The House met at 1332.
EDUCATION OF HEARING-IMPAIRED
Mr R. F. Johnston: In June 1988, this House passed a resolution that I presented to do with a review of deaf education. One of the reasons for so doing was that in all our provincial schools, of the 170 teachers, only a handful were actually deaf themselves. That inquiry has been proceeding for a long time.
I have just learned that this last spring the Robarts School in London decided to hire four new positions and brought eight people to be interviewed, three of whom were deaf, which is very progressive, and then ended up hiring four hearing people to fill those positions. I believe that is unthinkable at this time. Even more unthinkable is the fact that a senior bureaucrat here indicated that there was no need for an investigation of this; they had clearly just chosen the best people.
What is this government’s view of affirmative action, role models and employment equity? What kind of slap in the face is this to the deaf community at this time, especially now, when we put it together with the fact that the government has had in its hands both the internal and external reviews that have been done, which I believe make serious recommendations in this area, and yet it has suppressed the release of these reports to this day?
I am asking the Minister of Education (Mr Conway) to have an inquiry into why these positions were filled by hearing people and why none of the deaf people, including Jan Collie, who is now going to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, was hired for this position. In my view, it is just unthinkable.
Mr J. M. Johnson: On Saturday this week we will once again celebrate Remembrance Day. This year, 1989, also marks the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, a conflict in which 50 million people lost their lives. As we know, each year on 11 November, throughout the world nations pause briefly to remember those who gave their lives fighting for their countries. In communities across Canada, the day is marked by solemn ceremonies in commemoration of those who were killed in action during the two world wars and the Korean War and to pay tribute to those who served in the Canadian Armed Forces.
In keeping the spirit of Remembrance Day alive, the Royal Canadian Legion has played a leading role. I would like to pay tribute to all members of the legion, not only for their efforts in preserving the significance of Remembrance Day but for the outstanding contribution they make to the improvement of life in our communities across this province and throughout our great country.
Mr Tatham: The cuckoo bird comes in many sizes, from about 16 centimetres -- six and a half inches -- in the glossy cuckoos, to about 90 centimetres -- 36 inches -- in the larger ground cuckoos.
The one habit for which the cuckoos are best known is the habit of laying their eggs in the nests of other birds, to be incubated by the foster parents, who rear the young cuckoo. To enhance the survival of the young cuckoo, they practise egg mimicry. The young cuckoo also heaves from the nest its foster parents’ own eggs and nestlings.
So, junk fax in the form of unsolicited flyers for such things as restaurant menus, aluminum siding, flowers, etc. While the fax machine is spewing out unsolicited material, the machine is tied up, making it harder for owners to receive urgent documents or send material. The recipient of the unsolicited junk fax must pay for the electricity used to complete the transmission. The recipient must pay for the special thermal fax paper that is used up for the flyers. The cost of this special paper ranges from three to 10 cents a page. Moreover, using up paper at the receiving end leaves some machines unable to copy overnight messages.
Do you want any cuckoo eggs in your fax?
Miss Martel: It is time again to raise the matter of compensating workers from the General Electric Canada Inc Dufferin Street lamp plant. After the union publicly raised concerns of excessive breast and uterine cancers among workers in the coil and drawing department, a cancer study was finally undertaken. This occurred in 1982. It was funded by the Ministry of Labour, the company and the Workers’ Compensation Board and was conducted by specialists from McMaster University. In November 1986, the study was released and it showed a relationship between the cancers and work in the coil and drawing department. GE immediately attacked the results, even though the company had agreed to partially fund the study.
The study was referred to the Industrial Disease Standards Panel to seek a collective ruling and criteria for compensation of workers. In February 1989, the panel shocked the unions and the workers involved by announcing that there was not a probable connection between the cancers and the workplace. The labour representatives on the board opposed the majority and demanded immediate compensation of the workers.
The panel reported to the WCB, and the board then called for submissions to be filed in response. The unions involved were denied the opportunity of meeting directly with the WCB board of directors on the matter. On 10 October 1 was advised by Dr Elgie that the board’s recommendations would be presented to the board of directors and then published in the Ontario Gazette. I am not sure when this will occur.
It is high time the government told the WCB to compensate these workers and it is high time the panel was dissolved and replaced by a bipartite group truly concerned with compensating workers with industrial disease.
ELECTION IN NAMIBIA
Mrs Cunningham: I would like to take this opportunity recognize the first free elections set to take place in Namibia, today through Saturday.
Namibia is the last colony in Africa to seek independence. Although originally a German colony, Namibia has for the last seven decades been under South African rule. This sparsely populated colony is located on the southwest African coast, and today over 700,000 registered voters will be able to participate for the first time in casting their ballots for a preindependence, 72-member constituent assembly. This vote marks another first, and it is the first time that a colony is guided to independence under United Nations sponsorship.
Ontario is helping to make this transition easier. Warren Bailie, Ontario’s chief election officer for over seven years, is in Namibia today as one of 40 Canadian election supervisors for the United Nations transitions assistance group. This group is the integrated military-police-civilian operation overseeing Namibia’s transition to independence.
In Namibia, the Canadian team will join 34 other countries in providing international election supervision. We wish them the best.
GROUP HOMES FOR AUTISTIC CHILDREN
Mr Daigeler: I am very pleased to note that workers at four Ottawa-area homes for autistic children have ratified a new contract. Many concerned parents had contacted me, fearing the possibility of a strike.
Autism, as members may know, is a very difficult illness that requires very close personal attention by staff. In my riding of Nepean there are two group homes for autistic children, which have become well integrated in the community. A strike at these homes would have placed a tremendous burden on parents, but also on the neighbourhood, which could have seen labour strife in residential areas.
Fortunately, this situation has been avoided, with the workers having voted unanimously over the weekend to accept a new three-year contract. The new contract provides a seven per cent wage increase retroactive to 1 April, followed by a five per cent increase on both 1 April 1990 and 1 April 1991. In addition, workers will receive top-up increases of about 10 per cent from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
This praiseworthy initiative is part of this government’s efforts to bring the wages of all social service workers in line with provincial standards within the next five years.
CHARGE UNDER ABANDONED ORCHARDS ACT
Mr Allen: The Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay) continues to harass a 72-year-old farmer and his ailing wife under the Abandoned Orchards Act, in spite of the fact that I demonstrated quite clearly to him by sending him contracts showing that this orchard in fact continues to be in commercial production. He told me he would get back to me with a full answer. I waited a week; I got no answer. I asked the minister; he said he would give me a full answer the next day.
When I asked him about that the next day, what I got was a suggestion that the lawyer of the party concerned should contact the legal department of the ministry, so I assumed that there would be some message that would be conveyed. The lawyer contacted the legal party in the ministry to discover that the party knew nothing about the issue as I had raised it. I contacted that person later and discovered that the minister, as late as yesterday, still had not handed on the contractual evidence that indicated that he was proceeding illegitimately and improperly under the Abandoned Orchards Act, which requires that there be a demonstration that for two years this orchard has not functioned in a commercial fashion and provided fruit for sale in the commercial market.
I want to ask the minister why it is he is beginning his ministry in such a questionable fashion, pursuing an elderly gentleman and his wife under a piece of legislation where there is no warrant for his taking any action whatsoever.
Mrs Marland: It is a pleasure to recognize this year’s winners of two major Ontario environmental awards.
First, our congratulations to the winners of the Lieutenant Governor’s Conservation Awards. In the individual category, Michael Perley and Adele Hurley of the Canadian Coalition on Acid Rain are honoured for their role in bringing about legislation to curb acid rain in both Canada and the United States. In the corporate category, Ontario Multi-Material Recycling Inc is the winner. This organization, which was established by Ontario’s soft drink industry, voluntarily contributed $20 million to the development of the blue box program.
Second, I am pleased to recognize the winners of the Waste Minimization awards. As MPP for Mississauga South, Iam especially proud that the city of Mississauga has won the award for outstanding municipality. Congratulations to the council and residents of Mississauga, whose team effort has led to the recycling of 12 per cent of residential garbage. Our congratulations as well to the other winners of Waste Minimization awards, Halton’s Recycled Resources; Lynne lngham; Frank Bailie; Boeing Canada, de Havilland division; Domtar Fine Papers; again, Ontario Multi-Material Recycling Inc, and finally, St Mark’s Presbyterian Church, Don Mills. I am sure all members join me in commending the efforts and success of these winners.
Mr Faubert: While the days of pirates on the high seas may be a thing of the past, piracy remains a common practice in the video business. In fact, the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association estimates that illegal infringement of copyright costs the industry worldwide $1.3 billion. Here in Canada, where it is estimated that 12 per cent of all videos rented are illegal, the industry loses between $10 million and $15 million per year.
Video piracy hurts consumers because the quality of most pirated tapes is inferior to the original. Even worse, it hits honest manufacturers, distributors and retailers, who lose revenue.
In order to compete on a level playing field, some honest retailers and distributors are tempted to deal in the pirated video market or raise their prices. Either way, consumers lose. When one considers the amount of lost retail sales tax revenue, taxpayers in Ontario and across the country take a further loss from this activity.
Some progress has been made. Fines for video pirating have been substantially increased in the last year, which has reduced the illegal activity to some extent, but the business still remains lucrative.
A pirated tape is usually easy to spot. The label on the box or tape may be a photocopy. Poor image and sound quality is another clue. If a consumer suspects he has come across a pirated videotape, he should call the toll-free hotline to the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association at 1-800-363-9166.
I would also urge that Ontario follow the example of other provincial jurisdictions and institute a system of title registration of videotapes to help detection and stop this consumer ripoff.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
LAND TRANSFER TAX
Hon Mr Mancini: On 18 July of this year the Minister of Revenue tabled for first reading Bill 48, An Act to amend the Land Transfer Tax Act. The main objective of Bill 48 is to reduce land transfer tax avoidance schemes.
Following first reading of the bill, certain administrative refinements to the bill and cornplementary changes to the regulations were considered appropriate.
The first category of changes relates to unregistered dispositions of land which occur in the course of corporate reorganizations. Several other taxing statutes, for example, the Retail Sales Tax Act, the Corporations Tax Act and the Income Tax Act of Canada, provide specific deferrals or exemptions where assets are transferred between corporations and the underlying control of the corporations is in the same hands.
The administrative refinements which are being outlined in this statement acknowledge the need for the provisions of Bill 48 to be more in line with the tax treatment that such transfers receive under other statutes. Accordingly, relief will be provided from taxation of certain unregistered transfers between corporations within the same corporate group.
In order to obtain the tax relief, an application for deferral of the tax must be made and accepted. The underlying control of the corporate group must continue in the same hands, and the interest in land must remain within the corporate group for three years following the disposition. This proposed change will remove a potential extra cost in many corporate reorganizations, including corporate windups and corporate rollovers.
Tax relief will also be available in some cases where shareholders of a corporation divide its assets in a reorganization. This relief will only be available regarding dispositions from one corporation to another and will also require an application to the ministry for exemption from the tax.
I would note that because Bill 48 deals with only unregistered dispositions of an interest in land, there will be no change in the tax treatment where the transfer is registered. Tax will continue to be paid on the registration of conveyances under the existing provisions of the Land Transfer Tax Act.
In order to provide as much consistency as possible between the existing provisions of the Land Transfer Tax Act and the provisions that are proposed to be incorporated through Bill 48, the deferrals, exemptions and refunds of tax that are provided for in the existing act with regard to registered transfers will be made available regarding tax arising under the provisions of Bill 48 for unregistered transfers.
Some technical amendments to the bill will be put forward which, subject to passage and royal assent, will permit regulations providing relief from taxation in certain cases of sales of units in mutual funds and certain changes in partnership interests. Specifically, units of mutual funds listed on a recognized Canadian stock exchange or traded pursuant to a prospectus approved by a Canadian securities commission will be excluded from the provisions of Bill 48. Changes in partnership interests in any one year that do not exceed five per cent of the right to profits will also be excluded.
As well, the requirement that every trustee of an interest in land report any changes of any beneficial ownership of land will be revised to permit one trustee to report on behalf of other trustees of the same interest.
Finally, the changes will also provide that transactions pursuant to agreements that were reduced to writing and substantially advanced by 18 July 1989 will not be subject to the terms of Bill 48.
I shall be proposing amendments encompassing the matters referred to when the bill goes to committee.
ANNUAL REPORT, ONTARIO ADVISORY COUNCIL FOR DISABLED PERSONS
Hon Ms Collins: I am pleased to table the 1988-89 annual report of the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons.
Members of the advisory council bring to their appointments a wealth of expertise and experience on disability issues.
This year, council has placed a special focus on employment issues and the disabled community. Because of the magnitude of this project and the amount of detailed information that must be collected, the employment study project will continue into the new year with publication of the final report in the spring of 1990.
Council is currently reviewing the advantages and disadvantages associated with legislated and voluntary employment equity programs, including the use of goals and timetables, the impact on small businesses and measurements of effectiveness. After its thorough review of these issues, council will be able to provide thoughtful and helpful advice on the implementation of effective employment equity programs.
I want to say that since my ministerial appointment, I have found the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons to be a strong support. In particular, I want to thank the outgoing chairperson, Ron Mclnnes, for the leadership and direction he provided in his appointment over the past four years.
Our new chairman is Robert Loveless, and assisting him are vice-chairpersons, Anne Musgrave, Nancy Stone and Sharon Hoenen. Mr Loveless is present in the Speaker’s gallery this afternoon, and I am delighted to acknowledge his presence with us. I look forward to working closely with Mr Loveless and indeed with all 17 members of the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons in the coming year.
ANNUAL REPORT, ONTARIO ADVISORY COUNCIL FOR DISABLED PERSONS
Mr Allen: Responding to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Ms Collins), I first of all want to say that the advisory council has indeed served this province extremely well. With the leadership of Ron Mclnnes, whom I knew in that capacity for a number of years, I saw someone who exercised great vigour, imagination and energy in discharging his duties and in leading that council through a number of major reports that signalled the outstanding agenda we had to attack with respect to the problems of disabled persons in this province.
Robert Loveless, who has taken over from him, has a distinguished career with respect to his advocacy for the disabled and I look forward to an equally energetic leadership from him as well.
May I say that the challenge is a growing one, because as medical advances proceed and as medical technology advances, our capacity to maintain the lives of people who otherwise might not have stayed with us has increased immeasurably, and as a result the challenge to this government is greater as time passes.
The reports of this council and the work it does are extremely important for us in setting the goals we need to meet.
I want to say that we are not entirely meeting that challenge. As I look at the circumstances of the disabled in Ontario today, I see that we have passed up the opportunity to establish advocacy systems in this province, despite two or three reports that they should be there, vigorously acting on their behalf. I see this assistive devices program which is still not fully and totally accessible in all respects to the disabled. I see a report such as Freedom to Move is Life Itself on the transportation question, and we still do not have full access to either special or normal transportation. Independent living: In my community there were only six new independent living apartments established last year in spite of the numbers of the disabled who are in that community.
With respect to the employment equity project, I wish them well. This is a major, complicated issue and I do look forward to seeing their report when they are finished. I am sure it will set some real landmarks for us to achieve in this province.
LAND TRANSFER TAX
Mr Breaugh: I would like to reply briefly to the statement by the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini). A number of us have been worried since 18 July of this year that the government would not provide us with adequate notice of its intentions to close some loopholes and to reduce the land transfer tax avoidance schemes.
We welcome today the statement by the minister of his great concern that in the course of corporate reorganizations, corporations would not get enough exemptions. We note today that he is providing “specific deferrals or exemptions where assets are transferred and the underlying control of the corporations is in the same hands.” I myself have worried a lot about that all summer long.
I go on to read some other remarkable statements the minister has made today, that he is going to provide relief “from taxation of certain unregistered transfers between corporations within the same corporate group” -- that is certainly good news for most ordinary Canadians -- and that the control of these corporations must be retained in the same hands. We have worried quite a bit about that over the whole course of the summer.
We are concerned somewhat that corporations will be forced to do corporate windups, corporate rollovers and corporate butterflies. We hope they do not hurt themselves in the course of all that process.
We do note that they will, however, have to fill out an application form to get an exemption from the tax and that is certainly good news.
We are sure, of course, that the minister missed one small amendment that I am certain he will want to put in, that every ordinary citizen in this province will be offered exactly the same treatment as the corporate sector has been offered in this statement today, and men and women around Ontario tonight can begin practising their own personal corporate windups, corporate rollovers and corporate butterflies and find out where to get the exemption forms to apply for the kind of corporate socialism the Minister of Revenue has announced today. We are pleased to see such a dramatic change of stance.
ONTARIO ADVISORY COUNCIL FOR DISABLED PERSONS
Mrs Marland: It is indeed a pleasure to rise today on behalf of our Progressive Conservative caucus and share in the commendation and appreciation to Ron Mclnnes, the outgoing chairman of the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons. We truly thank him for his commitment and devotion to the people who have received the benefit of his tremendous donation of time and advice for those people in Ontario.
At the same time, we wholeheartedly welcome Robert Loveless, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a joint committee of all three parties when we actually made the selections for the Ontario disabled awards that are coming up very shortly. We know we are equally fortunate with our incoming chairman as we have been with our outgoing chairman.
I want just for a moment to speak to the government of Ontario. When we look at the current report of the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons, for 1988-89, I want to draw the attention of the current minister and hope that she will do something about the fact that there have been a number of excellent reports prepared by the council. When we read through the most recent council report, all the way through we read the word “waiting” under “status.”
One of the most important reports that came out in the past few years was Independent Living: the Time is Now. This is the report that deals with attendant care for people in this province with disabilities. In that report there is a very strong emphasis that whether people are disabled or not, they should have the freedom to choose the most appropriate lifestyle for themselves, and that if that requires an attendant care program, they should also choose who that person is.
Under the status of that report, which came out in 1987-88, it is still a matter that the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer) is “currently reviewing.” It says, “Council looks forward to announcements of new funding initiatives and new methods of delivery for the provision of independent living assistance, particularly in the workplace.”
It is the same story when we go on to transportation, with a really excellent report called the Freedom to Move is Life Itself. That report was the result of a task force commissioned in May 1987 and the status of that report is, “Council continues to urge full implementation of all the recommendations contained in the report.”
It is the same story when we go over to the guardianship and advocacy review. That review includes the review of a report by Father Sean O’Sullivan, You’ve Got a Friend. That was his tremendous report on advocacy for vulnerable adults. Again, the status of that report says, “Council awaits with interest the results of the deliberations of the Ontario Guardianship and Advocacy Review Committee and, meanwhile, urges the government to adopt the report’s recommendations and use them as the basis for legislation.”
We also, on behalf of the Ontario Advisory Council on Disabled Persons, urge this Liberal government to take some action and not continue just reviewing.
LAND TRANSFER TAX
Mr Pope: With respect to the statement by the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini), I think it is clear that the direction the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has sought to bring this province to with respect to tax policies and tax grabs on the average working person of this province is erroneous.
It is clear now that the administrative apparatus with respect to the Minister of Revenue’s implementation of the Treasurer’s directions is all screwed up. We now have major amendments to a piece of legislation that was introduced months ago.
For the first time in the history of this province, unregistered transfers are going to be subject to exemption applications. The bureaucracy is going to be unbelievable. Average persons are going to be caught in the middle of this bureacratic nightmare and it is the taxpayers who are going to be paying for the salaries and for the implementation of this system, which is absolute nonsense, where the government is going to be examining every single unregistered transaction in this province through the Ministry of Revenue offices in Oshawa. Boy, talk about 1984 all over again.
The Speaker: The next item will be oral questions. The Leader of the Opposition.
Mr B. Rae: Mr Speaker, the jacket of the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) is here. I am sure she is here. I have two questions for her. I will stand down my questions until she turns up.
The Speaker: Is that agreeable?
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Premier. I wonder if the Premier could share with the House whether in fact his government has undertaken an audit of the activities between his government and Tridel Corp?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am not exactly sure what my honourable friend is talking about. Perhaps he can help me out.
The Speaker: Perhaps a supplementary?
Mr Brandt: Mr Speaker, without using the supplementary, could I explain the first question and perhaps enlarge on it?
The Speaker: In all fairness, you were very brief on that first question. I think we could allow you a very short time to place it again.
Mr Brandt: I thought it was a very easy question. I will attempt to ask it again and I will elaborate somewhat further in connection with the question. Could the Premier indicate whether his government has undertaken an audit of the financial activities of his government and Tridel Corp, recognizing as the Premier does that there are in fact a number of financial relationships between the government and Tridel Corp? Has an audit been undertaken as a result of certain inquiries that are going on now with respect to that entire matter?
Hon Mr Peterson: My understanding is that every single transaction the government undertakes is subject to audit, and not only by internal auditors but by the Provincial Auditor as well. It is all, shall we say, subject to audit.
Mr Brandt: There is a building Tridel owns in Aurora that, under the Ministry of Housing and the Ontario Housing Carp, receives a rent supplement for some 25 units. I want to advise the Premier that over the past five years, based on information received from his ministry, over $1 million in grants has been provided to that particular building by the government by way of supplement. That works out to some $760 per month average rent for the 25 units that are in that building.
On checking, find that the unsubsidized rent for a two-bedroom apartment, which is the largest apartment in the building, works out to $576. I am only asking the Premier if he can help us to understand how it is possible for $700 in subsidy to be paid to a 25-unit apartment building on average when the rent is advertised in that building at $576.
Hon Mr Peterson: I recommend that the member address the question to the minister responsible for that.
Mr Brandt: Is that a redirect?
Hon Mr Peterson: No.
The Speaker: No? Final supplementary.
Mr Brandt: The Premier’s response was almost as short as my first question. Let me try another supplementary and advise the Premier that for these 25 units, back in 1985 the company received a total of $119,000 in rent supplements or about $390 per unit. Two years later there were the same number of units, 25, and basically the same rents were being charged, and this company received about $300,000 in grants. I want to advise the Premier that the earlier average I gave him of $760 had in 1987 gone up to $1,000 a unit.
What I am trying to come to grips with is very simply this: If you have an apartment building where the rents are in the range of $500 to $600, how is it possible that the direct subsidization based on the Ministry of Housing figures, which we received through a question in Orders and Notices, have resulted in a $1,000 per unit subsidy on that particular building? How is that possible?
Hon Mr Peterson: I cannot speak to the specifics of that situation and nor, I am sure, would the member expect me to. Had the member really wanted an answer, I think he would have asked the minister and he would have been happy to assist him.
The Speaker: I see the Minister of Health is here.
Mr B. Rae: I have some questions for the Minister of Health today. After I asked some questions of the minister last week about a cancer patient, I got a call last week from another cancer patient who has allowed me to use her name. Her name is Isobel Barber. She is 61 years old. She has just undergone surgery for breast cancer. According to her own doctor, her travelling and uprooting for a month could be stressful and damaging to her health. Mrs Barber is still being told by the referral service that she is to go to Ottawa for assessment, and if she does receive radiation it could be for as long as six weeks.
Last week I asked the minister questions about patients who were being required to travel and to be away from their family for as long as five or six weeks for cancer treatment. I ask her now, why is someone like Mrs Barber, a 61-year-old widow who is on a disability pension, being put through this kind of a system in the name of good health care?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I think the Leader of the Opposition knows that I understand, as do all members of this Legislature, the stress and the anxiety of cancer patients when they are informed of their need for treatment. He should know that the physicians use their very best judgement to ensure that people are appropriately treated, and I never question medical judgement.
I can tell him that the Princess Margaret Hospital, the Bayview clinic and the clinic in Hamilton are accepting new radiotherapy patients who are emergencies or who are too ill to travel. The doctors make those judgements. Any other patients from those facilities are referred to the referral office of Princess Margaret Hospital so that we can ensure that people have access to the services that they need when they need them, and that of course is our priority.
Mr B. Rae: This is not the first time the minister has said it is the doctors’ responsibility for who gets treated where. The fact of the matter is that the minister is putting the doctors in a position where they are being asked to make some impossible choices. They are being forced to choose between patients who have massive brain tumours -- and those patients are in most cases being treated in Toronto if they are from the Toronto area -- and other patients who have a serious condition.
In the case of Mrs Barber, she is 61, she is on a disability pension and her husband recently died of cancer; she herself is terrified of travelling, is not at all confident about having to go through this experience, is very upset with this, and her own doctor -- not the doctors at the referral centre but her own personal physician -- says that uprooting her for a month could be stressful and damaging to her health.
Does the minister not realize that what she is doing with her failure to introduce the necessary changes in the health care system, to have the necessary staff on board, is putting Mrs Barber and people like her in a position where there health is going to be damaged by having to travel to get health care?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would be pleased to investigate the details of this case, if the member is concerned that the judgements or the decisions are inappropriate. I know that Princess Margaret Hospital and the referral centre would be pleased to investigate the circumstances of this individual case. But I can say to the Leader of the Opposition that we are working with the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, with the doctors of this province, with the Princess Margaret Hospital, the Canadian Cancer Society and Mission Air to ensure that people get the services they need when they need those services.
I know this is very stressful, not only for the patients but for their families as well, but our first priority must always be to see that people get the services that they need. If the member or the patient believes that a medical condition is not being appropriately addressed, we will be pleased to investigate it and to ensure that she is given all of the information that she needs, appropriately, from the doctors who make these medical decisions.
Mr B. Rae: The minister said she would be glad to look into this individual case. I can tell her that when Mrs Barber phoned her office, the member of her staff who spoke to Mrs Barber said, “What do you want us to do?” That is why people are having to use this route of asking us to point out just how serious it is and how badly care has deteriorated under the minister’s stewardship.
The waiting lists were less long in 1985 than they are today. They have doubled. The waiting lists have doubled since the Liberals took power in 1985. The radiation therapy crisis took root while the minister was in charge and now people are having to wait longer, they are having to travel farther and they are having to be away from their families longer, thanks to the Liberal Party’s abuse of the health care system in Ontario.
The Speaker: I do not know whether that was a question or not.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I do not accept for one moment the categorization of the Leader of the Opposition, who would politicize human tragedy, pain and suffering in families. That is inappropriate.
Mr B. Rae: I have another question for the Minister of Health. At the St Joseph’s Health Centre in London, on a recent 14-hour shift, one doctor and one nurse were responsible for 53 babies in the neonatal unit. Can the minister explain to us how that could possibly have been allowed to happen?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the Leader of the Opposition knows, the hospitals of this province are transfer payment agencies. Administration is responsible for the delivery of programs and services and for staffing levels. If he has concerns about how any hospital is operating, if he will send me that information, I will ask the hospitals to furnish us with their account, because they are accountable and responsible for the decisions they make. They are run by independent and autonomous boards of trustees who have the obligation and the responsibility to serve the communities.
Mr B. Rae: If it is the Canadian Cancer Society and the doctors at the cancer referral centre who are responsible for the problems of Mrs Barber, and it is the hospital that is responsible for the plight of the 53 babies in the neonatal unit who were under the care of one doctor and one nurse on a 14-hour shift, can the minister tell us what she is prepared to take responsibility for?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I think it is very important, as we have this discussion, that we understand exactly how our health care system functions. Hospital boards allocate the enormous resources that are made available to them to provide the services to their communities. They decide, for example, how much of the services will go to orthopaedics, how much will go to paediatrics, how much will go to neonatal intensive care.
One of the things we are trying to do within the ministry is build a programmatic approach so that in fact we can have a provincial perspective and establish provincial priorities, but the member displays a fundamental lack of understanding of the role of the hospital board and administration in partnership with the ministry as we meet these challenges for the future.
I know he would have everyone a civil servant and he would have all the hospitals run by the Ministry of Health. We fundamentally disagree with that. I have great confidence in the boards of trustees, who take their responsibilities very seriously, and in the administration that serves those boards.
Mr B. Rae: Would the minister agree that the nursing shortage is responsible for the fact that there were not enough nurses on the neonatal ward at this hospital at that time? Can she also tell us whether she takes any responsibility for the fact that there is a serious nursing shortage in the province? Is she prepared to take any responsibility for the fact that there is a shortage of doctors who are involved in neonatal technology in the province? Is she prepared to take responsibility, not for what happens in every instance but for the general problems which are themselves creating this situation? Does she not understand her responsibility for ensuring that the system itself runs properly?
Hon Mrs Caplan: One of the things I believe in very strongly is that the ministry, in partnership with all our partners, must come together, not only to identify what the problems, issues and challenges are, but in fact to seek the solutions, and we are doing that. We have done that in a number of different areas and I am very proud of our initiatives to begin to address the systemic issues around nursing.
While hospitals determine what staffing levels are appropriate to deliver their programs, we know that vacancy rates across this province vary and vary considerably. My nursing manpower advisory committee told me that on average across the province it is under two per cent, and that is considered a very healthy labour market. We know there are some specific regional concerns and we are working co-operatively with all our partners to address the enormous challenges facing us in health care.
The ministry’s role is changing from simply being the funder to in fact developing a programmatic approach, to work with all our partners and to implement the solutions that we have identified as part of our plan for the future.
Mr Runciman: I have a question for the Minister of Financial Institutions -- surprise, surprise -- with regard to a press conference held this morning. He is informed, I am sure, of the comments made by Professor Jack Carr of the University of Toronto, a noted economist, talking about the reduction in compensation to innocent accident victims as a result of the imposition of the threshold in the minister’s no-fault plan.
He was talking about the reduction in compensation to victims for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, estimated at $480 million, and a reduction in the compensation to victims for economic loss, $150 million, for a total reduction in compensation to innocent accident victims of $630 million.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr Runciman: We are well aware of the $145 million approximately in respect to tax and OHIP windfalls to the insurance companies of this province. Will the minister explain to us why he is taking this kind of money, the $145 million and now the $630 million, from the innocent accident victims in this province and putting it in the pockets of insurance companies?
The Speaker: You finally got to the question.
Hon Mr Elston: I thank the honourable gentleman for the surprise question. I want to indicate, first of all, that he is not being quite up front when he says that $143 million, or whatever, is a windfall for the insurance companies. I think he should acknowledge that there is a three per cent tax on premiums which will no longer be charged to the consuming public. That is forgoing revenue in this province, and in fact that three per cent is not paid on top of the premiums that will be charged those people. So what that does is moderate the cost to provide a broader opportunity of affordability of the product.
In addition to that, let me just comment about some of the suggestions he is making about our product. Our product is designed to redistribute the premium dollars that come into the system. What that means is that we have redistributed those premium dollars so that they go quicker and, first and foremost, in larger amounts to the injured drivers in Ontario, to the injured passengers in Ontario and to the injured pedestrians in Ontario because we have increased the benefits by almost tripling the amount for a weekly recovery for wage loss; we have increased the amount for supplementary medical and rehabilitation up to $500,000, and up to $500,000 in long-term care.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Elston: Those are tremendously large --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Runciman: That is the usual effort by the minister to engage in smoke and mirrors in respect to the statistics he provides. He pulls them out of the air. He talks about the three per cent and equates that to the population at large, but we know in effect that this has been in place; in respect to the OHIP costs assumed by OHIP and in lieu of those costs through the courts, for one example, this tax has been in place.
What the minister is doing now is asking the taxpayers of this province to shoulder that burden and he is also asking the innocent victims of this province to assume this $630 million estimated by Mr Carr and we do not know how many millions more. That estimate was based on the 90 per cent figure provided by this government and we really think up to 97 per cent of accident victims will be prohibited from access to the courts under this plan.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr Runciman: I would like to ask the minister -- and I know his answer on this, in any event -- if what in fact he is doing is taking funds from innocent victims in this province, turning some back to the negligent drivers and really providing fewer and fewer benefits to the innocent accident victims in this province.
Hon Mr Elston: As far as it went, it was a very good presentation, a good speech, and I am sure we will hear it more when we get a chance to debate this bill, but I will tell the member what we are doing.
We are requiring payments to be made for wage losses within between 10 and 30 days of the claim being made by the injured victim. Now they have to wait a long time in some cases to recover their losses. We are giving them accident benefits so that they can have supplementary medical and rehab so that they can recover quickly, so that they can get into the workplace as quickly as possible, so that they can be back in the home as quickly as possible, enjoying as quickly as possible a return to as normal a lifestyle as possible.
In addition to that, we have, for the first time, expanded the coverage to include students, seniors, the unemployed, and in fact we have expanded the coverage for unpaid homemakers. In addition to that, all inside the program as provided under the auspices of this government, while we are reducing accidents in the first place by continued increased coverage on the roads and otherwise, we have retained the courts for those serious situations that must be compensated on an individual, case-by-case basis. That is a balanced approach. That is what this government --
The Speaker: Order, order.
Mr Runciman: With respect to the fairness of this new program that the minister is always promoting, I would like to cite the case of one witness who appeared at the press conference this morning. Four years ago, Bryan Hagymasy suffered very serious injuries in a motorcycle accident and incurred considerable pain and suffering. He was awarded an out-of-court settlement of $177,000. Under the proposed plan that the minister has introduced, he would have been compensated $4,400 -- $4,400 versus $177,000.
How does the minister respond to this case, the example of Bryan Hagymasy, and is he really not advocating a system which in effect would reduce benefits for innocent accident victims in this province?
Hon Mr Elston: Again let me say to the honourable gentleman that I saw the material which was distributed as a result of the press conference and, although it is very sketchy, let me tell him that those amounts that were arrived at indicate to me that there was a serious nature of injury.
I noticed, for instance, that this young man was a motorcycle accident victim and that he had a severe problem as a result of injuries to the knee area. I presume it was one of those things where he was thrown to the ground; he lost some of the muscle tissue and otherwise. It looks like a severe and permanent-type injury to me; at least it should be litigated.
In the situations where we have retained the courts for those serious types of injuries, not unlike some of the examples given, let me say that because of the increased benefit levels provided to these people, they would be sustained longer in making a decision about pursuing their court activities. In these cases, I am not sure what the net amount of the award was or how much went to legal fees and otherwise. I admit fully that our system will require more money to go to injured people as a result of accidents in Ontario. Less money will go out as legal fees; there is no question on that. For that I do not apologize. I will not apologize for putting more money in the pockets of the injured people of this province to assist them to get back into their homes, their workplaces and back into being productive.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of the Environment and it concerns the cleanup of the PCB site in Smithville, a site that is reported in today’s Hamilton Spectator to be similar to the Love Canal.
The minister will know that a team of experts appointed by his ministry is going to be releasing a report later today and the report compares the Smithville situation to the Occidental Chemical sites in Niagara Falls which contribute industrial contaminants to the Niagara River. The report slams the minister for lack of action on the former transfer station and storage site that it took over in 1985. The minister has now had four years to come to grips with this problem. We have his pre-1987 press releases that said it would be cleaned up by the winter of 1987.
Can the minister explain why it has taken him four years to even come to grips with the size and extent of the problem of what is the biggest PCB waste site in the whole of Canada?
Hon Mr Bradley: I want to give the member a little bit of history because I know she wants some history on this. I was not the one who approved the placing of PCBs in Smithville. In fact, I thought it was a very bad decision at the time.
An hon member: It was Andy Brandt.
Hon Mr Bradley: It was not the member for Sarnia (Mr Brandt); I think it was before his time.
I did not approve this particular site, and at that time I would not have approved of the circumstances under which the PCBs were brought to Smithville for storage. We inherited a very difficult situation.
What the member is bringing to our attention today is nothing new. It is significant, but we have said all along this is the largest source of PCBs in the province of Ontario.
We have considerably improved the storage situation that exists at very great expense and that expense, I think, is worth the investment. We have improved upon the storage that takes place in that particular instance. We have done investigations and continue to do investigations to determine the real extent of the contamination. I have given an undertaking, which is well known throughout the province and certainly in that area, to clean up that site.
What is required as well, of course, is not simply sufficient to clean the site up as such and put everything in containers, although that is what you have to do initially. There is also the problem of --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mrs Grier: I think the people who feel threatened by this site are less interested in the history of how the problem came to be there than they are in the fact that it has taken four years for this minister to even understand the extent of the problem. He says it has been known for a long time, but it was only last February that the panel that is now reporting was appointed and his own officials, when asked for comment today, said, “I think we’ve done the best we could with the budget we had.”
The report recommends immediate containment of the plume while spending the necessary money to conduct intensive research on possible solutions to the deeper contamination. The estimate is $100 million. Can we have the minister’s assurance that no costs will be spared to clean up this problem quickly?
Hon Mr Bradley: The member does point out the very unfortunate circumstances that I got stuck with as the Minister of the Environment, that is, I got stuck with the problem that the previous government had through its inaction.
I have given an undertaking all along and the member is well aware of it. Keep in mind, Mr Speaker, that I live about 25 miles from that site and I know the area very, very well and I have met with the people in the area on many occasions. So the member brings no new information to me on this.
I can indicate, first of all, that the cleanup is under way and has been under way for some period of time. The member is aware of that. The storage is sound and above ground at the present time, again at great expense and I think that expense is worth it. There are plans to pump the contaminated material that is underground, the ground water and any of the material which has made its way beneath the surface, and of course to look after that appropriately.
The environmental assessment of the destruction facility is under way at the present time and the company which has won the contract to do this must go through an environmental assessment which certainly must be approved by the board before it can go forward and, when it does, things can be destroyed. But if I were to avoid the Environmental Assessment Act the member would justifiably be the first person up to criticize me.
Mr Mackenzie: But it has already moved 25 miles.
Mr Kerrio: Don’t make so much noise over there. Comparing it to the Love Canal is grossly unfair. They have got dioxins buried over there that will kill every person around.
The Speaker: Order. We will just wait until you are finished your little discussion.
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Health. A new chapter in home care will start for York region on 1 April 1990. The York region home care program will be swallowed up by Metropolitan Toronto’s home care program. The minister and her ministry have consistently rejected York region’s requirement for funding of the region’s home care services. York region council want to administer the program but cannot force upon York region taxpayers yet another provincial cost.
The ministry has mandated to deliver home care, the ministry is responsible for funding of the home care program across Ontario, yet the ministry will not give the assurances to York region that it will continue to pay the cost. Is the minister prepared to allow the York region home care program to be taken over by Metro Toronto?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I disagree entirely with the member’s preamble to his question. In fact, I want him to know that home care is a priority for my ministry and for this government and, in 1989-90, the budget for home care is some $349 million, which is up 24.9 per cent.
My concern is to make sure that there is ongoing and continuous delivery of services to the people of York region. When I became aware that there were some issues around who and how that service was going to be delivered, the ministry has arranged on an interim basis to ensure that continuum of care. I want to assure the member that home care services will be provided to the people of York region and they will be provided appropriately.
Mr Cousens: I am appalled. I am unhappy. I cannot believe that this unprecedented move of a York regional service is now going to be allowed to be taken over by another municipality. York region right now has the most efficient program in the province for approximately half the price per capita in cost that Metro Toronto does. This is a unique situation where York has a growing population. We have special relationships with community groups and now the minister is going to end up having it looked after by a group out of Metro Toronto.
Yes, that is the plan. She probably should know about it by now. I have a letter that was sent to the minister that was signed by the director of the program and the management team of the home care program in York region. They say, “Continuation of the standards of excellence” --
The Speaker: Is this a question?
Mr Cousens: -- “that York region home care program has demonstrated will be seriously compromised for a number of reasons,” and they go into detail on what those reasons are.
The Speaker: Place your question, please.
Mr Cousens: I would like to ask the minister today if she would consider the action of transferring York region’s home care program back into York region from Metro Toronto so that on April Fool’s Day --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Cousens: -- she will not be the fool and York region can continue to be served by its own --
Hon Mrs Caplan: For the record, the member is absolutely wrong. Home care services are delivered by a number of different agencies across the province. York region determined that it in fact was not interested in continuing that service.
Mr Cousens: They want to continue.
Hon Mrs Caplan: On an interim basis, we have moved to ensure that the services are provided. What we have said is that we will ensure that the services are provided during the time that we determine who would like to provide that service in York region. Our preference is that it be provided by a group in York region, but my first priority is to make sure and be certain that home care services will be available to the people of York region. I hope that York regional council will reconsider its decision, but if it does not, my commitment to the people of York region is to ensure that they have ongoing home care services appropriately delivered in their community.
Mr Cousens: Don’t talk about that. Will you reconsider? The people of York region won’t tolerate it. I am not incorrect with my facts. She said I was absolutely wrong.
The Speaker: Order. Would the member take his seat. Would all other members and the Minister of Health respect the standing order.
Mr Mahoney: My question is to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. Yesterday in this House there were some statements made and figures were thrown around this Legislature with what I could only describe as reckless abandon with regard to a video that was produced by his ministry. Could the minister account for the --
Mr Mahoney: It is obviously bothering some of the members opposite. It is nice to see them upset.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Mahoney: Could the minister account to this House for the amount of money spent on video communications by his ministry?
The Speaker: Order.
Mr D. S. Cooke: What is that standing order again?
The Speaker: Standing order 20(b).
Hon Mr Bradley: They don’t want to hear the answer.
Mr Brandt: I am dying to hear the answer.
The Speaker: Minister.
Hon Mr Kwinter: I am delighted to respond to the member’s question. All members will want to know, I am sure, that the video Share the Vision was produced in a 10-minute version for the world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, in both English and French after a public tendering. At the end of that showing, it was substantially re-edited in both English and French for the Toronto Economic Summit.
After that, it was re-edited, redubbed, with new graphics and new voice-over in English, French, German, Korean and Japanese. It was then produced in three separate video formats for showing around the world. Three hundred of those copies have been in use for over two and a half years. It is being used across the world virtually every day, and I say to the member in response --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Kwinter: I should tell the member that the first part of it was $300,000.
Mr Brandt: You ought to be proud of yourself.
Hon Mr Kwinter: The rest of it was $450,000. In response to the leader of the third party who yesterday said he doubted if it would ever --
The Speaker: Order. We might as well just sit and rest a while. I believe the question came from the member for Mississauga West, who has a supplementary.
Mr Mahoney: It is quite obvious to me that the opposition members really do not want to hear the facts on this issue. It is also --
The Speaker: Do you have a supplementary?
Mr Mahoney: To the minister, recognizing the importance of this province competing in the global economy, could the minister tell us how Ontario compares to other jurisdictions in international promotion?
Mr Brandt: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I do not see how that question has any supplementary direction from the initial question that was asked. It does not flow --
The Speaker: Order. The member for Sarnia is trying my patience because I gave him two for the price of one earlier. Supplementary?
Mr Mahoney: I thought the supplementary was quite clear, but I am quite happy to make it more explicit for the member from Sarnia. Obviously, the production of video promotional materials is very important on the international market. If the member likes it this way, I am happy to do it. In fact, we can help him get into the movies one day and do a little rock and roll any time he wants.
Could the minister please tell this House how our province compares to other jurisdictions in promoting on an international basis videos and other forms of promotional materials?
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Kwinter: I am sure all members will want to know, and will know, that we are in an extremely tough, competitive situation. We have six states in the United States that have established offices in Toronto. As a province, we have 14 offices around the world, but compare that to Quebec, which has 27. So what we have to do is, what we lack in numbers we have to make up in quality. We have to make sure that when we go forward into the world marketplace, we go forward with our best foot, showing Ontario in the most professional way, in the best way, in a way to increase the business that is going to keep the economy at the level that it is. Cheap, no. Valuable, yes.
The Speaker: Order.
The Speaker: There are many members just wasting the time. Order.
TEMAGAMI DISTRICT RESOURCES
Mr Wildman: Now that we have finished the video games, I would like to ask a question of the Premier. In view of the fact that when the Teme-Augama Anishnabai applied to the court for an injunction, the government discontinued the construction of the Red Squirrel Road pending the court decision, and in view of the fact that the band has now appealed the court’s decision and is applying for an overturning of the refusal of the injunction, would it not be reasonable for the government to follow the same course and to discontinue the construction until the court makes a decision on the appeal?
Hon Mr Peterson: Mr Speaker, I think the Attorney General (Mr Scott) probably is the best one to deal with this question.
Hon Mr Scott: The two courts in Ontario have decided that the band has no title to this 4,000 square miles that it requests in its land claim, and that was determined after a very extensive trial that, I think, went more than a year. It is one of the longest trials in the history of Ontario and a very extensive appeal.
They have been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, of course, which means that the court is prepared to hear their appeal. The overturn rate in the Supreme Court of Canada is much less than a third so we cannot conclude that there is any reason to believe that the Court of Appeal decision will be overturned.
On the other hand, the decision of the government, confronted by an application for an injunction to restrain present activity, was simply to say we would allow the court to decide that question. As the honourable member will know, the Premier (Mr Peterson) made that announcement and we honoured that obligation.
Mr Wildman: I know the Attorney General would not want to prejudge any decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. But in that case to which I was referring, since the government felt it appropriate to hold off on construction while the court in Ontario determined whether an injunction should be granted, if that decision is under appeal, surely it would only be reasonable and would move towards avoiding unnecessary confrontation if the government would follow the same course in this regard.
Is the government prepared to try to do all it can to ensure there will not be a confrontation after 11 November on the Red Squirrel Road?
Hon Mr Scott: As the honourable member knows, we have made an offer of settlement -- and it has been outstanding in a variety of forms for some period of time -- that amounts to about $30 million, half of which could be taken in the form of land, and we are anxious to avoid any confrontation. One of the ways of avoiding confrontation is by respecting the orders that the courts make; and when the Teme-Augama Anishnabai indicated it was applying for an order to restrain construction going on now, the government indicated that it would not act until that application had been finally dealt with.
It has now been finally dealt with, and the two decisions of the Ontario courts are in place which assert that the band has no title to any of that land. Now I agree with my honourable friend that we should not assume that they will lose their case in the Supreme Court of Canada, but it is also premature to assume that they will win it.
We have honoured all court orders, and particularly when the band asked for an injunction, we agreed that work would stop until that injunction application was finally dealt with. I think that was the fair thing to do. It is not usually done by private litigants, but we are a government. I think it was the appropriate, sensible, moderate thing to do, and I am very proud that our government did it until that application was finally disposed of in the timetable that the native people had set for themselves.
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health. I would like to bring to the minister’s attention the instance of Barbara and Robert Dennis, who asked me to bring this to her attention this afternoon in the Legislature.
Barbara Dennis has breast cancer and after having a mastectomy, she has spent the last year of her life on chemotherapy and she receives that in the city of Toronto. Her husband, Robert Dennis, who is also 54 years old and works for the Toronto Board of Education, has spent the last five weeks off work and has recently been diagnosed as having lung cancer. He was told at 10:45 this morning by the referral service at the Princess Margaret Hospital that the only place they can find for him to go for treatment is to go to Thunder Bay a week from today where they expect him to stay for four to six weeks.
Is the minister satisfied with this quality of health care in her system?
Hon Mrs Caplan: You know, I have to say to the member opposite that I object to the fact that these kinds of concerns of real grief and personal suffering are brought to this forum. I think it is terribly sad that personal tragedies are dealt with in a political forum.
The member knows, in fact, that we are doing everything humanly possible to see that people get the services that they need. There are thousands of people each day who receive treatments within the health care system. The people of this province should have confidence in that, but we can always do better tomorrow than we did yesterday. If the member has individual cases of concern of inappropriate treatment, if he would give them to me, we will investigate. But this is not the forum to deal with sad human tragedy.
Mr Eves: We on this side of the House raise these issues in the House day after day because the people ask us to because they cannot get an answer from the minister. The minister indicated to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae) earlier in question period about the Barber family that the Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto Bayview Regional Cancer Centre and Hamilton Cancer Treatment Centre were accepting new patients for treatment.
Surely there cannot be a worse situation than the case of Barbara and Robert Dennis. One has been on chemotherapy for a year in Toronto and now the minister wants to send the husband to Thunder Bay for four to six weeks for treatment there. The reason we have to raise these questions every day in the Legislature is because somebody is not taking care of the health care system over there and the somebody is the minister. What is she going to do about it?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member opposite and to all members of this House that if any member of the provincial Parliament has any information to suggest that there has been unnecessary suffering or if there has been inappropriate treatment caused by a breakdown or whatever within the health care system, I am determined to do whatever I can to see that those concerns are addressed in the most appropriate forum. But we want to make sure above all that the public retains the utmost confidence in our health care system and I think it is important for us to all work together to seek the solutions and not to politicize human tragedy.
Mr Cleary: My question is for the Treasurer. Some of my constituents in the Cornwall riding have expressed concerns about the way gasoline prices vary across the province. When the price varies as much as 18 to 20 cents a litre, does the government monitor these different prices?
Hon R. F. Nixon: There is some monitoring, and since members from time to time ask me about variations, I usually keep the numbers here in case anybody asks. The best price I can find in the last two weeks is in Peterborough at 45.1 cents; in Sault Ste Marie, it is 53 cents; in North Bay, it is 51.6 cents, and in Sarnia, where they make the stuff, 53.4 cents. There seems to be a little profit-taking there. At Earl’s Shell Service in South Dumfries, it is 47.9 cents, which is second-to-lowest. So the honourable member is correct, there is some informal monitoring taking place, and there are differences --
The Speaker: Order. Point of order.
Mr Pouliot: I will take full responsibility. My apologies. It is more than a coincidence; these are identical prices that were quoted last year when I asked the question.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member who interjected with a point of order did not get to first base either.
The prices do vary. They varied last year and they vary this year. The honourable member and all other members would know that these are fresh prices, only two weeks old. The point is, of course, in the competitive system that we have, prices do vary not only from town to town but from gas station to gas station.
I should add, Mr Speaker, since you are not on your feet yet, that a substantial ingredient, as everyone knows, is the gasoline tax which at 10.3 cents per litre is very high but not the highest. The honourable member should know that the government of Canada imposes a tax of 11 cents per litre and it does not build any roads at all. According to the last budget, the federal tax is going up by one cent in January.
Mr Cleary: I thank the Treasurer for his reply. Could I ask the Treasurer if a gas price regulatory commission has ever been considered?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I thank the honourable member for his question and giving me notice of it. I believe that while some provinces have enabling legislation for regulation, Nova Scotia is the only one that uses it. The result of that, actually, is that they have among the highest gasoline prices in Canada, certainly higher than their neighbouring maritime provinces, so the efficacy, as we say, of that procedure is questionable and we are not contemplating it here.
GENERAL MOTORS VAN PLANT
Mr R. F. Johnston: I have a question for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology in the absence of the Premier (Mr Peterson) and apologize for not having this written out for him in advance so he could read along as the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) just did.
I have here a list of some of the 150 suppliers of parts to the Scarborough van plant in Scarborough which are based here in Ontario. I wonder if the minister can tell me what impact the closing of that plant is going to have on A. G. Simpson Co in Scarborough which provides 27 parts; A. Rea Tools and Tubing, Mississauga; a company in Collingwood; Goodyear which has already had some trouble in this province, and Elan Corp in Chatham. Can the minister tell me what impact this closing is going to have on the workers in the communities around the province when it does shut down?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I cannot tell the member exactly, in fact, but I can tell him this. I am sure he knows that under the auto pact we have a North American auto industry. There are parts manufacturers in Ontario that supply parts to all assemblers in North America. So the people who are supplying parts now to the General Motors plant in Scarborough will have the opportunity to supply those same plants in Flint, Michigan or wherever else it goes. I am not saying it guarantees that they will do that, but they will have that same opportunity.
We also know that plant is going to be in operation until the model year of 1991 and that General Motors is currently undertaking a study to see what other production they can put into that plant. Until I know that, I cannot really respond with any accuracy.
Mr R. F. Johnston: This is exactly the problem that we have at this point without legislation to set down a systematic approach to finding out what the impact of closing will be and what the justification should be. The largest number of these suppliers is from outside the country but there are approximately 150 from here in Ontario.
Will the minister co-ordinate and fund an impact study of this closing to look at what is happening across the province of Ontario and co-ordinate this, especially with Metropolitan Toronto council and the Scarborough council, General Motors and the workers involved, so we can, at once, for the first time that I know of, have a systematic government-sponsored impact study of this kind of major closing?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I can tell the member that the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology and General Motors are working together to make sure that whatever impact that plant has will be minimized. We are still looking at --
Mr R. F. Johnston: We have to have a study.
Hon Mr Kwinter: Right now, what is happening is that General Motors is undertaking a study to see what alternate production can go into that facility. When that happens and when we know one way or the other, we will then be able to respond.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Minister of Health. In 1986 her government promised a project to the Ajax and Pickering General Hospital to double the number of beds in that hospital from 127 to 242. The amount of the expansion was some $14.7 million and at the time her ministry undertook that particular commitment she indicated to the community that if they raised $7 million, or approximately one half of the capital cost, her ministry would, in fact, follow through to complete that project.
Could the minister give us an update on the status of that project now, understanding that the local community has raised their portion of the money?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the leader of the third party knows, the capital projects have been under review to ensure that we are planning appropriately for the future to meet the real and changing needs of our community. We know as well that changing demographics and a move to more community-based services have been recommended for a number of years and, in fact, our review is in keeping with the recommendations of the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy.
I can say to him that we are also conducting these reviews in the context of the long-term care strategy which is being developed between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. We are committed to meeting the real needs of the communities and to using our capital resources to ensure that the future generations of this province have the services they need in their communities.
Mr Brandt: What she should be committed to is keeping her promise; that is what she should be committed to. Five hundred volunteers in that community raised $7 million on the strength of the indication of the former Minister of Health, that she was going to have capital expansion there, doubling the number of beds.
The member for Durham West (Mrs Stoner), the minister’s own colleague, has indicated that if that hospital is prepared to jump through a number of hoops, they will ultimately get an approval. Could the minister indicate, not only to the Ajax and Pickering General Hospital, but to the Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, the Sarnia General Hospital and to a whole host of hospitals in the Ottawa region, what hoops they have to jump through in order to get the minister to keep her promise?
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, I would like to acknowledge the work and the very able representation that the member for Durham West and my other colleagues make on behalf of their communities as they assure them that we want to make sure we are doing the right thing for their community. They are showing enormous leadership and I would like to single out my colleague, the member for Durham West, in showing enormous leadership in her community.
I want to give the leader of the third party a historical perspective on this. I was looking through some estimates debates and do members know what was said? It said: “We are hospitalizing, in my view and perhaps yours, far too many people who do not need to be in hospitals. That is still the case, whether it is for tests or surgery. Our surgical rates in Canada are 30 per cent higher than in the US.”
Do members know who said that in 1982? It was the then Minister of Health, Dennis Timbrell.
Mr Cousens: I would like to go back to the question I asked earlier to the Minister of Health regarding the home care program for York region. It is unprecedented that this kind of action would be taken by the government of Ontario to allow York region to be forced into giving up responsibility for that program because her government would not give them some commitment to cover any of the overages that take place in a growing region.
York region has lobbied the member for York North (Mr Beer) and it has lobbied the Ministry of Health in an effort to try to come to some kind of solution that will allow home care to stay under the management of York region. I would ask the minister, will she reconsider her involvement in this whole process to try to keep the home care program back in York region where it belongs under the management of the York regional council?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I will say to the member again that he is absolutely wrong in the categorization of these events. He does not know what he is talking about. I can tell him that it was a decision of York region to say that they would prefer not to deliver those services. Our goal is to ensure that the services are provided in York region. If they would like to reconsider, I hope they will. If not, our ultimate goal is to see that another organization will develop those services in York region, but in the meantime we will commit to ensure that the services for the people of York region are provided by those who are able and willing to deliver that service.
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time for oral questions and responses.
Hon Mr Ward moved that the following substitutions be made: on the standing committee on public accounts, Mr Pouliot for Mr Charlton.
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 believe the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms Bryden) adjourned the debate. Under the present circumstances, would there be any other member wishing to participate in the debate?
Mr Pope: I will be a few minutes dealing with this, I think fairly significant, piece of legislation that affects a great number of our fellow residents of the province of Ontario. Before I do that, I think it is clear that this legislation and the policies of the government are required to be placed in some context. We are dealing with a government which has reflected in its activities over the past few years a certain largess -- a largess, of course, for which the taxpayers are paying through 32 different tax increases.
When this government came to power in 1985, for instance, the personal income tax rate was 48 per cent of the federal base. It is now 53 per cent. The full-year impact on the taxpayers of this province is $237 million. We have seen increases in the gasoline and fuel tax and there is actually a phased two-cent-a-litre increase in the gasoline tax this year, and the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has the nerve to try to draw to the attention of the members of this Legislature during question period a one-cent-a-litre increase at the federal level when he himself has put into effect two separate phased-in increases this year amounting to two cents a litre on the price of gasoline in this province. He has the nerve to stand up and criticize the federal government for doing half of that. Give me a break.
We have seen a tire tax of $5 being placed on the new tires that people buy in this province. That is out of the taxpayer’s pocket for the Liberal largess. We have seen the gas guzzler tax being put into place. We have seen a cancellation of exemptions and rebates that have been allowed under the retail sales tax. We have seen a five-cent-a-container tax on nonreturnable, recyclable beverage and alcohol containers sold in the province. We have seen increases in the retail sales tax to eight per cent. We have seen the commercial concentration levy of $1 per square foot on commercial property and associated parking with a gross area of more than 200,000 square feet in this great community of Toronto. We have seen the nonsense of the provincial land transfer tax, which is affecting the price of homes as much as the lot levy policy of this government was.
We have seen now where anyone involved in any agreement with respect to land whatsoever will have to apply for an exemption through the Ministry of Revenue. They will have inspectors running around the province at our expense, poking their noses into every agreement, written and unwritten, with respect to land. For the first time in the history of this province, we will have the power in the hands of the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini) to go in and look at verbal arrangements with respect to land. What kind of nonsense are we facing in this province?
We have seen taxation increases, we have seen bureaucracy increases, all of this at the cost of the taxpayers, and now without the kind of consultation that is necessary. We were not told this in 1987, we were not told this by the Premier (Mr Peterson) in 1985, and now it is upon us.
We have a problem with respect to the public service employees’ pension plan. We have a problem that has been studied in three different reports in the last four years. Our employees in this government have asked --
Mr Neumann: You were on the government then.
Mr Pope: I have to say there is an interjection that I should answer, and I think I had better take my time in answering this interjection, because whenever this government is faced with a challenge, whenever it is faced with a problem, after being in office for over four years, its answer is to look for someone else to blame. It is either the doctors’ fault in health care or the hospital administrators’ fault or the injured workers’ representatives’ fault or the employers’ fault or the previous government’s fault.
These guys are the biggest con artists when it comes to blaming other people for their problems of any government in this country, and the people are starting to realize it. They are starting to realize that their only focus is to look for someone to blame when they are confronted with a problem that they are asked to resolve.
It is clear that the Ontario Public Service Employees Union has raised its concerns in the context of the three reports, the three studies, that have taken place on this in the last four years. They have indicated their concern about return on their pension funds, but they have made very clear in their submissions, and the Ontario Federation of Labour made very clear in its submissions, that their major concern was not a per centage return or an interest rate return on the funds that were invested; their major concern was a policy concern about what they consider to be an unnecessary restriction on the kinds of investment mechanisms that should be available to this fund.
I say this to the member for Sault Ste Marie (Mr Morin-Strom), who yesterday indicated that the government’s problems right now were created by a previous administration and an inadequate return on the pension funds invested.
Clearly, in the arguments made by the Ontario Federation of Labour in its submission to the Rowan task force, it said, “The adequacy of the PSSF’s overall rate of return arises not from being cheated on the interest rate for provincial debt but from the fund being confined to a nondiversified portfolio.” Their major complaint, which they took on behalf of organized labour and the employees of this government to the Rowan report, had to do with the policy restrictions on the kinds of investment vehicles that would be available for these funds.
We accept that there has been some concern expressed about that, and therefore we have to look at providing more options and more alternatives to the existing system. I think that is the genuine belief of the government, that it is attempting to accommodate that concern expressed by the employees. It is attempting to accommodate the concern expressed by the organizations representing the employees.
I guess my feeling is that the government should not be introducing management options that it can select at its wish at a future time and should not be introducing a range of management options for this fund in the absence of an agreement on the management system with the very employees and their organizations that will be covered by it.
We have not seen, according to all of the documentation that we have received from many of our employees and from many others who have some interest and concern about this across the province, an agreement between OPSEU, organized labour and the government of Ontario with respect to the future of this fund and its administration. We have had one or two vague agreements about future governance, but we have not had a detailed, comprehensive resolution of the specific issues that the employees of our government feel have to be addressed. In fact, the OPSEU News Update indicates that “Government Wants Pension Cash Refuses Real Negotiations.” That was on 4 January of this year.
They have indicated their concern throughout, I believe, and from what I am led to believe, there has not been, on a detailed management basis, the kind of agreement that there has to be between employees and management for the operation of the pension funds, which are basically the right of the employees of the government to have at some future date, in accordance with the vesting provisions of the fund.
In the absence of that kind of agreement on comprehensive and specific details of management and investment opportunities for these pension funds, our understanding is that there is widespread dissatisfaction with this legislation. There is widespread opposition to giving in this legislation a virtual carte blanche for the selection of three different management options in the future by the government.
That concern is in the context of the unilateral decisions that the Treasurer took with respect to the teachers’ pension fund, the kind of unilateral take-it-or-leave-it approach in dealing with the teachers’ superannuation fund and the superannuation adjustment fund that has led to each and every member of this Legislature being deluged with cards from teachers and their families across the province in opposition to the Treasurer’s and this government’s statement on how they are going to deal with the teachers and what policies they are going to unilaterally apply that will affect their pension rights and their contribution rates. In the absence of that kind of co-management on a very detailed basis with the teachers and with our public service, we then no longer have confidence in a general legislative framework which allows for wide management options.
So, I think the government got its policy reversed. I think it should have settled in a very detailed and forthright way how this fund would be managed in the future and what the management committee’s mandate would be and what the government’s mandate would be in the context of this, and settled in some detailed fashion the contribution systems that will be used in the future to match the unfunded liability to pay off the debt, the unfunded liability that everyone has predicted will exist at the turn of the century.
We want to try to resolve that problem. We think the government has it in its hands to meet with the representatives of the employees of the government and the teachers to come up with a detailed resolution of it, and we do not think that introducing this legislation at this time will enhance that process. In fact, it is viewed as hanging over the heads of the employees and their representatives unilateral action by the government that may not be in their economic self-interest and may not be in the long-term interest of the pension fund, as they see that interest as being.
Yesterday, the member for Markham (Mr Cousens) and the member for Leeds-Grenville (Mr Runciman) attempted to place on the record our concerns, some favourable comments about this legislation, but also our concerns about how the employees were being handled.
The member for Wellington (Mr J. M. Johnson), on a number of occasions, has been petitioned by representatives of government employee groups and teachers in his riding about the kind of unilateral action that they perceive this legislation to allow. The member for Wellington, in his responses, indicated that his position is that there should be a settlement of these issues in a very detailed fashion, a memorandum of understanding signed and then legislation introduced to implement it. With his experience and years in this Legislature, I have to say that I agree with him that this is a proper and fitting way to treat the employees of the government and the teachers of this province.
They provide very important public service to all of us. They are very important employees who have to be recognized for their contribution to the province, both economically and from the point of view of social services. We want to do what is right by them. We do not think this legislation does settle the issues that have concerned them for so long, that they have raised through three successive commissions of study on pension issues. We do not think that the government’s response to date has been fair.
I have seen the documentation of direct communication between the Management Board secretariat and the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet (Mr Elston) directly to the public employees of this government. I have seen the response of the public employees unions. I have seen the budget paper studies on the public pension sector. I have seen the proposals of the Treasurer for reform of the public service sector. I have not seen the detailed discussion of the consequences of this with the employees and a real, forthright revealing of the long-term strategy or plans.
Until we see this, I think we really have to withhold any judgement on this legislation, because we really do not think that the government has answered the questions that have been asked. What is the government going to do? Never mind what this permissive legislation allows it to do, but what is its intention with respect to this pension plan? How are the representatives of the employees of the government going to have a function or a role in deriving an ultimate resolution to what is now a dispute between management and the unions over how this pension fund will be treated in the future? Most important, who is going to pay for the unfunded liability? Who is going to pay for the deficits that are being projected at the turn of century?
These are all important issues. We are not minimizing them. We are not saying it is easy. We understand the historic perspective of the issue. It was there to some extent when I was in government as a minister. It has continued. It has taken the Treasurer some time to arrive at his own position -- four years -- which indicates the complexity of the problem that previous governments faced as well.
We just hope that this government, in the context of this debate, gives us the detail of what it intends to do with the management of this program. When we hear that kind of detail, then, I think, we will be in a position to judge the future management of this program and whether or not we think this act is appropriate to meet the needs of the fund in the future.
Those are a few brief comments. I did not want to speak for very long. I believe I cut off the member for Beaches-Woodbine by standing up, and maybe she could be recognized in order to finish her speech. I did cut her off inadvertently and I apologize to her for doing that.
Mr D. S. Cooke: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: If we could have unanimous consent to revert to the statement of the member for Beaches-Woodbine, it would be appreciated.
The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Ms Bryden: I appreciate the special unanimous consent. It was circumstances beyond my control that delayed me a couple of minutes. Anyway, I am very pleased to be able to continue my remarks from yesterday, when I adjourned the debate on Bill 36 at 6 pm.
I was talking then about the reasons why all New Democrats in the Legislature will be voting against this legislation. It is the worst piece of pension legislation for public servants ever to come before this House.
Mr Fleet: You said that yesterday, and you were wrong then and you are wrong now.
The Speaker: Order, please.
Ms Bryden: It takes away more employee rights than it grants. This bill will affect 85,000 public servants in Ontario, past and present. It will require them to pay -- that is, it will require the public servants now in the employ of the government -- an extra one per cent of their salary to the superannuation fund, on top of the seven per cent that they already pay. This is done by a bill which implements a tax grab proposed by the provincial Treasurer and the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet under this bill.
None of the benefits of the tax grab will go to improve the benefits of the public service employees. Instead, it will go to pay for whatever the provincial Treasurer decides. Instead, it will probably go to pay for the government’s maladministration of the plan over many years, but why should the present employees pay for past maladministration? Why should the present employees pay for investment decisions of the past superannuation board, in which they had no say?
This bill is a piece of unilateral legislation. The request by the public service employees to negotiate a partnership to administer their pension plan was turned down by an inflexible provincial Treasurer. The negotiations that were attempted broke down, and I think there was really not very much effort by the government to make those negotiations productive.
The request by the employees was that the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act should be amended to allow public sector employees to negotiate pensions, in the same way as employees of many, many private employers and many other public employers are allowed now to negotiate their pension rights, their pension benefits and the administration of their plans. But the public servants of the Ontario government are made into second-class citizens by this legislation. They have no right to bargain about their pension plan.
In the new bill, even the role of the public servants is reduced in the work of this Public Service Superannuation Board, which administers the plan. It used to be that the legislation called for a board of four appointed members, appointed by the provincial government, but it was restricted in that two of those had to be a representative of the Civil Service Commission and a representative from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. The other two were left to the discretion of the government.
The new legislation says that there shall be a board of not less that three people, which means that any number could be appointed by the government, and while it should look to representation of various groups, there is absolutely nothing in it about any representation being mandatory for OPSEU or for any other group that is mentioned as having an interest.
It says, “If the Lieutenant Governor in Council considers it appropriate and desirable,” and that is the cabinet, “members may be appointed to the board because of their expertise in the management, investment or administration of pension plans or in order to represent on the board, subject to the requirements of the Pension Benefits Act, 1987, the concerns of the crown, of members required to contribute to the fund or of persons receiving pensions under the plan.” In other words, that little word “may” has been put into this legislation and has taken out the requirement that at least one OPSEU member be on the board. That is dropped.
This is the kind of legislation we are fighting every day in this House. The government is making everything come under what the Lieutenant Governor in Council, or the government, decides to do and the rest of us hope it will act in a respectful and co-operative way. In this bill, we have no guarantee there will be any representation from the union or any representation from any other group that might be affected, either members or past members or the other groups that should have a say in investment plans.
I think that is a very serious defect in the bill and it is certainly a reason for voting against it. It is an attempt by the government to take over complete control of the public servants’ pension plan in Ontario. It rejects their legitimate demands, over many years, to have a say in the investment decisions of the plan, in the administrative work of the plan and in the way to handle past deficits. Certainly, it is not fair to request that the present employees handle any alleged actuarial deficits, which could have possibly not been there if the plan had been invested and managed in a different way.
This bill also fails to implement the election promise to improve pensions in both the public and private sector. This promise was part of the accord between the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party and facilitated the change of government, but we have been betrayed.
The bill also fails to implement another election promise, in the 1987 election, to provide inflation protection for pensions. That means proper indexing, but in this bill there is a cap on the amount of indexing and there is no guarantee that when a surplus develops, if it does, that surplus will be considered to belong to the employees. That surplus can be dealt with by the government just ceasing to contribute its 8.5 per cent, which the new rate will become, because there is a surplus. Many companies are now grabbing those surpluses and we are trying to get legislation that will make it illegal for such surpluses to be dealt with by the employers or to be used to reduce their contributions.
Pensions are a form of income. They are deferred wages. The employees’ contributions are given to the superannuation fund in trust, to be invested for the benefit of the members of the superannuation plan. That is why we feel the members of the public service have a right to expect to be consulted on changes in their pension plan. That is why they expect full inflation protection. That is why they want any surpluses to be under their control.
When the legislation does not contain those guarantees, it is defective and should be defeated and replaced by legislation that will make a genuine partnership between the members of the plan, past and present, and the government. Otherwise, the government becomes simply the employer who makes the decisions. The administrative body appointed by the government makes all the administrative and investment decisions.
It is the kind of legislation this government should not be bringing in if it believes it has any claim to a small-l liberal approach to its responsibilities. Even more and more, it is showing that it is not a small-l liberal government. In fact, I wonder if it should even be using the term, because more and more there is an alarming trend showing the true colours of this government.
For instance, it apparently does not believe in negotiations with its employees, since it made the negotiations so difficult or impossible. It does not believe in being a good employer and giving leadership to the rest of the public and private sectors on how they should deal with their employees in pension matters.
But it does believe in revenue grabs, and that is what the provincial Treasurer is becoming more and more identified with. He grabbed $1 billion in taxes in 1988. He grabbed another $1 billion in 1989. This pension grab from the members of the public service is a third attempt to get more revenue into his hands with less public or member input on how that revenue shall be spent.
With this kind of unilateral legislation, public servants have no way of stopping this raid on their salaries, this extra one per cent, unless we can get this bill withdrawn. That is where we are at, demanding that they should have a full say in the investment and administration, in future plans and future benefits.
Another area where there are defects in the act is the treatment of contract employees, casual employees, part-time employees. Some of them are going to be allowed to come into the pension fund if they are not already there but a great many will not be covered under this plan, particularly part-timers. This is an area where we think there must be more changes in any pension legislation that comes back before us.
Another area is the buyback restrictions. There are several buyback provisions in this legislation that the government points to as an improvement, but if you look at them closely, there are severe restrictions on the buybacks.
For those who are not familiar with pension terms, a buyback is where an employee is allowed to buy additional pension entitlement for years in which he was working elsewhere in the public service and was not covered. He puts in a certain amount of money as a contribution and is then guaranteed further rights that he would not have been eligible for without a buyback.
The terms are restrictive in that they are telescoped as to how quickly they can be done and that also means the compensation to the people from whom the buyback occurs, such as municipalities, is not spread over a very long period. It is not an adequate buyback clause.
We hope the government will recognize that the people who work very hard for this government are not all at Queen’s Park. As a result, many of them serve the province in small communities, in the smaller towns across this province. They also do not receive very large wages and their only protection is that they belong to OPSEU and have a voice speaking for them, but if that voice is not recognized on the superannuation board or is not recognized when this kind of legislation is brought in by the provincial Treasurer and the Chairman of Management Board, they have no protection against unilateral and rather draconian legislation.
When this government brings in this kind of legislation, it shows that it does not put a high priority on its relationship with its employees in trying to be a good employer. It does not show that the Chairman of Management Board, in whose name the bill is brought before us, has much concern for his major job, which is to deal with the public servants we employ in the province
It is rather strange that the Chairman of Management Board did not consider it important enough to introduce second reading himself or to be present at very many of these debates on the bill. I hope we will hear from him some time during the debate. I do not know how he can defend this bill, because he is certainly not showing up as a good employer with any respect for the public servants who work so hard at Queen’s Park and through the rest of the province. They deserve to be consulted and become part of the administration of their plan.
That is why we are opposing this bill. My colleagues have raised many other points and many other defects in it. It is so badly flawed that it must be withdrawn and we ask the government to show it really does care about its employees by withdrawing it.
Mr Charlton: I join with my colleagues in speaking on Bill 36 in very clear and determined opposition to this piece of legislation. I recall that yesterday afternoon when my colleague the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot) was on his feet, one of the government members shouted across the House an interjection that this legislation was merely an implementation of the recommendations of the Slater commission report.
I have to say at the outset of my comments that either the government members do not understand what Slater said in his report or they do not understand this piece of legislation. If they can in any way, shape or form equate one with the other, I am not sure which it is they misunderstand.
Mr Morin-Strom: Probably both.
Mr Charlton: Quite possibly it is both as my colleague the member for Sault Ste. Marie suggests, but at least one is seriously misunderstood.
Certainly, this is not a piece of legislation that sets up an arm’s-length pension plan, nor is it a piece of legislation that seriously deals with the question of member involvement in the administration of the plan.
This is one of the very few pensions in Ontario that has a separate piece of legislation that sets the basic terms and conditions under which the pension will operate. Most of the pensions in this province, as members are aware, are operated under the Pension Benefits Act. There are only three other pensions that operate under their own legislation, the pension that serves the members of this Legislature, this pension -- the public service superannuation fund -- and the teachers’ superannuation fund.
In any way you look at that question of three separate pieces of legislation governing those three pensions, the only one that comes anywhere near to being close to arms’ length with member participation is the pension plan and the pension plan act that service the members of this Legislature. At least as members of the Legislature, we have the right to debate the content of our pension plan and to vote on the content of that legislation when it is in the House for amendment, even if there is not a formal collective bargaining process.
The other two plans, this plan -- the public service superannuation fund -- and the teachers’ superannuation fund, are plans that are probably the farthest removed from being at arm’s length and from member participation of all other pensions in Ontario.
Bill 36 does nothing real to remedy that situation. Even when we look at the two options that are set out as possible alternatives for the future, the two options that deal with the questions of either joint administration of the plan or total bargaining unit responsibility for the plan, both of those options in this piece of legislation are unacceptable because they do not address directly in a real way the question of being at arm’s length and the question of effective member involvement in the design, operation and administration of the plans.
We have on the books presently a piece of legislation that sets out a number of things. Currently, the bargaining agents for the public servants in Ontario who are covered by this plan are at least guaranteed one representative on the pension board. The new legislation is in fact a step backwards from that present guarantee in the current legislation. Presently, the board is limited to four members and the bargaining unit is guaranteed one of those four members. Under the new bill, Bill 36, there is no cap on the size of the board that will govern this pension plan, and at the same time the guarantee of at least one union representative, one employee representative on that board is removed.
I know the members of the government party will argue that there is no prohibition set out in this bill on having employee representatives, bargaining agent representatives on that board. That is just not good enough. I have risen in this House and spoken on piece after piece of legislation and we do not seem to be able to get it through this government’s head that no matter what its intentions are in terms of perhaps appointing bargaining unit members to that pension board, this legislation will be the law when other governments succeed this one. Whatever their intention may be, that intention may be very quickly breached because they have decided in their wisdom to be less specific than what is already the fact with the public service superannuation pension and its board.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has been working and struggling for a long time so that its pension plan, the pension plan that is the pension plan of the 65,000 or 70,000 members OPSEU represents in the province of Ontario, should be negotiable.
Virtually all of the pension plans that are governed by the Pension Benefits Act in this province are negotiable pensions. It is correct to say that there are some rare few registered pension plans in nonunionized working establishments where, in the formal sense, the pension plans are not negotiated with the employees because there is no formal collective bargaining process, but there is no prohibition to the formal negotiation of those pension plans should the workers in those establishments become organized and make a decision in an organized fashion to attempt to negotiate changes in benefits or changes in conditions under which their pension operates.
This kind of pension and structure set out in Bill 36 is a pension and a structure that in effect prohibits the negotiation of and negates the result of any negotiations which are in fact allowed to proceed in terms of at least the administration of the plan. We have a situation where, although the government has talked about its willingness to negotiate a situation with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union where the plan would be jointly administered or even an option where OPSEU would be theoretically the sole administrator of the plan, the so-called arm’s-length, independent board under this piece of legislation is solely responsible to the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet.
There is no effective accountability to any process that is contemplated in this piece of legislation to the employees whom the plan is designed to serve.
As somebody who came out of the Ontario public service, I understand all too well the kinds of frustrations that face the civil servants in this province when it comes to discussions around their pension. On the one hand, they have been frustrated for some 20 years now around the questions of negotiability and accountability. Bill 36, as I said, does not address those issues in any kind of effective way.
The other issue which in effect has frustrated civil servants no end is the constant attacks from private sector organizations -- I guess that is the best way for me to put it -- that have, I believe, intentionally misrepresented public sector pensions to the larger general public of Ontario, especially around the question of the basic size of the pension on retirement and the question of escalation. “Inflation protection” is the term we like to use out in that sector where we negotiate for pensions. Indexing is another way to put it. Ordinary people understand inflation protection as a term that means a little more to them.
At any rate, we have organizations such as the National Citizens’ Coalition which have portrayed this pension as an outrage against taxpayers in the province of Ontario. On the other hand, we all know that the vast majority of private sector pensions, pensions that are negotiated between private sector companies and their unions, are noncontributory pensions.
My father, for example, came out of the Steel Co of Canada. He is now on pension. His pension is not indexed, but that was the choice of those who negotiated the pension at the time his pension was negotiated. Employees decided in negotiations what their overall package was going to be in terms of wages, benefits and pensions, and they determined in that package where they best saw the dollars going in terms of their present and their future, but they had a choice in that negotiating package over the total package of potential gains from the employer.
What we have here are employees who have some say over part of their package in the negotiating process, but not even then complete say over those items which they are negotiating for, because the full collective bargaining process is not open to them. They do not have the right to strike, they do not have the right to go that extra mile to fight for that extra few cents or half dollar or whatever the issue happens to be in that particular set of negotiations. But they do not have the right to negotiate the pension at all, nor do they have the right to negotiate the rate at which they will contribute to that pension.
The member for Middlesex (Mr Reycraft) raised the question just a few moments ago of whether or not my father’s pension was indexed. It is true that it was not indexed, neither was the public service superannuation fund pension in the province of Ontario indexed up until the middle of the 1970s. The decision to index this pension set up a separate fund, the pension escalation fund, for which the employees of the province of Ontario paid extra dollars to gain that indexing. So it was not as if the indexing of the Ontario public service superannuation fund came without a cost -- yes, a cost to the government, but a direct cost to the employees as well.
The very simple reality is that in a negotiating situation where the pension had been part of the overall package for which the bargaining unit was negotiating, it is entirely possible that the employees may have accepted the government proposal for an escalator fund and for the deduction of an additional one per cent from their paycheques to cover the cost of that escalator fund.
On the other hand, it may well have gone the other way. They may have chosen to decline the escalator fund because of its costs. They may have chosen instead to see those dollars available to them in the negotiating process as a wage increase or in the form of other benefits. The civil servants of Ontario in 1974 or 1975 never had that choice to make.
That is the point the government members at some point have to start to understand. The one per cent that the employees of the province of Ontario pay out for the escalator fund and the six per cent that they currently pay into the basic pension fund are all direct deductions from their paycheques that they have had no say in, that they have had no option about; they have not been in a position to either go for greater pension benefits or to settle for lesser pension benefits in an effort to see their take-home pay be higher than it currently is. They have not been given the option of making that choice.
That is what member involvement is all about, that is what arm’s length is all about, that is what negotiability is all about. That is what joint control or complete control to the union speaks to when the union talks about its options from its perspective on behalf of its members: the ability of its members to make some choices, to trade off one monetary benefit for another monetary benefit that they deem to be more beneficial to them at any particular point in their economic and working lives.
This piece of legislation takes a step backward from the current situation under the current Public Service Superannuation Act. Not only has the union not gained negotiability for this pension, but it has lost the guarantee of the one representative it previously had on the pension board. How can anybody see that as anything other than a step backward?
I think back to the comments of the Treasurer last spring, before this bill was even introduced in the House, when he was commenting on his discussions with both the teachers and OPSEU regarding negotiations around both of the pensions in question, the two legislative pensions that I spoke of earlier. When we were raising questions about negotiability, his response was that he was not prepared to agree on a dispute settlement mechanism that included arbitration if the pensions were negotiable, because somehow arbitration was going to negate this government’s ability to be fiscally responsible.
I have never heard so much of a joke in all of the time I have listened to the Treasurer, the member for Brant-Haldimand. He knows full well that the wage negotiations with OPSEU and the benefits negotiations with OPSEU are all subject to arbitrated settlements. In fact, the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act demands that disputes be arbitrated if they cannot reach a settlement at the negotiating table.
Mr Speaker, I ask you, has that arbitration, which is legislated under the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act, negated or destroyed this government’s fiscal responsibility? Of course it has not. An arbitration of disputes around questions of pension would in no way hinder the government’s ability to be fiscally responsible any more than those monetary items that are already on the negotiating table and subject to arbitration under the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act.
As a matter of fact, OPSEU, the union that represents the public servants in this province, the civil servants who are covered under the public service superannuation fund, has asked that instead of this kind of legislation governing their pension, there merely be an amendment to the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act to make the pension negotiable under the same terms and conditions as all of the monetary items already are.
I would suspect that if the Treasurer had really thought about what he was saying in the context of the overall monetary package that he commits each year to the wages and benefits of public servants in the province of Ontario, he would have chuckled at his own comments and got up with a different response the next day. Unfortunately, he never thought that through. His comments were focused strictly on a dispute around two pensions, the teachers’ pension and the public service superannuation pension, both of which have been mismanaged by this government and its predecessor.
The government members can sit there and say is not true for as long as they like, but we have all kinds of examples of public sector pensions where they are contributory pensions at the same rate as this one or lesser rates where those pension funds have been properly managed, where they are in surplus, where they have provided indexing without any additional cost to the employees, where they have taken contribution holidays and there are still surpluses sitting there.
The OMERS pension is indexed to the CPI. It has been that way for over a decade now. Members of OMERS contribute seven per cent, the same as the Ontario public service employees do. Looking at their contribution rate and the management of the fund -- because pension funds do have to be managed; they do not just look after themselves because you have put some money in -- the surpluses that have been generated by the management of that fund have not only paid for the indexing to CPI, but they have paid for that indexing and left a surplus of $400 million in that fund.
We have the Hydra pension plan. The Hydra pension plan is also a contributory plan at a rate of five per cent; not seven per cent, five per cent. That fund is indexed at 60 per cent of the rate of inflation. As well, that fund has significant surpluses. In fact, I believe it was just last year that Ontario Hydro took contribution holidays from the pension fund, at five per cent, even though that fund is paying for indexing and has surpluses. The surpluses are still there in addition to the --
An hon member: They could have provided full indexing.
Mr Charlton: That is right. With the surpluses that were in the Hydro fund, they could have provided full indexing.
We have the hospitals’ pension plan. It is indexed at a rate of 75 per cent of CPI, and not only is it indexed at 75 per cent, but again the contribution rate is only six per cent. The six per cent contribution rate in the hospital fund has created a huge surplus and, again, the hospitals have taken contribution holidays worth over $100 million, still leaving significant surpluses in place.
The government can stand up in this House and argue that the PSSF, the public service superannuation fund, has not been mismanaged, but unfortunately, that comment rings quite hollow from this government because we can simply go back to Hansard and find the Premier, the member for London Centre, and the Treasurer making comment after comment, year after year -- and you will recall these comments, Mr Speaker -- about how this pension and the teachers’ pension were being mismanaged by the former government.
After what is essentially 20 years of gross mismanagement of this pension fund and the teachers’ pension fund, we have got the government in the House with a piece of legislation, Bill 36; a piece of legislation which is asking for another one per cent from the employees, and, yes, it will be matched by one per cent from the government, but who mismanaged the fund? The employees? Not on your life; they have not had anything to say about it. It may be true that 75 per cent of that 20 years of mismanagement fell under the former administration, but it was still the government, the employer, that mismanaged the fund, and only 25 per cent, the last five years, was mismanaged by this government.
Regardless, to have the gall to come into this House and to ask the employees to pay anything to make up for deficits that resulted from the way the plan was and is managed is outrageous.
I can imagine the outcry on the faces of the government members across the way if the bill we were dealing with here before us was a piece of legislation asking the members of this House to pay additional money because the government had mismanaged the members’ pension fund over which we have no control in administrative terms. They would scream blue murder if the government either asked them for more money to make up for deficits because of mismanagement or asked them to take less benefits in order to secure the fund.
None of us, as members of that plan, have had any say over the administration of the plan. Even though, at least, we have had some say over the structure and the benefits of the plan, we have had no say in the administration of that plan, how it is invested and what the potentials for returns are. Well, neither have the civil servants in the province of Ontario and neither have the teachers in the province of Ontario.
That responsibility lies solely on the backs of this government and its predecessor, and it is not the responsibility of those people who have devoted their lives to working for the people of the province of Ontario and paying out six per cent and then seven per cent of their income into a pension fund. They should not be asked to make up for the errors in the borrowing of governments in this province because, let’s face it, most of the problems in those two pension funds have resulted from low-interest public sector borrowing by this government and others from those two pension funds.
The changes in the act may remedy some of that for the future, but the fact that this bill also includes a demand that the employees make up half of the shortfall is unacceptable when the responsibility for the shortfall lies wholly on the employer’s side.
This brings up another major problem that I have with Bill 36. It is not a new problem in Bill 36; it is an ongoing problem in this case. That is the conflict of interest between being the government that is passing this legislation and being the employer. That is precisely why having a pension plan that is legislated by government legislation. Let’s face it, because this deals with the expenditure of crown funds, it cannot ever be dealt with by private members’ legislation. It has to be government legislation in order to expend the moneys in question.
There is a clear conflict of interest. The government has one role, yes, in terms of its accountability to the taxpayers or the people of Ontario and this question of fiscal responsibility, but it also has the role of employer. It cannot do both in the form of a bill which sets out the legislation that governs the terms and conditions of the pension plan for the employees for which the government is employer.
That is why it is absolutely essential that the questions that are part of the pension responsibilities of this government and its pension relationship with its employees become a part of the overall collective bargaining process with its employees, so that it can play its role of employer in the forum where that is appropriate in negotiations with the bargaining agent for the employees and it can come into this Legislature with its budgets and the restraints on its budgets and play the role of government in the House.
But it cannot do both around something like a pension and not understand that there is an inherent conflict of interest in terms of how it perceives not only the problem that has evolved with the pension plan but its approach to solving that problem which, again, is to ask the employees to make up for half of the mismanagement that has resulted.
Bill 36 is a piece of legislation which is not necessary. It is a piece of legislation which will only, in the long run, make things worse. It is a piece of legislation which, because it changes a number of the specifics that are set out in the current piece of legislation, may in fact be subject to abuse in the future when the government changes, and it surely will.
Not only that, but it is a piece of legislation that essentially ignores all of the rhetoric that we heard from the Treasurer on the matter of teachers’ pensions and public service pensions last spring.
It is time the government went back to the drawing board and seriously thought through what pensions are about, what the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act says and what the process that is set out under the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act really means. That is not a process we fully support either because it does not represent full and free collective bargaining, but it is the system under which the employees of this province do negotiate. It is a system under which they would rather have this pension plan than have it under legislation.
This government has to begin to understand that in order for employees to be able to negotiate effectively, they have to be able to have the full range of choices to make with the financial potential, whether it is large or small, that the government goes into negotiations with as a total package. The employees have to have the right in that collective bargaining process to determine how much of that package they want in wages, how much of that package they want in benefits, health care benefits, dental benefits, insurance benefits, and how much of that package they want in retirement income set aside.
The government cannot take away a third of the package and arbitrarily make those decisions for those employees and ever hope that they will be happy with the overall package, because the package itself gets distorted by their lack of choice around a major portion of what many employees of this province, and any other employee for that matter in this society, see as an important part of what they have to think through in terms of their financial planning about buying a home and, at the same time, attempting to plan for their retirement and their future.
But if the government takes away a major part of that package so that the planning cannot be a full package of planning, researched and thought through, then it has limited their ability to ever satisfy what they see as their needs by some spurious argument that somehow, by making the pension plan negotiable and ultimately as a dispute settlement mechanism subject to arbitration, this government is going to lose its fiscal responsibility and accountability when, in fact, the other two thirds of the package are already subject to that kind of dispute settlement mechanism by the decree of this government.
It was the former government that passed the act but this government has not moved to change CECBA, to remove the compulsory arbitration sections of CECBA. This Treasurer, this Premier and this Minister of Financial Institutions and Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet, who is responsible for this bill, have not seen any huge crisis of fiscal responsibility emerging because of the arbitration sections in the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act. There will not be any more significant crisis as a result of arbitrating a whole package, including the pension, than there is now arbitrating when it is necessary and it does not go to arbitration that often, the decisions around wages and all the rest of the things in the benefit package, with the exception of pensions.
We are, as I said at the outset, determinedly opposed to Bill 36. This government should withdraw the legislation, go back and sit down with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and come back to this House with serious amendments, most likely to the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act, so we can get this whole thing on the right track, a track where there perhaps is some eventual solution to the problems and the disputes between the government and the union on pension questions as well as other questions.
This piece of legislation, Bill 36, does not address those concerns and disputes and certainly does not resolve any of them. It makes some of them, in fact, worse than they already are.
Mr Reycraft: The member for Hamilton Mountain chose in his speech to make at some length the point that he believes the public service pension fund has been mismanaged. I do not believe that it has. I do not believe that there is any actuarial evidence indicating that the fund has been mismanaged. I know that the government had three independent studies done of the pension fund by gentlemen named Rowan, Coward and Slater and I wonder if the member for Hamilton Mountain could indicate to us what the basis for his mismanagement charge is.
Mr Charlton: The response to the member for Middlesex’s question is a very simple one. The requirements of the law in terms of the management of pension funds are minimal. There is a difference between minimal and what any other pension manager sees as his or her role, which is to maximize the benefits which the pension fund returns to itself.
That is what this government has failed to do over the course of the last 20 years. It has seen as its role to use that fund to its best advantage for public borrowing and not to maximize the benefits to the fund and therefore to the employees. It is simple. This business of today has to do with a conflict of interest that I mentioned earlier in what this government sees as its role.
Ms Hošek: I appreciate hearing the views of the two opposition parties on this bill. I will speak very briefly at this juncture and perhaps respond to some of the issues that have been raised so far, knowing full well that we will discuss them more as time goes on. The first and important thing to remember when looking at this bill is that it responds to a very serious problem, that is, although the previous government agreed to index the pension plan of public servants, it did not indeed plan to pay for that indexation.
The first priority of this government is to make sure that the existing benefit level, including the indexation part of the pension of our public servants, is funded adequately to make sure that it will be there to pay the expenses associated with people’s pensions when the time comes for people to collect them. In order to do that, the government has agreed to pay the entire past deficit, which is close to $2 billion, to make sure that the people who are currently retired will have their pensions paid for according to that original agreement without having to put any more money in.
In order to make sure that the people who are currently working in the public service will have the money that is necessary for them, not only for their pension but for it to be indexed as fully as it is in the plan, there needed to be more resources put in and, in order to do that, both the government and the employees will be putting in one per cent extra every year.
If nothing were to be done about this pension, the indexation fund would be exhausted by the turn of the century and the money that people have every reason to count on, and I understand they are counting on, would simply not be there to pay them for the pensions they have rightfully earned. That is the reason the government has undertaken this bill and, at the same time, is making sure that certain key issues are covered.
The first is that all the requirements of the Pension Benefits Act which were passed a number of years ago will apply to the public sector pensions. But the other issues that have been raised, in particular by the last speaker, the member for Hamilton Mountain, having to do with getting as good a return on that investment as possible, are also being addressed in this bill.
As the member knows, in the past the resources that were put aside for pensions were sold to the government at a fixed interest rate, which in fact is higher than the amount of money the government would have had to pay for getting the same amount of funds in the open market. But the decision has been made that the pension plans of the public service will become like pension plans in the general workplace, invested in the marketplace in marketable securities, and this particular piece of legislation contains some details about how that transition is to be made.
Over time, therefore, all the moneys that are invested on behalf of our public sector employees will be managed in the way that private sector funds are managed, with marketable securities, and it will be available to all employees to get the best possible return that a conscientious and concerned board will have, to make sure that people get as much money as possible.
I think this argument about a conflict of interest is a very peculiar one to hear and to have the members make. Surely it is to the benefit of the employer and the government, as well as to the benefit of the employees, that the best possible return to the pension fund come in, because the better the return the more quickly the deficit will be managed and disappear and the better the possibilities for our employees and also for the employer’s responsibility here.
So I think that the commitment to making sure that the fund is managed as well as possible is clear. The way that it will be done is with a board that will make the decisions about how to manage the fund. The board, like other boards which manage pension funds in the private sector as well, will be bound by the Pension Benefits Act which requires it to exercise care, diligence, skill and prudence in its administration of the plan. The board will have a fiduciary responsibility to all the plan’s beneficiaries for its actions.
The other question that has been raised a number of times is whether the plan is fully indexed or not, and let me point out that the way the plan works is that the pensions are indexed to an eight per cent cap in any given year. However, if there is inflation higher than eight per cent in any given year, the amount that is higher than eight per cent will be carried over. What that means is that the pensions are fully indexed with a year over year carryover should the inflation rate be higher than eight per cent.
I know there are other concerns that people have raised. We will talk about them in greater detail as we proceed with this bill. I simply want to put on the record the most important thing of all, which is that we are here as a government to protect both the pensions and the indexation of the pensions of our public service. In order to do that, it must be properly funded.
This bill makes sure that it will be properly funded and also takes on an enormous responsibility of putting in $2 billion for the previous parts of the pension indexation system which were not adequately funded before. It seems to me that is acting with both fiscal responsibility and fiduciary responsibility for the public service whose work makes so much difference to the work all of us here do and try to deal with on behalf of the people of Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Ms Hošek has moved second reading of Bill 36, An Act to revise the Public Service Superannuation Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Call in the members.
The Acting Speaker: The chair has received notice that, “Pursuant to standing order 27(g), I request that the vote on the motion by Ms Hošek for second reading of Bill 36, An Act to revise the Public Service Superannuation Act, be deferred until after routine proceedings on 8 November 1989.” It is signed by the chief government whip.
For the information of members, you will know that under the new standing orders this is a procedure which allows any of the parties to provide us with notice of deferral. There will be a five-minute bell when the vote is taken tomorrow.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The House does not wish to intervene on any private conversations, so either you go outside or we do.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Grave disorder.
The Acting Speaker: I know grave disorder, this is not it.
EDUCATION STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Conway moved second reading of Bill 64, An Act to amend the Education Act and certain other Acts related to Education Assessment.
Hon Mr Conway: I am going to make some brief introductory remarks because I know my colleagues in the assembly are anxious to debate the principle of Bill 64. Before my colleague the House leader leaves, I really want to pay tribute to the member for Wentworth North (Mr Ward) because he quite frankly is much more responsible for this legislation than I am and I am very proud to carry it forward because he did some very fine work in preparing the government’s policy on this legislation, which I think my friend, the member for Scarborough West (Mr R. F. Johnston) would argue, and would agree at least, is companion to the Bill 30 initiative which the Legislature dealt with earlier in this decade, Mr Speaker, a matter that I know you remember with great clarity and great affection.
Bill 64 and Bill 65, which will follow very shortly, are the two pieces of legislation that deal with the so-called pooling matter. I want to in the time afforded me this afternoon speak to the government’s position with respect to the policy which informs these two legislative initiatives. I think it is fair to say that the essence of Bill 64 is a fairer and more equitable sharing of the industrial and commercial assessment that is a very important part of educational finance in the province of Ontario.
Through you, Mr Speaker, to my friend, the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot), I would observe that in 1989 we expect that local taxes will make up something like a total of $5.6 billion of the total educational bill and of that $5.6 billion total in 1989 some 40 per cent of that, roughly $2.2 billion, is in the nature of or in the form of industrial and commercial assessment.
Mr D. S. Cooke: How much is this going to cost us?
Hon Mr Conway: Now my friend the member for Windsor-Riverside says, “And how much is this going to cost?” I think the very important point that I know my friend from Windsor-Riverside would want me to repeat is that it is not the cost but rather the benefit of this legislation. There is a fundamental principle and benefit that flows from Bills 64 and 65 and that is --
Mr D. S. Cooke: I was just thinking of Bill Davis’s commitment that it was only going to be $40 million.
Hon Mr Conway: I am not Bill Davis, late of the riding of Brampton. Not late of this world I might add because we were all here just a few days ago to see the unveiling of his splendid new portrait, but my friend from Windsor-Riverside is asking how much is this going to cost in the Bill Davis arithmetic and I am not going to engage that mathematical operation.
Hon Mr Conway: Perhaps my friend from Mount Forest, the member for Wellington might like to, but I am not going to.
Mr J. M. Johnson: No intention.
Hon Mr Conway: I just want to make the point again that the principle of Bill 64 is a more equitable sharing of the $2.2 billion worth of industrial and commercial assessment for school purposes in the province of Ontario.
There has been a long history around this assessment matter. My late grandfather, who served in this Legislature some decades ago, used to talk about an effort of a government decades ago to deal with the very sensitive issue of educational assessment, which led to a very famous by-election out in eastern Ontario in the mid-1930s. The government was not able to proceed with the reform that it had wanted and, of course, during the postwar period successive Conservative governments, to be fair, moved to address a number of the concerns, particularly of the separate school boards who had argued with some legitimacy that they simply were not sharing in a very important element of educational finance.
What we have today is a bill that, while not perfect -- and I know that as we proceed through this debate and into the standing committee on social development we are going to hear that it has not solved all of the problems in the area of educational finance. I just simply want to say, in anticipation of what I know is to come later this afternoon, that I recognize that this bill is not the apogee of financial perfection in so far as some in the school community might like.
I want to say that the bill has a number of changes or contemplates a number of changes. Let me just quickly touch on a number of the main changes. The first change that is caused or is established by Bill 64 has to do with the assessment of publicly traded corporations. As you know, Mr Speaker, in the past a publicly traded corporation could only designate to the separate school system its taxes to the extent that the corporation had and could identify Roman Catholic shareholders. Under Bill 64, the assessment of publicly traded corporations will be shared among coterminous schools on the basis of the amount of residential assessment supporting each board in the municipality. That is a change of some significance, I think my friends opposite will agree.
In the second area of business partnerships, business partnerships will now be able to direct a portion of their assessment to the separate school system in the same proportion that Roman Catholics hold an interest in the partnership. Previously, a partnership could only direct support to the separate system if all the partners were Roman Catholics. In the case of business partnerships, the changes will be implemented immediately and I should have added in so far as publicly traded corporations are concerned, those changes will be phased in over a longer period of time; in fact, a six-year period of time overall.
The third area has to do with telephone and telegraph receipts; another very important area of industrial and commercial assessment. I was surprised actually to learn from my officials that -- and I think it was last year that the payout for educational purposes from the telephone and telegraph receipts for education purposes was something in the neighbourhood of $85 million, a substantial amount of money.
Mr R. F. Johnston: A lot of telegrams.
Hon Mr Conway: My friend the member for Scarborough West says “a lot of telegrams.” I do not seem to be one who sends a lot of telegrams, but certainly the receipts here are very considerable. The education portion of the telephone and telegraph receipts will now, as a result of this legislative change, be shared by coterminous boards on the basis of the amount of residential assessment supporting each board in the municipality. In other words, a more equitable sharing between the local boards of those receipts.
So those, really, are three very important areas where we have made changes: publicly traded corporations, and the telephone and telegraph receipts. In both of those cases, we are using the share of assessment, equalized residential and farm assessment, as the calculator for the division. In the case of business partnerships, as I indicated earlier, the proportions there will be determined by the extent to which Roman Catholics hold an interest in the partnership. I should just indicate that in areas such as private corporations, sole proprietorships and, of course, individuals, the legislation does not contemplate change. So it is important to observe that as well.
I should also make the point -- because I have a feeling that my friend the member for Scarborough West is going to perhaps comment on what this bill does not do -- this bill is what I shall call local pooling. This is not pooling on a province-wide basis.
Mr Pouliot: At present.
Hon Mr Conway: I just have to say to my friend from Manitouwadge, the member for Lake Nipigon, that the bill is very clear in its intention. We now have, as a result of Bill 30, two fully funded public school systems in the province of Ontario. The government has felt, and I believe this enjoys unanimous support, that as we have two fully funded school systems, they ought to have the same access to such things as industrial and commercial assessment. We have had a lot of debate over the years on this subject. We have had a lot of advice. The government has listened very carefully to a number of submissions, not the least of which was the Macdonald commission, which commission’s report I received four years and three months ago, I think it was, when I first became the Minister of Education.
I just have to say to my friend the member for Lake Nipigon that this legislation is built on the principle of sharing as between local boards; or in the case of Ottawa-Carleton, which is dealt with in Bill 65, or in Metropolitan Toronto, on a regional basis -- the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton or the region of Metropolitan Toronto. It is not province-wide pooling. It is important for me to make that point.
We recognize as a government that there will be impacts. Certainly there is no question that there will be shifts as this legislative change takes effect.
Mr Pouliot: You should say severe dislocations.
Hon Mr Conway: I would describe the result as a matter of shifting. We are not going to know the full measure of the shift until we have a chance to look at the assessment rolls for 1990. I think that is very, very important. One of the reasons I am so anxious to have the bill debated and passed on second reading, have it referred out for a discussion at the standing committee on social development, to have it reported back, is my friend and colleague the member for Essex South, the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini), must get those rolls prepared and out being dealt with at the local level and returned so that we can make the necessary adjustments.
I know that my friends on all sides of the House are very sensitive to the need to get this matter dealt with expeditiously because those assessment rolls have got to be prepared and they cannot be prepared if we do not make the rolls reflect the changes that are made possible as a result of what is contemplated in Bill 64.
Now, I just want to deal quickly with the impacts. My friends will know that, to ceiling, the adjustments are not going to be particularly difficult, because to the extent that a public board’s assessment drops, that will be adjusted, with an increase in the provincial grant to ceiling.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Oh, to ceiling.
Hon Mr Conway: Well, I am coming to the changes later.
When we get to the separate boards, in almost all cases they will see their local assessment base grow as a result of these changes. Therefore, in many cases their grant is likely to drop correspondingly because, as members know, under the system that has been developed in this province, provincial grants to ceiling take into account local capacity. As a result of Bill 64, separate boards are going to find themselves with greater access to industrial and commercial assessment, and in most cases, that will mean their provincial grant will decline. Similarly, public boards will see their assessment drop, and therefore their provincial grant will increase to the approved expenditure ceilings.
Now, we recognize that most boards in this province, perhaps even in Durham region, spend above ceiling. Therefore, the government has indicated and the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) made very plain in his statement earlier in the year that this government, sensitive to the adjustment, will provide very substantial dollars to ensure that public boards are not disadvantaged as a result of this fair and equitable principle that I think we all support in Bill 64.
As I say, we are not going to know the full measure of these impacts until we see those assessment rolls return for the year 1990. I simply want to make the point that we recognize, and the Treasurer has indicated, that a phase-in period of six years will accompany this initiative to make sure that the adjustments are in the best of that Ontario tradition, gradual and incremental. And we have indicated -- my colleague the Treasurer has indicated, and I have also reinforced a point made by my predecessor the now government House leader (Mr Ward), the former Minister of Education -- that we contemplate over a six-year period pumping in something in the neighbourhood of $180 million to ensure that no board is disadvantaged as a result of this change.
Mr D. S. Cooke: So you will accept that amendment.
Hon Mr Conway: Well, I want to say to my honourable friend the opposition House leader, he knows what his powers are with respect to moving amendments that cause the spending of money. I think he understands the very important principle of responsible government that makes that a prerogative of ministers of the crown.
But I want to say that I will do what this government said it would do, and I will give a commitment to my friends, sometimes my dubious friends, across the way that we are going to make sure that substantial additional dollars, I would expect in the neighbourhood of $180 million over a six-year period --
Mr D. S. Cooke: It is not enough.
Hon Mr Conway: My friend the member for Windsor-Riverside says it is not enough. I can tell him that there is no one in this room who can now predict with absolute certainty what the adjustment is going to be, because we have to see what those --
Mr Pouliot: What about the next government, six years from now?
Hon Mr Conway: I cannot look to the future with the kind of clairvoyant clarity of my friend the member for Lake Nipigon, but I take very seriously the obligations that this government recognizes in so far as the adjustment of those boards that are going to be affected is concerned.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Weasel words and sucker clauses.
Hon Mr Conway: No, they are not that at all. They are a genuine recognition by a responsible and responsive government to the needs of our school community, and I simply repeat that the member for Wentworth North, the former Minister of Education, and my colleague the member for Brant-Haldimand (Mr R. F. Nixon), the provincial Treasurer, have made very plain earlier this year what our approach was going to be.
We recognize that we are going to have to increase the provincial ceilings to provide additional resources to those boards which are going to be affected by this change, and we are going to look very carefully at the data that are collected over the next while to see what the pattern is out there in the community because, I repeat, not until we see the return of those rolls will we know with --
Mr D. S. Cooke: Then make the guarantee in the legislation.
Hon Mr Conway: The guarantee is a very real guarantee. We are saying that we are going to phase in this change over six years. We have indicated $180 million over that six-year period.
Mr Kerrio: Very responsible.
Hon Mr Conway: My friend the member for Niagara Falls is a very wise man, close to the people of this province. I think he would agree that in these times of worry about taxes and such like, often voiced by members opposite, for this government to appropriate and allocate an additional $180 million is very responsible indeed. I simply want my friends opposite to know that we recognize that we have an obligation and we are going to meet that obligation in a responsible way.
As well, before I take my seat, I want to indicate that the bill also deals with some boundary issues. It is, I will admit, a tender subject, this business of boundaries. I was saying to my staff, it reminds me of an electoral redistribution because it is the case that as a result of the Scott act, when we had the separate school zones, the map in some parts of Ontario is not very tidy. It is going to have to be a lot more tidy if, in fact, we are going to see these changes effectively implemented. There are going to be a lot of municipal clerks who are going to be annoyed with us if we do not make the changes to boundaries that are contemplated in Bill 64.
Mr D. S. Cooke: What are you going to do about Dougall school?
Hon Mr Conway: I want my friend from Windsor to know that I met the group from Windsor the other day and I felt we had --
Mr D. S. Cooke: I was excluded from the meeting.
Hon Mr Conway: It was not because I excluded my friend from Windsor-Riverside. I simply have to tell him I felt it was a good meeting. I heard what they had to say. I think they had a sense of what I had to say, and we will see what the future brings.
Mr D. S. Cooke: They told me they could not get a word in on the issue.
Hon Mr Conway: I cannot comment on that, but I just want to make the point that the legislation brings about a number of changes to the boundaries question, and that, I just simply say to the House, is a matter of administrative requirement and necessity simply because if we are going to cause, as the main part of the bill suggests, a reapportionment of industrial and commercial assessment and we are going to talk about municipal boundaries, then, to the greatest extent, we have to make the two school districts, public and separate, much more coterminous, much more congruent. That is what we seek to do in this legislation, as well.
That is essentially what Bill 64 is all about, a fairer and more equitable sharing of the over $2 billion worth of industrial and commercial assessment as between the two publicly funded school systems in Ontario. It is a sharing on a local, not a province-wide, basis. It is a legislative initiative that does recognize that there will be impacts on a number of school districts, most of them public school boards, and for that reason of adjustment, this government has indicated that it will be phasing in the bulk of this change over a six-year period. We will be adding, we expect, something in the order of $180 million over that six-year period to make sure that no board is disadvantaged as a result of this initiative.
We recognize that it is not perfect and that there are other aspects of the educational finance agenda that remain to be dealt with. The inequity between the rich and the poor boards is something that I have to tell members, as the member for Renfrew North -- like, I know, my friend the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman) -- I think about a lot.
We look to areas such as Windsor and Scarborough, and we think of what it must be like to have access to that kind of local wealth. But we are reasonable people, my friend the member for Algoma and I, and we think about future issues that are going to be important, because I want to say in conclusion that there are other issues on the educational finance agenda that have to be dealt with.
This bill is not the final word on those other aspects of the finance question, but I want to say that I appreciate it. I want to say that this government, when it comes to supporting our educational institutions, whether they be at the elementary, secondary or the post-secondary level, has been very strong, very positive and very much in the tradition of doing what it said it would do. I know that my friends from the New Democratic Party have that happy luxury of never having had the opportunity to --
Mr D. S. Cooke: What did you say when you were on this side of the House?
Hon Mr Conway: I remember what I said when I was over there, but let me just say in conclusion, again, that I have appreciated throughout these four years and three or four months that I have been in the executive council the three-party support for the core policy, of which Bill 64 is an important part; that is, the extension of public funding to separate schools in the province.
I know that my friends in the New Democratic Party and the Conservative Party will in the course of this debate point to some aspects of the legislation that might need to be improved upon, but I know they will not retreat from something that has been the hallmark of their behaviour in my time in government, and that is their foursquare support for the Bill Davis policy of full funding for separate schools.
This Bill 64 is, I repeat, a companion piece that is fair and equitable, I believe, not just to the separate school system but to the public school system. When I think about the adjustment funding that is contemplated, I must say that I think the Legislature has before it a very fair and reasonable proposal, and I would submit it now for the comment and the unanimous approval of my colleagues on all sides.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): The Minister of Education has begun discussion on Bill 64, An Act to amend the Education Act and certain other Acts related to Education Assessment, to whom I say it is a pleasure to hear him again. It reminds me of other times. Questions and comments?
Mr R. F. Johnston: I do have a couple of questions of the minister, in conclusion. I would just like to say that because I felt that the minister, unused these days as he is to introducing bills -- it has been so long since he did this that he got into that “in conclusion” business only two or three times. In the old days he would conclude any speech five, six or seven times. I think he needs a little bit more work, so I am giving him another chance to conclude by asking him one question.
The question is, the minister knows the great fear that the public system has. The public system has a great fear of losing in the whole extension of funding to the Catholic school system. It has been the great paranoia that has hung over their heads for a long time, to mix a metaphor. I want to know why it is today that the minister will not say that the real costs to public boards will not be assumed.
I want to know why he keeps talking that it may be $180 million or it may be more, but certainly it may be different figures. As the minister says, we will not know until we see the assessment, but the principle, that very important principle, that this change will not in any way negatively hurt a public school board in the province of Ontario is a responsibility that the minister and his government should be accepting. It is just a very easy thing for him to say and it is a very easy thing for us to put into this bill as an amendment; as the minister says, not for an opposition member to do but for the government to do.
This would be the one thing the minister could do to make the public boards feel better. I am surprised that throughout his speech today we heard weasel words instead of that very straightforward commitment, something that in fact was promised in the overall separate school funding debate years back, that nobody was going to be hurt badly in the public school system because of this.
Instead, we are hearing today that this commitment to total funding of the negative impact will not necessarily be assumed. I think that is what those people want to hear and it is certainly what I want to hear through this process.
Mr Wildman: I have comments -- actually, one comment and two questions. First, I would like to dissociate myself from the characterization of myself as reasonable. Second, I would like to ask two questions.
There are 13 public boards in the province, most in northern Ontario, that have indicated that they expect they will be adversely affected, unlike others. I am wondering, as my colleague from Scarborough West indicated, why the minister in introducing the legislation now could not give assurance to those 13 boards, not a figure, but that they will not be adversely affected and that the government will assume the responsibility of ensuring they are not.
The other question I have is in regard to what comes next. I know that the minister in introducing this piece of legislation indicated that there were other issues that must be resolved and that these are the rural boards and the northern boards and the lack of assessment they have in comparison to some large urban centres in the province such as Toronto, Ottawa, London, whatever. What assurance do those boards have that this process will in fact be ongoing, and not that this legislation will pass and go through the years of transition envisaged by this legislation and we will not in any way advance to the point where the problems faced by rural boards will be addressed?
Mr D. S. Cooke: Just briefly, the minister did not spend enough time dealing with the real problem of education financing, and that is the commitment the Liberal Party made in the past of 60 per cent funding of education. He knows as well as I do, as a former trustee for a school board, that if in fact the Liberal Party had lived up to its commitment of 60 per cent and had raised the spending ceilings for grant purposes to a realistic level in the province, we would not have nearly the problem we have now in dealing with separate school boards and the sharing of commercial and industrial assessment.
He also knows we would not have the problems with rural boards and northern boards feeling that they are not going to be properly assisted under this piece of legislation if the government had followed through with its commitment.
I remember very well when the current minister was the Liberal critic in this place, when they were the official opposition, asking questions of the then Minister of Education, Bette Stephenson. The answer she used to give was they were at 60 per cent if you considered the contribution the government makes to the teachers’ superannuation fund. At that point, the Leader of the Opposition at that time, now the Premier (Mr Peterson), and the critic, now the Minister of Education, said how unfair that was and how inaccurate that was and how that was distortion of the facts and the promise the Tories had made about proper education financing.
I think that the longer the government stalls on fairness and on the 60 per cent commitment, the more difficulty we are going to have with having equitable education right across the province.
Under the current financing that exists, there is no doubt at all that poor boards in rural and northern Ontario, and in rural southern Ontario as well, cannot offer the same level of education that rich urban boards can provide because of the inequities.
The Deputy Speaker: Are there other questions and comments? Would the minister wish to reply?
Hon Mr Conway: Certainly, Mr Speaker. I want to start with the last observation first, if I might. I do not ever remember being the critic for Education. I used to be the critic for Colleges and Universities. But I am quite happy to speak briefly to the point. I say to my friend that I think we have been more than reasonable in the overall increases we have afforded school boards in the last four years. Now, my friend the member for Windsor-Riverside says 60 per cent. At the present moment we are at about -- I forget what it is -- roughly 55 per cent of approved expenditures, and actually --
Mr D. S. Cooke: More like 43 per cent.
Hon Mr Conway: All right, but my question is, if it is going to be 60 per cent of southwestern Ontario blue sky, then the taxpayers of this province are going to --
Mr D. S. Cooke: What did your policy mean? What were you talking about when you said 60 per cent?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Conway: I want to know what the member means. I tell him that at the present moment in many jurisdictions we are above 60 per cent of expenditures. In some districts the spending, because of local wealth, is so very high that one begins to have difficulty understanding what an open-ended commitment of 60 per cent to that kind of expenditure pattern might mean for provincial taxpayers.
I do not agree with the member for Algoma who says he is not reasonable. I have found him to be eminently reasonable over the years.
What is next? I simply make the point that we are, as a government, sensitive in particular to the needs of the assessment-poor boards and we are simply, over the years, going to have to find more and better ways of addressing their needs. I say that from a personal point of view because certainly the Renfrew boards, like the Algoma boards, are in that category.
I want to say to both the member for Algoma and the member for Scarborough West that I thought I was clear about our commitment. We are saying to school boards that there is going to be no school board that is going to suffer a net loss of revenue as a result of this policy. That is the operative principle on which we are proceeding. I want them to know, though, that until we see the rolls and see the next few years of implementation, we will not know what that absolute impact might be.
The Deputy Speaker: Do other members wish to participate in the debate?
Mr R. F. Johnston: I think that was much clearer. It is good to get him to conclude that fourth time because that sounded like a better commitment. In the time between now and the actual public hearings we hold, or perhaps at the time of looking at any potential amendments, the government will actually put that kind of wording in so that the boards around the province do not have that concern about ending up with some kind of net loss in this whole matter.
Hon Mr Conway: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I might have misspoke myself and I want to correct the record. I meant to say -- maybe I did say this, but I want to be clear --
The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order.
Hon Mr Conway: I just want to be clear on the point about the amount of industrial and commercial assessment in terms of the taxes: about $2.2-billion worth of school taxes in 1989 as a result of industrial and commercial assessment.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you for the point of order. The member may proceed.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I fan myself with relief that we were not in fact getting a withdrawal of the commitment on the principle but only a clarification of figures. I feel much more relaxed now as I rise again to say that this principle is vitally important to us as a party.
I am rising today to support this piece of legislation. but basically to damn it with faint praise as well, and to say that I am a reluctant supporter of this initiative, primarily because of its limitations and its particular focus. The crying need for a major overhaul of the educational finance system is so great that this kind of tinkering, which one must see this as being in comparison with the other great inequities that are out there, and the actual results of this kind of change by coterminous board pooling is something that really needs to be addressed at this point.
This is an interesting bill, as most of the Education Act bills are. There are some parts of it that are just straight, normal, dull and dreary kinds of amendments around finance, and then there are all these very strange and arcane parts of it, such as the very strange separate school board zones that exist out there in the province of Ontario today, which bear no relationship at all to any of the board structures we have and certainly make any kind of notion of having coterminous board operations laughable.
I would just say that we of course accept the principle that it is time to get rid of some of these antiquated notions and have more coterminous examples around the province in order to make sure that other kinds of things besides the sharing of assessment can take place. I talk here about the sharing of resources, the sharing of bus routes, the sharing of all sorts of costs between the two education systems out there so that we can help keep the cost to the local taxpayer down.
There is the other strange and arcane part of this bill that probably no one out there in the public knew about. I certainly did not until I was actually given the explanatory notes and a few extra bits of a compendium that went along with this bill, I had no idea we had this telephone and telegraph well of money that is out there, some $85 million --
Hon Mr Conway: For school --
Mr R. F. Johnston: For school board purposes. The minister is right to maybe correct me on that. Here we have not only taxes levied on phone bills and telegraph messages that are passed, but also on the erection of poles and the utilization of poles around Ontario. It is absolutely mind-boggling that this goes on.
Hon Mr Conway: That’s real property. These are grants in lieu of taxes paid.
Mr R. F. Johnston: These in fact are, as the minister is saying, payments in lieu of taxes paid, but who knew this was even going on out there? I do not think any of us did and this $85 million is in fact something that by logical extension of the extension of Catholic school funding, should be spread between the two systems on some kind of logical basis. The concept of how it should be done is again something I am not about to argue today.
I do want to put this piece of legislation in context. We have just undergone a set of hearings this fall through the select committee on education, looking at the questions of financing and the terrible problems that the education system is facing at the moment.
We have heard from many deputations around the province just how unrealistic government funding is at the moment, just how difficult it is for school boards to be able to manage. Then we look at what the government’s major initiative in terms of operating costs is in its four-year period in power at this stage. You have to say that this is not going to deal with the problems. This is in some ways a symbolic gesture to the Catholic school system and not one that has a great deal of meat to it. For many parts of the province, Catholic school boards are not going to see any major change in their basic deprivation in terms of their incomes to be able to manage the education system as it is now expected of them by their ratepayers in the province.
To the public boards in the province, it is yet again another example of the government coming along and taking from them something upon which they were relying. They are feeling very insecure that out of this process they will be the poorer, that their students will be less well off in terms of the quality of education they get.
As a member of that committee, I know we had the wonderful work done by our researchers, David Pond especially, who did a number of background papers for us. One is about educational finance in the province, an historical background. When you look back to how we funded education in the 1840s and the way we now do it and you watch the development of it, moving from one crazy system to another, all lacking in basic concepts of accountability and equity, you then say to yourself: “What has this Liberal government done here? Has it really addressed those fundamental problems of a lack of equity and accountability?” One has to say, “In small part, in very small part with this bill.”
It is allowing us through the notion of coterminous groupings of boards to at least say that we are expecting some kind of local comparison to be made, that the sharing of the commercial and industrial assessment in those areas allows us again to have some kind of local comparability. But it does not deal with the horde of other kinds of major issues that are out there.
We heard in a place like Windsor, for instance, of the various problems the boards there saw. What struck me was not the great difference in terms of the Catholic board and the public board in what was being spent and their capacity to raise funds, although there were quite sharp differences, but was the enormous differences that existed in Windsor proper versus those that existed in Essex county just outside it.
You would see a dramatic change in the amount of money that could be raised for the average cost of educating a student in the county. It was much, much lower than that for the same student if his parents happened to live in the city of Windsor, even though potentially his parents might both work at the same Windsor van plant, for instance, contributing to the wellbeing of the overall region as a result of their work and their taxes and income that were developed in that area, and yet the money that was there for the county is just a tiny fraction of what was there for the city.
To give members some idea of what we are talking about, here are some of the figures. Windsor Public School Board, for the elementary panel, is spending $5,213 a student; the Windsor Roman Catholic board is spending $4,548 per student. It is a difference of $700. But if you compare that with what Essex Public School Board is getting, which is $4,000 essentially, in comparison with that $5,213 for the public board in Windsor proper, you can see that is a much bigger difference. That is the problem that really needs to be addressed, as well as this difference between the separate and the public systems.
In comparison, just to give members the figures, because I think it is very important: Essex public, $4,063 per pupil cost; Essex Roman Catholic, $4,023. In other words, there is a very incidental difference between the capacities at this stage of the two county boards to be able to provide for their students and yet just a mile or two away, across the border, students are having another $1,000 spent on their education, which has not been the case in the county.
This change that the minister is bringing in today does not even address that fundamental problem. Interestingly, he addresses part of it and that is that in Windsor itself the Catholic board now will be able to access funds that it was not able to get before from commercial-industrial assessment. As a result, they are likely to be doing substantially better at the end of this process.
But the difference for the people in the county will be negligible. Why? Because the assessment is not there. The big auto plants are not in the county, they are in the city, even though those people who work in those plants may live in the county itself. That basic inequality is not dealt with here. There have been a number of suggestions about how to deal with that and I will be glad to come back to that as I deal with this issue further on.
The Windsor Roman Catholic Separate School Board did give us some interesting information. I will share this with members because it is the kind of thing you get when you are on committee and you do not get when you are sitting in the House, generally speaking, in terms of these speeches that we give here, which are usually more general. This is from the presentation by the Windsor Roman Catholic Separate School Board and it basically indicates a few of the following things.
For every $1 raised from residential assessment by the Windsor separate school board, the Windsor Board of Education can raise $1.70 at this stage. For every $1 raised from commercial assessment by the Windsor separate school board, the Windsor Board of Education can raise $8. Therefore, this kind of change we are talking about here obviously will be of assistance to the local Catholic board in Windsor, but if you look at the possibilities for the board in the county, it is just not there. In fact, they have put some fascinating statistics at the end of their presentation, which I think will be interesting for members.
This is the change that you would basically see. To get to the same level of expenditure as the Windsor public board of education, the county Catholic board would have to get an extra $14,468,000 of income. There is no way that assessment exists out there in any way that can bring about that kind of equalization. To be equal to the Windsor Roman Catholic system, it would be an extra $5 million. With the changes we are talking about here, we are talking about that going up again perhaps by another $2 million. They will be in deficit, even farther behind their Catholic counterparts just a couple of miles away. In terms of the Essex public board, the only difference there is $353,000.
I say to the minister and to the Liberal government that we are dealing with something here which, yes, on a coterminous basis is making some kind of an impact, especially in the assessment-wealthy areas, but in the assessment-poor areas it is another matter altogether.
I was in Sault Ste Marie recently and the member there drew to my attention another kind of anomaly which is parallel to this; and that is that the public board and the Catholic board in Sault Ste Marie will now get to divvy up, instead of it all going to the public board, Algoma Steel’s very major assessment to the city at this point. This is a major concern to the city of Sault Ste Marie, of course, to the public board, and it is one of the reasons why it is one of the boards which is likely to need help from the government out of this $180-million pot that has been set aside over the six-year period.
What it does not address is the terrible position that the Algoma board is in. People who work in that plant, who shop and who participate in so many other ways in the social life of Sault Ste Marie but who happen to live outside of that border do not get one cent of that assessment. So the discrepancy will be enlarged between the have-not, low-assessment areas outside areas outside of the Sault and now both boards inside of Sault Ste Marie itself. So what you end up having is the rich getting richer, in terms of the Catholic boards in assessment-rich areas, the public boards being hopefully buffered entirely for a six-year period so that they do not lose anything, so they maintain their relative wealth, and the losers are going to be both the public and the Catholic boards in the areas just outside the coterminous boards’ boundaries. They are the ones who are going to get hurt the most.
You can find this all through the province of Ontario. The member for Niagara Falls is here and if he starts to think about some of the differences in the peninsula, one can see the same kinds of anomalies starting there. The Carleton board brought forward to our attention and so did the-
Hon Mr Conway: I think we can accept the analysis; now, what’s the cure?
Mr R. F. Johnston: I am very happy to talk about the cure, and I will come to that in a moment. Is it not good that he wants to speak to me through you in this fashion, Mr Speaker? I am pleased to conduct the conversation in that way.
We got a superb presentation from the completion office of the separate schools, which one might have expected to be coming very much from the sense of just a Catholic perspective, if I can put it that way, from a fairly self-serving kind of notion, but, in fact, it did not. It raised, of course, the problem that was there between the two systems that this is trying to meet on a minimal kind of fashion. More importantly, they addressed this difficulty of the discrepancies across the province.
Mr Speaker, it is not the sort of thing that I can even point out to you, let alone the people who might be trying to watch this debate at home, but the difference in potential assessment between the city of Toronto on this graph and, surprisingly, Carleton, just outside of Ottawa -- a major growing area -- is phenomenal. Carleton has approximately 20 per cent of the capacity to raise commercial and industrial assessment as does the city of Toronto. Think about that, Mr Speaker. I know this is of interest to you because your riding is Prescott and Russell and is quite close by.
Hon Mr Conway: The city of Toronto is a mix of industry and business; Carleton is largely suburban.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I am glad, Mr Speaker, that the minister, through you, has told us all the demographic differences between the city of Toronto and Carleton. I was coming to this, and I appreciate his prompting.
Of course these are demographically different areas, and that is what I am trying to raise, but a student is a student and a school system is a provincial responsibility, and giving an equal education opportunity is one which, surely, we all accept.
What I am trying to point out is that it might be a surprise to people to think about a growth area like Carleton as being low in assessment. I do not think we think about that, and certainly this government does not think about York region in that fashion, because it dumps York region into the great GTA, the greater tax area of Ontario. But we learned in the committee that York region suffers a similar low assessment. In fact, we can see in this relative chart that it has only about 40 per cent of the capacity to raise funds as does an area like my own.
So, the interesting point here, Mr Speaker -- coming back to your situation in Carleton; and we will deal with this bill next, as a matter of fact -- is this whole problem of the new French board trying to have, basically, a public and a Catholic side to it, at the same time as we have the English systems, Roman Catholic and public, with the lowest assessment base in this whole chart that I have got.
So we have got this enormous problem. What are we dividing up in the end? If we deal with this on just a local coterminous basis, what in fact are we dividing up? We are dividing up poverty in Carleton. In Carleton, we are splitting it every which way. In the city of Toronto, we are dividing up some wealth, and that kind of movement is useful. But let us remember that the statistics are as follow: the approximate cost of this kind of a change to the public board in an area like Toronto is three per cent.
Why did the government not go further in pooling? The obvious answers are there monetarily. I wish they were there for other reasons. Monetarily, they are there because regionalized pooling would probably mean about a 15 per cent shift in dollars because of these regional discrepancies I am talking about.
That would still not do much for friends of mine from the north because there we have regions, as a whole, which are low in assessment.
Hon Mr Conway: I can hear the echoes of Bill 127 off these rafters this afternoon.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I have no idea why the minister is heckling me in this kind of fashion, unless it is that he has not got the patience any longer to wait for me to come to these things in the fullness of my comments, as I am sure he knows I am going to.
The matter I was trying to raise is the concerns around province-wide pooling. For instance, we would have about a 30 per cent shift in dollars on commercial-industrial assessment. To do that would be so incredibly expensive if the government tried to protect the public boards, or would be so destructive to the capacity of our public boards to be able to operate, that this clearly is not an option at this time.
So what has the government done? It has taken a very small and symbolic step. It is a means of sort of patting the Roman Catholic system on the head in a paternalistic fashion and saying, “There, there, we said we would complete things after Bill 30, and this is it,” phased in over six years. Phasing in the amount of money over six years for Essex county is not going to make a heck of a lot of difference to those people, quite frankly. In the wealthier areas, it will mean something year by year, but in those poorer areas it is not going to do a great deal.
One of the things that struck me throughout this whole process -- and the process I am talking about is the committee hearings that we had -- is that we cannot deal as a government, we cannot jump in and take on an issue like pooling, in isolation. I noticed how the minister in his remarks, in his soothsayer fashion of trying to predict what it was I was going to say, was trying to sort of cut off any notions that we needed to have connections of thought here between various forms of financing of education and that we should not look at such notions as ceilings when we consider these fashions.
We should not perhaps think of such notions as accountability when we deal with these matters. We should not look at the Macdonald commission in its entirety and we should only talk about this one little portion of it, whereas the minister knows -- and I will come to this -- this was just a very small portion tied into another very important principle that the Macdonald commission was talking about.
Hon Mr Conway: You are making a pitch for a larger portion of the Macdonald pie, but I am very much interested in what portion you want to digest.
Mr R. F. Johnston: At least, I would have to say, that that was not a mixed metaphor and I hope that Hansard was able to get it, because so often we get mixed metaphors here through interjections. It is one of those very confusing things especially now that we have Management Board representation here. I am sure we will hear more of that as we carry on.
I came to the realization during those hearings this fall that this bill was small potatoes. It came to my mind that, in fact, this was more window-dressing than it was substance; and, unfortunately, while it is window-dressing in the sense of what it really means to the assessment-poor Catholic boards, it is also very disquieting in terms of the public system. They just see this as one more step to take away from them during this process.
The minister now may start to point fingers and get a little apoplectic that I would say such a thing, but I am talking about perception here. I am talking about the public board --
Hon Mr Conway: Now you are starting to sound like me.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Oh, I do not know if I can stand that kind of an insult. For the minister to actually say that I am sounding like him is more than I am able to deal with.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): I think that is unparliamentary.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Yes, I think that is getting very close to being unparliamentary, Mr Speaker. Where was I? Have you any idea?
The Acting Speaker: You were being unparliamentary.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I was being unparliamentary.
Hon Mr Conway: I can tell you it was nothing but window-dressing, but it was somehow bad window-dressing.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Well, it is an interesting thing. At the one side where it is seemingly inoffensive, it is also threatening. That is a real problem because this was the minister who said there was no pain going to be felt by the public system for the extension of Catholic school funding.
Hon Mr Conway: Oh, oh, oh.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Oh, yes, the minister did say that in our initial public hearings on Bill 30, but then he said there was no money going to be brought out to buy out the capital problems around the province of Ontario. Then the member for Wentworth North came along and threw money at it in Hamilton and threw money at it in Toronto, as a number of us said he was going to have to do. The kind of posturing that was done by this minister in that earlier incarnation as Minister of Education in fact was problematic for the government during that period.
Hon Mr Conway: But compare that to supporting the principle of Bill 30 but rejecting denominational hiring. If you want to see policy elasticity, that’s got to be it.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Mr Speaker, I do not know if you want me to talk about this section.
The minister is now trying to drag me off to discuss section 1361a of Bill 30. I do not think that is particularly in order at this time, but I would be happy to address the civil rights questions that are involved in that kind of protection.
Hon Mr Conway: You were the chairman.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Of course, I was the chair and had no opinion at the time. I have learned to develop a few since.
The thing that has come to my mind is that, in fact, this government should not be playing around with the window-dressing of Bill 64 at this point. This government should, in fact, be addressing those more fundamental questions about the inequity of funding on a regional basis and the desertion of responsibility by this government in terms of the per centage of the amount of dollars for education which are assumed by this government compared with local governments.
This government should be looking seriously at the terrible state that the ceiling for education, the basic student cost of education has fallen into in the province of Ontario and should be doing those things of substance and not those things which, on the one hand, are supposed to make Catholic school electors feel better, even though it is only going to help a small per centage of them, and, on the other hand, are making the public school boards feel threatened.
I would just like to comment a little bit, if I might, about some of the other issues and why they are what this government needed to deal with. I have already dealt with the discrepancies in assessment. I do not know if the members across the way know this, but various provinces deal with this question of provincial funding of education in very different ways. We have been tied into an evolution of our system which I think has caused us to be a little blinded, if I can put it that way, by our own history and not particularly progressive and innovative as to where we should be going in terms of the cost of education.
What is the rationale at the moment, if we think about it, for having such an enormous amount of the education burden coming off the property taxpayer, the individual home owner in the province of Ontario? Unlike most of the provinces, we expect much more off that local property taxpayer than do any of the others. There are one or two which are close to us but there are some which are so far away that it is positively frightening.
Let me just give some examples if I might. We have one or two provinces that deal with 100 per cent funding from the provincial level, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. We have the province of Quebec, if people are concerned that I am picking examples that are too small, which is assuming 92 per cent of the cost of education at the provincial level. That does include a corporate tax but it is a corporate tax collected provincially, brought into the general Treasury and sent back out of the general Treasury in terms of provincial responsibility. Property tax in the province of Quebec picks up about eight per cent of the actual cost, and the school boards’ responsibility is for the delivery of the program and for the other eight per cent fringe programs that they bring into the program.
In British Columbia, they have a different kind of system. In their system, they have 80 per cent of the dollars assumed at the provincial level, 20 per cent from the individual property taxpayer. Compare that now with the kind of cost that is falling on the local property taxpayer in this province. Members know that in some areas, especially rural Ontario and northern Ontario, people are paying 55 or 60 per cent of the cost of education right off their property tax.
Mr South: Sixty-five.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The member for Frontenac-Addington indicates 65 per cent in his case. That is not something unusual. We ran into people, I think it was in Kent county, who came in and showed us their tax bills which were phenomenal. I could not believe the kind of cost that they were paying to maintain an education system.
We ask what the rationale for that is. Does the spreading around of the industrial-commercial money on a local basis, where the money really is in places such as Toronto, Ottawa or some of our large cities, really help the property taxpayer there or anywhere else? The evidence is that it does not help them adapt because the expectations rise at the same time as more money goes in. So in places such as Toronto the expectations of certain kinds of programs being available, whether it is special programs for new immigrants or other kinds of big city concerns, increases the kinds of costs for providing basic education.
The property taxpayer does not get any relief out of this change that we are talking about here today. Surely if we are thinking about a burden today, and we all have frequent discussions with our constituents about taxes, the one that burns them the most is how much their property tax is paying towards education. It does not matter if it is a senior who says, “Damn it, I haven’t had a child or a grandchild in the school system in 15 or 20 years and I am still paying out of my home for this education system and I am not getting anything out of it; in fact, it is threatening my capacity to stay in a home.” I would raise that with the government if it wants to take some action.
What about the property tax grant for seniors? Just think about that for a second. In 1981, we moved to this grant approach from the old sliding scale that used to exist and we came out with $500. About two years ago, it went up to $600. Over that period of time inflation went up a great deal more than that and the actual value of the property tax grant at this stage, looking at it in 1980 terms, is about half, and that was the first change in that whole period as well. It is important to say, if we want to do something that is really going to help a taxpayer in this kind of situation, there are a couple of initiatives that could be taken tomorrow morning and they have not been taken.
Let’s get back to this more general notion of where the money should be coming from. Surely it is time to say that property taxes should be a reflection of the wealth of individuals and the province and that students, no matter where they are in the province, should be receiving approximately the same kind of resources for their education. Surely that is a principle we could agree on. There has to be some flexibility because clearly it is different trying to educate a kid in an inner-city school in Toronto than trying to educate a child on James Bay.
Some kind of notion of that sort has to be accepted. It does not exist in our system today. It does not exist at all. The range of dollars, and I have already given members some examples, is enormous. There is $2,000 and $3,000 in some cases between what is being offered in one area and what is being offered in another. Even within a county one can get a $1,000 difference as we have in the Essex county versus the city of Windsor kind of circumstance.
What we are looking at here is a question of what has gone wrong. Why are those principles not being applied and what kind of legislation do we bring in to change that around? This legislation, frankly, does not touch it one iota; it does not deal with those kind of issues. The kind of thing I think that is really important for the government to start talking about is some kind of major review of where the funds come from and getting them on a more progressive base.
The minister is not here at the moment, but the example I was going to raise was the Macdonald commission, because the Macdonald commission did in fact say that this kind of sharing of the industrial-commercial assessment should take place and that this kind of thing was a useful thing to do. But they put it into a different context. They put it into the context of a major change in where our education comes from at the moment.
One of the suggestions that was made by Macdonald was that 80 per cent of the funds for education should come from the provincial coffers and only 20 per cent should come from local coffers. That was one of the suggestions they had. Another suggestion they had was bringing in -- there were three options, as the minister may recall. I have them here for him --
Hon Mr Conway: Do you remember what he said about spending?
Mr R. F. Johnston: -- if he would like to change them, if he does not recall them at all.
Hon Mr Conway: Why can’t I get a socialist to talk about spending? I can never get --
Mr R. F. Johnston: The minister is back as we can all note now because the interjections have begun again. The class was doing very well listening, I thought, up to that point, but the minister is acting out and --
Mr South: Some even agree.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Yes, some even agree. I must say I worry. There is the discipline problem in the schools, but I do not want to resort to any kind of unnecessary roughness in trying to keep the minister under control. But I say to the minister that I will talk about spending. If he wants me to, I will come and talk about spending before we get --
Hon Mr Conway: No, but Mr Macdonald talked about spending patterns and controls on spending.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Oh, yes.
Hon Mr Conway: What do you think of those?
Mr R. F. Johnston: The minister seems to be absolutely set upon disrupting my train of thought, which is feebly held at the best of times, and I think it would be wise --
Hon Mr Conway: But your train is so selective you make Benoît Bouchard look like a pan-Canadian nationalist.
Mr Villeneuve: That really shook his train of thought.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The member may not get on. I apologize. Is that going to be a major problem for him tonight? I am sorry. It is just that it is hard to focus when one has these kind of federal distractions, something which has never preoccupied me a great deal.
But I was just going to say that the Macdonald commission did in fact talk about the problems of runaway spending. One of the identifying problems with our present ceiling system, and I will come back to that in a minute or two, was that in 1975 the lid was taken off. The control mechanism was taken off at that time. One of the rationales that has been proffered by Liberal members in the last little while about why 60 per cent of approved costs is what we are talking about now rather than 60 per cent of costs is because in 1975 we took the controls off the ceilings and, as a result, it would just be totally open-ended at this point.
But Macdonald was trying to talk about where the money comes from -- and that is what I am talking about at this stage and I will come back to spending, if I might -- where the money comes from. He was basically saying that our system is inequitable and it is unaccountable and we need to make it progressive and accountable. I thought he came up with a number of mechanisms that were worthy of note and that the minister could either take one of them, or he could take one of them and amend it, and say that something of this sort would be better. But it is unthinkable that we can have this continual escalation of the burden on the local property taxpayer, and that is what is taking place.
We can use any rhetoric we want around the 60 per cent figure, and I would say to the minister the reason that people hang on to that so desperately is that it has been the benchmark. I would also say to the minister that there is some argument for moving away from that. But if we move away from that concept of 60 per cent, then we have to replace it with something else.
I do have suggestions there and I would be glad to bring them forward. But the thing that Macdonald was basically saying is that it is time we thought about where these dollars do come from and whether they are progressive or not.
I am worried about this move towards pooling because some people are trying to interpret it as a first step towards other kinds of pooling. I would suggest to the government that before it takes those steps, before it goes any further on notions of pooling, it has to think very seriously about these other kinds of questions, the question of accountability being one of them.
I would ask anybody in this room today to try to explain to a local electorate what the local school board is responsible for and what the provincial government is responsible for in education. The member for Durham Centre (Mr Furlong) is trying to rise to do so because he had so much experience on the select committee following this kind of thing that he thinks he now is ready to answer this question.
In point of fact, it was raised with us: is the city of Toronto less accountable or more accountable when it is paying 100 per cent now of the costs of education off the property tax and the industrial-commercial tax in the city of Toronto and the province is paying not a nickel for the general cost of education in the city of Toronto? Is it more or less accountable to its electorate than is a northern isolated area where 95 per cent of the costs of education are being assumed by the province of Ontario but there is also a board of education which is delivering the goods?
Where do you lay your responsibility on how special education is being delivered at the local level, whether there is integration or whether there is segregation being used? How do you make any of those determinations in our present system?
The move towards limited pooling took place around Bill 127 a number of years ago on a regional basis for Metropolitan Toronto. A number of us at that time, including some members opposite, spoke against that bill and against Bette Stephenson, the then minister, saying this would be a dangerous thing because of a lack of accountability.
Unfortunately, the government did not learn the lesson and we had a strike just a short time ago around an issue called preparation time in which elementary panel teachers in Metropolitan Toronto decided they wanted to get some recognition for the time it takes to prepare classes, just like their secondary brothers and sisters have. I remember it upset the member from Hansard a great deal during that time that the strike was even taking place, and the reason it took place and the reason it went on so long was that it was impossible for a local electorate to find a trustee who would take responsibility for what was happening.
I see the member from Scarborough over here, who probably knows what I am talking about.
I went to talk to a local trustee in my area and she said to me -- and I will not name her --
Hon Mr Conway: Which strike?
Mr R. F. Johnston: This is the preparation-time strike in the elementary panel just a year or two years ago now.
I went to her and I said: “Whom do we talk to about this? Where do we put our pressure on? Whom do we phone?” She said: “Not me. I am not on the Metro board, I am just elected to the Scarborough board.” I said: “Who is at the Metro board? Who is one of our representatives there?” So I phoned the Scarborough person who happened to be a representative on the Metro board and she said, “That is a good point you are making, but I am not on the committee that is doing the negotiating and I do not know what they are doing.”
So the local electorate had no control at all. There was no direct line between the money being spent and the person who was elected, because we had these indirectly elected people at Metro -- not just indirectly elected people at Metro, but appointed to a committee -- who were not even responsible to the indirectly elected group at Metro let alone the trustees from the local boards.
I say to the minister, before he moves to regionalized pooling on a province-wide basis, if that is the natural progression of trying to get some equity here, because I do not think what he has done at this point, obviously, addresses it, he should be very careful, because the accountability is going to get even more confusing than it is at the moment.
That in my view is not the way to go. There are better means of bringing equity in. One of the ways I think we can do it is by this redefining of the expectations in the provincial government. I think that is one of the important things the government should be addressing itself to at this point.
I would say to the minister that the place to start to look is at the ceilings at the moment. We have been involved -- and I say “we” in the large sense; anybody who has been involved in education politics in this last little while -- in playing political football with ceilings and with the notion of the 60 per cent figure.
There is a plot afoot is all I can say. I have no idea why this was provided to me in the context of what I have just been saying, but this is clearly going to be a much longer speech than I had ever imagined it would be. Some of the thoughts of Mr Gorbachev have been passed on to me here by the member for Yorkview (Mr Polsinelli). I do not know if this means, in point of fact, that it is time for perestroika within the Liberal ranks on these kinds of issues or whether the whole term of glasnost is here. It could just be a matter of trying to get me off my train of thought again, which as we have all indicated at this point is something that is too easily done.
Do you remember where I was, Mr Speaker? You have no idea. What a helpful fellow you are. I think I do. I think, generally speaking, I remember that I was going to be -- my goodness, where was I going?
Hon Mr Conway: You were talking about the need for better equity in the provincial share of things.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Rather than moving necessarily down the pooling road, I wanted to talk to ceilings, that is what I was doing, and the whole games we got into around that.
The reality is -- and I do not know how many members know this -- that almost every board in the province of Ontario is over ceiling at the moment, is spending more than the government says is the appropriate amount to basically educate a child.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Over 90 per cent, the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr Villeneuve) reminds me, as we kept hearing in the committee time and time again. As a result of that, you cannot say that all these boards are just spending frivolously and are not accountable and that kind of thing.
There is something gone wrong in terms of what the expectation by this government, not specifically this Liberal government, but this level of government is in terms of the basic requirements for education and that which the locally elected people are thinking is required for education. I think that is the starting point, because I think if the Ministry of Education was to make the kinds of adjustments in the ceilings which I believe are necessary, it would help raise the amount of money that would be spent per student equally across the province of Ontario.
A place like Metropolitan Toronto, for instance -- I am not sure if I have the stats right in front of me or not. Yes, I do. Metropolitan Toronto at the moment, the city of Toronto, for instance, is spending $5,725, a little bit more than that probably on the graph, for the cost per student at this point, as compared with, let’s say, $3,700, $3,800 in a place like Lincoln which is just at the level of where the ceiling is established.
If the minister were to raise the ceiling substantially, clearly, he would not affect the city of Toronto, which would still be way above that ceiling, but he would bring the average boards, both Catholic and public, in the lower assessment areas around the province of Ontario to levels which would be much more acceptable.
It seems to me that that equalizing role is the provincial role. It is not something which should be done on a local commercial-industrial kind of base and whether the dollars come, as they have done in British Columbia in part from deciding to have a tax which brings in commercial and industrial assessment to the provincial level and then it is put back out in that basic per student grant, or whether it is done as it is done in Quebec or British Columbia or some of the other provinces, I leave the formula to be looked at by the government. But surely it would be more equitable and a better way of looking at the whole question of bringing equity to the system than we have at the moment and does not endanger such concepts as accountability at the local board.
The other thing that it does is it does the following, and I say this to the minister: If we could get an agreement established in the next period of time between the players in the system around the actual ceilings, the actual costs that we would expect for education in 1990, if we could get that established, then the minister could have a rational means of deciding how it should rise in the future, getting back to his controlling the spending concerns that are rightfully put out. Because at the moment those kinds of controls are limited and they are left at the whim of the provincial government to decide, essentially at this point.
Surely it would be better to say we will establish those levels now, come to some hard negotiated agreement on what they should be and then bring in cost of living or some factor of that ilk in order to control the cost of education, the basic cost of education for the future.
I recommend that to the minister as an approach, rather than pursuing further this particular notion of playing with the industrial-commercial assessments. Even though there is a large amount of money out there, I am not sure it is the easiest way to do the equalizing at this stage.
I have dealt with a number of the concerns that I have and I think if I am very good about concluding just once, in comparison with other speakers, I might even be able to sum up a couple of things. I would be remiss if I did not do so. The first is to reiterate the problem for the public school boards. I think they need a statement which says that there is no net loss going to be felt by any public board during the six-year period. Forget the $180 million figure, forget the figure of $200 million or $210 million or even that for the $240 million cost which I have had brought before me and other members of the committee in the last little while.
I ask the minister to look at the Windsor public board’s presentation to us as a committee in Windsor and I say to him that their concerns about a net loss of almost $2 million is something that really needs to be looked at and a guarantee needs to be given. I think it can be given orally or it can be given as an amendment to the legislation. It is not something which is unheard of in our history here and that kind of commitment would be important to the public school system at this stage.
The Catholics are going to want two things, it seems to me. The system is going to want this telescoping of the period down to three years. We have heard this fairly consistently across the province during our hearings and that is a matter which the government will have to make some decision about in terms of the extra financial costs which are involved. The other thing they are probably going to want is some means of identifying who their new industrial-commercial electorate is and that is again something which I do not feel that strongly about.
Finally, Mr Speaker, not to conclude but to end, I would say that the party is reluctantly supporting this legislation, but wants to make it very clear that we do not want to go further down this route without a major examination of some of the precepts for accountability and equity, which are absolutely crucial within the financing of our education system.
On motion by Mr R. F. Johnston, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1801.