The House met at 1330.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr Wildman: The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, in its annual presentation to the government entitled Planting a Healthy Future, stated the following: “Financial health underpins it all. The prime interest rate is stubbornly steady at 13.5 per cent. Anticipating the inflationary impact of the goods and services tax, we project interest rates will trend higher in the medium term.”
The most damaging condition of the 1980s for Ontario farmers has been the disastrous effect of high interest rates. With the end of the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program, Ontario farmers are left with virtually no interest rate assistance at a time when realized net farm incomes are forecast to fall below last year’s levels and interest rates are probably going to rise.
With outstanding short-term debt at close to $900 million for Ontario farmers, each one per cent increase in interest rates results in an additional $9 million in debt carrying costs. The situation is just about as serious as the disastrous conditions of the early 1980s.
Unlike Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec all have provincial farm credit agencies to provide assistance to farmers. This province must develop short- and long-term programs to help farmers deal with interest rates. Otherwise the Liberal government will be demonstrating that it has no real commitment to agriculture in this province.
Mr Pollock: The Liberal draft policy statement on wetlands planning will only protect class 1 and class 2 wetlands which are of provincial significance. This policy does not take into account regionally and locally significant wetlands which are a vital habitat for rare plant and animal species. This leaves 60 per cent of Ontario’s wetlands unprotected.
Wetlands are lands that are seasonally or permanently covered with shallow water, as well as lands where the water table is close to or at the surface. The presence of abundant water has caused the formation of water-clogged soil and has resulted in the development of water-tolerant vegetation. The four major categories of wetlands are swamps, marshes, bogs and fens.
Under section 3 of the Planning Act, municipalities must merely “have regard” to policy statements. The wetlands policy will be one of 10 such statements made under the Planning Act and none is given priority.
Of interest to the minister, the policy states that northern Ontario wetlands will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis as there is no formal evaluation system in place yet. This could lead to arbitrary decision-making, further jeopardizing northern wetlands. The government has been asked to revise the wetlands policy statement to correct these flaws.
Mr Chiarelli: In today’s era of increased consumer awareness, governments and consumer advocates have expressed their concerns about credit and collection practices.
Using current Ontario Hydro guidelines, Ontario’s hydroelectric commissions charge a late payment fee of five per cent of the current portion of the bill. This is not an interest rate. If inadvertently or otherwise a hydro consumer is not able to pay his or her bill on time, this five per cent late payment fee effectively creates a 92.5 per cent annual rate of interest for a bill paid 31 days after the date of the bill, a 60 per cent annual rate of interest for a bill paid 46 days after the date of the bill and a 30 per cent annual rate of interest for a bill paid 76 days after the date of the bill.
By today’s standards, these rates are unacceptable and unconscionable. Consumers of hydro must be told the effective rate of interest and the rate must be reasonable. I strongly feel that our government should call Hydro to task on this issue.
I therefore urge the Minister of Energy (Mrs McLeod) and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Sorbara) to investigate the possibility of imposing more acceptable collection practices on Ontario hydro commissions. The consumers of Ontario deserve no less.
Mr Hampton: For the first time in this province’s history, Ontario liquor stores will open their doors on Remembrance Day. Since 11 November this year falls on a Saturday, the government has decided it is not in the interest of its pocketbook to close local liquor stores.
The message this decision sends is clear. The government is showing callous disrespect for the sacrifice and sufferings that thousands of Canadians endured in two world wars. From 1914 to 1918, 60,000 of our forefathers died in a battle for freedom. During the Second World War, over one million Canadians served and almost 42,000 of them gave their lives.
These were not wars of glory. They were wars where thousands of ordinary people made the ultimate sacrifice. For 44 years now, two generations have lived in peace and freedom because of them. We have remembered them until now, in that on 11 November we pause and liquor stores have remained closed.
Symbolic as it may be that liquor stores have historically remained closed on Remembrance Day as a sign of respect, it is important. I urge the government to look carefully at the statement it is making by allowing liquor stores to remain open this Remembrance Day.
Mr Sterling: We have been watching with intense fascination the series of events unfolding in eastern Europe in recent months. Hungary, Poland, East Germany and other east European countries have been and are continuing to experience upheaval with respect to their political philosophies. In Hungary, we have witnessed the most dramatic changes. They have abolished the Communist Party and created an open, democratic process of government.
As Canadians, and particularly as Ontarians, we have a strong appreciation for our many multicultural groups. In Canada, we have over 100,000 people of Hungarian origin. We should continue our commitment to multiculturalism by extending beyond our borders and helping this newly created democracy integrate into the free market system.
In doing so, Ontario would be opening a whole new avenue of trade in eastern Europe. Ontario has always been on the cutting edge of new global developments and now is the time to help their transition by enhancing trade opportunities for ourselves as well as for the Hungarians.
Hungary is now open for business and Ontario should be the first off the mark to establish a trade office in Budapest and build on the entrepreneurial spirit, which is bound to flourish in this newly created democracy. Ontario would be wise to undertake this effort instead of focusing on promotional activities in demonstrating its intent to initiate and intensify trade opportunities.
Ms Poole: Wife assault is not a pleasant subject. It is something we would quite often prefer to ignore and deny, but it does exist and with frightening frequency. One in eight women in this province is assaulted by her husband or live-in partner. Equally horrifying is the recent report that 62 per cent of all women murdered in Canada die as a result of domestic violence.
Being a woman and being part of a relationship or family should not take away from anyone’s right to safety. In addition to the emotional and physical damage it causes, wife assault violates a fundamental human right. Wife assault does not just hurt women; it hurts children, it hurts the abusers themselves and it inevitably damages the whole fabric of our society.
Our government is committed to stopping this cycle. Once again, November has been declared Wife Assault Prevention Month. Wife assault has to be acknowledged. It has to be talked about. It has to be stopped. Each one of us has a responsibility to do what we can to stop this vicious cycle. I urge my colleagues to spread the word: Wife assault is a crime.
PASSENGER RAIL SERVICES
Mr Philip: The people of Etobicoke were quite pleased when in 1985 the Mimico rail maintenance centre was opened. This cost the taxpayers about $100 million but it created just under 700 positions.
In the aftermath of the 4 October announcement of Via Rail cuts, concern has heightened regarding the employment impacts on the Mimico maintenance facility, which is the most labour-intensive Via installation in Ontario. Since Via Rail passenger service in Ontario is planned to be curtailed by 50 per cent, one might assume that one half of the employment of the Mimico maintenance centre might be affected. This would mean an estimated annual payroll loss of between $13.5 million and $15.1 million, and a loss of 340 jobs, which would be quite a blow to our community.
The regional municipality of Peel planning department has estimated that if Via service in southern Ontario were terminated, 60 to 70 additional flights would be required daily at our already overly congested Pearson International Airport, and long-distance traffic on Highway 401 would be increased by five to 10 per cent. With the possibility of Via services being cut by half, one can safely assume the impact on our airport and highways would be at least half of what the Peel planning department suggested.
There has been some speculation that Via cuts could spur the further expansion and extension of GO Transit’s commuter rail services. A matter for consideration might be to examine the partial use or purchase of the Via Rail maintenance centre by GO Transit for the maintenance of its expanding fleet of locomotives and coaches.
Initiatives of this nature should be acted on by the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye).
ROYAL WINTER FAIR
Mr Wiseman: It gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to comment on the opening of the 61st Royal Winter Fair. The Royal Winter Fair has long been a Canadian tradition, a time when the country comes to the city and shows off the depth and diversity of a rich farming heritage.
Over the years, the fair has grown from an agricultural display to a cultural festival celebrating rural Ontario. While state-of-the-art farm machinery and livestock are still exhibited, square dancing, country music and step dancing have become part of the fair. Fall fairs have been popular in Ontario since 1792 and it is my hope that they will continue to educate the people of Ontario for years to come.
I fear, however, that if the Ministry of Agriculture and Food continues to forget its obligations to provide programs and direction to the entire agrifood sector, our great tradition may be in jeopardy.
Mr Mahoney: I would like to bring to the attention of this Legislature a transportation safety exhibition that will be held on 10, 11 and 12 November at the Mississauga Civic Centre. It is interesting to note that 10 November also marks the 10th anniversary of the great Mississauga train derailment and the evacuation of our city.
The title of this exhibition is Transportation Safety: A Shared Responsibility and will include representatives from the city of Mississauga, CP Rail, CN, the Railway Association of Canada, the Canadian Chemical Producers’ Association, Transport Canada, Operation Lifesaver and the Ontario Trucking Association. The goal is to increase public awareness of the importance of transportation safety in the transport of dangerous goods as well as educating our young people in the area of safety.
There will be many demonstrations, including emergency response vehicles and equipment, a computer program that displays more than 3,000 dangerous chemicals, a train dynamics analyser from CP Rail and Operation Lifesaver videos, as well as many other safety-oriented videos.
It is vitally important when we are competing in a global economy that both residents and industries work together to ensure the safest methods of transportation for all materials is being fully utilized. It is only through a shared responsibility that our communities will continue to safely grow and prosper.
Mr Pollock: Mr Speaker, perhaps it would be in order to wish the member for Oxford (Mr Tatham) happy birthday?
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
CORPS D’ÉLITE ONTARIO
Hon Mr Black: It is with distinct pleasure that I announce today the six recipients of the 1989 Corps d’élite awards.
These people are being honoured today for their outstanding contribution as recreation volunteers in Ontario. Recreation is gaining importance in our changing society. More and more Ontarians recognize that meaningful leisure activities foster healthy, productive lifestyles. They also realize that the quality of our lives has been enriched by the contributions of volunteers.
Since its inception, the Corps d’élite program has honoured 21 people at the provincial level, including those here today, for enhancing recreational opportunities across Ontario. Furthermore, we have recognized about 100 people for contributions to various regions of the province.
The six new members of the provincial Corps d’élite Ontario are in the member’s gallery today and I would like to introduce them. They are Charles 0. Bick of Willowdale, Virginia A. Bidwell of Markham, Laurie G. Branch of Burlington, Harold Coulson of New Market, J. Thomas Riley of Etobicoke and Edward (Ted) Wood of Clearwater.
The Ministry of Tourism and Recreation is committed to developing Ontario’s vital base of recreation volunteers. Every year thousands of Ontarians donate countless hours of their time and energy to recreation in this province. Many recreation organizations would cease to exist without the help of volunteers who give without any expectation of recognition.
The volunteers we are honouring today have given so much because they are deeply dedicated to improving the quality of life in Ontario. I am sure I speak for every member of this assembly in extending our sincere congratulations and thanks to the recipients of the 1989 Corps d’élite Ontario awards as well as to the thousands of other recreation volunteers in this province.
CORPS D’ELITE ONTARIO
Mrs Grier: On behalf of the official opposition, I too would like to join in congratulating the winners of the awards today. It is a very significant event that we should have this many winners and have them announced on this occasion, and I do congratulate them one and all. I know how much we depend in this province on volunteers in all sectors of life, in all corners of the province and in all walks of life.
As a municipal politician, I had the honour of working for many years with J. Thomas Riley, one of the winners who is with us today. I know that through his leadership in our municipality, volunteers play not only a very meaningful role, but also a role that has been recognized and incorporated into the fabric of the governing bodies of that municipality as well.
I am sure the same is true of all of the other winners and I wish them well in the years ahead.
Mr Jackson: I too wish to indicate our appreciation for the minister’s announcement in the House today, for his recognition of these outstanding individuals and for the commitment that the volunteer sector, the municipal sector and the private sector have made to enhancing recreational opportunities for our province and its citizens.
I would also like to state, on a more personal note, that one of the worthy recipients is a constituent of mine. I guess it is fair to say that he has had a dramatic effect on the life of the citizens of the city of Burlington, and in particular on a young family such as ours. We have benefited immensely from the vision and dedication of Laurie Branch. I do not wish to speak at length about his résumé, but I do wish to indicate that his commitment as the president of the Canadian Parks/Recreation Association has brought much distinction to Ontario. He is the founding president of the Ontario Recreation Society, and he has assisted thousands of young people to develop life skills which have put them in good stead throughout this province.
It was through recreational programs that were inspired by Laurie Branch that football players like Tony Gabriel emerged. He is just one example. We have world-class swimmers who have come from our community, all because of the commitment and dedication of people like Laurie Branch. And, of course, I should mention the Burlington Teen Tour Band, which is internationally famous, was part of the vision and commitment of this individual. As Mr Branch receives his award today, with deep appreciation, I know he expresses on behalf of our community the ongoing support for, and the need for, assistance with their budget in order to make their Pacific tour a reality. We wish him continued success with his fund-raising goal of $670,000 in order to make that a reality for the children of Burlington who will represent this province and this country on the global theatre.
Mr Cousens: We can all celebrate the success of the volunteers who have been recognized so highly today. I was at the function, and I would like to compliment, not only them for the grace they showed and the leadership they have given but also the government and the Lieutenant Governor for the marvellous way in which they have recognized them.
Quite frankly, we need more people like those who have been so recognized by the province today. I know we could use more Virginia Bidwells in Markham. That fact is, she has just been an outstanding Girl Guides of Canada leader. I just hope that you train many more, Virginia, who come along and follow in your footsteps, because our young people need leaders like you. May you continue to be inspired to give as freely of yourself and may your family continue to be as supportive and good. How proud you must be. How proud we are of you.
Mr Brandt: On behalf of my party, I want to express to all of the recipients of the Corps d’élite Ontario award that we are extremely proud of your accomplishments. We are extremely proud of your contribution to the province of Ontario, and we are delighted that you could be with us today to receive the award officially from the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr Black), as well as the awards that were presented by the Lieutenant Governor of the province of Ontario.
You join, in all, 21 recipients of this award since its inception four years ago. The award was quite properly introduced by the province of Ontario, and I compliment the government on so doing, because there is no stronger force in our society and no more vital or critical effort that can be put forward by any group than by our volunteers, who are so vitally needed right across this province and in every community that is represented.
I would be remiss if I did not say, on a personal note, my congratulations to a personal friend and someone whom I have worked with for more years than I want to recall on this auspicious occasion. Ted Wood, who not only continues to be an employee of the city of Sarnia but is someone who not only has contributed to our own community and to the county outside of Sarnia but as well has contributed on a province-wide basis through his work with the recreation association.
Without the vital contribution of all of the recipients today, our province would not be the kind of wonderful place it is for the citizens of Ontario. I know that on this occasion, and there are few occasions when I have this opportunity, I speak for all 130 members of the Legislative Assembly when I say to each and every one of you a very sincere, heartfelt “Thank you.”
Hon R. F. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I thought perhaps you and the members would like to have it recalled that among our honoured guests this afternoon, identified as Charles 0. Bick, is C. 0. Bick, as we used to know him, who was a long-time magistrate and for 21 years was chairman of the police commission of the province. So, long before he became a volunteer, he was also working.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley). I understand he is expected and I would like to have permission to stand down my question until he comes.
The Speaker: Would there be unanimous consent?
Mr Kormos: My question is for the Minister of Financial Institutions. I want to draw his attention to matters that were indeed drawn to his attention back on 18 July 1989 by the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren) right here in this Legislature.
The minister was told about how Canadian Commerce Insurance Co. an automobile insurer, would cancel the policy of one of its customers and then immediately reinsure that customer through Cornhill Insurance Co Ltd at rates that were some 30 per cent higher, thus avoiding and evading the so-called cap that the government says it put on insurance premiums. That was put to the minister back in July -- a 30 per cent increase, an effective circumvention of the government’s so-called cap.
I wonder what the minister has done about that since then.
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman will know that the cap which he has indicated applies in most cases where the business is carrying on, obviously, under the company’s auspices. In this case, the company has ceased to carry on business in writing insurance in the province, but in fact a substitute carrier has been found.
We are not in the business of forcing people to write business or to carry on business in any particular manner. The honourable gentleman will know that once somebody makes a decision to withdraw from the marketplace, we cannot force him to carry on.
The interesting concern expressed is in fact one of how much the premiums were. We have tried in the best way possible to ensure that people have not been left without coverage, but in cases where people withdraw from the market, we have no alternative but to seek the best possible price left in the marketplace.
Mr Kormos: Back in July, the minister was made aware that the new company, Cornhill, interestingly had the same address, the same signing officers as the old company, Canadian Commerce Insurance. He left the distinct impression with the member for Nickel Belt that he was going to look into it.
Why this is of some interest today is that a lady called Anna Cerullo from Mimico was insured, she tells us, for a good chunk of time by Scottish and York Insurance Co Ltd. She was told that after 29 October her insurance, for which she had been paying premiums of $269 every six months -- she was told that as of 26 October Scottish and York would not be renewing her insurance. But her insurance service obligingly, with the assistance of Scottish and York, found her coverage with Victoria Insurance Co for $625 for six months -- same secretary, same president, same address.
The same happened to Wayne Hartling --
The Speaker: Order. Would you place your supplementary.
Mr Kormos: Thousands of Scottish and York customers --
The Speaker: Order. Will you place your supplementary.
Mr Kormos: What is the minister going to do about the thousands of Scottish and York customers who are being forced to pay premium increases well in excess of 7.6 per cent, more like 30, 40, 50, 60 and 90 per cent? There are thousands of them in the province. What is he going to do about that?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman, as is his way, forcefully delivers a grand theatrical presentation here in the House. I can tell the honourable gentleman that while we take this very seriously indeed, in spite --
Mr Pouliot: What about the people who are paying?
Mr Laughren: You don’t even answer your letters.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Elston: We take this very seriously, and as I told the gentleman before, if he would make the information available, we will look into what is happening, what are the circumstances behind each case and otherwise.
I can tell the honourable gentleman that I am not particularly happy with the way those sorts of decisions are made, and under the auspices of the new bill, if members would allow us to move quickly forward to implement it, the new insurance commissioner will be able to take action with respect to that type of activity and invoke very tough measures against companies that unfairly make those sorts of decisions internally.
Mr D. S. Cooke: This is your third time. Three strikes and you’re out.
Hon Mr Elston: I can tell the honourable gentlemen that although they do not want to listen, the new legislation will deliver to us, as a government, an ability to intervene to assist people who are unfairly treated with respect to rates. That is clear. The bill is in the House and I want to deal with it quickly so that those sorts of problems can be eliminated.
Mr Kormos: The minister and the government once again are seriously misinformed. A careful reading of that new bill reveals that there is no protection for drivers like the ones I just spoke of. Indeed, the only thing that new bill guarantees are incredible profits for insurance companies because it denies benefits to over 95 per cent of all innocent injured accident victims here in the province.
The real question is, why will this minister not tell us today that indeed there are going to be committee hearings in Toronto and across the province so that people across Ontario who have never had an opportunity to address this new legislation can tell the minister what they think of his bill in polite, and probably some not-so-polite, terms.
Hon Mr Elston: Let me tell the honourable gentleman that when he says we are not telling the people the full story, he is wrong. We are telling the full story. This bill, as it is in front of the House now, will provide better coverage for the people of the province, increase no-fault benefits, increase accident rehabilitation benefits, increase long-term care and provide quicker delivery of those services. In addition to that, while these people make those silly accusations, the people will be able to go to the commissioner and he or she will be able to intervene with tough new regulatory abilities to make sure that people are not unfairly treated by their insurance companies. That is quite clear by the way the legislation is structured. That is quite the way it is going to occur.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Elston: There is one other thing. This Legislative Assembly has a committee structure that will review the legislation, and I will be pleased to take a look at the input that is given to us in front of the legislative committee. I will listen to the people who come before it and I can tell the member there will be legislative committee hearings on this particular bill, as I have said from the beginning.
The Speaker: Perhaps some of the members would care to read the new standing orders and look at standing order 20(b).
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TEACHERS’ LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Minister of Colleges and Universities. I want to remind the minister that on two other occasions I have raised with him my concerns about the college strike and the impact that strike is having on the students of Ontario. I would like to ask the minister, in view of the fact that this strike is now three weeks old and the students are, of course, vitally concerned, critically concerned, about the impact this is having on their school year, how much longer is the minister prepared to wait before he becomes personally involved in settling this particular issue?
Hon Mr Conway: Let me say at the outset that I do appreciate the concern of my friend the member for Sarnia and the concern of all members of the assembly, which concern has been conveyed to me on many occasions throughout the course of this particular dispute. As the honourable member for Sarnia knows, there is a free collective bargaining process that is in place to resolve these kinds of disputes. I am a strong believer in the collective bargaining process. I do not wish to distract attention from that process, which has resolved much more than it has left unresolved.
I certainly appreciate the frustration of the students. Like them, I want this strike settled. I want it settled soon and I am confident that the mediation talks which are ongoing will bring about the kind of settlement that is going to be in the interests of these students in both the short and long terms.
Mr Brandt: Let me say that my party supports the collective bargaining process as well. What we do not support is the threat of the students losing their school year. I am receiving calls daily from students, teachers and parents who are asking one simple question. Recognizing that the Ministry of Education, through the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, is in fact the third party at the table, whether the minister wants to be there, physically present, or not, the reality is that it is part of the negotiating process. The minister is part of the solution if he wants to be. Why does the minister not stand up and tell the people of this province that he is prepared to take an active role and get the students back in the classroom where they deserve to be?
Hon Mr Conway: The honourable member for Sarnia raises the issue of the students’ jeopardy. As my honourable friend the member for Sarnia will know, under the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act there is an organization called the College Relations Commission which has the statutory obligation to monitor these disputes. It is their responsibility under the act to ascertain whether or not students are in jeopardy as a result of a withdrawal of services which is contemplated under the free collective bargaining process. At this point, the College Relations Commission has not advised me of a finding of jeopardy.
Mr Brandt: I would advise the College Relations Commission, through the minister, that George Brown College is receiving an average of 100 calls per day from students who are indicating that they are very close to quitting as a direct result of not being able to get back into the classrooms. I urge the minister on behalf of the people of this province, and more particularly, over 100,000 college students whose school year is in jeopardy, to please sit down with the two sides, try to get these negotiations back on track again and end the dispute.
Hon Mr Conway: To my friend the member for Sarnia, I can indicate that I intend momentarily to address, with other members of this assembly, a group of instructors. I will at that time urge upon them what I have urged upon the other party to this dispute, and that is that it is their responsibility as the parties to the dispute under the free collective bargaining process, and in the interests of these students, to take advantage of the mediator and the talks that are currently under way to resolve this.
I am not a party to the dispute nor do I intend to become a party to the dispute. I want to say that it is important to keep the pressure where the pressure belongs, and it belongs on the two parties, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the Council of Regents. They have it within their power and in the interests of the students of the college system to do what ought to be done, to negotiate a settlement and to negotiate it soon.
ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Mrs Marland: My question is to the Minister of Citizenship. This morning the standing committee on government agencies met. The Liberal members of that committee voted down a motion to hear from a former employee of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, although that employee had made that request. Can the minister tell us if he agrees with the Liberal members’ refusing to hear from any of the former staff of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and what it is that his government is afraid of?
Hon Mr Wong: What I do believe is that there was an internal review done. There was also an external one done by Coopers and Lybrand. Both of these reports were tabled in front of the standing committee, and the participants who were involved in creating and writing these reports also appeared before the committee. I believe that all members of the committee, regardless of what party they came from, made the judgements. That is an independent committee that has a responsibility of making the appropriate decision.
Mrs Marland: Every committee is independent and every committee has all party members on it to make decisions. My question continues to this minister. Yes, there has been an internal review. The authors of the internal review report were before the committee. We now have evidence that some of the answers of the authors of that report may not be totally factual. I am asking the minister, what is it that he is afraid of by having the other side of this issue heard?
Hon Mr Wong: Quite to the contrary, it is not a matter of being afraid; it is a matter of having courage in the democratic system.
Also, the honourable member is suggesting that some of the information may have been incorrect. At the same time, I understand that the same committee reviewed information, as many of these committees do, that shows contradictory or opposing pieces of information. Again, I must say, for the responsibility of those members who were working diligently and responsibly to arrive at the appropriate decision on what to do, I believe they did make the appropriate decision, analysing all the facts that were before them.
Mrs Marland: This is a dark day for human rights in Ontario. I want to tell this minister that if he truly believes in the democratic system, he will support a former employee of the Ontario Human Rights Commission at least being heard. Will it not be ironical if that former staff person at the human rights commission goes back to that very commission to plead his own human rights and being able to represent his own issue in front of an all-party public hearing?
Hon Mr Wong: Let me say that the commission is designed by the government to protect the human rights of Ontarians. It is designed to be strong and independent. The employee has the usual right, as a public servant, to go to the human rights commission or through the court process. We have many mechanisms in our society so that the individual’s rights are protected.
Once again, I do believe that the committee was asked to look at the situation but also at the future: how the human rights commission could be made stronger, how it could begin to address the issues of systemic discrimination and reducing that and how it could look into the issues of public education. That is what the committee should have been doing.
RENOVATIONS TO APARTMENT BUILDINGS
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. Over the last few weeks, we have raised many cases with the minister about rent increases as a result of unnecessary renovations. Today I would like to bring to his attention another example, 1065 Eglinton Avenue West and Joyce Hall, a former tenant of that building who had to leave because she could not afford the new rent. Those tenants are facing increases of 111 per cent to 195 per cent in their rents.
The tenants of that building and other tenants across this province want to know from the minister not what he cannot do to resolve this problem but what he can do to resolve this problem and when he is going to do it so that landlords can no longer undertake unnecessary renovations simply to raise base rents.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I do not believe I had indicated to my honourable colleague earlier that we are looking only at what we cannot do. What I clearly remember indicating to him was some of the difficulties we are facing in finding a solution. We are quite prepared to attempt to find a solution to this.
What we are concerned about, though -- and let’s be sure we do understand it -- is the distinction between necessary and unnecessary. In this particular case, the judge ruled that those particular renovations, in his judgement, were unnecessary. However, similar renovations in other places have been defined as necessary even by the tenants themselves.
The second question we are looking at is, what mechanism should we use to make that? Should it be under the Landlord and Tenant Act? Should it be under rent review? Should we use the standards board? We are looking at that right now.
The staff in my ministry are clearly looking for a way to deal with the situation. We want to be sure, however, that we do not go too far the other way and buildings do not receive, or do not have carried out, necessary renovations.
Mr D. S. Cooke: An additional twist in this particular building is that the landlord was charged in August and September 1989 by the Ministry of Housing under the Rental Housing Protection Act for carrying out renovations that should have required the building to be vacant and therefore approval by the local council.
What is going to result in this building is that the court hearing will not be heard until some time next year; yet even though he could be convicted under the minister’s own legislation, the tenants are still going to be stuck with this rent increase because the renovations are almost complete.
If the minister is not prepared to deal with the big picture of capital renovations in all of the units, is he at least prepared to make amendments now so that if a landlord is charged under his Rental Housing Protection Act, those renovation costs cannot be passed through and the tenants held responsible for them financially?
Hon Mr Sweeney: What my honourable colleague is proposing certainly has some merit to it, and I would be quite prepared to discuss that with my staff and our rent review officers. As I understand the position he has taken, if a landlord has acted illegally -- I guess that is the only way to put it -- can he still get the rent increase. It would seem to me that we should be able to do something about it, and I will certainly take a look at what he is proposing.
Mr Runciman: My question is to the Minister of Housing as well. Earlier this week, in a CITY-TV broadcast, it was revealed that there are 35 crack houses in 23 of the 25 Ontario Housing Corp complexes run by the provincial government. Apparently, when the Minister of Housing was presented with this information, he said, “It’s not that big in total numbers.” In other words, it was not a big deal in his mind.
I am just wondering if the minister, now that he has had time to reflect upon that, is still supportive of the comments he made in that interview or is he prepared to offer an apology?
Hon Mr Sweeney: Let me put the comment that the honourable member referred to in context. When I was asked, I pointed out to the reporter that I had visited both the south Regent Park area and the Jane-Finch area and had an opportunity to speak to the police who were working on these, to our various maintenance officials who are responsible for trying to identify these places and to some of the tenants.
In all three cases, it was brought to my attention that we first must have some reasonable evidence that what is alleged is taking place. I am sure my honourable friend would agree that is the way the law normally works. We have been told that is not the easiest thing to get, but when we do get it, the police have to be asked to charge the people in particular question. Then we have to go through the legal process to evict such a person. All of those things are being done on a regular basis. People are being evicted. People are being charged. People are being discovered. That is the first point I made.
The second point I made was to remind the --
The Speaker: Order. Supplementary.
Mr Runciman: The tenants obviously were somewhat perturbed by the minister’s comments, and I have a copy of a letter that was sent to the minister just yesterday from the 437 Jarvis Street Tenants Association. They were absolutely appalled at the minister’s attitude.
It is this sort of apathy among elected officials that betrays the members of the public who put them in power and could very well degrade Toronto and put it on par with cities like New York and Chicago.
I would ask the minister to reconsider the position he has taken on this, to address the concerns of tenants and to consider working with the Toronto city council to make an effort to resolve this problem, which is wasting so many people in society, especially young people.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Let me ask my honourable colleague if he is not aware of the fact that a 10-minute interview can be encapsulated on television into 10 seconds. In fact, that is almost what happened here. I am trying to share with him what the nature of the whole discussion was. I do not think my honourable friend is disagreeing with the context in which I put my remarks. I am sorry, but I am not able to determine which 10 seconds out of 10 minutes is going to be shown and the way in which that is going to be perceived by the public. I have no control over that.
What I am saying to my honourable friend is that we are co-operating with the police, and we are co-operating with the tenants, but we are also acting in the way in which the law dictates we must act. I do not think my honourable friend would suggest to us that we should act outside of the law. That would make us just as bad as some of the people we are trying to catch.
Mr Adams: My question is also for the Minister of Housing. The province signed an affordable housing agreement with the city of Peterborough. Under the agreement, the community was promised various advantages if 25 per cent of its housing was affordable. Can the minister report on the current status of this important housing agreement?
Hon Mr Sweeney: Let me ask my honourable colleague to please convey back to his community, the city of Peterborough, how appreciative this ministry is of its co-operative attitude and the co-ordinating way in which it is working with us.
As a matter of fact, quite a number of things have happened since that agreement was signed. We have allocated, I believe, about 66 nonprofit units. We have allocated, I believe, about 18 convert-to-rent units. We have funded roughly a $250,000 grant for redevelopment under PRIDE, the program for renewal, improvement, development and economic revitalization. We have provided funds to do an intensification study in the member’s area, and we have funded an access-to-permanent-housing committee in his area. All these have flowed from that agreement.
I want to point out to my friend that one of the good parts about all of this is that we are generating a mix of housing, for students, seniors, single parents, some of which is affordable rental and some affordable ownership. That is the best possible package we could look forward to. Peterborough, because of its co-operative attitude, has made all of this possible.
Mr Adams: I think the minister is right; a variety of community organizations have already co-operated with the city and the province to develop housing projects. But I am frequently asked why the province does not use the land it owns to help such projects. My supplementary is, does the minister have plans for the release of provincial lands in Peterborough?
Mr Breaugh: Oh yes, I’m sure.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Yes. My honourable friend the member for Oshawa is completely correct, and I have no idea how he possibly knew that.
Let me remind my colleague the member for Peterborough that the Scott’s Plains nonprofit housing project is built on government land. That is one that is already there. Second, he will perhaps be aware of the fact that we are currently negotiating for the use of a piece of provincial land; I think it is on Tower Hill Road. There is another piece of provincial land that we, internally in the Ministry of Housing and with my colleague the Minister of Government Services (Mr Ward), are looking at as a third project. So in fact we have already done some, one is just about to be announced and the third one is under consideration within the ministry.
The Speaker: I will now recognize the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore for the deferred question.
Mrs Grier: My question is to the Minister of the Environment and concerns the report I raised with him yesterday about the Smithville bedrock remediation panel. Since this report became public, we have all heard the minister’s reassuring statements. The citizens of Smithville have heard those statements now for four years. But this report is highly critical of the Ministry of the Environment. It is obvious that the ministry has been wrong about the size and extent of the contamination; it has been wrong about the depth to which the bedrock has been contaminated. His officials did not know there was a hydraulic connection between the shallow and the deep aquifers, and they have been wrong about the time this would take to clean up and the cost of the cleanup.
Can the minister possibly explain how, after four years of being seized with the urgency of this problem, he and his officials can be so very wrong about so many things?
Hon Mr Bradley: I would first disagree with the member. Of course, she has attempted to put the worst possible light on this, as is the job of the opposition critic; I accept that. I sat on the other side of the House for eight years, and I know that is a responsibility.
The fact is that the reason we commissioned this report, the reason we got these people from the University of Waterloo and others to look at the situation, was to evaluate the contamination that exists in the area, which everybody knows exists, to evaluate its extent and to recommend possible solutions to it.
I guess I was hopeful that there would be some specific solutions that would be apparent immediately. They have stated in the report that this is not the case. But if we have to break new ground, which in essence we probably will, if we have to be world leaders in this regard, we are determined to put in the necessary research and development, along with people from universities and other experts, to determine a technology to solve the problems that are there.
The member would know that we have already solved a number of the problems. We have already cleaned up a lot of the PCBs. We have secured the storage of those PCBs. A contract has been let for the destruction of the PCBs which have been secured; that is going through the environmental evaluation process at the present time. We have spent millions of dollars in good faith and worked hard on this project. This report points to more --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mrs Grier: This report certainly points to the need for the minister to be world-class. One of the things the report says is that one reason why the Ministry of the Environment should pursue the recommendations vigorously “pertains to the criticism directed by Ontario towards the United States regarding control and cleanup of the chemical waste sites in Niagara Falls, New York. The Smithville project is an excellent opportunity for the Ministry of the Environment to provide to the United States an example of technically rational and relatively fast action to prevent hazardous industrial chemicals in the bedrock from impairing water resources that are used by humans for drinking water supply.” How fast can the minister move to set this example?
Hon Mr Bradley: I can assure the member that we are moving at this very moment to do so and have been for some months. First of all, I want to indicate that I happen to agree with that report which we commissioned. I happen to agree that we should move expeditiously, even though the report suggests it would require two years of research and development, and these are outside experts who have said that. They said, further to that, perhaps another three years would be needed for a demonstration project. I want to do that.
Here is a classic example of how we can demonstrate, not only to our American friends but to people around the world, how to address a particular problem, just as in south Riverdale for instance, and in the Niagara neighbourhood, we undertook activities which others have come to view and will be using our technology.
We are prepared to do that in this case. We are prepared to use money from the technology fund, which is related to environment. We are prepared to use it from the security fund. I think it is a good suggestion. We are prepared to move on it.
Mrs Grier: The panel’s report is dated 26 June 1989. The panel acknowledges that the technologies required are not yet known. The panel says the challenge must be faced and asks that the minister appoint a committee of the best possible research and development people in Ontario to get on with the work. It says, “The panel recommends that the minister establish this committee in 1989.” He has had the report for five months; he obviously has not appointed the panel yet. Does he consider that fast action’? When is he going to appoint the committee, and when is he going to expect this report?
Hon Mr Bradley: I would not like to characterize it as no activity having taken place, because the fact is that millions of dollars have been spent in Smithville. For instance, we have a ring of 15 monitoring wells surrounding the site to determine whether there is any movement of contaminants away. We have six purge wells which are pumping out and cleansing the water, and that has been going on since May 1988.
I am prepared to indicate, as I have all along, that whatever action is necessary to solve the problem in Smithville, this government is determined to fix up and clean up the mess that was left by the previous government.
The Speaker: Just so we do not get out of sync, because there was one deferred question, I will recognize the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.
LANDLORDS’ RESTRICTIONS ON PETS
Mr Philip: I have a question of the Attorney General. In case he is not aware, I would like to draw the Attorney General’s attention to the situation facing the Fernandez family. The Fernandezes have lived in their rented apartment for 18 years. For eight years their poodle has lived with them.
The Speaker: Order. Interjections are out of order, particularly if members are not in their own seats.
Mr Philip: To the Attorney General. As I was saying, the Fernandez family have lived in their rented apartment for 18 years. For eight years their poodle has lived with them. Superintendents in the past have always said that the poodle was no problem to other tenants in the building. Last Friday, their landlord gave them 15 days to get rid of the poodle because their lease contains a no-pet clause. They are now facing this cruel problem because the government has failed to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act.
Is the Attorney General now prepared to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act to protect tenants from this kind of capricious action by landlords?
Hon Mr Scott: I would like to thank the honourable member for his question. The initial view was that the Ryll case, or the Fluffy case as it is called, had changed the law of the province, which previously had permitted an eviction of a tenant for breach of a covenant only if disturbance to other tenants or the landlord was demonstrated in court. Many people thought the Ryll case had permanently changed the law.
A review of the cases since the Ryll case has indicated in fact that that is not so and that the old law, which requires the demonstration of disturbance, is reasserting itself in Ontario. In that context, of course, an amendment is not necessary because the purpose of the amendment would be to restore the old law, which is now happening.
My advice to the constituents I have who are in the same situation as the family to whom my friend refers, is just to go to their neighbourhood legal aid clinic immediately, to not get rid of their pets and to not take an eviction. That is what the process is for and legal aid is willing to serve them.
Mr Philip: I am sure the Attorney General would understand that legal aid does not apply to a large number of tenants in this province, including people who actually fall under the legal aid ceiling. There are more than 100 buildings in Metropolitan Toronto alone where eviction notices have been issued. The various legal clinics, the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, as well as the humane societies, have asked for a simple amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act to make it perfectly clear. Why does the Attorney General not make that simple amendment, which could be agreed to and passed fairly quickly and remove all of this kind of legal action that is occupying the courts unnecessarily?
Hon Mr Scott: We are watching the situation very carefully. If the Ryll case is followed, we will keep in touch and keep the honourable member advised as to what action can be taken.
What I think it is worth recognizing is that a simple amendment, though desirable, is probably not possible for the following reason. What we are dealing with here is covenants in leases which are directed not only to the keeping of pets but also to a variety of lifestyle considerations: bicycles in the hallways, smoking in the apartment and so on. The simple amendment that my honourable friend seems to think would solve the problem would in fact perhaps solve this particular aspect of it, but would pose major threats for other aspects of the problem that happily have not been addressed.
The best solution from the interest --
Mr D. S. Cooke: So leave it all open.
Mr B. Rae: Mortgage your cat and go to a lawyer. That’s the answer.
Mr Laughren: Bring on the lawyers.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Scott: No. The best solution for the public and for the tenants involved is to watch the cases very seriously and to resist these eviction orders because on balance, the Ryll case appears to be an aberration which may not be repeated.
RETAIL STORE HOURS
Mrs Cunningham: My question today is for the Solicitor General. The Liberal government promised that the legislation with regard to Sunday shopping provides a province-wide law that requires most retailers to close on Sundays. They underline that it makes this new law stricter, fairer and more enforceable than the old law. We believed them. We thought that would happen. We know that there are numbers of stores open across this province on Sundays. What are they going to do about the enforceability’?
The Speaker: Did the minister hear the question? Order.
Hon Mr Offer: I had some difficulty in hearing the question, but I think it is centred around the whole question of the responsibility of enforcement for the Retail Business Holidays Act. Let me say categorically that it is obviously the local police who are responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of this legislation. They are the ones who determine when charges are warranted. They are the ones who investigate matters of complaint and allegations. That is their duty. That is what they are sworn to do, and that is what, in fact, they do.
Mrs Cunningham: I sat in a committee that went across this province, and I listened to the government representatives speak for literally hours on the enforceability clause, which states, “Upon the application of counsel for the Attorney General….” That is counsel for the Attorney General. The minister has the power. He promised it. What is he going to do about it?
Hon Mr Offer: I listened carefully to that supplementary, which I thought might be directed to the Attorney General. However, again, the question of enforcement of the legislation and all of the provisions under this legislation is that of the local police forces. That is what they do. They are the ones who are responsible. They are the ones that investigate allegations of any breach of the provision. They do this, not only with this act, but with many other acts and laws across the province. They are the professionals in this matter, and they are the ones who carry out that job.
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Minister of Culture and Communications (Ms Hart). The Elgin-Winter Garden theatre is nearing completion. Of course, we realize it is probably the last example of a stacked theatre left in the world. It was funded partly by the province; it was funded partly by the federal government, but we all know the minister has had to look to the private sector for assistance in funding this project.
Recently, the Toronto media have been saying that the minister is experiencing difficulties in getting this funding from the private sector for this particular project. Could the minister please update us. Where are we with regards to funding of this project and how viable will it be to pay for it?
Hon Ms Hart: I would like to thank the member from Simcoe Centre for giving me an opportunity to make some comment in answering the question about the funding partnership of this spectacular restoration of the Elgin-Winter Garden theatre. Yes, indeed, the property was purchased by the province -- at least by the Ontario Heritage Foundation on behalf of the province -- initially for $4.5 million. The total budgeted cost for the restoration is $29,350,000. The largest part has, indeed, been paid by the province. It is an amount of $15 million. The federal government, through its economic regional development agreement that it shares with the province, has kicked in $5.5 million. The private sector has committed to raise $7 million as part of --
Mr Cousens: Okay. Time, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: Thank you. I would appreciate if the member for Markham just -- I know he tried to be helpful. Supplementary.
Mr Owen: I do not feel I have quite got the complete answers to where we are, whether we are going to make it or not from the private sector funds. But in addition to that, I am concerned about rumours which have prevailed about the authenticity of the restoration work. People who went in to see Cats came away saying that the work was very well done, but now we are hearing rumours, just before we are about to open for performances, about the quality or the authenticity of the work which is being done. So could I have an answer to that? Also I do not feel I got an answer with regards to whether the private sector people are on hand. Are they supportive or not’?
Hon Ms Hart: If I could deal with the question of authenticity first. The heritage community has come together to assist in very many ways in this project. It is a restoration of incredible sensitivity and it is heralded across North America for its quality.
I can tell the member that the budget is on target. The project will be brought in under budget; I inquired just this morning about that. And also that on 15 December, which is the scheduled opening date for the Elgin-Winter Garden theatre, it will be ready in all its splendour.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr Wildman: In the absence of the Premier (Mr Peterson) and the minister responsible, I would like to direct a question to the Treasurer.
In view of the presentation to the cabinet yesterday by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture in which the federation pointed out that in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec all farmers in those provinces have assistance for interest rate reduction, and that with the end of the family farm interest rate reduction program in Ontario, our farmers have virtually no interest rate assistance at a time when close to $900 million is owed by Ontario farmers in short-term debt, and that one per cent increase in interest rates adds another $9 million to debt carrying charges; in view of those facts, can the minister indicate when the provincial government intends to bring in a program similar to the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program which would assist Ontario farmers --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Wildman: -- and put them in a competitive position --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Wildman: -- to compete with the farmers of other provinces?
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon R. F. Nixon: No, I cannot. But I can acknowledge that we had an excellent meeting with the executive of the federation yesterday, the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay) and all members of the cabinet. Most of the cabinet were present and had a chance to hear the views put forward by the federation. We thought their presentation was effective. The honourable member is correct that with the end of the OFFIRR program, the dependence of Ontario farmers is with the Farm Credit Corp, which is a federal responsibility.
Mr Wildman: In view of the minister’s statement that there was an excellent meeting and exchange of views, he will know that the federation of agriculture indicated to him and his colleagues that, in their view, the federal Farm Credit Corp is faltering and that the federal government intends to get out of agrifinancing. In view of that, will the government accept the federation’s recommendation that the Ontario government develop a long-term strategy for farm credit assistance and assume a leadership role in light of the diminishing commitment of the federal government to providing effective interest rate reduction assistance?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Unfortunately, we find in this province that the federal government is moving out of a number of programs that traditionally and effectively it has occupied. As they do that, of course, it gives us additional financial responsibilities.
In my view, the continuation of the growth of the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is important and certainly it will continue to grow, and I am hoping that we can have an array of programs that are going to meet the needs of our farmers without, in fact, allowing the federal government to remove itself from this extremely important and traditional responsibility.
Mr Sterling: I would like to ask the Minister of Education a question. Is he in the building or is he still on the front steps?
The Speaker: I do not see the minister. Oh, here he is.
Mr Sterling: The Carleton Board of Education in my riding has expressed a concern over the minister’s decision to destream grade 9 students without further research into its impact. They are also particularly interested in or concerned about one school, that is, Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School which is a school which may be closed as a result of destreaming students. Sir Guy Carleton deals with basic learning level children who cannot normally exist or survive in an environment which a normal school provides.
Can the minister tell me why these decisions are being made that will lead to the closing of Sir Guy Carleton, a basic level school, when he must know that this will create an impossible situation for these very special students?
Hon Mr Conway: I want to thank my friend from Manotick, the member for Carleton, for his interest in this matter. He will know that what a local school board does with the allocation of space within its jurisdiction is entirely a matter of local autonomy. I had the pleasure, the other week, of meeting with representatives of the Carleton Board of Education and I heard their concerns about this government’s very significant reforms of our education curriculum and structure, one of which is, of course, destreaming through grade nine. I told them what I will tell the House and my friend from Manotick now, that one of the supporting documents for that initiative was one of the recent reports of the select committee on education, I think a unanimous report, concurred in by the member for Burlington South (Mr Jackson), as I recall, that destreaming would be an appropriate course of action.
Mr Sterling: Without saying the minister would ever mislead this House, I might point out that if he reads the report of the select committee on education, he will find that it has said there is inconclusive research on this matter and that destreaming should be studied, not put into action. I would ask him to clarify that with this assembly in terms of his answer.
Second, if in fact destreaming takes place --
The Speaker: Let’s try number one first.
Hon Mr Conway: I say to my friend from Manotick that he will want me to say very publicly that the report of the select committee on education that dealt with this subject, a unanimous report concurred in, I believe, by the honourable members for Burlington South and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr Villeneuve), recommended destreaming through grade nine, talked about studying other aspects, but certainly that select committee report, with three party support, including the support of his colleagues from Burlington and Glengarry, specifically addressed destreaming through grade nine, which is what this government is in the process of doing.
REGIONAL GOVERNMENT OFFICE
Mr M. C. Ray: I have a question for the Minister of Culture and Communications. It concerns the future of the Windsor office of the Ministry. The minister will know from her recent visit to our city, the strong dissatisfaction felt in the community about the deficiency of Ontario government jobs in our city, compared to other cities in Ontario.
The minister will know about the deep concern of the cultural community regarding press reports and rumours of the closure of the Windsor office of her ministry. What can the minister tell the residents of Windsor, the Windsor Arts Council and the various cultural groups and organizations in our city about the future of the ministry office in Windsor?
Hon Ms Hart: I can appreciate the strong interest of the member for Windsor-Walkerville in this matter. I too have heard the rumours and read the rumours about the supposed closing of the ministry’s regional office in Windsor. I would suspect that the basis of those rumours was a report that dealt with the rationalization of services in the various regional offices.
I would like to stress to the member that it is a report like any other report. It does not represent ministry policy and I would say to the member that I have no intention of closing our regional office in Windsor. In fact, in my recent visit to Windsor and to a number of regional offices, I have been reinforced in my view of the strong role that regional offices can play.
Mr M. C. Ray: I have a supplementary which deals with the number of jobs. What assurances can the minister give the employees of the Windsor office, both the administrative management employees and the unionized workers in that office, of their own job security? Are their jobs secure? Are there any plans for the reduction of jobs in that office?
Hon Ms Hart: As I have indicated, I am strongly committed to retaining the regional office in Windsor and to retaining the high level of service in that office, and that cannot be done if jobs are to be cut. I give the member my assurance that no jobs will be cut, that the level of employment will remain the same.
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Mr Charlton: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. My question is concerning the minister’s statement on Monday regarding Ontario Hydro’s preferred plan, when it is ready, and her announcement that the review of that plan would be done under the Environmental Assessment Act by the Environmental Assessment Board.
Most people that we have talked to since Monday are happy that the Environmental Assessment Act will be used to govern this review process, because the act provides a very broad approach to the questions that will be included in the plan. However, there are some concerns. We have an Ontario Energy Board in this province which was set up to deal with energy matters and which has developed considerable amounts of expertise around Hydro operations, Hydro matters and particularly matters of funding and dollars and cents.
Can the minister tell me why she did not consider a joint board hearing under the Environmental Assessment Act and the Ontario Energy Board legislation in order to review the Hydro plan?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I quite agree with the honourable member that the Ontario Energy Board has been playing an important role in one very specific aspect of reviewing wholesale rates proposed by Ontario Hydro in an advisory capacity to the minister. I think that our belief was, as we looked at the magnitude of this study, that we will be asking the Environmental Assessment Board to look at Hydro’s projections of need as well as all the options that might be possible for meeting future indicated need and that this was a project which required the full environmental assessment approval processes to be gone through.
I think there is no question that my colleague the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley), in looking at the appointment of an Environmental Assessment Board, will be concerned with a membership which can fully reflect the expertise necessary.
Mr Charlton: The minister should be aware that, although I understand what she is saying, the questions around projections and need become very tricky questions. Her colleague just behind her could tell her that from having spent some time dealing with Hydro projections.
Would the minister consider doing what has been done in the past, at least in reverse, which is to second a member from the Ontario Energy Board to sit on this environmental assessment panel? This was done the other way in a case of secondment of an Environmental Assessment Board member to an energy board hearing on a Consumers’ Gas proposal in eastern Ontario. Would the minister at least consider that so we can ensure that the expertise which has been developed at the Ontario Energy Board is not lost to this hearing?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I think the honourable member will know that the appointments to the Environmental Assessment Board would be made through my colleague the Minister of the Environment. I am sure my colleague will take the concerns the honourable member has raised to heart. I know that there will obviously be a concern to have an Environmental Assessment Board with the full expertise to deal with this very complex matter.
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. It has to do with the matter of affordable housing in York region. Two nonprofit housing sponsors, the Hope Cooperative and the United Church Developments for York Presbytery, have been working on projects with ministry officials for some time on the assumption that there would be financial allocations forthcoming for this. There is a genuine commitment on the part of the community and on the part of the housing committee to do something more in the region. They have been working hard at this.
It now would appear that the land that had been set aside for these projects will not be available because funding has not been available from the ministry. I guess it boils down to one basic question. Will the ministry commit to ensure that these sponsor groups receive the necessary funding so that they will not lose the land scheduled for these nonprofit housing opportunities?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The difficulty that my ministry is facing right now is that we have approximately three applicants for every approval we are able to give. My honourable friend is perhaps welt aware of the fact that we share with the federal government approximately 5,000 units a year and, as a provincial government on our own unilaterally, we are putting out pretty close to another 10,000 units per year.
This is an effective program, but it is also an extremely costly program. Our provincial program alone requires capital funding from the Canada pension plan of about $3 billion, and the total amount of subsidy that we are putting out this year is in excess of $300 million. All I can say to the member is that we are looking at every application. Because we have to make choices, we are providing it to those areas where we think the need is the absolute greatest. I cannot say yes or no to his particular request, but I will certainly have my officials look at it.
Mr Ward moved that notwithstanding any standing order, the House shall not meet on Thursday 30 November 1989.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Brandt: I have two petitions addressed to the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The first is signed by 27 individuals, indicating their concern about the costs associated with the implementation of Bill 8.
Mr Brandt: The second petition is signed by 1,200 residents of the Sarnia-Lambton area, again addressed to the Lieutenant Governor in Council. This petition condemns the government of Ontario for its refusal to close liquor stores on Remembrance Day, 11 November 1989.
Mr Kormos: I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario.
“We, the undersigned, hereby register our deep concern and outrage over the provisions of the Ontario motorist protection plan.
“We respectfully request that the Legislature consider substantial amendment of or complete rejection of the Ontario motorist protection plan as presently proposed. We further respectfully request that a plan be devised more nearly in accordance with the results of the independent studies undertaken at the request of the government.”
It is signed by Claire Mandel of Hamilton, 12 others and myself.
Mr Charlton: I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario.
“We, the undersigned, hereby register our deep concern and outrage over the provisions of the Ontario motorist protection plan.
“We respectfully request that the Legislature consider substantial amendment of or complete rejection of the Ontario motorist protection plan.”
It is signed by 13 residents of the city of Hamilton, and I will add my name thereto.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND PRIVATE BILLS
Mr Callahan from the standing committee on regulations and private bills presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bills without amendment:
Bill Pr38, An Act to dissolve the Board of Trustees of the Ottawa Charitable Foundation;
Bill Pr50, An Act respecting the city of Etobicoke.
Your committee begs to report the following bill, as amended:
Bill Pr31, An Act respecting the Town of Iroquois Falls.
Your committee further recommends that the fees, less t he actual cost of printing, be remitted on Bill Pr38, An Act to dissolve the Board of Trustees of the Ottawa Charitable Foundation.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Wildman moved first reading of Bill 78, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Wildman: The purpose of the bill is to amend the Highway Traffic Act to add vehicles transporting livestock to the list of the types of vehicles that are exempt from the basic weight restriction for reduced load periods. Subsection 104a(1) of the act sets out a general requirement that no commercial motor vehicle being operated on any designated highway during a reduced load period shall carry a load in excess of 5,000 kilograms per axle.
Subsection 104a(2) sets out a list of the types of vehicles that are exempt from the basic restriction of subsection 104a(1) and that are instead subject to a requirement that the maximum load per axle shall not exceed 7,500 kilograms.
Under clause 104a(2)(c), vehicles transporting poultry are included in the list. The bill amends clause 104a(2)(c) to add vehicles transporting livestock to the list as well.
The Speaker: I am sure all members read their Votes and Proceedings from yesterday and they will therefore know that, under standing order 27(g), the vote on the motion for second reading of Bill 36, An Act to revise the Public Service Superannuation Act, has been deferred until after routine proceedings. The time has arrived. There will be a five-minute bell. Call in the members.
PUBLIC SERVICE PENSION ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
The House divided on Mr Elston’s motion for second reading of Bill 36, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Adams, Ballinger, Beer, Black, Bradley, Brown, Callahan, Campbell, Carrothers, Chiarelli, Cleary, Collins, Conway, Cooke, D. R., Cordiano, Daigeler, Elliot, Elston, Epp, Ferraro, Fleet, Fulton, Furlong, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Hart, Kerrio, LeBourdais, MacDonald, Mahoney, Mancini, McClelland, McGuinty, Miclash, Morin, Neumann, Nicholas, Nixon, R. F., Oddie Munro, Offer, O’Neil, H., O’Neill, Y., Owen, Patten, Phillips. G., Polsinelli, Poole, Ray, M. C., Reycraft, Roberts, Smith, D. W., Smith, E.J., Sola, Sorbara, South, Stoner, Sullivan, Sweeney, Tatham, Ward, Wilson, Wong.
Allen, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Cousens, Grier, Hampton, Jackson, Johnson, J.M., Johnston, R. F., Kormos, Laughren, Mackenzie, Marland, Martel, McCague, Morin-Strom, Philip, E., Pollock, Pouliot, Rae, B., Reville, Sterling, Wildman, Wiseman.
Ayes 62; nays 25.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
EDUCATION STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 64, An Act to amend the Education Act and certain other Acts relating to Education Assessment.
Mr Jackson: I am not in the least bit deterred as this assembly empties itself. I do not take that as any indication of the comments I will make about public education, but perhaps it is as much about the interest in matters with respect to the financing of education. I can only hope the remaining government members will listen, because the message I have today has a lot to do with the future health and welfare of public education.
As the Education advocate for the caucus of the Progressive Conservative Party, I am pleased to participate in this significant debate on the pooling of industrial and commercial assessment for education purposes or, as we know it, Bill 64 and Bill 65. This legislation has to do with the central question --
Mrs E. J. Smith: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I would like to point out the extreme interest of this government in comparison with the interest of the member’s own party in his speech. We have many members here to hear him.
The Deputy Speaker: Will the member resume, please.
Mr Jackson: Is that in order?
The Deputy Speaker: No.
Mr Jackson: I appreciate the member’s interest in attendance and an indication of her lack of interest in the issues of financing.
Mr Laughren: She can call a quorum.
Mr Jackson: Yes, she is more than welcome to call a quorum at any time.
This piece of legislation has more to do with the financing of education. As such, it figures very importantly in the central consideration of the development of our publicly financed educational systems and the significant role that education is increasingly playing in our complex society.
The existence of two publicly financed systems of education, the public and the separate, is now a fact of life in Ontario. The roots of the bipartite development of our educational system are historical, and as some observers have noted, it has to do not only with the question of the presence or absence of religious teachings in schools but also with the ongoing debate about education as an arm of government and education as an expression of the control of family and our familial values.
The public school system is one which is characterized by its accessibility to all, something which does not hold true of both publicly financed systems. In dealing with the issue of pooling, we are really talking about publicly financing; in other words, finances from all to pay for two systems, one which is acceptable and accessible by all and the other which is not. We are also talking about public financing and taking those public finances away from the public system to help assist and pay for the separate system.
At this point, I would like to correct for the record a statement which was made in yesterday’s opening debate by the Minister of Education (Mr Conway) when he indicated, and I will quote from Hansard, “We now have, as a result of Bill 30, two fully funded public school systems in the province of Ontario.” I suspect that the minister offered us a minor slip of the tongue because, as has been noted earlier, we have two publicly financed systems, but by their nature one is public and the other is separate, and the members of the public board accept students in this province without exception.
In addition, I was rather surprised that during yesterday’s debate the Minister of Education referred to Bill 64 as legislation that involved a shifting of resources. Again, I have the exact statement. The minister said, and I quote from Hansard: “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 suspect that if the minister examines carefully the implications of this legislation, he should be less focused on shifting and more focused on equity and responsibility. It would be sad indeed if, after public hearings on this bill, there are not the necessary and appropriate amendments and that the legacy of the Minister of Education would go down in history under the locution of “Shifting Sean.”
It is really not what this bill should do. Rather, this Minister of Education and his government should be measured by their actions in amending this legislation. I suspect that he will be measured by his effectiveness and measured over the next weeks and months before implementation of this bill, that he might more fairly enjoy the label of “Credible Conway.”
The verdict is not in yet, since the debate has just begun on this issue of pooling, but I for one believe he has it within his capacity to amend the bill to ensure that the points that my colleague from the New Democratic Party and I are both raising will be addressed fairly and equitably.
We need to ensure, of course, that our public school system is protected from the impacts of certain elements of this bill. Neither the actions of the minister nor his words -- nor, I might add, does the specific language contained in this bill -- speak to the issue of protection. In fact, there is room to consider that it does the opposite.
Now, during the debate surrounding Bill 30, my party, and I as its critic, fought long and hard in this Legislature to ensure that the public education system as we knew it then was protected from any shortfalls in terms of education financing which came as a result of the extension in full funding under Bill 30. I regret to say, after careful examination of this bill, that the language of this bill invites me to rise in this House to promote that cause once again.
What is also a fact of life in Ontario is that the commitment of the provincial Liberal government to education financing and the significance of the provincial role in maintaining the viability of our education system by ensuring fairness in funding allocations be upheld, whether their sources be found in provincial coffers or elsewhere, and by maintaining a funding level which reflects the real fiscal needs of schools. These needs, I might add, are increasingly being defined by provincial mandate, in most cases without consultation, with fiscal responsibility and accountability ultimately falling on local school boards and, of course, local school board ratepayers, all under the guise of local autonomy. That is the disturbing trend in education over the last five years specifically and over the last 10 years generally. We must note that general legislative grants as a percentage of school board expenditures, have consistently declined. In 1975, 61 per cent of the costs were provided by the provincial government. In 1980 it had dropped to 52 per cent. In 1985, with this new government under the member for London Centre (Mr Peterson), it slipped to 46 per cent, and today, under that same government, it has dropped to as low as 42 per cent. At the same time, almost every single school board in this province has increased its spending so that it is spending at a level in excess of the grant levels, or what we refer to as the ceilings, so that any expenditure in excess of that ceiling is borne 100 per cent by local taxpayers. Since the ability to raise funds, the ability to raise taxes through this mechanism of picking up the shortfall from local taxpayers varies from community to community and from board to board, the basic equity of our grant system has been eroded in recent years, a fact which the Ministry of Education acknowledges, a fact which the Macdonald commission dealt with in some detail and reported on to this House in 1985 and a fact on which the select committee has just undertaken a full summer of review and hopefully will be able to report to this House within the next two or three weeks.
Hon Mr Conway: Some of its earlier reports were of course discussed in question period.
Mr Jackson: It is therefore imperative, now that the minister has returned, to recognize at the outset that the proposed mechanism for pooling and sharing of industrial-commercial assessment by our two publicly financed systems is not, and cannot be, in a way which the provincial government may somehow hope to maintain its present course of action of continuing to reduce its funding commitment to education.
If anything, this legislation currently before us is a clear indicator of the need for a heightened, more intensified provincial role in education financing. It is one thing to want to include our education system more and more within the market orientation of the laws and values of business which, it is readily acknowledged, do have a major impact on deciding society’s values, but it is quite another thing to do nothing about the vulnerabilities of that educational system whose proper functioning requires a flexible and secure funding base both now and especially in our future.
With respect to the question of pooling, fairness is what we expect for both our publicly financed school systems. Fairness is not what we have always observed in the past. However, as when we witnessed, for example, the school transfers, which the minister had a major hand in orchestrating in the wake of Bill 30, the real fiscal needs of school boards are just that, and they must be addressed in that same spirit of fairness.
I will make the argument that fairness as a principle includes, and must include, the idea of protecting our education system where it is vulnerable and especially where it is vulnerable with respect to the pooling of industrial-commercial assessment. To do otherwise would be to reduce fairness to a matter of equality of degree.
When a school board experiences fiscal vulnerability, its equality with other boards which do not experience such vulnerability is therefore eroded. Without addressing that vulnerability first, there can be no question of ensuring fairness. In short, fairness should not mean a general weakening of public education.
It is to this question of protecting our public school system before we can even ever question the issue of ensuring fairness that we must turn our full attention today in this debate. Following the recommendations of the Macdonald commission, which reported in December 1985, this Liberal government has indicated that it would adequately compensate those boards which would suffer real assessment loss once pooling came into effect, yet many boards have expressed well-grounded fears about this government’s intention and questioned its determination to make good on its commitments and its promises.
This government’s track record on education financing speaks for itself. More and more responsibility for education costs have been downloaded on to local municipalities and local taxpayers. More often than not, the ceiling levels. or recognized ordinary expenditures, do not reflect the real economic situation in which school boards find themselves. I might add that nowhere in the proposed legislation which we are now debating does it state that compensation to boards that will be impacted negatively by pooling will somehow be guaranteed, nowhere in the legislation.
We are asked to trust the Liberal cabinet to examine this data at some future date. That is the same cabinet which is now planning to remove the elementary and secondary distinctions in our system for funding purposes, it is the same cabinet which has arbitrarily lowered the capital grant rate from 75 per cent down to 60 per cent, it is the same cabinet that talked about reducing class sizes in the primary division and had one funding formula before the election and an entirely different funding formula after the election.
But this Minister of Education asks us, on faith and trust alone, to deal with one of the most significant financing decisions that will face public education of the decade. That, the minister will find during public debate, is unacceptable. And it is not just unacceptable on faith; it is unacceptable because of his own government’s track record.
Consequently, there is real concern from school boards that any planned compensation to our boards after pooling comes into effect would not adequately reflect what they believe are the real assessment losses. Many boards therefore doubt that the province can guarantee that no board will suffer revenue loss as a result of pooling. Even though the current minister and his predecessor both promised to protect the fiscal security and the autonomy of our public boards, we know that they failed to deliver on their promise, and that failure has contributed in no small measure to many boards’ fears that they will have to take a back seat to others with respect to funds garnered from pooling.
While the Education ministry’s total estimate of the pricetag needed to ensure what it calls revenue neutrality of pooling is $200 million, yet, as has been noted in this debate, there is already a $20-million differential of opinion which exists between the figures of the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) and those figures supplied by the Minister of Education. If this government hopes to achieve true revenue neutrality, which it says it does, it is going to have a hard time guaranteeing it if it cannot reach agreement and consensus at the cabinet table as to what that figure will be.
On completing its study of the impact of pooling on local taxpayers, the Minister of Education determined that $165 million would have to be added to the general legislative grants to offset this shift in assessment. However, this still would leave 13 boards in this province with a net revenue-loss position. For purposes of the record, I would like to indicate which ones they are: Cochrane Iroquois Falls, Hamilton, Kapuskasing, Metropolitan Toronto, Nipigon-Red Rock, North Shore, Ottawa, Prescott & Russell County, Sault Ste Marie, Stormont Dundas and Glengarry, Sudbury, Timmins and Windsor. An additional $35 million in special compensation will therefore be required to ensure that these boards are not adversely affected, as well.
It is clear, therefore, that the amount of money needed to enrich the general legislative grants will have to be increased. The ministry and the estimates of the Treasurer are based on an impact study which uses 1987 assessment rolls for 1988 taxation purposes. The exact amount of compensation required will therefore not be known until the assessment rolls for 1990 taxation are available.
And while the ministry will not be conducting another impact study, based on the 1990 assessment data, it is a comment on the times to note that the public boards have determined to proceed with an impact study of their own. According to some estimates, the public school system will lose an additional $270 million because of the shortcomings of this government’s impact analysis. We must also note that no inflation factor has been built into the six-year phase-in model, while the assessment shifts resulting from the proposed changes to the separate school zones have not been included in the compensation package for public boards.
Nor is compensation included to cover the impact on public boards which the amendments governing unincorporated partnerships will have. We would like to recommend to this government that any provincial guarantees that no board will suffer revenue loss because of pooling should be backed up with legislation designed to protect the assessment base from further encroachment and include, by way of compensation, the equivalent of an increase in over-ceiling expenditures in 1990, or later years, that would have been raised had the assessment base not been lost through pooling.
At the same time as this government has proposed pooling as one answer to education financing, it has also promoted Bill 20, the Development Charges Act, which enables school boards to impose lot levies for 100 per cent of new school construction costs. It is important to note that provincial support for approved capital projects has fallen from 75 per cent to 60 per cent and that lot levies do not address the problem faced by the current situation which we find in Ontario schools, that of 200,000 students studying in portables.
It is clear that other initiatives in the government’s throne speech and its recent budget with the increased access for junior and all-day senior kindergarten will further exacerbate the situation of students being educated in portables in this province. And yet, the government wishes to distance its responsibilities in a fiscal way by embracing the pooling notions without dealing with compensation in the light of those new initiatives. Lot levies are really just one more instance of the province shifting, increasingly, its responsibility for educational financing on to local taxpayers, and yes, now even to local homebuyers.
When Ontario school boards approached this government for the several billions of dollars over five years which they felt they needed to build the new schools necessary, this government promised them $1.2 billion over four, almost five, years, with the added open suggestion by the former Minister of Education that the boards should begin incurring deficit financing by borrowing against the Canada pension plan and other pension funds that are available in this province. It is interesting that this kind of direction and recommendation to school boards comes without any legitimate guidelines, which our municipalities must follow under the Ontario Municipal Board. But there does not seem to be any for school boards.
I think this government is setting in motion a dangerous trend if it wishes to promote the same kind of long-term Liberal deficit financing which typified our federal government, that now in Ontario this is the same kind of encouragement which a Liberal government is giving to school boards. It is not a pleasant picture for the future of education in this province, and it certainly speaks poorly of our ability to afford costs of government in the future if deficit financing of this magnitude is being encouraged by the government.
We must also note that there are, at present, two constitutional challenges to the distribution of property assessment that are pending before our courts. Two francophone separate school supporters from Ottawa-Carleton and Cornwall, respectively, are seeking a judicial order to have property tax assessment for school purposes redistributed on the basis of school enrolment and not on farm and property assessment. If this action is successful, it will mean a greater shift of assessment to the separate and francophone school systems and will therefore constitute a further funding problem which must be addressed by this province.
The province will also have to address the problems of vulnerability and fairness raised by the regulations to be introduced to govern separate school boundary shifts under provisions of the Scott act, 1863. Separate school boards can be extended by drawing a three-mile radius around the heads of five families to create a separate school zone. This method of expansion, of course, leads to gaps between the various zones, which can overlap board boundaries and municipal boundaries. There are several problems associated with that.
The government has served notice of its desire to change this, and the anticipated changes would extend boundaries of the separate school boards so that they cover the same jurisdiction as public boards. Zones will be extended by a municipality or township depending upon the circumstance.
Again, this government’s claims that assessment shifts will be minimal are greeted with apprehension by boards, once again, which feel that these kinds of shifts could indeed be significant for a number of boards. They could be significant in terms of their financial implications. Again, the compensation package should deal with the issue of this change, and the compensation package should account for any adverse implications to the public systems.
In addition, boards have expressed the concern that pooling, in its present form, will have an adverse effect in northern boards and locally controlled Indian schools. We are not arguing, therefore, against pooling as such, rather only against the manner in which it is being instituted under proposals of Bill 64 and Bill 65.
These bills have indeed brought to the fore a number of issues which run the risk of not being addressed adequately, and because of that, can seriously undermine our education system’s ability to fulfil its mandate. Our education system’s ability, therefore, to fulfil its mandate is what we really should be addressing here in the House.
The government’s unwillingness to play the central role, which the province has formerly played with respect to educational financing, is also at issue. That distress which extends to the promises made by this government respecting the protection of the financial viability of boards as well as their autonomy is at issue here.
Accountability is the first and greatest lesson of most historical democracies. This government appears to need to take a refresher course on the implications of this bill. It cannot afford to play games with our educational system nor can it afford not to protect it where it is vulnerable under funding schemes such as pooling. To do so would be an exercise in unfairness to all boards and all students in this province. To do so would be to expose our educational system, and therefore the future of this province, to the fiscal uncertainty of the whims of a funding mechanism perceived as inflexible and irresponsible to the particular needs and requirements of individual school boards, whether they are located in northern Ontario, urban centres, Metropolitan Toronto or southwestern Ontario.
To do so would also hurt the traditional character of excellence which has also been the hallmark of Ontario’s educational system. It is a system, after all, for all of our citizens, irrespective of where they live and what station they hold in life. I therefore call on this government to take the necessary steps to alleviate the concerns of many of our boards with respect to this proposed legislation by instituting the flexible and fiscally realistic mechanisms where actual needs of school boards in varying circumstances can readily be met.
In order to best achieve this, this government would do well to consider the referral of this legislation to committee for public hearings rather than to take the path of quick passage through this House, so that those boards which are affected most may be afforded an opportunity to present their concerns in an open forum and to hold this government more accountable with respect to its promises of guarantees and to ensure that those promises are put in legislative language.
Quality education is indeed a priceless treasure in this day and age for the future of our students. In our attempts aimed at meeting the proverbial bottom line in this provincial budget, let us not do it the injustice of devaluing its significance for our citizens and for the future of our province’s educational system.
Mr Allen: I rise, like my colleague the member for Scarborough West (Mr R. F. Johnston) last year, to speak in support of this piece of legislation. I must say it takes me back to a previous incarnation as an Education critic and to a previous issue in which I was very deeply involved, namely the debates around Bill 30.
The issue before us today is whether certain steps that naturally and properly arise out of the undertaking to provide equal funding for the Roman Catholic separate school system in this province as a publicly supported, and historically publicly supported, school system will in fact be taken; whether that equality will be fully addressed or whether we will leave the job half done.
We address the question, none the less, in the context of a much larger issue which the government fails to address, namely the whole question of equity in education taxation and the whole question of who should be paying for education and from what tax base. In that respect, boards situate themselves in very different positions at this point in time, and they will continue to be much differently situated after the passage of this particular piece of legislation.
In other words, while I am rising to support this proposal of limited coterminous pooling of commercial-industrial taxation for purposes of education revenue in the boards of this province, I do so with the recognition that what is being accomplished is a relatively small thing. Obviously, it is important, most of all for the boards which exist in high-population areas with large commercial-industrial assessments, where there has historically over the years grown a major disparity between public and separate boards in particular, those boards having had by law different kinds of access to commercial-industrial assessment, the public board being able to take advantage of the lion’s share of that assessment and the separate boards only a minimal part, and sometimes none at all.
In those situations there will be an increased equity. But as my colleague pointed out yesterday, there are some major problems when one casts one’s eye a little bit further afield and looks at some still further adjacent or coterminous boards. I should not say “coterminous boards,” but boards that lie adjacent to a coterminous board area where the gap between what is possible in the new coterminous pooling situation and what remains possible for them with a different degree of commercial-industrial assessment will indeed be striking and large and to the deficit of the children in those school board situations.
It is interesting when one looks back at articles written in the past on this subject by commentators who have been at this place, like Rosemary Speirs looking at an upcoming election in 1987 and asking herself whether the government would really be prepared as it approached a budget that year in advance of an election to grasp the nettle of justice in educational finance and provide real equity for all boards, and for all school children, in fact, across the province. She doubted very much whether the government would grasp that nettle, and indeed she was correct.
The members of the government in opposition, having been very outspoken on the question of reaching a 60 per cent provincial contribution to education, clearly were very much afraid of moving on their own agenda. As a result, what we have had subsequently in this province is a continual decline of provincial contributions to the share of education costs that the province ought to have been bearing. Where the figures were once 60 per cent, or just slightly over 60 per cent in 1975, they are down now to 42 per cent of provincial contribution of the recognized ordinary expenditures of school boards.
The minister, when he addresses this question, keeps making the comment: “Well, why don’t you address the spending question? I never hear my New Democratic Party friends talk about spending.” The spending side of it is fairly simple and fairly direct. Of course, one cannot have an open-skies system of educational finance. One cannot, as a provincial government -- New Democrats, I am sure, would be no different -- approach provincial contributions to totally open-ended budgets in transfer agencies. I think that goes as a matter of course.
The problem, however, is not that question; the problem is whether the provincial government has established ceilings for recognized expenditures in the school system that are realistic or not. In our time what has happened is that 95 per cent of the boards in this province are in fact spending over the ceilings established by the provincial government, which at this point stand at $33,225 per elementary pupil or $4,122 per secondary pupil.
Some boards spend heavily in advance of that. There are boards in this province that reach up to $1,200, $1,400 and $1,500 over the ceiling, and there are other boards that can barely creep above it at all. But the story is that most boards, 95 per cent of them, find that in the discharge of their educational responsibilities they have to spend more than the ceiling. So the question is not whether anyone is in favour of blue-skies, open-skies funding; the question is whether the government is prepared to establish realistic ceilings and meet realistic contributions to the cost of education in this province, and that, of course, they have not been prepared to do.
What we have in this instance is an attempt to address one corner of a horrendous problem of access to commercial-industrial assessment. In the past there has been very extensive discussion.
For years, we have addressed and asked questions about the province-wide pooling of commercial and industrial assessment. We have never been able to get satisfactory answers from provincial governments that propose that solution as to whether or not all of the moneys of the pool would in fact be spent in the field of education or whether they would be siphoned off in some other field of expenditure. There were never any promises with respect to those questions.
We were not able to get satisfactory answers with respect to what the impact would be on the local autonomy of school boards in this province.
So understandably, every time that subject would come up, boards would go into reaction and the issue would be dropped like a hot potato, to be revived in some other form, never satisfactorily addressed, and the inequity, the injustice, has remained.
The injustice, of course, is not simply an injustice between Catholic boards, which historically have not had access to commercial and industrial assessment, and public boards, which historically have taken by far the lion’s share of that assessment. It is also between commercial-industrial-rich boards like my own city of Hamilton or the city of Ottawa or the city of Sault Ste Marie or the city of Toronto, where there are immense amounts of commercial-industrial assessment -- yet you have not far away, in most of those instances, school boards that have only a fraction of the capacity to tax commercial and industrial enterprises and therefore cannot spend equivalent amounts of money on children who should be having precisely the same access, through quality education, to their life chances.
So what we have in this bill is an attempt to address a small corner of the commercial-industrial assessment inequity. The bill proposes to do this by arranging boards on a coterminous basis; that is, if boards are situated within the same boundaries, then they will share the commercial-industrial assessment within those boundaries.
The first thing to observe about this proposal, as my colleague did yesterday, is that certainly, if I can use an example, in the case of the Windsor boards, the public board, which now is able to deliver education at a cost per pupil of $5,213, is significantly, at this point in time, in advance of the Windsor Roman Catholic board, at $4,548 per pupil. With this reform, those figures will be balanced out. The Roman Catholic board will clearly make an appreciable gain, and the students in that board situation will be able to experience a greater and more enriched education as a result.
But if we look next door to the Windsor boards at the Essex county situation, where there is very little commercial-industrial assessment, the two boards are comparable in any case, just slightly over $4,000 per student in their capacity to spend on their educational enterprises. In that case, the pooling of commercial-industrial assessment will, I suppose, split something like $40 difference between the two boards.
The impact clearly is going to be absolutely negligible in some coterminous board situations, and in others it will be quite dramatic. The overall impact of this in terms of the large question of financial equity in this province is really going to be very slight indeed.
If one takes again, for example, a case in Ottawa, where the comparisons have been made, you will find a situation where the Ottawa Board of Education is able to access 43 per cent of the commercial-industrial assessment while it only has 29.98 per cent of the pupils, whereas the Ottawa separate school board has an almost directly proportionate share, with some nine per cent of the assessment and almost nine per cent of the pupils. Obviously, the Ottawa public board is going to be able to deliver a per-pupil educational experience which is twice as rich in terms of its capacity to spend over ceiling than is the case with the Ottawa separate board.
That difference will be wiped out after the application of this legislation. There will be equity within the city, but then look at the neighbouring county. Carleton Roman Catholic Separate School Board, where it can access seven per cent of the commercial-industrial assessment, but it has twice that percentage of the students to pay for. It is not only going to be worse off, relatively speaking, than the Ottawa board in current measures but it will be also substantially worse off than its Catholic counterpart within the city. The problem we are left with is a very, very large problem of inequity in the field of educational finance in Ontario.
None the less, as I say, this does address a small corner of the issue, and in addressing a small corner of the issue, it does pose some problems that I think we have to be very wary of. For example, the legislation and the proposals that the minister has put forward, as I understand them, will peg the calculations that will apply over the subsequent six years in the redistribution of commercial-industrial assessment under this plan in the year 1990.
I want to impress on the minister that it is critically important, if he is going to use this as an instrument of achieving some justice even within the limited boundaries of this particular proposal, that he has to develop a rolling-year calculation on the commercial-industrial assessment growth in any given board situation, because that is the figure upon which will be calculated the amount that will be shifted between boards. If, for example, a public board, such as the York board, anticipates a very substantial growth in commercial-industrial assessment by the year 1995, to the effective point where the commercial-industrial assessment will have doubled, then it is going to face a very difficult situation come 1995 if the calculations are made on a 1990 base. They will be the losers by substantial millions of dollars as a result.
So I plead with the minister that he is going to have to take account of other factors in calculating -- I should say he should take account of the variable factors that will change as the years go by over this adjustment period, just as he should be taking account of the alteration in inflation rates. The projected change that will come with inflation over this same period of time will be quite significant, and as a result, calculations on the basis of 1990 dollars will be inappropriate. Public boards in some situations will be significant losers if, in point of fact, there is a static formula rather than a dynamic formula that changes with the years.
I want to address another aspect of the problem simply by referring to my own board situation in Hamilton, where three boards find themselves within the boundaries of a coterminous board situation, the Hamilton Board of Education, the Wentworth County Board of Education and the Hamilton-Wentworth Roman Catholic Separate School Board.
When one examines the commercial-industrial assessment in Hamilton, one notes that it is accessed by these three boards to very, very different degrees. In this threesome of boards, one has a county-wide Roman Catholic separate school board, one has a predominantly rural public board and one has a heavily urbanized public board. So you have three different kinds of boards in this calculation.
If you look at the assessment that is available per pupil as of 1988, you will discover that the Hamilton Board of Education receives almost exactly $200,000 to work with on an elementary basis and $356,000 on the secondary panel, while the Wentworth county board has $92,000 to work with on the elementary panel and $157,000 on the secondary panel. Obviously there is a dramatic difference for people who live in essentially the same sort of sociocultural area.
Many of the people who send their children to the Wentworth county board and live in Wentworth county none the less work in Hamilton and in the very industries that are producing the commercial-industrial assessment, and yet their board can access only less than half of the value for their youngsters as the Hamilton board can.
Turning to the Hamilton-Wentworth Roman Catholic Separate School Board, you have an absolutely cataclysmic and precipitous drop in the figures, because you find that on the elementary panel, whereas the Hamilton Board of Education accesses almost $200,000 per pupil, the separate board is able to access only approximately 10 per cent of that, namely, $24,000 per pupil, and on the secondary panel, whereas the Hamilton Board of Education has at its disposal $356,000 per pupil, the separate board has $54,000 per pupil.
When you take those figures and weigh them into the larger assessment picture, which includes the residential assessment picture, you find that the separate boards on the residential base, the county boards and the Hamilton board are roughly equivalent, but the overall impact of the commercial-industrial deficiencies for the Wentworth county board drops them almost $100,000 lower in their secondary panel, and for the separate school board it reduces them to less than 50 per cent of the secondary assessment that is available to the public board.
Obviously there have been some very dramatic differences and some dramatic inabilities to finance education on a roughly equitable basis within the Hamilton-Wentworth region. In those terms, this proposal makes a great deal of sense and will benefit quite significantly the Wentworth county board and the Hamilton-Wentworth Roman Catholic Separate School Board and the pupils who attend school within them. Certainly it will create a degree of equity within that small region.
However, it is critically important that the ministry be totally upfront and totally fair and generous in its response to public boards that are going to lose significant degrees of access to the commercial-industrial assessments. The Hamilton public board has been on official record as opposing pooling in the broad sense for reasons that I suggested earlier, and it has declared its extreme uneasiness with what is proposed under this piece of legislation. If I might try to detail why, I think members will understand their concern.
The Hamilton board of education spends $221 million on education every year; $64 million of that comes from the province. In other words, it receives a percentage of its ceiling expenditures of 29 percent from the provincial government. It is very interesting to note that if one goes back to the critical year of 1975, the Hamilton board at that time received a 55 per cent contribution from the provincial government. The province today contributes only 29 per cent of the education expenditures in that board.
That being the case, when one turns to the proposal that was announced in the context of the 1989 budget, and which Bill 64 details for us, in the first instance, the Hamilton board of education would lose $14 million in access to assessment. At the same time, it would pick up $8 million in additional moneys just by virtue of the way in which the formula works. As a somewhat poorer board, having $14 million taken out of its taxing capacity, it would be eligible for $8 million more of income from the provincial government as a matter of course. But that leaves it still with a deficit of $6 million, which interestingly is roughly equivalent to the amount that the separate school board in our region would get in return: $6,494,496.
If the government allocates roughly the amount of money it has been talking about in the course of discussing this proposal and putting it forward, namely, somewhere of the order of $165 million or $180 million -- the two figures appear in various bits of literature -- as a contribution to the public boards to make up for their losses under Bill 64, then the public board would receive $3.7 million from the provincial government to address its real loss. But where does that leave that board? That leaves the board with a $2.3-million loss at the end of the day. Surely that is not intended. There are, however, 13 boards across this province which equally are real losers, as distinct from other boards which come off equitably or, in fact, are better off slightly at the end of the day as a result of the Bill 64 adjustments. But there are 13 boards like the Hamilton Board of Education which end up as losers.
I want to appeal to the minister. If he is going to implement this piece of legislation, not just with equity but with a degree of harmony in the education system and with a sense that it has been done fairly to all concerned, it is critically important that he address the needs of those boards which under the present calculations come out losers. Whether that means raising the figures from $180 million to $190 million or $200 million, the extra money will be well repaid in terms of educational peace and in terms of a sense that everyone has been dealt with fairly and justly.
I come back to my main point; surely even so small an effort to achieve a greater degree of educational equity in the province should not leave behind it a small trail of bitterness among some boards which will be dealt with unfairly, will lose resources or will not be able to address their educational responsibilities at the same level as they and their communities have been used to. I would appeal to the minister’s sense of fairness and equity to take that question in hand and address it speedily before we proceed much further in this debate.
I rest my remarks there for the moment on the general principles and the general direction of this legislation, underlining once more that there is a very large issue of educational financial justice to be addressed in this province, and that sooner or later some government is going to have to address that. I would hope that this government would take it in hand, but if not, there is an alternative government in this House, and we would be happy to address that question if this government does not feel disposed to do so.
Le Vice-Président : Questions et commentaires au sujet de la présentation du député ?
M. R. F. Johnston : Quelques commentaires.
I just wanted to say that we have another speaker following and then we are going to get the wrapup from the minister. I hope the minister is understanding that we still have a little malaise here about the guarantee of dollars, that there will not be a net loss to the various conseils scolaires, boards of education around the province of Ontario. I am thinking in French for the next bill so I apologize for that.
Mr Pouliot: Don’t apologize.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I wanted to get some clarification from the minister in the case of Hamilton, as being put forward by this member, or the case of York region that has been put forward as well, or the cases of Windsor where they are indicating that there is at least a several-million-dollar discrepancy between the kind of money that the government was talking about and the kind of cost that they think they are going to face, that there be some recognition of that; and that in the case specifically of York region with its exponential growth at this time, that there is some recognition that a base of 1990 assessment be not held strictly against it as its region grows so rapidly over the next number of years through the six years over which this program will be brought in; and that in fact their real costs, their real deficit as a result of this change, the York region public board and these other boards that have been identified will be met and not just this arbitrary figure based on a 1990 assessment or 1988 figures, whichever it seems to be.
Mr Allen: I think the member for Scarborough West has seized the meaning of my comments very clearly and directly, and I am happy to have them underlined. I do not think there is any point in elaborating on them any further, but the point obviously is a very critical one for the minister.
The Deputy Speaker: Before we proceed with the next speaker, I am sure the members, those who have not already noticed, are honoured to have with us a former member of the House, Harry Worton, in the east public gallery.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I will be quite brief. It is good to see Harry Worton here. Did he not represent Guelph for 126 years?
Hon Mr Conway: No, 30. Wellington South actually.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I want to start off by saying that we intend, as my colleagues have said, to support this legislation. We are somewhat disappointed, though, that it took the government so long to make this type of decision and that it is not coupled with some major reforms in financing of education.
I think, if there is anything that has upset public school boards about the whole process of implementation of Bill 30, which we all supported, it is the fact that their fears about possible losses, both losses of students and compensation and losses of financing through this piece of legislation -- and it is absolutely essential, as my colleagues have said -- that there be clear guarantees. If those guarantees are not in place, all we are doing is fostering more difficulties between the two school boards in communities where there are coterminous boards.
Those of us who went through the Bill 30 process understand how easy that conflict is to develop and that it is up to this government and the provincial Legislature to provide that leadership to avoid that conflict as much as possible.
When the former Minister of Education announced the introduction of this bill and the $180 million that was attached to it to compensate public school boards, I had to chuckle because I was here, as many of us were, the day that Bill Davis came in and announced that funding was going to be extended to the separate school boards across this province. There was a standing ovation for the then Premier for the announcement because many of us had remembered the days when the Conservative Party did not support that position; but the thing that I remember most is that the announcement included a cost estimate and the cost estimate for the entire implementation of Bill 30 according to Mr Davis that day was $40 million.
Now, today we are dealing with a piece of legislation that the government says is going to be $180 million. We suspect that it is going to be well over $200 million to implement this piece of legislation so just for this aspect alone of the implementation of Bill 30 we are looking at a cost of about five times as much as Mr Davis said it would cost for the entire package.
I still believe, as a person who served on that committee, that the inaccurate information he presented to the House when he made that announcement did not help the smooth transition and acceptance across this province of extension of funding. However, that is in the past and I guess maybe you can tell when a member has been around here for too long, when he talks about past experiences on committees.
I do want to put forward some of the difficulties we have had down our way, because I think the four school boards, the two in the county and the two in the city, where there is about a 50-50 split in student population between the separate boards and the public boards, demonstrate clearly the need for provincial assistance and the need for the province not to phase things in over six years and not to wait to study financing of education for a longer and longer period of time, but to move quickly to make sure we have equality of access to quality programs right across the province.
The current minister may not remember, although I am sure he does -- he was not the minister at the time -- but the two separate school boards down our way and I think also over into the Sarnia area and over into Middlesex, all projected deficits and ran deficits while they were waiting for this legislation to be implemented and to be announced.
The deficits were absolutely essential, even though they are illegal under the Education Act. There is no way they could have continued to provide anywhere near the quality of education they provide now, which is, as my colleagues the members for Scarborough West and Hamilton West have indicated through statistics presented by the boards, not equal now to the big city boards or to the public boards, because they do not have the commercial and industrial assessment that large urban areas and city boards have, and public school boards have had, so they ran deficits.
What was the response of this government to the two separate school boards down our way, both of which need substantial amounts of capital to meet the demand for student places? The response from the provincial government was, “If you run your deficits, we’re not going to give you any capital funding.” It held to that. Eventually, we got this, but in the meantime the separate school boards had to get involved in massive cutbacks of education down our way because they had projected and had budgeted for deficits that I think were in the neighbourhood of a couple of million dollars.
I still think, I thought at the time, we met with the boards that they were right and that it was appropriate for them to use the tactic of deficits in order to protect their students, and that this government was wrong for taking so long to make this policy announcement. This is by no way going to solve their problem in its entirety.
The six-year phase-in period is going to be extremely difficult on the separate school boards. The lack of any recognition of implementation of the 60 per cent commitment that the Liberals made when they were in opposition for funding of education in this province, means that county boards are going to continue to suffer in comparison to city boards and separate boards are going to continue to suffer in comparison to public boards.
I do not believe the long-term solution is regional or province-wide pooling. I think the solution clearly is a total reform of education financing and that means the province should be picking up a minimum of 60 per cent of the cost of education in this province. That is not 60 per cent based on the spending ceilings this government sets, but a recognition that the spending per pupil across this province is much higher than this provincial government recognizes. That means that the spending ceilings for grant purposes set by this government are totally and completely unrealistic and bear no relationship to the cost of providing a quality education across this province.
There has to be some major reform and it is really remarkable to hear this minister, the previous minister, and the minister before that give their explanations as to why they are up to 55 per cent. I guess it is 55 per cent of some ceiling that does not resemble at all the real cost of putting a student through. I think it is terribly unfair.
If we recognize and accept that in the health care field we should have equal access to quality health care across this province, then I think that same principle should be applied to education in this province and it is not being applied at all because the resources, the income, the cash is not available in a uniform way across this province.
The programs that can be made available in Toronto are remarkable. There is a wide range of programs that are available in this community that there is no way my community can offer to its students, and in the county, they cannot even offer the programs that the city of Windsor offers to its students.
The pay that is available and support services that are available in urban boards compared to county boards are much superior, again, because rural boards and separate boards cannot afford those support services. Their pupil-teacher ratios are much higher in separate boards and in county boards because they simply do not have the wealth to provide those necessary services and smaller class sizes so that we can provide good quality, individual experiences in our educational system.
I have one other point that I want to make. Again, the Macdonald commission, one of its specific recommendations for my community was that the two Catholic boards, the Essex County Roman Catholic Separate School Board and the Windsor Roman Catholic Separate School Board, as well as the Windsor Board of Education and the Essex County Board of Education should amalgamate so that instead of having four boards, we would have two boards.
No matter what the political risk that is involved in that, I supported that recommendation, raised it at several school board meetings both with county trustees and city trustees, and I know the resistance that exists in the county to amalgamation, but we could not even get this government to study the idea of amalgamation of those boards. They said, “We will leave it at the local level, and there has to be a request from the local level.”
The minister knows as well as I do that there simply will not be a request from the local level. They are quite satisfied to have two boards where we have huge numbers of trustees representing the public at both levels. They are quite satisfied to have four directors of education, each making not quite three times as much as we make, but making substantial wages as directors of education, more than I believe the deputy minister was getting paid, at least until a couple of years ago. They are quite satisfied to have duplication of financial services and other business services, computer services, all of which with some amalgamation and some streamlining would, in fact, be able to provide more cash in the classrooms.
But this government, even though it accepted the Macdonald commission or received the Macdonald commission, was not even prepared to show some leadership to study the issue and that is all I asked, that there be a local committee set up to study whether the merits and the negative effects of amalgamation of the boards, and that has not even happened.
If that had happened, obviously, there would have been some sharing of the wealth. The urban wealth that exists in the city of Windsor would have been able to be shared with the county where they are much lower in commercial and industrial assessment.
I think if the minister is interested in providing more equity, in terms of quality of education across the province, at least in that area, he could move quickly by setting up a local committee to look at amalgamation of the two boards, supported editorially by the Windsor Star, and I am sure supported by anyone who cares about saving taxpayers’ dollars and putting those dollars back into the classroom where they benefit the students of this province.
Hon Mr Conway: I would be happy to wind up. I really have enjoyed this debate and I want to say to my friends in the third party that I have particularly enjoyed their participation. In the third party, I have found their interest in this matter to be special and I say that quite seriously to my friend the member for Burlington South (Mr Jackson) who I thought presented a very thoughtful and wide-ranging analysis of his views with respect to the whole question of educational finance.
I must say to my friend the member for Hamilton West (Mr Allen), with whom I have shared this place for purposes of educational debates in the past, I never thought I would hear a socialist say the things I just heard my friend the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke) say -- a socialist who is out there to reduce bureaucracy.
It is a brave new world, I say to my friend from Vanier, when the member for Windsor-Riverside presents the kind of observations that he just did.
Mr Pouliot: But, Your Grace, aren’t you going too far?
Hon Mr Conway: I might be. It is a long way.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Instead, you’re defending bureaucracy.
Hon Mr Conway: I am not defending any bureaucracy, because was it not Robert Michels who said, “He who speaks bureaucracy inevitably speaks tyranny”? I am not a socialist.
Mr Jackson: You tyrant.
Hon Mr Conway: That was just one famous sociologist’s point of view.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The tyrant from Round Lake.
Hon Mr Conway: It is the tyranny of distance that always causes me trouble around Round Lake, I say to my friend the member for Scarborough West. But it has been a good debate and I want to congratulate the critic for the official opposition who I thought had some very interesting things to say, not just about the bill, but about the whole question that informs this debate and that is the issue of educational finance.
I will repeat something that I said earlier and that is that I recognize, more than perhaps my remarks to this point have indicated, that there are some issues that remain unresolved -- some very substantive issues. I say again, in my capacity as the member for Renfrew North, that the growing division between rich and poor, whether they are separate or public, is a concern that many members such as my friend the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot), myself and others have. I do not want to indicate that when we pass this legislation that we have somehow ended the review that this Legislature must have about the longer-term issues in this key area of policy.
I must say I have listened as well with some real interest to the implication of some honourable members’ interventions that would suggest that we should wrestle everyone to perhaps the highest spending level that can be found across the province at the present time.
Mr Allen: No one said that.
Hon Mr Conway: I did not say anybody said it, I said that there was an implication that --
Mr Allen: It may have been your inference but it was neither intended nor implied.
Hon Mr Conway: I defer to my friend the member for Hamilton West who always understands these nuances better than I do. That is right, I probably misused the words there.
Mr R. F. Johnston: But you did want to use that phrase desperately, even if it had no connection.
Hon Mr Conway: But it is true because my friend from Niagara Falls would want me to say, “What is it that the people say?” They say these school authorities spend billions, whether they be provincial or local in Ontario. When one adds it all up I suppose we are now close to $10.5 billion and the people in Niagara Falls, and I suspect in Oshawa and Erinsville say, “What are we getting for that multi-billion-dollar expenditure?” I say as minister we are getting a lot. The system is not perfect I admit, but I think we have to say that the expenditure levels across this province when it comes to elementary and secondary education, I say to my friend from Niagara Falls, compare very well by any international standard.
I admit that we probably want to spend more money and we will spend more money -- 1990 will see increased expenditure for education over what 1989 has produced -- but out there in the real world I am finding something of a change in public attitudes. People are not unwilling to pay, but they want more of a debate about what they are getting by way of results for this expenditure.
I think we can show good results, but we have got to in the interest of the accountability that at one point yesterday my friend from Scarborough was rightly focusing upon, we have got to in our role as responsible honourable members address not just the question of spending money, but we have got to increasingly show to the people from whom we tax these dollars that we are genuinely interested in accountability, because I am not one who accepts the natural linkage between spending a lot of money and a good educational result.
Mr Jackson: We are painfully aware of that.
Hon Mr Conway: I know there is not unanimity in --
Mr D. S. Cooke: It does not matter which ministry you have; you say that.
Hon Mr Conway: Perhaps so, but I am regrettably old-fashioned in some of these respects. I was at a meeting the other day and someone said to me, “You know, Minister, it is absolutely intolerable that we do not have a gymnasium.” I said. “Well, our capital plan will try to address that, but you’ve got to understand that bricks and mortar are not necessarily a guarantee of the kind of result you want.”
We know that. My friend the member for Hamilton West knows it perhaps better than anyone. My sources tell me that the kind of lectures he offered at McMaster University speak to the kinds of things that are really excellence in education. A very good teacher, a parent who is interested in and supportive of the child’s educational experience, those are the ingredients that are absolutely central and no amount of money is going to substitute for those realities.
Yes, we are interested in addressing the questions of finance, but I have said that I am not going to be distracted in this round of my involvement in education to the extent I perhaps was last time in focusing on matters of finance and governance. I am determined to recognize those as important areas of my responsibility, but quite frankly --
Mr Jackson: What a difference a majority makes.
Hon Mr Conway: No, it has nothing to do with a majority, quite frankly. I want to say to my friend the member for Burlington South that his constituents would certainly agree with me when I say that there is a great deal of interest in the kind of teacher education, the kind of home and school relationships we are building. I was with the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) the other morning in his constituency where we were celebrating a very creative arrangement, bringing the world of work closer to the schools in that part of the province, so I want to say that I have listened with great interest.
Mr Allen: They all have cost implications.
Hon Mr Conway: Of course they have cost implications. One of the realities about being a member of the executive council is that we have to meet those cost implications unlike my honourable friends opposite, whose role I in no way wish to diminish because I had wonderful years in that responsibility and I may very well return to it at some point in the future, but being over here you are also faced with that burden of having to provide the resources. I have listened very carefully to --
Mr R. F. Johnston: What a yoke.
Hon Mr Conway: No, it is not a yoke at all, but it is a responsibility, which I accept.
Mr Pouliot: What a burden. Who would want a job like yours?
Hon Mr Conway: I hope my honourable friend does because he is a worthy member of this assembly. I can imagine him doing all kinds of executive things in government. I do not diminish his capacities in that respect. I would simply observe that if he crosses the aisle he will find that he will have to go back to Geraldton or Beardmore and face those voters and say, “Yes, the taxes have gone up by 15 per cent because we had to meet the needs of our manifesto.”
I say to my friends opposite that we recognize this change is going to address one of the real grievances in educational finance, not that it is going to deal with all aspects of the grievances but I think it settles one of the most persistent concerns that has been found in the Ontario educational debate over the decades.
We have said we are going to take a number of compensatory measures to recognize that there will be impacts. As a result of this policy, we will be increasing the grant ceilings in a way that is going to leave a vast majority of public boards better off, by my calculation, than they were before this change was undertaken.
Yes, if after that we find there are boards that have additional considerations, they too will be taken into serious and positive account. Without seeing the return of the rolls, I cannot at this point give the absolute final numbers because I do not know what they are, but we do know that the government has said no board will suffer a net loss of revenue as a result of this policy. I am going to stand behind that commitment. I understand the concern of the public boards out there and that is a legitimate point of view.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Put it in the bill.
Mr Pouliot: Guarantee it. That’s your job.
Hon Mr Conway: What do I do, for example, if as a result of the return of the rolls, we are overcompensating some of the public boards by virtue of what we will do in adjusting the grant ceilings? I want to have that flexibility as well. I have looked at the data. In fact, by my calculation, a board like the Central Algoma Board of Education will be better off as a result of the changes that are contemplated.
I do recognize that there may very well be boards that are going to have additional needs as a result of this policy. I give my commitment that those needs will be recognized to the greatest extent of our capacity.
Now, I want to say what that does not mean.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Whoops. You were doing well before that.
Mr Allen: That was all right till the last few words.
Hon Mr Conway: No, I think it was the member for Hamilton West who talked about the concern of the York board about growth. I am not going to guarantee a board into the future.
Mr Pouliot: Six years.
Hon Mr Conway: Exactly. But if a board is taking the position, “I want from the Minister of Education some kind of absolute guarantee for the indefinite future about growth that takes place into the 21st century,” then I am not going to give that kind of guarantee.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Six years; their growth at six years is enormous.
Hon Mr Conway: I repeat that the policy of the government is to increase the grant ceilings, to compensate in every way we can so that no board -- I do not want to leave any concern or confusion on the other side. The policy is that this government recognizes there is going to be an adjustment. We are going to phase this in over six years, taking that adjustment into account.
No public board is going to be in a position of a net loss of revenue as a result of this policy, period.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: Would it not be appropriate then, just prior to this last sentence, if we could have the two or three minutes before that stricken from the record because it was so confusing as to his intent?
Hon Mr Conway: I was being distracted.
I want to be clear about the government’s policy in this respect. No public board is going to be in a position of net loss of revenue as a result of this policy. We are going to be implementing this over a period of years, adding, we expect, upwards of $180 million in new money.
Mr Jackson: Why won’t you put those words in the bill?
Mr Pouliot: Tell us why not.
Hon Mr Conway: I have given my commitment. Those honourable members know that is not the way we write legislation in this House.
Mr Jackson: You said you listened to my speech with interest. You said you agreed with some of the points.
Mr Pouliot: We’re getting snowed here.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Then when we get a new minister, the new minister will say. “Well, that was the other guy who said that.”
Mr Jackson: We know how badly you want to get out of this ministry.
Hon Mr Conway: I hope my honourable friends view me as a colleague of honour, who when he makes a commitment is going to keep that commitment. I want to tell my honourable friends that I view this commitment seriously. My colleague the Minister of Education before me made that. The Treasurer buttressed that with his budget speech earlier this year.
I just want to make the point that when we increase the grant ceilings, a vast number of public boards are going to be better off than they were before this policy began. In fact, the impact of that additional funding, I think, is going to particularly advantage the assessment-poor boards. It is not going to solve all their problems, I admit, but I have looked very carefully at what the impacts are going to be. I was looking at Central Algoma as one example, where under the data I have they will probably be, in fact should be, better off as a result of these changes.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Largely in comparison with the neighbouring board. That was my point.
Hon Mr Conway: But that of course raises the other issue, and that is the issue of what we do about the inequity between the assessment-rich and the assessment-poor boards. I admit there is a real issue there about which there is no consensus.
I listened very carefully to what the member for Scarborough West said and then I listened carefully to what the member for Windsor-Riverside said and I suspect there might not yet be unanimity of specific commitment within the New Democratic Party of Ontario. That would not surprise me because there is a lot of room for creative tension in that particular policy debate.
Mr Pouliot: What about the northern boards?
Hon Mr Conway: What about the northern boards? I admit that the situation in many of the northern boards, and quite frankly in many of the rural eastern and southwestern boards, is something that is of ongoing concern to me.
I do not want to prolong the debate this afternoon except to say that I have enjoyed the honourable members’ contributions. I have found them both interesting and illuminating, and any time a debate produces both light and heat I feel it has been a productive time in this chamber.
I look forward as we take this bill through to the next stage. I understand from my friend the government House leader that the next stage will be the standing committee on social development under the very able gavel of our friend the member for Ottawa-Rideau (Mrs O’Neill). We will have an opportunity to look at the bill more carefully and it is to that next stage that I now want to turn the attention of the House.
I conclude my remarks by thanking the members for their contribution. I recognize the support in principle. I would like to move quickly now to the next stage, because what is important from our point of view is making sure we get through the committee stage in time to get the rolls adjusted, so that they can be prepared and sent out for 1990 in a way that does not do additional administrative harm to many of the people we are anxious to assist.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for standing committee on social development.
OTTAWA-CARLETON FRENCH-LANGUAGE SCHOOL BOARD AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 / LOI DE 1989 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LE CONSEIL SCOLAIRE DE LANGUE FRANÇAISE D’OTTAWA-CARLETON
Mr Conway moved second reading of Bill 65, An Act to amend the Ottawa-Carleton French-Language School Board Act, 1988.
M. Conway propose la deuxième lecture du projet de loi 65, Loi portant modification de la Loi de 1988 sur le Conseil scolaire de langue française d’Ottawa-Carleton.
Hon Mr Conway: I would like to address Bill 65 briefly, because Bill 65 essentially incorporates the policy ingredients of Bill 64 and applies that policy to Ottawa-Carleton where, as honourable members know, we have a conseil homogène, a French-language school board enacted by this Legislature in the previous Parliament through Bill 109. Essentially what we require and what Bill 65 provides is a designation under the policy that is before the House that takes into account the existence of the French-language school board in Ottawa-Carleton.
Very briefly, in Ottawa-Carleton, as a result of the existence of the only French-language school board in the province, there has to be an adjustment to take that designation into account. Essentially, what we have in Bill 65 is legislation that provides for four designations: a public English, a public French, a separate English and a separate French designation. It simply takes into account the existence of that French-language school board.
All of the principles of Bill 64 having to do with the division of industrial and commercial assessment, whether it has to do with publicly traded corporations, the receipts of telephone and telegraph companies or partnerships, are exactly the same. They will apply in precisely the same way in Ottawa-Carleton, but Bill 65 recognizes that in that community there is a French-language school board, so there must be a set of designations for assessment purposes that takes that into account.
That is the principle of Bill 65 and I am very pleased to recommend it to my colleagues at this time.
M. R. F. Johnston : J’aimerais dire quelques mots en français. Nous appuyons, comme parti, le projet de loi 65, mais nous ne sommes pas en faveur de tout ce qui touche ce conseil scolaire à l’heure actuelle. C’est presque incroyable. Mais j’ai reçu une lettre récemment de Louise Pinet, présidente de l’association de parents de ce conseil scolaire. Dans sa lettre, elle me dit :
« C’est aberrant. Nous, les parents, voulons tous que l’autogestion du système d’éducation pour les francophones soit un succès. Pour ce faire, il faut le financement nécessaire, un budget global et, bien entendu, des fonds pour l’immobilisation.
« Le conseil n’a toujours pas de budget. » They do not have a budget yet. C’est le conseil scolaire créé par ce gouvernement il y a longtemps déjà, mais le conseil n’a pas de budget à l’heure actuelle. La sorte de changement dont on parle ici, c’est un tout petit changement, qui ne touche pas les grands problèmes budgétaires et financiers de ce conseil scolaire.
À mon avis, c’est une sorte d’insulte d’avoir maintenant le projet de loi 65 sans les autres grands changements dont on a besoin pour donner les vrais pouvoirs d’un conseil scolaire à ce premier conseil scolaire de langue française en Ontario.
Il faut parler du contexte de ce conseil scolaire pour ce projet de loi. La raison pour laquelle on n’a pas de budget maintenant, c’est les grands problèmes du recensement, qui est la base du financement de l’impôt foncier. Et maintenant le système de langue francaise d’Ottawa-Carleton n’a pas reçu l’impôt foncier dont il a besoin et auquel il a droit.
Au Comité spécial de l’éducation, nous avons reçu un mémoire de l’Association française des conseils scolaires de l’Ontario. Il y a un nombre de chiffres étonnant concernant les problèmes de ce conseil scolaire.
La population française de cette région est de 12,9 pour cent -- selon le recensement, mais de l’avis et de l’opinion des francophones de cette région, ce pourcentage est beaucoup plus élevé. En effet, on peut regarder le nombre d’élèves dans le système d’éducation : actuellement, il y a 16,3 pour cent des étudiants qui sont francophones.
Cela, c’est la meilleure réflexion de la réalité de la population francophone de cette région. Mais quand on regarde le montant d’argent qui est reçu maintenant par le conseil scolaire, ce dernier reçoit seulement 5,9 pour cent des fonds pour l’éducation dans cette région. C’est incroyable, c’est affreux, que ça puisse exister.
La situation est telle que si on fait le rajustement de l’évaluation actuelle totale en fonction du pourcentage de la population, le Conseil scolaire de langue francaise d’Ottawa-Carleton devra avoir une augmentation de 160 millions de dollars -- 160 millions de dollars pour avoir un budget qui reflète la population francophone réelle de cette région. Si on veut une réflexion du nombre d’étudiants, il faut une augmentation de plus de 237 millions de dollars. C’est un montant incroyable, mais à l’heure actuelle, le conseil n’a pas de budget, parce qu’il n y a pas d’accord sur le montant qu’il doit recevoir.
Voyez comment ce projet de loi est une sorte d'insulte maintenant, par ce que le projet de loi parle d’une répartition des montants d’évaluation des taxes industrielles et commerciales. Mais le montant qu’on peut anticiper de cette façon n’est pas suffisant pour corriger le problème auquel le système de langue française doit faire face à l’heure actuelle.
Il faut dire que le système de répartition des taxes industrielles et commerciales est basé en partie sur les résultats du recensement fait pour l’impôt foncier. Si on accepte l’idée que ce conseil scolaire ignore actuellement quelle est sa population réelle pour cette raison, il faut dire que le projet de loi 65 vient seulement ajouter un autre aspect au problème, parce que le conseil scolaire recevra moins encore -- même de cette sorte de répartition -- que ce qu’il peut anticiper comme lui revenant de droit.
C’est incroyable, à mon avis, que j’aie reçu une lettre du conseil scolaire de langue française et des sections de langue francaise de l’Ontario, disant que le ministre de l’Éducation, après une période d’à peu près un mois, a refusé de tenir une réunion avec ce groupe pour parler de tous les problèmes de financement du conseil scolaire de langue française et des sections de langue française de la province. Je ne sais pas si, à l’heure actuelle, le ministre a accepté de tenir cette réunion mais, à mon avis, c’est très important d’avoir maintenant des discussions à ce sujet pour éviter de grands problèmes au sujet de l’Éducation entre nos francophones et le gouvernement.
Dans le mémoire dont j’ai parlé, les conseils scolaires qui se sont présentés au comité spécial ont touché beaucoup de problèmes. Ils ont parlé des problèmes des sections de langue française : la réalité est qu’ils n’ont pas de pouvoir réel sur leur budget. Ce sont les conseils scolaires majoritaires de langue anglaise qui ont le vrai pouvoir. La section peut dire ce qu’elle veut, mais si le groupe majoritaire au conseil scolaire n'accepte pas les montants proposés, ces montants n’arriveront jamais à la section de langue française.
C’est un grand problème si on accepte le droit que les Cours ont accordé aux francophones de cette province d’avoir la gérance de leur propre système d’éducation. Qu’est-ce que nous avons ici ? Nous avons seulement ce projet de loi -- un projet de loi qui ne touche pas la réalité. Pourquoi pas ? Parce que, comme je l’ai dit bien en anglais, la réalité dans la région d’Ottawa-Carleton, c’est que l’évaluation des taxes industrielles et commerciales correspond seulement à 20 pour cent de ce qu’on peut anticiper dans la région du grand Toronto, par exemple.
Ce changement pour le conseil scolaire de langue française ne correspond pas à grand-chose, parce qu’on part d’une petite base pour faire l’évaluation des taxes industrielles et commerciales. Le véritable problème est qu’on ne reconnaît pas la réalité du manque d’argent dans le système public de langue française, en particulier dans cette région, et donc, la difficulté d’en recevoir.
Je sais que M. Grandmaître, dans sa circonscription d’Ottawa-Est, connaît bien les problèmes de cette région. On connaîtra peut-être maintenant les problèmes concernant l’immobilisation dans ce conseil scolaire -- un conseil scolaire sans budget et presque sans bâtiments. Le Ministre a reçu au mois d'octobre des lettres de la part des parents de l’École Jeanne-Sauvé, qui parlent d’un problème que j’ai soulevé, il y a presque un an je pense dans la Chambre, concernant le problème d’immobilisation et de construction d’une véritable école, soit l’École Jeanne-Sauvé, pour un grand nombre d’enfants dans cette région.
L’augmentation du nombre étudiants dans cette région qui aimeraient avoir une formation en langue française qui soit publique, et non catholique, est incroyable. On peut voir une augmentation de 80,8 pour cent en 1985, de 23,9 pour cent en 1988. Et cette année, on prévoit one autre augmentation de 17,7 pour cent. Cela représente un grand nombre d’éléves qui aimeraient avoir une éducation en langue française, mais à l’heure actuelle, il leur est impossible de l’avoir.
Même si on a des lois qui existent, et que nous avons adoptées ici, la réalité est qu’il y a un manque de bâtiments, de budget et de reconnaissance du véritable besoin des étudiants de cette région.
C’est peut-être aussi le moment de parler de changer notre façon de subventionner le système scolaire de langue française. Il est peut-être temps de parler du nombre d’enfants inscrits comme base du montant à accorder au système de langue française. Si on accepte le principe, le montant à verser au conseil scolaire suffirait à donner une formation comparable à celle que reçoivent les anglophones dans la région d’Ottawa. C’est bien possible.
Sans cela, le problème du recensement, le fait que les francophones doivent dire : « Je suis francophone, et non anglophone » pour pouvoir se faire inscrire comme francophones, c’est la raison pour laquelle nous n’avons pas suffisamment d’étudiants qui figurent sur les listes comme appuyant le système de langue française. Cet obstacle va continuer d’exister si l’on ne change pas notre méthode de financement. À mon avis, c’est le moment pour le gouvernement d’en parler, et d’accepter le principe qu’il faut aider le système de langue française par le nombre d’inscriptions reçues, et non par le recensement fait dans la région.
Si on insiste sur cette sorte d’idée, cela peut entraîner une ouverture vers la transformation de tout le système de subventions des systèmes scolaires en Ontario. La raison pour laquelle je dis cela, c’est que le système actuel est maintenant très régressif ; il y a un grand besoin de le changer et j’en ai beaucoup parlé hier. Si l’on accepte une responsabilité provinciale par étudiant comme base de ce système, on peut examiner comment changer le plafond pour refléter une responsabilité uniforme pour l’ensemble du système des conseils scolaires -- pas demain, mais un jour.
J’aimerais dire que oui, on peut voir dans les chiffres un petit changement pour ce conseil scolaire avec ce projet de loi. Cela, c’est une réalité, mais dans le contexte de tous ses problèmes, ça ne touche pas la réalité. J’espère aujourd’hui que le Ministre (M. Conway) dira à tout le monde ici ce qu’il faut faire pour changer la situation qui s’aggrave maintenant dans le système d’éducation de langue française en Ontario.
Le Vice-Président : Merci. Questions et commentaires au sujet de la présentation du député ?
M. Daigeler : J’aimerais faire quelques commentaires sur les remarques du député de Scarborough-Ouest (M. R. F. Johnston), qui sont peut-être à point, dans une certaine perspective, mais qui, je dirais, donnent une impression tout à fait fausse de la réalité dans la région d’Ottawa-Carleton.
Tout dernièrement -- ça fait seulement deux semaines, je crois -- les députés libéraux de la région d’Ottawa-Carleton, nous avons rencontré les représentants du conseil scolaire de langue française. J’ai alors demandé aux représentants de la section catholique, aux représentants de la section publique et aussi aux présidents de l’ensemble des deux sections : « Comment vont les choses ? Est-ce que vous êtes satisfaits de la situation présentement ? » Ils ont tous dit : « Oui, nous sommes très satisfaits. Bien sûr. Il y a des problèmes. Il y a des choses qui sont encore à régler, mais ce n’est pas du tout différent de la situation dans les autres conseils -- les conseils de langue anglaise.
Alors, je crois, avant de faire référence à toutes sortes de problèmes. Il faut d’abord souligner que la création du conseil de langue francaise d’Ottawa-Carleton a été un succès, que les élèves et les représentants de ce système apprécient beaucoup les initiatives du gouvernement et que la chose va très bien en dépit des difficultés qui sont encore à régler. Je crois que ce sera très important de ne pas laisser l’impression, qui semble avoir été créée par le député de Scarborough-Ouest, que la chose ne marche pas. La chose marche très bien et les gens d’Ottawa-Carleton sont très contents de ça.
M. Grandmaître : Je dois appuyer mon collègue de Nepean (M. Daigeler), mais par contre, je dois dire, au crédit de mon collègue de Scarborough-Ouest (M. R. F. Johnston), que ce dernier connaît très bien la situation qui existe depuis un certain nombre d’années à Ottawa-Carleton -- non seulement durant les deux ou trois dernières années, mais peut-être les 15 ou 20 dernières années.
Alors, laissez-moi rassurer mon collègue de Scarborough-Ouest que le gouvernement de l’Ontario et le caucus d’Ottawa-Carleton examinent très attentivement les activités des deux collèges. Comme l’a mentionné mon collègue de Nepean, nous avons eu l’occasion de consulter les deux côtés de la médaille : le système catholique et le système public.
J’avoue, avec mon collègue de Scarborough-Ouest, que présentement on n’a pas de budget. Par contre, laissez-moi vous assurer que le gouvernement et le Ministre (M. Conway) lui-même -- de même que l’ancien Ministre, M. Ward -- ont garanti au public qu’ils pouvaient continuer d’administrer, de travailler et de gérer leur boutique comme ils le faisaient dans le passé.
Alors, tout ça pour dire que l’initiative du gouvernement de créer le premier conseil de langue française à Ottawa-Carleton, c’est une médaille à la poitrine du gouvernement. Par contre, laissez-moi ajouter que nous avons des problèmes et je veux encore remercier mon collègue de Scarborough-Ouest de tenter d’aider le gouvernement et d’aider les gens d’Ottawa-Carleton à trouver une solution -- la solution qui pourra peut-être s’appliquer dans tout l’Ontario.
Le Vice-Président : Merci. D’autres questions, d’autres commentaires ? Sinon, est-ce que le député de Scarborough-Ouest veut conclure ?
M. R. F. Johnston : Pour répondre, j’aimerais d’abord dire merci pour les commentaires. J’aimerais ajouter que notre parti était totalement en faveur du projet de loi 109 et que nous sommes tout en faveur de cette sorte de changement. Quand je parle des problèmes, je ne prends pas la parole au nom du conseil scolaire en question. Les membres de ce conseil sont très courageux et ils font preuve d’une très grande confiance en acceptant les mots du gouvernement concernant leur financement. Ils continuent de travailler sans argent et de lutter contre tous les problèmes.
Je n’avais pas parlé d’une réunion avec le caucus de la région ; j’avais parlé plutôt d’une réunion avec le Ministre. C’est ça, leur demande : une réunion avec le ministre de l’Éducation. À mon avis, c’est ce qui est très important, pas seulement pour ce conseil scolaire, mais aussi pour toutes les sections de langue française de la province.
J’aimerais dire pour conclure que j’accepte le fait que l’on ait des conseils scolaires de langue française dans la province, pas seulement des sections de langue française, et il faut avoir un financement et une gérance cohérents pour les francophones de la province si l’on veut changer le fait que l’éducation en langue française dans la province est inférieure à l’éducation en langue anglaise.
Je pense que c’est un défi pour le gouvernement, et j’aimerais ajouter seulement aujourd’hui que ce petit projet de loi est une toute petite portion d’une solution aux vrais problèmes qui existent maintenant dans le système d’éducation de langue française dans la province.
Le Vice-Président : Merci. Est-ce qu’il y a d’autres députés qui veulent participer au débat ?
M. Grandmaître : En réponse, c’est vrai que le projet de loi est tout petit ; c’est un premier pas. Moi, je me souviens, en 1986, lors de la première lecture du projet de loi 8, que c'était on petit pas ; ça en est encore un. Nous avons beaucoup de travail à accomplir.
Par contre, l’initiative que le gouvernement a démontrée depuis un certain nombre d’années et les augmentations budgétaires, surtout dans le domaine de l’éducation, nous démontrent, je crois, la grande bonne volonté du gouvernement. Ce premier collège de langue francaise à Ottawa-Carleton va certainement donner le goût à d’autres conseils scolaires d’en faire autant.
Tantôt, je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de répondre aux questions concernant l’Évaluation des taxes industrielles et commerciales et la répartition de ces argents. Alors, tant que les deux conseils n’auront pas accepté la répartition des biens qui existent présentement au niveau catholique et au niveau public -- avec l’arrivée de ce nouveau projet de loi, qui va permettre la répartition de ces argents, on peut s’attendre à certaines difficultés.
J’ai grandement confiance, comme mon collègue de Scarborough-Ouest, que la situation ne se détériorera pas. Il semble qu’il y a une impasse dans le moment, mais par contre, nous allons trouver une solution, qui existe présentement à Ottawa-Carleton, et nos solutions seront employées pour tenter de régler d’autres problèmes qui existent dans toute la province.
Le Vice-Président: Merci. Questions et commentaires sur la présentation du député d’Ottawa-Est ?
M. R. F. Johnston : C’est vrai que le député d’Ottawa-Est fait beaucoup de choses concernant les problèmes de la francophonie dans la province, et tout spécialement dans sa région.
J’aimerais seulement dire que, si l’on est devant le Comité spécial de l’éducation maintenant et que l’on reçoit beaucoup d’initiatives francophones, on a l’impression que le gouvernement s’est retiré un peu de la bataille, si je puis dire. Peut-être que c’est parce qu’il y a plus de concentration maintenant sur le projet de loi 8, qui est maintenant devenu loi. Mais dans le domaine de l’éducation, c’est la frustration ; pas seulement à Ottawa, mais dans les sections de langue francaise des conseils scolaires de la province. Là, ils parlent d’une frustration totale de leur part en tant que gérants de leur propre système d’éducation
Ils parlent des conseils scolaires de langue anglaise qui, en effet, adaptent au besoin leur budget, et qui mettent un blocage entre eux et leurs idées sur une éducation en langue française dans leur région C’est peut-être difficile de confronter tout le temps une population qui n’aime pas beaucoup le changement, mais il y a une raison importante de dire maintenant aux francophones que le gouvernement est fort et prêt à appuyer leurs besoins en éducation. Et c’est ce dont je parle aujourd’hui ; je suis là seulement pour dire: « Il faut être très fort ».
M. Grandmaître : Très brièvement, je veux parler des frustrations et des doutes que mon collègue de Scarborough-Ouest a mentionnés. Il a parfaitement raison : ça fait tout près de 75 ans que les francophones exigent d’être instruits dans leur langue.
C’est seulement depuis les cinq dernières années que vraiment un gouvernement est déterminé à leur offrir les services nécessaires, surtout dans le domaine de l’éducation. Il a parfaitement raison de parler des frustrations et des doutes. Je veux rassurer mon collègue de Scarborough-Ouest qu’avec un gouvernement libéral et avec l’appui de son parti, je suis sûr que nous allons combler ces frustrations et ces doutes, et que nous allons en arriver à un dénominateur commun que nous allons pouvoir appliquer partout en Ontario. Je le remercie de son appui.
Mr Allen: That is the first time I have tried to speak in the name of another party, namely the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman).
Mr D. S. Cooke: No, he is in our party.
Mr Allen: Well, another person. Excuse me, that language is applicable to individuals as well as to groups.
I excuse myself to my colleagues who have been nobly exercising their capacities in French in this House, but not having anticipated speaking on this bill and not having had really any moments to reflect on the vocabulary that I would require, I will detract from the debate somewhat by not completing it in French.
I do want to make some comments on the legislation, not in precise detail, but in rather general terms. I was very deeply involved in Bill 75, then in Bill 109 and in the whole process of developing a structure of self-governance for the francophone community in Ontario for its own educational system. One of the great highlights and projects of that undertaking was the establishment of a French board of education in the Ottawa-Carleton region.
It was an assumption of mine that as we moved into that historic development we would be providing for that board the kind of funding basis that would make it possible for French education in that region to be the equal of any education offered in the Ottawa-Carleton area. For us to be finding ourselves and for that board to be finding itself at this point in its history as a neophyte board, a board establishing a historic role for itself and for the whole course and history of French education in Ontario, in the midst of complicated and depressing financial circumstances, the enumeration base not being able to provide adequate funding that maintains a level of education in that board that all parties to it would have expected in the first instance -- that is not a proposition, as I say, that I anticipated. That was not a development that I anticipated.
I am surprised that this piece of legislation leaves a number of problems unresolved for the financing of that board. The minister refers to this as an application of Bill 64 to that region, and in a small sense that indeed is the case, because it does provide commercial and industrial assessment access in certain ways and in certain proportions to the components of the French board in Ottawa-Carleton. But I would have thought that, given that the Ottawa-Carleton board was a single board for the Ottawa and Carleton areas, the proper approach would have been to establish that whole region as coterminous, and having created it as coterminous boards, then to apply the principles of Bill 64 across the board in that entire region so that there would have been, I think, a more substantial transfer of resources to the homogeneous French board. There would have been a six-year transition, which would have meant significant top-ups for the richer boards in that area, and at the end of the day, I think there would have been a much happier result.
But even that, I think, might not have accomplished the result that persons like myself had in mind. I think if you were making a new undertaking, as the Ottawa-Carleton French board was, the objective from the very beginning should have been to absolutely assure that board that it had the resources to provide an education for its children that was the equivalent of anything that was being offered in that area, or if one had to subtract a few pennies, it would have been so comparable that the results would have been equivalent.
I know the minister will say, as he did in the last debate, that of course, bricks and mortar and all those dollars do not necessarily add up to education of this level of quality or that level of quality. I know he could say that with additional contributions from parents in terms of their energies given into the system, they could make it much better for their children and all those kinds of things. That is always true.
That is always true, and when the minister said that the last time around, it was surely way off on a tangent that was quite irrelevant to the financing questions that we are all faced with, because if you are going to engage parents more systematically in the education of their children, it takes some restructuring of the way a board operates, the way its social worker outreach operates, the way in which people are related to families to cope with this problem or that problem that involves them and their children more propitiously in the education system. That all costs money, just as dollars for the gym that he was referring to that he could not afford in another system would have cost dollars.
But to get back from all that, the simple proposition that we ought to have been working with in Ottawa-Carleton was that this was a whole special region, the whole region ought to have been coterminous and it ought to have been treated in a very homogeneous fashion with regard to access to commercial-industrial assessment.
Those essentially are the remarks that I want to make and I will leave the matter at that. I desperately hope that we are very soon going to be able to get to a point with that board where the frictions that arise out of the funding problems will be put to one side. The difficulties of creating a new historic entity have obviously been difficult ones, and they have been ones that are understandable and were part and parcel of the nature of what was being created, but that we should leave that board still with some funding problems and difficulties to make matters even worse, to exacerbate normal and natural tensions in developing that historic board, I think, was very unfortunate.
With that, I want just simply to leave the debate in the hands of my worthy colleague the member for Scarborough West who will see the rest of the bill through to its proper conclusion in his very competent fashion, which he addresses to every legislative matter that he touches.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Unaccustomed as I am to speaking in English, I felt I had to respond to this interjection by my colleague and say that I was hoping -- and he did address many of the difficulties of financing -- that part of what he might have put in his remarks would be a request for a response from the minister as he concludes his remarks today about the particular problem around l’École Jeanne-Sauvé and the need to get the second stage of that construction under way much more quickly than was previously thought appropriate, because the whole capacity of the system which we are talking about today, and its overall financial problems, to merit support from its community as a public French system is dependent on having a proper school like l’École Jeanne-Sauvé for the many students who are now split up among schools all over the region.
I know that is what he was alluding to in terms of many of the difficulties he was talking about, but I was hoping he would ask specifically for a response from the minister about the escalation of funds to that particular project so that this one unique board in the province of Ontario will be able to have the kind of facilities that are needed, the basic facilities to give it the kind of education system that it needs.
The Deputy Speaker: Other questions and comments?
Sinon, est-ce que le député de Hamilton-Ouest veut répondre ?
M. Allen : Je n’ai pas de réponse. Le commentaire de mon collègue de Scarborough-Ouest (M. R. F. Johnston) était une réflexion et une élaboration de mon commentaire sur le projet de loi. Je pense que l’épanouissement de la culture francophone dans la région d’Ottawa-Carleton dépend sûrement et sérieusement de la qualité de l’éducation donnée par ce conseil scolaire. Donc, à mon avis, il est très important que le financement du conseil scolaire de langue française d’Ottawa-Carleton soit totalement adéquat pour cette grande tâche. Merci au député de Scarborough-Ouest de son commentaire.
Hon Mr Conway: What do I say? I will say this, that I will not say all that I want to say. I will show some restraint, because I found it an interesting debate.
I thank my colleagues the member for Nepean and the member for Ottawa East for their helpful interventions, and of course what could be said of the contribution en français of our friend the member for Scarborough West, so ably supported by the learned doctor, the member for Hamilton West?
It is important, I think, for me to observe that Bill 65 is about the policy contained in Bill 64, not about the several policies that honourable members opposite would like to imagine that it is about. I want to say I do not diminish the issues about which Bill 64 and Bill 65 do not deal, but it is always a very interesting ruse of any good opposition to take the ball and jump the fence and run as far afield in a debate as the chair will allow. I think honourable members in the official opposition acquitted that tradition rather well this afternoon. They certainly covered all of the canvas, whether or not it dealt with the particular --
Mr Daigeler: They’ve had a good teacher.
Hon Mr Conway: But I repeat that Bill 65 is specifically the legislation required to give effect to the principles of reapportioning industrial and commercial assessment in Ottawa-Carleton in the way that I indicated in my introductory comments with respect to this bill.
I will say to my friends opposite that I listened to what they had to say. The member for Scarborough West surveyed a lot of the landscape in so far as French-language education is concerned. I know you, Monsieur le Président, understand that better than, dare I say it, any of us in this assembly. When you are the member for Prescott and Russell, you understand not just the import of principle, but the genius of administration -- “implementation” is perhaps a better word.
I thought my friend from Vanier and my friend the member for Nepean were very helpful in indicating what they heard when they met with the representatives of the French board in Ottawa-Carleton but days ago. It is always useful to balance what an opposition says it has heard with the reality of what a government knows or what government members have encountered, because they are not always congruent.
It stings a bit to hear my friend the member for Scarborough West talk about my unwillingness to meet. That I do not think is a fair representation in this respect --
Mr R. F. Johnston: Especially not since they only asked in August.
Hon Mr Conway: Well, I was only appointed in August. Having the responsibilities that I have, Mr Speaker, you can understand --
Mr R. F. Johnston: It’s now November; you live in the past.
Hon Mr Conway: I can imagine seeking an appointment with the honourable member for Scarborough West in recent months and being told that he was unavailable because he was pursuing very important educational activities in the Baltic region, which he has told me about, and would that I could be so fortunate to have had that kind of summer.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I came back quickly from Eastern Europe.
Hon Mr Conway: I will tell the member, what he started in eastern Europe I do not know that Gorbachev will now be able to contain.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I wish I had the same effect here, just a little glasnost.
Hon Mr Conway: Comrade Krenz may regret the member’s visit more immediately than anyone else.
I have met with representatives of the French-language board. When I met all of the eastern board representatives in Ottawa about a month ago they, among others there, made their representations, many of which were contained in the submission of the honourable member for Scarborough West this afternoon. I expect within a few days to be meeting the leadership of the francophone community, where we are going to talk about some of the issues that the honourable member has raised.
I like to take some credit for trying to be a reasonably available Minister of Education. I have to tell the member that the last few months have been rather more hectic than I had expected and I am trying, with the very able assistance of my parliamentary assistants, the member for Kingston and The Islands (Mr Keyes), the member for Durham West (Mrs Stoner) and the member for Northumberland (Mrs Fawcett), to address all of the scheduling requirements that this expanded jurisdiction now presents me with.
But I want my friend to know that I have listened to the submissions of some of the representatives of the board. I read something in the Ottawa papers here a few weeks ago where someone from the board was thinking aloud about perhaps a reconfiguration. My friend the member for Nepean or the member for Ottawa East might have seen it. Somebody from the French-language board was thinking that perhaps some reunion with the Ottawa public board might be a possibility. I do not know whether that is a fair representation of that article.
As the member for Ottawa East properly said, this government is not perfect, and God knows I stand as testament to that reality, but I want to say that in the real world the Peterson government has done, I think, a very respectable job in advancing the legitimate aspirations of francophone Ontarians in respect of their educational requirements, whether they be in elementary, secondary or post-secondary education.
I personally take some pride that it was the member for Renfrew North standing here, I think, four years ago when we made a commitment that no government was prepared to make previously, that there would be a French-language board established in the national capital area. I did that because people like the member for Ottawa East and other colleagues now in the assembly and some before in previous parliaments and certainly my friend the member for Prescott and Russell --
Mr Allen: And on both sides of the House.
Hon Mr Conway: And all sides of the House, absolutely.
Mr R. F. Johnston: It’s certainly not because you wanted to, oh no.
Hon Mr Conway: I did want to do it. I tell the member I did want to do it. I think I can say that I understood that in making that commitment -- I think it was in December 1985 -- I recognized that accepting the principle would quite frankly be the easy part of the job. I know something about the history of school board relationships, not just in the province at large but in the national capital region particularly.
Mr R. F. Johnston: What do you know about principles?
Hon Mr Conway: I like to think I know a fair bit about principle. I want to say that the NDP members, God love them, they really mean well, but they can be the most elastic, the most flexible people in this business.
Mr R. F. Johnston: You certainly don’t want us to be rigid socialists, do you?
Hon Mr Conway: I will tell the member they are much less rigid socialists than their rhetoric would have one believe. I do not want to revisit some of the Bill 30 business, but I watched the member for Scarborough West do a superb job as chairman, I watched the member for Hamilton West argue the historical political case with brilliance and with feeling and with absolute regard for the facts as I knew them to be, but I will tell the member I watched some others in the now official opposition engage in some callisthenics that were breathtaking as they tried to take an apparent acceptance of principle and tailor it to the winds of circumstance.
I do not want to say much more because I might become provocative, but I just want to say that the Peterson government rightly takes credit for having established the French-language school board in Ottawa-Carleton when no other government in the history of the province would do so.
Mr R. F. Johnston: There was only one other.
Hon Mr Conway: No, that is not fair to say.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Oh, that’s not true. Harry Nixon; how could I forget?
Hon Mr Conway: No, the labour party had part of the action way back when and the labour party could have had part of the action in 1985.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I agree.
Hon Mr Conway: I know the member agrees. I just want to say actually, as we discuss that latter point, it is a good thing that the member for Oshawa (Mr Breaugh) is in the chair.
I just want to make the point that this government has done, I think, a great deal to meet the legitimate aspirations of the francophone community and I recognize that more needs to be done. I said to my colleague the member for Hamilton West, and I want to repeat now, I expect very, very shortly to be releasing the reports on post-secondary education and the college sector affecting northern and southwestern Ontario. I am very anxious to make progress in that area and I recognize that we have to make progress.
I am watching with some interest, as a member from eastern Ontario, the developments associated with the startup of La Cité collégiale, the 23rd community college but the first French --
Mr R. F. Johnston: I am glad you are sticking to the topic better than I did.
Hon Mr Conway: Well, because the member made the point about other things that need to be dealt with, and I am anxious to point to that context and to say that this government, mindful of its commitments, is anxious to address those.
Are people frustrated in Ottawa-Carleton about some of the accommodation issues and some of the other issues? Absolutely. That presumably explains the flurry of litigation that we have ongoing in respect of Bill 109, for example. I am not going to comment with any specificity on that particular litigation, but I know something of the angst and of the frustration. My friend the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot) and I were talking about an element of French-language education in his part of northwestern Ontario that concerns us both because we are agreed in principle. We are quite prepared to proceed with what I think is a very positive development, the construction of a new facility for francophones.
The question arises, what do we as mere mortals in this assembly do to try to make people agree when, for whatever reason, they just cannot seem to bring themselves to agree? There are days I wish I could legislate harmony, but I do not seem to be able to do that. Yes, I am very disappointed at some of the acrimony that has arisen in some parts of the province as we have implemented Bill 75. And yes, at times I am very disappointed by the kind of ongoing tension there seems to be in Ottawa-Carleton in this particular respect. If one reads Le Droit or the Ottawa Citizen on a daily basis, one almost despairs. I do not despair, but I can imagine people out in the community who are anxious to know that we are providing good programs, whether in anglais or in français, who are looking at this ongoing battle around issues of governance and finance, and wondering whether there will ever be the kind of climate that will bring people together in accord with the principles which this Legislature has unanimously affirmed.
Taking up the point about accommodation, I am very anxious to meet the accommodation requirements of francophones that do arise out of the passage of Bills 75 and 109. In fact, in the case of a community in northwestern Ontario, we are ready to do it, but we are finding that there is a problem -- there is no question there is a problem -- and that there is real tension. We are ready to go, but local board agreement appears to be not there yet. I am hoping and expecting that we are going to be able to create the climate that will bring about a positive resolution.
Regarding Ottawa-Carleton, I will say to my colleagues in the House what I said to those school authorities when we met in the not-unimpressive boardroom of the Carleton Board of Education, which is very well known to the squire from Manotick, who was raising some of the concerns of that board earlier this afternoon. I said to those representatives that day that I was going to be very reluctant to commit new dollars to areas where it is clear that there are abundant and unused school facilities. That is not to say that I am going to be unwilling to spend additional dollars, because I recognize that we are going to have to replace buildings in many communities and we are going to have to build new facilities in fast-growth areas. But Ottawa-Carleton, by my reckoning, is a district where there is very considerable school space. I do not want to see francophones somehow held hostage to ongoing disputes between the established --
Mr Sterling: There are lots of portables – 64 more this year alone in the Carleton board.
Hon Mr Conway: Of course there are portables. I do not imagine the day will ever come -- whether it is a Liberal, Tory or New Democratic government -- that we will so accurately --
Mr Sterling: The day will come, because we will meet our responsibility when we get back in government.
Hon Mr Conway: I do not doubt that. We will see how they do it in the future as compared to how they did it in the past.
Mr Sterling: The number has more than doubled in the last four years. It has taken you four years to do what happened in the previous 25 years.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): Order, please.
Hon Mr Conway: I owe the House an apology, because I have awakened the sleeping giant from Carleton, and that is a dangerous thing late on the afternoon in this kind of debate.
I simply want to say that we are very anxious to accommodate the aspirations of the francophone community to good facilities; that is very understandable. But in Ottawa-Carleton I am very anxious --
Hon Mr Conway: The easy answer, of course, is just to throw more money in and say, “Let’s build some more facilities.” But taxpayers, whether they be anglophone or francophone, will say to us, as trustees of their provincial dollars, “Was there any need to build more new space in the face of this kind of existing plant and equipment?” I am in the middle of an interesting debate in my own home community about this very subject, and I am sure my honourable friends opposite, at least the Education critics, have heard or will hear something about this.
I feel a real loyalty to those taxpayers who say, “Listen, we are prepared to spend money, but we want some understanding from you, as our trustee of those provincial dollars, that you are not going to be building more space when we have got all kinds of underutilized capacity.” That is irresponsible for me or anyone in my position to contemplate.
Mr Sterling: Where is there underutilized capacity?
Hon Mr Conway: There are lots of places in this province. I was down in Welland-Thorold the other day, and one of the things I said to the director of the Niagara South board was that I think they have done some very good work there in moving facilities around. I know it was tough, but --
Mr Sterling: Where is there some space in Cumberland or Gloucester?
Hon Mr Conway: I am not talking about a specific subset of communities within the broad jurisdiction of the Carleton board, for example, but I have too much respect for the intelligence of my friend from Manotick to take some of these interjections seriously, because I do not want to be distracted from my final point.
With the passage of Bill 65, we will ensure that the fair and equitable principles of this government’s so-called pooling legislation in respect of publicly traded corporations, telephone and telegraph receipts and partnerships will be brought about in a good, fair and expeditious way in the national capital area so that they too can have the benefit of what I think is, as I said earlier, a fair and equitable policy that we are here to endorse this afternoon.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
Bill ordered for standing committee on social development.
Le projet de loi est déféré au Comité permanent des affaires sociales.
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: The first order, third reading of Bill 2, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, 1984.
Mr Sterling: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I do not see the bill on the business paper for today. I am just wondering if it is in order to call an order if it is not on the business paper.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Members will know that the single sheet which appears on their desks each day is a matter of convenience for the members. It is not meant to an exclusionary list; the standing orders provide that the government House leader may call another order of business.
I am prepared to listen to the point of order a little bit more, but it is clear to me that the government House leader is within his rights to call a bill. The bills are printed; they are listed in Orders and Notices. Usually by arrangement or by agreement, we proceed with the business. It appears to me that he does have that right, but I am prepared to hear if there is more argument.
Mr Sterling: I am not aware of many occasions when there has been a bit of a conflict with regard to the calling forth of a bill.
I have talked to my people and the government House leader about Bills 2 and 3, and my concern is that the Attorney General (Mr Scott) has really abrogated all of his own personal responsibilities with regard to Bills 2 and 3. He has involved himself very little with the committee, he was not involved with the committee of the whole House with regard to the bills, and I was only told this afternoon that they would be calling Bills 2 and 3 today.
I said to the government House leader that, if the Attorney General is here. I am quite willing to stay and be here and debate Bills 2 and 3, because I want his reaction to some of the lengthy debate in which we have been involved in committee of the whole House, particularly as to the constitutionality of these pieces of legislation, which has been called into serious question by a number of our most eminent jurists in this country.
Therefore, if it is within the rules and you rule it as such, I guess I find it the ultimate discourtesy and arrogance on the part of the government side to call a series of bills which are not outlined in the normal business of the day, which we receive every day, and in not having the minister who is responsible for this legislation here in the Legislature, when I have requested that, for third reading of this legislation.
Hon Mr Ward: The member will know full well that when the business of the House for the coming week was read last Thursday, the bills just dealt with, the two education bills, were to be succeeded by third reading of Bills 2 and 3. The House leaders of both opposition parties were well notified of that in correspondence from me to them. The member was present during the discussion of the coming week’s business, as whip or chairman of caucus, at the last House leaders’ meeting.
I think the member comes very clearly to the point he is raising. But I for one do not believe it is a point of order; I think it relates more to his own personal concern that he would like to engage the Attorney General in debate at this particular time, when carriage of this bill from the outset has been in the very capable hands of the parliamentary assistant, as provided for under at least three of the standing orders.
Frankly, Mr Speaker, I do not believe the member has a legitimate point of order, and I would ask that the debate proceed.
The Acting Speaker: The chair has tried to hear both sides of an argument. I think a reading of the standing orders makes it fairly clear that the government House leader does have the right to call the business as he sees fit. It is true that it is normally done in a negotiated process, but I happen to have been in the chair last week when the government gave notice of this week’s business, and I concur that notice was given at that time of the way in which these bills would be handled. I do not believe there is a correct point of order on that.
The other matter that was raised by the honourable member for Carleton (Mr Sterling) is certainly a valid point of view, but again it seems to me that the standing orders are fairly clear that a parliamentary assistant may well carry a bill, and that certainly has been the practice here. Members may object to that -- it is their right – but I do not think there is any question that a parliamentary assistant can carry a bill. That has been done often in here. I think we can proceed.
COURTS OF JUSTICE AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Polsinelli, on behalf of Mr Scott, moved third reading of Bill 2, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, 1984.
Mr Kormos: I will speak to this briefly. Notwithstanding the absence of the Attorney General through the course of this, he certainly did announce it on 1 May in the Legislature. I very specifically recall welcoming court reform on behalf of the New Democratic Party, because we were as sensitive as anybody to the need for meaningful reform in the courts here in Ontario.
That of course took place when it was merely the concept of reform that was spoken of rather than the actual bill being available for scrutiny. We have looked carefully at the legislation and have sought out and welcomed the input available to the government, indeed to all of us, from a number of bodies here in Ontario. We have spoken of them before.
While this bill was in committee, the Criminal Lawyers Association was called upon to make comment, to provide commentary, to provide input. The Canadian Bar Association -- Ontario was called upon. The Advocates’ Society was called upon. Each of those organizations very clearly indicated to the committee that there simply had not been enough time for their groups or their membership to be consulted, to analyse the legislation and to prepare responses for the purpose of the committee.
At the same time, each of those three groups very clearly indicated that it was eager to do just that, because they recognized that this type of omnibus and far-reaching reform was going to have impact, as was indicated by spokespeople for the government, for the next century.
What complicated the whole scenario for them was that there were a number of amendments produced and those can be seen in the bill as it is before the House today for third reading. There were a number of amendments produced that were basically last-minute amendments. These were amendments that these groups did not have an opportunity to consult about with their memberships on the bill itself. Least of all did they have an opportunity to consult with their memberships about the amendments and whether the amendments did what the government purported they did.
In addition to that, the committee was in receipt of correspondence on behalf of district court judges. It was in receipt of information from all the eminent sources people have already spoken of. They were highly critical of the legislation and were concerned that the legislation was inviting constitutional challenges that were going to be expensive for the litigants who were the victims of those challenges, once the bill was passed and, indeed passed speedily, without the consultation the government spoke of.
One of the suggestions that was put to the committee and to the government was that the government might prefer to take this bill, as it was amended, and make a reference to the Ontario Court of Appeal with the specific purpose of testing those comments made, testing the constitutionality of it and avoiding the delay and cost to the litigants were it up to them to be participants in a constitutional challenge, which undoubtedly would go not just to the Ontario appellate court but in all likelihood to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Well, in committee the government did not even acquiesce in a most modest request, and that was to say that the committee defer consideration of Bill 2, and quite frankly its companion Bill 3, for a period of, as I recall it, about four to six weeks, into the month of September so that these bodies, groups such as the Criminal Lawyers Association, the Canadian Bar Association -- Ontario and the Advocates’ Society could prepare their submissions.
The status of this legislation became even more alarming when we found out -- it was certainly not because the parliamentary assistant or the Attorney General (Mr Scott) made this information available to the opposition parties -- about the 28 September correspondence from Chief Justice Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada, correspondence from the Chief Justice to the Attorney General.
As I say, it is not only disappointing but perhaps very telling that the Attorney General did not share that correspondence either with the committee members or, as I understand it, with other members of this House, certainly not the participants in the committee process. It is very disappointing, and as I say perhaps very telling, because that letter of 28 September, from certainly one of the outstanding legal minds in the country, one of the outstanding legal minds of all, continued the suggestion that there was good reason for concern.
That this would be unheeded by the government is quite frankly frightening. It is a letter dated 28 September, which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae) confronted the Attorney General with. It postdates all the supposed cures that according to the parliamentary assistant had been effected to clean up constitutional problems, which says something in itself. It indicates there was an acknowledgement of an awareness of constitutional problems inherent in the legislation.
This letter of 28 September postdates any and all of the amendments that were sneaked in here -- I am sorry -- put in place through the committee here. Notwithstanding those amendments, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada still has concerns about the constitutionality: frustrating, disappointing and frightening, particularly for those litigants who are going to be victims of an expensive and lengthy process when they seek recourse in the courts.
That is but one concern that is so obvious about this. One has to ask the question, in view of the fact that we are changing perhaps a century of courtroom structure and preparing for another century of new reformed court structure, one wonders what the haste in this respect is all about. Why is there this obvious effort on the part of the government to speed this through? Why does the government not want these groups, the Canadian Bar Association -- Ontario, the Advocates’ Society and the Criminal Lawyers Association, to analyse, comment on and perhaps critique the legislation? Those questions have never been answered by any member of the government in the committee, and certainly not by the Attorney General.
Not only that, but then to talk about having been involved in the consultative process: Perhaps all of us should merely know better because comments about the consultative process reigned throughout the discussion of Bill 162, the amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act. I recall the minister and the parliamentary assistant to the minister declaring here in this House, in public forums and reported in the press that consultation had taken place.
In fact, in that instance an expensive little pamphlet, a little bit of propaganda, prepared by the government in print, said that the government had engaged in this consultative process with injured workers. Yet when the committee travelled around the province, hindered as it was by the unwillingness and the reluctance of the government to take that committee out and listen to submissions from injured workers and other interested groups in the community --
Mr Callahan: Point of order.
Mr Kormos: Oh, here we go.
Mr Callahan: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member is reflecting on a bill that has already been passed by this House and I believe the standing orders say that if he wishes to do that, he can only do that if he wishes to move to have the vote taken again, or to have it rejected or something to that effect.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): As a matter of fact, that is certainly a valid point of view but hardly a point of order, but I was going to point out to the member that we are approaching 6 o’clock and perhaps he would adjourn the debate.
Mr Kormos: I know I touched a nerve there and we will carry on with that little theme tomorrow, this lack of consultation on the part of this government that was prevalent throughout Bill 162. There were a lot of misinformed people on the government side, as is evident here.
On motion by Mr Kormos, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1800.