L015 - Mon 8 Jul 1985 / Lun 8 jul 1985
The House met at 2 p.m.
VERSION EN FRANÇAIS
M. Pouliot: Question de privilège, monsieur le président. Il est vraiment déplorable que la communauté francophone soit obligée d'utiliser les textes anglais de deux projets de loi portant sur l'éducation. Je parle ici du projet 28 et du projet 30.
Il est inconcevable que les francophones ne puissent obtenir une version française du projet de loi 28 qui a été déposé en Chambre il y a quand même 28 jours aujourd'hui, soit quatre semaines. En plus, il n'existe aucune traduction du projet de loi 30 visant à élargir le financement des écoles catholiques.
Nous demandons donc que le ministre de l'éducation s'engage immédiatement à traduire ces deux projets de loi afin de donner aux francophones de la province de l'Ontario les armes pour faire face aux débats qui suivront.
Mr. Speaker: I do not really consider that to be a point of privilege. The honourable member suggested that a certain piece of legislation should be printed in French as well as in English. I suggest he take that up with the minister personally during question period or during consideration of the bill.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I would like to make a statement as a follow-up to the question raised by the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) regarding the application by CNCP Telecommunications to compete in providing long-distance service and the potential impact on local telephone rates.
As I mentioned in my response last Friday, in approaching telecommunications policy questions, this government has as its goals universal access at affordable rates and the development of a system that supports the economic growth of this province. To achieve these goals, my ministry represents Ontario's interests at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hearings on these matters.
I must say there has been considerable confusion and misinformation recently on the subject of CNCP's application to compete in providing long-distance service. Bell Canada did not oppose competition, but countered CNCP's application with a proposal that telephone rates should be rebalanced before competition was allowed.
In its final argument before the CRTC, Ontario stated it did not support Bell's proposal to hike local rates only after the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Premier (Mr. Peterson), had asked a former minister to take a four-square stand against any local rate increases.
Competition in long-distance service was supported on the basis of its potential benefits to the people and economy of this province, benefits such as increased choice, greater efficiency, stimulation of industry and more jobs. I must repeat, it was supported only on the condition that there be no negative impact on local rates.
In short, this government supports healthy competition in the industry. I expect a CRTC decision on these issues will be made this summer. I also expect, regardless of the outcome, the decision will be appealed to the federal cabinet.
Finally, when the federal and provincial ministers responsible for communications meet in Montreal this October, I will support firmly the continued availability of affordable, universal telephone service in Ontario. In the meantime, I can assure the House, based on further research by my staff, I will be looking at the relevant issues in great detail. It will be at the October ministers' conference that I will outline this government's proposals for a national policy in telecommunications.
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: My statement today deals --
Mr. F. S. Miller: On a point of order, we do not have a copy of the statement.
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: I understand the statement is being delivered. My statement deals with the Canadian automotive industry. I am sure everyone in this House is fully aware of the significant role the Canadian automotive industry plays in the Canadian economy, especially and more particularly in the economy of our province.
Our economy was led out of the 1980-82 recession by our automotive industry. This industry has shown a remarkable resilience in being able to weather recessions and reinvest in itself. During the worst days of the recession, the industry had 20 per cent unemployment, sales were down by 43 per cent and our auto trade deficit was in excess of $3.3 billion.
Fortunately for all of us, the auto industry can and does reinvest in itself even during the worst times. During the six-year period 1979-84, the vehicle manufacturers and the parts manufacturers spent a total of $4.7 billion on capital expenditures in Canada. The preliminary estimate for 1985 is approximately $1.6 billion. No other manufacturing industry in Canada can match this growth in capital expenditures.
We are now reaping the benefits of past investments. Employment in this industry is at an all-time high, slightly more than 109,000 people in Ontario alone. Vehicle and parts production is at capacity levels with many plants working overtime. This is an industry which has renewed itself and will continue to do so in the future.
I do not believe it detracts from the industry's efforts and accomplishments when I say the federal and Ontario governments played important roles in helping this industry renew itself. These two levels of government have made important contributions in the areas of trade policy, investment assistance and training support.
Beginning in the spring of 1981, the federal government, with the support and backing of the industry and all parties in this House, obtained an agreement from the Japanese government that Japanese vehicle manufacturers would limit exports of cars to Canada. This agreement was renewed during each of the following three years, although each set of negotiations was long and difficult.
By limiting Japanese vehicle sales, North American producers were given increased assurance of their own sales and so they were able confidently to undertake the large investments that were necessary. With capital investment, especially in our current time of rapid technological change, comes the need for improved and increased training and retraining. Both levels of government have been active in this area.
I mention these details to provide some background and give a perspective to what I now have to say. Last week the federal government announced it had reached a vague understanding with the Japanese government concerning the export of Japanese cars to Canada. In reading the agreement, I find it difficult to understand why it took so long to achieve so little. We had hoped the federal government would have been able to obtain an agreement to secure jobs and investment in Ontario similar to the $3.6 billion of Japanese auto-related investments which has taken place in the United States.
The federal government does not appear to be very well informed of the importance of a strong, growing automotive industry. Its understanding with the Japanese does not call for an increased capital investment by the Japanese vehicle or parts manufacturers. It also does not ask the Japanese to buy more Canadian-made auto parts. How can members of this House expect the Japanese to undertake auto-related investment in Canada when we have a federal government that does not seem willing or committed to establishing rules and conditions that ensure a healthy Canadian automotive industry?
I will be meeting the Honourable Sinclair Stevens later this week. I intend to do all I can to impress upon him the need to set clear and consistent guidelines that will ensure that the Japanese automotive industry undertakes sufficient and productive investment in our economy.
I mentioned earlier that the two levels of government had provided assistance and support to the industry in three areas -- trade, investment assistance and training. I have already described my disappointment in the recent quota agreement with the Japanese. I am equally concerned about the federal government's declining commitment and support in the areas of investment and training.
Since the Conservatives took over in Ottawa, there has been a steady erosion of federal financial support for the investment projects that must take place in our automotive industry. The federal government's industry and labour assistance program was one of the most cost-effective and successful investment assistance programs ever made available to the automotive industry. It was strongly supported by the banks and other financial institutions and by the industry itself. The federal government saw fit to terminate this program.
It was replaced by the industrial and regional development program. Since September 4 there has been a virtual elimination of the industrial component of this program. This lack of support comes at a time when the investment needs of the industry are at an all-time high and when the financial resources required substantially exceed those of the private sector.
The Ontario government has the automotive parts investment fund. This is a three-year, $30-million fund designed to encourage investment in the auto parts industry, plus offer support for the training the new investments require. This program was implemented in November 1984 and has been so successful that two thirds of all the available funds were committed during the past six months. This generated more investment on the part of the private sector than was anticipated.
Quite clearly, additional federal funding is required if our auto industry is to be in a position to make the most of the opportunities that are available at present. I will be discussing this issue with Mr. Stevens when I meet him this week.
The third area concerns training. The federal government has recently cut back on its financial support for apprenticeship training in industry. I will also be raising our concerns on this issue with Mr. Stevens.
Our automotive industry is a crucial and strategically important part of the Ontario economy. For Canada to maintain its international role in this industry, it is vital that all major players doing business in Canada invest in Canada. If this does not occur, our automotive industry will begin to decline.
We must urge the federal government to link Japanese import penetration of our market to investment in vehicle assembly and parts manufacturing facilities in Canada. The federal government must recognize its obligation to this large industrial sector.
In closing, I would note that preliminary discussions have been held by the three party leaders to consider a resolution urging the federal government explicitly to link the increase in the quotas with commitments to invest in Canada. We hope to have a resolution acceptable to all three parties ready for introduction within two days.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Standing order 26(a) of this House says, "Statements may be made by ministers relating to government policy, ministry action and other similar matters of which the House should be informed."
On Friday last, my leader asked a question of the Premier (Mr. Peterson) relating to the government's intention to move towards a ban on extra billing. In response, the Premier indicated there was a variety of options he intended to discuss with the Ontario Medical Association and would give no further details. Moments later, to quote the Globe and Mail directly, "Mr. Peterson told reporters that the province will adopt the Quebec model."
Mr. Speaker, I would ask you, therefore, to inform the House whether, in your opinion, this information could and should have been provided to this House earlier on Friday in the form of a ministerial statement.
Mr. Martel: Surely the member does not really mean that.
Mr. Grossman: Are the New Democrats obliged to defend the government on every count? They fumbled the ball on equal pay; they embarrassed themselves on equal pay. They should not embarrass themselves by defending the government on this thing that they specifically have always called for.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, would you consider whether this matter ought to have been mentioned to the House by way of a ministerial statement, whether you might refer to this in the same way as an earlier Speaker did in response to a point of order raised by the now Premier, or whether you believe this conduct on the part of the Premier violates both the spirit and the letter of standing order 26(a)?
Finally, in view of the comments made last Tuesday in the lengthy statement by the Premier when he said, "We will move to bolster the role of members in this House; in this House everybody will count," would you contemplate whether this government has shown its intention to disregard an undertaking made to this House in the first major statement by this Premier and whether it has disregarded totally an important part of the standing orders?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
The member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick has brought forth a supposed point of order. In fact, there are a number of comments and requests included in that point of order. I believe the member referred specifically to a question that was originally asked in the House. As Speaker, I have no authority to request a member of this House to answer or to tell him how to answer. I am sure the member realizes that the standing orders state that a minister may or may not reply.
Out of courtesy, because of the many requests made in that point of order, I will take a look at it.
At the moment I would say that originally he requested information out of a question posed, over which I have no authority, but I will have a look at it.
Mr. F. S. Miller: In Ottawa they have a rat pack; in Ontario we have an apologist rump.
Mr. Speaker: To whom were you posing that question?
Mr. F. S. Miller: I have a question of the Minister of Housing. Can the minister explain to us how the extended rent controls will increase vacancy rates and provide more affordable housing?
Hon. Mr. Curling: I think the member is referring to the point that was made in the Globe and Mail recently. The point I was making was that rent controls would not necessarily have a negative effect on the vacancy rate.
I had reasons for saying that. First, the government is on record as supporting a comprehensive program that will significantly increase the supply of rental housing. Second, we are confident the simple elimination of uncertainty throughout the construction industry will have a positive effect on the building stocks.
Mr. F. S. Miller: He went a little further than that, unless the quote is wrong. The quotation I have says that when he was asked whether he was afraid that extending rent controls would decrease the number of apartments, he said: "No. As a matter of fact, quite the contrary."
I would like to know what reports he has to show that. With this open government, would he show us the reports he has to the effect that extending rent control would increase available housing? What will he do to make affordable housing available to people in Toronto, in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Curling: It went a bit further, as the member said. If we have rent control, it brings those people in line to have affordable accommodation. That is what I was responding to. We talked about simply making our policy absolutely clear and aboveboard. Builders know we are not putting anything under the table. If these people know they can have affordable homes, that itself will give access to these things. I did not say it would make an increase.
Mr. Timbrell: What?
Mr. Grossman: Yes, you did.
Mr. Timbrell: Do you know what you said? Do you have any idea what you said?
Mr. Speaker: Order, order. Supplementary, the member for Bellwoods.
Mr. Grossman: Help him out, Ross.
Mr. Brandt: Get on the hay wagon and help him out.
Mr. McClellan: Now that the minister has understood that if the government has a rent control program it also has to have a provincial housing supply program, something which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. F. S. Miller) never understood in his entire life and which he still does not understand --
Mr. McClellan: They stopped building housing in 1978.
Would the minister undertake to give the House a report of the results of the conference in Calgary, which he attended last week? Will he indicate to this House when he intends to announce the details of Ontario's provincial housing supply program, for which we have waited for so many years?
Hon. Mr. Curling: Yes, the conference in Calgary was quite informative and I intend to give a full report to the House.
Mr. Elgie: Good question. Well done, Ross.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Gordon: The new Housing minister we have in this House fails to realize we have a lot of single people in Metropolitan Toronto who are finding it very difficult to get housing. To play a loose-lipped approach to a very serious problem, waffling on whether or not he said what he said, is not going to help that situation. How does he square his remarks, which are on record in the Globe and Mail, with the report from Clayton Research Associates to the Commission of Inquiry into Residential Tenancies, which was looking at rent regulations and rental market problems, wherein they say --
Mr. Rae: You are now opposed to rent reviews, are you?
Mr. Gordon: Would the pink rump be quiet please -- by restraining rent increases such a program can maintain low rents in the existing rental stock but there is no rational reason to expect it to encourage new supply? What is he going to do about housing in this province, in Metro Toronto in particular?
Hon. Mr. Curling: The staff in the Housing ministry is quite competent. I will be consulting with them. They are good civil servants and I will be meeting with them to find out good options whereby to provide supplies.
Mr. Gordon: Is that housing? Come on.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. F. S. Miller: I think I would have to speculate as to whether there are questions coming from my left, or simply answers for the ministers to get back to us from that direction.
Mr. Speaker: Is there a new question?
Mr. F. S. Miller: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I would like to refer to a couple of his comments following his answers the other day. According to an article in the Sunday Sun:
"He said he was `just speculating,' but advocated turning the review board into `more of a classification board.'
"They would tell the public, `This is a rotten, horrible, terrible kind of thing and we are saying to you nobody should see it.
"`But if someone wants to see it, good luck to you -- just as long as everybody knows this is what we say about it.'"
Does that really mean the minister believes that classifying films would not lead to more pornography in this province? Does he really believe that?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: In response to the question, the operative word in that statement was "speculating." It was not a speculation as to what I would do, it concerned the options.
I would like to go on record that I was unequivocal in my answer on Friday that we as a government are opposed to pornography, in every form. We are opposed to it when it comes to the degradation of women, the exploitation of children and gratuitous violence. Notwithstanding that, we feel we have an obligation to make sure creative integrity is also protected. That was the basis of the statement.
Mr. F. S. Miller: This party is not opposed to "artistic integrity," but we are very worried about where the minister is leading us. For example, I want to know who he is speaking for: his party, himself or the Premier (Mr. Peterson). This is not the first time in this last week we have had differing opinions from him or other ministers and the Premier.
I just have to go back to 1984 when the Premier was quoted as saying Mr. Peterson backs the Ontario censor board, saying it needs to be armed to act now and in the future. I think it was the year before, in issuing the report that really caught the attention of quite a few people because it was a dramatic shift of policy, when he was quoted in the Canadian Press as saying: "The Ontario Liberal Party has called for a broadening of the censor board's powers and tougher obscenity laws to combat what it calls the growing menace of the new pornography."
Is the minister aware of what his leader is saying and his party's policies?
Mr. Speaker: The question has been put.
Mr. F. S. Miller: Is he afraid or does he believe, as the rest of us do, that this includes young people?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I am fully aware of the party's policy. If we take a look at the history of this issue we will see there are no easy answers. All we are going to do is to take a look at it.
Mr. Breaugh: Not if Mary Brown sees it first.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Would the members allow the member for Mississauga South to put a supplementary question.
Mrs. Marland: The minister said on Friday there was no question in his mind that some of the out-takes of the film the member is talking about constituted areas of grave concern. He is saying again today that he is looking at it.
Has the minister yet seen that subject of which he is speaking? Has he seen the out-takes film? If so, is it the minister's intention to ask the women and children of Ontario to pay for his desire to protect "artistic integrity" by tolerating the distribution and exhibition of degrading and exploitive material --
Mr. Speaker: Order. I think the questions have been asked.
Mrs. Marland: -- which his party said during the campaign had been linked to negative attitudes and behaviour towards women and children?
Mr. Speaker: Order. A supplementary question is placed out of the material the minister has given in the answer. I believe you have given at least one supplementary there.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The answer to the member's question is no.
EQUAL PAY FOR WORK OF EQUAL VALUE
Mr. Rae: I have a question for the minister responsible for women's issues. The minister will be aware that a press conference was held today by the Equal Pay Coalition, a group representing nearly a million women in Ontario. In the light of the very real concerns that were expressed this morning by the coalition with respect to equal pay in the private sector, is the minister prepared today to give us a clear indication of the timetable it is his intention to follow with respect to the introduction of equal pay in the private sector? Since the government is on record on many occasions as saying it is in favour of legislation, can he please give us that timetable today?
Hon. Mr. Scott: I would like to thank the honourable member for his question.
Mr. Davis: It is really a tough one.
Hon. Mr. Scott: I am new here and I did not realize the use of the expression "green paper" was a symbol for delay after 42 years. That was not our intention in selecting that mechanism. We anticipate the green paper will be prepared, with outside consultation from the community, by early autumn. There will be a further consultation period and I hope to have a bill available or prepared following that.
Mr. Rae: Following what?
Mr. Rae: No, no. It is all right. You will get your chance.
Mr. Speaker: I understood that to be a supplementary.
Hon. Mr. Scott: When the leader of the third party was in law school he was expected to ask brief questions and I am glad he has done so. The answer to the question "Following what?" is following adequate public consultation.
Mr. Timbrell: Rather than keeping interested individuals and organizations in the dark until such time as the minister chooses to release some paper for discussion, would he broaden the process now so all those individuals and organizations may have input, starting now and running right through to the conclusion of the legislation?
Hon. Mr. Scott: It is intended that any of those who wish to make representations during the course of the preparation of the green paper should be able to do so. Their representations will be happily and eagerly accepted. Following the publication of the green paper, which we hope will be in the early autumn and which will set out a number of practical options, we want a period for more formal consultation amongst those who may not have had the opportunity or the willingness to make submissions or representations at an earlier, more abstract stage. That is the course we intend to follow. We think it is going to be fair, practical and reasonably expeditious.
Mr. Rae: The public is still entitled to know whether we are going to have legislation by the end of 1985. Is that legislation going to be put to committee before 1985? Can the minister tell us if legislation is going to be ready before the end of 1985? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Scott: The time frame will be dictated by the amount of time expended in public consultation. It is my hope we will have legislation towards the end of the year. Bearing in mind the variable nature of the process, particularly the consultation, I cannot be absolutely assured of that. I am going to do my best to see that timetable is met.
Mr. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. The minister will be aware that one of the last acts of the gasping regime that has just been brought to its happy close was to put into effect a reduction in acid gas emissions that happens to coincide precisely with the plans put forward by Inco itself.
Does the minister not think it is completely inappropriate for the government of Ontario to be putting forward control orders that are nothing more or less than what the company itself indicated it was willing to do? Does he not think it is time to have a tougher, more effective form of regulation for Inco? If he does, can he tell us when he intends to bring it forward?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: It is the viewpoint of this government that all such control orders should be reviewed by the government and that we are not bound by what the last government considered acceptable. The leader of the third party may be assured we are reviewing that at the present time.
As he will know, in the past as an opposition party we have expressed our concern about the level of emissions permitted, not only by Inco but also by other companies in this province. Let me assure the member we will review that further, I think it is safe to say with a view to toughening up those restrictions.
Mr. Rae: I still think we are entitled to a time frame. I would like to refer the minister to an answer his leader gave to the Canadian Coalition on Acid Rain during the election campaign.
Specifically regarding Inco, he was asked, "If elected Premier, will you ensure passage of an order in council within six months of assuming office which requires implementation of this two-stage sulphur dioxide emission control program in the shortest feasible time?" He answered, "Yes."
Is that still the position of the government? Can we still count on far tougher measures, with far more adequate technology, being introduced by this government within six months, as promised by his leader a short couple of months ago?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I think the leader of the third party can be assured that in the review we are conducting on this issue as a ministry and as a government and cabinet, much tougher measures will emerge. I think the member can be assured as well that we understand the need for a reasonable timetable. As the Premier has indicated, that timetable will be six months. We will be working towards that objective.
Mr. Brandt: Can the minister indicate, with respect to both Inco and Ontario Hydro, what kind of target figure he has established in his ministry for reductions of sulphur dioxide and what amount of money the government intends to contribute towards the payment for the cost of achieving those reductions?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I cannot indicate the specifics of that at this time, but as I have indicated to the leader of the third party that matter is under review.
I will also be reviewing the measures proposed by the previous government. As the member understands, there are costs involved, particularly in relation to Ontario Hydro. I am glad he mentioned Ontario Hydro, because we recognize that a significant amount of the sulphur dioxide produced in this province is produced by Ontario Hydro.
We recognize as well that whenever we attempt to clean up the environment it is done at some cost. However, the indication I received from the public previous to, during and subsequent to the election campaign was that the people of this province are prepared to pay the cost of a clean environment.
Mr. Martel: Can the minister indicate whether any discussions have been started by his ministry with respect to the possibility of the construction of a new smelter in Sudbury, the possibility of a new refinery in Sudbury; and the possibility of using some of the sulphur dioxide, which becomes sulphuric acid, and combining that with phosphates to make fertilizer, as yet a second method of reducing the emissions that are causing such trouble?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I cannot indicate to the member whether such discussions have taken place. I have not personally discussed that with my ministry officials, although I do recall proposals being made at some time in the past to show that the utilization of that product could be of some economic benefit, which therefore would make it much more attractive. As I review the various issues affecting the ministry that will be one of them. I thank the member for reminding me of that.
Mr. Grossman: I have a question for the Minister of Health. For the 2,000 doctors in Ontario who have opted out, 70 to 80 per cent of all their services are provided on an opted-in basis -- that is, they do not extra-bill for them -- to people who cannot afford to pay any money for the services of those specialists.
In view of that, can the minister explain to the House why, in the five or 10 minutes it took the Premier (Mr. Peterson) to decide to take the Quebec option after we asked the question last Friday, his leader would have opted to create two classes of health care in this province?
The first class is for those people who can afford to pay the total amount of the services being provided by specialists who will decide to opt out under the Quebec model, and the second provides, in some cases, the services of less qualified and less experienced doctors, on an opted-in basis, to the less-well-off in society.
Why is his leader advocating two classes of medicine in this province, one for the rich and one for the poor?
Hon. Mr. Elston: I want to thank the member for bringing to my attention that he is concerned about the quality of health care provided by opted-in physicians. I ask him to provide me immediately with the names of those people he thinks are unable to provide quality service.
In answer to the specific question, which was with respect to the options available to us, we are examining a broad number of options and looking for helpful suggestions from any part of the citizenry of this province. I will welcome the member's assistance as well when we come to putting together a program that will provide what we are committed to, which is quality health care in Ontario.
I again ask the member to provide me with the names of those physicians who he says are not providing the people of Ontario with proper health care. It is my concern, as the Minister of Health, that those people he says are not providing as high a quality of care, are using the opted-in process to deal with the provision of health care to the people of Ontario. I ask him to let me know who those people are.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: If they are opted in, the member is saying they are not providing --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Grossman: With respect, the Minister of Health, who until now has been a fairly articulate speaker, perhaps has been taking advice from the Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling) on answering questions.
Mr. Speaker: Is that your supplementary question?
Mr. Grossman: I point out to the Minister of Health that perhaps he is mistaken with regard to all the options being open for the government. Again I want to quote directly from his leader. "Mr. Peterson told reporters that the province will adopt the `Quebec model.'" That is what his leader said.
In addition, Dr. Charboneau, with whom we have spoken this morning, tells us she expects up to 500 of the opted-out specialists will opt out entirely. In view of that fact, I wonder how the Minister of Health can tolerate a circumstance where he is going to remove from the poor in society the opportunity of access to 500 of the very best doctors in the world practising here in Ontario and tell them that the government of Ontario will no longer pay for the services of these doctors and that they will have to pay out of their pockets themselves, i.e., the rich can have those 500 doctors and the poor will not have them any more.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I believe the supplementary was asked.
Hon. Mr. Elston: I want to thank the member for his concern about the quality of health care in the province. I do not doubt for a moment that he has been speaking with Dr. Charboneau and others in that part of the medical profession.
As the member knows, there are ways in which people might want to be opted out of the program without extra billing. There are all sorts of options available of which the member himself is probably aware. I would think he --
Mr. Grossman: The minister has no options.
Hon. Mr. Elston: If the member does not want to consider the options available to us, if he does not want me to consider the options available to me and to the medical profession and to the people of Ontario, let him say so.
If the member wants to provide us right away with his plan of action to deal with this question, let him send it over and I will consider it. Right now I am in the process of discovering the best and fairest way of implementing a system to which we are committed.
I say to the member, and he knows full well from being in the cabinet at one time or another, perhaps not always agreeing with his leader at that time --
Hon. Mr. Elston: There may be refinements available to various programs which are equally --
Mr. Speaker: Order. Is there a supplementary?
Mr. D. S. Cooke: Can the Minister of Health give us an assurance that when the negotiations are occurring and the options are being considered, the approach of the government will not be to buy off the doctors by enriching the fee schedule to buy peace?
Can the minister give us an assurance of the principle of accessibility for all, not the system the Tories have advocated which allows doctors to introduce means tests for the poor in this province, but a system in which a fee schedule has been negotiated and that fee schedule will be followed by all doctors who participate in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Elston: The options put forward and the suggestions made by my colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside are reasonable. We are taking all the steps necessary for proper and fair negotiations and will put them in place so we can end up with quality health care for everyone in the province.
Mr. Ramsay: I wish to direct my question to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Is the minister aware of the serious financial problems Ontario farmers are having? Is he aware that while we await his ministry's farm financial package, there are farmers who are facing foreclosure daily? Will the minister please give us a date when he will present a farm financial package that will allow the farmers in Ontario to finance their debts at eight per cent?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: I want to assure the member that my staff have been working very diligently on a program since I became minister. We spent most of this morning going over the various options we feel would be most appropriate to help the farmers in the financial distress to which the member alluded.
I was hoping by Wednesday of this week I would be able to bring a proposal before cabinet, but we are still trying to come up with the best option. Some time next week I hope to have something for cabinet.
Mr. Ramsay: Is the minister aware that on Tuesday last, July 2, I tabled a motion in this House suggesting the minister present to the House a bill that would give a moratorium on farm debt until a farm financial package is in place? Will he consider that if this farm financial package is delayed any further?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: On the basis of the Saskatchewan model, we are not convinced the moratorium has proved all that successful. We do not think it to be the best means of helping our farmers. I believe the Premier (Mr. Peterson) indicated much the same thing when he was asked about it here recently. We feel there are other ways of assisting the farmers without putting a moratorium on farm bankruptcies, because that makes financial institutions very reluctant to lend.
I think the member also understands that in the Saskatchewan program, the interest continues to accrue and the lender is not obligated to lend any more to the farmers. That is a situation that simply postpones the agony, and it would be very doubtful if that farmer would be able to get any more credit from the financial institution. We think there is a better way than putting a moratorium on farm foreclosures.
Mr. Sheppard: During the campaign the minister promised us eight per cent money for farmers. Is he going to do it?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: In the event the member was not listening to my original response, we are definitely working on an eight per cent subsidy program. We will be introducing that next week, we hope.
Mr. Timbrell: Maybe; a very definite maybe.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Brandt: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. Is it his intention to hold full and complete public hearings under the Environmental Assessment Act with respect to the proposed construction of the television tower at Gores Landing? If so, when is the minister prepared to make a decision?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I want to say I thank the member for the question, but I do not, of course. I will indicate to him this afternoon that this matter is under review. There may be a solution to the problem which will satisfy the member as well as those in the area who have expressed some opposition. Before the House rises we hope to be able to provide the details of that particular reply. It may avoid the need the member has expressed at this time.
Mr. Sheppard: How much longer are we going to have to wait? There are more than 108,000 people who have been waiting.
Mr. Eakins: They have been waiting two years.
Mr. Rae: They have been waiting 42 years.
Mr. Sheppard: How soon can we count on it?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I well understand the member's concern about the length of time it has taken. No doubt he has made his representations to the last three or four members who have been Ministers of the Environment on the other side. I can assure the member it will take this minister far less time to make a decision on that than it has my predecessors.
Mrs. Grier: Can the minister confirm that the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee has recommended that, should the site of Gores Landing be chosen, there would be an environmental assessment?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: My recollection is that that is the case. Excluding anything else, the process alone certainly would point to that. One of the alternatives to be explored, I suppose -- and the member for Northumberland (Mr. Sheppard) will be particularly interested in this as well -- is the possibility of another site that might be acceptable to all concerned. That is being explored at present.
In answer to the member's question, if my memory serves me correctly I think the answer is yes.
Ms. Gigantes: I have a question for the Attorney General concerning the intent of the government on the need for the creation of independent review mechanisms for complaints against the police in communities outside Metro.
Specifically, I ask him to give a token of the government's good intent on this matter by releasing now the nine-month-old Ontario Provincial Police report on the case of William Franklin Baker and the complaints against the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police, about which he will recollect the member for Huron-Bruce (Mr. Elston), as critic of the Ministry of the Attorney General, said there needed to be a complete public airing.
Hon. Mr. Scott: The member knows the complaint bureau in Metropolitan Toronto has worked very successfully and we will be reviewing its process to determine whether there should be some broader application to other municipalities.
With respect to the Baker case, I have had occasion to review the file. As the members know, the Baker case is one in which the Ontario Provincial Police during the last government made an investigation into certain allegations to determine whether criminal charges should be laid. The previous Attorney General reviewed the report and decided charges should not be laid.
For a long time in this jurisdiction and in the United Kingdom, it has not been the practice of Attorneys General to release reports that lead or do not lead to the laying of charges for the very good reason that, by so doing, persons who are innocent may have their reputations severely, unfairly and unjustly injured. The previous Attorney General and I are consistent at least in that position.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: My supplementary question deals with the case reported in the Globe and Mail today of a Mr. Kirpar Sandhu from Windsor, who has a complaint about the Windsor police force. Without making any judgement in the matter as to who is and who is not correct, does the Attorney General not understand the frustration of someone who complains to the police commission and to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, who does not get satisfactory responses, who does not feel his case has been dealt with in an independent way and who feels his only alternative is to go to the press to have a public hearing of his case?
When does the minister expect to respond to a real need in this province for independent reviews, not just in Metropolitan Toronto but also all across this province, so that fairness is not only done but also is seen to be done?
Hon. Mr. Scott: With respect to the Windsor case, it may be premature to draw the conclusion there is any need there. As I understand the matter, the investigation of the allegation by the police has only commenced. I would prefer to leave the matter for consideration until the report is completed and at hand.
JOB CREATION, SKILLS TRAINING
Mr. Gillies: The Premier will be aware that about a week and a half ago the government of Canada unveiled its new, $700-million skills training and job creation program. When will the Premier be unveiling the details of his government's program, which we assume will be complementary to the federal program; and specifically, can the Premier tell us what steps he is taking to ensure that Ontario will receive its fair share of federal funding?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I am going by memory in my reply to the former minister, who is very much aware that under the new federal initiative Ontario was not receiving its historic proportion of the funds. I know it is something that gave consternation to the former minister as well as to me.
When one looks across the broad range of federal programs now being presented in this country, one can see a diminution in the contribution to Ontario's share, at least in historic terms. That is an item that is very high on my agenda, as are a lot of other federal-provincial issues. It is my hope to be speaking with and meeting with federal ministers, as well as the Prime Minister, in the not-too-distant future and to put forward, in very strong and unequivocal language, the position of Ontario that we are entitled to our fair share.
When I go to those meetings, I hope I will be able to take the member's support for Ontario's classic relationship in regard to federal support. I hope I can say I talked to the former minister, who is knowledgeable on these issues, and "he shares my strong view, Mr. Prime Minister, that we should not be taken advantage of in this regard." Can I count on that?
Mr. Gillies: If the Premier is saying he will say "Hi" to the Prime Minister for me, he goes with my best wishes; however, the question goes beyond that. It is all very well for him to say he will be undertaking negotiations which some time late in this fiscal year may bear fruit; I am asking for something further.
My supplementary question to the Premier concerns the fact there may be thousands of Ontario residents, both older workers and young people, who may go without training in this fiscal year. In view of this, will he take extraordinary measures to ensure they will be trained, either under the federal program or under some measures announced by his government? Will he undertake to do this in the very near future?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The question is clear. Yes, it is a top priority of this government to deal with these questions. Obviously, in the name of efficiency, we want to dovetail that with the federal initiatives. It seems to me it is one of those approaches that must require the mobilization of all levels of government, all institutions in society, to make sure we have the relevant modern training facilities to give our young people a real opportunity in the future.
The answer to the member's general question is a very general yes. I would expect to be putting specifics on it in the very near future and I thank him for his question.
Mr. Warner: I wonder whether the Premier would also consider trying to redress the failure of the last government in establishing once and for all a co-operative, three-way approach to an apprenticeship program? Government, business and labour together would for the first time be creating such a co-operative apprenticeship program in Ontario. Will the Premier undertake that during his discussions?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I should assure the honourable member that I am spending my entire time redressing the failures of the former government.
His point is extremely well taken. It is going to take a co-operative effort. Certainly there is a spirit of co-operation in the discussions I have had to date with some of the leaders of our major educational institutions, business leaders and labour leaders as well. People want to work together. It is my intention to provide, through this government, the kind of leadership needed to get everybody working together on this most critical question.
SOUTH AFRICAN WINES
Mr. Warner: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. He will be aware that the federal government has finally recognized that a tougher stand needs to be taken against the racist regime of South Africa. I wonder whether the government of Ontario will now assist that effort by immediately removing all South African wines from the shelves of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: This government is very aware of the terrible oppression the people in South Africa suffering from apartheid are under. It is our policy to be in consultation with the federal government on its policy. Members will note that Mr. Clark's comments fell just short of imposing trade sanctions. We will certainly be looking at this situation very closely and if it warrants we will take the action.
Mr. Warner: While I appreciate the interest shown by the minister, another province has already taken leadership on this issue, namely, Manitoba. Surely when that province has already removed South African wines from the shelves, this government can similarly show some leadership.
I ask him to reconsider his answer and guarantee us now that this province can show leadership against one of the most heinous regimes on this planet. Will he please undertake, as his colleague in Manitoba has, simply to remove the wines from the shelves of the LCBO?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The Manitoba situation is such that the products of South Africa are removed from the shelves but they are available upon request. We will be looking at the total picture and we will make the appropriate recommendations.
Mr. F. S. Miller: I have another question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. He very briefly answered a supplementary for the member for Mississauga South (Mrs. Marland) with one word: "No." My recollection is he was saying no to the fact he had not seen the out-takes. That is my impression. I just wonder whether this minister, in his musings and wondering, has decided he wants to eliminate censorship without even seeing the material that is currently removed from films in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The honourable leader is making some premised statements. I have never said I wanted to eliminate censorship. That is not on the record at all.
I would just like to point out that in my new responsibilities I must administer 76 different acts. I have set up a series of consultations with the various agencies I am responsible for and I will be meeting with the Ontario Film Review Board next week.
Mr. F. S. Miller: There may be 76 acts. We have been there; we understand that. The fact is, across this province in the election campaign, we in our party and the minister's leader too, I believe, talked very strongly about the need to reinforce the family, to eliminate pornography. Yet the minister is musing aloud and confusing the issue. Will he tell us whether he is really interested in eliminating pornography or not? Is he still considering the elimination of censorship as an option?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I would refer the honourable leader to the article he quoted from the Sunday Sun. If he will look at it, he will see there is a picture of me and underneath it says, "No porn for him."
Mrs. Marland: I have the article from the Sunday Sun to which the minister just referred. I would like to quote from it, since he referred to it as saying "No porn for him."
"He said he was `just speculating,' but advocated turning the review board into `more of a classification board.'
"They would tell the public, `This is a rotten, horrible, terrible kind of thing and we are saying to you nobody should see it.
"`But if someone wants to see it, good luck to you -- just as long as everybody knows this is what we say about it.'"
Among the options, is the minister looking at eliminating the film review board?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The answer is no. That was a speculation as to the various options available, not necessarily only to me but to any jurisdiction. That is the option which has been adopted by some jurisdictions. Again, the answer to the member's question is no.
Mr. Grossman: So that this House understands -- this is now the fourth or fifth version of what it is he said here on Friday -- the minister is putting the proposition that in the newspapers he was speculating on a number of options, but he is telling this House that, in spite of his speculation on those options on Friday, one of those he talked about, eliminating censorship, is not an option.
Is that what the minister is saying? Is he saying he talked about several options, including eliminating censorship --
Mr. Speaker: The question would be, "Does he agree?"
Mr. Grossman: -- and letting people see what they want? Is he now telling us he has excluded that option? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Our party is on record as to how it stands on censorship, and we are opposed to those options. I was speculating as to the possible options that were available. Where we are at the moment is that there obviously is some concern. The parties on the opposite side have changed positions over the years. There are people who are very concerned about what is going on and we are going to make sure all parties to this legislation are protected.
Mr. Swart: My question is of the Minister of Transportation and Communications and it follows on the statement he made today. I must say immediately I am amazed he is not prepared to change in any way the position taken by the previous government in support of the CNCP Telecommunications application.
I want to ask the minister whether he knows it is inevitable that, if CNCP and other companies are allowed into the long-distance telephone field, local rates will have to increase substantially to make up for the loss of revenue from the inevitable reduction in long-distance charges. The other provinces know this and, with the exception of British Columbia, they are vigorously opposing the CNCP application.
Has the minister not read the Peat Marwick report which, incidentally, Ontario helped to finance and which shows the danger to the local rates? Will he not reconsider his need to support the former government and notify the CRTC that the Ontario government now opposes the CNCP application?
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I can only reiterate the previous statement. We will not allow the local user, the home owner, to carry the burden for CNCP. We are opposed to any increase in the local rates to accommodate long-distance rates.
Mr. Swart: May I ask the minister whether he really thinks there is any distinction between the CNCP application and the necessity for a rate rebalancing? Does he not think it is something like being in favour of motherhood and being opposed to pregnancy? Does he not realize that both the present Premier (Mr. Peterson) and the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) understand that approval of the CNCP application means rebalancing and massive increases in local rates? In fact, they opposed the CNCP application.
How would the minister explain the comments of the present Treasurer, speaking in a debate on this issue, which I initiated last November 5, when he said, in concluding remarks on the CNCP application, "We suggest that the only sensible alternative for him" -- speaking of the then Minister of Transportation and Communications -- "would be to come down strongly in favour of the telephone users in Ontario who do not want their long-distance services fragmented."
Mr. Speaker: Order. That is very good, three supplementaries.
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I am not sure which question he would like answered, but perhaps the member opposite might extend the courtesy of providing me with the information he has in front of him so that I could properly research the question and clarify to my satisfaction the statements he indicated. I can only indicate once again that we will not stand by and allow the home owner, the consumer, in this province to bear the projected cost of increases for the monthly rates.
Mr. Allen: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Not having had an opportunity to congratulate him in his new post, I recognize him as a man of good conscience and a clear head. We are very happy to see someone like that in this position.
In the short time he has been in office, has the minister observed that handicapped workers in Ontario, in particular those at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind sheltered workshops in Hamilton, are being punished by the regulations of his ministry for simply trying to earn a living?
I take the example of Mr. Frank McNeil, who works in that workshop. He has not had a raise in four years. As a married person, he is allowed to earn $150 a month and there is a 50 cent dockage on every dollar he earns beyond that. The result is an absolute loss of incentive to continue with work beyond the quota. A further result is the loss of contracts the workshop can handle --
Mr. Speaker: Your question?
Mr. Allen: Is the minister aware of the situation? What is he prepared to do through his ministry about giving handicapped workers in sheltered workshops in Hamilton a better income deal?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I thank the member for the vote of confidence. I am well aware that sheltered workshops for all of our handicapped people, the physically or the developmentally handicapped, are facing this problem.
My ministry is now reviewing the whole procedure of how people are paid in sheltered workshops. One of the distinctions we have to make is which of those workshops are truly workshops and which are training centres. When the decision is made that it truly is a workshop where a person is performing a service and getting paid for that service, then a fair wage is going to have to be paid. If it is strictly a training centre, then another kind of payment is going to have to be made available.
The member is probably aware that the kinds of distinctions that have been made in the past are likely to be challenged under the new Charter of Rights and we are going to have to face that challenge.
Mr. Allen: I wonder whether the minister has a timetable for us on that review since we have been waiting for so long for precisely that kind of undertaking from that ministry.
Is the minister aware that the income of such workers can be increased with no cost to the ministry inasmuch as the income comes from the contracts performed within the workshop for businesses that place contracts with them? There is no logic whatsoever in maintaining an upper maximum limit on the amount of income they can receive. It only depresses the whole activity of the workshop, reduces the income and is unfair to everybody concerned.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I concur with the member's observation that handicapped people in some of the workshops supported by this ministry are not being treated fairly. I do not think there is any argument about that. I was trying to make the point that this process is currently under review under the conditions I described.
The member is correct in that the contracts from businesses with respect to the amount of money the workshop gets from the business certainly can be changed. When the decision is made that the work is being done and a service provided, then a fair income is going to be exacted and a fair wage is going to be paid.
EQUAL PAY FOR WORK OF EQUAL VALUE
Mr. Elgie: I want to follow on from the trend of the question by the leader of the New Democratic Party to the Attorney General in regard to his responsibilities for women's issues. I am particularly worried since the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner) has insisted that the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations follow the Manitoba example in certain matters. I wonder if the Attorney General can give this House an assurance as to whether he will be considering the option that was submitted to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly on June 20, Bill 53, pay equity legislation.
If I might quote a document signed by the Minister of Labour of Manitoba and Muriel Smith, the Minister responsible for the Status of Women, this is the nature of the proposal put forward by that bill and I want to know if it is one of the options the minister is considering:
"The private sector is not required by this legislation to implement pay equity. We believe that private sector employers will voluntarily implement pay equity in accordance with our charter of rights and liberties and in accordance with our country's responsibility as a member of the United Nations."
Is that going to be an option, or is it the case that a socialist is a socialist is a socialist, the way a Liberal is a Liberal is a Liberal?
Hon. Mr. Scott: The option my friend referred to that has been adopted in Manitoba, saying there should be no equal pay for work of equal value in the private sector, may be the NDP's preferred option in Manitoba, but it is not an option we are considering seriously here.
Mr. Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired. I might say to the members they may want to look at Hansard and recall the one supplementary made by the member for York South (Mr. Rae) and the reply by the Attorney General (Mr. Scott). I thought that was very brief and a good example for all members.
NOTICES OF DISSATISFACTION
Ms. Gigantes: I would like to give notice of my dissatisfaction with the answer given to my question today by the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) and ask leave to debate the matter at adjournment tomorrow night.
Mr. Speaker: I hope you will notify the table under the proper standing order.
Mr. Warner: Under the standing orders, I wish to indicate I am dissatisfied and upset with the answer given to me by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter). I wish to debate the matter at a late show tomorrow night.
ROMAN CATHOLIC SECONDARY SCHOOLS
Mr. Jackson: I have a petition signed by 342 Halton public secondary school teachers and a further series of petitions from 333 members of the general public on the constitutional referral of separate school funding.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I have a petition which reads 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:
"Whereas Canada is the only western industrialized country in the world that does not have provisions for midwifery;
"Whereas among the industrialized countries of the world, the ones with the best birth outcomes in terms of low mortalities and morbidities are those with the largest proportions of midwives;
"Whereas the child-bearing families of Ontario are seeking alternatives and options to the present maternity care system;
"We petition the Ontario Legislature to amend the Health Disciplines Act to recognize midwifery as an independent health care profession under the Health Disciplines Act and to implement midwifery services in Ontario."
This petition is signed by 288 residents of Sault Ste. Marie. I would like to endorse this petition.
Hon. Mr. Nixon moved that the standing committee on members' services be authorized to meet in the afternoon of Tuesday, July 9, 1985.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
WORKERS' COMPENSATION AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Wrye moved second reading of Bill 32, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: When I introduced this bill last Friday, I outlined its main features in very general terms and put forward the government's rationale for selection of the particular benefit-adjustment factors it contains. Today I would like to describe in some detail the impact of the proposed measures on those who currently receive workers' compensation benefits.
This year the application of the proposed amendments is somewhat complex. In fact, I would say it is quite complex in some areas by virtue of the enactment of Bill 101 in the intervening period between successive annual benefit adjustments.
Members will recall that certain benefit-related sections of that bill came into effect as recently as April 1, 1985. With regard to illustrating the new entitlements arising out of the bill before us today, it will be useful to draw a distinction, where appropriate, between claims that originated prior to and following that particular date.
The effect of the proposed five per cent amendment on persons in receipt of a permanent disability pension is relatively straightforward. Where the injury in question was sustained before April 1, a worker will receive the full five per cent amount. The covered earnings ceiling for such workers, now set at $26,800, will rise to $28,200, an increase of slightly over five per cent because of the rounding-off factor. This will result in the maximum benefit payable in respect of permanent total disability rising to $1,763 per month from $1,675. The minimum benefit payable rises to $868 from $826.
For workers receiving a permanent disability pension for an accident that occurred on or after April 1, 1985, benefits will also rise by five per cent. However, in this case the covered-earnings ceiling of $31,500 established just three months ago will not change. Minimum amounts payable for permanent total disability will increase by five per cent from $10,500 to $11,025 for injuries occurring after April 1.
In the case of survivors' benefits, where the fatality concerned occurred prior to April 1, 1985, those benefits are going to be increased by eight per cent effective July 1. This will result in the spouse's pension rising from the present $593 per month to $641. The dependent child's allowance will be increased from $165 to $179 a month.
Survivors' claims arising out of fatalities occurring on or after April 1, 1985, are subject to the terms of the dual-award survivor scheme introduced in Bill 101. Those benefits are earnings related and will rise by five per cent, subject again to the retention of the $31,500 earnings ceiling established in April. The minimum amount payable will be increased by five per cent from $10,500 to $11,025, the same minimum that applies to the permanent total disability pensions awarded after April 1.
As I explained in my statement last Friday, the purpose of the extra three per cent to be paid to pre-Bill 101 survivors is to commence the process of closing the gap between the monetary entitlements of the survivors before and after proclamation of Bill 101's provisions. The overall magnitude of the gap has been estimated to be around 13 per cent and it is our intention that the remaining portion will be reduced further, as benefit levels are revised, until it is eventually eliminated.
Perhaps the most complex application of today's bill is to temporary compensation recipients. As I am sure the members are aware, enactment of annual amendments to Workers' Compensation Board benefits generally does not directly affect the level of payments made to existing temporary compensation beneficiaries. On this occasion, a limited number of those claimants will receive an increase of up to five per cent. The circumstances in which this situation arises are related to the provisions of Bill 101.
When the benefits section of that bill became effective on April 1, 1985, most persons receiving temporary compensation benefits on that date were awarded a five per cent increase. An exception occurred where workers were at or close to the covered-earnings ceiling of $26,800, which remained unchanged. Increases for such workers would have been precluded or limited by the ceiling. The present bill will ensure that those workers still on temporary benefits at July 1, who failed to obtain the full five per cent increase on April 1, now will receive the balance up to a five per cent maximum by virtue of a rise in their earnings ceiling to $28,200.
In summary then, all permanent disability pensioners will receive a full five per cent increase, the only exceptions being new claimants since April I who are at or near the $31,500 earnings ceiling. All pre-April I survivors' claimants will receive an eight per cent increase and all those with claims arising after that date will receive five per cent, again with the sole exception of cases where the $31,500 ceiling intervenes.
The amendment will have impact on temporary compensation claimants only where they are ineligible for the full five per cent adjustment implemented in April.
During question period last Friday, the leader of the third party expressed disappointment at the fact that the present bill failed to contain provisions for the future indexation of pension benefits for injured workers. The response of the Premier (Mr. Peterson) quite properly indicated that the increases awarded are somewhat higher than would have been called for on the basis of indexation, either to the consumer price index or the average industrial wage over the past 12 months.
Mr. Martel: That is a red herring and you know it.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. I will take the opportunity of this intervention to point out there are a lot of private conversations going on. Will the members please take their seats or carry on their conversations outside?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: Nevertheless, I confess I am sympathetic to the issue raised by the honourable member. On a number of occasions in the past, I have publicly supported the principle of indexation in this context, as have many other members of my party. I have not changed my viewpoint on this issue, nor has the government.
However, in developing the provisions of this bill, I was very much aware of the desirability of speedy introduction and passage of these amendments by the House before the summer recess. I believe some of the implications, financial and otherwise, of indexation are worthy of thorough examination before certain decisions are made. I refer to decisions about precisely how it is to be introduced, how frequently adjustments will be made, which indicators or indicator benefits should be indexed, and so on. On all of these issues, I would like to consult with and seek the advice of the various constituencies with an interest in the matter -- including, I might say, my friend in the third party.
Mr. Elgie: What about me?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I always will be seeking the advice of the former minister. I just thought the member for York East (Mr. Elgie) would take that as a given.
Mr. Elgie: Now I can relax. I was worried about that.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: In the context of the present bill, there simply was not time to do all these things and have the bill ready for presentation in time to secure early enactment. In the meantime, I am pleased to note that the increases the government is proposing are such that the injured workers of this province will not suffer any financial penalty as a result of the decision to adopt a considered approach to implementation of indexation.
In fact, the present bill ensures they will benefit from a real increase in the value of their compensation payments. This being the case, I have every expectation the House will endeavour to secure rapid passage of the proposed amendments so that the workers involved can begin receiving the new higher benefits at the earliest possible date.
Mr. Elgie: I rise in support of this bill and in so doing, congratulate the minister for introducing it. The bill quite properly aims at protecting the benefits of injured workers and those who have suffered industrial disease, as well as survivors of those workers who are deceased. I certainly support this, as will my party. At the same time, I would also like to congratulate him for his statement to this Legislature committing himself and his new government to carry on the process of reform that was initiated and introduced by this party.
As we are talking about these very important amendments, I would take the opportunity to review in a general way some of the the history of the Workers' Compensation Board. I think we often should look back to when that great Ontarian and great Canadian, Sir James Pliny Whitney, then Premier of this province, introduced that international-precedent-setting legislation here in 1914. The number of obstacles facing workers in those days was incredible. Considering the difficulties the then Premier must have faced as he moved into this very important area, the final result must have given him great satisfaction.
Mr. Wildman: The Conservatives have rested on their laurels since then.
Mr. Elgie: I noticed the leader of the New Democratic Party had on his campaign suit today. It was all blue -- and he had on a blue tie. I have not seen him in that suit since the election. Did he save it up so he would look like a Tory during the campaign and hide it in the House here? Or what is going on here?
Mr. Laughren: On a point of order: I believe he was wearing that blue suit because he was worried about this bill and it seemed --
The Deputy Speaker: No. That is not a proper point of order.
Mr. Elgie: I do not believe the leader of the third party would be blue about the bill; I believe he would be blue about many things sitting around --
Mr. Martel: Quite frankly, our leader was at a funeral.
The Deputy Speaker: You are out of order.
Mr. Elgie: Over the years, of course, there have been many amendments to that bill, improving the benefits and changing some of the processes and procedures. A further major reform was commenced in 1980, during my tenure as Minister of Labour, with the publication of a green paper which had been prepared at my request by Professor Paul Weiler. That paper, as members will recall, was entitled Reshaping Workers' Compensation for Ontario.
My successor, Russell Ramsay, then MPP for the riding of Sault Ste. Marie, carried on the process through a white paper that eventually resulted in the passage of Bill 101 which, as he said in a previous statement, is phase one of the reform process. That bill, which has now been passed, introduced very substantive and important changes to the administrative structural procedure and to the benefits of the Workers' Compensation Act.
In particular, and these are matters I took a good deal of interest in, there was the establishment of an external appeals board with an independent chairman and side-persons representing both injured workers and employers.
Second, I deemed it very important that there be not only worker advisers but also employer advisers. I understand the minister is carrying on with the suggestion that some thought should be given to whether these advisers might travel around the country from time to time to provide important advice to smaller outlying communities that otherwise would not have the opportunity to receive that advice.
The establishment of an industrial diseases panel was a most important concept. I think it will add greatly to the capacity of the restructured board to deal with the many industrial illnesses and diseases that workers face these days. There were, as well, very significant benefit improvements in that bill.
I said in this House on June 11, 1985:
"The momentum of our reform of the Workers' Compensation Act will be accelerated with the early completion of the review of the remaining features of the compensation system, an equitable formula for compensating permanent disabilities, a fair and rational means for periodically adjusting pensions, the introduction of an effective experience rating system and the establishment of reinstatement rights for injured workers."
It was with great pleasure that I heard the minister, in his statement last week, confirm that the process of reform will continue.
We commend the minister in the present government for continuing this commitment to reform. We indicate our support for the well-deserved increases in benefits, including the three per cent that closes the gap. The minister will recall that closing of the gap was a commitment given by the then Honourable Russell Ramsay when he said to the committee of the whole House on October 23, 1984: "It is desirable to narrow disparities and entitlements between those widowed prior to the proclamation of the new act and those claiming after its introduction."
It is my intention to address this matter when the next ad hoc increase in WCB benefits comes before this House. At that time I will be proposing a special supplement for spousal survivors whose entitlement arose before proclamation of Bill 101 to bring this group's general level of continuing benefits into line with the pensions of new claimants. I am pleased that the minister has continued with the previous minister's commitment in that regard.
If I may sum up once again, I will be supporting the bill and my colleagues will support it.
Mr. Martel: I would like to start with a little quote, if I can get the minister's attention: "Injured workers will continue to have to come cap in hand to the minister annually to plead for adequate increases. Rather than instituting an unbiased system of determining increments based on actual economic conditions, the decision continues to be made at the partisan political level."
That quote is from a statement submitted on June 13, 1984, by the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini), Ms. Sheila Copps, the then member for Hamilton Centre, and the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr. Wrye), the present Minister of Labour.
I listened to his comments when I interjected. I took the trouble to phone the people in the labour movement to find out whether they wanted to have further consultation before indexing was introduced and they said: "No, thank you very much. Just get it introduced."
I then checked with the groups that fight daily for injured workers in the province. I said, "Do you want further consultation?" They said: "No, thank you very much. If nothing else, just get indexing in."
I am going to come back to my friend's comments and the comments of a bunch of his colleagues. He is playing a game that does not need to be played. The members on that side of the House have agreed it is necessary; the people who are affected say it is necessary and want it now; and the trade union movement says it wants it now. I do not know who does not want it except the Tories, who would not introduce it, and now the minister.
It is strange. In 1966, indexing was introduced in British Columbia; that was 19 years ago, if my friend does not have a calculator. It was introduced in Quebec and Nova Scotia in 1974 and in the Yukon in 1975. Here it is 1985 and we have yet another apologia. I hate to be so critical and use that term, but I will quote some of the statements he made as a member and frontbencher of the Liberal Party before he became minister. He should be embarrassed either by what he said then or by what he is doing now. He cannot have it both ways, which is what he wants.
Let me continue. We started a study back in 1979 or 1980 with the Weiler report, and Weiler recommended indexing five years ago. The minister quoted Weiler in a report that he said he wrote primarily on behalf of his party. I think Weiler said the following: "It is long past time for Ontario to make an explicit judgement of policy about the problem of workers' compensation and inflation, and to develop legislative criteria and a procedure which will deal with the issue in a relatively principled and nonpartisan fashion."
We had a whole study of that. Why are we having another? Who are we going to talk to? It is not necessary. At a time when the federal Liberals in Ottawa are beating their breasts about indexing and pounding the table to try to bring a group of Tories into line, in Ontario we have a Liberal Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) refusing to introduce what for years he said he wanted. He is now going to go out and interview some more people. What kind of nonsense is he talking about?
Let me read a little extract. He will enjoy it. I will not even tell him who the author is. It reads: "I, for one, cannot understand why we have to go through this charade every June. The minister is aware of the views expressed...by Professor Weiler.
"Having sat on the committee and having reviewed them thoroughly, I want to say it is time to take this whole issue out of the political arena so we are not in a situation of the government trying to decide whether it ought to meet inflation, or come close to inflation, and the opposition trying to pick a number out of thin air. We should simply take the best objective method of indexing injured workers' pensions and benefits each year, by looking at the increase in the average industrial wage.
"After all, what is an injured worker? He or she is someone who, if still in the labour force, would be a part of that average industrial wage. I would urge the minister to go back to his colleagues and make this the last year...."
Last June the member wanted the minister to make the change. Thirteen months later, who is here introducing the same malarkey? It is a disgrace.
There does not have to be a lengthy discussion. Introduce indexing. Any type of adjustment can be made. I saw the minister's statement on Friday and I was taken aback. I knew it was a red herring. He is going to say, "It is more than the rate of inflation." So what? The adjustments could be made with indexing if the minister felt so inclined. That is no excuse for not introducing it.
Mr. Elgie: Move no confidence in them.
Mr. Martel: I will be moving a motion and the member will have a chance to vote if he wants. I know how he will vote, as Tories have always voted: against indexing and injured workers.
If that is not bad enough, when that member sat down, the now Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) made the following statement. I think the minister knows him; he sits right next to him.
"Finally, there is the total absence of any reference to indexing annual increases. We have said over and over again that as the average industrial wage changes in Ontario, as the general spectrum of workers in this province gains from that increase in the average industrial wage, so must injured workers who would have benefited from it had they been in the work place, and they are not in the work place through no fault of their own. This is a no-fault system; therefore, we have to build into our program and legislation a form of indexing that recognizes changes in the average industrial wage. This has not been done.
"I have tried to indicate to the minister what we recognize as the benefits in this legislation. I have also tried to suggest to him the glaring, fundamental weaknesses and omissions in this legislation that lead us to say we cannot support it."
There was no indexing and the Liberals would not support it. The first Liberal minister in 42 years comes in here with a lot of poppycock about interviewing. The trade union movement does not want to be interviewed, nor do the injured workers. I do not know who the minister wants to interview. I do not know what the nonsense is about. For years the minister and his colleagues have argued that it be ended, that it could be introduced forthwith, and yet we are going to study it. Have the bureaucrats got to the minister already? In 10 days, have the bureaucrats put him in his place?
For too long I have listened to the minister and his colleagues say it could be done. It must be done, and I do not know anyone who is opposed to it, except maybe some of the bureaucrats or some of those people at the board. It is an absolute disgrace to listen to the minister come in here today and tell us he has to consult. It is unbelievable.
It is also unbelievable because of a paper the board has prepared. We know what happens to workers who have an inadequate pension: they end up on this little pension and maybe the Canada pension plan. The CPP is far more enlightened than anything we do at the Workers' Compensation Board with its lousy meat chart, which chops a man or a woman up into little pieces and says 70 per cent of him or her can work but the rest cannot, so we will give a 30 per cent pension to cover that which cannot work. For a miner, that 30 per cent really is the whole ability to work; for a construction worker, it means the man cannot work. Yet we have this system.
If one gets this pittance and not the CPP, one gets welfare; and if one does not get that, one might get a part-time job. It is the part-time and full-time job situations I want to look at, because a report put out by the board's actuarial services indicates percentage disability and employment status; it is the conclusion that really irks me.
On average, those who return to full-time work have a disability of 14 per cent and a wage loss of 13 per cent. Then there are the part-time employees, who I might say have had inadequate rehabilitation by the Workers' Compensation Board.
I am going to come back to that, but let me say that if there is a department that needs housecleaning it is the rehabilitation branch, which tells a person who has been out of work for two and a half years and who cannot speak English, "Go out and find yourself a job, find an employer who is prepared to train you, and we will sign you up to a program." It is absurd that we do that sort of thing.
Let me come back to this report. Of those employed part-time, the average disability is 17 per cent and the average wage loss is 57 per cent; and this government will not even build in an automatic escalator clause for them at this time in their lives.
Another figure concerns the unemployed. We took all those who were totally unemployed -- there are 2,766 of them -- and they have an average disability of 22.9 per cent. That is where we drew the line. We could write off 40 per cent of those willy-nilly and ignore them.
What is the conclusion of this report? Let me quote for the minister. "Table 2 shows that 40.1 per cent of the respondents stated that they were unemployed. Of these 2,766 unemployed, 1,943 (70 per cent) had a medical disability rating of less than or equal to 20 per cent in table 5" of those employed. "This may suggest that some of the unemployed are in that state due to reasons other than their work-related injury."
What the report is saying is that they are lazy, malingerers or gold-diggers. This is from the board itself, from the actuarial services people. Nowhere does it say it is the board that sends out inadequately retrained persons who have not earned a dollar for two or three years, many of whom, as I said earlier, might have a language or education problem, telling them, "Find an employer who is prepared to take you and we will sponsor you in a program."
I have argued with the Workers' Compensation Board until I am blue in the face. One could not do worse if one tried. One could not have taken a more insensitive or more useless approach to rehabilitation if one tried. But the board worked at it, as it must have, because the confidence of these people in themselves is destroyed, they do not know whether there will be an income tomorrow, they are frightened silly and they are sent out on their own hook. If there is one place in Ontario that needs a housecleaning, it is the board.
We make all these changes -- the former minister was trying to make them -- yet nothing changes. In my riding office I have 240 active files at present. That is nuts. My colleague the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) probably has as many.
The United Steelworkers of America employ at least one full-time representative. They have a full-time secretary and I know that in the past year they have had to bring in two extra people to do the work. The member for Sudbury (Mr. Gordon) has told me his office is just bonkers with the number of cases. I know the Sudbury Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union does the same thing, and the community legal clinic, with six or seven workers, is inundated.
We have become a safety net for the board. I think they do not care whether they catch them, because they know people will come to our offices and we will try to pick up the pieces. I have 240, and in the past 18 months we have won between 50 and 60 appeals with one staff person. There is something bloody well wrong with a system that treats workers like that.
The statistics I have given show that the ones who come to our offices are the long-term cases, the ones who need security. They are the ones to whom we are not prepared to give some guarantee of indexing today so that at least their minimum income is not eroded. We do not have the courage to do it. We are going to study it some more. My friends over here will vote with the Liberals to make sure we study it some more. We can study it until hell freezes over and nothing is going to change, because we will study it some more.
These are the very people who need security and assurance. We do not have the --
An hon. member: Guts.
Mr. Martel: No, I cannot use that word.
Mr. Brandt: Intestinal fortitude.
Mr. Martel: We do not have the intestinal fortitude to support them. What is worse, we do not have the intestinal fortitude to go down there and clean that place out. After 18 years, I have had my fill. At first it used to be a kind of challenge to win these cases and help people. I thought it might change over the years. But it has not changed; it has gotten worse and I represent more.
Some of the various associations that represent workers -- the community legal clinic, for example -- have a maximum number for taking in cases. If they have 70 cases, for example, they cannot take any more. We members do not have that system. I tell this to my friends in the Liberal Party and to some of the Tories, who are new boys to the real world now. A member cannot hire an extra person when he gets more than 70 cases -- it does not work that way for members -- so he ends up with 240 cases.
One tries one's darnedest to represent them well, but one cannot; the volume is too great. There are 125 workers in the Sudbury office, and that is something the member for Nickel Belt and I have supported. But there is something wrong.
I have asked that Dr. Wolfson get out of Toronto, come to Sudbury and go through my files and those of my colleagues in Nickel Belt and Sudbury one at a time. We have asked him to go through the files of all the other agencies as well to find out just what in God's name is going on. What is happening that we members of the Legislature should find ourselves with 240, 250 or 260 cases of injured workers in this province?
There is something wrong. I have my opinions about what it is. For starters, the majority are in that tough five to eight per cent. We do not even have the capacity to deal with that adequately. We do not attempt to rehabilitate adequately. We send people out willy-nilly. Imagine that. They are given a newspaper ad or a list of employers they may go to see and they are told, "Take this and run down the street and see the employer." The person has not worked for two and half years and has a bad back. That is called rehabilitation in Ontario.
Mr. Brandt: That is all they do?
Mr. Martel: That is it. If a person can find an employer who wants to train him on the job, then the department will fill out a form and he can go to work for eight weeks. That is the worst thing that could be done. One would not even start with that. If I were doing it, I would send out a case worker with the employee. My friend shakes his head --
Mr. Brandt: The member is oversimplifying. He is complicating the issue.
Mr. Martel: I am not. The member should come back and see me in six months when he has had to do his own case work.
Mr. Brandt: I am doing it now and have been for four years.
Mr. Martel: If I believed that, he could sell me the bridge across to Detroit.
Mr. Elgie: You have already sold that once today. You offered it to me. You cannot sell it twice.
Mr. Martel: No. That was the Brooklyn bridge.
Workers in this group need indexing for two reasons: for financial and psychological reasons, to eliminate the fear with which they are confronted all the time. To have financial security, meagre as it might be, would be an improvement for these people.
I believe there is something else going on at the board that maybe even the minister has not been told. A letter was submitted last year by Mr. John Neal of actuarial services. They had meetings with 40 industry groups, which is the kind of representation the minister wants.
The letter reads: "Following our proposed 1984 assessment-rate meetings last year with over 40 industry groups, representatives covering most industries requested and were granted two meetings with the Minister of Labour and senior officials of both the Ministry of Labour and the board. Two of the results of these meetings were that the board agreed to phase in higher assessment rates over a longer period of time and to work with industry to establish a long-term strategy for funding the system.
"As a result, the board has been working with these industry representatives over the last nine months and has concluded" -- I am giving only one of them -- "that assessment rates should amortize the system's unfunded liability when calculated to include a full allowance for the cost of inflation adjustment to benefit levels in future years over 30 years."
Let me quote one final sentence: "Having come to these conclusions with the benefit of industry's input, the board considered it more appropriate that we hold our annual meetings with the individual industries after the 1985 assessment rates have been set. This is scheduled to occur in early July 1984."
I would conclude from the letter that the board started its assessment of indexing last year for the 1985 assessment. Those were the conclusions it reached. I suspect industry is being assessed now on 1985 rates for indexing. If I am correct, I want to know why we do not have indexing in this province. Unless I misinterpret that letter totally, that assessment has begun as of the first of this year. If that assessment has begun, there is absolutely no reason we should not have indexing in this legislation, unless there is a little hook to it.
When he is answering, the minister might answer this question as well: Is it true the board has already spent 10 per cent of the 15 per cent assessment in the unfunded liability fund to cover Bill 101? There is a rumour that is why the minister does not want to introduce indexing; that it has overspent or underassessed, or whatever one wishes to call it, the cost of Bill 101 and therefore the minister cannot bring in indexing even though the assessment is probably going on now. The minister shakes his head. Is he saying they have not spent any of the money? He does not know.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: That is not the reason.
Mr. Martel: That is not the reason?
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Would the member please address the chair?
Mr. Martel: If that is not the reason, it is the only reason I could see, because if the letter by Neal is correct or if my interpretation and that of people I have shown the letter to is correct, the assessment is going on for indexing. If it is going on for indexing, the minister should be prepared to accept the amendment I will move once we go to committee of the whole House. If the money is being collected, there is absolutely no reason not to.
As I said earlier, I talked to labour and it wants it. They simply said, "Move it." I talked to injured workers' groups today and they said, "Move it." The minister says he wants it and funding is being collected. There is absolutely no reason we cannot put the principle of indexing in today, and that is what I will move when we get to committee of the whole House.
Mr. Brandt: I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this discussion on the amendments. It is a distinct honour to follow my friend the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) in this debate and to add some views on the Workers' Compensation Board and some of the amendments being proposed.
As indicated by my colleague in his statement earlier, our party is prepared to support the proposed amendments and we congratulate the minister on a very quick response to a very complicated issue. I do not want to underplay that or in any way oversimplify the complexities involved in this whole question of workers' compensation benefits.
We are pleased to support the bill for other reasons as well. I would like to point out to the minister that the five per cent increase -- this was not mentioned by the member for Sudbury East -- does represent an improvement in benefits that is slightly above any of the normal kind of indices that might be used with respect to judging whether this is a fair and equitable increase. It is also somewhat interesting to note that the increases over the years have been very close to the consumer price index.
Mr. Foulds: If they are so close, why do we not make them right on?
Mr. Brandt: I say to the member that I and my party have no difficulty whatever in subscribing to and supporting the whole concept of indexing. In fact, the previous minister was moving towards that goal and objective. He implemented a number of very substantial improvements that I am pleased to be able to say in this House were supported by the newly appointed minister. I think that speaks well for the former minister, Russell Ramsay, a very capable and competent colleague. I wish he was still here in this House to participate in this debate.
Mr. Foulds: Along with 20 others the member wishes he had.
Mr. Martel: That party would be only two short then.
Mr. Brandt: Some of us are still here to protect the rights of the citizens of Ontario in spite of some of the things members do over there. I want to address a few of those things in the few moments I have to respond to the minister's bill.
In the minister's statement, when he introduced the amendment, he indicated the government needs to be mindful of the potential impact of a benefit amendment on the future assessment-rate policies of the Workers' Compensation Board.
During the course of the discussion of the member for Sudbury East, he indicated there was no further need for dialogue with the trade unions or the injured workers. Why do we not just go ahead with the program? As I already have indicated, we do support the concept of indexing.
However, there is another party out there that has not been discussed yet and that is the party which ultimately is going to have to pay the bill. Those people who have to pay the bill also should be consulted at some length about the levels of affordability with respect to any increases that may be agreed to by the members of this esteemed House.
At the present time, WCB benefits take about 1.5 per cent of the average payroll. I would like to make a positive suggestion to the minister that something in the order of perhaps two per cent might be the upper limit. I do not use that as a fixed number. There have to be increases, as the minister well knows, even if he did not bring in an increased or improved compensation package. I think he is aware of that.
The whole question of the unfunded liability remains a problem. It was a problem for the previous government and it will remain a problem for this government. In a responsible response to the whole question of workers' compensation, we have to look at a phased-in response over a period of time to the whole issue of unfunded liability. It cannot be done overnight; it cannot be done quickly.
I for one will not criticize the minister from this side of the House if he does not solve the problem immediately. But I do say to him I believe it is his responsibility and his prerogative within the parameters of his ministry to come in with a response as to how we are going to deal with that very fundamental question.
There is only one party in opposition that will talk about the issue of affordability, because the blank-cheque party over there cares little about that. Who pays for what is not one of its concerns. The very real issue is how to assist the injured workers of this province in a way we can afford. All we ask is that the government have a sensitive balance between what injured workers require and what this province can afford to pay with regard to the total impact.
Mr. Martel: The member only listens to what he wants to hear.
Mr. Brandt: No. I listened very carefully.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Will the member please address his comments to the chair.
Mr. Brandt: I listened very carefully to the comments of my honourable colleague. I always learn from those comments.
It is interesting to note that when some of the speakers from other parties in this House have talked about a commitment to improving the compensation package to workers' compensation recipients, on occasion there has been a charge directed to our party in particular which I think is unfair and uncalled for, namely, that it is not responsive to the needs of injured workers.
That is totally incorrect. It was our party that introduced workers' compensation in Ontario in January 1915 during that very difficult period of the First World War from 1914 to 1918. The first year after that, this party introduced the first package of benefits to workers. It was unheard of in the rest of the country and a breakthrough for all of Canada. Since that time we have also amended workers' compensation in order to improve the benefits package and the kind of response that was needed.
I call members' attention to Bill 101, which was introduced by my former colleague Russell Ramsay. He talked at that time about a reconstituted corporate board with a majority of external part-time directors to make the board more responsive to the needs of the people of this province. He also talked about a new independent tripartite appeals tribunal with provision for independent medical assessors to assist the tribunal regarding medical issues in dispute. It is to that second point that I want to direct a few of my comments.
The fact is that all members of this House probably have an extremely high percentage of files in their constituency offices specifically directed to the problems of workers' compensation. I think there is general agreement among all 125 of us that this is one of the heaviest case loads on any subject matter that members have to address on a daily basis. One of the problems within all of those very large files that I deal with on a personal basis --
Mr. Martel: The member will find that out now that he is no longer a cabinet minister. How many times has he been before the board? How many appeals has he handled?
Mr. Brandt: I would say to the member for Sudbury East, I am able to solve many of them. My batting average might even be slightly higher than his.
One of the most serious concerns I have, which leads to the second suggestion I would like to make to the newly appointed Minister of Labour, is the issue of the response of the board to the physician's report from the personal doctor of the recipient of workers' compensation. I am speaking of the situation where the personal physician of an individual undertakes to outline the physical, emotional and psychological problems of the individual in question. The board goes through a long process of reviewing that, bringing the individual in to be reviewed by the board's own doctors. Then the dispute starts, the lengthy cases begin and the file expands very rapidly.
I wonder whether the minister would undertake to look at that one, narrowly focused segment of the problem I am addressing to him, that is, the dispute that often arises between the personal physician and the board's physician with respect to the condition of the potential recipient of workers' benefits.
If that matter can be addressed and resolved, either by a tripartite appeals tribunal or by some other mechanism the minister might bring forward, it would reduce very substantially the number of cases the members of this House have to deal with. It would mean a tremendous reduction in the work load we have to go through and it certainly would be more responsive to the needs of the workers of this province.
I would like to commend the minister on how far he has gone with the amendments he has made to date. He probably knows a good thing when he sees it because he has incorporated many of the ideas the former minister, Russell Ramsay, brought forward in this House.
I want the minister to know that when the time comes for him to move on the question of indexing, this party will not obstruct those kinds of initiatives. This party will support responsible moves in that direction as long as the question of affordability is addressed as well. It is important for us to state our position very clearly and unequivocally before him during the debate on this bill.
It is important to address those two issues: (1) what we can afford, and (2) the level of indexing and what we tie it to with respect to responding to the annual increases we feel are fair and equitable to the workers of this province.
There is much more one could say about workers' compensation, but in the light of the fact we are in general agreement with the amendments being brought forward, I would simply like to say we will be supporting the minister's initiatives and we hope he will take some of our comments into account in the days and weeks ahead.
Mr. Lupusella: I am pleased to rise to speak in relation to the contents of Bill 32. I am pleased but disappointed that although the present Minister of Labour has been involved for so many months and years in very constructive debate about reforms and issues affecting the Workers' Compensation Board and injured workers, Bill 32 does not really reflect the needs of injured workers in our society.
I remember when the standing committee on resources development was formed by the previous administration -- and I am glad it is gone -- the present Minister of Labour, being part of that committee, spoke so vehemently and adamantly about rights and principles of injured workers and also about regulations which are supposed to be changed in Ontario because the present system is inadequate and does not meet the conditions.
I remember very well when injured workers, or groups or organizations of them, approached the Liberal members sitting on that committee. Of course, their position, as was that of the previous administration, was, "I am extremely concerned and will fight on behalf of certain requests which have been made by injured workers for so many years." Those demands were similar to political fights which have been waged by this party on the floor of the Legislature. Amendments were moved and I am sure the present Minister of Labour had an opportunity to move others on clause-by-clause debates on Bill 101 on many occasions, fighting on behalf of injured workers across Ontario, even though his points and his concerns were not extremely similar to the positions taken by the New Democratic Party for so many years.
I am pleased to rise because I have an opportunity again to speak on behalf of injured workers across the province, but I am disappointed because I thought the present Minister of Labour had an opportunity to deliver more. Instead, what I am seeing with Bill 32 is only a meagre increase of five per cent and five plus three per cent for widows. Again, I do not want to repeat the rhetoric of speeches the present Minister of Labour made before that committee, or in front of organizations of injured workers, because it is a lost cause.
If he is trying to use the same approach used by the Conservatives all the time, the political rhetoric of being progressive during an election and regressive or conservative after it, I think the present Minister of Labour is going to pay the price for that. I think the price was paid by the previous Minister of Labour who today does not sit in the Legislature. Injured workers across Ontario got so frustrated with the dealings and political moves of different ministers for so many years that the former govemment lost the election and the former minister lost his riding. The present minister is going to follow the same pattern if he does not change direction immediately.
Through the years in the Legislature and in the standing committee on resources development, the New Democratic Party has had an opportunity to fight for the abolition of the meat chart. The present Minister of Labour says he is sympathetic to the point of view that the meat chart is inadequate and there is need for a change. The meat chart is a reflection of something that does not take into consideration the disabilities of human beings; it takes into consideration the disabilities of animals in dealing with the different parts of the human body. If one loses a finger or a knee, one gets so much from the board; if a leg or arm is amputated, one gets so much.
The meat chart does not take into consideration the social needs of injured workers. It does not take into consideration family values and what an injury can cost a family. The present Minister of Labour, in his capacity as critic, had an opportunity to hear of cases of people killing themselves, of divorces and of children running around on the streets without an education because of the amount of money or small pensions families were receiving from the board.
During the committee hearings we had an opportunity -- I believe the minister shares my views -- to make a clear distinction about cases where there is no dispute regarding the injury or disability of the injured worker, such as the clear-cut case of an amputation. The meat chart does not take that into consideration in relation to the principle of the amount of money the injured worker receives from the board. The present minister had an opportunity to find out that the present meat chart is completely inadequate and must be changed.
The former Minister of Labour gave us a clear commitment that the clinical rating system in Ontario would be re-evaluated and changed. The previous minister was going to take into consideration guides to the re-evaluation of permanent impairment based on the American Medical Association. It took the position that it was time to change the way permanent disabilities are granted to injured workers in Ontario.
The previous Minister of Labour agreed the time had come when changes were required in relation to the principle of the clinical rating system and I think the present Minister of Labour shared that concern. Bill 32 deals just with a meagre increase of five per cent, with an increase of five and three per cent for widows.
I do not want to go into the political rhetoric of saying that Tories and Liberals are the same. The Tories are so proud that the present minister is falling in with the pattern of introducing yearly legislation to take into consideration an increase in injured workers' pensions across Ontario; they are so proud the minister is following the same pattern for dealing with injured workers.
In his statement, the new Minister of Labour also makes the point that indexation cannot be dealt with immediately because more study must be done on that issue. He says more contact must be made with the trade union movement and with industries in the province. I am sure he will do that with industry, in particular. Instead he should be saying we have heard enough over the years about problems affecting injured workers across Ontario. The Liberals now have an opportunity to run the show and to ensure the ministry sees the changes will take place.
The May 2 election was a clear indication from the voters of Ontario that the time had come to make changes. The minister has that opportunity now, yet he is trying to follow the same pattern used by the Tories for 42 years. I do not think he is going to do constructive things on behalf of injured workers in Ontario if he says in his ministerial statements that he needs more time.
I cannot see constructive change coming if he now is introducing Bill 32 just for the sake of expediency. The bill takes into consideration only the increase which has been regularly granted for the last 10 years. These increases have come because of political pressure and pressure from injured workers who demonstrated with dignity every year in front of Queen's Park. I hope the minister's new post will give him a podium to make sure these changes will take place immediately.
The government's white paper on reforming workers' compensation resulted from Professor Weiler spending many months studying the issue. The standing committee on resources development also had the opportunity to hear injured workers and industries that appeared before it. There is enough material now for the minister to make all the changes he wants and they should be in his platform.
As my colleague stated, he has this opportunity now. Delaying things for injured workers in Ontario has gone on too long. He got the political message on May 2 and I am sure he is following this pattern only for political survival.
A few moments ago I heard the member for Sarnia (Mr. Brandt) raise an issue that affects industries. He mentioned the unfunded liability and all future increases which should take place for employers to meet the new reality of injured workers. My colleague from Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) read a letter and I quote:
"Following our proposed 1984 assessment-rate meetings last year with over 40 industry groups, representatives covering most industries requested and were granted two meetings with the Minister of Labour and senior officials of both the Ministry of Labour and the board." Their concern has been taken into consideration. I do not understand why the minister is planning to waste time during the summer studying the issue of indexation after those meetings and with that material before him to make a decision.
There is a problem in this ministry because it is run by the board and not by the minister. The member for Sudbury East stated in his opening remarks that it was time to clean up the board. We have been saying that for many years. There was no political courage coming from the Conservative Party to do that because all the people working for the board had been appointed by the Conservatives. They are all friends of the party which does not have any political will to make this change. The board has been running all the Ministers of Labour in the past administration and it is trying to follow the same pattern with the present Minister of Labour.
I was pleased last week to hear the new Premier (Mr. Peterson) making reference to the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) in relation to criticism that has been raised by members opposite belonging to that political party and saying he is in charge of that ministry. If we want justice to be done for injured workers in Ontario, the Minister of Labour has to show the same leadership and take the initiative to clean up the board and those political hacks who have been working for it for 42 years. There is no other way but to stamp out this political pattern immediately before the board takes over his ministry and he ends up doing what the Tories have been doing for so many years.
When we are talking about Conservative members and unfunded liability and the concern affecting industries in Ontario, I would like to remind the minister that industries in Ontario had a free ride for many years, at least six or seven. There were low assessment rates on their payroll and when they got an increase of eight per cent a few years later, the assessment was decreased by five and six per cent. What kind of politics is that?
At the same time they do not want to become liable before the courts. They are also aware that changes must take place. We had industries appearing before the standing committee on resources development that shared this view. They are not against good changes. They know there is a new reality and they know the Tories have been dormant on the issue of WCB reform in Ontario since legislation was first enacted in 1914.
The Tories always take pride in that move and it was good legislation. It was good in 1914 when the total labour force in Ontario was 3,000. It was a small board. Cases were not supposed to appear before civil courts because the board was dealing with injured workers' problems and the rate of accidents was almost nil or minimal.
When this province is faced with almost 400,000 people getting injured every year, it is a social, economic and work disaster. The government must act immediately to put an end to this problem affecting human lives, children and families. We cannot ignore this social problem. The Minister of Labour has an obligation to respond to the needs of injured workers across Ontario.
The minister will recall that on June I he had a ceremony outside this building to celebrate Injured Workers' Day. Why did he do that? To commemorate all the people who have passed away as a result of fatal accidents in Ontario. I was there and I had an opportunity to see representatives of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party meeting with widows. We are talking about social and family tragedies that the government can no longer ignore. The Tories, of course, had the courage to defeat my private member's bill.
Injured workers deserve a monument in front of Queen's Park for the economic and social contribution they have made to this province for so many years. Naturally, we are all proud when we see buildings around this province and people building bridges and roads, but we never see the negative aspect of this economic boom taking place: how many people are dying and getting injured. We always ignore them. Even the legislation is ignoring them.
The Tories had the political courage to say: "We are dealing with dollars and cents. We recognize there is a social emergency involved, we realize injured workers deserve more in Ontario, but who is going to pay?" They know the answer; I do not have to tell them who is supposed to pay the bill for injured workers in Ontario.
Injured workers gave up concrete rights and employers gave away their old rights when the Workers' Compensation Act was enacted in 1914 and, of course, the government is supposed to carry the costs.
I can talk for hours and hours about injured workers, but I feel offended by the present Minister of Labour, as I did by the previous one. When he says to the members of this Legislature that more study is required because the issue is complex, he is using political tactics to delay the pattern of changes affecting injured workers. Money is the main issue. He knows that; we all do. However, injured workers are supposed to live, and I cannot tell them in my own riding that because of money, they have to wait to get the five per cent increase.
The board is using political tactics to save money and give less to injured workers because of the lack of political capacity of previous Ministers of Labour to give more. We cannot tolerate this political harassment of injured workers any longer. We cannot afford it.
The present Minister of Labour tells us Bill 32 is fair. I remind him and his former critic, the member for Essex South, that last year when he moved an amendment to increase injured workers' pensions and benefits by 15 per cent, the New Democratic Party supported that amendment.
My colleague the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) is going to propose a new amendment providing for the indexation of injured workers' pensions to the cost-of-living increase.
Mr. Andrewes: Very reasonable.
Mr. Lupusella: It is a very reasonable amendment. The Tories now, with great surprise, will be speaking about real problems affecting real people in Ontario. They had the opportunity to do so much in 42 years. They will be trying to blame the Liberals now, getting ready for the next provincial election, whenever it is going to be. They lost credibility a long time ago, 42 years ago; it was a dormant government ignoring injured workers and the poor people in Ontario. They do not even have a right to raise those issues any longer.
Who is going to believe them? The big corporations? The big industries?
Mr. Andrewes: Bay Street.
Mr. Lupusella: Bay Street, of course. But even Bay Street gave the Tories a nice gift on May 2. On May 2 they got a nice gift from Bay Street. I am sure they are going to lose more support in the years to come.
The Liberals might end up in the same boat if they are going to play political games by delaying things in this Legislature and telling people they are concerned. That was one of the major words used by a former Minister of Labour. He said, "I am concerned about everything in relation to injured workers."
Mr. Andrewes: Are you not concerned?
Mr. Lupusella: I am always concerned. Indexation is something that was requested by the NDP a long time ago. The automatic cost-of-living increase was dealt with by this Legislature when the former member for Downsview introduced his private member's bill. It was defeated by the government.
Mr. Andrewes: Where is the former member for Downsview?
Mr. Lupusella: He lost, but he will be back. Do not worry about it. He will be back pretty soon. He did not lose votes. His support increased from 1981. I have to hold the Tories responsible for his defeat because of the Tory collapse in his riding.
Mr. Speaker: Is that in this bill?
Mr. Lupusella: I am going to continue. I am sorry.
Let me go through the content of the ministerial statement. The second paragraph of page I reads:
"Today, I would like to describe in some detail the impact of the proposed measures on those who currently receive workers' compensation benefits. This year, the application of the proposed amendments is somewhat complex by virtue of the enactment of Bill 101 in the intervening period between successive annual benefit adjustments."
There is no relationship whatsoever between these increases and the increases of Bill 101. I have a copy of Bill 101. If the minister wants me to spend two or three hours explaining the content of Bill 101, I will go through it and we will see how complex his Bill 32 is in comparison to Bill 101.
I want to alert the minister that the board is running his ministry and that he has to clean up the administration of the board, including replacing the chairman of the board, as soon as possible if we want to see something very concrete done on behalf of injured workers in the province. If the minister were extremely concerned about injured workers, he had an opportunity through Bill 32 to take into consideration the retroactivity clause of Bill 101 regarding surviving spouses. That is something that was shared by the Liberals when we were sitting on the same committee.
Before this bill is passed, the minister will have an opportunity to say that all the problems of injured workers will be taken into consideration and that he will do something in phase 2 of the Workers' Compensation Board reforms and in phases 3 and 4. That is what we are going to hear from the Minister of Labour in the years to come. From the Tories we heard about phases I and 2. I am sure the present minister is going to use phases 3 and 4 to reform the compensation system for injured workers in Ontario.
I am happy to rise and speak on behalf of injured workers, but I am extremely disappointed with the Minister of Labour's performance. I met him when he was sitting on the same committee as me. I thought he had a genuine concern for injured workers across the province. I do not want to be completely disillusioned; I hope he will do something about it.
Mr. Barlow: I want to congratulate the minister, not only for bringing in this bill and this set of amendments but also for his appointment to the very important position he now holds in the government of this province. We have been through a lot together in the early days in reviewing the amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act; that is, the white paper and the Weiler report --
Mr. Wildman: Are you supporting the Liberal government on this?
Mr. Barlow: I am going to support certain parts of this act, yes; not the government, but the act and the amendment.
Through about three years, while we were dealing with the white paper and subsequently Bill 101, we dealt with many points that were introduced in Bill 101. We dealt extensively with indexation, for example.
A lot has been said today about whether indexing should form part of the act. The proposal in the white paper referred to annual adjustments for inflation and said such adjustments would follow a public report by the compensation board and would be made by regulation. That proposal, number 8 in the white paper, was passed.
There were two dissenting reports, one of which was from the New Democratic Party. The NDP wanted indexing tied to the consumer price index and updated every quarter-year. The other dissenting report, from the Liberal Party, suggested it should be tied to the average industrial wage.
The amendments brought forward in this bill exceed either of those indexes. I think for the average industrial wage it was slightly above four per cent. Inflation last year was around the four per cent mark; I believe it was 3.9 per cent. It is down from that this year. There is no argument from this side of the House about increasing pensions at this time by the five percentage points that are recommended. The minister is going to have our support.
I want to address a couple of other things. The minister's statement of last Friday, July 5, has a sentence about affordability: "At the same time, the government needs to be mindful of the potential impact of a benefit amendment on the future assessment-rate policies of the Workers' Compensation Board."
I wish to make a few comments on affordability, which is something we on this side are mindful of because the employers of this province are the people who ultimately pay the bill. We are mindful and concerned. We do not feel our friends to the left have a corner on sensitivity to injured workers; we do too.
Mr. Wildman: Come over and share the comer with us.
Mr. Barlow: It is a wide corner. We have a very real concern. My friend the member for Samia (Mr. Brandt) pointed out earlier this afternoon that all of us in this House share a major factor in that one of the largest work loads in our offices is dealing with workers' compensation. We are continually on the phone to the board, as are our riding assistants, trying to get clarification and speedier settlement of claims.
Mr. Wildman: Why did you not force Lincoln Alexander to do something about it?
Mr. Barlow: I have written to him on many occasions. He concurs with me from to time that there are problems there. They have to be addressed. The fact remains that they have to be paid for.
Out of the Bill 101 hearings was born an organization known as the Employers' Council on Workers' Compensation. It is an organization concerned about the protection of jobs. I was concerned that if we were to adopt many of the recommendations that came before the standing committee on resources development, it would be totally impossible for many employers to carry on and that would mean layoffs of employees.
I believe the employers' council is made up of some 20 or 22 employers' associations or groups that share the same concerns. They are the employers of injured workers. They do not want to see workers injured on the job. It does not help them to produce their products or deliver the services they are involved in if they have people off work. They want to see a safe work place the same as do the rest of the members of this House.
We all know the way to cut down on accidents and their cost is by creating a safer work place for the employee as well as the employer. It is a joint responsibility. I do not think anybody would question that.
Many of the proposals in the white paper have already been addressed in Bill 101, where they had support in varying degrees from all parties in the House. The ceiling earnings have been increased fairly substantially to $31,500. We are now at 90 per cent of net as opposed to 25 per cent of gross. There is the annual review I spoke of earlier. Most other speakers have spoken about the review or indexation, if one wishes to call it that.
The one-day waiting period for benefits should be eliminated and was eliminated. WCB coverage should be extended to domestics and it was. An independent, tripartite appeals tribunal should be established and it was. A new system for independent medical review panels should be established and it was. A new corporate board with outside directors should be established and that also happened.
The office of the worker adviser should be expanded and made independent of the board. That is in the process of happening. As I recall, an employers' advisory body was opposed by both the then opposition parties. That was established, however, and is needed for the small employer. The minister has alluded to the experience rating as something that will come up in the next set of amendments as he reviews and prepares for phase 2 of the Workers' Compensation Act.
Those are some of the points discussed by those of us who sat on the resources development committee over the last two or three years. I commend the minister for bringing in these amendments. I think he has shown sensitivity towards those we serve in this House in relation to the Workers' Compensation Board and injured workers. He has also addressed the affordability question. The two go hand in hand. We cannot have one without the other.
I look forward to taking part in the clause-by-clause discussion as we go through committee of the whole.
Mr. Laughren: I am pleased to engage in this debate which will boost benefits to injured workers and provide a three per cent catchup for dependants prior to April 1.
I must say the minister is truly amazing in his reincarnation as a minister, as opposed to a critic. As a critic, he was very good on workers' compensation matters. I served for a long time with him and with the previous speaker, the member for Cambridge, on the resources development committee when it was dealing with workers' compensation problems. It has become a cliché now to say that power corrupts and absolute power is even better. I guess that is what has happened to the minister.
If there were two members of the Liberal opposition who were strong on supporting improvements to workers' compensation, they were the present minister and the member for Kitchener-Wilmot (Mr. Sweeney). Both were invariably supportive in dealing with workers' compensation problems. I can remember mentioning to injured workers' groups that we had allies in those two members on the resources development committee; so it is disappointing to see their change in attitude.
I would ask the minister a very simple question: Why not indexing? If indexing is more expensive, that indicates workers are being shortchanged when we do not index. If it is not more expensive, why not do it? I do not think it is a complicated question.
As to the references by the member for Sarnia (Mr. Brandt) and the member for Cambridge that New Democrats would not talk to the employer groups and that we were not the only ones who had a corner on the market of concern for injured workers, that is a lot of nonsense. There is no reason the present minister should not have come in in his new role as minister and immediately put his stamp on workers' compensation legislation.
I cannot think of anything that would have sent out a signal faster to the Workers' Compensation Board and to the Employers' Council on Workers' Compensation that we are into a new era in dealing with workers' compensation. Instead of that, the minister brings in a bill that could have been introduced by the previous Minister of Labour. Indeed, the previous Minister of Labour and others in the Tory party have been commending the minister. Who does the government have the accord with? The accord is with us, not with them.
May I suggest that the minister start rethinking his attitude about workers' compensation legislation. If he is going to send out the kind of signals that I think are necessary, he has to do it now. A year from now will be too late. The bureaucracy and the employers' council will have him where it hurts a year from now. He simply has to say now: "This is a new era. These are things that are going to be done differently" with him as the minister. I really find unacceptable what the minister has done.
If I had not spent so much time on the committee with him, it probably would not bother me so much and I would not in a sense feel betrayed by the minister. I think he understands that there is only one acceptable control on costs of injured workers: that is to reduce the incidence of accidents on the job. One does not need to be overly sympathetic to injured workers to understand that, to come to that conclusion.
That is the only acceptable way because the other way penalizes injured workers. I do not think the minister wants to do that. I think he understands that is not appropriate. One does not impose double jeopardy on workers by saying, "Not only are you injured, now we are going to stick it to you financially as well." That certainly is not the way we want to behave in this assembly.
Some day the minister will come to the realization that all of this so-called reform and tampering with the Workers' Compensation Board will lead us nowhere. He can make these ad hoc increases from year to year, he even could bring in indexing; but in the end the only thing that will ever bring justice to injured workers will be to abolish the Workers' Compensation Board and put in its place a comprehensive social insurance system that will compensate workers and anybody regardless of whether he is injured and regardless of fault.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I thank my friends opposite, in particular those in the third party, for the advice they have offered so generously to me. At this time I am not prepared to indicate that we will be accepting the amendments which I anticipate will be offered in the debate in the next short while.
As I go through I may repeat myself, but there were some comments which overlapped, those from my friends in the third party in particular. My friend the member for Nickel Belt offered advice in the starkest terms. Why not indexing, he asked. As I indicated in my statement, and I want to reiterate, this minister thinks it would be useful to have a short period of discussion with a number of groups -- the business community, the trade union movement, injured workers' groups, my friends in the third party and my friends in the official opposition -- to canvass quickly their views on indexation and what form indexation should take.
I am well aware that the third party in its amendment today will be absolutely consistent with the dissenting report to the report of the standing committee on resources development on the white paper. My friend the member for Nickel Belt knows what we have said in our dissenting report. He will be aware that the average industrial wage now has two potential components: the industrial composite and the industrial aggregate, one having lesser application than the other. If one indexes with one or the other, the amount of indexation will change. The second component extends to some employers with 20 workers or fewer, but it is a fairly recent component.
I want to take a look at that and I want to canvass some views as to whether that would be the proper way to go. Unlike my friends opposite, I am still inclined to go to the average industrial wage. It is a view that the member for Nickel Belt, in particular, and other members who were on the standing committee on resources development will know I have held for some time. I can only promise my friends opposite that we will be moving expeditiously on this matter. We do not need a royal commission, a task force or any other such thing for this matter to be dealt with; I intend to deal with it quickly.
To the member for Dovercourt (Mr. Lupusella), who asked about the meat chart, I say the phase 2 discussions are still ongoing. I intend to meet Professor Weiler later this month and find out how his discussions are going, particularly in terms of the meat chart. I think the member raised the American Medical Association model.
I am advised that, before the year is out, even while we continue with the clinical rating schedule, this schedule, which is now under preparation, is going to be sent not only to Professor Weiler, but also to Professor Burton of Cornell University, who is apparently quite an eminent individual in the field. The new schedule takes into account the AMA's rating schedule; so there is some progress on that.
Both the member for Dovercourt and the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) raised the issue of the fact that the assessment is already tied to indexation. I am advised that the board did calculate the assessments, taking into account both new claims and the unfunded liability. However, last year that assessment was not applied. The assessment increases were restricted from those that were recommended. I am sure the member for Sudbury East will remember that.
There have been discussions with employers leading towards an understanding and, I hope, a full agreement to increase the assessment rates to take into account a fully indexed act. Retiring the unfunded liability will also proceed in the next period of time. The member is correct that there were proposals from the board. Those proposals, to put it generously, were diluted; so the assessment increase did not take into account fully the proposals he has read in Mr. Neal's comments.
I will comment very briefly on the remarks of the member for Sarnia, who asked about the problems with doctors. It is certainly my view that the new panels of medical assessors, which we are going to be creating, along with the tripartite review board, will, it is hoped, begin to deal with what the member rightly points out is one of the very many problems that add to and aggravate WCB matters. I am hopeful the independent medical assessors, when they are asked by the new review panels to take a look at the medical evidence on which the appeal either stands or falls, will be able to do so in a way that is perceived to be much more independent than in the past.
The member for Sudbury East had a number of things to say in his usual gentle way. At the outset, I want to say to him and to his colleague the member for Nickel Belt that I will do a little something to show the good faith this minister has. I have already indicated to Mr. Cain from the board -- and I intend to take further action -- that we are prepared to sit down with the member for Sudbury East, the member for Sudbury (Mr. Gordon), the member for Nickel Belt, the legal clinic, the Mine, Mill group and the United Steelworkers to see if we can start to get a handle on the problem which plagues all those members in terms of injured workers and the work volume they have in Sudbury.
I think Sudbury would be an interesting and fascinating test case. I am prepared to make that commitment to those members this afternoon that we will sit down with them in the not-too-distant future. We want to get a handle on the volume and on the specific areas, or one repeating area. I am prepared to indicate that to the two members interested and to the Labour critic for the Progressive Conservative Party. I am sure he will pass on to the member for Sudbury that we want to include him in that overall survey so that we can begin to get a handle on what it is that is so aggravating relations all over the province, though I think the problems seem to be particularly acute in Sudbury.
In a sense, the member for Sudbury East wants to have it both ways. He is prepared to accept this bill. He will take the five per cent, he will take the three per cent add-on and then he will instantly want to index. I thought my friend would have wanted to index over the last year. I could offer him the consumer-price-index rate of 3.8 per cent, but he would rather take the five per cent.
I want to indicate to my friend that this is part of the problem. In the last 12 months the CPI went up by 3.8 per cent, the industrial composite of the average industrial wage went up by 4.3 per cent and the industrial aggregate of the AIW went up by 4.4 per cent. Since 1975, the ad hoc increases have been slightly above the CPI. In terms of the AIW, the ad hoc increases have fallen some 3.5 per cent behind the CPI.
Mr. Martel: I will take the 10 per cent the minister moved last year.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I am going to repeat once more for the member for Sudbury East that we are going to move quickly. One of the reasons we want to move quickly on this item is that the board wishes to pull all of the numbers into a January I date. We would want to be ready for that. That is because, as the members know, the change in the tax tables under the new scheme has greater emphasis and greater importance than ever before.
The board would like to have an AIW or a CPI, or a combination of both, indexed for January 1, if at all possible. I see no reason that this timetable should not be possible, particularly after hearing the generous support of the third party and the belated change in its views that the Progressive Conservative Party has had.
I want to close by assuring the House once again that we intend to move quickly on this matter. However, the view of the government is that a short consultation -- maybe perhaps just picking up the phone -- with all groups not only on indexation but on the frequency and the form of indexation would set an appropriate tone to follow through on our program as quickly as possible. If that is not the view of some in this Legislature, or of one party, as to how the government can properly proceed, then I can only indicate that we, in this instance, would not share that view. We believe a brief period of consultation is more than warranted and we would hope to be able to do so.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
House in committee of the whole.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION AMENDMENT ACT
Consideration of Bill 32, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act.
On section 1:
Mr. Chairman: Mr. Martel moves, seconded by Mr. McClellan, that the bill be amended by adding thereto the following section:
"1(1) Beginning January 1, 1986, all benefits, including the amounts payable under section 36, the maximum amount of average earnings under section 41, the minimum amounts payable under section 42 and the maximum amount of an allowance under subsection 52(3) shall be increased on the first day of the months of January, April, July and October in each year in accordance with any increase in the consumer price index during the quarter preceding that just ended. If there has been no increase in the consumer price index in that period, the amounts shall remain unchanged.
"(2) All benefits payable under part III of this act shall be indexed as provided for in subsection 1, beginning January 1, 1986."
Mr. Martel: That is the date when the minister said he was prepared to do it. I am flexible too.
There are a few words I want to say arising out of this motion. If we want to reduce the amount of compensation in this province and anywhere in our society, then surely the reduction should not come from injured workers but in reducing the number of accidents. In our society, we do not reduce accidents. The very people who want to maintain the status quo in the amount of money paid out are the employers.
It is too bad the member for Sarnia (Mr. Brandt) is not here because I did a report a number of years ago called Not Yet Healthy, Not Yet Safe. The people who do not want occupational health in this province are the employers -- those people who violate the law. The bill came in 1978 yet there still are employers who do not have an occupational health and safety committee in their operation.
If one wants to reduce assessments, this is where it is done. The minister should really be worried when two former cabinet ministers get up and congratulate him on his bill. They are the ones who are supporting him and saying it is a great bill.
Today we recognize fewer than one in 30 industrial diseases causing death from cancer. That is the figure Paul Weiler used. The medical people tell us the number is far greater. We want to hold it.
The minister and the member for Sarnia, who was not here, said I was not concerned about interviewing the group who paid the bill. I quoted a letter showing that meetings were held with industry last year. Forty industrial groups had at least two meetings with the board on which assessments were made, so when my friend, the member for Sarnia, gets up to support industry, I tell him they already have had their input. Our experience has been that they have plenty of input.
My friends in the labour field do not want any more input. They just think it is time for some action. It is what the minister said himself. I do not know why he plays these games, when he has said the following: "I would urge the minister to go back to his colleagues and make this the last year of what I call a charade." That was 1984. That was the now minister saying we did not need any more study, interviews, or consultation; what we needed was action. What has happened in the 13 intervening months?
Mr. Eakins: Things have improved.
Mr. Martel: If they have, then it should be easier to pass the bill because the cost would not be as high. We cannot go to the injured workers' group because they do not want any more input. They want the bill passed, as the minister, the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini) and Sheila Copps said in their press release. Let me remind the members of that:
"Injured workers will continue to have to come cap in hand to the minister annually to plead for adequate increases. Rather than instituting the unbiased system of determining income based on actual economic conditions, the decision continues to be made at the partisan political level." That is precisely what is being done. It is not being changed one jot.
To show how flexible I am, I was prepared to move to the date the minister suggested. I hope everyone will have the opportunity to look at it and give him some input, but the date and the actual fact is there and the government should be prepared to accept the amendment at this time so we can get on with other business.
Mr. Wildman: It is a friendly amendment.
Mr. Martel: However, the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney), the member for Essex South who supported that communiqué I quoted, written by the member and Sheila and the minister, have taken that position on workers for years.
Now, to be flexible, we have changed the date from October to January. I hope the minister is now prepared to accept the amendment. We can have the vote and go home and have dinner. I would like to have the minister's response.
Mr. Lupusella: I would like to spend a few minutes on this issue. I think my colleague has been extremely reasonable in complying with the concern raised by the minister and I do not see any reason why he cannot support the principle of the amendment, after so many other members of his own party have done so. We cannot play politics on this issue. I would like to draw to the minister's attention that he cannot allow the board to run the show in his own ministry.
He gave us a commitment that indexing will be introduced in the Legislature in the near future. He wants an opportunity to speak to injured workers across Ontario. He wants to speak to interested groups. Considering that Professor Weiler actually denied so many injured workers the opportunity to speak to him, I do not know; I think he means to industries, to injured workers and to the trade union movement.
He knows where the trade union movement stands on this issue. He should take a look at the public representations made by the trade union movement to the standing committee on resources development over the past year or two, whenever the committee studied the government white paper and Professor Weiler's report.
I do not understand the rationale used by the minister as to why he wants to talk to Professor Weiler. He wrote the first report, he wrote the second report and he said what he was supposed to say in his own report after contacting industries and interested parties. Why does the minister want to talk to him?
The problem is that the actuarial position of the board prevails over any position taken by the ministry. The issue of indexing makes sense for injured workers across Ontario. Let me give a concrete example.
Let us say an injured worker who is currently receiving a partial permanent disability award passes away. Because within the principle of the present act there is no enactment to index the pension, that pension ends. The pension is not transferred to the surviving spouse, which means the board saves money.
If we take into consideration the reasonable amendment moved by the New Democratic Party, the injured worker, if still living, at least would have an opportunity to catch up with the increase because it is incorporated in the principle of the law.
The problem is that the whim of the government has prevailed through the years on introducing this legislation, and even though it is now retroactive to July 1, 1984, as I understand it, if an injured worker has passed away during that period his or her pension ceases and there is no increase whatever. However, if this particular amendment is passed by the Legislature, the injured worker is going to have an opportunity to receive the increase.
We cannot deal with injured workers' reform in isolation, because there are so many ramifications to the principle of the bill and the principle of a particular item of the bill that will affect injured workers across Ontario.
The minister might make more inquiries of representatives of the board. I know that for many years the philosophical approach that has prevailed has been to save money at the expense of injured workers across Ontario. If the minister wants to follow that political pattern, I tell him he will pay the price some day. I hope he will be able to accept this reasonable amendment today.
Mr. Elgie: Although we will be supporting the bill, I want to make it clear that we take the minister at his word, on the assumption that this issue of regular increases of pensions to injured workers and the survivors is a matter that will be dealt with in phase 2 of the committee. We accept that.
I do not think anyone should be under the misconception that this party and its representatives on previous committees have not indicated a sincere interest in having some process that allows for a regular and annual increase in the level of benefits based on some process. For example, in the committee that the member has talked about --
Mr. Wildman: Why did your party never do that?
Mr. Elgie: Well, it sounds so simple. My friend proposed the consumer price index, while his colleague the member for Dovercourt (Mr. Lupusella) on June 21, 1984, suggested the average industrial wage.
Mr. Martel: No, he did not.
Mr. Elgie: I have the date here. If the member does not believe me, he can check it out. There is not total agreement on this, and the member knows it. He knows Professor Weiler in his report suggested one index for current pensions and another index for long-term pensions. If one wanted to look to other examples, one might look to Manitoba. They have introduced the wage loss system, where they increase benefits in response to any advice received from the employer of an increase in wages paid at the relevant place of employment.
Those provinces that do have some process in place do it in many different ways. This party is prepared to accept that it is a matter that should be considered during phase 2 of the reform of the Workers' Compensation Board. In the meantime, we feel those considerations should await that process.
Mr. Wildman: I will not prolong the debate. I just want to express some concerns over the approach that seems to be taken by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) with regard to the amendment proposed by my colleague the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel).
It is ironic that after what has happened in Ottawa, we are debating today a question of indexing, especially after what the present minister's colleagues in Ottawa did, along with the senior citizens of this country in fighting for indexation. To have the minister say in this House that while he is in favour of the principle, he wants to have time for input and that is the reason he is not in favour of moving such a change now, is to ignore the fact that the member for Sudbury East has changed the date to give plenty of time for input.
As my colleagues have indicated, we do not believe there is a need for input at this time. It has been shown not only here in Ontario but also right across the country that the principle of indexation, certainly as it relates to old age pensions, is one that is supported by the vast majority of Canadians to the point where the government in Ottawa, with a very large majority, had to back off from an attempt to de-index. It seems to us that here is an opportunity for this minority government to respond to what is a majority position in this country and in this province with regard to income maintenance of this kind.
It is most unfortunate that what appears to be happening is that a party which in opposition tended to be and argued that it was progressive may be losing some of that progressivity when it gets into power. I hope that is not the case. I hope the minister will accept this as a friendly amendment and show that he is indeed progressive and represents a progressive government. If he is unwilling to accept what is a friendly amendment, I am afraid we and the people of Ontario will have to conclude that Liberals may sound like social democrats at times when in opposition, but when they get into power they sound more and more like Conservatives.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I will not prolong this debate. I want to remind my friend the member for Sudbury East that it seems to me that the comments that were made last year do not reflect asking the previous government to get on with the job. They would have had 13 months to get on with it and have their consultations if they had been still over here. We have had, and I know the member for Sudbury East will understand this, so far a grand total of 12 days.
It would be useful if the members opposite would give this minister a short time to talk to the groups and perhaps we could think out the bill a little more carefully than the amendment is thought out.
By changing the date to January 1, 1986, we have not affected in any way, shape or form those changes in the consumer price index that will take place from July I to September 30. That is what happens when one moves too quickly. I say in a friendly way to the member for Sudbury East that he has disfranchised, perhaps deindexed, the injured workers of this province for a three-month period. I had hoped my friend would be reasonable with us and allow for a brief period of consultation and discussion.
We cannot accept the amendment. We will not support it. I am sure my friend has a lot of material from my earlier remarks today that he can save up to see whether this government follows what it has promised in moving forward with indexation in the next brief period. That is the intention of this government, which favours the principle of indexation but which wishes to have a brief period of discussion with all parties.
I am surprised that my friend the member for Sudbury East could have canvassed the entire labour movement today. The entire labour movement did not speak with a unified voice about the form indexation should take. That is what the issue is about: not whether there should be indexation, but about what form it should take. I could not possibly have canvassed as many views as my friend has in only 24 hours.
This bill alleviates some of the concerns I have had for injured workers and allows us to proceed in a forthright way to address the members' concerns.
The committee divided on Mr. Martel's amendment to section 1, which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes 25; nays 76.
Section 1 agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: Very briefly, I want to inform the House that there are three minor changes under the explanatory notes.
In section 2, the last line should read "occurred on or after April 1, 1985." Section 3 in the second line should read "permanent disability," not "permanent total disability," to refer to all permanent disabilities, partial or total. In section 5, in line 3 the word "total" should be removed, leaving it as "workers who were receiving temporary disability benefits," which may be both total or partial."
Mr. Chairman: That is part of the explanatory notes and not really part of the bill.
Sections 2 to 12, inclusive, agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Nixon, the committee of the whole House reported one bill without amendment.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.