The House met at 1330.
ADULT PROTECTIVE SERVICE WORKERS
Mr Kormos: A little while ago I spoke to the Ontario Association of Adult Protective Service Workers, who are holding their annual meeting in Niagara Falls. Adult protective service workers assist mentally disabled adults to live in the community. They help these people find homes, find jobs, go to the bank, go shopping and get to the doctor. They help them live as fully as possible in a community and not in institutions. Some 154 of these workers in Ontario help about 8,000 people. Notwithstanding that, several thousand more people are waiting for workers of their own so that they too can move into the community. Adult protective service workers fight for their clients when necessary -- with bosses, landlords, retailers -- to make sure that these clients are not exploited or abused by anyone.
Sometimes they have to fight the very hand that feeds them, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, when that ministry lets their clients down. Now, the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer) wants to move adult protective service workers into agencies and take away their ability to advocate for their clients. Killing two birds with one stone, the ministry will save money and also silence these workers by making them case managers instead of advocates.
Members should read the brief that these workers have prepared and given to the ministry. It is dead on. Also, we should heed their call to set up Advocacy Ontario, which the Attorney General (Mr Scott) has delayed and delayed since his promises back in 1985, and which would give workers the freedom to criticize government agencies when disabled persons need protection from those very ministries and agencies.
Mr Jackson: As all members of the House will be aware, on Friday of this week Ontario will be extending a warm welcome to Lech Walesa, the leading figure in Poland’s, and indeed eastern Europe’s, drive for freedom.
As the leader of Poland’s Solidarity movement, he led a 1O-million-member organization along the road of social reform in a communist society where ideological rhetoric superseded economic reality. He saw his movement crushed in body, but he also witnessed its spirit rise a few years later amid the thronging masses of eastern Europeans demanding freedom and bread.
Today, his once-outlawed Solidarity movement forms a significant part of the government of Poland. The impact of this is truly far-reaching, both for Poland and for all of eastern Europe. Lech Walesa comes to all Canadians with an extended hand of friendship and love. He comes as one who would like to learn from our democratic heritage, which is what has made Canada the great nation it is.
On behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party, I should like to welcome the arrival of Lech Walesa to Ontario and Canada. May he experience to the fullest our internationally acclaimed Canadian hospitality. May he leave here in the knowledge that in Canada, Poland has a strong and supportive ally in the coming months of trial and difficulty.
To the members of our Polish-Canadian community here in Ontario I say: We share your exuberant anticipation of Lech Walesa’s arrival. It will indeed be a great day and a day that, until recently, it was thought would never come.
Mr McGuigan: I wish to congratulate the Honourable Don Mazankowski, federal Minister of Agriculture and Deputy Prime Minister, on his sudden but reassuring decision to stand up for the Canadian farmer. His free-trading provincial Progressive Conservative counterparts could take lessons from the federal minister.
It is ironic that the United States, which claims to be the producer and consumer of the world’s best agricultural products, would complain about imports of Canadian durum wheat, which, as the minister says, is far superior to the American product.
Mazankowski points out that US producers have little reason to threaten countervail against Canadian durum wheat -- that is the wheat used for noodles and pasta -- when in fact US producers receive between $40 and $50 more in subsidies per tonne than their Canadian counterparts. We agree with the Deputy Prime Minister when he expresses outrage over the recent US imposition of a countervail duty on Canadian pork imports, which amount to three per cent of the American market. Canada is correctly and in fairness fighting the ruling under the free trade agreement and at the GATT.
The minister went on to say: “The US position on Canadian quotas on dairy products are wrong and patently unfair. It really defies belief that they can complain about our quotas while their whole market is closed to Canadian supply.”
Free trade is now a fact and we have to recognize its presence. At the same time, even if it is late in the game for the federal minister to defend the Canadian farmer in the international arena, we must congratulate him on the show of support.
Miss Martel: The Ministry of Community and Social Services’ multi-year plan has been and continues to be greeted with mixed reactions around the province. Parents with developmentally handicapped children institutionalized in recent years are pleased that they will be returning to the community. Many parents who placed their children in institutions years ago because of a lack of community services are fearful for themselves and for their relatives, who now consider the facility as home. Others who have kept their children at home are frustrated by the competition for scarce Ministry of Community and Social Services resources which will now result in their community.
These concerns are common to parents and relatives in the Sudbury region. The parents, however, have responded in a unique way. On Friday 2 November, they, in conjunction with the Ministry of Community and Social Services and supporting agencies, held their second conference to discuss the multi-year plan. The session aimed at updating parents on what had been accomplished since the conference last year and where the local ministry office is heading in terms of plans and services for 1990 and beyond. Parents were asked for input on restructuring the children’s handicapped benefits program, what kind of respite care was required in the community and how the Ministry of Community and Social Services must do away with its annual forms confirming ongoing disability.
Most important, however, was the discussion on what the priorities had to be and how parents could get involved in the planning and decision-making process itself. The conference was an eye-opener for me and I encourage it to be open to the public next year. Congratulations to all those who took part in it.
Mr Cousens: The Rouge Valley system is the last wildlife area in Metropolitan Toronto. It has Metro’s largest forest, Metro’s cleanest river and Metro’s cleanest beach. Why does not this Rouge Valley system become a Canadian heritage park?
On Saturday, I went on a tour of the Rouge Valley, at least part of it, with the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Honourable John Fraser, and Pauline Browes, the MP for Scarborough. Mr Fraser said at that time that if the federal House were to have a vote on this, it would be unanimous that all parties would support the fact that this would become a heritage park. Scarborough council has supported that it become a heritage park, and so has Markham council.
I was there representing the province, and I felt very lonely because the other members for Scarborough have not stood up and had themselves counted. Where is the Honourable Gerry Phillips, member for Scarborough-Agincourt, on this issue? Where is Cindy Nicholas, the member for Scarborough Centre? Where is Ed Fulton, the member for Scarborough East? Where is Frank Faubert, the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere? Where is Scarborough North’s MPP, Alvin Curling?
They should stop sitting on their hands and stop just giving lipservice to this and get to work inside this Liberal caucus and do something to make this into the kind of park it should become. The fact is that they were not there on the tour supporting the Speaker on this, which is not a partisan issue. It is something that touches the hearts of all the people of Metro Toronto. It is time these Liberals stood up to be counted.
Mr Reycraft: Last Friday morning, 3 November, a group of concerned citizens held a demonstration at the city of London’s landfill site in the town of Westminster in Middlesex county. These citizens were expressing their concern about fly ash from Victoria Hospital’s energy-from-waste incinerator. That fly ash is being buried at the Westminster landfill site.
Fly ash is the residue produced during the incineration process, and it can contain potentially toxic elements. The issue came to the surface several weeks ago when Environment Canada released a report that recommended that the city of London discontinue fly ash disposal in Westminster. This recommendation was made to prevent possible ground water contamination near the landfill site.
We have learned from Ministry of the Environment officials that the ministry is aware of this situation and has been actively working towards a solution. After learning of the Environment Canada report, the ministry asked that Victoria Hospital voluntarily consider the hazardous nature of the fly ash and dispose of it appropriately. To date, Victoria Hospital has refused to do that.
I would like to acknowledge the minister’s concern and action to date in this matter. I know that all parties concerned -- the city of London, the town of Westminster, Victoria Hospital, but especially the people who live in Westminster -- look forward to a speedy resolution that will protect the health of present and future Westminster residents.
Mr Farnan: The Attorney General (Mr Scott) and Ontario’s Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Sorbara) have said they do not consider ticket scalping a major problem, and the current Ticket Speculation Act reflects this view. With a minimum fine of $5 and a maximum fine of $50, it is obvious to all that scalping of tickets is considered to be a minor offence by this Liberal government.
This weekend, York region police seized thousands of tickets from one individual. The tickets ranged from sports events to performances of the Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, concerts by the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and even tickets for a children’s concert by Sharon, Lois and Bram.
Not a major problem, the ministers say. It is a major problem when some scalping operators are earning between $200,000 and $400,000 yearly. In fact, federal officials at the Department of National Revenue admit they are concerned and are investigating suspected tax evasion by these barracudas of the black market economy. Surely these ministers must realize that the possibility of a family’s visiting Toronto to enjoy a major concert or event and having access to decent seats is diminished by this illegal trafficking that corners the market by initial purchase of the better seats and then exploits their artificially created demand for tickets.
The ministers, of course, never have to worry about getting decent seating at events. Talk to the young men and women who queue for hours only to be told that the better seats have already gone. The proliferation of scalping and the lax government response to the problem puts better seats at major events beyond the means of the average Ontarian. This amounts to condoning racketeering.
TORONTO AREA TRANSPORTATION
Mr Cousens: Many members in this House will be aware that the Progressive Conservative caucus has established a task force to study the transportation needs of the greater Toronto area. As chairman of our committee, I have had the opportunity to meet with regional councils across the greater Toronto area, and early in the new year we will be organizing meetings within communities across the greater Toronto area.
The fate of transportation in Ontario’s economic hub is a very serious matter. Local officials, transportation and urban planners, individual citizens have all echoed the same sentiment -- something must be done. Congestion is costing us in ways that effect each and every one of us. By the year 2011, the population of the GTA is expected to reach 5.5 million people, resulting in close to 550,000 people commuting into Metropolitan Toronto. Commuting time is expected to rise to two hours by the mid-1990s. It is estimated that traffic accounts for nearly $2 billion in lost time and shipment delays.
The time has come for this government to begin to move on a number of short- and long-term solutions. Let’s get moving. Our roads and highways are not adequate, public transit demands greater attention, while at the same time development runs rampant. It brings to mind the phrase, “I have miles to go before I sleep.” For hundreds of thousands of desperate commuters, nothing could be further from the truth.
RENOVATIONS TO APARTMENT BUILDINGS
Ms Poole: Today, I invite my colleagues in the House to join me in acknowledging a major victory for tenants. On Friday of last week, tenants from 221 Balliol Street scored an important precedent-setting victory in the Supreme Court of Ontario. They were granted a permanent injunction preventing their landlord from performing unnecessary renovations in the building.
This court decision establishes for the first time that tenants have a right to be consulted about capital expenditures in their building. Tenants have regained control over their homes. I will once again be addressing this issue of capital expenditures in a question to the Minister of Housing (Mr Sweeney) in the House today.
I would like to commend the president of the 221 Balliol Tenants’ Association, Belle Mayrand, and her executive, who against all odds never gave up till victory was in their grasp. They have demonstrated to one and all what hard work and dedication can achieve.
The Speaker: If I could have your attention, I would like to draw to the attention of the House that one of the members in a statement today referred to about five members by surname and given name. I would like to remind all members that they should refer to members only by their riding.
The Speaker: Order, order.
The Speaker: I would like to inform the members that we have a visitor in the lower west gallery, a former member from Brantford. I hardly know how to introduce this gentleman to you. I think I will just say I would like to introduce Captain Mac Makarchuk, the former member for Brantford.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Hon Mrs McLeod: As members are aware, the Ontario government has asked Ontario Hydro to prepare its forecast of electricity demand and its plans to meet the identified demand over the next 20 to 25 years. Hydro is now in the final stages of preparing its demand/supply planning strategy, and we have made it clear that no approval of its proposals will be given until they have been subjected to thorough and extensive public review.
I would like to announce today that this promised review will be carried out under the Environmental Assessment Act. I have looked at several review options and am convinced that an environmental assessment is the best way to ensure that the public and all interested parties will have a chance to assess Hydro’s demand and supply estimates and its proposals for meeting our electricity needs. I am also confident that this review can be carried out in a timely manner. While public participation and thoughtful analysis are essential to the review, we will make every effort to ensure the process is carried out without undue delay.
I do not need to remind anyone in this House that the final decision on Hydro’s proposals will be of great importance to the people of Ontario. I believe it is absolutely vital that the public be given an opportunity to help make that decision. The environmental assessment will provide that opportunity.
All of Hydro’s projections and demand studies will be laid out for scrutiny. The assessment will also include a review of avoided costs; that is, the costs that are avoided by Hydro’s not generating the power itself. The review will also address the issue of the social and environmental costs of the different supply and demand options.
The main question is whether new generating facilities will be needed, and if so, what kind. This will be decided by the Environmental Assessment Board only after all views have been heard. In reaching its decision, the board will be reviewing the appropriate mix of demand management, conservation and new supplies. If the board concludes that we do, in fact, need new generating facilities, specific projects would have to undergo separate environmental assessments, and public hearings would be held.
The government recognizes that Ontario Hydro faces a complex and difficult set of choices in developing its plans, as all available demand and supply options have environmental, economic and social impacts.
The challenge is to ensure that the electrical power system develops to meet Ontario’s electricity needs in a manner compatible with Ontario’s environmental goals. Having said that, I would like to assure the House that, as Minister of Energy, I will continue to stand firmly by my mandate. That mandate is to do my utmost to ensure that Ontario continues to have a supply of electricity that is both reliable and reasonably priced. Without access to reliable energy supplies and without efficient energy use, we cannot hope to remain competitive in world markets. It is as simple as that.
At the same time, I am committed to carrying out this mandate with full regard for environmental concerns. In all conscience, we cannot attempt to meet our needs in ways that prevent our children from meeting theirs.
HOME CARE SERVICES / D’AIDES FAMILIALES
Hon Mr Beer: I would like to inform the House of an important step my ministry and the Ministry of Health are taking to improve the working conditions of visiting homemakers in Ontario.
Le rapport du Conseil du premier ministre sur la santé, rapport intitulé « Passons à l’action », insiste sur l’importance des services situés au sein des communautés pour l’avenir du système de soins de santé de l’Ontario. Les mesures dont je veux vous entretenir aujourd’hui sont en conformité avec ce principe. Elles auront pour effet de consolider grandement le réseau de distribution des soins au niveau de la communauté.
As members know, in May of this year, our government committed over $88 million to improve the salaries of front-line workers in Ontario’s community agencies. One such group of workers who provide care primarily to elderly people and people with physical disabilities is the visiting homemakers.
Homemakers provide an invaluable service to the citizens of this province.
Le but des services d’aides familiales, c’est de venir en aide á ceux qui désirent autant que possible demeurer dans leur communauté et dans leur domicile. Ce but, c’est également celui de notre gouvernement.
It is my pleasure to release today, on behalf of my ministry and the Ministry of Health, the details of almost one third of the $88 million previously announced: a $28.9-million compensation and training package for homemaker services in Ontario.
This additional funding will raise homemakers’ average hourly wage from $6 per hour to $7.85 per hour, an increase of over 30 per cent. Furthermore, this compensation package ensures that homemakers who provide publicly funded programs will be paid a minimum of $7.25 per hour. All of these changes are retroactive to 1 September 1989.
In addition, for the first time, homemaking agencies such as the Red Cross will receive funding specifically to pay homemakers for travel time between clients. This represents new income to homemakers, most of whom are not currently paid for their travel time.
Let me give members an example. Assume a homemaker works 30 hours a week and spends an additional five hours travelling to and from clients. Our new policy now means that he or she will be compensated for 35 hours instead of only 30, as has been the case until now. This means that a particular homemaker will see an increase in pay from the present $9,385 to $14,325 annually. That is an increase of 52 per cent.
This recognition of travel time will be especially beneficial to those homemakers in rural and northern Ontario where travel time can be extensive.
Notre gouvernement est convaincu que la formation professionnelle est une composante cruciale du programme des aides familiales. C’est d’ailleurs ce qu’a confirmé le rapport du Comité interministériel sur les services d’aides familiales, rapport que mon prédécesseur a publié l’an dernier.
Accordingly, we will be providing $2.2 million in funding to support training for homemakers.
The changes I have announced today will be implemented using a new simplified funding approach that streamlines the way funding for public homemaking agencies is determined.
The Ministry of Health and my ministry have taken these steps to ensure that the public homemaker services programs remain a viable and integral part of the health care and social services system in this province.
Later this fall, the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) and I will announce the next step in the development of reforms to our long-term care system.
The funding I am announcing today represents a significant improvement to homemaking, which is an essential element of the long-term care system Ontario is planning for the future.
Together with homemaking agencies, we can ensure that the frail elderly and people with disabilities can make a decision that many of us often take for granted, the decision to remain in their own communities and in their own homes.
REVISED STATUTES AND REVISED REGULATIONS / REFONTE DES LOIS ET RÈGLEMENTS
Hon Mr Scott: Later on today, I will be introducing bills entitled the Statutes Revision Act and the Regulations Revision Act. These two bills mark a significant decennial event in the work of this assembly. They provide the process whereby the public general statutes and the regulations of the past 10 years are brought together, revised and consolidated into the Revised Statutes of Ontario and the Revised Regulations of Ontario.
The periodic revision and consolidation of our statutes and regulations is a great service not only to the judiciary and the legal profession, but to all the people of Ontario for whom access to the law is made just a little easier.
For the most part, the bills set out the mechanisms used in preparing and adopting previous revisions. However, in one major respect, the 1990 statute revisions will take us far beyond any previous revision by recognizing French as an equal voice of the laws of Ontario. The 1990 revision will carry out the obligation established under the French Language Services Act, 1986, to translate into French all the public general statutes of the province.
The French translations will be treated in the same manner as the usual English revisions, and the two versions will be proclaimed in force together as law during 1991. For ease of reference, the English and French versions of the statute will be printed side by side in two columns on the same page.
À mon avis, nous pouvons être fiers d’avoir établi le fondement juridique des lois bilingues dans cette province.
I urge my colleagues to join with me in ensuring speedy passage of this legislation so that the revision commissioners may get on with their important work.
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Mrs Grier: I would like to respond to the statement by the Minister of Energy (Mrs McLeod) and say to her that I look forward to an extensive approval and review process under the Environmental Assessment Board.
We welcome her statement that, should the board conclude that we do in fact need new generating facilities, specific projects would have to undergo separate environmental assessments. I hope we can have reassurance from the minister, should Darlington B be the preferred option, which of course we hope it will not be, that the site, even though it has been exempted under the Environmental Assessment Act, would require a full environmental assessment.
I also want to draw attention to the fact that there is in the statement the phrase “the process is carried out without undue delay.” There have been occasions when that phrase has been used to restrict the amount of public participation in public hearings, and I hope that will not be the case in this very important instance. I hope also the expertise that the Ontario Energy Board has gained into energy matters and pricing matters will be at the disposal of the panel appointed to hear this hearing.
I would like to also express our regret that the review of avoided costs, which was promised some months ago, has not yet been begun. We regard that as an integral part of Ontario Hydro’s decision on what the preferred option is. I am not at all sure it is appropriate that that review be carried on by the body that is making the determination on the preferred option. I would much prefer to have seen that review begun some months ago and be before the board for an evaluation, rather than being part of the hearing.
Finally, I would just like to remind the minister that the intervener funding pilot project will, I trust, be in place for this particular hearing, because intervener funding is going to be required in large amounts. I look forward to that being approved.
Mr Allen: I want to respond to the announcement by the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer) of additional funding to homemakers’ services to provide for increase in wages, coverage of travel time and also the provision of training costs. In those three recommendations, the minister responds to some three of the 28 recommendations that the report on the interministerial committee on visiting homemakers’ services presented to the ministry a year and a half ago.
My first observation is that this is essentially a survival plan, rather than a generous response to the needs of visiting homemakers who provide such a critical service to the frail elderly, the disabled and those who are homebound. To put it in perspective, I think one first must observe that the wages for a single person who is a visiting homemaker now are at least, on the average, above the poverty line. I suppose that is a significant accomplishment, given where the wages were. But given where they are at this stage, that is not a particularly ambitious accomplishment.
Second, if one were to look at a neighbouring province, like the province of Quebec, where instead of receiving a minimum of $7.25 under the new plan that the minister has in place, the province provides the homemakers it directly funds $10.50 plus benefits, again, the measure is not a particularly happy one.
One has to observe with regard to the minister’s statement that there is no comment about the manner of distribution. For example, what is going to happen in my own city where members of the executive operating branch of the homemakers’ services have been paying themselves the same level as the visiting homemakers and they have been able to eke the salaries up over the $7 level? But now, of course, are they going to be compensated and moved substantially in any particular direction or are they going to be stuck, basically, where they presently are with an inadequate wage level that continues to foster a very heavy turnover of homemakers in the service?
With respect to the travel time addition, that is a welcome announcement but it does not say anything about covering the actual costs which many of the homemakers still have to bear themselves personally. It is a help to have their travel time covered now, which obviously was time on the job, but what about the costs that homemakers incur in their travels which are not compensated in many of the cases in the services around the province?
The minister may be fudging a little bit with respect to his 52 per cent increase when he adds some of those figures in. It strikes me that getting the travel time in there is indeed additional money but, given what it covers, there was a problem there that was a problem in and of itself and the homemakers of course are happy to have that much relief.
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Mrs Marland: I want to respond to the statement by the Minister of Energy (Mrs McLeod). In fact, it is rather a nonstatement. The fact of the matter is that in the statement the minister is saying that Ontario Hydro’s plans will be reviewed under the Environmental Assessment Act. I say, with respect, it is required under the act in any case to be reviewed under the Environmental Assessment Act, so that is not anything new. That is a statement of what is today the law.
I think it is terribly important to note that we have been waiting for five years for these plans and I see now that they are preparing to submit them. We certainly hope they will be here before we have brownouts in the mid-1990s.
I think too that it is important to read very carefully what is said here because, when it says that all interested parties will have a chance to assess Hydro’s demand and supply estimates, I hope that its plans are not going to be based on importing from the United States because I also notice that it talks about it being cost-efficient.
If it is cheaper to import electricity from the United States than to generate our own, it is not an option that I or the members of our party necessarily would support if it meant importing electricity that is generated in coal-fired thermal units in the United States that do not have the emission controls or the sensitivity to the environment that we here in Ontario do.
I think it would be really significant if this minister could insist on Hydro introducing a very realistic conservation program and educating the public as a whole as to the problem and the responsibility of conservation. I hope also that when we look at the future plans for Hydro, they will include scrubbers on the coal-fired thermal units here in Ontario and not make the provision of electricity based on expediency rather than the protection of the environment.
The minister has said in her statement that the mandate is for her to do her utmost to ensure that Ontario continues to have a supply of electricity that is both reliable and reasonably priced. I say, with respect, I would like to see her add to that statement that it also be environmentally appropriate.
Mrs Cunningham: I would like to respond to the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer) with regard to his announcement to improve the working conditions of visiting homemakers in the province of Ontario.
This is certainly a welcome move on behalf of the government of the province of Ontario. All of us are supporting keeping our frail, our elderly and our disabled in their own homes as far as possible, and we all know that it has been a tremendous challenge to attract people into the homemaking profession, to keep them there and to encourage them in their work. So, of course, we applaud the government with response to wages, travel time and also the very small portion of $2.2 million towards training, which is so essential to the quality.
I would remind the minister, however, that in the spring we did look at a promise of some $88 million, most of which was to go to the salaries for front-line workers. We were looking at all workers in community agencies, especially group homes. We look forward with confidence to the next announcement in the very near future, to the improvement of wages and the working conditions for those young people and committed workers in our group homes so that we can further support the disabled, the elderly and the developmentally handicapped as they strive in this very difficult world to retain their dignity, and give support to their parents, who are very much looking to us for good care for their relatives and young people.
REVISED STATUTES AND REVISED REGULATIONS
Mr Sterling: I just want to comment briefly on the introduction by the Attorney General (Mr Scott) of the Statutes Revision Act and Regulations Revision Act. The Revised Statutes of Ontario 1990 will occupy a space of great breadth in terms of the volumes involved. We have no objection and actually laud the printing of the revised statutes in both English and French, but to print them together is truly not a commonsense approach to take. We believe that it will be wasteful of our resources and environmentally not sound. We have no objection, again, as I say, to printing them in both languages, but quite frankly it does not make much sense to do so at this time.
RENOVATIONS TO APARTMENT BUILDINGS
Mr B. Rae: I have a question today for the Minister of Housing. I am sure the minister is aware of the decision by Justice Hollingworth last week, dealing with the question of the liability of tenants for renovations which they feel are unnecessary. Can the minister tell us what he plans to do to make sure that other landlords do not do what this landlord at 221 Balliol Street tried to get away with?
Hon Mr Sweeney: My honourable colleague would be well aware of the fact that the challenge facing the judge came under the landlord and tenant legislation and dealt with the right of the landlord to enter upon the premises to do renovations. The judge’s ruling, as I understand it, was to uphold the injunction which in fact prevented the landlord from doing that very thing, and in making his judgement he referred to the renovations as being unnecessary.
I further understand that the lawyers representing the landlord in this particular case have indicated that they are going to appeal the decision. We have two difficulties. First, we do not know whether or not this is going to be upheld in the courts. Second, we are having some difficulty in determining the distinction between what is necessary and what is unnecessary and, in fact, who is going to make that decision, because it has been brought to our attention that repairing a sink in one unit might be necessary but repairing a sink in another unit might be unnecessary. We are looking at those ramifications, but we do not have a final answer yet.
Mr B. Rae: It is precisely because of the implications of the judge’s decision and the implications of the problem facing these tenants and indeed hundreds of other tenants across the province that I am raising this question. I would like to ask the minister this. Why would he not consider an amendment, not to the Landlord and Tenant Act, but to the legislation affecting rent review, which would require landlords to ask of tenants their permission before effecting major renovations either in the building as a whole or in their own apartment? That would therefore make sure that the tenants had the right to say to landlords, “No, that is a repair and a renovation we don’t want and that is a repair and a renovation we are not going to get billed for because we don’t want it.” Why not put that right into the law the way it should be?
Hon Mr Sweeney: My colleague the member for Eglinton (Ms Poole) presented me with an amendment to the legislation that would in effect do what the Leader of the Opposition has suggested. Legal authorities within my own ministry have indicated that the current scope of the legislation would not allow that. In fact, it would be ruled ultra vires by the courts. We are still looking at whether it can be done in some other way, but a straight amendment such as the honourable leader has suggested would not be permissible under the existing rent review legislation.
Mr B. Rae: There are landlords now who are attending seminars which have the following titles: How to Get the Highest Rent Increase Possible and How to Sell more Apartment Buildings under Rent Controls. Some of the items on this delightful seminar are: “How to sell a building that has a pending application”; “How to market a building with Capital Expenditures”; “How and why the new legislation contributes to apartment flips.” That is what the landlords are doing to the minister’s legislation. They are driving a truck through the loopholes in the law.
Is the minister telling us that he is not prepared to close the loophole and finally give tenants the right to refuse unnecessary repairs they cannot afford?
Hon Mr Sweeney: What I am suggesting to the honourable leader is that we want to make whatever changes we make in a legal way and in a way that is going to be enforceable in the courts. The second thing I am telling the honourable member is that there has to be a way, a mechanism, of making a determination as to what is necessary and what is not and as to who is going to make that choice. That is what I am telling him.
PROTECTION OF VULNERABLE ADULTS
Mr Reville: My question is for the Minister of Health. Last week the operators of Cedar Glen, a boarding home near Orillia, were sentenced to prison terms for systematic abuse of the residents of that home. The residents were psychiatrically disabled or developmentally handicapped or both. Almost all the residents were placed there by the Queen Street Mental Health Centre. Here is what the crown said of the operator, “He had a free reign of terror over these persons and it was a very physical and abusive type of control.”
Will the minister now undertake to present to this House options for ensuring that vulnerable people can enjoy a decent quality of life?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member opposite knows, my priority is and always will be quality of care for people who are in any health facility. He should know that this was not a facility licensed by the Ministry of Health. He should also know that the ministry was and is always concerned by the placement of former psychiatric patients and about the homes they are referred to.
In the summer of 1985, for example, Queen Street Mental Health Centre removed Cedar Glen from the list of acceptable boarding homes to which they referred patients on discharge, and in January 1986 the Queen Street Mental Health Centre reassessed all its former patients living at the home and gave them the opportunity to relocate.
Mr Reville: The removal of a home from a list did not prevent the deaths of some of the residents therein. Cedar Glen is just one of the horror stories. In the Niagara region, the press is full of stories about Cross Wind Lodge rest home where it is alleged elderly residents were slapped, verbally abused, poorly fed and left unsupervised all night. Surely the minister is not going to continue to say: “It’s not my department. It’s not on my floor.” That is precisely what the minister said to me in February 1988.
Would the minister agree to refer the matter of housing for people with disabilities and for the elderly to the standing committee on social development for review and recommendation?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member opposite knows that in any appropriate forum I am always prepared to have the kinds of discussions that will lead to reform of long-term care, as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community and Social Services are presently developing. But as we discuss these issues and what is the appropriate forum for discussion, he should know that the Ministry of Health did not operate any programs at Cedar Glen. nor did it have any financial involvement in these homes. In fact, patients who are discharged from provincial psychiatric hospitals are given referrals to a number of community facilities where they can choose to live.
I say to the member that this is a very unfortunate set of circumstances, but I also say to him that while we share the concern that people have the kinds of options and choices that are appropriate, we must, as he knows, consider as well what is appropriate action.
Mr Reville: The absurdity of the minister’s response passes understanding here. Her ministry referred these people to this place where they were beaten and where some of them died.
It is not a new problem. Ten years ago I raised this problem with the then Minister of Health, a man named Dennis Timbrell, and his response at that time was not much different from the minister’s. He said, “Do you want me to put a leash on these people?” The minister knows how little I like leashes, but surely she sees the need to protect and befriend the most vulnerable people in our society. Will she, either on her own or in conjunction with her colleagues in cabinet, bring forward a thoroughgoing response that will put a stop to the victimization and brutality?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I repeat again to the member that there are many challenging issues facing us as we give individuals options and choices when they leave provincial psychiatric facilities. I am very sensitive to and understand the difficulties of individuals having to make those kinds of choices.
The member should know that all homes that are operating boarding homes are under the responsibility of the local municipality as far as their public health standards are concerned. I say to him that we know that is in many cases a difficult situation. We know as well that there is a wide range of these kinds of facilities and that many of them offer the kinds of services that are very acceptable to the people who are living there. He knows as well that as we discuss long-term care reform with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community and Social Services, we will have an opportunity to look at the policies, to determine that as we develop a long-term care system, we will be able to respond to many of these difficult, challenging and often very complex issues.
USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Premier. I want to say by way of introduction to my question that I think all of us in this House recognize the need for promotion, advertising and publicity that has to be carried out on behalf of the province, but during the course of the tour and the trip the Premier took to Davos, Switzerland, it is my understanding that a book was produced that ran only 32 pages and that a limited distribution of that book took place, the cost of which was some $385,000 just for that book alone. In view of the fact that we have shortages of hospital beds, shortages of classroom space and problems in terms of keeping up with road construction, how can the Premier justify the expenditure of very close to $500,000 for the production of this book?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am just going by memory now, but I am pretty sure the piece to which my honourable friend refers is Share the Vision. Is that the piece he refers to? That is being distributed widely around the world in all our trade offices and has been used a great deal. There is a very large edition of that and I commend a copy to my friend for his enlightenment.
Mr Brandt: The information does not get any better. There were about 10,000 copies of that book distributed. When we look at the net cost to the taxpayer, it is really very substantial for that kind of material.
Along with the book, there was distribution of a video. The normal cost to produce an industrial video is in the range of $1,000 to $2,000 per minute. This particular video was precisely eight and a half minutes long and I want to advise the Premier that it was not $10,000 or $100,000 or $200,000 or even $500,000, but that in fact his eight-and-a-half minute video cost the taxpayers of this province $750,000.
Again, I have to ask the Premier, in view of the shortages we have in meeting the financial demands of our schools, our hospitals, the municipalities and road construction, how can we justify well over $1 million for a book and a video when those costs are so out of line with other comparable activities?
Hon Mr Peterson: I cannot confirm my honourable friend’s view of the costs. I can check that out. Obviously I will do that, but I think my honourable friend has to understand that those materials are used worldwide through the Ontario trade offices. They are distributed widely in seminars or investment seminars all over the world. We are extolling the virtues of this province. The video has been used on many occasions around the world in places where I participated in investment seminars and other such things.
To the best of my knowledge, they were competitively produced and I think show off this province in its proper way. I do not think my honourable friend, and I can check, would be upset about the cost of these promotional materials compared to the costs of advertising when my honourable friend used to be a minister of the crown.
Mr Brandt: I want the Premier to know I am trying to be helpful here in pointing out an expenditure that I feel is unwarranted. Let me give the Premier some comparisons.
The film Jesus of Montreal, which was a winner at the Cannes film festival, cost $4.2 million or $42,000 a minute. Another Canadian film that is recognized throughout the world as one of the best produced Canadian films, one entitled I Heard the Mermaids Singing, cost $350,000 or about $3,500 a minute.
The video I have just referred to, produced under the Premier’s government, cost over $88,000 a minute to produce the eight and a half minutes and I doubt very much whether that film will win any awards such as the others I have referred to. Those items alone come to a total cost of $1.1 million. Will the Premier investigate this outrageous expenditure of over $1 million of taxpayers’ money?
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend is the one who is always standing in this House telling me that we should promote Ontario more. He has told me in this House that we should travel more to sell the virtues of this great province. I can tell my honourable friend that we are taking his advice and are indeed putting a good face on Ontario. Yes, there was a full presentation in Davos and I can tell my honourable friend it is paying dividends for Ontario. I am surprised at my honourable friend. He must be running out of questions. I am sure that whatever was done was done competitively and appropriately.
The Speaker: New question, the member for Nipissing.
Mr Harris: I suggest to the Premier that if anybody wants to know the most expensive way to do anything, they need only look at him and his administration.
RENOVATIONS TO APARTMENT BUILDINGS
Mr Harris: I have a question for the Minister of Housing which relates to the court injunction and it has been brought up by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae) with the building at 221 Balliol Street to prevent the use of so-called unnecessary repairs.
It has been estimated that the decision could affect in excess of 100 buildings in Metropolitan Toronto alone. I wrote to the minister some six weeks ago to ask him what he was going to do about the uncertainty for landlords and what he was going to do about the uncertainty for tenants. If I understood his answer today to the Leader of the Opposition, he indicated he is going to wait another year or two to see what the courts decide by way of an appeal.
That is not good enough for either the tenants or the landlords. I would ask the minister, given the notice that he has had, what is he doing to help resolve this situation so that both sides can understand a little better what they can do and not do?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I do not believe I suggested we were going to wait for two years until the courts decide. I was simply pointing out to the leader that we were advised that the landlord’s lawyer had indicated they were going to appeal. That was simply a fact.
The second point I have made, and I would repeat once again, is that as of several weeks ago, the staff in my ministry had been asked to review ways in which we might make some changes here. I come back again to the same difficulty. Who makes the decision between necessary and unnecessary? What about renovations that are necessary at one site but not necessary at another site? We are looking at that.
I also remind the honourable member that the judge’s decision in this case was under the landlord and tenant legislation, not under the rent review legislation, although there is an obvious impact.
Mr Harris: According to the minister’s act, Bill 51, part II, subsection 11(d), it states that the minister must establish a committee this year to review and make recommendations on certain aspects of the rent review system. I ask the minister if as minister he has done that yet, given that 1989 is fast drawing to a close. If he has, do they have a mandate to look at this aspect of the rent review legislation?
Hon Mr Sweeney: There were two elements in that legislation, which are affectionately referred to as RCCI and BOCI, and they are the factors that are used to determine the benchmark increase from year to year. The decision was made in 1986 by both the landlords and tenants who made input into this legislation that nobody was really sure how this was going to work and that by 1989 it had to be reviewed. Yes, we have begun the internal process within the ministry to set up a review of those two elements within the legislation.
Mr Harris: Let me suggest to the minister that if there were any doubts early on when this piece of legislation that was brought forward, there appears now to be absolutely no doubt in the minds of virtually every landlord in the province, in the minds of virtually every tenant and tenant organization in the province, and I suggest in the minds of at least 129 members of this chamber. The legislation is not only costing the government $40 million a year; it is costing two, three or four times that in courts, lawyers and fees to try to interpret and understand it. The legislation in fact is not working.
Will the minister stand in his place today and acknowledge that the rent review legislation not only is wasting perhaps billions of dollars but in fact is not working? What is he going to do about it?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would not be prepared to go quite as far as the honourable member.
First, I point out to him that on average only 10 per cent of landlords come to rent review annually and that 90 per cent resolve their rental issues without rent review. That is fairly significant.
Second, I point out that something like about 19 per cent of the first group goes to appeal. That is one out of five, which suggests the system is working reasonably well.
Third, I point out to him that while there was a backlog of approximately 27,000 a year ago, that is down now to about 10,000 or even a little fewer. Given that at any one point in time, with the best system, you would have about 3,000 in the works anyway, we are looking at a backlog of between 6,000 and 7,000. I suggest that the system is working reasonably well.
Mr Kormos: I have a question of the Solicitor General. The Ontario government established a Special Committee on Police Pursuits back in 1984 and the report, with some very good recommendations, has been available since December 1985. Similar recommendations have been made by coroner’s juries. The government has been warned time and time again, yet the Solicitor General, like his predecessors the member for London South (Mrs E. J. Smith) and the member for Kingston and The Islands (Mr Keyes), does nothing. There is pathetic promise after pathetic promise to produce guidelines for police pursuits, yet none of those promises is kept and more people are being killed and injured precisely because of that inaction.
My question to the Solicitor General is, just how ineffective does he plan on continuing to be?
Hon Mr Offer: I would like to indicate that I am currently in the final stages of decision on province-wide police pursuit guidelines. I think it is important to indicate that the fundamental purpose and issue within those guidelines will be public safety. It is important to indicate that when one talks about public safety as being the fundamental issue, it is not, in the balance, public safety on one hand against law enforcement on the other. For me, the issue of public safety is public safety in continuing or initiating a pursuit, against public safety against initiating or continuing the pursuit.
That is important for me. That is the fundamental aspect for the police pursuit guidelines which I expect to announce in the very near future.
Mr Kormos: It is the same old record being played over and over and over again. The promises have been made before. Just this weekend a 16-year-old has been added to the list of those killed. More and more innocent people are being maimed while the Solicitor General and his predecessors dither and do not deal with the issue. The cost of property damage is surely in the millions of dollars, the body count continues to grow, the minister continues to make hollow promises and people continue to die.
How many more people are going to be killed or maimed before he establishes those guidelines?
Hon Mr Offer: In dealing with guidelines, we have to be very clear that we should not limit ourselves just to guidelines, that there are aspects dealing with police pursuits which are very important, which I am addressing my mind to and which are in the final stages of decision.
I will give the member an example. We have to, and are, taking a look at the type of training that is given to recruits around the whole issue of police pursuits. We are also taking a look at the issue of retraining.
So guidelines, yes, are very important; yes, I am working on them and, yes, I am in the final stages prior to decision. But I want to make it very clear that police pursuit guidelines in and of themselves are one aspect which comprises how best we can serve the public, how best we can forward public safety. I am working towards that, not only with police pursuit guidelines but also in the broader range of training and retraining.
The Speaker: Before I recognize the next questioner, earlier today I reminded all members that they should refer to other members of the House by their riding, by their ministry, not their surname, not their given name. I hope all members will remember that.
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health. As I am sure the minister is aware, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, representing nurses who work in mental health institutions, released a report last week, on 1 November, which shows a very severe shortage of psychiatric nurses in the province of Ontario.
They gave a few examples, such as the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, which has had a vacancy of 37 psychiatric nurses since May; one third of the 95 registered nursing positions at Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital in Thunder Bay have been open and unfilled since March of this year. It also showed a very high incidence of violence against nurses by patients in these institutions; 220 cases so far this year in the Queen Street Mental Health Centre alone and over 350 last year.
What action is the minister taking to specifically address the concerns of psych nurses in the province?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to thank the member opposite for raising this issue. I think he knows that I understand not only what nurses are saying, but what nurses are feeling. Provincial psychiatric nurses serving admirably in often very stressful conditions in our provincial psychiatric hospitals are important partners in the delivery of health services in this province. To that end, the psychiatric hospitals branch has set up a committee to ensure that the spirit of the regulations which I recently brought forward under the Public Hospitals Act also apply to the provincial psychiatric hospitals and that those are being actively implemented at this present time.
As he knows, I recently announced a five-year, $15-million initiative in order to attract nurses to areas where there are high vacancy rates and also to improve attitudes and participation among nurses and towards nurses. I would say to him very clearly in this House that nurses working in the provincial psychiatric hospital system will be eligible for the initiatives which I announced last week.
Mr Eves: We appreciate, I suppose, that the regulation the minister made under the Public Hospitals Act was a step in the right direction, even if she did not see that it was fulfilled by her self-imposed deadline of 30 September. But these nurses have specific concerns. A joint ministry-union review of working conditions for psych nurses was released to her ministry in 1986-87 and that review, similar to the one that was just done, found that staff levels were inadequate, that they were reaching the breaking point with stress levels, exhaustion and burnout, and a high vacancy rate.
Why has her ministry done nothing before now to address those specific concerns of psych nurses. Here is one incident where, paid through OPSEU, she can directly affect the amount of money that these nurses receive. What specific steps is she taking?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member knows, OPSEU negotiates directly with the government through the Chairman of Management Board (Mr Elston) and through the government directly. However, he should know as well that the Ministry of Health psychiatric hospitals branch, through each of the provincial psychiatric hospitals, has an active employer-employee relations committee that deals with, among other things, issues such as health and safety issues. These committees are actively working and we are, as our initiatives move forward, seeing that we are having some successes.
I can say to the member that 10 registered nurses have been recruited, for example, since May for our provincial psychiatric hospitals. I want the member to be assured as well that the ministry will be reviewing the report that OPSEU has brought forward, and we are always trying to improve both working conditions and relations with employees in all of the province’s psychiatric hospitals.
RENOVATIONS TO APARTMENT BUILDINGS
Ms Poole: My question is for the Minister of Housing. Last Monday in the House I asked the minister to consider an amendment to rent review regulations to deal with unnecessary renovations and repairs. My proposed amendment stated that the only capital expenses allowed to a landlord would be those necessary to the proper maintenance of the premises in a good state of repair unless the tenants consented otherwise.
Could the minister please elaborate on his earlier comments to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae) that my proposed amendment would be ultra vires under the law, so that we can either work to tighten it up or begin to work on another alternative?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I want to congratulate the honourable member for Eglinton for taking the initiative to bring the amendment before the House and before me. It is a lot more helpful when someone suggests a solution to a problem rather than just making an expression of the problem. I had indicated to my colleague when she did present the amendment that I would have my staff review it. That has been done for the past four or five days.
The legal opinion within my office at the present time is that the way in which the amendment was worded would, in fact, be ultra vires the legislation and would probably be struck down by the court. That, of course, is an opinion; that is not a fact. What I then asked my staff to do was to see whether or not it could be worded in a different way to achieve a similar result. They are looking at that, and as soon as something comes forward I will notify the member right away.
Ms Poole: I do appreciate the minister’s sensitivity to this issue, and I think the one thing we are all in consensus on is the fact that something needs to be done. I have come up with yet another idea. I wonder if it would be possible to consider listing the various repairs which would, under normal usage, be considered necessary, and giving the rent review administrator the discretion to decide whether, in each individual case, these were actually necessary repairs.
Hon Mr Sweeney: The difficulty that my staff and I are struggling with right at the moment is that such a decision would obviously have to be done prior to coming before rent review. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to make a decision as to whether something was necessary or not, in fact, after it is done. Someone would have to review the situation, would probably have to go right into the unit and look to see whether or not the replacement of a washroom sink was necessary. In some cases, I think the honourable member would agree, it might be, and in other cases it might not be; it might be just cosmetic.
That is the first issue. The second one is, if we cannot do it under the rent review legislation, what are the other possibilities. One of the things we are looking at is the existing Residential Rental Standards Board which assists municipalities to enforce their health and safety regulations with respect to necessary repairs in buildings. Is it possible that they could make some distinctions between necessary and unnecessary repairs? Whether that would be an appropriate body to make the distinction and --
The Speaker: Thank you. It seems like a fairly full answer. New question, the member for Riverdale (Mr Reville).
Mr Reville: My question is to the Minister of Health. Would the minister tell the House what her view is of the federal abortion legislation?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am pleased to say to the member opposite that Ontario will, of course, comply with any legislation which is duly passed in the federal Parliament.
Mr Reville: Perhaps I can afford a clue to the minister’s view.
Mr Ballinger: Why don’t you tell us your opinion, Dave?
Mr Reville: Mr Ballinger, when I am over there as Minister of Health, I would be glad to give you my opinion.
The clue that I would like to provide to the House is that the minister is promoting legislation as we speak -- Bill 47 -- which will in fact on the day of its passage close an abortion clinic in downtown Toronto which is currently performing 2,000 abortion procedures a year. Will the minister deny that, or is the minister prepared to take a look at her legislation to make sure that degree of access is not removed from the women of Ontario?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member opposite knows, this government and myself personally are committed to ensuring that the people of this province have access to the services that they need in a timely and sensitive manner and that we are moving forward always to improve access to all of the services in this province. The Independent Health Facilities Act is but one of the vehicles which will allow us to respond to new technologies, which will allow us to ensure that we plan, appropriately fund and have access to services in communities right across this province as technologies evolve allowing us to provide more services outside of hospital and ensuring that they are in a quality-assured environment.
Mrs Cunningham: My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Private day care operators are facing a serious dilemma: how to keep the qualified staff they have been able to attract. Basically, due to the problem with the distribution of salaries and the fact that the salaries paid to the nonprofit sector are somewhat higher given the fact that they have achieved the total amount of the direct operating grants as forwarded by his ministry, does the minister plan to provide the private day care operators with direct operating grants which equal those to the nonprofit sector?
Hon Mr Beer: As my colleague knows, we provide 50 per cent grants because of the sharing that is done under the existing arrangements with the federal government. Our priority has been, with the funding that we have, to put emphasis on the nonprofit sector, but we have provided the equivalent of our share for the private operations because we recognize that we want to keep those spaces operating within Ontario.
At the recent federal-provincial meeting of ministers, I and my colleagues from the other provinces questioned the federal minister as to what initiatives the federal government would be taking in the broad area of child care. At the present time, the approach that we are taking will continue, and we would strongly encourage the federal minister to look at new initiatives the federal government could take which would help us in providing broader access to child care.
Mrs Cunningham: I think the intent of the flow of the provincial share of operating grants to commercial centres was made very clear over a year ago and to depend on the federal government at this point in time to support quality child care, which is a necessity and a real need in the province of Ontario, is absconding with the responsibility of the provincial government.
We all know that the real criticism is a lack of spaces, a lack of good-quality subsidized spaces, a lack of spaces on their own. We really need to know exactly when the province will be dealing with this issue, because one cannot expect the public sector to be training good people only to see them go to nonprofit centres. It is a very frustrating way to provide not even enough spaces in the province of Ontario. When will the minister deal with it?
Hon Mr Beer: I think, in terms of the commitment this government has made over the last number of years, increasing the funding for the broad child care sector from some $88 million to $342 million, we have more than doubled the subsidized spaces that are now in the system from somewhere around 20,000 to over 40,000 and we went ahead on our own, out of concern for those spaces, to provide our share of the dollars in terms of the private day care.
But our focus continues to be on the development of the nonprofit sector. We are in the process right now of developing our proposals for the second three-year cycle and I hope to be able, before too long, to enter into discussions with all honourable members about the direction and thrust of our next three-year cycle. I would underline again that there were many expectations created by the federal proposal of a year ago and we would encourage the federal government to return to the table and to discuss what its intentions are in the year ahead.
REGISTRY OF BONE MARROW DONORS
Mr Neumann: My question is for the Minister of Health. I know she is well aware of the stress experienced by individuals and their families when a bone marrow transplant is necessary. It is often difficult to find a donor for this procedure. This can be so important for patients facing a life-threatening disease.
I understand that a national registry for bone marrow donors is in the process of being established. Would the minister indicate Ontario’s participation in this project and describe how the registry will operate?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to acknowledge the interest of the member for Brantford. I am sensitive to and I acknowledge the anxiety and stress of patients and families when they are seeking a donor for a bone marrow transplant. The Ontario government is contributing more than one third of the costs, or about $890,000, for the development of an unrelated bone marrow registry. The remainder of the $2.5-million developmental costs will be shared by the other provinces. The registry will be national in scope and will be operated by the Canadian Red Cross Society.
Mr Neumann: It is obvious that such an undertaking will take some time to become fully operational. However, it is important that this information be available to people requiring bone marrow transplants as soon as possible. Time is of the essence.
When will Ontario residents be able to access the national registry for bone marrow donors?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member, and I know of his concern and share his concern, that work is actively under way. We anticipate, however, that it could take up to three years to fully develop the registry, which will be coordinated through the Vancouver centre of the Red Cross. The registry will list available donors for bone marrow, treating life-threatening diseases such as leukaemia. I hope that the national registry will enable more successful matches of unrelated donors and that people will be brought together with the patients as quickly as possible.
Mr Allen: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. The minister will remember that, after many months of hesitation in his ministry, the ministry concluded an agreement with the federal government to go in under the program for older worker adjustment in July. Plants continue to close in my community and across the province, older workers continue to be laid off in significant numbers and yet, four months later, there are no announcements and apparently no implementation plans. The public is not hearing a word about this particular program and what the minister plans to do with it.
How are Ontario’s older workers supposed to know whether they are eligible, if there is a program and what they should do to get in on it, if the minister does not take some action and publicize it?
Hon Mr Phillips: I think it is fair to say that in each case when a plant closes, our ministry is involved in it. We know any plant closure that involves 50 or more employees. In every one of those cases, our employment adjustment branch is involved in it. In each case where we are involved, we would let them know about what we call POWA. We now have approval to set up the necessary staffing of it, approval for the necessary funding. The federal government has appointed its appointees to that committee. We have appointed our appointees to that committee. So I would be very surprised if any plant that has experienced a closure involving 50 or more employees was not aware of the program and of how to access the program.
Mr Allen: The minister raised the question of the employment adjustment service. It is a branch in his ministry. My information is that no more than one third of the plant closures under legislation in Ontario actually inform and access the services of the employment adjustment branch. And yet, if POWA means an increased level of activity in the field of adjustment, it is obvious that there should be much more going on than that.
For example, will the minister put it in legislation that employers who are involved in plant closure and major layoffs must work with the employment adjustment service, and will he provide the employment adjustment branch, which is a very minuscule operation none the less having a couple of talented employees, with the resources to do that job?
Hon Mr Phillips: In terms of the staffing required to do the job on POWA, the member may not be aware that we have four staff who will be involved specifically in POWA.
The second thing is that we want to work co-operatively with the employers and the employees. We do not want to impose our services if the employees and the employers do not want us involved. What we have said is that, in terms of employment adjustment, we seek the co-operation of the two groups involved in it.
First, we have four employees designated to work on POWA and, where the employees and the employers want us involved in a co-operative fashion, that of course is where we are most effective.
Mrs Marland: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. On 17 October, my colleague the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party tried, as I have been trying for almost two years now, to obtain a firm promise from the Premier (Mr Peterson) concerning the preservation of the Rouge Valley against encroaching development for housing, transportation and waste disposal purposes. As usual, the Premier put off any responsible commitment with the excuse that his government is doing a study to define what the Rouge is.
I would like to ask the minister, given that other potential landfill sites have been identified, given that an alternative to the east Metro transportation corridor has been identified along regional road 23, given that expansion of the TTC and GO train services will accommodate much of the expected traffic flow increases and that many other sites are available for housing that do not contain century-old forests, significant wetlands and --
The Speaker: Order. Hopefully, there is a question there somewhere.
Hon Mr Bradley: I heard a question in there. I think I heard a question from the member and I heard the question before. She can tell me in the supplementary if I interpreted it wrongly.
I can assure the member that all members of this government are interested in preserving the area known as the Rouge and that all of the studies that have gone on over the past period of time and are ongoing are to define the specific areas and the specific future for the Rouge.
There is a good deal of interest in preserving the area because I, for instance, and I know other ministers, have walked through it with the Save the Rouge Valley System people. I think we recognize the importance of it. The former Minister of Natural Resources, through his ministry, acquired a good deal of the land and indicated an interest in purchasing more land in the area.
I think the member can rest assured that, as we have said all along, there will be a very strong preservationist streak in that area. We will be preserving as much of that area as possible. We want to see how far north, for instance, people believe it should be saved, and David Crombie was helpful in some of his suggestions. We are looking at all of that, and I think the member will be pleased when she sees the decision that is rendered by this government.
Mrs Marland: We are actually fed up with this government’s stalling tactics. The time for action is now. The federal government has offered the province $10 million of assistance towards turning the Rouge into a provincial park or an ecological preserve. It has been over a year since that offer was made by the federal government and still this Liberal government says it has to study the Rouge.
The government now owns 89 per cent of the Rouge lands. The government holds the key to the preservation of the Rouge. I ask the minister, when will this government accept its responsibility for the Rouge’s future and ensure that the Rouge cannot be used for a landfill site, housing or a transportation corridor? When will we get a straight commitment from the minister to preserve the Rouge Valley by turning it into a park --
The Speaker: Order. You have asked two supplementaries.
Hon Mr Bradley: I believe that the Premier has given that assurance on a number of occasions. Despite the fact that the member attempts on many occasions to suggest that this is not the case, the Premier has consistently said this. We recognize that the potential costs are great. Our government has incurred a lot of costs at the present time that we think are a good investment in the future. We also know that there will be further costs.
The $10 million to which the member makes reference, of course, is peanuts compared to what the full cost will be in there and is simply a way for the federal government to try to get some political credit. We all know what they were up to when they did that. But we have to talk about every possible aspect of that, not just preserving the area that people talk about as the Rouge Valley itself; for instance, what other areas should be preserved? What should be the future uses? Should it all be passive? Are there any recreational uses that are not quite passive that might be possible?
We have to look back at the policies developed by those people over there when they were in government. We have to look back and say that they pointed to a road going through this area. We have to look back and say that those people --
The Speaker: Order. I must remind members these are questions and responses; it is not debating time.
Miss Roberts: My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. In my county there are four different conservation authorities. They have done excellent work on watershed conservation and dealing with resource management for a number of years. Since the release of the report A Review of the Conservation Authorities Program last year, there has been widespread consultation between the province, individual conservation authorities, municipalities and provincial organizations. The member for Durham-York (Mr Ballinger) went around the province for approximately nine months. Can the minister tell us just exactly the status of the report and what is happening?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I think the honourable member quite appropriately recognizes the very real value of the work that the conservation authorities across the province have done, and also chronicles what has been quite an extensive review of the conservation authorities’ mandate and structure, both through that interministerial committee and subsequently with the joint committee that was chaired by the former parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources. That report has been made to the minister. I have it under very active review.
Miss Roberts: I appreciate the minister’s answer, but my authorities are now looking at budgeting and programs for next year. Can she inform the House when some decision will be made upon this review and will it be soon?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I felt it was important for me as a new Minister of Natural Resources to have an opportunity to meet with the people who had been so very directly involved in the consultation process and ensure that I understood their concerns and perspectives. I have had a meeting very recently with representatives of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and with representatives of the Association of Conservation Authorities of Ontario. I feel as though we had a good discussion about the proposals. We are now finalizing our responses, and I expect to be able to bring recommendations through very shortly.
Miss Martel: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. The minister will have received several resolutions from communities in my riding which are concerned that their D-type government liquor stores are going to be replaced by agency stores. These communities are extremely concerned because they fought long and hard to get the service in the first place. The agency stores are not going to provide any better service; in fact, if the D-type stores are replaced with agency stores, there is going to be a significant loss of employment in northern Ontario.
Since the chairman of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario could not give me a definite answer on his intentions in this regard, I would like to ask the minister what the government intentions are concerning this matter.
Hon Mr Sorbara: I am very glad to have a question from the member for Sudbury East. It has been a long time. I am very glad she is concerned about employment, not only in the Sudbury community but also right around the north. Let me just explain to her that a determination as to whether or not any particular community will be served by an agency store or what we call a D-category store, which is the smallest of the LCBO stores, is one which would be within the overall management mandate of the LCBO.
I want to tell her, though, that through my conversations with the chairman of the LCBO there is no particular program in place right now to replace what we call D stores with agency stores, which members know are stores that sell on behalf of the LCBO -- a grocery store, for example, that might also sell a variety of liquor or spirits, beer and wine.
I should also say that I have had the opportunity to meet with the president of the union of liquor employees and have had discussions with him. I assured him as I assure now the member for Sudbury East that within the board our sensitivity to the concerns of employees who might be changing jobs is paramount, at least from my perspective and I think from the board’s.
Miss Martel: I appreciate the minister’s concern in that he has had this discussion. However, I am a little bit more concerned about what has already happened in Field, for example. In that case the manager of the LCBO requested a transfer back to Peterborough where he had originally come from. He was, in fact, sent back to Peterborough. The LCBO did not go in and replace his position and in fact told town council quite specifically that it would have an agency store or no service at all. So, of course, the township took the service of the agency store because they wanted to have something at least in place in the community.
I would like to ask the minister again, is he giving a firm commitment in this House today to the liquor board union and to residents in northern Ontario that no government D-type stores will be replaced by agency stores?
Hon Mr Sorbara: If my friend the member for Sudbury East had cared to listen to my response to her first question she would have heard me say that a determination of that sort is made by the board and not by the minister, and I think that is appropriately so. But if she will listen, I will tell her that a determination in any particular case is based on a number of things including what is best for the community, what is the best way to service that community and also what is the most efficient way of serving that community.
Obviously, we do not maintain any particular type of store simply because that is the way we have done it in the past. The liquor board has an obligation to be efficient in its operation and to exercise on behalf of the people of this province a socially responsible manner of distributing and retailing beverage alcohol in the province. When you put those two mandates together and apply them in any particular community, sometimes the answer is an agency store and sometimes the answer is a much different form of marketing, and that is what we will do community by community right around the province.
The Speaker: Order. Perhaps the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale (Mr Philip) would allow the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry to ask a question.
FARMERS’ RETIREMENT LOTS / LOTISSEMENTS POUR FERMIERS À LA RETRAITE
Mr Villeneuve: My question is to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs. A farmer in my riding is selling his farm to his sons and in so doing has applied for a retirement lot. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food has advised him that if he were to work on or off the farm he would be breaching the food land guidelines. The minister is in charge of senior citizens’ affairs and is doing a good job. Does he agree with this recommendation?
Hon Mr Morin: I want to thank my honourable colleague the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. As I know he understands French very well and this is the first opportunity which is given to me to speak in French, perhaps he will permit me to answer him in French.
Le problème que le député a soulevé est évidemment un problème qui touche plusieurs personnes, plusieurs citoyens âgés. J’ai eu l’occasion tout récemment de discuter avec le ministre de l’Agriculture et de l’Alimentation (M. Ramsay) et de connaître son opinion à ce sujet. C’est un problème qui est tellement complexe, qui a une telle portée à long terme, que je désire sincèrement que le député lui repose cette même question. C’est un domaine qui m’intéresse évidemment, mais il n’y a pas encore de réponses affirmatives.
In the meantime, I would prefer that he direct this question to the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay), and perhaps he will have a more positive answer than I am giving him at this time.
The Speaker: A fairly lengthy answer. I do not think that was a request to refer it. I will have to ask you to give the minister a supplementary.
M. Villeneuve : J’apprécie la situation qui tracasse le ministre dans le moment, mais par contre, on a une situation qui se contredit. Le ministère de l’Agriculture et de l’Alimentation dit à nos cultivateurs qui sont prêts à prendre leur retraite : « On vous défend de travailler sur la ferme, ou en dehors de la ferme, si on vous alloue la création d’un lot pour votre retraite. »
This is a terrible situation, because the minister is in charge of senior citizens’ affairs, their wellbeing and their keeping busy. Another ministry within this government is now saying, “We forbid you to work on the farm that you formerly owned or to work off the farm.” That is a terrible thing.
The Speaker: Question?
Mr Villeneuve: I have written to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. I am awaiting a reply. I would like the member’s comments on that.
Hon Mr Morin: I am glad the member recognizes there is a problem. I am telling him that I realize there is a problem, there is a concern, but again, it is a complex, complicated issue and -- comment dit-on ? -- les retombées will be quite serious. I would ask the honourable member to give me some time, again, to discuss the issue with my colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Food, and in due time he should have at least some form of answer.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mrs Marland: I have a petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the government of Ontario. I will read the petition very carefully, because the wording is very significant:
“We are a special group of students who arrived for good to Canada a few months ago. More of us are educated people. We have only a problem with expression in English language and we cannot make the most of our knowledge. We have gotten ESL course. This is only 24 weeks’ course. When we will lose at least three or four weeks, the course’s program will be not realized and we cannot start to normal life. We ask you to come to a successful understanding as soon as possible.”
I submit this on behalf of the English-as-a-second-language students at Sheridan College, and it pertains obviously to the community colleges’ strike.
MOOSE TAG LOTTERY
Mr Kozyra: I present this petition on behalf of the member for Cochrane North (Mr Fontaine). It reads:
“We, the undersigned, request that the Minister of Natural Resources make the following changes to the 1990 moose selective harvest program to permit the establishment of a fairer system for all moose hunters:
“The lottery system should allow all moose hunters to enter their names for the draw without requiring them to purchase a licence first. Licences should only be purchased after the tags have been allocated by the draw.”
It is a petition with 231 names, and I have signed the petition.
Mr Faubert: I have a petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario requesting the Legislature to repeal the French Language Services Act, 1986.
This petition is signed by some 36 residents of Ontario and I am presenting this on behalf of these constituents of my riding. I have appended my signature thereto, as required to do so by the standing orders, in order to present this petition and for no other reason.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS
Mr Mahoney from the standing committee on finance and economic affairs presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bill without amendment:
Bill 18, An Act to amend the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corporation Act.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
Your committee begs to report the following bill with certain amendments:
Bill 20, An Act to provide for the Payment of Development Charges.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
STATUTES REVISION ACT, 1989 / LOI DE 1989 SUR LA REFONTE DES LOIS
Mr Scott moved first reading of Bill 74, An Act to provide for the Consolidation and Revision of the Statutes of Ontario.
M. Scott propose la première lecture du projet de loi 74, Loi prévoyant la codification et la refonte des lois de l’Ontario.
The Speaker: All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
REGULATIONS REVISION ACT, 1989 / LOI DE 1989 SUR LA REFONTE DES RÉGLEMENTS
Hon Mr Scott moved first reading of Bill 75, An Act to provide for the Consolidation and Revision of the Regulations of Ontario.
M. Scott propose la première lecture du projet de loi 75, Loi prévoyant la codification et la refonte des règlements de l’Ontario.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
ELECTION AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Cousens moved first reading of Bill 76, An Act to amend the Election Act, 1984.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker: The member may have a brief explanation.
Mr Cousens: I do, indeed. It is a bill that I have tabled before in this House that could make it possible for people in the armed forces to vote on election day in Ontario by having the six-month residency waived for people in the armed forces and their families who, in the line of duty for our country, may be out of the country and therefore, because of their residency status, are not allowed to vote in Ontario elections. Now that we are wearing our poppies at this time of year, it is a time to consider the role of our armed forces in the electoral process.
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT ACT, 1989
Mr D. S. Cooke, on behalf of Mr R. F. Johnston, moved first reading of Bill 77, An Act respecting International Development.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PUBLIC SERVICE PENSION ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 36, An Act to revise the Public Service Superannuation Act.
The Speaker: I understand the member for Sault Ste Marie had made some comments and may wish to continue.
Mr Morin-Strom: I appreciate the opportunity to add a few additional comments to the opening remarks that I made last Thursday afternoon on Bill 36.
This bill is an important initiative with respect to public service pension plans in the province of Ontario. Unfortunately, it is an initiative that does not address the major concern of public servants across the province and does not provide to them the opportunity to be able to have a say in their pension plan, whether through negotiating pension plans into the future or with respect to investment policy on the plans.
This is a subject which has been looked at by a number of interested parties, and in particular, the government has commissioned a number of private studies of the financing of the public service pension plan in the province of Ontario, and certainly very serious deficiencies with respect to those pension plans have been uncovered time after time. Unfortunately, the government has not had the will to act on those deficiencies and this act surely does not go as far as we would like to see.
If one looks at the explanatory notes introducing the bill, it says, “The bill will continue the existing pension plan established under the Public Service Superannuation Act (which contain the basic pension plan) and the Superannuation Adjustment Benefits Act (which requires inflation adjustments for benefits payable under the basic plan).
“Changes will be made respecting who is eligible to become a member of the plan, the level of contributions required under the plan and certain rules governing pension transfers and the purchase of credit under the plan. Certain provisions of the pension plan (concerning entitlement to benefits and administration of the plan) will be changed to meet the requirements of the Pension Benefits Act, 1987. Additional technical changes” will be made with respect to the administration of the plan.
This, in effect, is not a major initiative with respect to the overhauling of the operation of the public pension plans in the province of Ontario. In fact, many of the provisions of this are simply to bring this plan into line with actions which have already taken place in the Pension Benefits Act, 1987, which superseded certain provisions with respect to such factors as portability of the plan benefits if one changes jobs, either leaving the government for a position which would be covered by another pension plan or coming into the government. As well, the vesting of the plans, of course, by the Pension Benefits Act, 1987 now occurs after two years rather than 10 years, which had been previously the case.
So those initiatives, which were important initiatives in the Pension Benefits Act, 1987 and did provide some assistance towards portability and vesting of pension plans, have already taken force and were the result of actions included in the accord agreement between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party during the previous minority government.
This act is getting into line, in certain respects, with that act, but in terms of positive adjustments and positive improvements, either to the pension benefits or the management of the plan, they are not addressed at all in this new act, Bill 36.
This acts does attempt to bring in line the public service superannuation fund with the Pension Benefits Act, which was passed over two years ago. Under this act, there are some additional employees of the government of Ontario who will have the opportunity to be eligible for pension plans for the first time. So there are some minor benefits to contract employees and unclassified part-timers, who will now have the option, at least, of joining the public service pension plan. However, the terms of joining that plan are certainly not favourable in many cases, and when one looks at, particularly, part-timers, the option will not provide them with the opportunity for a pension plan which would be substantive in nature and enable them to actually be able to plan and provide for their families in the years to come.
The legislation allows for pension transfers into the plan for any past pensionable service, whether in the public or private sector. However, this, in fact, only formalizes what had already been legislated permissible under the Pension Benefits Act. The ringer in this move is the fact that the terms of the transfer of service credits and the cost to the employee to be able to obtain pension credit for that previous service is regressive in comparison with the previous provisions. The employees will have to pay for services based on their wage levels today, not based on the amount that the pension service would have cost at the time the employees were either in their previous occupation nor what the cost would have been to current employees in the public service at the time those pension credits would have been earned in the past.
At the same time, the government is expecting employees to be able to exercise this option and amortize all the payments over a period of five years, while previously they had been given the option of amortizing those costs of buying back that additional service at a period of up to 10 years. That will create tremendous additional hardship for many government employees who will not have the funds available in terms of the wage levels they are earning and in terms of what they would have to take away from their families in order to be able to purchase those pension credits. That certainly is an action by this government which is not in the interests of the employees of this province.
The legislation, as it has been written, is going to require all pension plan members to pay an additional one per cent of their salary on top of the seven per cent that they are already contributing to their public service pension plan. There is no improvement in terms of the basic benefits or the terms of the pension plan which will result in better pensions for the public service employees. This is, pure and simple, a slash of one percent of the wages of all public servants of the province of Ontario, with no tangible benefits to them at all.
One has to question how a government can unilaterally and arbitrarily ask its employees to give up one per cent of their wages this year and for years to come until they reach pensionable age in order to get no improvement whatsoever to their pension plan. The pension plan does provide indexing and has provided indexing to the CPI, with an eight per cent cap. However, that eight per cent cap is a limit on the amount of indexing, and in times of higher inflation, such as we had in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the pension plans of these employees do not keep up worker adjustment in July. Plants continue to close in my community and across the province, do not have any further assurances that their pensions will be able to be indexed fully to the CPI.
One area of concern is the limited movement in this bill towards permitting market investments rather than the old requirement, “All funds must be invested in nonmarketable government securities.” The government has been harshly attacked by a number of reports over the years with respect to its investments of public servant pension funds and teacher pension funds, and the results have shown that the rates of return that these pension funds have achieved have not nearly matched the kinds of returns that have been available to private sector pension funds. I regret that this government has not taken the steps necessary to ensure that a full market value investment policy will be available to the managers of these pension funds in the future.
The government claims that a pension board will be created with an arm’s-length relationship. However, surely this cannot be the case when we see in the bill itself that appointments to the pension board are going to be made by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The cabinet will have the complete and final say about who is on the pension board, and the government is only considering the option of joint control of these pension funds with the union employees, the unions and representatives of the workers who are affected by the pension funds. The bill, as it is written, has those options written into it, but there is no assurance at all that the government is going to move away from a full and complete control of its pension plans.
The new act continues to be based on the government remaining as the sole sponsor of the plan, in particular maintaining its claimed right to all future surpluses in the plan. This certainly has to be bad news for pensioners, not only public service pensioners but pensioners affected by all types of private and public pension plans across Ontario.
One of the major issues in recent years has been the attempts by many funds, many in the corporate sector particularly, to skim surpluses off of pension plans. They went to the point of the most blatant case, I guess, being the classic one where Conrad Black shut down Dominion Stores in order to dissolve the pension funds of those employees and to be able to take back millions of dollars that had been accumulated on behalf of those employees, take it back into the hands of himself and others as owners of the Dominion Stores operation.
In this case, we certainly have a case where the government is dealing with a situation of conflict of interest, The government is presenting a bill, and at the same time, it is both the employer of the employees being affected by these pension funds as well as the recipient of all the investments of the funds. We have a real conflict when the government is holding the funds in the pension plans of its employees and, at the same time, rather than investing those pensions funds in investment opportunities that would generate the best possible return on those investments, is putting those funds right back to itself and using that to run the government’s day-to-day business of the province of Ontario.
The government, in a sense, is loaning itself the money and has historically provided loans, borrowed the funds from the pension fund and paid less than market rates of interest on those loans. From one standpoint, one could look at it as financing the deficit and the debts of the province at a very favourable interest rate to the taxpayers but, on the other hand, these are funds that are rightfully in trust, being held for the employees of the public service of the province of Ontario. Surely, as a province, we have historically been violating that trust in the control of those funds and the provision that all of those funds would be loaned back to the province rather than invested in marketable securities.
One of the major concerns is the total inability or unwillingness of this government to negotiate pension plan funds with its own employees. One recognizes, as a government, the need to negotiate wages and there is a collective bargaining process to negotiate wages with organized employees of the province of Ontario.
One negotiates in the same process most of the other benefits, including the working conditions of the province of Ontario. However, one has to question why this government continues to be unwilling to negotiate the pension plan of the employees of this province. Surely one has to recognize that the best possible result of any kind of conflict between an employer and employee is one that is negotiated up front and in which a settlement is reached that is agreeable to both sides.
It would be far preferable for the government to put in place a process whereby pension funds could be negotiated openly and honestly between the government and its public sector unions, so that their concerns could in fact be addressed by the government. Where their priorities are may be very different than from what the government places in terms of pension funds and pension benefits.
One of the alternatives to this bill surely could have been an opening of the collective bargaining process. All that might have been required would have been an amendment to the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act that would have allowed pensions to be part of the collective bargaining process.
Such an amendment had been introduced back earlier by the New Democratic Party as a private member’s bill during the last sitting of this Legislature but, to this point, the Liberal government of the province of Ontario has not recognized the benefits and the improvements to the relationship it could have with its employees that would result from open and honest bargaining through a collective bargaining process.
Surely we recognize that pensions have been a part of the bargaining process in the private sector for decades and, in many cases, the result has been pension plans which are very different from the public service pension plans, pension plans which in many cases provide benefits better than the public service pension plans, pension plans in the private sector which are often, as a result of the negotiations, fully funded by the employer, not on a cost-shared basis, 50-50, with the employees, as is currently the case with the public service employees.
Public service employees are going to have to contribute eight per cent of their wages, that is, eight per cent out of their take-home pay, for the pension plan that they are expecting to get in their later years. In many large organized workplaces, the cost of the pension funds are fully paid today by the employers and, even at that, benefits are at higher levels than the public service pension plan.
One of the reasons for that is that private pension plans have had the ability to operate in the marketplace and get reasonable returns of their investment. The public pension plans have had the serious disadvantage of having to loan the vast majority of their investments back to the government at unfavourable rates of interest.
I think we can take a look, in fact, at some of the studies that have been done with respect to the public sector pension plans in the province. There have been a number of them done just during the last three years. Unfortunately, this government has not acted on them to this point and this bill certainly is inadequate in the lengths to which it goes.
In August 1987 there was a major report, the Report to the Treasurer of Ontario on the Financing of Benefits under the Superannuation Adjustment Benefits Act and Associated Superannuation Plans. This was prepared by Laurence E. Coward, director, William M. Mercer Ltd. It is generally referred to as the Coward report and it came out more than two years ago and certainly addresses the issue of investment policy.
I will just take very briefly from the “Executive Summary and Recommendations” to this report under the subject of “Investment Policy”:
“The PSSF and TSF,” that is, the public service superannuation fund and the teachers’ superannuation fund, “are invested in deposits or debentures with terms of 20 to 25 years. Historically the return on such investments has been poor if changes in capital values are allowed for. Investment of the cash flow in marketable securities would be expected to increase the rate of return of the fund. Such a policy would remove the criticism that the government obtains a subsidy through investing members’ contributions at less than competitive rates and would improve the employees’ understanding of investment realities. Investment in market securities also accords with the principle that public sector funds should operate as far as possible in the same way as private sector funds.”
The fact is that the returns on the public sector funds have not matched those on the private sector. While in recent years, particularly where the returns have been very high, many private sector funds have generated very large surpluses as a result of favourable interest rates and favourable returns on more secure stock market investments, the public sector funds have not been able to generate those same kinds of surpluses despite the levels of the contributions, which in many cases are higher than the levels of contributions to the private sector fund.
This in a way has become a subsidy back to the province of Ontario in its borrowing policy that certainly has been a detriment with respect to the public servants and funds that are being held in trust for them by the province. One has to question why this government is now asking those public servants to pay an extra one per cent to pay for the inadequacy of the rates of return on those investments, a government that has never allowed its public servants to be able to negotiate pension benefits or to be able to have any say or any involvement in the investment policy of those funds.
Surely this is a situation that calls upon the government to come up with the shortfall that have resulted in those funds in recent years. To ask the employees to pay for the government’s mistake is hardly a fair treatment for the public servants of the province of Ontario.
Following up on the Coward report was another report issued in November 1987 by Malcolm Rowan, chairman of the Task Force on the Investment of Public Sector Pension Funds. This report was another report to the Treasurer of the province of Ontario and it was quite specific in its dealing with the concerns that I am raising today and related to concerns that we have with Bill 36.
The Rowan report is another major study undertaken by a task force commissioned by the Treasurer of the province of Ontario and it raises very serious concerns about the operation of the public sector pension plans in the province of Ontario.
I will just indicate some of the major conclusions and major recommendations from this report, conclusions and recommendations that have not been addressed by this government and are not being addressed in Bill 36, An Act to revise the Public Service Superannuation Act.
Under “Major Conclusions,” it says: “1. $16.7 billion...of all public sector pension fund assets are invested in nonmarket government debt at rates of return below that which could be achieved if invested in a diversified portfolio of market investments.”
Among other conclusions directly related to this investment strategy is this conclusion: “Economic enhancement can best be achieved if public sector pension funds are invested in the capital market.”
Again, it puts the blame at the hands of the government in terms of the inadequacy of the returns on these public sector pension funds, a blame that rightfully should be absorbed completely by the government in terms of poor returns in recent years, and the government should be covering the additional costs, not asking the employees to pay an extra one per cent of their wages for years to come.
Under “Major Recommendations” in this study are, first, that the assets of the public service pension plan should be invested in market investments. It goes on and says:
“Public sector pension fund investment should not be further centralized.”
“Public sector funds should be governed by the same rules as private sector funds.”
“Plan members should participate in pension fund decision-making.”
I think it is most significant that we have Malcolm Rowan not only making recommendations with respect to where the fund should be invested but also asking that plan members should participate in pension fund decision-making.
This government’s unwillingness to ensure that those who are affected by the pension funds should have a say in the management of those pension funds surely is one that this government should have been addressing in a more forthright manner in the presentation of Bill 36.
This report is a very detailed one. It covers many concerns with respect to the investment strategy on the public sector funds, and I think it is most interesting that the title of this report on the investment of public sector pension funds is entitled “In Whose Interest?” That really is the issue when it comes to public sector funds. In whose interest are these funds being managed? In whose interest are they being invested?
They are being invested not in the interest of those to whom the fund belongs, that is, the employees of the province of Ontario. They are being invested in the interest of this government that wants to use those funds to help subsidize other operations of the government, take the funds from its own employees and subsidize via low-interest loans into this pension plan other operations which this government is unwilling to fund honestly and in a forthright manner.
It was not me who raised this title on to this document. This is a document from a task force commissioned by the province of Ontario to the Treasurer the province of Ontario, and it is entitled “In Whose Interest?” They obviously have raised very serious concerns with respect to the management of these pension funds, because this government has not been managing those pension funds in the interest of employees who are going to be affected and their families who are going to be affected for the rest of their lives by those pension fund investments.
The reports go on and on. In July 1988, a third major study was issued to this Treasurer of the province of Ontario, the third within one year: A Fresh Start: Report to the Treasurer of Ontario, the Chairman of Management Board of Cabinet and the Minister of Education on Teachers’ and Public Servants’ Pensions. This report by Dr David W. Slater on public service pensions consultations again confirmed the mismanagement of the pension funds of the employees of the province of Ontario, and in this case as well the teachers of the province of Ontario, and raised serious concerns with respect to the investment strategy of the province of Ontario.
Let’s just read some of the key recommendations from the executive summary to this study, commonly called the Slater study on pension reform. The proposals include the following: To invest the pension funds in marketable assets; to place the pension program on an arm’s-length basis to the government; to increase the level of formal plan member involvement, and to have government pay the cost of the large unfunded liabilities for pension rights arising from past service.
Have these been addressed? No, none of these have been addressed in this legislation. This legislation does not open up the opportunity for the same kind of management of the pension funds into marketable assets, ensuring the opportunity for the kinds of returns on pension funds that have been available in the private sector.
This plan certainly does not achieve the objective of placing the pension program on an arm’s-length basis to the government. The government continues to control who is going to be on the board, running the pension plan. The government will have a majority on that board and will continue to have the appointments to that board made by the cabinet of the province of Ontario. They will be there at the whim of the government, on behalf of the government, managing the funds for the interests of the government, not for the members of the pension plan, the workers, the public servants of the province of Ontario.
In regard to the recommendation to increase the level of formal plan member involvement, in this respect this bill is extremely vague. The bill does not formalize any process of member involvement. It leaves an option with respect to member involvement, but no specifics are assured in it. In fact, I will read right from the explanatory notes to Bill 36: “Three alternative mechanisms for amending the plan will be provided. Initially, the Lieutenant Governor in Council will be able to amend the plan by order,” in other words, the cabinet. The cabinet is the only one that can change the public service pension plan in the province of Ontario.
It continues: “The bill will permit the government to enter into an agreement with the members to establish joint control or member control over the plan.” What does that mean? There is nothing in the details of the bill to define how such negotiations would occur or what “joint control or member control over the plan” would mean. In the interim, total and complete government control will remain in place.
It goes on, “Amendments to the plan will then be made according to the terms of the agreement.” What does that mean? Does that mean the government is then going to be come back with another bill in order to achieve sharing of the operation of the pension plan? There are no assurances here that this bill will provide for the negotiation of a jointly operated pension plan or even the potential for member control over the plan.
The explanatory notes then go on, “Ownership of surplus and responsibility for deficits that may arise under the plan will be concomitant with control over the plan.” There is the inadequacy of this bill in terms of dealing with the opportunity for the employees of the province of Ontario, through their unions, to be able to operate, control and have a say in the management of the investment of their own pension funds, and to be able to have some say over the direction in which pension benefits may see some changes in the future. There are no assurances we are going to see that under this bill.
The direction the government should have taken has been clearly indicated in the studies done by Laurence Coward, Malcolm Rowan and David Slater in the past. Their proposals for the better management of the pension funds of the province of Ontario, funds that surely are only being held in trust for the employees of the province of Ontario, are not being addressed in this bill.
I take a look at some of the government’s own language back during the minority government days when there were some important initiatives on pension funds included in the agreement reached between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party, when we gave the Liberals the opportunity to form a government back in 1985. There were assurances made at that time in the accord agreement that there would be some improvements to pension plans in Ontario.
During that period we had statements, for example, from the then Minister of Financial Institutions, the member for Wilson Heights (Mr Kwinter), 4 July 1986: “Policy Recommendations on Pension Fund Investment Regulations Released for Comment.” I quote from this release, “Mr Kwinter said under the proposals, ‘We are recommending strict rules governing conflict of interest and self-dealing, as well as disclosure of specific investment and financial information to members of pension plans with 50 or more members.’”
That is fine for the private sector and it sounds great, but why do they not not apply those kinds of policies to the public sector, to the pension plans that are to provide for the public servants of Ontario for their later years? Why is it that they wants strict rules governing conflict of interest and self-dealing for the private sector pension plans, but will not impose them on themselves for the public sector plans?
The release goes on and says: “‘At the same time, the recommended regulations would allow fund managers greater freedom and flexibility in making investment decisions while still protecting the interest of the beneficiaries,’ he said.”
Again, regulations were to come into place to apply greater freedom and flexibility in making the investment decisions. That is good for the private sector. The government wants to have these objectives for private sector pension plans. To some extent, certainly, there was a move towards that in the bill in 1987 with the Pension Benefits Act, which did put in some discipline with respect to private sector pension plans, but why will the government not apply its own rules to its own plans, to itself?
The government will not give us the assurance that conflict of interest and self-dealing will not occur. The management of the public sector pension plans has historically been the biggest example of self-dealing in pension funds anywhere in Ontario. The opportunity the government has taken in order to be able to get low-interest loans from its own employees has done a disservice to all the workers working for the government of Ontario.
Surely it is time we acted in order to provide some arm’s-length relationship between the pension plans of the employees of the province of Ontario and the management of those plans, which historically has been done unilaterally and arbitrarily by the provincial government through the cabinet.
As to the recommended regulations that the government has applied and is attempting to apply to the private sector, surely the same ones should be applicable to the public sector plans of Ontario. I ask that the government take a look at some of its own statements and act on them when looking at its public sector pension plans.
Another key regulation being recommended, quoting from this statement from the then Minister of Financial Institutions, the member for Wilson Heights, in 1986, was to “ensure diversification to prevent an entire pension fund being put at risk through concentration on, for example, one investment,” exactly what has been done in the public sector pension plans in Ontario. One investment, the only investment these plans have had historically, has been loans back to the province of Ontario, low-interest loans that have not generated the kinds of returns pension fund managers have been able to achieve with marketable securities of bonds and stocks. A well-diversified portfolio has less risk than any investment that goes solely into one form of investment, in this case loans back to the province of Ontario. What a conflict of interest.
This release goes on: “The minister said, ‘These policy positions should create a system which will work well and safely with a minimum of supervision. They also represent a continuation of our effort to achieve uniformity of pension plan regulations across the country.’” It is great to ask for uniformity of pension plan regulations across Canada when you cannot even get them in Ontario.
Why is it we have to have special legislation controlling and limiting the operation of public service pension plans when we do not have that with the private sector pension plans? Surely we should be asking that our public sector pension plans should be able to operate under the same rules and regulations as the private sector plans in Ontario.
Why is the Pension Benefits Act not good enough for the public servants of Ontario and why should our public servants and their unions not be able to negotiate a pension plan when a private sector plan has that opportunity? Surely, if there is ever a case of lack of uniformity of pension plan regulation, it has to do with this government and its inability to give workers and their unions the same rights when it comes to negotiating and managing, to working out an arrangement with their employer with respect to their pension plan that employees in the private sector have with respect to their pension plans.
This government has spent far too many years skimming off the benefits of low-interest, low-return investment of the funds of the employees of this province, back to the province to the disadvantage of those employees. Surely one must recognize that this bill is unnecessary and will have to be opposed.
This government continues to play fast and loose with the pension funds belonging to the workers of the province of Ontario. These funds represent deferred wages, wages the workers agreed not to take when they were earned, but rather to invest for use in the future when they could no longer earn wages. These funds represent benefit improvements that have not been offered by the province of Ontario to its own employees. They represent a forfeiture by the employees of unvested benefits and reduced benefits that the government has taken advantage of with respect to loans in a conflict-of-interest position.
One can look at the issue of who the funds belong to. One only has to look at recent court decisions that are confirming today that the pension funds of employees, whether private sector funds or public sector funds, are funds that are held in trust for those employees and that should rightfully be used solely to provide for the pension benefits of those employees, and particularly in cases where surpluses are generated to provide the opportunity to improve benefits for those employees.
Indeed, the province need only look at the example of the recent case of the Ontario Hydro pension plan. The Ontario Court of Appeal recently commented on the legality, or rather the illegality, of the government’s attempt to take large contribution holidays and not continue to fund those pension plans.
In the action of this court case, the Canadian Union of Public Employees versus Ontario Hydro, decision 300/87 released 3 May 1989, earlier this year, I think it is useful to look at the court’s comments with respect to the nature of surplus pension funds. If one looks at that court judgement, beginning on page 24 of the decision, I quote:
“Moreover, in my opinion the assets of this fund are plainly trust assets to be held and administered by the corporation for the purpose, as s/s. 20(1) specifies, of paying members of the plan benefits by way of pensions or superannuation allowances, and allowances upon their death or disability. The contribution of the employees and Hydro, when received by Hydro in its capacity as administrator of the plan, are trust funds in its hands, which are to be invested in accordance with the act and used exclusively for the beneficiaries of the plan. A surplus constitutes an asset in or credited to the fund, which forms part of the fund and is subject to the trust. The corporation is not the owner of the fund. As trustee, it is not entitled to utilize the fund’s assets or surplus assets for its own purposes in the absence of some provision of the act permitting it to do so.”
The courts are recognizing that pension funds are funds that are being held in trust by the fund managers for the employees who are to be the beneficiaries of those pension plans. Those funds do not belong to the employer, do not belong to a corporation if it is a corporation that in conjunction with its employees has formed the fund, and surely do not belong to the province of Ontario, to be taken away from the province’s own employees as this government continues to contend it is its right to do.
This court judgement goes on to say: “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 surplus is reduced or eliminated. Without any provision in the plan demonstrating the corporation’s entitlement to surplus, its withdrawal by means of a contribution holiday is incompatible with the corporation’s statutory duty and fiduciary duty. There being no such provision, as a matter of statutory interpretation in trust law, the plan must be construed as forbidding the corporation from utilizing the fund’s surplus assets for its own benefit.”
That is a court ruling on Ontario Hydro’s pension plan. It is a recognition that the funds in the plan belong to the employees and their relatives who are to be the beneficiaries of the plan. Any utilization of surplus funds from a plan is clearly not in conformity with that understanding of whose funds they are. This government refuses to recognize this, and in this bill it continues to say that it will take advantage of the opportunity of taking surplus funds out of the funds whether directly or through contribution holidays.
This government, as typified by Ontario Hydro, cannot be allowed to misuse those funds. We as a province cannot stand by and watch government, in a conflict-of-interest position, manage the funds in any way other than in the best interest of the employees of the province of Ontario. It is totally unacceptable to the workers of the province of Ontario that surplus withdrawal in any form, including the sham of contribution holidays, not be completely prohibited in proposed legislation. This bill does not do that.
Surpluses should be used solely to provide retroactive indexing, to improve pension benefits and to offer some protection against the possibility of future poor investment results. Surpluses should be used to benefit plan members, because surpluses are built on the plan members’ money and have been held, as in this decision by the Court of Appeal, to be moneys held in trust for them unless the plan stipulates otherwise. They should not be used to line the pockets of plan sponsors who use workers’ deferred wages as a handy investment tool or to make an easy profit.
This government has been using the funds of its employees through its pension plans as a handy investment tool. It has been a very handy investment tool for the province of Ontario. As a result, these funds have not generated the rates of return one would expect and have in fact been achieved with private pension plans in other large corporations in Ontario.
Surely it is time we put a stop to a government that has made an easy profit off its own employees and in this bill attempts to take additional funds from those employees to finance its past mistakes.
At this time, I would like to pass on to others in this Legislature the opportunity to make some remarks on this bill. I think it is quite apparent that this bill has serious deficiencies and I ask this government to seriously reconsider the direction in which it is going and withdraw this bill. We will be voting against it.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): Are there any questions or comments? The member for Markham, are you commenting or questioning?
Mr Cousens: I have some questions for my honourable friend.
I was listening carefully to part of the speech of the honourable member and I would be interested in knowing if he has any comments on the changes that are required under the Pension Benefits Act, 1987. As he will note, there are four major parts to the bill that have to do with “(a) a person’s entitlement to a pension relating to employment after December 31, 1986, vests and his or her contributions are locked in.”
Do you have any comments on that or the 50 per cent rule as it applies from the bill, and, secondly, the increase of the spouse’s survivor pension from 50 per cent to 60 per cent, and also that a spouse or a beneficiary or the estate of a member is entitled to a pension?
I know the honourable member was touching on a number of other aspects of the bill and there are parts of the pension bill before us, under the Public Service Superannuation Act, that are really part and parcel of a greater cause.
I am just wondering whether the member has any comments on that, because I think one of the fundamental rules that we have is that we have to be part of the wishes of the broader context of legislation as laid out by the federal government. It is imperative and important and fundamental to our own civil servants that we are fully in sync with the federal government’s guidelines.
I would be interested in knowing whether the member has any comments on those particular areas. Maybe one of the problems we have is that Ontario is not the leader in pensions that many of us want us to be. I will comment on this in more detail when I am speaking to the bill shortly, but I am particularly interested in the member commenting on that.
Mr Pouliot: As I listened very carefully to what our critic the member for Sault Ste Marie (Mr Morin-Strom) had to say, I came away appalled and shocked. I had assumed that the people who toiled for a number of years serving their employer, the province, very well would be fully indexed. I am finding out with Bill 36 that they are not.
I had assumed that people were the recipients of a detailed account or statement of where the money was invested and at what rate, and they are not. I had assumed that the main plan, which is I understand fairly well funded, with a surplus, would supplement the indexing plan and, again, it is not. I had assumed that for decades the plan was getting top rates from the marketplace. Again, it was not.
It seems to me that I have to arrive at the following conclusion: that for a number of years the government of Ontario used the money from its employees to fund the province and, therefore, to lessen their portion.
I had assumed that the Ontario Public Service Employees Union would get some representation, and it does not. I find it difficult to believe that systematically and deliberately the province of Ontario, because of its mistake, its lack of planning and its lack of taking its responsibility, will go to the pockets of its own employees and impose an additional one per cent on their pension. I am simply, in conclusion, both appalled and shocked.
Mr Philip: I have a question of the previous speaker on the buyback provisions. As I read the bill, it seems to me that this buyback provision is more restrictive than under the previous legislation. The two-year requirement will make it difficult for a number of people to participate and buy back, whereas under the previous provision they had a much longer period in which they could involve themselves.
Many of the people that I know who are interested in buying back can afford it only at that time in their lives when the children have gone to high school and perhaps university and therefore they are in a position later in life to buy back. As I understand it, the legislation will not apply to these people because they will have been disqualified by that time by the two-year requirement.
I wonder if the member would like to clarify that, since I think it shows that this legislation actually takes things away that public servants already had, rather than giving anything new to them. Perhaps that is why the representatives of the public servants are so strongly opposed to this legislation.
Mr Morin-Strom: I am pleased to be able to react to some of the comments that were made. With respect to the concerns of the member for Markham (Mr Cousens), in my view, the changes that are required by the Pension Benefits Act are changes which are already in force today as a result of the Pension Benefits Act. So the inclusion of those changes to this act is a matter of fairly meaningless window-dressing to the bill in terms of claims that they have actually done something in the bill when in fact they have not done anything in the bill.
There are several things they have attempted to do, but these particular ones are things that bring this act into line with what has already come into force with the Pension Benefits Act. This is an attempt by the government to take credit for something in this bill, presumably to help sell the fact that it is asking for an extra one per cent contribution from all of its employees while really providing them with nothing new and nothing they did not already get from the Pension Benefits Act.
I certainly agree with the comments of the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot): the government has used these funds as a handy investment tool and has not used them to ensure full indexing of pension benefits. I agree with the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale (Mr Philip), the buyback provisions are a good news-bad news story. The good news is you have the right to buy back some past service; the bad news is it is going to be at such a level that you will not be able to afford to do so. Those provisions are going to cause very serious hardship for many employees of the province of Ontario.
Mr Cousens: This is an important bill. It affects all of the employees of the province of Ontario and I see this as an important opportunity to participate in this debate, especially on these proposed changes to the Public Service Superannuation Act. I served on the pensions committee. I think it was in 1981-82 when we met and I attended some 77 different meetings. At that time the present Premier (Mr Peterson) was part of that committee as we looked at proposing and considering changes to the Pensions Benefits Act. It is a very complex matter and one of the most important subjects we could touch on in relation to our own employees.
I think it also touches on the fact that all of us in the province have to be putting a special emphasis on pensions. It happens very quickly that you are, suddenly, at an age where you do not think when you are 20 or 25 how important it is that you put aside a certain amount of money every year or every day that can be put in a little pot to help you retire in a way and a means that is going to allow you to be comfortable and enjoy the rest of your days. The fact of the matter is that we in the province have a level of responsibility to all our employees to make sure we have a program that is fair and equitable, one in which both the government pays its fair share as the employer and also all those people who are part of our civil service are able to participate in in a meaningful and good way.
It is in that regard that I asked the question of the member for Sault Ste Marie as it relates to the changes in the present act that are really required because of federal legislation. I happen to believe that a lot of the initiative for the federal changes came from our own pension committee of the province of Ontario. Even before the issue became something that everybody was thinking about here in this Legislature, members from all parties were sitting down spending long hours, receiving presentations and proposals and trying to find solutions to it.
We have a major opportunity to come up with solutions that will have a long-term benefit for these employees. We also have a responsibility and that responsibility is one that is shared between the government and the participants in the plan.
We also have a responsibility to the federal law to make sure that what we are doing here coincides with the guidelines that are delineated by federal legislation.
I think we have a step further that this bill does not go to and we will be looking under separate legislation on how to deal with our teachers. I wish there was more we could do that would allow us to become involved --
Hon Mr Black: You had a number of years to do something; you did nothing.
Mr Cousens: The member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay, in speaking out, says that we had a number of years to do something but did nothing. The fact of the matter is that the honourable member was not here back in the early 1980s when many of us were very involved in this. It is not just something that you can call a quick, easy issue to deal with, and if the member is trying to be simplistic on it, then I would hope Mr Speaker will allow this very outspoken new frontbencher sitting in the back row to have a chance to speak up when there is the opportunity, when I have finished my remarks. I would be more than pleased to sit and listen to him with my mouth shut if he could do the same thing while I am in the process of trying to make my remarks.
Mr Carrothers: That would be a new experience.
Hon. Mr Sweeney: Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Mr Cousens: I would try, anyway, and he would be very trying, I can assure you, Mr Speaker.
Mr Kerrio: If you were a Catholic, you would be in the confessional for a week.
Mr Cousens: I do not want to go into the confessional because the member might be there behind the booth.
This bill is both complex because of the nature of what it deals with and the matters with which it deals. The mysteries of the actuarial science are not accessible to most of us and fund valuations and performance forecasts and projections are an uncertain business at best. I think that is one of the problems that has really made pensions a difficult subject for common laymen in the province of Ontario who really do not stop and consider the impact on their long-term financial stability by thinking now on what they should and can be doing in setting money aside, whether it be through a registered retirement savings plan, a company plan, or any other kind of program they can get into.
Because of the complexity of it, many people stay away from this subject and it is to their own detriment. Certainly, we in this Legislature are going to have to deal with it in a very big way, especially as we deal with Bill 36 and with some of the reports that come out of it, which I will be touching on shortly.
This bill is important because it will have a direct impact on more than 80,000 contributors and on more than 30,000 pensioners of the public service superannuation fund. The matters addressed by this bill will directly affect the ability of plan participants to save for retirement and the ability of current and future pensioners to enjoy the benefits guaranteed by the pension promise.
While the focus of attention will no doubt be on plan contributors and pensioners, we should not lose sight of the fact that this bill will also have a direct impact on the Ontario taxpayer. It is, after all, the Ontario taxpayer who stands behind the government’s guarantee of the pension promise and who, through the government, makes matching contributions to the pension fund.
In my view, as the House deals with this bill, we must assess the adequacy and equity of its provisions by subjecting the bill to two primary tests: fairness for the plan contributors and pensioners, and fairness for the taxpayer.
Members in this House are aware that this bill is before us because of two major developments. The first of these is the need to amend both the public sector and teachers’ superannuation legislation to conform with the provisions of the Pension Benefits Act, 1987.
To that end, the bill will provide for the adoption and incorporation into the public sector plan of the 1987 act’s provisions regarding such matters as vesting, the 50 per cent rule and survivor benefits.
I would just hope that everyone in this province begins to appreciate the kind of thinking that has gone into the federal bill and that now becomes a benefit through this bill that is passed: early vesting, the 50 per cent rule and survivor benefits.
Mr Speaker, you just cannot begin to realize how far we have come in a very short time, because in those meetings that I attended in the early 1980s, these were still fresh ideas that had not really been fully distilled, fully considered, and were not understood by a large number of people.
For many people who have moved from job to job to job, because they have not been there long enough in order to have their pension vested, it has really left them at a stage, when they are in their late 40s or early 50s, of not having that money accumulated in one pot. Now they are going to have that chance through this kind of thinking.
Here in the province of Ontario, we will be giving leadership to that. The leadership certainly came from the federal government, but again we have to understand that it is in the best interests of all people that we do this kind of thing.
I would anticipate that most of these measures would be noncontroversial. When I asked questions of the member for Sault Ste Marie, I was interested in his comments. I think he was somewhat facile in his response when he just called this bill window-dressing. I do not think he would find that is a comment that comes from people in the public service.
I think those four provisions I was asking about are in fact essential, and for them to come along and take a lot of credit for that is really the kind of thing I would take exception to, because this bill is a necessity based on what the federal government has done. I think that is the point I was trying to make. If that is the point the member for Sault Ste Marie was making, then I would agree with him.
I doubt that the same can be said for the provisions in this bill that are designed to respond to the second major development which led to the introduction of this piece of legislation.
As members who have followed this issue will know, the government over the past two years has commissioned and received a number of reports which identified a potentially serious funding and financing problem in the superannuation adjustment benefits fund. Both the Rowan report on the investment of public sector pension funds and the Coward report on the financing of benefits under the Superannuation Adjustment Benefits Act raised questions about the financial status of the adjustment fund related to what Coward described as large and growing unfunded liabilities of the Superannuation Adjustment Benefits Act.
The financial instability of the Superannuation Adjustment Benefits Act in turn called into question the ability to maintain the pension promise of indexation in a manner which would not result in an unfair intergenerational transfer of wealth and responsibility.
I am sure all members appreciate that we are not talking about nickels and dimes when we talk about the unfunded liability in the superannuation fund under the Superannuation Adjustment Benefits Act. Coward’s projections, assuming an inflation rate of four per cent, show that after 1993, in the absence of any changes to plan financing, the unfunded liability in the public service adjustment fund would be an estimated $2.6 billion and that the unfunded liability in the superannuation fund would be a projection of $5.9 billion. This would mean essentially that the Ontario taxpayer would be on the hook for an $8.5-billion deficit in the indexation fund.
While the situation we are facing today is not quite that bad, it is still sobering to realize that the unfunded liability is currently estimated at $5 billion, about $1.7 billion of which is attributed to the public service adjustment fund, and the government and the taxpayers really will be accepting responsibility for that deficit.
To help put the funds on a more secure financial footing, the government has proposed a number of changes to the financing structure and management of the pension fund, including an increase of one per cent in the contribution rate, changes to provide for the investment of the fund in the marketplace and the merger of the basic and indexation funds, to mention three of the measures that have attracted the most public comment.
Of these three measures, I suspect that the provision to allow for the investment of the fund in the market will enjoy the most widespread support and encounter the least opposition. As noted in the Rowan report, both the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union have proposed that a portion of the public service superannuation fund be invested in market investments.
To that degree, we really see a number of the suggestions that have come through from the Rowan report and as well from the Coward Report to the Treasurer of Ontario on the Financing of Benefits under the Superannuation Adjustment Benefits Act and Association Superannuation Plans. I would just like to comment, if I could, on both these reports.
First of all, I happen to agree very strongly with one of the recommendations that comes out of the Rowan report on the implementation of its own task force recommendations. What they have asked for is that there be four stages of the review. First, there should be a public review and comment phase. I have to question this Legislature on the degree to which there has been that kind of public review and comment. I think there has been among the educated and among the Legislature, but to what degree has it filtered down through to the grass roots?
I would like to ask as well, to what degree, in the second part of the implementation program, the legislation preparation and approval phase, has this legislation that has been prepared by this government really had that opportunity on the part of our employees to comment intelligently and in time to react to it?
An organizational phase would be the next phase, and finally there would be the investment phases over a three-year period.
What we are talking about is a series of conclusions and recommendations that have been made by the Rowan report. I would like to touch on some of them by virtue of their nature and the impact they have on just the investment that we are talking about that is part of this pension plan.
What they are talking about is $16.7 billion, or 45 per cent of all public sector pension fund assets, invested in nonmarket government debt and at rates a return below that which could be achieved if invested in diversified portfolio of market investments. That becomes one of the key points we have to look at. Any pension fund should be allowed to grow as fast as it possibly can so that the beneficiaries of that plan are able to benefit from it so that they are not being used by the government for a source of cheap, cheap money.
That has really been one of the major problems of the pension plan; it has been used as a source where a greedy government can come along and take those funds at a cheaper rate and then the loser happens to be the people there. By taking this legislation and allowing the funds to grow at a higher rate through investments in the free and open marketplace, then everyone is going to benefit, except for the government, and the government should not be necessarily benefiting by virtue of taking it out of the backs of its own employees.
Another conclusion, which I agree with, is that Ontario taxpayers could potentially benefit by at least $1.2 billion over a period of 10 years if the teachers’ superannuation fund, the public service superannuation fund, the superannuation adjustment fund and Ontario’s Canada pension plan funds were invested in market investments -- a rather simple statement that makes an awful lot of sense.
Another conclusion that was drawn is that economic enhancement can best be achieved if public sector pension funds are invested in the capital market. We have to realize, when we look at what the capital market is, if I am correct, that it has to do with property and how it increases and escalates in value at a far faster rate than almost anything else. If we look at the capital market versus the stock market, we realize that those people who have made those investments have seen them grow in a significant way.
Another conclusion, and I am not going to touch on all their conclusions, is that the taxpayers’ interest is not adequately taken into account in a number of public sector pension funds. That is one of the things I will be looking in this bill for when it goes to committee and when there are far more discussions on this than can be had in this House with our debates that go on. We want to really understand what commitment the government is making on behalf of the taxpayers.
The taxpayers right now are faced with all kinds of unfunded liability in the Workers’ Compensation Board. We are faced with a deficit that this government has accumulated through continued overspending, and now we are talking about the same kind of continuation of a government that says: “Well, we don’t have to worry about it today. Another generation will have to worry about it.” That becomes a fundamental mistake for the future generations in the province.
We here in this House today have to make sure that what we do and how we do it are economically sound now and for the future and not something that just sort of accommodates a need that is enunciated by the Treasurer, but something that has long-term ramifications and understands that the people who really pay the bills in this province are the people out there who make up Ontario. They expect an awful lot more of us in this Legislature to make sure that we are taking their interests seriously and that we are not just paying lipservice to it.
I believe strongly that any plan we are putting into effect here has to consider who is footing the bill. I have touched on that in my earlier remarks, but it has to do with the government’s responsibility, the employee’s responsibility, but as well the importance of our understanding that the taxpayers’ interest must be understood and appreciated and incorporated into our thinking. I venture to say that this is one of the flaws of the DP government, that in fact the displaced government of the Premier has really failed to appreciate the costs of government, the costs of running things, and just loads more on the backs of the people of Ontario. The middle-income earners are the ones who are paying the shot, and anything we do here that affects good business and anything else should be considering their needs.
Some of the recommendations that come out of the report -- and as you can see, it is a very thick report of close to 400 pages -- have to do with the fact that public sector pension fund investment should be and must be further centralized. It is that kind of thinking that I am looking for in the bill that is before us today. Another point is that the government should not direct public sector pension funds to make particular kinds of investments. It is not for us or any individual to come along and try to make those decisions. They should be made by those most capable of making them and making them properly.
One of the points here that is low down in the Rowan report recommendations is that the cost of pension benefits should be assessed in a total compensation context. Why can we not do that with everything the government is doing, to say there is a real sense of knowing the costs of what we are doing here as it affects any ministry, any department or any action of this government. You do that when you are buying something in your own home. You do that when you put away your own pension plan contributions for your RRSP. So too it should be the model of action by this government, so that we are able to put things into the proper context and understand what all the cost ramifications really are.
I believe this bill that we are reviewing, Bill 36, should be held up against the Rowan report to see in whose interest the bill is really written and that it is in the interest and the best interest of all, not only the government and the people who are part of the pension plan, but also the taxpayers, who will fund it ultimately.
There is an urgency to this whole process. That comes through in the report prepared by Mr Coward from William Mercer. The fact is, when you start looking at it all in detail you realize that we are dealing with a lot of numbers and that we really need to have some kind of actuarial background.
Dealing with the concept -- and the concept that he has is in his recommendations -- he has made a number of recommendations and he has looked at it in a very commonsense way, but he is saying action should be taken with a minimum of delay to phase out the superannuation funds and to put the funding on a sound basis.
If there is anything that I and the party I represent stand for it is to have these pension plans established on a basis that is economically sound, that makes sense and that will stand the test of time. Indeed, that is why when this is referred to committee there will be an opportunity for us to deal with it quickly and intelligently and fully.
There are a number of problems that I would like to address with regard to the bill. One has to do with the way there is going to be the creation of a board that will deal at arm’s length from the government called the Public Service Pension Board. I would hope that when it goes to committee, there would be some review of the composition of this board. As I understand it, and as the legislation reads, the Public Service Pension Board will be composed of at least three members. They will be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council for a term no longer than three years, with a total term, including reappointments, of any individual member limited to six consecutive years. They would be responsible for the administration of the plan, benefit adjudication and investment management for the fund, and they would be required to submit an annual report to the Chairman of Management Board.
I have several problems with that. I think there are benefits to having the number of people on a committee limited to three if you have got good appointments, but what is happening is that when this government is making appointments to any kind of committee there is that opportunism that takes place where you end up having Liberals being appointed to different posts. I would like to find some way in which the appointees to the Public Service Pension Board will not just be the hacks of the Liberals of the province.
I would like to find some way in which any appointments that are being made to any board will have a cleansing process in which appointees’ names will be at least sent to a committee of the Legislature so that we will have a chance to review their capability and their interests, possibly to assess any kind of political interference in their appointment -- I call it political interference in that it may well be the president of someone’s Liberal riding association, and because this person happens to have worked in some --
Mr Velshi: Is that what you did, Don?
Mr Cousens: No, that is not what I did. But that is the kind of thing this government has a chance to clean up. Before this government took office, it said it was going to run a very clean government. I do not have the sense that it is clean. I look at the Minister of Education (Mr Conway). He is a clean-cut fellow, and I would say that he really is, but it does not really convey that cleanliness by virtue of the appointment process.
When this bill goes to committee, there will be an opportunity for us and people of the committee to understand the criteria that will make up those appointees. It would be important and valuable and beneficial to all of us to know that this government is not just going to appoint the minister’s riding president as chairman of the Public Service Pension Board because he happens to be good with numbers. We need to have far more into it than that.
Hon Mr Conway: What about my relatives who run the local Tory association?
Mr Cousens: I would say that they would fall under the same judgement that I just gave. I would hope that there is not going to be any preferential treatment for anyone except for the kind of person who is capable of doing a job that is going to be in the best interests of all the people; and I mean the people who will be served by the pension, by the province of Ontario and by our taxpayers.
I am satisfied that there are parts of the bill that need to be changed to accommodate federal legislation: the expanded eligibility criteria, to give the optional plan membership to contract, part-time, unclassified and seasonal employees. I see this as an important step forward for the many people who do not have a full-time job; they do not necessarily need a full-time pension, but to give them that opportunity to participate in the plan is something that is a progressive step. I see it as something that can be very beneficial.
I wonder if the minister, when he is commenting on this, or my friend the member for Oakwood (Ms Hošek), when she is commenting on it, would be aware of how this will apply with some of the municipal agreements that exist. For instance, the Toronto Transit Commission has a situation that is now before an adjudicator, and we will not know the results of that for some time, but the commission is quite concerned about part-time employees. Maybe there is something that can be done in the definition of what is a part-time employee by virtue of their membership and their payment towards services and benefits that are part and parcel of their employment.
I am also in favour of the transfer and buyback provisions to improve portability. I know many people who are now at a stage in life where they do not have a good pension plan because they have not been able to carry it with them, and because the vesting at one time was 10 years in their place of employment they have ended up not staying in any place long enough to be able to carry forward the benefits of their earlier pension plan.
I also approve of the changes in the definition of a spouse to conform with the Family Law Act. I have a situation, quite candidly, of something that came before us in the standing committee on the Ombudsman, and I would hope that the parliamentary assistant to the Chairman of Management Board of Cabinet would look at situation E. The Speaker may well be apprised of it. I know that other members of this House who are part of the Ombudsman committee have been aware of the tragic circumstances of case E. This is a person who married a teacher.
I realize that the situation is not a perfect parallel with this act, but the situation could well apply because she married a person after he had started the pension, and because she had married him after he had started the pension and he died without an awful lot of notice, as it turns out she has not received a pension since because when his pension was made out it was made out to him alone so there was no survivor benefit because they were married after he had started taking the pension.
There are certain anomalies like that. I realize there is not a large number of them, but it is the kind of thing that we have considered in the Ombudsman committee, and I would be interested in knowing how this bill addresses it, if it solves it and if there is a way around it.
That is good news. I appreciate that the parliamentary assistant is nodding in the affirmative. That is good.
Miss Nicholas: Yes.
Mr Cousens: It was Mrs H. That is right. I was thinking it was E, and I was checking with the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale --
Miss Nicholas: He can’t remember these important things.
Mr Cousens: But I am glad the member for Scarborough Centre (Miss Nicholas) can. She has been very helpful once again. I think she should get another favour or something. She can speak after me.
I think the major sticklers on this legislation have to do with the contribution rate increase. I am concerned with how the government has dealt with this and the reaction that is being felt by the members of the unions. I have a sense that there has not been what one would call good communication. It is the kind of thing where the government comes along and announces it and does not really sit down and discuss with the employees just what its thinking is, how it is planning to do it and how in fact it can help both sides work together on it.
When this does go to committee, I would also like to know how the whole issue of planned management and the related matters of ownership of the surplus are going to be dealt with. There is a surplus in these funds; just how is it going to be allocated?
We are dealing with an important bill, It is one of those things that the government probably just wants to sort of slide through and have no one bother reading or understanding. The fact of the matter is, we owe it to all the employees who make up one of the best public services in Canada, if not the world, to make sure that we fight for their best interests, to make sure that their needs are properly assessed and understood, and as well to understand the balancing act we have to take as politicians who understand that there is not an endless pot, a bottomless pit from which we can continue to fund these services, but that there is a balance that will allow us to maintain integrity as a government but also maintain the trust that we have with those who help make this government strong.
I have to be very careful because very often when we are dealing with a bill like this, a few public service employees would have been involved in drafting it, but it serves the great majority and it really becomes a decision by this government how it is going to act in the future. It has to do with what is going to happen long into the future and greatly impacts the lives of those people who are presently our employees and who in the future will be retired and will be able to benefit from this the Public Service Superannuation Act.
It is a complicated bill. I am sorry there is not more time to go into it. I know that many others members wish to discuss certain aspects of it. I can assure members that I will be looking at it very carefully as it goes to committee. It is not something that I would like to see anyone make any mistakes on.
Mr Philip: I would like to basically deal with some of the essential principles, because I think that is what we are down to at second reading of this bill. It seems to me that we will have an opportunity to get into some fairly specific and detailed analyses during the committee hearings. We have already heard from the representatives of the employees, who say that they are opposed to this bill, that they think it is a backward step and that they will be bringing some fairly detailed criticism of the bill.
Perhaps the Liberal government members of this House will say that I have an overly simplistic view of pensions, but pensions, in my view, belong to the employees. As a social democrat, I happen to believe in the right of ownership; in a mixed society, that individuals have a right to own things and unless they are somehow in violation of some act or the rights of others, that they then are able to exercise that ownership and make decisions about that ownership. As one of the commercials on television says -- I believe it is for American Express -- ownership has its privileges. But in this bill, with pensions in Ontario, ownership does not have its privileges.
If I work hard and I save my money and I deposit my pennies or my money in the Province of Ontario Savings Office, which has continued to be highly restricted by this government, or even in a bank or a co-op, and eventually I go out and I buy an object, say, an automobile, I have the right, in owning that, to make certain decisions regarding that car. I can decide whether I want to invest more money in it. I can decide whether I want to have a transmission replaced with a remade transmission or a brand-new transmission. I can use that vehicle for recreation. I can decide to use it for earning extra money by delivering pizzas at night or whatever, selling Stanley Home products or Fuller brushes in my spare time. I can use it for a variety of efforts, including using that particular object to make more money for myself or prepare myself in some way for my future and that of my spouse and my family.
But what we see here is the right of ownership clearly infringed on by the state, because here we have in this legislation the rather sly intrusion into the private ownership of a pension plan. The chairman, Chairman Nixon, has decided that the state will make all the key decisions regarding the pensions that are owned -- I thought -- by the people who had worked so hard for them. So it is not the employees who are making the decisions but rather the government or the state -- the chairman of the board.
If we see the unilateral way in which this Liberal government has replaced the Public Service Superannuation Act and the Superannuation Adjustment Benefits Act, it can only be described as medieval. It is more than paternalistic. I guess it is feudalistic in the way in which they have approached it. How can we have a system in which the government says that it is talking to both the teachers and the public servants and then somehow comes back and says, “Well, no matter what they said, we are going to decide everything anyway, and we are going to impose an act, be it this act or the one that we will soon be dealing with concerning teachers’ retirement pension plan, and we are going to make all the decisions.”
One of the major credibility problems that faces this government, I believe, is that it says one thing and then does exactly the opposite. This government cannot expect private enterprise to behave responsibly and sensitively with its employees when the government does exactly the opposite to its employees. We have, it seems to me, common sense, a sense of fairness, which dictates that public servants should have the same collective bargaining rights as those in the private sector. In rejecting the recommendations of the Slater commission report, a report commissioned by the government and paid for by the taxpayers, it in fact is turning its face away from common sense and good labour relations procedures.
This bill is the result of the government’s mismanagement of a pension plan, either intentional or unintentional, and the employees are now being asked to pay heavily for the plan’s mismanagement or losses, be they intentional or unintentional. The so-called deficit in the plan simply would not exist if the government either had not mismanaged it or had used it for its own internal borrowing purposes.
If one follows the development of this legislation, he can see a de facto example of bargaining in bad faith. I know that we will hear more about this from the employees’ representatives when they appear before the committee holding the hearings on the bill, but in fact information that has come to us from both the teachers and public servants clearly indicates that the government was not bargaining. It was speaking at people rather listening to them or bargaining with them.
The position of the government is that the fund is underfunded and that is why it is necessary for employees to contribute extra. If there is a disagreement between the employees and the government, there is no independent adjudication of that disagreement. The books are not open and have not been open to the 50,000 employees who are affected by this plan, and therefore they must accept in faith what the Liberal government is saying, that somehow that extra one per cent is necessary.
If one looks at this government’s track record, and indeed the previous government’s track record, on this pension plan, one would have to ask why they should be believed. If they knew that it was going to lose money, why did they not take certain steps long ago to at least either pay equal to what was being paid in pension plan investments in the private sector or make other adjustments that would have been necessary so that the deficit would not have been created?
Now, of course, we find out that the government says it cannot openly deal with the union and, in fact, in an open way prove that there is a deficit. If, under this bill, by any chance there is a further deficit, the employees are going to be asked to pay even more. However, if by any chance there is a surplus, then the government can take a holiday from paying premiums into the pension plan. Conrad Black would have been proud of this pension plan. He would have said, “This is a great idea.”
When we got up in the House and we said how unfair it is that the Liberal government is doing nothing about the private sector and taking money out of the pockets of individual pensioners by allowing holidays from premiums if a pension plan does well, we were talking at that time about the private sector. We assumed that if the government was not prepared to deal with this legal robbery by the private sector of pension plans, at least when it brought in its own pension plan, it would not do that to its own employees. But it does. Under this legislation, if the plan does poorly, the employees have to pay. If the plan does well, the government gets a recess, and a recess is simply another way of saying that it does not have to live up to its obligations to put into the pension plan.
Even the most reactionary of business leaders accepts the right of employees to negotiate their pensions. This government obviously does not accept that right. If one can accept the information which has surfaced, albeit in fragmented form from the negotiators who have been talking to this government, be they the teachers or the public servants, one cannot help but conclude that the government has simply not negotiated on this issue.
This government likes to boast about how Ontario has a public service that is one of the best in the world, and I accept that. But if you are going to have a set of employees that you say are the best in the world, then you have to treat them that way. The most basic course in good employee management says that if you say one thing and do exactly the opposite, your behaviour will show that you are in fact telling lies to your staff, and your staff, in turn, will rebel in one way or another.
If we want our public servants to continue to feel that they are being listened to, that they are being consulted, then the government cannot introduce this kind of legislation. It simply goes contrary to even the most simplistic of management training programs. So it is bad management, not just bad economics.
This bill is creating a major morale problem in the public service, as well as among our teaching staff in this province. You cannot simply say to people they are important and then ignore consulting them, ignore involving them in those things that are the most basic issues concerning themselves; namely, the future of themselves and their families.
This bill is about the employee’s future, and you deal with that. You do not need to take a course in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to understand that if you remove the basic needs, then you create a morale problem where you cannot appeal to the higher needs and expect high productivity. So what we have is that this government undermines some of the basic principles, I think, of good management.
This is just one more example of broken promises by the Liberals. Members may recall how the Liberals in opposition and indeed, I believe -- I stand to be corrected -- maybe even under the minority government situation, promised that public servants would be treated the same way as other citizens in society. They said public servants would be allowed to participate openly in a democratic process as long as that participation did not involve an attack or the release of information on something that they personally were responsible for as public servants.
We all see what happened to that. Public servants do not have the right of ordinary citizens when it comes to speaking openly about policy, regardless of whether or not that policy involves their own ministry or not, or indeed in participating in the normal democratic process of ordinary citizens.
After breaking that promise then, one could not expect much different, I suppose, on this. We had the promise from the Liberals before the last election that they would bring in legislation that would deal fairly with both public servants and teachers, and now we see that they have brought in legislation which is not acceptable to either group.
One could expect this to happen, I suppose, if he looked -- and my colleague has pointed it out earlier. We saw the atrocious actions of this government when it came to even recommendations by the Ombudsman vis-à-vis the teachers’ superannuation plan. When this Liberal government ignores the fairminded, independent adjudication of the Ombudsman, the recommendation of the standing committee on the Ombudsman, an all-party committee, in dealing fairly with the spouses, with the widows, if you want, of teachers’ pensions; when it rejects the fairminded recommendations of the Ombudsman in areas like that, in dealing with widows of retired public servants or retired teachers; when it ignores that kind of recommendation, one cannot expect that somehow it would come in with a fair plan and keep its promise on the pensions to teachers and to public servants.
The courts, in recent judgements, have been fairly clear. There is a major theme running through their decisions, and the theme runs contrary to the thrust of the previous Conservative governments and the present Liberal government. It basically says that the owners of the pension plan are the employees themselves. Thus, this legislation is not only contrary to common sense, it is not only contrary to good management, it is also contrary to the major thrust, I think, of recent court decisions.
Perhaps the public servants could accept the extra one percent increase in contribution levels, notwithstanding the fact that they had no say in the mismanagement that has created the necessity, a necessity which the government still has not proved, but none the less they did not contribute to that. It was of the government’s making, not the public servants’ making. They might even accept that if the government at least came clean and said, “From now on, we are going to be equal partners with you in the running of this plan.”
But the government does not do that. If you look at section 29 of this bill, what you see fairly clearly is that the only mention of participation by the employees themselves is not that they even have to be appointed, as they did under the old bill -- at least they had one representative under the old act -- they do not even have to have a representative under this. All it says, under sections 29 and 30, is that if they are appointed, they are not going to get paid for it. They are not going to get paid extra for being on that board.
Not only is there not a requirement that they have representation, but it says: “If you do have representation, you are the only guys who are not going to get paid for that representation. We are going to appoint our people. They are going to be paid out of your pension funds to administer this plan. We will decide who they are, and you are going to pay for it. You are going to have no say as of right, and whether you like it or not, here is an extra burden on the pension plan.”
It does not specify what they will be paid, but we may be sure that it is going to be one more Liberal government boondoggle to its friends and supporters, another appointment to another board to run this pension plan at the cost of the employees.
Mr Pouliot: DelZotto and Patti.
Mr Philip: Yes. My colleague says DelZotto and Patti Starr. I am sure Ms Starr will not be appointed to anything for a while. None the less, there are other Patti Starrs out there, I am sure, who will get appointments.
It seems to me that if public employees are forced to pay eight per cent of their paycheques into a pension plan, then at least they should have an equal control over that. What we are talking about is an average salary between $24,000 and $28,000. We are talking about people who are paying heavily, who are willing to sacrifice out of their paycheques and out of their present family expenses, in order to have a future and in order to have a pension plan for themselves and their spouses when they are older.
But in so doing, if we are asking them to make that kind of sacrifice off their present table, out of their family budgets, then at least they should be granted an equal say in what is happening to that; at least they should be granted some influence. When I go around the province, when I talk to people in private business, we see how those pension plans are administered jointly, many of them. In some cases, the employees have more representation than the employer over the pension plan and a lot more control.
In this case, the public servants are going to be at the whim and the caprice of any government that wishes to use the plan in any way it sees fit. For years they used it to supplement their own borrowing. They have created a deficit. Now the employees are going to be asked to pay for that deficit without any kind of proof, without coming forward with the books, without a sharing of the information of how that extra one per cent was arrived at.
I cannot accept that that is fair. I cannot accept that it is good management. I cannot accept that it is in any way either fair to the taxpayer or fair to the employees who, I think, have served the citizens of Ontario well. It is a shoddy way for an employer to treat its employees, and it is particularly shoddy when it is the government treating its 50,000 or so employees whom it expects to perform more than overtime every day.
Therefore, I will be voting against this bill. I am looking forward to the hearings that we will be having. I think the hearings will show what a ripoff this is, not just of the employees, but also of the taxpayers, and not just with this bill, but over a series of years by both the Liberal government and the previous Conservative governments.
The Acting Speaker: I would ask all colleagues of the House, including the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) and the Minister of Education -- strange as it would appear, I was attempting to listen to the honourable member and it was most distracting -- if you would like to hold court to do so at the back lobby.
Mr Philip: I just wanted to say that I did not find it distracting. The Liberals, obviously, paid as much attention to my speech as they did to the employees who were trying to negotiate a fair deal.
Mr Morin-Strom: I would like to commend my colleague the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale for the analysis that he has done on this bill. I look forward to working with him on the concerns that have been raised by the public servants of Ontario. This bill will be going into committee and we will certainly be raising their concerns with respect to the unfair representation and lack of representation that this bill provides, in fact taking away rights that they had previously.
I do agree with the Speaker’s concern with respect to certain Liberal members of this Legislature who want to use our chambers as a meeting room while debate on a bill such as this is supposed to be taking place. I think they would be doing more of a service to the Legislature if they were willing to stand up and actually defend their government’s record on pensions, and in particular this bill.
It is quite interesting that the Liberals in fact do not have any defence of their position on this bill and have not been able to participate in putting any claim of authenticity behind their efforts to provide any type of pension plan improvements to the public servants of Ontario. One would question why a caucus which has some 94 members is unable to find more than one member able to defend this bill that is presented to the Legislature and that is under debate today.
Mr Ballinger: I have been sitting in the House during the last three or four speakers and I think the honourable member for Etobicoke-Rexdale did a very adequate job of putting forth his arguments as he believes them. But quite honestly, for the member for Sault Ste Marie to stand in his place and say that nobody on this side of the House is listening -- I mean the mere fact that we do not agree with the speaker does not mean we are not listening. Just because some of us are not posing in the debate all of the counterarguments to some of the points -- I would not say outlandish points -- that are being made by the New Democratic Party caucus, that is our prerogative.
If we want to sit here and listen, we will listen. If we want to debate, we will debate. But if I want to debate with the honourable member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, as an example, about his position and his arguments with the various amendments that have been posed, I will choose another time. I am quite happy to sit here today and listen to the honourable members on the opposite side of the House bring forth their arguments on what they believe this bill should do.
The Acting Speaker: The honourable member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.
Mr Philip: I just want to thank the two previous members for their comments.
The Acting Speaker: Order. I have made an error. The honourable member for Scarborough Centre on questions and comments.
Miss Nicholas: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I think I stood up well in advance. I should wave next time.
I just wanted to use a few minutes to comment on the honourable member for Etobicoke-Rexdale’s specific comments with respect to the case of Mrs H, which came before the standing committee on the Ombudsman and I think he so rightly said that the Ombudsman made a recommendation to allow Mrs H to be compensated.
I think the legislation that we have before us today shows how interested the Ministry of Education was in following through on the recommendation which the standing committee made, which was to find a way for Mrs H to be paid the pension of her deceased spouse. We owe congratulations to the Ombudsman, to the committee and to the ministry for pursuing this further, having the working group look into how Mrs H could be compensated and then in fact having it come forward in legislation that will ensure that Mrs H does receive her deceased spouse’s pension.
I think it just shows how responsive the various ministries have been. They have made every effort to attend before the committee during my tenure as chair of the Ombudsman committee to find and pursue a way that Mrs H could be compensated. They felt, as I recollect, that they could not force the pension fund to pay her, so they made legislation to enable her to be paid. Rather than perhaps slap them on the wrist, we should be congratulating them today.
Although it has taken one year since our recommendation, I think that we all would think that is a fairly expeditious process in the legislative agenda and that we should all revel in the fact that she will be paid and she will be paid when this goes through the legislation. I just wanted to add those few comments.
The Acting Speaker: I thank the honourable member for Scarborough Centre and apologize for not recognizing her on rotation.
Mr Philip: I want to thank the first two speakers. I know that both of them did listen to my speech, that both of them always listen to my speeches, that both of them try to understand my arguments and that regardless of which side of the House they are on, they were both being attentive. I appreciate their comments.
With regard to the valuable contribution of the member for Scarborough Centre, I can say this, first of all, that this bill does not affect Mrs H because this bill does not deal with teachers’ superannuation, but with public servants’ superannuation. In regard to the particular recommendation of the Ombudsman, the fact is that this government ignored the recommendations of the Ombudsman, it ignored several recommendations of the committee that could have solved the problem for a very senior widow who was in a dire situation and who deserved on the merits of the case to be compensated. This government turned its back on her, and I think that my argument still stands.
I do not in any way question the fact that the member for Scarborough Centre did have a personal concern, as did all members of the committee, for Mrs H. But Mrs H will not be helped by this legislation and Mrs H certainly is not being helped by the Liberal government’s failure to implement the recommendations of either the Ombudsman or the members of the committee, of which the member for Scarborough Centre was one and was quite sincere in trying to get a solution, and I compliment her for that.
The government did not listen to her or to other members of the Liberal caucus in dealing with the problem, nor did it listen to the Ombudsman. So I think that it does show that while certain members, such as the member for Scarborough Centre, are sincere in trying to get some changes, whoever is running things from the Premier’s office does not seem to be listening to them, any more than the government is listening to the public servants in this province.
Mr Pouliot: I take no particular pleasure in partaking in this debate, but I feel compelled to. Some people have to defend the rights of colleagues who have served the public, who have served the province for many, many years, the people who really run the show. Once people like ourselves, as legislators, pass legislation -- it is our duty -- they are the people who carry the will forward. They monitor compliance, ensure an orderly society and do so without complaining.
They may toil for 10, 15, 20 or 25 years, and in some cases 30 or 35 years or more, unlike people in this Legislature who I understand maximize their pension benefits after a relatively short 15 years. As I read the benefits available to members, I further understand, and I stand to be corrected, that it is the most lucrative three years for members of this House. I also understand that it is through the Speaker’s office that indexation takes place for members of this House; it will be adjusted at the discretion of the Speaker.
It is very straightforward and very simple. It is a short term by any standard, 15 years, and it is vested after five years and indexed via the mechanism or the vehicle of the office the Speaker occupies. The same does not apply for the public service. What the government intends through Bill 36 is to charge an additional one per cent in contributions. When you get the paycheque, instead of paying seven per cent of the money you earn towards your pension plan, you will now pay an additional one per cent, so it makes it eight per cent of your paycheque.
The government tells you that you will be fully indexed or that you will be indexed to the tune of eight per cent. There are some welcome provisions: If you have a six per cent inflation rate, the consumer price index going up by six per cent in one year, yes, you will be able to bank two per cent in case of a rainy day.
What the government does not tell you is that it is unable to produce a statement. I would not mind too much if it took seven or eight per cent of my paycheque towards my retirement. I would see it as deferred wages. For every hour that I worked -- in this case, for the government today -- I could look to the future with a degree of comfort because I would know I was investing eight per cent.
Is it not normal to ask, since it is taking eight percent out of my paycheque, Where it is going? How is the money being invested? Am I getting a competitive rate? Am I getting a T-bill, a Treasury bill? Am I getting a maturity of three, six months or a year? Am I getting guaranteed investment certificates? Am I getting strip bonds where the coupons are stripped through a government vehicle? Where is my money going? Was it invested in a trust fund? Is there any front-end load? Are there any penalties? Do I have any options?
But no, for the money I give I do not get a statement. I get a statement, sure, telling me how much money I have in the fund, but I do not have a statement that the money has been invested in A, B and C. The teachers do. The teachers get a full statement. There is $14 billion in that fund. They get a statement. They know where they stand. They know what their money is doing for them. But we all know that through the years, for more than a decade, the government was very apt at taking the contributions from the workers for its own financing, to finance the needs of Ontario, in lieu of going to borrow it in the marketplace.
Very often, year after year, and this is a fact, it compensated the employees to the tune of the difference. It was about three per cent. If the employee would have gone to the Royal Bank or Royal Trust, she or he would have got a full three per cent more.
The government claims it was paying their shares. You do not have to be a mathematical genius like my distinguished colleague the member for Sault Ste. Marie, a PhD, a person of consequence emanating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His figures will attest that on a compounded basis the share of the government became increasingly insignificant. In other words, as the money kept accumulating, it did not cost the government anything to guarantee what the plan would be. Now the government says, “We are going to go from seven to eight per cent of a paycheque.”
Where were they in yesteryear? They have a responsibility and it is not to fleece. It is not to pick the pockets of employees, those people who have served them so well. This is highway robbery. Where did my money go for the 10, 15, 20 or 25 years I have toiled for the betterment of my fellow man? What have they done with the money? Where has the money gone?
Mr Ballinger: Security.
Mr Fleet: Fearmongering when you suggest fleecing.
Mr Pouliot: They would not dare do it for their own pensions.
These people are not talking about the most lucrative three years. They are not talking about parliamentary assistants. They are not talking about chauffeur-driven ministers. A cynic -- I am not the one saying this -- would go as far -- this is the kind of invitation being sent as to what that this kind of legislation entails. It invites people to say in a worst-case scenario that the minister is paying for his pension with the funds being made available through his employees.
I do not accept that. I cannot. I would say those people are going too far to suggest that a minister of the crown, in order to subsidize his pension, would take it from his employees. The scenario is too facile. Regardless of the government of the day, this one or the ancien régime conservateur, that position would not be justified because it is not deliberately and systematically done, but it is done nevertheless.
I had the opportunity to respond to an invitation to debate what is being proposed, what is being done today, in the prominent and striving city of Thunder Bay. I was asked by employees: “Where is my statement? I have been working for the Ministry of Natural Resources for 25 years.” It is said: ‘Your courage is great indeed. You shall benefit.” They have asked me: “Mr Pouliot, where is my money going? What is it doing? Is it doing eight per cent, seven per cent? What is happening?” I said, “Give me a statement and we will do it together.” They turn with a passion and a vengeance to the minister and to the parliamentary assistant and also to the Minister of Natural Resources (Mrs McLeod) and those people were very disappointed.
It is as if every day of dedicated service was not being recognized. All they wanted -- a reasonable request -- was fair play. They wanted the proof that their money was invested wisely. I repeat for the benefit of the House that had the money, the hard-earned cash from the workers been invested at market rate -- no, not junk bonds, not fly-by-night promotional items, but security guaranteed by the government of Canada, guaranteed investment certificates and preferred not common shares from our chartered banks -- in proven vehicles and returns, not only would their benefits for decades have been enhanced by three per cent, but if that had been matched by the province of Ontario, I suggest to members very strongly that we would be facing a decrease in contributions.
We would go from seven per cent maybe to five per cent, a two per cent decrease as opposed to the negligence of saying: “We want more. You are now paying seven per cent but we are going to pick your pocket for one more, so that is going to make it eight per cent, the reason being that we gave you three per cent less on your money year after year. That is what we have done to you. We gypped you, we really did, because it was wiser and cheaper for us to take the money from your sacred pension plan than to go to the marketplace and issue debentures to the general public, because the public would not take those debentures at three per cent less, for you were not competitive.”
It was much easier to go to the civil servants and like sacrificial lambs, believing that what was being done was the best way, they trusted. Some of them were sceptics but let’s face it, who were they -- that is what the government said -- to complain. They had a contract. The government did not even bother giving them a statement.
The government told them it had invested so much money at three per cent and that is what it was getting them. You go to the civil servants and they are upset and rightly so because they are not getting value for their contribution. They never had a say about the money they themselves contributed. Tomorrow, the government will do it again. It will do it to the poor teachers of this province. The civil servants, the teachers, where will the government --
Mr Ballinger: Come on. Give us a break. Fully indexed pension with no contributions. What are you talking about?
Mr Fleet: Nonsense.
Mr Pouliot: It seems this government is insatiable. It never has enough. The 25,000 or 26,000 people in Hamilton told the government to a person: “We are not going to take it any more. You have gone too far with our money. Take the $14 billion in the pension fund and roll it into the other bank account and you will have more than to satisfy the projection of one, two or three different studies.”
It is not a very good day. With good management, vision, basic economic knowhow and dedication to expertise, this legislation should be a cause for celebration. It should read that “effective as soon as possible or immediately, the recipient of the benefit will also enjoy, since his money has been well administered, a decrease.” That is not what it says. It is an appalling and shocking one per cent.
Again, I am searching long and hard to commend the government, but I really think it deserves to be and shall be judged very harshly because what this proposal does is nothing short of -- at a time where constraints and restraints are being contemplated, the future does not look all that promising. It is simply one per cent less on the tables of the contributors in the province of Ontario.
Mr Runciman: I originally responded to the announcement in the House by the Treasurer some time ago, and certainly not as the Finance critic, but there is a tendency -- one which I do not agree with -- on this side of the House to respond to every statement the government makes.
When one is dealing with complex matters such as pension reform, I think perhaps it might be wiser in some situations to pause to reflect upon the implications of the announcements being made, but in this particular instance I had the ministerial statement tossed in my lap and I gave it a quick read and made a response. In essence, I indicated that at first blush it struck me as a responsible initiative on the part of the government.
I have some reservations. I do not purport to be an expert on this legislation. As members know, we have a limited number of members on this side of the House and I myself am critic for three ministries, so it is difficult to keep on top of the various pieces of legislation that pour before us. We do have some reservations, but generally I have not changed my first conclusion in respect to the one per cent increase in contributions especially.
The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale can talk about this, but let’s look at it from the perspective of most Ontarians. We know that most Ontarians do not have a benefit plan or pension plan. We know that most Canadians do not have a fully indexed pension plan, as the public service does in this province. I guess we have some difficulty with the demands being placed upon us as legislators.
There is no question that the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the teachers form a very potent political force in this province and can exert a great deal of pressure on all of us. We have been witnessing that over the past couple of months with the letters and postcard effort being undertaken by the teachers and others, and indeed, as the member for the socialist party indicates, we are going to see an increase in the pressure. I do not doubt that whatsoever.
I think we are here, in my view, to try as best we can to represent the interest of all Ontarians. The bottom line here, of course, as has been pointed out I am sure in the past, is that taxpayers are the folks who are making the contributions. We talk about the government, but in essence we are talking about the taxpayers of this province. We have a great deal of them, a great many people in this province, who are contributing through their taxes to a very fine pension plan.
The teachers’ plan is perhaps one of the best pension plans, if not the best pension plan in North America. We have many people in this province earning poverty level wages, certainly significantly lower wages than many people in the public service and in the teaching profession, contributing to this plan. As I said, it is one of the finest in North America.
I ask the teachers and the public servants in this province to reflect upon what they are saying to all of us as legislators and what they are saying to the people of this province in respect to where they stand on the social scale and the kind of lifestyle we all would like to see, but I think at the same time we have to be responsible in the demands we place upon the public Treasury.
I want to talk about the investments. I know there has been some criticism and perhaps there is some merit to this. The ancien régime conservateur perhaps does have to assume some of the responsibilities in respect to the investment decisions made, but there is no question that the fund was risk free. They were no-risk investments so that indeed the public service pension fund was protected. There can be some disagreement in respect to this.
I think the member for Sault Ste Marie described the fund as a cash cow for government. Again, we can talk about that as well in respect to the funds and the significant contribution made to that fund by the taxpayers of this province.
If we want to look at the other side of the coin, and it would be fair to do that, I think we have to look at the government when it is looking around to borrow funds and looking at the market and looking at the availability of funds to finance government projects. I think it is quite fair to take a look at that kind of a fund which has been built up to a significant extent by the contributions of taxpayers through their taxes, so that if, indeed, to finance any kind of a project -- a highway project or what have you, some sort of a capital investment -- the government of Ontario can receive some sort of benefit in terms of interest rate through drawing upon those dollars, with some restraint being exercised, obviously, it is not an unfair approach. I think we have to look at that side of the argument as well, if we want to be fair to the plan’s administrators of the past.
When we talk about unfunded liabilities, of course, again, we are talking about the burden falling on the taxpayers of the province.
I was a little concerned when I noticed that the government had appointed Malcolm Rowan to chair the committee looking at the investment of the public service pension funds because Mr Rowan is someone I recall from his days as a very important public servant in the government of Ontario. Mr Speaker, you will recall our colleague from Prince Edward-Lennox, Mr Taylor, and his views on Mr Rowan. Mr Taylor often said that during his tenure as a cabinet minister he was mugged in the corridors of power. He attributed that to no insignificant extent to one Mr Rowan.
My fondest recollections are of Mr Rowan as one of the major architects of the government’s investment in Suncor. Mr Rowan was the Deputy Minister of Energy and the rumour mill had it -- although we never really were able to determine who came up with the original idea to have government-run gas stations in every corner in Ontario -- that Mr Rowan was indeed the chap with that terribly bright suggestion, which I guess has cost the taxpayers at least $500 million.
I can stand here and speak about it because I was the lone member of the Conservative caucus at the time who disagreed with that decision. Time has borne me out in respect to that particular decision. So I must admit that I have some reservations when I look at the current government relying upon Mr Rowan, the man who made the recommendation to invest in Suncor, to tell it how to invest public service pension funds. I think we should perhaps look with a slightly jaundiced eye at Mr Rowan’s recommendations in that respect and take a look at his past service record and the result of some of the investment recommendations he has made to the government in the past.
I think the indexation formula is certainly a generous one. It is not one that members of this House enjoy and I do not believe we should, given the current climate in respect to individuals, residents of this province, not having pension plans.
As we know, the Minister of Financial Institutions at some point in the not-too-distant future is going to be bringing in legislation dealing with private sector plans and indexation and perhaps we should be taking a look at the formula at that point in light of the formula that was awarded many years ago to the public service and the teachers of this province. I think we are seeing more and more people, more and more private sector employers, moving away from defined benefit plans because of the horrendous red tape. The efforts of this government, especially in respect to initiatives regarding indexation, whereby they are moving more and more people out of the defined benefit field and into defined contribution plans, in many respects are unfortunate.
I share my colleague’s views that it would be helpful if this legislation went to committee so that the public service and others who have some concerns and some views to air have that opportunity. But overall, with concerns in respect to the public service having a voice at the table in respect to management of the funds, I believe we can indeed support that sort of thing.
I see by the notes given to me that one of the options is that it become a member-run plan, with the decisions being made by members’ representatives, and the key here is that the members themselves would be responsible for any future deficit. Again, speaking for myself and certainly not the party, because I do not know the critic’s views in respect to that particular proposal, I find that attractive.
Generally speaking, we believe the government is acting in a responsible manner. We believe it should go to committee, at least to provide the public service and others with the opportunity of having their views placed on the record.
Mr Morin-Strom: I would like to respond to the remarks of the member for Leeds-Grenville.
I assume the member indicates that at this point the Conservative Party will be supporting this bill. That seems to be a bit at odds with what the Conservative Party critic’s position had been. This member is known for his views being opposite to the views of the New Democratic Party and it is quite fascinating to see the level of support that this member’s views are able to generate from the back benches of the Conservative members who are here with us today. I would ask the member how his campaign for the leadership is going and whether he has hopes of bringing some of the right-wing elements of the Liberal Party on side with him, because it is quite clear that their inclinations are very much in line with this particular member’s views when it comes to these and many other economic and social matters.
The Acting Speaker: That sounds a bit risky.
Mr Ballinger: I would like to compliment the member for Leeds-Grenville. I, in no way, shape or form, could be considered right wing, as the previous member said. I think we should compliment the member for Leeds-Grenville for the insight and the fortitude he used a few moments ago in his speech. I am absolutely amazed that he recognized that the way to rectify a previous mistake is to do what is necessary.
I guess one of the problems I have had in listening to the NDP caucus is that the whole argument has been consistently that the government is going to extract out of the wages of the employees one per cent. I believe the member for Leeds-Grenville put the whole issue in perspective: that it is a partnership; it is one per cent from the employees and it is one per cent from the taxpayers of the province of Ontario.
Mr Pouliot: You can use this in your newsletter.
Mr Ballinger: I am going to use this in my newsletter, because I think it is a reasonable argument. I think, quite frankly, the member from the PC caucus surprised me. I must admit I am surprised. I was absolutely amazed and I want to say to the honourable member that I think he is turning over a new leaf in this Legislature. I do not think it has anything to do with left wing or right wing; what it has to do with is a reasonable ability to recognize a piece of legislation that makes sense.
I want to compliment the member for Leeds-Grenville and request that he keep up the good work on behalf of our side.
Mr Runciman: I regret that the member for Durham-York (Mr Ballinger) did not comment on my effort to parler français. Having all those compliments thrown at me from the member for Durham-York, I would like to have some time to reconsider my contribution to the debate.
In respect to the member for Sault Ste Marie suggesting that half of the Liberal caucus is to the right of centre, who knows? I certainly know that very few members of the executive council would be described as being to the right of centre in any way, shape or form. I think I have said over the years that some of the key players in that fearsome foursome certainly would, in my view, feel much more comfortable with my socialist friends. As I have once again pointed out, the Attorney General (Mr Scott), which I like to at every opportunity put on the record, is a former fund-raiser for the New Democratic Party.
Ms Bryden: My colleagues the member for Sault Ste Marie, the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale and the member for Lake Nipigon have done a very excellent job of pointing out the reasons why this party is voting against this bill, but I have further reasons that I want to bring before you.
This bill is the worst bill on pension rights that has ever come before this House. It takes away more rights than it grants. It is also the most shocking piece of legislation to come before us with the name of the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet (Mr Elston) as the sponsor. The Chairman of the Management Board is supposed to be the man or woman who runs the show, keeps the government ticking and engages in working out the government’s relations with its public servants -- its employees.
This bill affects 85,000 of the government’s employees, or former employees, but the minister leaves it up to his parliamentary assistant, the member for Oakwood, to introduce the second reading of this bill. I am shocked that the Chairman of Management Board did not consider it important enough to introduce this bill himself as the chief employer of the government’s 80,000 to 90,000 employees. I would have thought he would have considered it an obligation to lead the debate and to speak to those 85,000 public servants who are affected by this legislation.
This legislation arbitrarily requires pension plan members to pay an additional one per cent of their salary on top of the seven per cent they already pay. It does this unilaterally and with no improvement in benefit levels to the public sector employees working for the province of Ontario.
I am very surprised to see a Liberal government bringing in this kind of pension legislation. with no opportunity for making pensions a matter for collective bargaining. The government, under this bill, will retain total control over the management of the pension fund. It has rejected the idea of a partnership between the government and the contributors in administering this plan. Instead, it has brought in legislation which does nothing but create a conflict of interest. The government is acting both as legislator and employer.
It is not what one would expect from a small-l liberal government, but this Liberal government is showing us more and more clearly every day that it is no longer a small-l liberal government, if it ever was. This legislation is part of an alarming trend that we are seeing more and more clearly. It illustrates that the Liberal government does not believe in negotiating with its employees. It does not believe in collective bargaining on employees’ pension rights. It does not believe in fair treatment of its employees, it does not believe in developing a good employee/employer relationship.
I would have thought that a Liberal government would give leadership in those kinds of fields, but obviously this is not that kind of a Liberal government. It does seem to believe in revenue grabs and so it picks one of the most vulnerable groups of employees in this province to make another one of its many revenue grabs. The provincial Treasurer grabbed $1 billion in taxes two years ago and another $1 billion this year, after an election no-tax period.
This is another grab to make the employees pay for past maladministration for the pension funds, to make the employees pay for poor investments, to make the employees pay for what may be only an opinion by an actuary but are called actuarial deficits. These deficits should never have occurred if the plan had been properly managed. A government which expects its employees to pay for its financial mismanagement of its pension funds is not a fair government. It does not treat its employees like human beings. It is hitting many vulnerable people, people on small wages.
There are many other things in which it is not playing fair. In my time tomorrow I intend to talk about the issue of indexing. It is not giving us full indexing, it is not giving us the control over any future surpluses that grow up in pension plans, if the actuaries prove wrong or if the situation changes. It is not giving us full pension rights for all classes of employees, including many casual employees or contract employees. It is not giving adequate improvement in benefits which could be possible if it had not mismanaged the funds in the past and had considered other forms of investment.
Those are some of the criticisms of the bill which I intend to pursue in my comments tomorrow or whenever the debate continues. I think we have to look very carefully at this legislation and hope that we can defeat it and get proper pension legislation protecting all the public servants who will be covered by it in a much better way.
On motion by Ms Bryden, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1759.