The House met at 1330.
Miss Martel: As Culture and Communications critic for the New Democratic Party, it is my pleasure again this year to remind members, if they have not already noticed, that the Mayworks Festival is taking place in Metropolitan Toronto this week. The Mayworks Festival is holding its fourth annual festival and is sponsored by the Labour Council of Metropolitan Toronto and York region.
Mayworks is a multimedia event which takes place in several locations in and around the city. Mayworks ‘89 is a salute to the creativity of working people and the social role of progressive artists. It is a time of celebration and positive creative expression featuring art and photographic exhibits, concerts, workshops, videos, theatrical performances and readings.
Mayworks ‘89 is centred on May Day and runs to 6 May. As a part of this year’s Music in the Workplace program, the Ruth Budd Quintet will bring a program of classical music to the Legislative Building on Friday, 5 May at 11:30 am. I invite and urge all members who are in the building, and staff as well, to attend and enjoy this musical event.
Congratulations to Mayworks and to all the talented and devoted people who have organized this festival. Best wishes for a most successful festival.
Mrs Marland: It gives me great pleasure to rise today and congratulate Kathy Harvey, Mississauga’s Multiple Sclerosis Person of the Year for 1989. Kathy was diagnosed with MS 23 years ago and became disabled in 1973. In spite of her disability, Kathy has demonstrated great courage and depth of character. Kathy has always been a wonderful mother and encouraging motivator to her son, Cameron, and daughter, Erin.
Kathy has established herself as an excellent painter, with her art appearing on MS Christmas cards and MS society notepaper. She is a compassionate and caring person with many supportive and admiring friends. Cameron has also been another achiever in the family and reached a pinnacle in 1986 when he became a world-class athlete and won the bronze medal in rowing at the World Rowing Championships in Nottingham, England.
In recognition of her determination and achievements, a presentation to Kathy Harvey was made last evening at the Toronto Blue Jays game at Exhibition Stadium. Best wishes, Kathy. You are a very special woman and mother. Thank you for being an inspiration to us all, and we all share with you the pride in your family’ s achievements.
SENIORS’ INFORMATION DAY
Mr Dietsch: I would like to take this opportunity to advise the honourable members of this House of a very special event which will be taking place in my riding of St Catharines-Brock on Wednesday, 10 May. That is the eighth annual Seniors’ Information Day at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in St Catharines.
The event, which is sponsored by Senior Citizens’ Consultants, is an information-sharing day. Last year, 54 agencies were represented, ranging from health organizations to any organization that offers some type of service to seniors, attracting people from all over the city. The turnout last year was 1,600-plus and the organizers are expecting a larger crowd this year.
The St Catharines Transit Commission will offer free bus rides for seniors all day in order to facilitate their travel to and from the centre. Furthermore, Maclean Hunter Cable 10 will be present to film the activities, which will be reported on our community television.
The head of Senior Citizens’ Consultants, Dulcie Pink, and her husband, Ernest, along with numerous other volunteers, have worked tirelessly on putting together this event. It is a shining example of our community’s commitment to a better quality of life for our seniors. I ask that my colleagues join with me in applauding their efforts and wishing them the most successful information day to date.
Mr Reville: Tomorrow this government will have one of many opportunities to put its money where its mouth has been. Tomorrow the representative of the Victorian Order of Nurses will be meeting with the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan). The VON will be asking for three things: for the government to pick up its $2.5-million deficit for the year ending 31 March 1989, to increase its per visit fee by about seven per cent and to institute a process whereby the VON can have some more flexibility in dealing with government as costs change and as the needs of its patients change.
As I understand it, the government has offered to pick up part of the deficit and to increase the per visit fee by about five per cent. That will not meet the needs of the Victorian Order of Nurses, and the Ministry of Health should know that because it has been advised about the order’s needs since October 1988. If the government fails to respond to the reasonable demands of the VON, I think we can put down the budget speech as one of those tales told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANTS
Mr Eves: I am rising in the House today -- and I am pleased to see that the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) is in attendance -- to talk about the issue of northern health travel grants for the constituents of Parry Sound riding.
I thought quite seriously that we had put this issue to bed on 9 June 1988 when the Minister of Northern Development (Mr Fontaine) rose in his place in the House and announced that, effective 1 April 1989, all residents of the riding of Parry Sound, all residents of the districts of Parry Sound and Nipissing would be part of northern Ontario for the purposes of all programs administered by all ministries in the government.
There are no exceptions in those words. I think the intent is quite clear and I think the spirit is quite clear. The only ministry to date that has reneged on that commitment is the Ministry of Health with respect to its northern health travel grants program.
The definition of northern Ontario defines the territorial districts in northern Ontario that qualify for the northern health travel grants program. It is interesting to note that the district of Parry Sound is excluded in the current definition, as is indeed a great portion of the district of Nipissing.
If the Minister of Health intends to live up to the spirit and intent of this move, which I think is a well-needed one, and I think everybody in this House twice unanimously agreed to that, she will move those boundaries and move the distances appropriately so that all residents of Parry Sound and Nipissing are treated equally.
ERNEST C. DRURY
Mr Elliot: On 4 June 1989, the late Premier of Ontario, the Honourable Ernest C. Drury, will be inducted into the Ontario Agriculture Hall of Fame at the Ontario Agricultural Museum in Milton.
Known as the Farmer Premier, E. C. Drury has several connections with my riding of Halton North and specifically the town of Milton. A Milton high school, the E. C. Drury Secondary School, ensures that his name is still prominent locally.
After running unsuccessfully as an independent Liberal Conservative for the riding of North Simcoe in 1917, Drury was chosen as the leader of the elected farm members after the 1919 general election in Ontario.
When Premier Hearst resigned, Drury was asked to form a government under the banner of the United Farmers of Ontario. In 1920, Premier Drury won a by-election in what was then called the county of Halton. He served as the Premier of this province and the member for Halton until the fall of his government in May 1923.
A graduate of the Ontario Agricultural College, the Honourable E. C. Drury was an advocate of progressive farming techniques and a supporter of better agricultural education and co-operative action.
When the Honourable E. C. Drury passed away in 1968, the province lost a staunch supporter of the family farm and the whole agricultural sector.
He is a worthy inductee into the Agriculture Hall of Fame.
ANNUAL ORILLIA PERCH FESTIVAL
Mr McLean: My statement concerns the perch festival in Orillia that wraps up its eighth successful year this Sunday.
More than 10,000 anglers, young and old, male and female, were expected to converge on Orillia this year to test their fishing abilities in the waters of Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching. These avid anglers are vying for 72 of the $1,000-tagged perch provided by business people in the district, plus a boat and motor and daily prizes for the largest perch reeled in each day.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the organizers of this year’s Annual Orillia Perch Festival and to invite all members here today to come up to Orillia this weekend and do battle with the mighty fighting perch, one of the finest pan fish in the province.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon R. F. Nixon: Mr Speaker, I would like to advise the House that I intend to present the 1989 budget to the Legislature on Wednesday, 17 May at four o’clock in the afternoon, with your permission.
The Speaker: I will now call for responses to that lengthy statement.
Mr Laughren: I appreciate the fact that the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) sent to us four pages in a brown envelope to make sure that his announcement was appropriately packaged.
It is not lost upon us either that on the day he chooses to make the announcement of his budget date he comes in wearing a blue tie. Every other day --
Hon Mr Conway: Yours is a lot bluer.
Mr Laughren: I am not announcing the date of the budget. We can only expect that what the Treasurer has in store for the people of Ontario is reflected in the colour of his tie.
I would say that it is about time we got to the provincial budget. We expect certain things in that budget, particularly given what the federal government has done with its budget. We also expect that we will be able to tell the difference between a Liberal budget and a Conservative budget on 17 May.
There is an enormous amount of work to be done in this province concerning the fairness of our tax system and the day has come when, surely to goodness, this Treasurer does not simply have to reflect the actions of the federal government and its draconian tax regime. There is an opportunity for this province to move in a different direction, and we will be looking forward to that on 17 May.
Mr Brandt: I want to respond very briefly on behalf of our party to the Treasurer’s very interesting announcement of today. We are looking forward as well to the budget announcement.
I would like to just advise the Treasurer that I had the opportunity earlier today to meet with municipal leaders, as I did about a week ago, and they will be very interested in the announcements contained in the Treasurer’s budget to see if they are treated equally as well in the transfer grant program from the Treasurer to the local municipalities as in fact the province was treated by what some have referred to as draconian transfers from the federal to the provincial level.
It is interesting to note that there has been a slowdown in the provincial transfer program, which we fully acknowledge on this side of the House. There has been some reduction, but not a complete elimination of the transfer program. In the last budget the Treasurer had the audacity, I might add, to give the municipalities absolutely a zero transfer in terms of the unconditional grant program. They are extremely angry about that.
Hon R. F. Nixon: You call $600 million zero?
Mr Brandt: The Treasurer knows full well that there was no increase whatever in the road subsidy program in transportation; there was no increase in the unconditional grant program, and that program results in a loss to municipal governments of hundreds of millions of dollars.
When the budget is announced, we will be looking for things like an equitable treatment of our school boards, of our municipalities and of the agencies and associations that this government has a responsibility to provide for in a financial sense. They make up many of the rules upon which these particular bodies are governed. They establish the standards. They establish what has to be done at the local levels by many of these boards and agencies, and yet they do not provide even a modest grant increase to take care of some of those programs.
We will sit here in anticipation on this side of the House awaiting the Treasurer’s good word, because I know deep in his heart of hearts he is a fair man and I know he will treat those municipalities fairly. If he does not, he will hear word from this side of the House as to our anger at the Treasurer giving the backhand to the municipalities for still another year.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Treasurer. It relates very directly to the weighty announcement that he made today about the timing of the budget.
I am sure the Treasurer will know that the Department of National Revenue publishes very extensive data on who pays tax and who does not. The latest year for which they have any information is 1986. I wonder if the Treasurer can tell us how he feels about this interesting titbit from Revenue Canada, and that is that all of the people who made over $250,000 in 1986 and paid not a cent to either the federal government or the Ontario government in income tax -- 40 of them, making over a quarter of a million dollars each and they did not pay a nickel in tax -- are resident in Ontario.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The personal income tax field is a very productive one in the province. This year, when all the numbers are added up for the year just past, we expect to get well over $10 billion -- actually over $11 billion -- from that particular source. So the fact that some people do not pay it is quite a serious matter. The government of Canada has dealt with this on a number of occasions.
I think the member is aware, however, that the base upon which the provincial personal income tax is levied is a wholly federal base. We simply levy our tax as a percentage of federal tax payable. It might occur to the honourable member that if he really wants fairness and equity, he is in the wrong jurisdiction asking that question.
Mr B. Rae: The person who is in the wrong jurisdiction is the Treasurer. He has the jurisdiction, if he wants, to levy what income taxes he wants and chooses to levy on the residents of this province. He knows it and everybody in this House knows it. The fact he is choosing to let 40 people make over $250,000 and not pay a cent of tax is as much his responsibility under the laws of this country as it is Michael Wilson’s. It is time he woke up and smelt the coffee when it comes to widespread tax avoidance in this province, as a result of tax rules for which he shares jurisdiction with the federal Minister of Finance.
The Speaker: Question?
Mr B. Rae: At the same time as those people are not paying income tax, it might be of interest to the Treasurer to know that in 1986, 722,000 people making less than $10,000 in fact paid income tax to the government of Ontario. I wonder if the Treasurer can tell us, why are three quarters of a million people making less than $10,000 having to pay income tax when there are 40 people making over $250,000 who are not paying a nickel?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think it would be worth while, if you will permit me, Mr Speaker, to respond to the lengthy editorial introduction the honourable member gave us to his supplementary question. While he is prepared to say, as always with total truth, that we have the responsibility to tax any way we want, still, we have a tax collection agreement with the government of Canada which means we accept the federal tax base for reasons of economy and efficiency.
If he is indicating it is the position of the New Democratic Party that we ought to renounce that historic agreement, go to the expense of hiring our own tax collection authorities, provide our own facilities and provide the residents of Ontario with an entirely separate personal income tax machine, then perhaps he might as well say so, because it is an interesting alternative that has even occurred to me from time to time. Perhaps he might clarify that in his second supplementary.
Mr B. Rae: If the Treasurer is asking me for my opinion, I am saying very directly to the Treasurer that if the federal government is not prepared to have an income tax system that is fair, then it is time Ontario did have an income tax system that is fair. That is the issue before us. It will be no surprise to the Treasurer, but it is of interest, that well over 60 per cent of the tax-free loophole artists who are not paying any tax are men, and that well over 60 per cent of the people who are living well below the poverty line and who have to pay tax, when they should not have to pay any tax, are women.
My specific question for the Treasurer is this: The income tax system, as it is, is discriminatory between rich and poor, and it is discriminatory between men and women. I say to the Treasurer, if he is saying about the sales tax nationally that he does not want to get in with it because it is not fair, why does he not have a direct look at the tax agreement between Ottawa, the federal government, and the provincial government and say that Ontario is determined to have an income tax system that is fair?
The Speaker: Order.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member, who follows events in this House very carefully, will know that we have made use of the flexibility that is available to us under the federal-provincial agreement to put a specially higher tax, a 10 per cent surtax, on incomes above $80,000. I would surmise that the honourable member asking the question is one of the few members in the House who might possibly be fairly close to that limit, knowing his silver spoon antecedents.
Mr Breaugh: Robert, it’s sticking to the shovel today; be careful.
Mr Mackenzie: Your neck is starting to swell.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Oh, that is unacceptable, right?
On the other hand, he should also be aware that in this province we have a tax reduction program that is as generous as he will find anywhere, certainly compared with the government of Canada, which exempts those people at the low end from paying personal income tax. With a surtax to pay an extra 10 per cent on incomes above $80,000 and the tax reduction at the lower end, we feel we have done a great deal to provide fairness, equity and progressiveness to the personal income tax system.
Mr Kormos: I have a question of the Minister of Financial Institutions. Advocate General is a Winnipeg-based insurance company with most of its business right here in Ontario. Most of that business is some 40,000 insured persons being covered for their automobile insurance policies. It is a federally registered company and it was the subject of a federal windup order on 24 April because of insolvency.
Thousands of insureds in Ontario are now told that they have no insurance and that the 12-month premiums they paid two months ago, three months ago, four months ago or whenever will not be refunded, at least not for years and probably never. What did the minister’s superintendent of insurance do to protect these thousands of insureds and drivers in Ontario from being ripped off for what may well be millions of dollars in premiums?
Hon Mr Elston: The matter of Advocate General is now in front of the courts in Manitoba. I can tell the honourable gentleman that the federal authorities have moved to deal with the issues they are best able to; that is the solvency questions with respect to the company. The superintendent of insurance in Ontario obviously, in terms of making it known there was no ability to write insurance, has taken that step. Obviously, that is in line with the responsibilities under the current situation.
Mr Kormos: I am told the ministry and the provincial superintendent of insurance did not utilize any of their jurisdiction, that they merely followed the federal government and the federal government’s order. I am told that their involvement was merely to keep track of what the federal government is doing and that they have not even examined the work done by the federal government, even though they knew the federal government was commencing its examination towards the latter part of 1988. This does not seem to coincide with the statement of goals of the ministry, which are to ensure that insurance is available and that insurers are financially capable of paying claims of policyholders.
How can the minister justify the failure of the superintendent of insurance to utilize jurisdiction under the Insurance Act?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman is probably aware, because of his legal background, that there are certain jurisdictional issues that have to be met. There is jurisdiction in the federal government, particularly after court cases in the 1930s that establish federal occupation in the area of trade and commerce.
We have generally, as a result of that, maintained a very high vigilance in the area of product sales, distribution and things like that, but generally the financial affairs of a federally regulated, federally incorporated company have stayed with the federal people. That is the manner in which the proceedings were taken with respect to Advocate General.
Mr B. Rae: When all the legal falderal is said and done, Emelia Perry is a constituent of mine who contacted my office this week. She is one of the 40,000 people in this province who has a car insurance policy with Advocate General. She paid them $1,800 just a couple of months ago. Her insurance will no longer be valid if in fact Advocate General loses its licence. Her money is with Advocate General and it will take months and years before she sees any of it back. In fact, she may never see any of it back if the company is wound up and found to be insolvent.
I want to ask the minister what he is going to do on behalf of Emelia Perry when it comes to getting her $1,800 back from an insurance company that is not able to meet its obligations. He has been asleep at the switch, his people have been asleep at the switch, and along with 40,000 other people she is without any car insurance.
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman is not correct when he says we have been asleep at the switch. He knows he is wrong and he cannot say that. I appreciate the difficulty with which his constituent is faced; I appreciate that very fully. Have him send the material over to me and I will look into the details of the situation for him, but he cannot say what he just said about the regulators in this situation.
I can tell the honourable gentleman that I will be pleased to look at the situation personally, but he knows as well as I do that when matters of windup and other things are involved, there are people who are appointed by the courts to deal with it in a legal fashion. Sometimes there are difficulties that cannot be overcome. However, if there is an amount of money that is available for distribution, then each of the insureds, each of the creditors of the company, will receive a proportional share in terms of the distribution.
In this situation of a federally incorporated insurance company, federally regulated for solvency, the federal authorities have taken the lead. I ask the honourable gentleman to send me the material so I can look into it further for him.
Mr Eves: I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Health. I have her glossy booklet here, Deciding the Future of Our Health Care. On page 2 it says, “Our objective is, of course, to keep people healthy -- out of institutions and in their own communities as much as possible.” Going on a little bit farther: “Home care is often a preferred alternative for seniors who would otherwise be in long-term care beds in hospitals or nursing homes. In 1987, chronic care patients accounted for over 25 per cent of total hospital patient days. We are examining the use of our institutional chronic care, now taking up thousands of more costly acute care beds. We believe it is time to re-evaluate our approach to long-term care....”
The Victorian Order of Nurses wrote to the minister in October 1988 to bring to her attention that the base funding for its organization does not reflect the complexity and changing nature of the services provided by visiting nurses, which her own ministry wants them to do more and more of, to assume more and more share of the load.
The Speaker: Question?
Mr Eves: The minister has been aware of the VON funding problems for at least over half a year, since October 1988, yet she has apparently ignored them.
The Speaker: Question?
Mr Eves: The minister is now talking about an 11th hour rescue. Does she not realize that an 11th hour rescue of the deficit does not really solve the fundamental problem, which is the base funding the VON receives?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member opposite will know of our commitment not only to expand, but to develop the kind of home care and community-based alternatives that will allow people to live independently in their communities for as long as possible and will provide services to them in the most convenient way. He will know we have been reviewing how we provide those services.
The financial difficulties that have been determined by the Victorian Order of Nurses, which provides an important service in this problem, are part of that ongoing review. He knows, as well, that I will be meeting with them tomorrow. I believe that by working together with them, we should be able to resolve the existing financial difficulties.
Mr Eves: The minister is asking the VON to do more and more, yet she refuses to provide it with the necessary dollars it needs to assume more and more of the burden of the health care system. The reason the VON has a deficit is that the base funding is inadequate and the minister has refused to address that issue. There is an ageing population, which she acknowledges. It calls for more intensive home care, which she says she is going to do.
More time has to be spent with each patient. For every extra minute of added time to the average length of visit a visiting nurse gives, it costs the VON $1 million a year; that is, every time the average visit goes up by one minute. Yet without negotiation, consultation or meeting with the VON, the Ministry of Health unilaterally imposed a 1988-89 funding formula that does not reflect the current cost of its nursing service.
How can the minister stand in her place and say she is meeting with them tomorrow, that she is adopting a consultative, co-operative approach to government? They say, and they have said it in black and white, that the ministry unilaterally imposed this funding formula without any consultation or negotiation. Is she saying they are wrong?
Hon Mrs Caplan: For the information of the member opposite, there are some 38 home care programs across the province. I am quite proud of the fact that between 1985-86 and 1987-88, there has been a 60 per cent increase in the funding for home care in this province. We are now funding home care at a rate of $245 million annually. Of course, there is much we still have to do, and we are working with the VON and the other providers of home care to see how they can provide their services in the most efficient manner.
Mr Eves: The minister makes note of the fact that she is meeting with the VON tomorrow, which is true. It is also interesting to note that the first the VON heard about this, despite the fact it had requested the meeting by letter of 10 January, was after the Premier (Mr Peterson) responded to a question I asked in the House on Monday. All of a sudden, the phone lines started to burn between the Ministry of Health and the VON.
I want to quote from the letter to the Minister of Health on 10 January 1989, “It is our belief that the 4.5 per cent increase neither recognizes VON’s record of responsible fiscal management nor accommodates the true cost increases which we are experiencing, many of which reflect external factors beyond our control.” They go on to say they are presently projecting, this year, an operating deficit of at least $2 million for the 1988-89 fiscal year.
The Speaker: Question?
Mr Eves: “Given the magnitude and seriousness of the situation, the board of directors, VON, has asked me to request an urgent meeting with you in order that they can review our present circumstances and investigate possible resolution.”
The Speaker: Question?
Mr Eves: Is the minister’s response to a co-operative, consultative approach to give them a meeting this Friday after the Premier makes the commitment for her Monday in the House when she was not here and then her ministry --
The Speaker: Order.
The Speaker: Is the member for Parry Sound finished?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member knows full well, ministry officials have been meeting with the VON and other providers of home care services over the course of months to attempt to resolve difficulties. I can say to him that we will be meeting tomorrow, as we do with a number of groups on an ongoing basis, to try to resolve some of the structural and financial difficulties as we work together co-operatively in this province. I ask him to support those initiatives.
POLICIES ON ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
Mr Runciman: My question is for the Premier. Earlier this week, I had a discussion with the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Wrye) and he indicated to me that very shortly he would be making some announcements with respect to changes in Ontario’s liquor laws. I have had some concern expressed to my office in the past few days that one of those recommendations that is going to be adopted by this government is the proposal called “bring your own booze” in the so-called Offer report, which would allow patrons to take bottles of wine into restaurants in the province.
Can the Premier assure the people of this province that he is not going to support that recommendation and that we will not see that implemented?
Hon Mr Peterson: I can assure the member that I will take his concerns to the minister, and at the appropriate time he will bring his views forward to this House and the member can discuss them with him.
Mr Runciman: I think most of the people in this House, and certainly across the province, would be interested in hearing the Premier’s views with respect to this issue. There are a number of other changes as well that are proposed by the Offer report, which apparently are going to be announced in the next couple of weeks.
Another one is the extension of drinking hours. We have talked to a group called PRIDE, People To Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, and they have expressed a great deal of concern about that particular proposal. I quote John Bates of PRIDE, “If you’re drunk at one o’clock, you’ll be drunker at two o’clock.” He has also expressed concern that with subways and transit systems shutting down at one o’clock, such an extension of drinking hours would force more people to drive in an impaired condition.
Does the Premier wish to comment on that proposal, and as well on the BYOB proposal?
Hon Mr Peterson: No, I do not.
Mr Runciman: The Premier did not mind a couple of weeks ago when he was asked about casinos in Ontario. He said he was not supportive of casinos because they did not lead to a good lifestyle, but today he is unwilling to comment on people wandering around the streets with bottles of wine or on extended drinking hours.
It is truly bizarre that at the same time this government is spending close to $3 billion on health care costs related to alcohol abuse, thousands of dollars on advertising to promote good lifestyles and more than $550 million on law enforcement related to alcohol problems, the Premier of this province does not even want to comment on the proposals that are going to be before his cabinet in a week or two, announcements that are forthcoming.
The Speaker: Question?
Mr Runciman: Why does he not open up to this House and the people of this province and tell us where he stands on these matters?
Hon Mr Peterson: Boy, this keeps getting worse every day, does it not? I thought it had hit bottom yesterday.
Look, I understand the problem. Let me just say that my honourable friend asked me if I would like to comment and the answer was no; but now he has asked me a question that I think is a question I think we will --
Mr Runciman: This is a serious matter to an awful lot of people.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Peterson: The member is quite right. We take the views of the honourable member seriously, even if he has different views on the same subject two days in a row. I will certainly take his views to the minister. When the minister brings forward the policy of the government, he will share it with the member and then he can stand in this House and hoot and holler, rant and rail and say whatever he would like.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question of the Minister of Financial Institutions. The minister will no doubt be aware of the decision that was made yesterday by Mr Justice Sydney Robins regarding the Ontario Hydro pension plan and his ruling that Ontario Hydro could not take a contribution holiday because it has a surplus in its pension.
In particular, Mr Justice Robins said: “I can see no realistic distinction in the treatment of surplus between the corporation giving itself an accounting credit in place of actual payment of its required contribution and the corporation directly withdrawing surplus from the fund. The result is the same in both cases: the fund’s surplus is reduced or eliminated.” Does the minister agree with the ruling and with that statement yesterday?
Hon Mr Elston: I have seen part of the ruling given by Mr Justice Robins. I have not read the entire ruling. What I do understand is that Mr Justice Robins’s decision was based particularly upon the statutory obligations of Hydro, at least from a preliminary review of the matter I have had, and, in fact, there are some questions outstanding in the minds of the parties as to whether there may be appeals taken from it.
With respect to my agreement or disagreement, I can tell the honourable gentleman I have seen it, I know what has been said and I know the matter of appeal is a question that is now being considered by the parties. I think the member is free to put his own turn on the decision of Mr Justice Robins at this point. It is not yet final, as far as I understand.
Mr D. S. Cooke: There is a principle involved in this and the minister knows it. The principle is that pension contributions and pension funds belong to the workers and not to the corporation. If a surplus accrues, then that surplus belongs to the pension fund and the workers. All we are asking in this party, and thousands of employees across this province want to know, does the minister agree with that principle? 1f he agrees with that principle, why does he not put in place the regulations to stop the continued theft of millions of dollars of pension funds by contribution holidays in this province?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman probably knows that, generally speaking, pension obligations are a part of contractual obligations which are worked out and, in fact, a number of decisions with respect to pension surplus have been decided, particularly on the wording of the contracts that surround the pension documents.
I can tell the honourable gentleman he is being much too general in the way he applies his particular analysis of that judgement. It has been, as I have been told from a very preliminary review of it, an indication of the particular bearing of the Power Corporation Act, which of course deals with Hydro.
The principle which the member has enunciated here is dealt with particularly in the text of pension agreements. In that situation, determinations are made and that is how, in fact, the determinations will be made by pension commissions and courts as the matters are dealt with in the years to come.
TORONTO AREA TRANSPORTATION
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. His ministry has not faced up to the transportation crisis around Metropolitan Toronto. Metro’s planning people have tabled proof positive how the traffic has become worse in and around the Metro area in the past year. Ontario truckers are calling it a crisis, saying the price of goods will jump by 25 per cent to 50 per cent in the next 10 years.
Since this government took office, the transportation budget for Ontario has steadily decreased. Is the minister following the same trend this year of reducing Ontario’s financial commitment to transportation?
Hon Mr Fulton: As the member has demonstrated previously in this House, he once again has his facts incorrect. The budget of this ministry --
Mr Cousens: What facts do I have incorrect? Will the minister please tell me.
The Speaker: Order, order. Shouting does not help anything. Does it? Oh.
Hon Mr Fulton: Obviously, the member wants to ask questions but does not want to hear the answers. The member would be very much aware, because of the interest he appears to have in transportation matters --
The Speaker: Order, order.
Mr Cousens: On a point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker: He has no right to say that I appear to have; I have.
The Speaker: Order. Many times I have noted in this House that members have risen and expressed a point of view. Not always do all members agree with that point of view. Does the minister have any further response?
Hon Mr Fulton: I will try again. I clearly understand that the member appears to have an interest in matters concerning transportation. He would be aware of the report of the directions we announced last May, and if he would care to listen to the answers, I have 11 pages of accomplishments that have flowed from that announcement of only a year ago, some of them including projects in his riding, I might point out.
I would further point out the inaccuracy of suggesting the budget has in fact decreased. It is simply not the case. The Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) and this government have been very generous with funding of this ministry. Municipal roads have grown by some 36 per cent. I would remind him that in the previous 11 years to this government taking office, his government continuously diminished the budget for this ministry.
Mr Cousens: Mr Speaker, on a point of personal privilege before I bring in my supplementary: As a member of this party, I am asking questions not only from the people of Markham in my riding, but for Liberals, Conservatives and NDP and people in the Metro area and people who are concerned with transportation. I take it as an offence that this minister should think I am not trying to serve all the people of the province, so I have a supplementary for him.
The Speaker: Does the member have a supplementary?
Mr Cousens: I am not taking any more of the Minister of Transportation’s guff; it is just not worth it. He has a job to do and it is arrogance of the worst order.
The Minister of Transportation has lost the battle at cabinet for four years in a row to get increased funding. Metro last year received $1.5 million less than the year before. Congestion is worse this year over last year. What we are seeing is that the percentage of the provincial budget in 1987-88 was 5.5 per cent and in 1988-89 it was down 0.1 per cent to 5.4 percent.
Will the Minister of Transportation commit to this House that the transportation budget will not continue to decrease as a total share of provincial funding?
Hon Mr Fulton: I have said before, I said it today and I will say it again: The amount of funding to this ministry from our Treasurer in this government has grown substantially every year for four years. I suggest if he is reading from today’s newspapers, the source of the information was indeed the deputy minister of this ministry under his government.
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. In the early 1970s the Minesing Swamp land acquisition program was started. The swamp itself is a 15,000-acre natural wetlands system which lies in the very centre of the county of Simcoe.
The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority has acquired about 5,000 acres to date under this program; the Ministry of Natural Resources a little over 1,000 acres; the Ministry of Government Services 134 acres; and Simcoe county owns another 380 acres.
I am sure all of us recognize the unique animal and plant life which can be found within the swamp boundaries. My question to the minister is, can he advise us of what the overall plans are for this provincially significant acquisition program? Where are we going; what is contemplated?
Hon Mr Kerrio: A very important initiative by this government that was motivated, in a way, to speed up the inventory of very important and valuable wetlands in the province was undertaken as one of the first initiatives of my ministry when I became minister, and it is a very significant and important one.
The member for Simcoe Centre talks about this particular area. Both my ministry and the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority are very much involved in management and acquisition of these lands to protect this very valuable swamp land. Representatives of both sit on a seven-member steering committee which deals with the overall management and acquisition. The objective, of course, is to protect significant wetlands throughout the province.
As the member has described, acquisition has secured a major portion of the swamp. There are two large outstanding tracts left that we are negotiating for right now to put that whole package together. The features are very important to protect -- Mr Speaker, I am sure you would want to hear this final comment that I have to make -- that is, they include provincially significant floristic features, bird species that need to be protected and a significant pickerel spawning area, and everyone in the province enjoys the opportunities that presents.
The Speaker: There may be no need for a supplementary. Oh; okay, supplementary.
Mr Owen: While we are appreciative of what is being done to save the Minesing Swamp itself, there are other wetlands in the province, and from time to time we hear from conservation people who feel that the same programs that we have been experiencing and enjoying in the Simcoe county area should be shared with other parts of the province.
We all realize the importance of wetlands and what they do for our province. Could the minister tell us what is being done of comparable measure across the remaining part of the province compared to the Simcoe county area itself?
Hon Mr Kerrio: I thank the honourable member very much for a very important supplementary. I do feel that not only what we do as a government is important, but having attended last night at a fund-raising for the Brant Waterways Foundation to do good things to renew that waterway, which has a very great significance in and around the areas that the member for Brantford (Mr Neumann) represents, I would say that the acquisition has a very high priority to protect these lands and to continue to put out money with other users. My ministry, in conjunction with the ministries of the Environment, Municipal Affairs and Agriculture and Food, has released a paper on what we feel is an important and significant direction in protecting these very, very valuable resources, as they ultimately prove to be in Ontario.
There is another element that is worth mentioning, and that is, we get involved with a group that raises tremendous sums of money through Ducks Unlimited to protect wetlands, not only in Ontario but right across this continent and deep into the United States of America. There are many interested people doing good things to protect this valuable resource.
Mr Breaugh: I have a question for the Minister of Housing concerning rent review in Ontario. Last November I raised with her a case of the application made at 1749 Victoria Park Avenue in Scarborough, indicating to her that the landlord in his application for a 65 per cent increase had been rather devious in terms of paying attention to the Rental Housing Protection Act and had incurred expenses which appeared questionable at that time. The minister, if I can quote her response, said not to worry. She did not say those words; she said that “there will be no unjustified rent increases.”
The application was for a 65 per cent increase. The actual award made by the board on 13 April 1989 was for 62.29 per cent. Can the minister justify that for us?
Hon Ms Hošek: I thank the member for his continuing interest in rent review. He will know that four out of five of the tenants in this province receive rent increases at or near the guideline and that about three million tenants in the province are protected by rent review.
I think the member chooses not to remember that without the law that we currently have, a significant number of tenants in the province would face rent increases of any magnitude at any time a landlord saw fit to bring them forward. The tenants and the landlords in this province came together and attempted to strike a fair balance in this law, and there is no question that the legislation is a balance which gives benefit both to landlords and to tenants.
Let me give the honourable member an example of the kind of expenses that are calculated into a rent increase. There is a 30-unit building on Heath Street in Toronto, and the repairs in that building, which were considered legitimate in the process, went something like this. The boiler needed to be replaced; that cost $31,000. The plumbing needed to be fixed; that cost $28,000. The aluminum storms and windows needed replacement; that cost $50,000. The kitchen cabinets needed replacing; that cost $35,000. A new roof, $26,000. Removing a wall, $30,000. Expenses of this sort are involved in maintaining and keeping a building up to a standard and level that are calculated in the rent review increases. That is one example.
Mr Breaugh: I do not know whether that justifies anything to anybody. Let me try this one. In the minister’s riding a woman named Joyce Hall lives in a building at 1065 Eglinton Avenue West. The application there is the world’s record. The landlord has applied for a 195 per cent increase in rent.
Joyce and others who live in that building are fearful, having seen what rent review will do. Can the minister explain to her why she should not now join other tenants in the building who were afraid that the increase will be something in that order and have left the building because they were afraid of what retroactive rents might be charged to them? How do you explain that to her, that this is really nothing more than a form of economic eviction, with her fear that the rent review process, if it does not give the landlord 195 per cent, will be justified in the way the minister has just done, to give him something of that order?
Hon Ms Hošek: It is too soon to know what rent increase will come in that building, but let me remind the member that the system was created to set fair rents. It was not meant necessarily to keep the status quo or to preserve rents that were cheap. It was meant to set fair rents and to keep a balance between very real protection for tenants and recognizing the expenses that are involved in maintaining and fixing a building over time.
I understand the concerns and the fears of people who are facing significant rent increases. The other issue that always has to be on the table at the same time is that unless we have a law which recognizes what it genuinely costs to keep a building and to fix it, we are not going to have the kind of rental housing stock we need in this province for the three million people who are tenants.
ASSISTANCE FOR THE DISABLED
Mrs Marland: My question is to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons. In June 1988 the Lord report was completed and forwarded to the office of the minister. Eight months later, on 27 February 1989, he finally decided to release the report to the public.
My question is, now that the minister has had almost a year to review this scathing report of services for the disabled in Ontario, can he tell the House and the disabled community what changes he plans to implement, and when?
Hon Mr Mancini: I want to thank the member for a very important question on the Lord report. As she has already explained to the House, the report is now public. It has been public for the last couple of months.
The regional offices of the Ministry of Community and Social Services now have the report. They are poring over it and may, in fact, have some type of consultation through the regional offices. I have spoken personally to the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney). We have discussed the Lord report in detail. There are a number of interesting proposals which have been made, and we wish to consider the matter further.
Mrs Marland: The Lord report says most people are frustrated with receiving their support from two or three different agencies with different regulations. Lack of co-ordination among agencies causes fragmentation and duplication. There is consumer dissatisfaction with the quality and reliability of service provided by outside agencies. There is recognition within many sectors that a more coherent legislative base is needed to support the philosophy and framework for the delivery of support services.
The fact is that we could hire more consultants and we could do more studies and more paperwork, but the minister’s job is not just to produce paper; it is to act upon the advice that he has already called for and in fact paid for. I would like to know what the minister is going do to address this one specific issue of the many issues raised in this report.
Hon Mr Mancini: The report does in fact say everything that the honourable member quoted. I wish to repeat that I have already had consultation with the Minister of Community and Social Services, and we are going to consult further on the matter.
There are a number of important issues that have been described in the Lord report. Disabled persons want to decide for themselves how they should receive some of the services. Right now some of their services or most of their services are delivered through brokers, as the honourable member informed the House, and through agencies.
There is some overlap, but in order to make the serious changes to the system that the honourable member wishes to have made and most of us wish to have made, it does indeed take some amount of time. I want to let the honourable member know that her concern does not go unnoticed and her references today in the House to the Lord report are taken most seriously. As we continue to consult and hopefully work to an end to make very positive changes, she will be one of the first to know.
Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. We hear about hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies being supplied by European and American taxpayers to their agricultural communities. Can the Minister of Agriculture and Food indicate his position on the recent agreement on agriculture in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations?
Hon Mr Riddell: This is an issue that my ministry has been dealing with to come up with a reasonable long-term response. But let me preface my remarks by saying that I certainly do support the long-term goals of trade liberalization and improvements in the rules and discipline of GATT. For many of Ontario’s agriculture and food commodities, reductions in trade-distorting subsidies will assist both our farmers and our food processors.
However, I do find the April agreement to be somewhat unbalanced. At present, there seem to be constraints only on domestic agricultural policies with minimal if any benefit from the freeze on support prices. Moreover, I do not see the need to discipline those commodities which are already supply-controlled.
With this lack of balance and the limited consultation that there has been with the producers and provinces, I along with my provincial colleagues have arranged a meeting with Mr Mazankowski on 12 May because we must clarify the mixed messages that are coming from Ottawa or risk disrupting these segments of our industry.
Mr Tatham: There are over 600 top-quality dairy producers in Oxford county. The minister referred to mixed messages and the role of supply management. Can the minister state his views on the supply management system in the GATT negotiations?
Hon Mr Riddell: The honourable member has raised a very serious concern in Canadian agricultural policy. It seems that many observers have viewed supply management and trade liberalization as incompatible. I do not share this view. I am pleased to note that Canada’s negotiating position emphasizes the difference between our supply management systems and the open-ended, trade-distorting support systems of the United States and the European Community.
Indeed, I re-emphasize my support for effective supply management systems. When my colleague the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) and I met with the boards in late April, our comments reassured these commodity groups of the province’s support for orderly marketing. As a matter of fact, after that meeting took place I received a letter from John Core, who was the vice-chairman of the Milk Marketing Board, regarding the outcome of our meeting. I just want to quote what he said, very briefly:
“I appreciated the strong reaffirmation of your government’s support for supply management when we met with you and Mr Kwinter on” --
The Speaker: Thank you. New question, the member for Hamilton West.
Mr Allen: I have a question to the Minister of Community and Social Services. At a time when the Premier (Mr Peterson) and the government are trumpeting the slogan “Welfare Cheques into Paycheques,” the social assistance system itself appears to be creating undue hardship for the working poor and forcing them to give up paycheques for welfare cheques.
Sharleen and Claude Girouard, the Ottawa disabled couple whose case the minister knows well, have tried every route, both in and out of the system, in order to get their medical supply costs covered without his having to give up his job and go on family benefits where he could get disability benefits and a drug card. They are unfortunately about to do that.
Does the minister not agree that it would be less costly, as the Social Assistance Review Committee report proposed, simply to provide them and working poor like them with the benefits which would enable them to maintain their employment and self-respect? If he does, why does he not take the simple route and do it?
Hon Mr Sweeney: At the present time, the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) is reviewing the whole operation of who should qualify for assistance under the drug card program strictly from a health, a medical point of view. The member is also well aware of the fact that the Social Assistance Review report is currently in the works.
I would hope that roughly 13 days from now the member might get some information that would be helpful to him, as we certainly are looking at people who are in a transitional stage, who have been on income support and who now are not on income support. The critical issue -- and the member and I have discussed this before -- is that qualification based upon need takes in the financial resources of the entire family. Until we can make some adaptation to that, quite frankly, I am just not in a position to do what he asks.
Mr Allen: We have been through this route before. The minister has claimed that supplementary aid would help, and yet it does not cover the $200 outstanding in their budget at the end of the month that is caused by medical supply costs. The minister has had the option of going the route of an order in council and putting them on a $2.50 allowance which would entitle them to a drug card; he has not done that.
I have not seen anything in the throne speech to date that indicates there is going to be any action with respect to the needs of the working poor, either in terms of minimum wage increases or benefits such as dental benefits, drug card attachment and soon. I would like the minister to stand and tell us whether he is going to be moving in that direction, because that would certainly solve the problem for the Girouards.
The Speaker: Minister.
Mr Allen: In the meantime, he has had options to act on this one --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Allen: -- and I wonder why he has not done it.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Let’s remember, as the honourable member well knows and as I have indicated before, that a significant amount of money flows from this ministry through the municipal welfare offices to this particular family, significant numbers of dollars. The decision was made that the difference between what they get through supplementary aid through the local municipality -- and the member knows that the provincial ministry pays 80 per cent of that -- and what is still owing was deemed by that office to be within their capability to pay, given all the other resources available to them. So let’s not leave the impression that they are not getting assistance for those medical bills. They are getting very, very significant assistance.
ORILLIA SOLDIERS’ MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
Mr McLean: My question is for the Minister of Health. It is my understanding that the officials from her ministry met the executive director of the Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital in late March to review a proposal to build a second campus for acute care and renovate the existing facility for chronic care. This is a proposal she has known about for a long time. This is a proposal that has raised almost $7 million. The fund-raising drive shows the community’s commitment to the project. Will the minister show her commitment by telling the hospital board of directors if construction can begin?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I have no announcement at this time.
Mr McLean: The hospital fund is over the top, and I think it shows a very strong commitment within the community with regard to the funding for that hospital. Some time ago, back in November, I asked the minister very much the same question. It was in March 1988 that she indicated she would have an answer within about two weeks. This is now 1989. When could we look forward to an answer?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member opposite knows, all capital projects have been under review to ensure in fact that we are planning for the future and community needs. He knows as well that we are looking at planning on a regional basis. I would say to him that I have no announcement to make today; however, in future we will be discussing the capital planning process in this Legislature and elsewhere.
Mr Faubert: My question is to the Solicitor General. Youth gang activity in Metropolitan Toronto has been gaining more attention in the media. It seems that incidents have been reported almost daily, detailing such activities as swarming, shoplifting and assault.
Residents in my riding of Scarborough-Ellesmere, in which the Scarborough Town Centre is located, have expressed to me their concerns about the problem; some have even indicated their concern about going shopping alone. Indeed, shop owners are speaking about the possibility of lost business. Mothers in Scarborough have formed a group to combat youth gang participation in Scarborough.
Can the minister advise the House what has been done to date and what is currently being done to deal with the problem of youth gangs in Metropolitan Toronto?
Hon Mrs Smith: I think it is very important that we keep in mind that school and police authorities by and large do not consider that most of the young people in Toronto who gather together in our malls are gangs. No one is denying that there are some organized gangs out on the streets of Toronto, Scarborough and the various areas round about; but by and large, in getting together, the groups that form loosely, which often have too much time on their hands and not enough to do, tend to get a group psychology.
A great deal is being done, particularly by the schools in the Metro area and I would say as well by the Metro police force. They have formed special task forces to deal with this and feel they are making very good progress and indeed are getting quite on top of the problem.
Mr Faubert: Last September in this Legislature, I called for a Metro-wide review of gang activity. The problem of youth gangs crosses many jurisdictions. Indeed, the Metropolitan Toronto Police has formed a squad called a youth gang squad. I know they would rather call them posses or swarms or other names, but they are involved in gang activity. As well, we know that any solutions certainly might cross the boundaries of many ministerial jurisdictions if they are recommended.
I understand Metropolitan Toronto council has formed a Metro task force under the community services and housing committee. I would like to address the question to the minister. Would she consider participating in such a task force to ensure that alternatives involving areas of provincial jurisdiction could be adequately addressed?
Hon Mrs Smith: We do participate very closely with Metro in any way that can be useful. We have people attend their meetings and offer assistance to them in whatever ways are appropriate for our ministry to assist. The task forces are being successful.
I have met in my office with social workers who work on the streets with kids and local residents, to get their creative ideas on how we as a ministry might assist the various police forces in working in these areas. We will be happy to work with them. We seek advice from them and from others as to what we can do to assist.
Mr Morin-Strom: I have a question for the Minister of Northern Development with respect to rail transportation services in northeastern Ontario.
We know that the federal government is cutting back considerably in terms of funding to Via Rail and, at the same time, the minister is currently looking at cutbacks in services to the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission in terms of its services along the Highway 11 corridor. Currently, the ministry and ONTC are conducting surveys and a series of public hearings in communities in that area of northeastern Ontario with respect to the passenger train services that the province has been funding in that area.
Can the minister, who has never reported on this study or set of hearings to the House itself, tell us what the purpose of it is and what his objective is with respect to rail transportation services for that area of our province?
Hon Mr Fontaine: First of all, I would like to say that the ONTC decided to have this review for many reasons. First of all --
Mr Runciman: Is that a mirror you have in front of you?
Hon Mr Fontaine: No. This is a committee which is composed of northerners. We are looking at that service. I do not know where the member for Sault Ste Marie gets this idea that we want to eliminate the service. That was never mentioned.
Second, I take the train quite often. I do not know if the member ever took that train from Kapuskasing to Toronto. I have used it quite often for many years. I know there are some problems with the service and the way they serve the people too. That is what the committee will do. We are going to discuss with the population of this corridor to see what kind of service and what quality of service is wanted. After that, they will report to me and I will make my report here, and we will decide at that time.
Mr Morin-Strom: The hearings are being set up and held across northeastern Ontario. As has been reported publicly, their objective will be “to consider if cheaper, reduced service could be provided, since existing service is experiencing high cost due to lack of use.”
Currently, the communities in this area are getting twice-a-day rail passenger services. At the same time that Via Rail is threatening to cut back services, can the minister at least give us the assurance that these communities will continue to have twice-a-day services through the services of the ONTC and that in fact the only thing we will see is improved service, not reductions in service to that area of northeastern Ontario?
Hon Mr Fontaine: First of all, I want to remind the member for Sault Ste Marie that we are not Via; we are ONTC. From Kapuskasing to Cochrane, that is Via and then we take over, but Via owns that train.
Second, I cannot speak for Via, but we are asking this committee to look at the situation of passenger service between Kapuskasing and Toronto. At the same time, I want to remind the member that if it takes two hours between Kapuskasing and Cochrane by train, something is wrong. That is what we want to look at. The train goes about 20 miles per hour. That is not my fault. That is the CN’s or Via’s fault. Our track from Cochrane is not that bad. I would like the member to take the train for a while and look at the situation. Maybe he could discuss it more raisonnable. C’est tout.
INSURANCE COMPANY BANKRUPTCY
Mr Runciman: I have a question to the Minister of Financial Institutions, and it has to do with the Guardall bankruptcy. I would like to know a number of things, since I am only going to have one question opportunity here.
In view of the fact that Seymour Ravinsky, the owner of Guardall and Ontario General Insurance Co, declared personal bankruptcy in 1977, I would like to know why this individual was allowed to purchase Ontario General Insurance in the first place; and why Ontario did not order Guardall to stop selling contracts until late March, when it had suspended the insurance company’s licence in early February.
Hon Mr Elston: I will have to look at what the rationale was for allowing Mr Ravinsky to purchase the insurance company. I understand that questions of transactions like that really take a look at the ability of the company to carry on business.
I do know in relation to Guardall that it did not only contract to provide the service through the one insurance company. There are other companies which in fact are involved, and that probably has something to do with the timing.
The issue in its entirety, from a consumer’s point of view and otherwise, is currently being investigated by my colleague the honourable member for Windsor-Sandwich, Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Wrye) and his ministry, in addition to the work that is ongoing with respect to the insurance company through my division. I will consult with him as well to tell the member as much as I can in one answer.
NOTICE OF DISSATISFACTION
Mr Kormos: I am rising pursuant to standing order 30(b) and giving notice that I am not satisfied with the response given to my question by the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) and that I intend to raise the subject matter of that question upon adjournment of the House today.
The Speaker: I am sure the member will give written notice as well.
Mr Ferraro: Mr Speaker, I am very proud and pleased today to present a petition to you and the House that was organized by a newspaper in the city of Guelph, the Royal Tribune.
“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:
“We want to see Bell Canada encouraged to act immediately so that we can recycle our phone directories.”
It is signed by 1,584 of my constituents, including a group of wonderful kids from Paisley Road School and just about the entire University of Guelph. I have affixed my name to it along with my staff.
Mr McGuigan: I have a petition:
“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 the yearly average rainfall in the riding of Essex-Kent is 28 inches, four to six inches short of the optimum for our average temperature and length of frost-free season;
“Whereas the land is very flat and close to the water level of the surrounding rivers and lakes;
“Whereas there is considerable interest on the part of agricultural producers in the practice of supplemental irrigation, therefore, be it resolved to petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government of Ontario to investigate the possibility of providing assured water supplies from the municipal drains, rivers and lakes of the area; to identify those areas which could be supplied with assured water supplies; to identify the soils within the supplied areas that could be subirrigated; and to develop legislation that would provide a framework for fairly and assuredly allocating water supplies to the various classes of uses among irrigators;
“Be it further resolved that a body of information be assembled from the various laws governing water usage and be made available in a single source for the use of potential irrigators;
“Furthermore, that one of the several ministries involved, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the Ministry of Natural Resources and others, be designated as the lead ministry to deal with this emerging technology.”
I have signed it.
Mr Charlton: “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:
“We urge the Liberal government not to proceed with Bill 162, An Act to amend the Workers’ Compensation Act, Revised Statutes of Ontario, 1980, chapter 539 as amended by Statutes of Ontario, 1981, chapter 30; Statutes of Ontario, 1982, chapter 61; Statutes of Ontario, 1983, chapter 45; Statutes of Ontario, 1984, chapter 38; Statutes of Ontario, 1984, chapter 58; Statutes of Ontario, 1985, chapter 3; Statutes of Ontario, 1985, chapter 17; and Statutes of Ontario, 1986, chapter 64, section 69.”
This petition is signed by a number of residents of various locations in the province. I will add my signature to it.
Mr Morin-Strom: I have a petition signed by over 400 residents of Sault Ste. Marie. It reads as follows:
“To the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and in particular the Minister of Community and Social Services:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Once again the Ontario government is directly responsible for a tragic murder of a young woman as a result of the inept system of service delivery to adult and young offenders. The policy of contracting out and privatization of facilities has given the citizens of Ontario a haphazard network of services which Celia Ruygrok and Krista Sepp have paid for with their lives!
“To operate within restrictive budgets, private operators hire inexperienced staff at the minimum wage. They can’t afford to train staff and must schedule staff to work alone. People working alone cannot guarantee the safety of the residents, the safety of the members of the community or their own safety.
“Therefore, we the undersigned demand that the government of Ontario ensure that all private publicly funded agencies dealing with adult and young offenders be staffed appropriately.”
I have affixed my name to it and I present it for the government’s serious consideration.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Fleet moved first reading of Bill 6, An Act to amend certain Statutes to create Heritage Day and Civic Holiday as Public Holidays.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Fleet: A public holiday to celebrate our heritage is an idea whose time has come. This bill proposes a public holiday, Heritage Day, on the third Monday of February, which is the start of Ontario’s annual Heritage Week.
The bill also proposes a public holiday on the first Monday of August, Civic Holiday. Currently, the Civic Holiday is not universally a legal right. It is only available to employees through collective agreements, the Public Service Act or subject to municipal proclamation or bylaw.
In the words of a draft paper of the Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s issues, “Public holidays are a basic” --
The Speaker: Order. It is certainly in order to explain the bill, but not to debate it.
HERITAGE DAY ACT, 1989
Mr McLean moved first reading of Bill 7, An Act respecting Heritage Day.
Motion agreed to.
Mr McLean: The purpose of this bill is to name the third Monday in the month of February Heritage Day and to designate this day as a holiday in Ontario. Previously, I brought in some bills with regard to Simcoe Day and some of my colleagues had indicated they would support Heritage Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the amendment to the amendment to the motion for an address in reply to the speech of His Honour the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the session.
The Speaker: The member for Mississauga North adjourned the debate. Any further comments?
Mr Offer: I do have some further comments in dealing with this speech from the throne. As I recall, yesterday I indicated that this throne speech is a concerted, focused speech dealing with the priorities of this government in the upcoming session and I indicated those priorities, as recited in the throne speech, as being:
“1. Building on our economic strengths to ensure tomorrow’s growth;
“2. Investing in the future of our children by making our education system a more effective springboard to opportunity;
“3. Reforming social assistance to help people move from dependence to self-reliance;
“4. Keeping our communities and neighbourhoods safe and secure;
“5. Promoting healthy lifestyles and preserving quality health care;
“6. Providing leadership in environmental protection.”
Yesterday, I dealt at some length with priority number one, building on our economic strength, by indicating that there is a challenge being given to this province, an opportunity because of the strength of this province through its large manufacturing base, through the skills, ability, willpower and willingness of our workforce to compete in a global economy, and that it is important this government make it a very high priority to lead the way, to provide the pathway for our manufacturing base and our workforce to be able to meet that challenge.
The work of the Premier’s Council on the economy, the record of this government, is such that we are leading, we are building that path so that this province will be a leader and will be able to compete, not only within this country but outside, in a technologically demanding workforce and workplace. As such, this will provide direct and indirect benefit to many persons throughout this province.
If I might, I would like to deal with one other matter brought forward in this throne speech; that is, reforming social assistance to help people move from dependence to self-reliance. I believe that when we talk about this particular aspect of the throne speech, it is important it is indicated as a priority. As we meet these challenges of a technologically demanding society, we must as a caring province realize that there is a prosperity which is not shared by all, that there are those less fortunate, caught up in a type of poverty, caught up in a vortex almost, with no escape.
Last session, this government continued to combat poverty in this province by providing substantial increases in benefits for social assistance programs. We introduced measures to reduce homelessness and increased funding for shelter subsidies.
I have taken note how this government, under the leadership of the Premier (Mr Peterson) and under the leadership of the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney), has shown itself, and they have shown themselves, to be at once ready to move on these very important issues and to be caring and understanding. That has been converted into programs, programs of substance, programs that meet real needs in a real way.
I note that since 1985 the accomplishments in the area of social assistance alone have been in excess of $300 million. There have been not only general rate increases in general welfare and family benefits, but there have been special increases for children, special extensions in terms of children’s winter clothing, extensions that are concrete, positive, necessary and ongoing.
There has also been a move by this government, and I know it has already been discussed, in terms of the appointment of the independent public review under George Thomson in July 1986. That particular appointment and that particular review resulted in the visiting of 14 communities for public hearings, in 1,500 briefs and submissions received, resulting in a blueprint for reform.
It shows a commitment and a determination on the part of this government, this Premier and the Minister of Community and Social Services that it is not sufficient only to increase the dollar amount of these programs to meet particular needs, but it is also necessary to take a look at the whole framework to make certain that the framework itself from which these programs are derived is such that it will move people from welfare cheques to paycheques.
I think it is almost trite to say that we as members meet daily with persons in need, persons who require assistance, persons who want assistance to move out of the cycle they find themselves in -- the single parents with children who want to better themselves, who want to be able to have the opportunity of training, of getting out and competing in the workforce. That is what this type of examination is about.
It is important that in a throne speech we take a look to see if that is on the government’s agenda. I see that is the third item. It says, “Reforming social assistance to help people move from dependence to self-reliance.” That is meeting a fundamental need in terms of the framework as to how people will be able to move from such assistance to help themselves.
There has also been the move in terms of an expansion of employment programs for social assistance recipients. This third very large activity of this government represents a new era of federal and provincial co-operation with respect to employment programs for social assistance recipients.
This session, we as a government are going to address and attack these issues through continued reform, because we must continue to meet the needs of those who are unable to be self-sufficient. We must realize, and this government does, and it is evidenced through this throne speech, that there is that need to take a look at the structure whereby people can move from assistance to their own self-determination. They are ready, those people are able and it is the necessity and the obligation of government to provide the way.
We have to continue to move forward in terms of increased payments for shelter support to persons on social assistance. We have to remove the barriers that serve as disincentives to work. We must expand the network of employment counselling, referral, basic training and job preparation programs. We must increase children’s benefits. This government, through this throne speech and through its history and its record, is prepared to do just that.
I think we have the wealth and the creativity in this province to prevent the unfortunate hardships imposed by what is becoming an increasingly economically divided society. This throne speech and the priorities put on this issue by this government surely lead the way in making this a province that continues to be caring, compassionate and understanding.
There is a priority indicated in this throne speech about keeping our communities and neighbourhoods safe and secure. I guess not a day goes by but we do not hear something through the media about some occurrence, some incident, some form of violence. It is not just an inner city type of incident; it is something that affects all persons in this province in terms of the growing impact of drugs on our youth.
Last session, there was the task force chaired by the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay (Mr Black). That was a task force of one person who travelled the province and made recommendations that were applauded across the province as serving as a blueprint for this government. I am very proud to have the member as a colleague because of the work he has done and the important, fundamental improvements he is really leading in terms of this very important issue.
This session, we as a government remain committed to building on a comprehensive antidrug strategy. We are going to do that through education and prevention programs which will include antidrug education in primary and secondary schools, and community-based programs in what may be deemed high-risk neighbourhoods.
We have to have a wider range of treatment programs, including employee assistance programs. We also must expand our drug enforcement capacity, including a strengthened Ontario Provincial Police drug enforcement unit. There are many things that can be done in terms of making our communities and neighbourhoods safe and secure.
The work done by the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay and the taking up of that work by this government are going to go far in providing the safety and security that the people of this province not only need but deserve.
I could not leave this particular topic without dealing with the issue of court reform. There has not been a fundamental court reform in this province for over 100 years. It was just at the beginning of this week that the Attorney General (Mr Scott) announced far-reaching court reform legislation.
As I have indicated, we have not had an overhaul of the court system since 1881 in this province. There have been, of course, ad hoc modifications, but major reform has not occurred for over 100 years. I must say that the response I have been getting in my riding of Mississauga North and indeed the response I have been reading through the Mississauga newspaper, which has gone out and canvassed persons on the street, has been: “Yes, we do need court reform. Yes, we do applaud the work of this government and the Attorney General of this province, because this government is embarking on a historic and significant task, because it is a total revision of our judicial court system, the ultimate goal of which is to create a system that is more accessible and efficient.”
The Attorney General, through his vision, has proposed a unified, one-level trial court which we call the Ontario Court of Justice. We know the benefits of a unified, single-level trial court are many in terms of accessibility to more people in this province, in terms of flexibility in how these court systems are run and in terms of an understanding for all those who have to use such a court system.
The court system in this province serves the people of Ontario. That is what it is there to do. That is its reason for existence. In keeping with the goal of court reform, which is the creation of a more effective and accessible system, this government has increased the maximum amount for an action in small claims court in Toronto from $3,000 to $5,000, and outside of Toronto from $1,000 to $5,000, so there will be a level across the province of $5,000.
This will provide a greater accessibility to what is a more expeditious and in many ways inexpensive way and means by which disputes may be resolved. This will serve the people of this province from east to west and north to south in a very fundamental and real way.
I personally feel confident about the success of this undertaking. I realize it is large -- it is extremely large -- but I feel confident because ultimately the public interest will be better served. When the public interest in better served, I think we will get the support from the opposition party and the third party and the support and co-operation from the federal government that are so necessary. We can settle for nothing less if the justice system is to continue to have the respect and confidence of the people.
In terms of court reform, we must all always bear in mind that the purpose of the total court reform vision is to advance and improve the administration of justice and provide the best possible trial court structure for the people of this province.
This throne speech carries with it six priorities, six items which are issues of importance, six areas where this government is proceeding to move to build upon its strength and to build upon its record, which will be a benefit to all persons in this province.
I am proud of the leadership shown by the Premier and by the cabinet. I am proud of being part of a caucus which is going to move forward in all of these areas to make certain that this province provides on one hand the opportunity for all, and on the other hand provides assistance for those who need it, and provides an opportunity for those who need assistance not only to receive that assistance, but also to receive training and education to be able to go out and do what they can do best.
That is a responsibility and an obligation of this government and it should be such. In closing, I look forward to carrying forward the initiatives in this throne speech. I look forward to carrying forward this clear, precise and focused agenda of this government in the session ahead.
Mr Allen: It is a pleasure to rise and address the issues raised by the throne speech presented by the government a week ago. The lack of comment upon the last speaker’s remarks may not reflect so much upon the speaker as the relative emptiness of the throne speech which he was speaking to.
In stage after stage in this address from the throne, we find an unusual degree of contradiction. One finds, for example, a great deal of reference to continuing to pursue the high-technology initiatives of this government at a time when we are losing firms like Lumonics Inc. to Japanese buyers, just as we lost the initiatives of a major research group at the University of Waterloo in the field of advanced artificial intelligence and lost the development of computers to another Japanese research group a couple of years ago.
We look at educational proposals that propose to expand the space needs and demands on the system, and at the same time the government has cut back its capital funding limits to the school systems in question. One looks at proposals, for example, for increasing specialization in grades 10 to 12 in fields like math, science and technology at a time when there is no possible way of implementing that in terms of the teaching cadre that is available. There are massive shortages in each of those fields of instruction.
One moves into rather vague and generalized words on safe and secure communities and equally vague words on healthy lifestyles and preserving the quality of life and quality of health care in the province at a time when, for example, at recent hearings on one of the major health problems -- perhaps the major health problem in the country, certainly with respect to the measurable deaths that follow from it; namely, the problem of tobacco use and more particularly tobacco use in the workplace -- all of the health professionals who came before us rejected the government’s legislation, yet the government was not prepared to amend it in any consequential way.
We, of course, end up with a continuing leadership in environmental protection which proposes to fund environmental protection on the basis of a lottery called Cleantario. As I observed in one of my reactions in the media, it was something like spreading moral pollution to cope with environmental pollution and is certainly not an adequate way of funding basic governmental programs.
I do not so much, however, want to spend my time going through all aspects of this throne speech; I want to focus my remarks rather more than that. But before I do that, I want also to note that in my own field of social services and the office for the disabled, for which I am the critic, I note no remarks whatsoever and no proposals that apparently this government feels necessary to advance to priority stage with respect to the disabled in this province. That is a very unsettling absence from this document.
Having rehearsed very carefully with the minister in charge of the Office for Disabled Persons not long ago the many outstanding areas in which there is urgent need of action on behalf of the people with the various disability afflictions in this province, I find it strange that none of those programs and none of those issues have found their way into the throne speech. It suggests to me that perhaps the advocacy function that the minister and that office are supposed to perform for the government, in fact, is not being very effectively undertaken. Notwithstanding the energy that the minister himself, I am sure, tries to pour into that, his own government has not been listening and the people who are disabled, the disability community in this province, clearly have not been heard.
I would also observe that many pressing issues that we confronted in the course of the last session in the field of social services remain entirely unaddressed, ones that one would suspect to have gained attention of the kind of priority that would have lofted those issues into a speech from the throne. I refer particularly, for example, to two of them.
One is the ongoing and very serious growing gap between the level of compensation provided by those who work in the agencies that are indirectly funded by the government and those who do the same jobs in agencies that are directly dependent upon the government and operated by and through the government. That gap, the gap between the transfer and the directly funded agencies, is a growing and serious one. The transfer agencies in question house individuals who work there and who often begin at below-poverty-level wages, at a time when we are supposed to be addressing the question of poverty in Ontario.
How a government squares that with its conscience I find difficult to understand. Yet it appears that in the transition towards more and more community-based programs in those areas and the movement of government out of the direct provision of those services, that seems to be the model; namely, that the lower-wage sector will prevail and, indeed, impoverished wages will prevail and the gap will disappear in that fashion. That is a very serious question.
The second is an even more urgent question. When the Red Cross and other homemaking organizations in the province told us that they could no longer survive, and that they were going to have to get out of the business within six months unless the government really did something about the accumulating deficits the organizations faced -- the government had already had a three-year-old study six months in its hands on how to deal with that issue -- the response that was required was obvious. Funding was obviously the first thing that had to be done and some additional service provided in that sector, by way of training of homemakers and so on, in order to help professionalize the service somewhat more.
None the less, although by the time of the throne speech the government had in hand the report of the consulting agency that it sent out into the field to evaluate the homemaking services, there was still no response at the level of the throne speech in terms of how the government was going to respond to the crisis in homemaking in Ontario. I only have to remind members of the House that the provision of homemaking is the key element in community-based health care, the one approach that offers some relief from overcrowded nursing homes and from overcrowded chronic care wards in hospitals.
I could go on into other aspects of my particular critic areas which are absent from this document that was delivered from the Speaker’s chair by His Honour the Lieutenant Governor on behalf of the government, but I want to spend my time on the question raised by the element of the throne speech that addresses the Social Assistance Review Committee’s report, not in name, certainly, but in substance in terms of the section which is headed, “Social Assistance: Moving from Dependence to Self-reliance.”
First of all, the government members have grown used to claiming credit for the establishment of this review committee, which evaluated the social assistance programs of this province. I want to remind the House that the real source of this document for the reform of the social assistance system that was tabled with us some eight months ago now came out of the work of my colleague the member for Scarborough West (Mr R. F. Johnston), who shortly after his election to this House some nine or 10 years ago embarked on a major campaign which was his preoccupying forté in this House; namely, the issue of poverty in Ontario.
He did his examination of poverty questions; he did his poverty tours; he produced his studies, like The Other Ontario, an examination of poverty in Ontario. He then produced a major evaluation of the system called Changing the System. Early in those years he of course gained some notoriety for his going on the welfare diet for a period of one month and lost a great many pounds in doing so.
Finally, about two years ago now, he stood in this House and he asked the government to institute, at long last, a major study of the problems which it knew by this time did exist in the system. After a month or six weeks, the government set up the committee that he asked for, the work got under way and the report was ultimately produced.
I want to note that on behalf of that document and the main thrust of its proposals, there is currently on the grounds of Queen’s Park a vigil being held from now until the time of the delivery of the budget. People who are out there have come from a group called the Interfaith Social Assistance Review Committee, which represents 14 different faith groups in Ontario. They are there offering their prayers that the government of Ontario, the members of this Legislature, throughout this session will make the problem of the poor in Ontario and the implementation of the entire first stage, at least, of the Social Assistance Review Committee’s report the first business of this Legislature.
They are still hopeful that after months of lobbying, the case will be heard. They are not convinced, as I am not convinced, that the items that are noted in the speech from the throne represent the full implementation of the first stage of the Thomson report’s recommendations, let alone some additional proposals that those groups have wanted included in the first stage of reforms. I will note the most important of those is the request that the government make a major improvement in the minimum wage. I will make a further comment on the significance of that in relation to the elements that are set forward in the speech from the throne.
Let me note, first of all, the grand design of the Thomson committee’s report: the grand design is that you cannot reform social assistance in this province simply by dealing with the social assistance system in isolation from the larger problems of poverty and social support which are necessary in our system and which are not satisfactorily addressed by the economy itself; you cannot, in short, address the problems of social assistance without addressing the problems of the working poor.
We are told by this report and by others that there are over one million poor in Ontario, roughly half of them on the social assistance system and the other half working poor. We are told that of those poor the largest single group is children, some 360,000 of them, just as among those on social assistance the largest single group is again children, some 37 per cent of the whole case load or over 200,000. We are told, in other words, that poverty in Ontario is a very, very significant ongoing fact.
You hear the statistics in a very unemotional kind of way, but when you do as I did recently and march with a group of antipoverty marchers through communities in Ontario, large and small, ranging in my case from Sudbury through to Parry Sound, from the other side of London through to Kitchener, from Bowmanville into Toronto, you begin to glimpse something of the scale of poverty and what it means for individuals and families around the province.
You begin to realize that the impression many people have, that this is essentially a problem of the high-cost economy of Toronto, is really not the case. It is a problem of the low-cost economies in tourist regions, it is a problem of the economies of small French-Canadian communities in the north, it is a problem of depressed rural regions such as the one the person inhabiting the Speaker’s chair at the moment comes from.
In Prescott-Russell, I am told, the average income level is perhaps the lowest in the province on a per capita basis. It is a very severe situation which needs to be addressed. Similarly, in the Sharbot Lake area and parts of the Bruce county area it is the same thing. Even in the prosperous regions of western Ontario there are, on the back concessions and even on some of the main highways, farms that are not delivering their families adequate and appropriate support, and these families are numbered among the poor.
When you go into the native reserves of the north, as I did -- I stayed two nights on two native reserves, the Magnetawan reserve and the Shawanaga reserve -- the people there share the common lot of native people in this province, namely, 63 per cent of those over 15 years or 16 years of age have an annual income of less than $5,000 a year. The rate of dependence on social assistance in the native community is nine times the provincial average.
You move into communities that you have supposed were prosperous. To a person who goes to Stratford, for example, to go to the Stratford Festival, it looks very prosperous. Then you get there, sit down and talk with people and are told: “In this community we don’t like to acknowledge the poverty that is in the community. Yes, we have a couple of food banks and the poor are hidden away in the back streets and you don’t see them when you are here as a tourist and as a visitor.” But it is there, it is real, it is hard and it is not livable for the people concerned.
You go into a tourist region like the Parry Sound-Muskoka region. What are the average income levels? The average person on a wage income in Parry Sound earns $5 an hour. The average female in Muskoka earns $8,000 a year, the average male in those regions $13,000 a year. Yet if you ask what is happening to housing, for example, and land costs in the area, you are told, as you are told in all communities within 100 miles and 150 miles of Toronto, that housing and land prices are being driven up by the fact that people from Metro are eyeing the lower-cost properties and paying a handsome price for them. They are able to live there with the surplus from the sale of their original properties back in Toronto or Hamilton or Oshawa or in the higher-priced areas.
The people who are residents in those tourist regions and smaller towns east, west and north of Toronto are finding that the wage economy is not able to get them access to affordable housing any longer. When you are in Parry Sound and discover that one of the major facilities for low-cost housing is about to be torn down and there is no replacement in sight, you begin to realize the kind of pressure that individuals are under.
In other words, poverty is widespread in this province. It is not just confined to Metro Toronto, though it is severe here. Throughout this province, the conditions that have made for food banks in Toronto are making for food banks elsewhere. Government is, I am afraid, tending to rely more and more on those who provide those services to get it off the hook of the expanded commitment it should be making to social supports.
What the SARC report proposes is that you cannot move people out of the welfare trap, out of the poverty cycle, unless you do something about the working poor. The moment you tip people off the brink, if you like, of the social assistance system and they find themselves once more in the low-wage economy, as inevitably most of them end up, they discover that they cannot meet the costs, especially if they have any additional needs in the medical world, in the medical aspect of their lives, such as excessive dental costs. Anything that comes along that is extra immediately throws them back on to social assistance.
The Thomson report outlined a grand design, whereby it proposed to move through improving the benefit adequacy, simplifying the system and moving towards income supplementation and child benefits, in order to provide across the board for the kind of family support system that would make it very, very difficult for people to have to resort in the end to social assistance and if they did, they would be well supported.
There are perhaps two essential things that alarm me about the speech from the throne with respect to the design the Thomson report laid out. The first is that nowhere in this speech from the throne is there mention of the name of George Thomson, of the SARC report or of the name Transitions, which attaches to the document, as though somehow the government were wanting to distance itself from the design of this particular proposal and ultimately from its costs.
Yet you have to underscore the fact that unless you follow the route that the Thomson design offers, there is no escape from the dilemmas and the difficulties that any social assistance system finds itself in. That is the first problem: Has the design been accepted by the government or not?
Nothing in this document tells us that the government is moving on the whole design or that it is committed, as the head of that committee, George Thomson, asked, to providing within six months some intention of its overall direction of response, where it would move, how it would move as a kind of overall commitment to the work that the committee had done. We have not seen that. We did not see it at the end of six months and we have not seen it at the end of eight months. We have not seen it in the throne speech, and quite frankly, I am afraid we will not see that either in the budget.
The next question I address myself to is whether the government in the throne speech has in fact addressed the first stage of reforms. The first stage of reforms Thomson proposed were ones which had a spectrum of proposals; the spectrum of proposals was intended to address the various elements of the whole plan. It was intended to address the question of the adequacy of benefit levels, so that all persons would be considered in terms of their needs, that there would not be a categorization of people on to general welfare, for example, whose benefits are so much lower than those on family benefits, and those, in turn, less than someone else’s, with the elaborate system of staging of who deserves more out of this system.
The whole question of just deserts was not raised by the Thomson commission other than to say, “Our examination of the issue tells us that all persons on social assistance are in need and deservedly so. We need to respond to them in that term and that term only, and not in terms of the deserving poor and the undeserving poor formula.” So the whole benefits question was to be addressed in the first stage of the Thomson report’s reforms in those terms.
Then there was to be a major initiative with respect to removing work disincentives to employment which exist in the system. There was to be some attack upon an expansion of employability programs, and an improvement, as a first indication of the government’s preparedness to move towards income supplementation, in the expansion of the work incentive program.
I note there was some additional concern that the government should move immediately, for example, at the level of medical and dental benefits for all low-income persons.
There was also some concern that the government, in addition to addressing the income level, the benefit level adequacy, would move also at the level of work and employability, in providing incentives, making some token recognition at least of the need to move towards income supplementation and of a need to provide benefits for the working poor.
Then there was to be some major movement in the direction of simplifying the system, providing more precise rules, which can be done through regulations rather than through legislation, and providing less discretion, eliminating the amount of discretion in the system so that people who are clients know where they stand in it.
There was to be a new disability determination process. There was to be improvement in case-load ratios, because one of the major problems in the system at the moment is the problem of service in the direct contact between client and social worker. The loads are so heavy that it is difficult not to deal with that in a very mechanical and impersonal way.
Then there was to be some response to the other major problem that is out there that affects especially rural municipalities and unconsolidated municipalities, namely, that there is a great variation in the delivery of social services across this province. There are some municipalities, for example, where the last month’s rent will be paid and others where it will not be paid by the municipality as a way of helping the person on welfare secure accommodation.
You will find, for example, as we did on the march, that out in one of the communities, I think it was north of Belleville, one of the social services administrators had prided himself on saving $1.8 million for the ministry in the course of the past year. How had he done it? He simply used his discretionary power not to provide special needs to anybody, regardless of whether people qualified for them.
Across the province there is a very uneven delivery of social services. The Thomson report asks that in the first stage of reforms, there be a major response to that by developing standards and conditions for municipal delivery and making certain they are enforced, take place and are properly funded.
There were also indications in the first stage of reforms that the Thomson report wanted to see the government get off its backside on the question of literacy programs, where it has rested for the last two or three years after an initiative that the government made a great hullabaloo about out here with a big tent on the front lawn.
But things have settled down and not much that is very new or exciting or expansive is really happening on that front, as far as government funding and new initiatives are concerned. Yet that is critical to address in a massive way in order to provide the foundation for the employability programs and the employability capacities of people on the social assistance system.
Having outlined that first stage -- and that is not all of the detail that the full document provides but only the summary of it -- let me look at what is proposed in this throne speech. The throne speech, first of all, proposes increased payments for shelter support to persons on social assistance. That is all that the government says at this point in time with respect to the question of benefit adequacy.
Are they going to implement the first-stage increases that are outlined on page 106 in the summary document, for example, in particular for the single employable person who presently receives so much less on a personal basis than other persons in the social assistance system? A 22 per cent increase was required in order to bring them up even to near adequacy and there is no commitment to that kind of increase.
The observation in the report is that recipients should be reimbursed for 100 per cent of actual shelter costs up to the existing shelter subsidy ceilings, and actual utilities costs should be recognized in full. These shelter-related changes are the most costly of the reforms to be introduced at this stage, but they underline the urgency of doing that.
There is no indication that what is talked about here by increased payments for shelter support will in fact reach that level of 100 per cent of actual shelter costs up to existing shelter subsidy ceilings. One can only conclude that the government did not want to commit itself to moving that far.
Then there are the two proposals which have to do with employability. The government does say it will remove barriers which serve as disincentives to work. One has to assume that what is referred to is at least one of the items in the first-stage reforms, namely, the proposal that the 120-hour rule limiting the monthly paid employment for sole-support parents be eliminated, so that those parents would be able to engage in employment that was more than part-time, more than low-wage and thus hasten their move off the welfare rolls.
That is not spelled out specifically, but apparently the government is going to move in some such direction. That, taken together with the expansion of the network of employment counselling, referral, basic training and job preparation programs, which is the third point, will undoubtedly do something to help those on social assistance to move in the right direction, namely, towards self-sufficiency and self-support.
But two things are missing from this, apart from details. First of all, there is no reference to the proposal that the first stage says is necessary in order to complement those two items, namely, with regard to an improvement and expansion of the work incentive program as a first step in developing income supplementation.
In response to a question of mine yesterday, the minister said that he had to wait for federal-provincial negotiations to do anything in the area of income supplementation. I took that to mean that he was not going to do anything by way of any improvement or expansion of the work incentive program, which does provide some income supplementation for those who are now in the category of working poor, having begun to move their way off social assistance.
Nor, of course, is there any reference to the provision of benefits. Even to provide dental benefits would be a substantial assistance, not just for the children involved especially, but for the families involved who perhaps try to skimp on a lot of other things in order to keep their children’s teeth in any sort of decent repair.
But the government could also quite clearly move with another recommendation that the Thomson committee report proposed at the level of benefits for the working poor; namely, it could provide access to drug benefit cards. That certainly would be an awful lot cheaper than having the people who have to meet those drug costs go off their employment and to social assistance in order to get access to a drug benefit card so they can manage to keep body and soul together when confronted with health care costs.
Yet none of those is mentioned, and they are crucial to the second and third points. If the government is going to remove the disincentives to work for those who are already on social assistance so that they can move into employment, if it is going to provide “employment counselling, referral, basic training and job preparation programs” on an expanded basis -- I say in parentheses they have not worked very well for this government in the past -- if it is going to do those two things in order to help people get into employment, the government has to recognize that those who are on social assistance are frequently such, in terms of their training, abilities, work experience and soon, that they are going to end up in the low-wage economy. The government has to do something by way of improving their capacity to survive in the low-wage economy.
The government does not have to go to Ottawa to make a major improvement in the minimum wage, for example. This party has proposed for years that there be a major increase in the minimum wage, yet the minimum wage goes on at a level which at this time is less than the real value it held a decade and a half ago.
If the government does not, as well, provide for the additional costs that overwhelm low-income families by way of provision of benefits -- of course, few of them are in job situations where the employer provides those benefits -- it is again going to have them cycling back on to social assistance and welfare as long as we provide an honest and decent support system in the welfare system. It is a total incongruity that if one is aiming at providing an adequate level of social assistance, one then permits people who are trying to work for a living and be productive in the economy to have to survive on something less than that social assistance system and the supports it provides for individuals and families.
The absence of supports in this first stage, the absence of the supports proposed even on a limited basis by the Thomson committee, let alone the ones the government could put in place if it wanted to, prejudice fundamentally those second two points and will render them, I submit to the members, absolutely inoperative. The moment you move off social assistance into that low-wage economy, you jeopardize your survival and you are going to find your way back, sooner or later, the moment the first crisis arises, on to the social assistance system.
In those respects, I also find that this document does not tell me the government is moving to implement the first stage of the Thomson report’s proposals.
Then there is a final proposal: “Increased children’s benefits.” It sits there in all its mystery. Nobody can tell from those few words exactly what those words mean. If I were to read between the lines in some of the minister’s statements, made in the couple of weeks prior to our reassembly here at about the time the poverty marches were putting a good deal of heat on him and on the Premier and the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), I would have to conclude that those words are probably an echo of his noting that he would have to do something to provide targeted subsidies for day care for those who are on social assistance; in other words, move the day care system backwards into more of a welfare-oriented system than a social service as the government originally promised in all of its policy documents.
If that is the case, then that is very unfortunate. If it indeed means something more, one wishes the government had said what it was. Those out there, for example, in the Child Poverty Action Group, in the teaching community, in the nursing community, those who have had hands-on experience of the problems of child poverty, the problems that children who are poor have in learning, the problem one is discovering, in this city in particular, of the need to provide breakfast for children who go to school so that they can learn properly -- if in fact these three words, “increased children’s benefits,” mean some major response to the needs of poor kids, then one can only shout and clap one’s hands in glee. I will do that indeed if something substantial appears in the budget in about a week and a half’s time to flesh out these three words in that direction. But for the moment, all the hints we have tell us that those three words simply mean some targeted welfare form of day care, and that will be the end of the story for the time being.
There is nothing here, I hasten to go on to say, that tells us the government is going to address the question of system simplification. The Thomson report pointed out that the 22 categories of social assistance in Ontario made absolutely no sense whatsoever. They could find no coherent reason for them. In fact, they discovered that a mother with two kids could find herself in one of 32 places in the system. It is a totally irrational pigeonholing of people on the basis of some supposed position in the hierarchy of whether one was a deserving poor person or not a deserving poor person. There is nothing in this throne speech that promises the government will move in that direction.
There is nothing that tells us there will be elimination of the discretionary powers in the regional offices around this province that make it so difficult for clients of the system to know where they stand at any point in time. The rules can differ from here to there to somewhere else. They are inconsistent and they clog up the whole system of appeals because nobody knows where he stands. Then the appeal board has to go through a rigmarole trying to determine whether he does or does not qualify for this or that and the whole system sort of slowly grinds to a halt. In the meantime, the recipient sits out there. The benefits are not maintained while the appeal process is going on and misery is compounded by misery.
There is nothing in this document, the throne speech, to tell us that the government proposes to respond to the desperate need for an improvement in case load ratios. Anyone who talks to the people in the social work community knows how absolutely desperate their work situation is. Children’s aid societies in Hamilton are on strike at the moment, one for one major reason, namely, that the provision of personnel is so short that they are constantly badgered into doing overtime. They spend their evenings and weekends as well as their weekdays working on their cases. It becomes impossible to get any relief from what is a very stressful profession, and of course people burn out, drop out and head elsewhere. There is no response to that in the throne speech either, nothing for the improvement of case loads and workloads.
Finally, there is nothing I see here that tells me the government is moving this year to do what the Thomson committee felt was essential at this stage of the reform process; namely, to move in the direction of consistency and accessibility in all the municipalities across the province as far as the social service system is concerned.
It appears that the delivery of social assistance on an arbitrary, differential, varied basis across the province will continue and nothing in the throne speech tells us it will be otherwise. In other words, as far as one can tell at this point, the government is not in fact moving on the first full stage. It is not sending the signals to the social assistance recipients, the working poor and those people who work with those individuals.
The member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway) may look very puzzled about all that and he probably knows a great deal more about this than I do. None the less, I hope the semismile on his face tells me that when the Treasurer presents his budget on 17 May, as he told us today he would, these mere four points will find themselves gloriously expanded into the first full stage of the Thomson report’s proposals for reform.
Only in that way will we begin the steady march, step by step, on all the elements of the system in order to reach a final overhaul within three, four or five years’ time, when the whole has to be in place for us to have done justly by the poor in our province, to have done justly by the social assistance recipients and to have enabled people to begin to live again with a sense of dignity, independence and self-support. That day will be a day we will all rejoice in.
I must say the throne speech leaves me nervous and apprehensive about the scale of the response this government is anticipating with respect to this magnificent document, the Transitions document, provided by such a capable group of people headed by Judge George Thomson, who have given us, I think, one of the best reports on social assistance reform any administration on this continent has been distinguished to receive.
One can only hope that the government’s initiatives will not fail what this document proposes for this province in the end, and that those who exist in dependent poverty and those who exist in working poverty will be relieved of that burden in a very substantial way within a very few years.
Mrs Marland: I am glad to have this opportunity to respond to the Liberal government’s throne speech of last week. What I am not glad about, however -- in fact, I am very disturbed about it -- is the hollowness of this document, being the speech from the throne dated 25 April 1989.
Normally, a throne speech outlines a government’s commitment to the future. Important issues facing the public must be addressed and decisions made. This Liberal government has taken upon itself to throw its responsibilities out the window and fill these pages with vague promises, without any realistic forethought or planning as to how programs are to be implemented.
I notice on the bottom of the document a caption that reads, “This paper contains recycled materials.” Nothing could be more accurate.
Let me focus for a moment on environmental issues. How seriously does this government take budgeting for our environment? Obviously, the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) would prefer the Ministry of the Environment to be run from the proceeds of a game of chance, namely, his newly announced lottery called Cleantario. Maybe we can fund it, maybe we can’t,” is the attitude of the Treasurer and the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley).
The Liberal government says: “Let’s not take a leadership role and decide to make a commitment to the environment. No, let’s see how much we can squeeze out of the pockets of the already overtaxed public to pay for things that the Liberal government should be paying for from its existing surpluses.”
I am sure the Treasurer is well aware of the Decima Research poll done a couple of years ago that showed lotteries are most often played by those who can least afford them. Why, then, is he further taxing the poor by playing upon human weakness, when he should be working with the polluters to help make Ontario a cleaner province?
Mrs Marland: Mr Speaker, I notice you have now taken the chair. I would respectfully request that you ask for interjections not to continue during my speech, especially those being made by two members sitting in the front rows, who are not even at this point in their own seats. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
I would like to continue to comment on waste management. Will this Liberal government ever put something concrete in motion to deal with what we know is a waste crisis today? We have in Mississauga and Metro dump sites that are filling up and will in fact be complete in one, two and three years, yet this Liberal government has ignored the reality and tried to convince this House that recycling would solve all the landfill problems. Those statements were a joke then and they are now.
Yes, recycling is necessary and important. If the government is sincere and wants to follow through on its promises on recycling, then the government will reconsider my private member’s bill that would make recycling mandatory.
It is fair and accurate to point out that during the election campaign in August and the early part of September 1987, the Liberal Minister of the Environment, the member for St Catharines (Mr Bradley), and his parliamentary assistant, the member for Brampton North (Mr McClelland), both completed questionnaires submitted to them by environmental groups asking their opinion about mandatory recycling, and they both said they were completely in agreement and supported the concept of mandatory recycling. However, when my private member’s bill was presented in this Legislature last fall, the government members, led by the parliamentary assistant, the member for Brampton North, all spoke and voted against that bill. There has to be some irony in that event.
However, those of us who understand a little about waste management and a great deal about the fact that there is a crisis today in Ontario know we cannot recycle everything. The reality of the crisis is appearing every day at dump sites throughout southern Ontario. The fact is that the Liberals have failed miserably in dealing with the waste management crisis. Their efforts to solve the disposal crisis facing greater Toronto have resulted in pitting one neighbouring region against another neighbouring region in what I am convinced is an underhanded plan to short-circuit the process for environmental assessment.
It is a pretty scary thought that there might be any consideration, through the greater Toronto authority, for waste management proposals that may eventually result in anything being considered as a shortcut, any proposals that would not be subjected to the full investigation of the Environmental Assessment Act. I emphasize it is the Environmental Assessment Act, not the Environmental Protection Act. The Environmental Protection Act is not sufficient when we are looking at the emplacement of landfill sites in any area of this province.
In Mississauga we have one project that I am very concerned about, and that is the proposed burning of garbage at the St Lawrence Cement plant. The St Lawrence Cement plant is far behind schedule in submitting its draft environmental assessment documents, and I hope the ministry is not now going to decide that the environmental process can be waived to accommodate the burning of garbage at St Lawrence Cement before we have any study as to whether or not it is both safe and practical for the location being proposed.
I certainly hope the Minister of the Environment will be reminded by his staff that St Lawrence Cement has been out of compliance with a control order now for more than two years. I think St Lawrence Cement, as a corporate citizen within my riding, would do well to fulfil its commitments for its existing operation, which is the manufacture of cement. While they are out of compliance with a control order, how they could even be considered for another operation, that of burning garbage, is beyond me.
However, there is nothing to stop a company filing an application to burn garbage. Fortunately for the people in my riding of Mississauga South and the people in Ontario as a whole, there is the Environmental Assessment Act, through which approvals must be processed in order to protect the environment so that any operation is proven to be safe.
There are other questions that have yet to be addressed about the St Lawrence Cement project or proposal to burn garbage, not the least of which is the trucking through the residential communities to that location. I have not yet received a reply to the questions I have raised by letter to the Minister of the Environment as long as three years ago. I am just referred back to the fact that my questions will be answered at the time of the environmental assessment hearing.
That is why it is particularly important that I emphasize that the environmental assessment hearing take place to its fullest extent, because the questions I have asked regard the location of St Lawrence Cement immediately adjacent to the shores of Lake Ontario, a very large body of water which is presently heavily polluted. Lake Ontario already costs us millions of dollars every year to purify its water through our water treatment plants in order that we can drink it safely. Therefore, to consider incinerating garbage adjacent to that water and adding a greater risk to polluting that water, and therefore a greater cost to cleaning it in order that we may drink it as drinking water coming through our taps, is a question that needs to be answered.
Another question about St Lawrence Cement that has not been answered in terms of its proposal to burn garbage, and one which the Minister of the Environment must address, is that when there is a downturn in the economy, a reduction in construction in this province or across Canada and indeed the sales of its product -- namely, cement -- are down, if the company is not manufacturing cement in the same volume as in high construction times, what happens when there is downtime at that plant?
What would happen to garbage? Does garbage continue to flow to the doors of the St Lawrence Cement plant, and where is that garbage stored if it is not then being used as energy and fuel in the manufacture of cement? Also, when there is a mechanical downtime at St Lawrence Cement, what happens to the garbage that those trucks are continuing to bring to its door?
I will not take any more time and detail the other questions that l have at this point on St Lawrence Cement as a proposed location for incinerating garbage, but it is a very serious matter because at this point it is ironic that the city of Toronto has put a moratorium on incinerators and we do not have an incinerator burning garbage in Ontario today.
The very same Minister of the Environment who is willing to consider burning garbage at the St Lawrence Cement plant has already registered his concerns about the incinerator at the Detroit plant in the United States. How interesting that we are going to complain about burning garbage in the United States and we are considering burning garbage here in Ontario in the absence of new air emission standards.
The fact is that we do not have air emission standards in Ontario today that pertain to the operation as proposed by St Lawrence Cement; namely, burning garbage as a source of fuel to its operation in the manufacture of cement. So I will look forward to receiving those answers to my questions which the minister, to this date, has refused to give me directly; he has simply referred me to the environmental assessment process.
I will still look forward to receiving those answers so that I can reassure the people whom I represent in Mississauga South, and in fact other people beyond the borders of my riding, because certainly the plume from the St Lawrence Cement plant does not only float over Mississauga South, it floats over the riding of my colleague, who is in the House this afternoon, the member for Oakville South (Mr Carrothers).
I know he has residents who are equally concerned about this operation. Joshuas Creek Ratepayers Inc. in his riding held a very large meeting with over 600 people in attendance. The member for Oakville South and I were both there and shared the concern of those residents at that time.
The throne speech says the Liberals will “continue to demonstrate leadership in environmental protection to ensure the quality of our air, water and food.” To date, this leadership has largely been press releases announcing programs.
The Countdown Acid Rain program, the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement program and the ban on chlorofluorocarbons will not be effective for several more years, with no guarantee that an alternative to the ozone-destroying compound will be found. It was disappointing that when the minister announced his ban on CFCs he did not announce any plans for research and development into alternatives for CFCs to be used in products. So without any research and development being planned or suggested, we in fact do not have the solution to the damage that CFCs do to the ozone layer.
The ban that has been placed on CFCs in Ontario today in fact addresses only eight per cent of the problem. Ninety-two per cent of the problem lies with refrigeration and air-conditioning units, and until there is some research and development into an alternative method and material to be used in refrigeration and air-conditioning units, we are still going to be faced with 92 per cent of the problem that CFCs present to the ozone layer today.
The few new initiatives announced in the throne speech will take just as long or longer to implement. They announced they will be imposing strict control standards to cut acid-rain-producing auto emissions by one third. This will not be enforced, however, until the year 2000; that is over 10 years from now. Interestingly enough, of course, it is a much longer period than the federal government has announced. They have already taken that initiative.
Acid rain: Ontario Hydro is by far the biggest producer of acid gas emissions in the province. The recent announcement by Ontario Hydro of its initiatives to reduce acid gas emissions actually fall short of the expectations of an environmentally conscious population, when we have eight coal-fired thermal plants around this province operated by Ontario Hydro. In this announcement by Ontario Hydro about its initiatives to reduce acid gas emission, it talks about installing two scrubbers in the next 11 years. It has to know how concerned we are.
The Lakeview generating plant alone has four stacks. The Lakeview generating station in my riding of Mississauga South was to be phased out of use by the early 1990s, after about 40 years of operation. It now appears that Lakeview will be needed to supply what Hydro has told us is the ever-increasing demand for electricity through the 1990s. So Lakeview will remain in operation, in fact, producing more power and pollution than in recent years, yet without any -- and I emphasize this -- modern scrubber technology fitted to the facility. We were, in fact, promised by the Minister of the Environment and Ontario Hydro that scrubbers would be fitted to the Lakeview generating plant three years ago, but now there are no plans for scrubbers at Lakeview.
I want now to turn to the subject of health care. The difficulty in talking about health care is the fact that it is not a subject that is close to anybody’s heart, and I do not use that as a pun; but it is not a subject that is close to any of us until it hits us, a member of our family or our friends. Fortunately, in Ontario most of the population is healthy. Although it is questionable, I would suggest that most of the people in this Legislature are also healthy.
Health care becomes a very personal issue for those families whose health is diminished for one reason or another, and it is only then that we are aware of what the standard of health care actually is today in Ontario. In a recent survey in my riding of Mississauga south, 67.3 per cent of the more than 2,000 respondents felt that our health care system is worse now than it was five years ago.
The Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) continues to show little compassion as we recite in this House on an almost daily basis the crisis occurring in the health care system across this province. Two days ago, I brought to the attention of this House baby Jessica Godman, who desperately needs heart surgery. The need to operate has been determined by her doctors. The reason that Jessica and many other babies and adults are on waiting lists waiting for heart surgery is because the Health minister refuses to tackle the issues of nursing shortages and hospital bed shortages.
Mr D. R. Cooke: It is because her doctor said she could wait. The doctors decide who gets an operation.
Mrs Marland: I hear the member for Kitchener talking about the fact that it is the doctors who make the decisions. No one in the Progressive Conservative caucus is disputing that. No one disputes the fact that it is doctors who make medical decisions. What I am disputing is the fact that once those doctors make that decision those patients go on a waiting list. My concern is that those waiting lists exist.
Not only that, as I have said in this House, we have different kinds of waiting lists. We have emergency waiting lists, we have urgent waiting lists and we have priority waiting lists. I do not think there should be any Liberal member in the entire House proud of the fact that we have waiting lists for any kind of health-saving remedy in this province today, most of all heart surgery. I would be embarrassed to be sitting in this House saying, “It’s the doctors.”
Nobody is disputing the fact that it is the doctors who make the medical decisions. However, it is the Liberal government, and in particular the Liberal cabinet, that makes the funding decisions, which is a political decision. It is a political decision as to where money is spent by this government, and this Liberal government apparently has great difficulty in making those decisions in the best interests of those patients.
There do not seem to be any priorities in terms of human need by this Liberal government. I find it ironic that this Liberal government is talking about making junior kindergarten mandatory when there are small children -- in fact, three-month-old infants -- on waiting lists for lifesaving surgery who may never make it to junior kindergarten if they cannot receive the needed medical attention. I find it ironic that this Liberal government places a priority on funding programs up to $200 million, the announced figure for mandating junior kindergarten around the province, while there are waiting lists at Sick Children’s Hospital or any other hospital for patients any other age in the province.
I have often said that any member of this Legislature could stand on any public platform in Ontario and defend not spending money on anything except health. They could go to any public platform anywhere in the province and say, “I’m sorry. We can’t build your road. We can’t build your new bridge. We can’t give you funding for your community centre,” whatever the project is. But not to fund a program that involves health is something that none of the Liberal members will understand until it hits them. I can truly speak from personal experience on this.
The speech from the throne is also silent on a number of the key issues currently dominating the health care policy field, issues such as the nursing shortage, health care costs and waiting lists, as I have already addressed, and capitation. Let’s talk about capitation just for a moment.
For people who do not understand what capitation means, they should be aware that when we talk about capitation, we are talking about a proposal -- albeit at this point it is only a proposal, but I am giving fair warning to this Liberal government, on behalf of the people of Ontario, that if it puts a cap on doctors’ billings through the Ontario health insurance plan, what it is going to say to the people who live in this province is that they had better get sick the first half of this year, because if they are sick in the second half or the second third of the year, or whatever, if their doctor has already worked hard and met his billing quota allowable under the OHIP billing from the Minister of Health of the Liberal government by a certain month in the year, then there are two things that can happen.
Either that doctor can stop practising for the rest of the year and take a holiday, or whatever, or he can work for nothing. I would ask any member of the Liberal government which one of them is willing to work for nothing. I would ask any member of the Legislature which one of them would work the kind of hours that our health care professionals, namely, the doctors, work and not be paid.
Mrs Marland: It is always significant, when I get on this subject, how much heckling, how many interjections there are, because this government is embarrassed about the fact that it has turned our doctors into civil servants. It is the only profession in Ontario that is now a civil service.
Most of the members of the public in Ontario today still do not understand that doctors can only work if they work for the government. No other profession, no other vocation has that requirement. Nobody else is forced to work for the government except the doctors. If they want to practise medicine, if we want to have doctors in this province today, they have to be civil servants.
I do not happen to believe that this province should have regressed to that kind of requirement for our medical profession. We might as well be in Russia, quite frankly, to have that kind of mandate against our medical profession. Now, the idea of proposing to cap the amount of billings that those doctors do -- then all I can say to all members of the government is that they had better not be sick after the doctors have met whatever the allowable cap would be. How much good do members think would be done by that kind of imposition on our doctors?
The truth of the matter is that everybody is a human being, and most of all the doctors in this province. Those doctors are practising medicine today because they chose to practise medicine and help heal people who are ill. They did not choose to be politicians. They did not choose to run for government. They did not choose to be lobbyists. None of those things did the doctors of this province choose to be, and as a result, today they are civil servants.
Mr Faubert: They are civil servants. Well paid, I might add.
Mrs Marland: It is very interesting to hear the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere, Frank Faubert, talk about the doctors being well paid.
The Speaker: Order. I believe that is the fourth time I have heard the member refer to members in this House by their surnames. You commenced correctly by using the riding. If you would just continue using the riding, it would be most appreciated.
Mrs Marland: I will try to restrain myself and just refer to the member by the riding.
The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere is saying that the doctors are well paid. I wonder if that member would ever know what the hourly pay for the physicians of this province is. I would just ask him to try to work that out some time, and then he would know whether in fact the doctors of this province are well paid in comparison to anyone else, especially someone who has invested his own time and money in seven years of qualifications.
The vague commitment to “a number of initiatives” to address certain problems in health care delivery has been assessed in the context of the Liberal government’s inability to deliver on last year’s commitments to modest improvement in the cardiovascular services.
There is no mention in this throne speech of any specific initiative to improve home care programs or expand the existing system. In fact, underfunding by the Peterson government and bureaucratic delays in developing a realistic funding formula for home care services has placed the Victorian Order of Nurses in crisis.
The Victorian Order of Nurses in Peel is currently running a deficit of $75,000, while the provincial total is about $2.1 million. Underfunding the VON services will result in reduced access to home care nursing services, increased cost to taxpayers who will have to fund the higher-cost alternative of sending more patients who could be treated in their home into hospitals and increased pressure on hospitals, which will experience much higher demands for both active treatment and chronic care beds if those VON services are reduced.
The crisis that the Victorian Order of Nurses is faced with now in Ontario is exactly similar to that of the Red Cross homemaker service, which was also pushed to the wall last fall right through to December by this Liberal government. The Canadian Red Cross Society was at the point of being forced to cancel its homemaker service until this government decided to give it a relief grant, but the truth of the matter is that we are looking at a requirement for nursing in the home with the VON instead of nursing in the hospitals.
If we are going to mandate, for example, that hospitals send new mothers and new babies home within eight hours, which is a program currently being experimented with at the Mississauga Hospital, we are looking at a new mother and a new baby at home eight hours after delivery, having to depend on a Victorian Order nurse or a St Elizabeth Visiting Nurses Association nurse to be able to be in that home and for the nurses to be qualified to look after that mother and that new baby.
However, the government does not see that it is necessary to fund refresher training for those nurses to specialize in the obstetrical and gynaecological requirements in order to render that professional service at home rather than in the security of the setting of a hospital. The government does not think it should pay for that training for those nurses.
The government thinks the Victorian Order and the St Elizabeth nurses organizations should fund it out of some surplus that of course they do not have. Those are nonprofit operations with volunteer boards which work extremely hard to try to plan within their budgets to provide the services the community needs. I commend the VON board in Peel for the work it has done and the St Elizabeth nurses who try to meet the needs of those patients.
Early release from hospital is fine in theory, as long as there is funding to provide the home-based service that is needed for those patients, but we do not have that from this Liberal government. They drive the Canadian Red Cross Society, the VON and other nonprofit organizations right up to the wall in terms of saying, “No, we don’t have the money.” Yet the alternative is that those patients, the frail, elderly, disabled people in this province in any of those categories, will have to be institutionalized because they do not have the support service in order for them to remain in their homes.
Frankly, the health of those patients, if they can remain in their homes rather than in institutions, is obviously much better because they are in a happier, comfortable environment. But you cannot have one theory without the funding to back up the practice.
In addition to this, we are faced with the fact that seniors are the fastest-growing section of our population. Yet they are not even mentioned in the throne speech. The seniors of Ontario are not even mentioned in this throne speech.
Under education, I would like to talk about the primary focus in the speech being on program development. The program development in this throne speech was in the area of education referred to as “long-term vision for education in the province.”
Part of the long-term vision is to reduce class sizes. The government says it will complete this promise within one year. It is really interesting because the Liberal government has arbitrarily made this decision, although there is no empirical evidence that children learn with a reduction of class size from 30 to 20. There is no question that children learn better in small classes, but a small class is 10 or 12 students, not 20. So the difference between 30 or 20 has no advantage to those children anyway.
Mr Callahan: You tell that to a teacher.
Mrs Marland: It is being suggested that I tell that to a teacher. I have discussed this not only with the teachers but with the school boards.
This promise was originally announced in 1987 as part of an 11-point program which included a commitment of $297 million in the first year. Two years later, this Liberal government has met only about one half of its original commitment. The fact is that the schools do not have either the teachers or the classrooms to accommodate such ridiculous plans. Who asked for this? Was it some dreamy bureaucrat? It certainly was not the school boards.
Why is this Liberal government refusing to listen to the people in the business of education? Every year the boards list their priorities, and for the past few years, this government has refused to listen. How is it that the government arbitrarily decides what new programs it will introduce? They hold these new programs out like new carrots for the population in Ontario.
They try to please the parents of young children in Ontario. They say: “We’ll do this. We’ll mandate junior kindergarten. We’ll reduce class size. We’ll do all of these things.” They do not say that they will fund it forever; oh, no. The operating costs for those programs are on the backs of the property taxpayers in Ontario today. I think it is unfortunate that the Liberal government does not talk to the school boards first.
A school project proposal in Mississauga is just one example. For several years now, the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board has studied and recommended the St Edmund school project for budgetary approval by the province. This year, the board ranked it high on its priority list for funding.
Rather than listening to the separate school board, the Minister of Education (Mr Ward) took it upon himself to pass over this priority request and fund lower-priority requests instead. This has left the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board very confused. Why ask for professional input and then ignore it? Why announce programs and then refuse to fund them?
The sad thing I would like to mention about the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board is that it is now on second-generation children in portables. I do not know if any other member in this Legislature has that experience, but it is not one to either enjoy or be proud of.
Mr Callahan: It is something that the Conservative government brought in. PCs: portable classrooms.
Mrs Marland: I am now having interjections from the member for Brampton South, whose riding includes the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board. He must feel as badly as I do that the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board has over 40,000 children in portables.
What standard of education is that for those children and for their parents who see their children having not just one or two grades in portables, but all their education in portables? As I say, we now have children in portables in Peel whose parents were in portables. I think that is pretty disgusting.
One could accept it, however, if there was not any money. But this Liberal government seems to think: “That’s okay. Leave those kids in portables, but we’ll start mandating some new programs. We’ll reduce the class size. We’ll mandate compulsory junior kindergarten. We’ll keep adding new programs.”
They are not being realistic enough to face up to the fact that school boards are in the business of education, that school boards elect trustees who set their own priorities for their own constituents. The Dufferin County Board of Education, the largest public school board in Canada, and the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board, for example, have set those priorities, and they are ignored by this Liberal provincial government.
Now the latest Liberal command is that all school boards are going to be required to offer junior kindergarten for four-year-olds and all school boards are going to be given the opportunity to offer full-day senior kindergarten classes if space permits. Full-day senior kindergarten is certainly going to be a very interesting evolution, I must say. Speaking as a mother of three, I wonder how these children who will be in kindergarten all day will even be able to stay awake.
They are making all these promises to improve the size and number of classes, but they are not providing the dollars to increase the number of classrooms. Their back-to-basics promise for kindergarten to grade 8 is old news. The April 1987 throne speech made the same commitment to improve literacy and other basic skills. It is great to make these announcements, as long as the Liberal government will not dig into its pockets to fund them. No, they do not dig into their pockets; they dig into ours.
Following the recommendations of the select committee on education, the Liberal government plans to eliminate streaming in grade 9. Grades 10 to 12 will become the specialization years. Given the current serious shortage of teachers and no means to address the problem, the long-term vision to improving education is blind.
Similar to the health care section of the speech, the education section makes no mention of the difficult decisions which have to be made to build a high-quality and accessible education system in Ontario. There is no reference to the contentious lot levy proposal, the broader question of education funding, nor teacher supply problems.
Only a few days before the speech, the member for Mississauga West (Mr Mahoney) indicated to the local press that the lot levy idea would be the solution to the whole education funding problem. I expected to hear in detail the government’s plans, but again, nothing.
Surprisingly, the speech makes no comment about improving our colleges and universities. Without a commitment to colleges and universities, where are all these highly educated high school students going to go for post-secondary education?
I just want to make one comment about the lot levy situation. The crisis, particularly in my own regional school area, namely, the crisis for the Dufferin-Peel separate school board and the Peel Board of Education, which I referred to a few minutes ago as the largest public school board in Canada, is today and for the next three or four years. It is quite possible that when the development and growth of Mississauga is completed by the year 2000, the crisis, obviously leading into that year 2000, will have started to diminish.
The truth of the matter is that lot levies are on land before it is registered, on plans of subdivisions before they are registered. Most of the lots that are to be built on are already contained in registered plans of subdivision in Mississauga and Brampton. So when we talk about lot levies, it is really interesting to hear -- the member for Mississauga West is the only member I have heard talking about lot levies, but he talks about how great they have been in Mississauga for municipal responsibilities.
There is no question. I agree with him. I was a member of the council that supported it. It is true we have lot levies in Mississauga to put in place those costly facilities that new development generates: the recreational centres, the arenas, the libraries, the firehalls, the transit systems and so forth. I could not agree more.
But all those facilities are municipal responsibilities. What is lost in this whole debate of lot levies is that we are now putting the cost of education on the backs of those people who are buying their new homes. In a time when we have a very critical housing shortage, to escalate the price of new homes by adding a lot levy for education, when education is a provincial responsibility, we have a great deal of difficulty --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Marland: I want to tell members that I do not support lot levies for provincial responsibilities. It is bad enough that we have the costs of education for operating grants on the back of the municipal property taxpayer, without now the cost of new school construction. The fact that this Liberal government is willing to slough off its responsibility for new school construction in Ontario by saying it will charge lot levies is unfair and wrong in my opinion.
It is also a little unfortunate -- I cannot use the other word I wanted to use -- that the people of Ontario are going to be thinking that lot levies will solve the capital cost of construction for new schools in this province. In fact, it will not have any impact at all on all those plans of subdivisions that are already registered, so there will not be any money coming from lot levies for new school construction for probably four or five years.
We have provincial income tax that is taken from the people of this province to fund provincial responsibilities and is a system that has been in place in this province for a very long time. If the province is not going to meet its financial obligations by funding education, then it had better stop collecting our personal income tax for those purposes.
While we recognize that we have a teacher shortage, there are no provisions to increase the capacity of our teacher-education programs.
On the subject of social assistance, this throne speech does not specifically refer to Transitions, the Social Assistance Review Committee report, but does indicate that the government plans to implement a number of SARC recommendations. However, even this limited commitment is hedged and watered down by the provincial government’s attempt to lay the blame for any failure to implement SARC at the feet of the federal government of Canada.
The Liberal government takes pains to point out that social reforms are a shared responsibility with the federal government and that federal spending restraints may limit the province’s ability to achieve its objectives, in spite of the fact that the 1989 social assistance transfer increase, announced by the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney), was less than a third of that recommended by the Social Assistance Review Committee, with no mention in the throne speech of improving the benefits for recipients.
Nor does the throne speech commit the government to the full implementation of stage I of the Social Assistance Review Committee report, a measure called for by numerous interest groups and by the Legislature’s standing committee on finance and economic affairs in its 1989 prebudget consultation report.
The fact this throne speech does not mention improvements in child care services in the province begs the question of where we will put all the children of single mothers who find a job through the government’s improvements to the social assistance system.
Economic development and international trade: once again the Liberals say they will “continue” -- it is the word they use -- to provide leadership in developing the economy of Ontario, yet they give no indication if this leadership will extend to the management of the province’s finances. Nor does the throne speech give any hint whether Liberal economic leadership will mean another $1-billion tax hike in this year’s budget.
Rather than positive programs to help Ontario companies and workers take full advantage of free trade opportunities, the Liberals are offering re-employment assistance after layoffs and plant closures, a negative response.
Some of the programs that have been referred to, both in this throne speech and the previous throne speeches of this Liberal government are all previous programs of the Progressive Conservative government, now with new titles.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Marland: If members were to review the programs that are in existence today, they would find that 80 per cent of the programs of the last four years are programs -- good programs, mind you -- that have been co-opted from the previous Conservative government and given new titles. I just hope that when --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. One member at a time. The member for Mississauga South has the floor.
Mrs Marland: I heard the member for Mississauga West talk about the private sector making it happen. The truth of the matter is that in Ontario, the private sector has made it happen for all the years this province has developed into being the premier province in Canada. The reason it is the premier province in Canada is not because of the government of the past four years because it has not happened just in the last four years; it is the premier province in Canada because of the good government and management it had for 42 years under the Progressive Conservatives.
While the member for Mississauga West talks about the private sector making it happen, I hope that he, as a small business advocate, is able to reach his Liberal cabinet ministers on the aspect of the impact of Bill 208. I heard that member talk about the fact that there is a small business impact statement that goes with all legislation to the cabinet. If there has been a small business impact statement accompanying Bill 208 to the cabinet, I am astounded Bill 208 ever left the cabinet room.
That is a bill this Legislature is going to have to deal with very carefully. The fact that the private sector is the strength, the backbone and the largest employer in this province is the reason we have to make sure that we do not legislate it out of business.
It is very interesting that when we look at the work and the responsibility of this province, we look at the committee work that has been done. The select committee on education did not recommend all-day kindergarten.
NOTICE OF DISSATISFACTION
The Deputy Speaker: I apologize to the member, but pursuant to standing order 30, I have to make this announcement before five o’clock: Pursuant to standing order 30, the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) has given notice of his dissatisfaction with an answer to his question, given by the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston), concerning general insurance. This matter will be debated at 6 pm today.
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Mrs Marland: I will conclude my comments on this throne speech by saying only that those interjections, which I have tried to ignore during the past hour of my presentation --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Marland: -- are made by those members who obviously feel compelled to rebut my statements because they hit home to the truth of the matter. If I am entitled to serve as a representative of those people who elected me, I think I am also entitled to speak in this Legislature without interjections. However, if what I have said has had such an impact on the consciences of those Liberal members who have seen fit to interject my presentation today, then all I can say is, so be it.
Obviously, they will have one opinion, and on many subjects I will have another. The truth of the matter will come home to roost when those members go before the electorate of this province, which will not be blind to what the Liberal government is doing for the future of our province, primarily because of the lack of concern in terms of human need for the people of Ontario.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity to make my comments. I only hope that some of the concerns of the members of the Progressive Conservative caucus will be addressed by the Treasurer when he brings his budget out on 17 May. He will realize that those concerns we have raised need to be addressed and that the priority of Liberal government funding must be realistic.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Do some members wish to make comments or ask questions?
Mr Sola: That was hard to take sitting down, so I have to make a few comments.
First, regarding the recycled material, I would like to know when the honourable member was serious: for the first year and a half of this government when she said we had no agenda, or today when she says we are recycling our agenda? She has to have an opinion one way or the other; she cannot have it both ways.
Let’s look at what the speech from the throne said. It said, “Building on our economic strengths,” which means we have economic strengths. What we are recycling is improved or greater economic strengths, if there is any recycling.
The second point, “making our education system...more effective”: It means we have an effective system. If we recycle something, we will make it more effective.
Then, social assistance: It says to reform it. We have something that is effective now, but we are going to recycle it in a manner to reform it, to improve upon it, no matter what the member says.
Then, “Keeping our communities...safe and secure” means they are safe; they are secure. We are going to build upon that and make them more so.
“Preserving quality health care”: “Preservation” means something has to exist, despite what the honourable member says. We have quality health care. We are going to preserve and improve upon it. We are spending one third of our budget on health.
“Leadership in environmental protection” is synonymous with the name of the Minister of the Environment, the member for St Catharines.
As far as education is concerned, last year we had $96 million for Peel region; this year we had $157 million.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Brampton South.
Mr Callahan: Mr Speaker, I am glad you recognized me because in the absence of anybody from the official opposition, and only two members from the third party, I think the round came very quickly.
I do not want to respond to the member for Mississauga South because she is a very nice person, but I would like to comment on the leadoff speeches by the Leader of the Opposition and the interim leader of the third party.
Mr Faubert: No, no, it’s out of order.
Mr Callahan: I am sorry; I have to comment on her. Well, to the member for Mississauga South, who will carry these back to those august people, about 15 years ago, the former leader of the third party introduced to Ontario a new process of education. I venture to say that was one of the things that attracted me to provincial politics: We in fact ruined one entire generation of children as a result of that.
If we look at our throne speech, the only objection that can really be made by the third party and the official opposition is that we have not given them total specifics so that they can harangue us a little bit more. I can tell them this much: Since my election here in 1985, I have been very pleased with the fact that our government has brought forward funding for those programs they thought about or their government thought about. We are putting them into place.
As well, we are improving education. We recognize that the education of our youth is the most important thing we can do. Their government seemed to miss that boat for some reason. I think our government is to be applauded for that.
I find it difficult that they can accuse us of having created the portables. In actual fact, what PC stands for is not portable classrooms; it stands for provincial Conservatives. They brought them into being, they started them and they continued them. We are trying to get rid of them.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I did not intend to participate in the debate at this time, as I intend to speak very shortly, likely Monday, but I would like to just make a few comments in reference to the member who has just spoken. “Promoting healthy lifestyles and preserving quality health care.” Then it goes on in the throne speech to say, “Accessibility to quality health care for every Ontarian regardless of ability to pay remains a fundamental value and principle of our society.”
That is not true. Member after member has got up and raised the issue, like the member for Mississauga South has in the past, about people who are not being provided with accessible health care service. The government should be ashamed to hide behind the statement. There is a problem in health care delivery. There is a problem in accessibility.
I have a personal reason for saying that, which I intend to pursue at a later date, but I am very concerned with the accessibility of health care. If there is a problem, instead of hiding behind the statement that we have such an illustrious, glorious system, why do we not accept that there is a problem and address it and try to solve it, so that the people who come to us and plead for help are given that help?
Mr Faubert: As I listened to the member for Mississauga South I was emotionally torn, because I was not sure how the member, although she is a very nice individual personally, could somehow enunciate a policy that on the one hand said to spend more and on the other hand said to spend less, because it came through typically in the remarks I heard here.
The other interesting thing I noticed in the remarks of the member for Mississauga South was that there was not a single mention of support for social assistance reform. I am not sure whether that means perhaps she lacked the time to do that, or that perhaps in reality her party has no position on it and is not prepared to put forward that position publicly.
When she mentions that somehow we are deficient in our position on social reform, I would like to point out, and it is right here clearly in the throne speech I have before me -- perhaps we are working from a different document -- “New reforms will be introduced to help individuals move from a life of dependence to a life of self-sufficiency....” That, as all of us who have read the report know, is the basic tenet of the Thomson report. It is the basic thrust of it.
There were other remarks I was waiting for her to make, but as she put forward sort of a litany of fiscal generalities, I think what she really failed to mention was the fact that we have the best Treasurer this province has ever seen. Not only does he have efforts and objectives for providing the fiscal wherewithal for all the ministries, but he indeed has moved and has taken real steps to reduce the provincial debt. I would just like to hear some comments on that.
Mrs Marland: I guess I should be flattered that I have three rebuttals from the Liberal members, and I am indeed.
The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere says we have the best Treasurer. We will find out how good our Treasurer is on 17 May. It is true that he has deep pockets, but they are not his pockets. They are the pockets of the taxpayers of Ontario. Those are the pockets he picks.
In fact, I would be embarrassed if I were the member for Mississauga East (Mr Sola), who has met with the Victorian Order of Nurses. They have pleaded with him about their lack of funding and he stands up today and says, “There’s no problem with the health care in this province.” I really think that is pretty serious.
When the member for Mississauga East talks about building on economic strength, I would like him to concentrate a little bit on the fact that this province and this Liberal government inherited their economic strength from the former Conservative provincial government.
When he talks about recycling, I think if he reads Hansard he will understand better than he did the first time I spoke. I am sure the members of the Peel Board of Education and the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board will be interested to read the comments of the member for Mississauga East when he quotes the dollar figures for funding for education in Peel, because that member knows as well as I do that both our educational systems and both our school boards in Peel are gravely concerned about the underfunding.
Having met with both those boards, it is very disappointing for the member for Mississauga East to stand up and say, “It’s a wonderful world in Ontario today and everything is perfect in Peel in terms of health care, education,” etc, because in fact there is a great deal of concern in Peel on those matters.
Mr Neumann: It is a pleasure for me to participate in this debate on the speech from the throne and to outline for the House the commitments this government has made to reform in Ontario and the record of results, the record of action which has come from that.
The speech from the throne is an important time in the Legislature. It is a time for the government to lay forth its agenda for the coming session and it is an opportunity for the citizens at large to look at that proposal, to look at the broad direction which the government is enunciating and to come to realize the kind of legislation and the kinds of initiatives to expect over the coming session.
As a newly elected member of this Legislature, this is the second time for me to experience this process, and I am quite pleased that the last speech from the throne provided a guidance for our first session of the 34th Parliament, a session which produced a lot of results.
I would summarize the kind of direction we are heading in with the initials VCR. We put forward our vision, we enunciate the commitment to implement that vision and we produce results: vision, commitment, results, from a government of reform with a record of action, a government which is open and accessible.
I had the opportunity during my first year here at Queen’s Park to work as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr Eakins) and I want to relay to the House that it was a tremendous experience for me. I learned a great deal from the Minister for Municipal Affairs in the way he met with delegations and listened to the municipalities across the province. He consulted on many issues with members in caucus with municipal experience and with municipalities across the province.
It was a kind of example of the open-door policy of this government to accompany that minister to various sessions of municipal representations and conferences and know that the minister’s door was always open to hear from the municipalities of this province and to listen to what they had to say. I learned a great deal through that process and it encourages me that we are continuing to be a government which is open and accessible to the people of Ontario in many areas.
This speech from the throne outlined six important areas. I intend to comment on each of those areas to talk about what has been achieved provincially, how that has affected in a positive way the community which I represent, the city of Brantford, and what we can look forward to over the coming session. These six areas talk about economic strength, education, social reform, safety and security, quality health care and a clean and safe environment.
First of all, on the whole issue of economic strength, the speech from the throne indicated that the government intends to build upon our economic strength to ensure tomorrow’s growth. This will be done through improving education, training and adjustment programs. Look at the record of performance during the past session.
We have implemented the centres of excellence program; committed $116 million to an industry research program; introduced the research and development superallowance -- these are commitments to the future -- allocated $50 million annually to combat illiteracy; and established the Ontario Training Corp.
To provide the overall direction and guidance, there is the Premier’s Council on technology, which is looking at what Ontario’s strengths for the future should be; what industries should be encouraged to do in terms of adopting new technologies and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and for our young people.
Locally, our community has faced a difficult time of adjustment with the demise of some major industries. Massey, White and a number of other smaller manufacturing firms have faced an end to their operation in our community, a community which once saw the farm equipment manufacturing sector as its strength and the heart of the economic development at the turn of the century.
This was the leading-edge technology resulting from inventors and entrepreneurs of the 19th century who were on a new wave of technological development, meeting expanding markets with the opening of the west and the mechanization of agriculture. In today’s times, in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, these industries, which were the core of our manufacturing sector, met difficult times and met their end.
This meant a time of adjustment for workers and a time of challenge for the community to diversify, to develop new areas of strength and to build on traditions of the past and forge paths for the future. Our community met that challenge. Families in our community are continuing to suffer and to face the challenge of transition.
It is amazing to me how well the people of our community responded to the challenge of the 1980s. The chamber of commerce, the labour council, the Canada Employment and Immigration centre, Mohawk College and the education officials and community leaders all pitched in and rose to the challenge of encouraging new strengths for the community and new opportunities for people who had to seek out new jobs, and for young people entering the labour force.
The provincial government in Ontario fortunately adopted a pension benefits protection scheme which has come to the rescue in terms of protecting the pensions of the people who faced lost industries. The Transitions program has been taken up by a number of people in our community for the retraining of older workers.
On the forward-looking side of things, we have recently received a $10-million commitment for the development of a new industrial park in our community, which is taking up the challenge of recycling mined-out aggregate areas into a modern, new industrial park right on Highway 403.
Last September the Premier (Mr Peterson), along with our Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), announced a $10-million commitment for this scheme. This was a follow-through on a commitment made by the previous government but not carried through. When that area of the city was annexed to the city in 1980, there was a commitment to the fact that it was a real challenge to develop these gravel pit areas into an industrial park and there would be provincial support to do it.
The previous government did not follow through and did not come up with it. I placed it as a very high priority when I was elected as member for Brantford, and by last September we had a $ 10-million commitment. Because Brantford has done so well at attracting new industries into its existing parks, we have to plan for the future and to have serviced land on which to expand in a modern, new industrial park.
We are pleased that Ontario, in building on economic strengths and looking towards the future, produced results in our community with that $10-million announcement.
As well, we are working towards the completion of Highway 403 between Brantford and Ancaster. The Minister of Transportation (Mr Fulton) -- I am pleased to see he is right here with us -- is certainly aware of how important this project is, not only to the community of Brantford, in forging its economic diversity and strength for the future, but also for the entire southwestern Ontario area.
It connects border crossing points at Detroit, Windsor and Sarnia through southwestern Ontario, the Niagara Peninsula, over to border crossings at Niagara and Buffalo. It is right on the path to major North American markets, and the one missing link in that whole stretch of four-lane highway is a short distance between Brantford and Ancaster. It is not just a road from Brantford to Ancaster; it is part of an Ontario network which needs to be completed. I am pleased that this government has made a commitment to complete that highway by 1997.
Mr Neumann: Was it 1996, minister, I believe? Yes.
Recently, the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mrs McLeod) visited our community and announced a $6.2-million expansion of Mohawk College. Brantford has been bypassed in the past in terms of post-secondary facilities and programs. Initially the Mohawk College presence in our community offered only adult-interest courses and retraining programs. Gradually, however, full-time programs were introduced, and we have seen expansion of those programs over the years.
The recent announcement by the Minister of Colleges and Universities of a $6.2-million Mohawk College expansion will mean the addition of important new, full-time programs for students in our area. New programs in packaging technology are one example of how Mohawk College is keeping in tune with the times in offering courses of need to industry. There is a tremendous shortage of packaging technicians across Canada, and Mohawk College will offer a program which will be of interest to students from many areas.
In addition, Ontario has made a commitment, along with the federal government, to a new telecommunications discovery centre. This commitment amounts to $11 million. Brantford, the birthplace of the telephone, looks forward to being part of the very important telecommunications sector in our community. It is an example of how a community facing the need for dramatic change can look towards the future to an important sector like telecommunications, which is influencing such a great diversity of our lives today. This sector had its beginnings in Brantford with the invention of the telephone in 1874. We are not rejecting our past. We are building on our strengths.
The International Telecommunications Discovery Centre will have as its main theme a tourism project, a science centre of telecommunications which will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors and certainly will create some jobs in our area; but, more importantly, it will help to change the image of the community and make Brantford a national focal point for telecommunications. This will assist us in attracting industries related to this field and providing opportunities for our young people.
On this first theme, building on economic strengths and transitions to the future, the efforts of the provincial government have not only produced results across the province, but also in our community in Brantford.
The second point that is mentioned in the throne speech is education, a springboard to opportunity. We have committed ourselves here to a purposeful and relevant education system, to meet the economic potential of our province and the individual potential of our people. During the past session, we provided significant new funding to reduce class sizes in grades I and 2. We increased funding for additional computer technology, new textbooks and enhanced learning materials. We announced major increases in annual funding for school construction: four times the 1984-85 levels. We established a select committee on education to look towards the future.
In my area there were results there as well. Part of those education grants were allocated to my area, and the very difficult challenge of portables at St John’s College is being alleviated with a major capital expansion now under way. With the recent announcement of new capital dollars for a new high school for the separate school system, we can be assured that over the coming years there will not be a need for portables.
I would like to tell the members of the House about an important project which opened in my community last fall. The Branlyn/Notre Dame Centre consists of an elementary public school, an elementary separate school and a recreation centre operated by the city recreation department. Three partners came together and put together a very difficult project. They designed the building together, it was constructed and they have signed a long-term joint-use agreement.
This should be a challenge to other areas. It should be an example to other areas of how public school boards and separate school boards in a new area of a city where all the new growth has occurred can work together and put schools on the same site, sharing common facilities like gyms and staff rooms. This experiment has worked very well, and we were pleased to have the Premier there to officially open it last September.
In addition, there are efforts under way to encourage further discussion and co-operation between industry and education officials in our community, to make sure the education system that we have will meet the needs of the future. As well, announcements were made for the opening of another new public elementary school in our northeast area of the city.
In the speech from the throne we are looking forward to the future in education, in providing half-day junior kindergarten for four-year-olds, half-day senior kindergarten for five-year-olds and moving towards full-day senior kindergarten where classroom space permits; revitalizing the curriculum from grades I to 6 by focusing on literacy, analytical and communication skills; ensuring a core curriculum in grades 7, 8 and 9 that emphasizes development of basic skills and progressive problem-solving; eliminating streaming in grade 9 and ensuring that grades 10 to 12 will be developed as years of specialization. These are important new reforms and they will be done in the context of consultation with education officials and citizens across the province.
The third area on which the speech from the throne touched is the whole area of social assistance, social reform. Once again this emphasizes the sharing and caring society which we in Ontario represent. The speech from the throne said that poverty is the lead domino in a chain of problems that encompasses poor health, shorter life and lower educational achievement. It is important that new reforms move people from a life of dependency to a life of self-sufficiency.
Progress in the last session included substantial increases in benefits for social assistance programs and substantial increases in funding for provincially subsidized child care spaces. In our community we have seen a new day care centre open at Pauline Johnson Collegiate, the West End YMCA day care centre and new day care centres under construction in co-operation with the Boys and Girls Club project in west Brantford. As well, the two new schools announced recently, a new high school and a new elementary school, will both have day care centres in them. We can see that there is an ongoing commitment to day care.
Measures to reduce homelessness were achieved in the last session of the Legislature. In our community, St Leonard’s Society has recently opened a home for resourceless youth, which is in keeping with this theme. We have increased funding for shelter subsidies.
A number of interesting projects have been put on stream in our community, including a $500,000 community economic development pilot project, which will attempt to move single parents on social assistance, to reduce their dependency and to encourage them towards self-reliance through self-employment. There are many talents which people who are on social assistance have. Some of these talents can be channelled into new small businesses. This is possible to achieve, and this pilot project will demonstrate that in Brantford.
We recently saw Eastdale, a neighbourhood in our community, which is part of the Ontario housing resources across Ontario, through self-reliance receive support from this government to the tune of $38,000 to establish an Eastdale Neighbourhood Resource Centre to help the kids in that housing project develop a more equal footing as they enter school. There will be programs for the young kids, programs for the kids in the summer to try to make up for some of the resources they do not have in their community. This is quite an initiative, and the people in that neighbourhood are to be commended for the initiative they have shown.
I was privileged to attend some of the consultation process the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney) initiated with interest groups and client groups across Ontario on the recent Thomson report and I was pleased to hear the openness of the minister, to observe that and to hear the input which he received towards this social reform on which we are embarking.
In this session, we plan to initiate areas which will increase payments for shelter support to persons on social assistance, remove barriers which serve as disincentives to work, expand the network of employment counselling, referral, basic training and preparation programs and provide increased children’s benefits.
There is a long road ahead here. We must take those first important steps that put us on the path towards a more progressive, more meaningful social services system which moves people from dependence to independence, which ensures that the talents and the abilities of people on social assistance are used not only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of others in society. They have much to contribute to our community.
The fourth topic which our throne speech dealt with was entitled “Safe and Secure Communities,” and in this area there is quite a record of achievement at the provincial level. During the last session, a task force on illegal drug use in Ontario was appointed and my colleague the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay (Mr Black) produced a report for the Premier.
A great deal of it has been implemented already. We have announced mandatory drug education in grades 4 through 10 in Ontario schools, increased funding for community-based drug and alcohol addiction programs, appointed a Race Relations and Policing Task Force, introduced measures to reduce delays in provincial criminal courts and decentralized Ontario’s court system to ensure more accessibility.
In our community, $21,000 was given as a grant to the family counselling centre to expand its Options to Violence program, providing services for family members who are victims of domestic violence. Another grant was given to the Brantford-Brant drinking and driving countermeasures committee to aid in efforts to prevent impaired driving in our community.
These initiatives build on the strengths of the community volunteer spirit which exists in our communities right across Ontario, not only the economic strengths which other speakers have alluded to, but the strength in the volunteer sector in many cases. We should encourage that. Grants to these community boards and volunteers encourage them to make our communities a better place in which to live.
The throne speech outlined a number of initiatives which will be taken, under the heading of “Safe and Secure Communities”:
“Education and prevention programs, including antidrug education in primary and secondary schools, and community-based programs in high-risk neighbourhoods.
“A wider range of treatment programs including employee assistance programs.
“Expansion of Ontario’s drug enforcement capacity, including a strengthened OPP drug enforcement unit.
“Expand our efforts to prevent violence against women and children.
“Provide enhanced race relations training to better equip police to respond to the diverse needs of the community they serve.
“Work with the OPP and all municipal police forces to promote racial equality in employment.
“Urge the federal government to effect immediate changes to the Young Offenders Act.
“Reform our court system to provide improved access to justice.”
This is a very important part of the throne speech, and I am sure we will see results in our communities across Ontario.
The fifth area on which the throne speech touched is headed “Promoting Healthy Lifestyles and Preserving Quality Health Care.” This is a very important sector of our budget and our initiatives in this province. Communities across Ontario are concerned about our quality health care system. We want to ensure that quality health care is available regardless of ability to pay and that this remains a fundamental value and principle of our society. We will be focusing on priorities of promoting healthy lifestyles and preserving quality health care.
During the past session, a number of initiatives under health care were taken and a number of results achieved. The Premier’s Council on Health Strategy to develop a long-term blueprint for health care was brought into being and is already producing results, bringing together people from a variety of backgrounds to take up the challenge of offering health care in a meaningful way to our community, to find new ways to encourage healthy lifestyles and to find new ways to deliver our health care system in a more equitable and effective manner.
A $100-million health innovation fund was established to develop innovative and cost-effective health services for the future. A shift towards community-based services was taken through measures such as the Health Facilities Special Orders Act, and special educational programs towards disease prevention and healthier lifestyles were launched.
In our community, we saw significant results from a number of initiatives. Approval for a new computerized axial tomography scanner for the Brantford General Hospital was given. That new facility is being implemented there and will provide service at the local level to the people in Brantford who need it.
The Child and Family Assessment and Treatment Centre of Brant County has been opened, making these services more accessible to people in our community, services to families in need, services to children and to young people who need counselling. In the past, troubled youngsters who were in need of psychological counselling or assessment had to go to London or Hamilton. This is very important, because it was the very families who were in a time of stress who could least afford to have to travel for the counselling or assessment sessions.
With the initiative of people in our community who put together a package to establish a child and family assessment unit in our community, the Minister of Community and Social Services responded in his very sensitive way to the need. This centre recently opened in our community and is providing a service. In addition to that, a number of initiatives were taken to improve health facilities at both Brantford General Hospital and St Joseph’s Hospital.
In health care, the throne speech outlines a direction for the future:
“Shift the emphasis from treatment after the fact to health promotion and disease prevention.
“Foster strong and supportive families and communities.
“Ensure a safe and high-quality physical environment.
“Try to increase the number of years of good health for Ontarians by reducing illness, disability and premature death.
“Provide accessible, affordable, appropriate health services for all.
“Address specialty care needs in such areas as emergency services, cancer care, cardiovascular services, dialysis, trauma, AIDS and maternal and infant health.”
The direction is clear. Health care is a challenge for us all. By working together, we can meet that challenge and provide important services for the people of Ontario and challenge them to participate along this road towards improved health services.
A final section which is dealt with in the speech from the throne is on the environment. This is a topic which I am very much interested in. The environment is of concern to everyone, but I hear most from the young people in our communities, who know that their future is at stake with the environmental issues that are before us. How do we ensure that the planet will survive? How do we think globally and act locally to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem?
We are committed to producing a clean and safe environment in Ontario. This is a cornerstone of our efforts to promote better health, and we will continue to demonstrate leadership and environmental protection to ensure the quality of our air, water and food.
During the last session, a number of initiatives were taken and results produced. Reduction of sulphur dioxide emissions through the Countdown Acid Rain program has been very successful. This government moved to ban chlorofluorocarbons to protect the ozone layer.
I am quite pleased with the fact that in our community we have a very progressive industry, S. C. Johnson and Son, which in 1976, well before all the publicity about the threat to the ozone layer, was aware of the threat to the ozone layer and moved to eliminate CFCs from all its aerosol can products. This is quite the leadership that they have shown to the community and to industries throughout North America.
This government in this past session has taken up that challenge and has indicated a target to remove CFCs from production of all products in our community. We have established funding and new targets for province-wide recycling programs. I am pleased that in our community the municipal council has decided to participate and is launching a recycling program in our community.
The municipal-industrial strategy for abatement has been launched. This will ensure that cleaner and safer waterways are there for future generations. Most important, the round table on environment and the economy was established to encourage sustainable development. Sustainable development means that we do not work towards the development of our economy without thinking about the future implications in the area of the environment. Let us not rob the future to benefit ourselves today; let us think about future generations.
I was pleased to participate in the private members’ hour this past session and to receive the support of the Legislature for my resolution for sustainable development, encouraging the government to apply these principles of thinking about the future and thinking about what our role should be in acting locally and thinking globally about the future of our planet. How can we apply these principles to each and every ministry and every department?
Recently, that same company I mentioned earlier, S. C. Johnson, along with the city of Brantford, participated in a tree-planting program to try to encourage the community to think about our atmosphere. The trees are the lungs of our planet and every time we plant a tree, we help to preserve our future.
The parliamentary assistant to the Minister of the Environment, the member for Brampton North (Mr McClelland), was in my community recently to participate in the tree-planting ceremony at S. C. Johnson to launch this program. I enjoyed having him in my community, as I have enjoyed having many of my colleagues visit Brantford.
Young people are very concerned about the environment, and I am pleased we can show that in this throne speech we are continuing that dedication to cleaning up the environment and to providing leadership in this area. We are moving aggressively forward in this field in requiring that vapours produced by automobile fuels, which contribute to air pollution, are reduced; in implementing strict control standards to cut automobile-produced acid rain emissions by one third by the year 2000; to implement a comprehensive Ontario waste reduction strategy designed to meet the target of reducing Ontario’s solid waste by 50 per cent by the year 2000 -- this is an ambitious target and we are determined to meet it; to launch programs to stimulate the development of pollution abatement technologies and to encourage our industries and our thinkers to come up with new solutions here and new ways to raise funds to participate in cleaning up the environment.
The new lottery fund, Cleantario, will help to finance ongoing efforts to protect our environment. The citizens of our communities want to participate directly in cleaning up the environment. They are willing to participate in recycling programs. I am sure they will be willing to buy these lottery tickets and feel that they are making a contribution to cleaning up the environment. Rather than mock such a program, I think it is one of vision and initiative, which encourages people to feel that they can participate directly.
We are going to introduce programs to encourage more efficient water use and conservation by both industries and individuals, and launch educational programs to help students develop a greater sense of personal responsibility for environmental protection. As I said, the young people are the most concerned. They are the ones we hear from on this issue of the environment. This government has shown leadership and will continue to show the way.
We certainly have not achieved everything we need to achieve. There is a great deal to be done. There is a lot of pessimism out there about the state of our planet and the future of our environment, but there is also a message of hope. That hope is that by acting in each of our communities and by the province of Ontario acting within its areas of jurisdiction, we can be part of the global solution and improve the quality of life in our communities.
Last evening the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr Kerrio) visited my community and spoke on this very subject to a group of citizens who had paid $100 each to attend a dinner to raise money for an organization called the Brant Waterways Foundation. This organization, initiated by a group of citizens in our community concerned about the waterways in Brant county, put forward a great deal of effort, formed a board and is raising funds to support projects to clean up the waterways in our area.
When they announced this fund-raising dinner, within a few weeks all the tickets were sold out well ahead of the date. Next year they are planning to hold it in a much bigger setting because people are willing to pay $100 a plate to raise money for cleaning up the waterways. Government cannot find the solutions totally on its own. The tremendous resources of the volunteer sector must be brought to bear on this problem.
People are willing to participate and to support the cleaning of our environment. I am encouraged by the initiatives of organizations like the Brant Waterways Foundation and other community groups right across Ontario that are willing to participate in recycling programs and make them work because we are all dependent upon success in this area.
I have covered the six areas which the throne speech has highlighted, providing a direction for the future and providing some insight about the kinds of initiatives we can expect to see as the ministers in the government come forward with more detailed announcements, bills are introduced and the program is fleshed out as we look forward to hearing the budget in a couple of weeks.
The throne speech provides an outline for the people of Ontario to let them know that this is a reform-minded government, that this is an open and accessible government, that we have an imaginative and creative program with vision, that we have the commitment to implement this program and that we produce results -- VCR: vision, commitment and results -- in the six areas of the economy, education, social reform, keeping our communities and neighbourhoods safe and secure, quality health care and environmental protection.
Certainly we are active in many other areas as a government and will continue to be so. However, in these six areas we have indicated an important focus which this government intends to take during the coming session of the Legislature.
This government is willing to tackle the tough issues of our time with vision, to make the commitments along the way through announcements of legislation, announcements by cabinet ministers, and to put the dollars into these programs to make them work.
The people of Ontario are willing to pay dollars if they understand that we are working towards a better society. And those dollars, the commitments of the volunteer sector, co-operation between government and our entrepreneurs and the volunteer sector and the citizens of Ontario will produce results. Vision, commitment, results, in the context of a very important budgetary policy of the Treasurer.
In conclusion, I am pleased to say that I enjoy serving in this Legislature and receiving the counsel of many of the people who have been here for many more years than I have, including the Treasurer, whose budgetary policy has been sound and has been a vehicle for implementing these policies of reform.
A lot of people in our communities are concerned about budget deficits. It seems to be a topic which many people focus on with the recent federal budget. This Treasurer, in each of the budgets he has presented, has reduced the deficit in Ontario. This Treasurer can assure the people of Ontario that the operating costs of this government in all of its ministries is covered totally by the revenues coming in. There is no deficit. Indeed, there is a surplus, and that surplus is put towards the capital needs of this province: the roads, the schools and the hospitals.
Certainly, we are continuing to borrow for some of those capital needs. That borrowing is necessary because of another deficit, and that is the deficit we inherited from the past, a deficit in facilities which was passed on to us. We are willing to borrow where necessary to add to that surplus we have generated in the operating budget to ensure that the deficit in facilities that our communities have faced is met; that the portable classrooms are eliminated; that the roads are built where they need to be built; that the infrastructure of this province is maintained.
So these six areas of reform, in the context of vision, commitment and results, are an example of a government under strong leadership with vision, with our leader, the Premier, showing us the way. I am proud to be part of this team. I am proud to show that this strategy is producing results in my community and in all of our communities across Ontario. I look forward to this session, to participating in this session and to continue working with my colleagues to assist them in producing results in their communities as they have helped me to produce results in our community in the city of Brantford.
I have been in this Legislature only a year and a half. I have found it an interesting challenge, and I see this throne speech as a beacon to guide us through the coming session and produce results for the people of Ontario.
Mr Elliot: I would like to compliment my colleague the member for Brantford on a very good speech. I found his comments on the speech from the throne very uplifting, particularly following the two speeches that preceded his. I would like to comment on one aspect of his speech in the two minutes I have; that is, with respect to the funding associated with capital in the educational field.
I was in the teaching field before I was fortunate enough to be elected and come to this great chamber, and on at least two occasions I spent a substantial amount of time teaching in portables. This was back in the 1970s and the early 1980s. Those portables were in position, I believe, not because of the present government but because of the lack of capital funding by the previous government. I really think the kind of positive note with which the member for Brantford finished up his speech is the thing we should be emphasizing for the youth of Ontario.
In actual fact, since about 1983 we have had an excellent, buoyant economy. What we should be doing is telling people consistently, day by day, that we should be putting this to our advantage. In this particular throne speech, what was clearly outlined is that we are going to be continuing to put massive amounts of capital into the educational field, so that our youth can be educated even better than they are now, to the tune of something in the order of $300 million per year for a period of three years. That levers into an excess of more than $1 billion in capital requirements. I think these massive problems of accommodation left to us by the previous government will soon be a thing of the past because of this.
The Speaker: Are there any other comments or questions?
Mr Mackenzie: Just a couple of questions. The member talked about complaints that people are raising in his community about cutbacks in the recent budget. I am wondering if the cutback complaints he is getting are just on the federal budget or if there are concerns being expressed about some of the programs and transfer payments provincially as well.
Second, I wonder if he can tell us how long it will take these trees planted in Brantford to make up for the cutting of the mature forests in the Temagami region.
Mr Callahan: I think the people watching this on television should understand that the function of opposition is to oppose, but to oppose responsibly. If anybody has ever attended Westminster in England, he would realize that more often than not the members of the government as well as the members of the opposition present their feelings about what the government is doing right or wrong. What I have heard here during the speeches is total negativism. In fact, it should be called the official negativism, not the official opposition, and the third-party negativism.
I think the people of Ontario will make their own judgement as to what has been done by this government since 1985. Massive amounts of money have been poured into the most significant things, such as education -- eight times whatever happened during the former government -- and health care. In the past -- perhaps the member from Barrie can recognize this -- they went up to Barrie and suggested they would have a new hospital up there. It was fine for the minister to say that, but there was no money in place. What this government has been doing is saying: “Put it in place. The money is there before you do it.”
In addition to that, how can the third party criticize us when it allows Mr Wilson in Ottawa to create such a budget that it is going to affect the withdrawal of transfer payments to the people of Ontario? You would almost wonder if the Tory government in Ottawa is trying to get even with Ontario for standing up for the taxpayers of this country in terms of fighting the proposals that we could see coming down the pipe from the present federal government. You begin to wonder whether or not they recognize that they are punishing us. We are being held responsible.
The Speaker: The member’s time has now expired.
Mr Callahan: We are providing the funds to look after Ontario, not just for today but for the future.
The Speaker: The member for Brantford may wish to respond for up to two minutes.
Mr Neumann: I kept my speech on a high note because I believe the government is on the high road on these issues, but I would comment on two things. The official opposition, the NDP, tends to pooh-pooh the importance of entrepreneurship and initiative in the role that our small business sector plays, experiences and offers in our community. We feel this is very important. I know that in our community a lot of businesses were started by the creativity and initiative of individuals. This was true in the 19th century with the start of what became major industries, and it is true today.
We often hear from the third party about how we should be spending more in this area, that area and another area -- areas that were perhaps neglected by the previous government. At the same time, they are yapping away about the deficit, “What are you doing about controlling government spending?” So they seem to be talking out of both sides of their mouths.
It is true that I hear concerns expressed to my constituency office, a very busy constituency office, by citizens in our community. These concerns relate to problems at the municipal level, at the provincial level and at the federal level. However, we at the provincial level are addressing these concerns.
We do not have the answers. There are no easy answers to some of these problems, but we are willing to work in co-operation with people at a community level, the people who are dedicated to serving their fellow citizens as part of a sharing and caring society. I am proud to be part of that kind of team.
On motion by Mr Mackenzie, the debate was adjourned.
The Speaker: Does the government House leader wish to make an announcement at this time?
Hon Mr Conway: Yes, I do; this is such a lively afternoon.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon Mr Conway: I do not want to keep people here unnecessarily, but pursuant to standing order 13, I would like to indicate the business of the House for the coming week.
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, we will continue with the reply to the speech of His Honour the Lieutenant Governor. I expect that the vote on the throne speech will be taken next Wednesday at 5:45 pm.
On Thursday, 11 May, in the morning, we will consider the private members’ business, and in the afternoon we will consider legislation, more specifically second reading of Bill 218 and Bill 5.
The Speaker: Earlier today, the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) gave notice that he was dissatisfied by the answer given by the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston). Therefore, pursuant to standing order 30, the motion that this House is now adjourned is deemed to have been made. I will listen to the member debate this matter for up to five minutes and allow the minister to respond for up to five minutes.
Mr Kormos: First, I want to apologize to everyone for keeping people here beyond six o’clock, but it is a matter --
Hon Mr Sorbara: We are looking forward to this, Peter.
Mr Kormos: And I am looking forward to indicating, on behalf of probably thousands of people who have bought Advocate General Insurance Co of Canada policies, their feelings of great concern about the status of their coverage, the status of their claims and indeed where they are to go next.
I do want to indicate that I am sure I left this House with some misimpression as to the actual status. I know the minister would have corrected me at the time, during the course of his response, had he been aware of the actual status. I referred to Advocate General as being subject to a winding-up order, and that is not the case.
More accurately, it would be the case that the federal superintendent of financial institutions basically seized control, as I understand it, pursuant to either section 153 or 154 of the Canadian and British Insurance Companies Act, a federal statute. It is that stage the matters are at now. Advocate General is seeking a court order to relieve itself of that takeover, but the federal government’s next move is to seek a winding-up order, similarly upon application to a court.
This House already heard about Emelia Perry and the $1,800 premium she paid, and the message she now gets from her insurance broker to the effect that she has to buy new insurance. Members have not heard, but they will, about Tom Tsaparis from Welland, who has been insured by Advocate General for two years now.
He was involved in a motor vehicle collision. He has his truck in a body shop in St Catharines, after having $5,100 worth of repair work done to it, repair work that should be covered under his insurance policy. That body shop will not release the vehicle because, for three months now, it has been waiting for payment on invoices for other repair work it has done for vehicles that were insured by Advocate General.
To get his vehicle out of hock, Mr Tsaparis is going to have to raise the $5,100 -- he tells me he is hard-pressed to do it -- and look for recourse down the road. He, too, is uncertain of the status of his insurance coverage and is concerned about the prospect of having to get back into the market and shop once again in a market where insurance rates are climbing and where the availability of insurance is very limited.
Mr Tsaparis, like Ms Perry, like all of us, has probably read the statements, if not the ones actually in the annual reports of the Ministry of Financial Institutions statements akin to them; that is to say, that one of the jobs of the ministry, the superintendent of insurance, is to ensure that insurance is available to consumers who contract for it and that insurers are financially capable of paying claims of policyholders and others. On a daily basis, this is achieved through monitoring the operations of insurers.
The minister seems to suggest that the remedies available to the superintendent under the provincial Insurance Act are not there in the case of a federally regulated or a federally licensed company. I am speaking of section 15 of the Insurance Act, which requires annual inspections of the books of an insurance company so that a determination can be made, hopefully in advance, as to whether that insurance company is going to suffer the prospect of insolvency and put policyholders at risk.
What is even more interesting, and what I have here, is the 30 July 1988 Gazette, which lists all of the insurance companies that are licensed to sell insurance here in the province. Advocate General is one of them. What is remarkable, though, is that if the minister is indeed correct about the limited ability of the province to supervise those insurance companies, we really cannot put much stock in the superintendent of insurance protecting us, because 407 of those 554, give or take, insurance companies are licensed under the federal statute. Presumably, then, they are not subject to the supervision of the provincial superintendent of insurance.
We have 11 others that are licensed in other provinces, and I am told by the superintendent of insurance that they are not covered. We are left with about 136,40 of those mutual benefits; and that is not just auto insurance, it is all types of insurance. Really, that is the extent and the scope and the limit of the supervision of the superintendent of insurance.
The Speaker: The member’s time has now expired. The minister for up to five minutes.
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman is making light of the fact that he is dealing with this issue in the Legislative Assembly. He said that if I had known I would have corrected him. I thought it was not worth my time trying to correct him on his language, as he does not seem to learn much about the business in this forum.
He knows full well -- and his leader who asked a final supplementary question in leadoff today ended up suggesting that the person whose name was used in the question did not have coverage for insurance. Of course, the situation is such that the insurance coverage is in effect now. In fact, there is no windup. There is, as I had indicated, a court dispute now between Advocate General and the federal authorities to determine whether there should be further proceedings.
That being the case, I think the people of Ontario should know that when they have policies with Advocate General, having paid premiums, those premium-paid policies are in effect. In fact, the federal authorities have put in place an agent who is currently dealing with claims as they come in. Now, it may not be dealing with claims as quickly as the company might have dealt with them, I am told, but it is required to deal with those claims, because the business is in fact in an ongoing status.
I can tell the honourable gentleman that if he is concerned about his example which he used today -- the name I am not familiar with, because the honourable gentleman, rather than trying to help his constituent by referring the item to me so I could look into it and help expedite some relief for this person, had desired to make a question in the Legislative Assembly so that he could use it for some other benefit -- if I had the material, I could have looked into it.
If, as the member suggested to me, somebody is holding that man’s vehicle for a series of other contracts, I do not understand why the member did not come to me very quickly with that item so we could look into it. I am serious about it. When there are difficulties, let me know, so we can work on them to help ease the problem with consumers.
It is not unlike some of the games that were played when I was in the Ministry of Health and there was another full discussion under way that people wanted to use particular incidents and try to surprise people so that they could end up having some kind of an advantage. There is no advantage to surprising the Minister of Financial Institutions. What there is is a disadvantage to the person who has contacted the member because we cannot move quickly enough to help alleviate the situation.
That is what I have pledged to do and I will continue to pledge to do that. In fact, had I known there was a person who was concerned about his coverage before today’s question period, we probably could have had a call out to that individual so that we could have assured him there was coverage in place.
That is not to say that if there is a dispute ending in the courts in Manitoba with an order to wind up, there are not further problems for the people down the road, but we want to be able to assure people who now hold Advocate General policies that in fact they are covered.
There is in addition, if there is a determination of difficulty for the company, a property and casualty compensation plan which will cover claims up to $200,000 in the event that there is not enough money available to cover claims.
I think what this amounts to is that I should have the ability to say, “I am dissatisfied with the nature of the question of the honourable member and he should have to explain himself to the public.” It seems to me this sort of activity requires him to explain why he would not bring this up front to me and my officials so that we could assist both the constituent of the member for York South (Mr B. Rae) and the new person who is named here today in this little five-minute set of remarks that he has delivered.
I really have to say that we can assist people if we know the details, so that we can understand the nature of the difficulties, and all members can bring them to us. We can only do the best we can with the information we have available. Let us know and we will help out.
I pledge myself to help the member for Welland-Thorold understand the business and to help him understand how he can help his constituents and others who come to him with problems. That is what we are here to do. All of us, without regard to partisanship, are here to help people in the province with their difficulties.
I will continue to do that and I invite my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold, without the need for a five-minute debate on his part and five minutes on my part, to assist in his problem areas as well.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Kormos: On a point of privilege?
The Speaker: No. Order. The standing orders allow only two five-minute debates.
Mr Kormos: My apologies, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: Since there is no further matter to debate, under standing order 30 I deem the motion to adjourn to have been carried.
The Houses adjourned at 1814.