when under his administration --
Mr. Laughren: How can you say that?
Mr. S. Smith: -- the province of Ontario has now become the province that taxes the poor people the most heavily of any province in this country.
It is all very well for the Minister of Health to stand up and say that in British Colombia they may have to pay $5 a day for a hospital bed. So what, compared to what is happening to the poor in Ontario; the working poor in Ontario now have the worst taxation situation in the entire Dominion of Canada. That is the sorry legacy we have from the present government of Ontario.
Mr. Foulds: Vote no-confidence.
Mr. Cassidy: Vote against the government.
Mr. S. Smith: The OHIP premiums, as far as we are concerned -- this increase from 28 per cent of health costs to 34 per cent of health costs --
Mr. Warner: You are working yourself up to no-confidence.
Mr. S. Smith: -- has no basis, no justification. It is merely an effort by the Treasurer to raise revenue, in the most regressive way possible, but in a way that he thinks he can get away with because 75 per cent of the people have their premiums paid for them by somebody else; so he figures it is the easiest way he can raise revenue and save his political bacon at the same time.
Mr. Conway: Darcy the dangerous.
Mr. Foulds: Vote no-confidence in the government.
Mr. S. Smith: The Treasurer comments on Wintario funds. He says they wouldn’t pay the whole $271 million. Well nobody ever imagined they would. But they could pay part of it. I haven’t heard him give one intelligent reason why Wintario funds -- that portion over and above the amount that one might want to keep for culture and recreation, let’s say $25 million or $30 million could be kept for culture and recreation -- why can the rest not be used for much more important purposes such as offsetting this most regressive and regrettable tax increase on the very poorest people in society?
The Treasurer has given no reason at all other than to say that it wouldn’t cover the whole thing. We know that, but it would cover part of it; and other sources might cover other parts and savings might cover other parts of it. That is what I trust will come out of the committee deliberation.
The Treasurer will go around the province saying that I never provided him with alternatives. Of course if he tells this story long enough those who do not read Hansard may he so foolish as to believe him. Those who know what the Treasurer’s credibility is, those who heard his statements in 1916 about 28 per cent being a suitable long term norm, know that his credibility is not to be trusted whatsoever and will not take him seriously.
Mr. Conway: Manthorpe will write --
Mr. S. Smith: The simple fact is that this party, after making very clear to the people of Ontario that the government prices and taxes must increase only according to the Anti-Inflation Board, is hardly in a position to be able to accept a 37.5 per cent OHIP premium increase.
Mr. Wildman: So vote with us.
Mr. S. Smith: By throwing this in our teeth, the Treasurer is fundamentally abrogating his responsibility to make minority government work. Minority government is not going to work if we are the only party that is willing to try to make it work. There has to be some co-operation, some give and take on all three sides.
We are prepared, therefore, to engage in tomorrow’s committee work and the work thereafter in a constructive sense to provide alternatives for the people of Ontario to consider. At that point it will be the responsibility of the Treasurer and the government of Ontario --
Mr. Conway: One and the same thing.
Mr. S. Smith: -- to accept reasonable alternatives or face our own vote of no-confidence following the committee deliberation. I tell the Treasurer very clearly, once again, that he has a responsibility to make minority government work and that we on this side in the official and the only responsible opposition --
Mr. Warner: There is a distinction between official and real.
Mr. S. Smith: -- are not going to take the entire burden of making minority government work on our own shoulders. We will be reasonable and co-operative and constructive, but you are going to have to withdraw the 37.5 per cent OHIP premium increase.
We, of course, will not support the frivolous and posturing motion of the NDP --
Mr. Bounsall: Those are the only words in your vocabulary, you know.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. S. Smith: -- a motion brought in only minutes after they could determine that we were not going to support it.
Mr. Cassidy: That is untrue.
Mr. S. Smith: Once they knew that we were going to go to committee --
Mr. Cassidy: That is not true.
Mr. S. Smith: -- and then have their no- confidence motion, then they decided to bring in their motion.
Mr. Foulds: Osric, methinks thou dost protest too much.
Mr. S. Smith: I would suggest to the NDP that they just wait a few weeks and put their alternatives before the people of Ontario; we’ll put our alternatives before them.
Mr. Warner: You haven’t got any. You never had any alternatives.
Mr. S. Smith: The Treasurer and the Minister of Health will answer the questions of the committee as to what they base their fallacious policy on. Then we will have our chance to have an election, my friends.
Mr. Warner: Fiddle-de-dee and fiddle-de-dum.
Mr. S. Smith: Then we will have our chance to put before the people of Ontario where we stand and how we would do things differently.
Mr. Warner: You’ll never oppose it.
Mr. S. Smith: Then we will have a chance to have a genuine debate on a no-confidence matter. But this is the sheerest nonsense and hypocrisy that has come before this House in some time.
Mr. Foulds: Certainly your speech has been.
Mr. S. Smith: We will not support such a frivolous and ludicrous notion to bring down the House the very day before the committee is to sit to look at alternatives. What preposterous notions we hear coming from the NDP I But for a party that wants Michigan to freeze in the dark, that wants Saskatchewan not to be able to receive Ontario money -- to set up a border between the provinces so that no money can cross the Ontario border headed for Saskatchewan -- I expect almost anything from them.
Ms. Gigantes: What?
Mr. Foulds: That’s a complete fabrication and you know it.
Mr. S. Smith: But bringing down the House the day before the committee is to look at the very alternatives that the people of Ontario are longing to hear and to understand is the height of irresponsibility and posturing and deserves no further comment from me.
Mr. Wildman: Has your party ever been able to show guts enough to vote against the government when you disagree?
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I want to contribute to this debate on behalf of the only real opposition in the Ontario Legislature.
Mr. Conway: Did you circulate your private memo on this one too, Mike?
Mr. Cassidy: The most outrageous feature of the budget that the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) brought down a month ago was the increase of 37½ per cent in OHIP premiums. We in the New Democratic Party condemn as outrageous the government’s decision to raise premiums which are already the highest in the country to a level which is now twice that charged in any other province.
We think it is wrong to impose this arbitrary and regressive tax increase on wage earners in general, on the farming community, on small business, and in particular on people of modest incomes.
Mr. Conway: How is Gordon Hill?
Mr. Cassidy: We further condemn the manner in which the government has proceeded to implement this increase quite as completely as we oppose the increase itself, because what the government is doing is violating the fundamental parliamentary principle of no taxation without legislation.
Mr. Laughren: Shameful.
Mr. Conway: Michael of Runnymede.
Mr. Cassidy: When the OHIP increase was announced, we vowed to fight it with every means at our disposal. That’s why the New Democratic Party has brought this motion of no-confidence which we are debating today.
Mr. Conway: Have you got a memo privately circulated to that effect?
Mr. Cassidy: I want to begin my remarks this afternoon by explaining that we have come to a no-confidence motion in addition to our general amendment to the motion regarding the budget of the Treasurer -- because this is the only way that this matter can be brought before the Legislature before the premium increases actually take effect.
Mr. Conway: You don’t really want an election.
Mr. Cassidy: The budget motion will not be voted on until nearly the end of December of this year. There will be no bill implementing this particular tax increase, despite the fact that it is a tax increase, and the increases will actually take effect at the beginning of May.
If we are to stop this outrageous increase, the members of this House must act right now, not several months hence when it is a fait accompli and not, in fact, as the Leader of the Opposition pretends, after the committee has gone through a lengthy process of consideration and of deferral.
Mr. S. Smith: Two weeks.
Mr. Cassidy: As the new leader of the New Democratic Party --
Mr. Conway: Soon to be the old leader.
Mr. Cassidy: -- I had neither expected nor intended this early in my leadership to move a motion which could bring us to an election.
Mr. S. Smith: Oh, sure! You even did it on Inco.
Mr. Cassidy: With a federal election pending, and with less than a year since the last election, when the voters of the province confirmed their repudiation of the Conservatives in 1975 --
Mr. Mancini: And put you back in third place.
Mr. Cassidy: -- there was a clear expectation across Ontario that the minority situation should be allowed to continue. We share that expectation --
Hon. B. Stephenson: Really?
Mr. Cassidy: -- though we do not feel, and neither do the people of the province feel, that this minority government should ride roughshod over the opposition parties and act as they used to do in the arrogant years when they had a majority.
On the presumptuous, sanctimonious, dogmatic, incompetent, and uncaring record of the government in this session so far --
Hon. B. Stephenson: Are you describing yourself, Michael?
Mr. Cassidy: -- we in the NDP would welcome the chance to take on the Tories in an election if that is the outcome of our motion today.
Mr. Conway: The member for Cornwall winces.
Mr. Cassidy: It is not necessarily true though that the price Ontario will pay to rescind the increase in OHIP premiums is necessarily an election. If the official opposition had, at any time over the three weeks since we filed our motion, indicated that they intended to support it, then the ball would have been in the government’s court. At that point it would have been entirely in keeping with the spirit and practice of minority government for the government then to have withdrawn the premium increases rather than provoke an election and would have made the debate we are having today unnecessary. And if that was so and it provoked the resignation of the Treasurer as well, Mr. Speaker, so much the better, in view of his inaction in the face of unprecedented unemployment and the economic problems we have in the province.
Mr. Breaugh: That alone should turn you around, Sean.
Mr. Conway: That’s a very poor civic lesson.
Mr. Cassidy: It amused me that the member for Renfrew North suggested with horror that there might be another outcome from a no-confidence motion that was voted upon today. He suggested the Lieutenant Governor might actually call his party to form a government and then he went on to say that the only thing worse than a Conservative government would have been a Liberal government and we agree.
Mr. Conway: I know it’s hard but tell the truth.
Mr. S. Smith: That’s what you are going to get at the next election.
Mr. Cassidy: Nevertheless, I want to call upon the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues to join us now in voting in this House as they have spoken outside it to stop the OHIP increase.
The Liberal leader has postured before the public for the last month as an opponent of the higher premium.
Mr. O’Neil: You don’t know what you’re talking about.
Mr. Cassidy: In the last week he has discovered the things we were saying the moment that this budget came down -- about the way in which this OHIP premium increase makes people earning less than $20,000 a year the most highly taxed people in any province of the country.
Mr. Foulds: Shameful. Positively shameful.
Mr. Cassidy: But the strength of the Liberal commitment to resist this outrageous tax increase will be demonstrated, not in the rhetoric they put before the cameras or the committees, but at the outcome of today’s debate in about 10 minutes.
Mr. O’Neil: You can put it before the committee.
Mr. S. Smith: You are getting more irresponsible every day, Mike.
Mr. Cassidy: For the last few weeks the Liberals have been floundering around trying to find some way to avoid straightforward opposition to this increase. They have been saying it is possible to find some alternative by sending the increase to a standing committee.
Mr. O’Neil: Warmonger.
Mr. Cassidy: That position is nothing but bunk. The government’s agreement to have the discussion in committee was hailed by the Leader of the Opposition as -- and I quote: “A major breakthrough.”
Mr. O’Neil: It sure is. It is what we want.
Mr. Cassidy: But the government thought so much of the breakthrough that they went ahead and implemented the change anyway and they actually had the effrontery to file the order in council to authorize the higher premium after they had agreed to the examination of alternatives in committee. That’s one hell of a breakthrough, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. W. Newman: Watch your language.
Mr. Cassidy: It just is not credible. In the NDP we have made our opposition to this increase clear from the day it was announced. We are prepared to act as we have spoken and we will resist this government’s bid to collect more money from the individual citizens of Ontario in health insurance premiums by every means possible. We believe that is wrong that more should be raised in Ontario from health insurance premiums than from the entire business community in corporation tax.
I want to say that we are going to be absolutely straight about our position on this issue.
Hon. B. Stephenson: That will be a switch.
Mr. S. Smith: That will be interesting.
Hon. B. Stephenson: A change.
Mr. Cassidy: When we filed this motion we knew that it could lead to an election. I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that if this motion were to come back in four or five weeks’ time because, as we expect, the committee had not come up with any workable alternative in the way the Liberals are looking for, if this motion comes back and is proposed by some other party we will support it.
Mr. Ruston: You’re making a promise now.
Mr. Cassidy: We think it is shameful for the province of Ontario to be levying health insurance premiums at a level which is so much higher than those that prevail in all other provinces. It is because of the government’s gross mismanagement of the economy that the Treasurer is now trying to extract more than $270 million from the citizens of the province by this particular measure.
In fact, it is as an excuse for their failure to ensure a high level of economic activity and therefore make the private sector prosperous that the Treasurer and his colleagues have renewed their attack on the public sector by means such as increasing the charges for social services, which they introduced during their own tenure in office,
We are particularly concerned because of the impact of the OHIP increases on hundreds of thousands of ordinary people in this particular province. Any flat rate change in OHIP premiums is bound to be regressive and is bound to bear most harshly on those who can least afford to pay. This increase hits particularly hard at people on low and modest incomes, at farmers and small businessmen and at people who are unemployed and don’t have the benefit of employer-paid coverage. These people and other people who don’t have employer-paid health insurance must meet the entire increase from their own small incomes. Not only that, but even people whose employers bear the cost of some or all of their health costs will pay for the increase, either by a reduction in the wage increases that they need to offset the impact of inflation on their real incomes or they will pay because of the ceilings to which they are subjected because of the continuation of the Anti-Inflation Board.
I want to read you a couple of letters, Mr. Speaker, that I have had to indicate how people across this province feel about the health premium increases.
Mr. Conway: Do you need a Kleenex?
Mr. Cassidy: One lady wrote and said: “I am very discouraged as my income amounts to about $4,000 to $5,000 yearly and such an increase would cause me great hardship.”
Hon. B. Stephenson: She was eligible for premium assistance.
Mr. Cassidy: Another lady who works for a small non-profit organization and is paying OHIP direct said: “My taxable income was $2,200 this past year, so I was ineligible for assistance. A raise has just put me over the new limit for assistance this year too.”
Hon. B. Stephenson: She is wrong.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: She is wrong.
Mr. Cassidy: There are people in my riding, Mr. Speaker, who are living in assisted housing because they cannot afford private housing and from whom almost every penny in their wage increase this year will be taken because of the premiums they have to pay and because of their rent, which is geared to income.
Mr. Cassidy: The lady I mentioned goes on to complain: “It is grossly unfair” -- and we agree -- “that a single low-wage earner should pay $264 a year for coverage when a millionaire with six kids pays only $528.”
She concludes with the following words, which I have seen again and again: “People in my position feel the injustice of the payment system intensely. We are frustrated and have little power or influence. All we can do is express our frustrations and anger and cast our votes in the next election for a party that will introduce a more equitable system.”
Mr. S. Smith: We will accept their votes.
Mr. Cassidy: Those calls have come in the hundreds. We’ve had enormous numbers of letters come in as well from people who are angry, upset and don’t know what to do.
Mr. O’Neil: They are all going to vote Liberal next time.
Mr. Cassidy: They are offended -- and they include former Conservatives -- at the fact that this matter is not coming before the Legislature as it should properly do.
It is not, however, just the single human cases which have led us to table this motion of no-confidence. The premium increase is symptomatic of a budget which can only be described as the worst produced by a Conservative Treasurer within living memory.
The last thing that the private sector of the economy needs today is a tax increase of $270 million, which will take that much purchasing power out of the pockets of Ontario consumers. The last thing that the 326,000 unemployed people in Ontario need today is a budget which, by continuing the machinery tax exemption --
Hon. Mr. Norton: How do you propose to pay for it?
Hon. B. Stephenson: He has no suggestions.
Mr. Cassidy: -- will actually destroy 14,858 more jobs than it creates.
Hon. Mr. Norton: So you are suggesting we borrow another $270 million?
Mr. Cassidy: I’m not impressed by the Treasurer talking about the need for a visible link, as he calls it, between the level of premiums and what people get in health care. If the Treasurer wants a visible link to exist, then he and the Minister of Health should have come together a long time ago and issued to every citizen in the province an Ontario health insurance charge card on which everybody who had health services would see what they are being charged for the services and would have to sign before that hospital, that doctor, that pharmacist or whoever else was involved could actually bill OHIP for those particular health services. If the government wants responsible scrutiny of whether people are getting value for money, that’s the way to do it and not through this particular premium increase.
Mr. Laughren: That’s right.
Mr. S. Smith: We suggested that long ago.
Mr. Cassidy: Nor are we impressed by the Treasurer’s arguments about the corporation tax, because the Treasurer who moans and groans about the competitive situation of industry in the province is quietly putting forward a $121 million tax increase for corporations through the payroll tax that they will pay through their contributions in cases where employers are covered for health premiums.
We put forward a responsible proposal that would have taken concessions to industry from last year, and that particular amount the Treasurer felt as justified, and we would have imposed a two point increase in the corporation tax in Ontario. We felt that was responsible and that’s in answer to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and to the Minister of Community and Social Services.
We put forward, as well, a responsible budget on behalf of the New Democratic Party that would have created 46,000 jobs this year as compared to 142 jobs -- all that were coming forward from the government in their budget. This was at a time of seven per cent unemployment, and more than 300,000 people without work in this province.
In our budget we put forward a responsible long-term program in order to build the economy of this province rather than continue to destroy it in the way that the Conservatives have been doing these many years.
In our budget, and in my reply on behalf of the New Democratic Party, we put forward responsible suggestions for ways so we could ensure there would be jobs in the future in this province, and that we would not have the continuation of layoffs and the shutdowns which are plaguing our workers today and are undermining our economy. These suggestions are good suggestions. In fact some of them are now coming back to us because the government has no ideas of its own but has reluctantly agreed to take good suggestions --
Mr. Cassidy: -- from the New Democratic Party.
But I want to suggest as well that it is irresponsible for the government to continue, as it has been doing, to attack the public sector for the Tories’ failure to keep the economy of this province strong, both in the public and private sector. We believe that what is essential is to build up both sectors of the economy and ensure that there is an adequate economic base so people can have jobs and the tax revenues will be available so that this kind of regressive measure is not a necessity or is not imposed in Ontario.
Finally, I want to underline again the outrageously arbitrary manner in which this government failed to bring in legislation to implement the increases as it has to do with all other tax measures announced in the budget.
A year or two ago this party opposed a proposal related to a tax on cans. That was also opposed by the other opposition party and the government withdrew it because tax legislation would have had to come forward. I want to suggest that it would have been responsible to bring the legislation forward and find out what the opposition parties were prepared to do with it.
Hon. Mr. Davies: Your party used to be in favour of banning cans.
Mr. Cassidy: If premium increases had been legislated by this Legislature, we would obviously have opposed it. I haven’t a clue in the world what the Liberal Party would have done with that measure.
An hon. member: Neither do they.
Mr. Cassidy: In order to make that a reality, my colleague, the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere, presented a private member’s bill to amend the Health Insurance Act and to require the government to seek the consent of this House for OHIP increases. That bill, which was debated last Thursday, could have been put into law in time that we could have had it before us before May 1. But the government saw to it that 20 Conservative members stood in their places last Thursday to block the member’s bill and to repudiate the great parliamentary principle that taxation may only be imposed by legislation.
Hon. Mr. Norton: There already is legislation.
Mr. Cassidy: We believe that no taxation should be imposed without the consent of the people’s representatives in parliament. That’s why we brought the private member’s bill last week and that is why we are using the only other device open to us, which is this no-confidence motion.
I want to read it, again, into the record. It is a good motion. I ask all members of the Legislature to support the motion and to roll back this particular premium increase.
“Resolved: That this House condemns the government’s outrageous decision to raise Ontario health insurance premiums to the highest level in Canada; deplores the regressive impact of this arbitrary tax increase on wage earners in general, on farmers and small business, and in particular on people of modest income; and condemns the government’s affront to the fundamental parliamentary principle of no taxation without legislation; and that for all these reasons this House no longer has confidence in the government.”
Mr. Ruston: It’s a charade, that’s all it is.
The House divided on Mr. Cassidy’s motion, which was negatived on the following vote:
Ziemba -- 28.
Miller, G. I.
Smith, G. E.
Yakabuski -- 73.
Ayes 28; nays 73.
The House recessed at 6:10 p.m.