The House met at 1330.
Mr Farnan: The government of Ontario has introduced legislation to impose its version of no-fault auto insurance on the people of Ontario. What will this mean for you? According to the Committee for Fair Action in Insurance Reform it means this.
You will receive inadequate compensation for your injuries and lost income. You will pay more in premiums, even though the government promised in 1987 that it had a plan to reduce these costs.
You will pay more in taxes to cover the further $141 million handed back to the insurance companies by the government. You will have to purchase additional disability insurance if, as a provider for a family of four, you want to receive benefits above the poverty line.
As an employee, you will not get full recovery for loss of wages. If self-employed, you will be unable to recover loss of profit. You could lose your business and receive nothing. You will lose the right to sue for pain, suffering and other losses.
You will be treated no better than the negligent driver responsible for your injuries. You will lose your legal right to seek compensation from negligent or dangerous drivers. You will be forced to live under a system which the government’s own advisers have opposed.
In short, the Premier (Mr Peterson) said in Cambridge on 10 September 1987 he had a plan to reduce auto insurance premiums in the province of Ontario. If this is the plan, he has betrayed the drivers of Ontario.
GOVERNMENT MAIL SERVICE
Mr Wiseman: Today I would like to bring to the attention of the House a most serious situation, that of the inefficiency of government mail service.
Two weeks ago I sent a letter by interoffice mail to the Macdonald Block, a few hundred feet from my office. I waited a full week and still had no reply. I looked into the matter only to discover that nothing could be done for me, as the office to which I had sent the letter had not received it.
When I was Minister of Government Services, I occasionally got complaints if the mail had not arrived in two or three days, so I realize that difficulty in service does occur, but it seems to me that something is dreadfully wrong when you cannot send an envelope between two offices in the same cluster of buildings in less than a week, and I can only feel that it speaks to the general inefficiency which is the trademark of this government.
After all, this is the same government which has destroyed the fine health care system that we once knew in Ontario, that has put the dream of home ownership for many people out of reach and that has taken education out of the classroom into the portable. So I guess it is understandable that they are having trouble delivering the mail.
WIFE ASSAULT PREVENTION MONTH
Mr Adams: In 1983 the Peterborough Young Women’s Christian Association responded to an urgent need by establishing the first of two emergency shelters for women and children in crisis. Today the YWCA’s Crossroads residences regularly operate at occupancy rates of almost 150 per cent. The efforts of the Peterborough YWCA in dealing with family violence and its aftermath are well known and widely respected in the community.
I am pleased to tell the House that the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues (Mrs Wilson) is attending an event in Peterborough this evening designed to raise awareness of wife assault as a crime. The work of the YWCA has brought to light the great complex of issues that surround family violence, especially the matter of dealing with long-term effects on children from violent homes. I am greatly concerned that children bear scars that are far less visible than those of their parents.
As awareness of family violence grows, so does the need for facilities and services for victims. Emergency shelters cannot provide long-term support. High occupancy rates make it difficult to provide anything more than basic assistance. Children need an ongoing support system.
I urge members to join the government’s effort to raise awareness during this month, which has been declared Wife Assault Prevention Month, and to work to provide services in every community in Ontario.
Miss Martel: I want to bring to the attention of this House and in particular to the attention of the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) an advertisement which appeared in the Toronto Star yesterday. The advertisement was placed by the Workers’ Compensation Board and concerned permanent disability pensions.
The purpose was to advertise to injured workers that as a result of Bill 162 they might be entitled to supplementary benefits. The ad lists five criteria which must all be met in order to qualify for a supplement. Workers who believe they are entitled are asked to contact the Workers’ Compensation Board to pursue the matter further.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the facts in the advertisement are not correct. If compared to the actual legislation, it is evident that one of the requirements listed is not necessary in order to qualify for a supplement. That requirement in the ad is that a worker who has a pension from the WCB must have had the pension commuted or paid out in a lump sum.
That is not what Bill 162 says. Any worker with a pension, whether it was paid out as a lump sum or is now being paid on a monthly basis, may qualify for a supplement. The other criteria listed in the ad must apply as well. However, given that some of the information is misleading, workers who might qualify will not contact the board based on what the ad now says.
Since this refers to government legislation, in particular Bill 162, the Minister of Labour should instruct the board to pull the present ad and replace it with one having the correct information.
Mr McLean: My statement is for the Attorney General (Mr Scott). I have received numerous complaints from my constituents who believe he is not doing them justice. They are concerned about overcrowded courts, increasing case backlogs and deteriorating court facilities.
The deterioration of our justice system in Ontario affects individuals with business before the court and staff who must work in overcrowded or poor facilities. It affects judges and lawyers who are bogged down in an overburdened and backlogged system.
The minister must admit that this deterioration of the system filters down to the level of those we expect to enforce the laws of the province, our police officers, who, through no fault of their own, may not be as courteous as we have all come to expect because they are growing frustrated by an inefficient and overburdened judicial system.
A constituent recently told me that he was not permitted to renew his driver’s licence until he paid his past parking fines, which he had already done and had received his cancelled cheque. He was again denied his licence renewal because records indicated he had not paid his outstanding parking fines. This occurred six weeks after he paid his fines and still the records show he had not paid up.
Does the minister call this justice? Surely, he must agree that not only must justice be done in this province, it must also be perceived to be done. This is currently not happening in Ontario. How would the minister like to have had all his fines paid and still not be able to renew his driver’s licence?
EAST NORTHUMBERLAND SECONDARY SCHOOL
Mrs Fawcett: I rise in the House today at the risk of sounding like a broken record, but then, that is what this statement is all about -- a broken record.
The students of East Northumberland Secondary School in Brighton, Ontario, have broken their own last year’s Canadian record of $14,000 raised for cancer. This year, by means of their annual Terry Fox run, these young people raised over $19,000. This is phenomenal. Indeed, these young people are phenomenal, as each year they prove the sceptics wrong by topping the previous year’s amount of money pledged.
I was so pleased that the Minister of Education (Mr Conway) could be present this week with me at the school for the presentation of the cheque to the Canadian Cancer Society. The minister was there to attend the school’s local Education Week kickoff breakfast and extended his time to be present for this special assembly.
We were most impressed with the exuberant spirit that just pulsated around the gym. Two staff members, Tim Larry and John Ward, deserve praise and special recognition for the help and hard work which enabled the students to attain this success. I am sure all members will once again join me in saluting this remarkable achievement by the staff and students of East Northumberland Secondary School who keep Terry’s dream alive. Somewhere the hurting has to stop.
GOODS AND SERVICES TAX
Mr Laughren: For some time now the people of Ontario have been getting a mixed message from this government about its position on the federal goods and services tax. We have all been bombarded with doubletalk. The Liberals said the GST was bad for Ontario; the Liberals said the GST, on the other hand, was a fair, upfront tax. The Liberals said they would fight the GST; the Liberals said how they looked forward to amalgamating the provincial sales tax with the federal GST.
Yesterday’s debate on this issue resolved all the doubletalk and forced the Peterson government to admit that it favours amalgamating the Ontario sales tax with the federal GST. The Right Honourable Mr Mulroney and Mr Wilson decided to base their version of tax reform on what a person spends and not on what he or she earns. It is sad but not surprising to see how willing this province’s Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) is to participate in a system of taxation that discriminates against lower and middle-income families.
I say this is not surprising, because the Liberal Party of Ontario is the party of unfair taxes. Among other things, the Liberals have hiked sales taxes and gas taxes. They have increased property taxes by underfunding education and cutting municipal grants. They even threw in a brand-new tax on tires. It is therefore not surprising that they want to join the Tory GST plot to tax everything that moves. This Treasurer has quickly become known as Maximum Bob.
Mr McCague: In Ontario, where we live and have had to live for four years with the GST -- that is, the Grits soaking taxpayers -- the government’s criticisms of the proposed goods and services tax rests on a blatant double standard.
It is a double standard which allows the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) to complain about the impact of the GST on the cost of housing while ignoring the fact that his own tax policies have added thousands of dollars to the cost of new home ownership; which allows him to shed crocodile tears over the GST tax treatment of provincial transfer payment recipients while hitting them with his own payroll tax; which allows him to worry about the effect of the GST on the Metropolitan Toronto region, which his last budget transformed into the GTA -- the greatest taxation area.
Double standards may be a great help in the federal-provincial political wars but they will not provide much of a foundation for a sound tax policy. The people of Ontario are not interested in this government’s double standard. It is now up to the Premier (Mr Peterson) and the Treasurer of Ontario to show some leadership in finding solutions to our tax problems instead of finding excuses for doing nothing, and to finally stop trying to pass the buck and concentrate on helping the taxpayers save a few.
INTERNATIONAL PLOWING MATCH AND FARM MACHINERY SHOW
Mr McGuigan: On 19 September I believe I achieved a record as a sitting MPP: I participated in the third opening of an International Plowing Match held in a county which I represented. While a member for Kent-Elgin, the match was held in Kent in 1979, in Elgin in 1985 and, while I am the member for Essex-Kent, the match was hosted this year by Essex county.
The International Plowing Match and Farm Machinery Show was held on Highway Farms in Maidstone township. The attendance was approximately 130,000. There were 96 official entries for the competitive events, and 570 exhibitors. Among those who competed in the special plowing competition for elected officials -- and the winner -- was the Premier (Mr Peterson). The winner of the cowchip chucking competition was Governor Blanchard of the state of Michigan.
The chairman of the event, Jack Morris, has asked me to thank all the members of the Legislature who attended and participated in the special events. I ask the pages to play their part in this historic event and deliver cowchip chucking awards to the members for Chatham-Kent (Mr Bossy), London North (Mrs Cunningham), Elgin (Miss Roberts), Lambton (Mr D. W. Smith), Grey (Mr Lipsett) and the member for Norfolk (Mr Miller) to proudly display. Several other members received their awards on 19 September.
I would ask that all members join me in congratulating all those who supported the competition, the chairman, the host farmers, the members of the match committee and the Ontario Plowmen’s Association, all of whom made this event a great success.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
ACCESS TO PROFESSIONS AND TRADES
Hon Mr Wong: I am pleased to report to the House today that I have just received an extensive report from the Task Force on Access to Professions and Trades in Ontario. This report is the result of two years of intensive research and consultation in response to concerns raised primarily by foreign-trained groups over the barriers that these foreign-trained individuals experience in obtaining licensure or certification by self-governing professions and trades.
In 1986 the cabinet committee on race relations launched a two-phased study which highlighted a number of potential barriers. The first phase of the study was completed by Abt Associates. The cabinet then established the task force in 1987 to conduct the second phase.
I want to congratulate the three members of the task force, who are in the east gallery today, Chairman Peter Cumming, Ms Enid Lee and Dr Dimitrios Oreopoulos, for the dedication and commitment they have shown throughout this intensive research and consultation process. I want to commend them for their comprehensive report on a complex issue.
The task force has investigated and made recommendations in a number of areas where foreign-trained persons face serious obstacles to having their credentials recognized and obtaining the programs needed to help them practise in their occupations. These extensive recommendations include prior-learning assessment, licensure testing, language testing and training, retraining and decision review. The Ministry of Citizenship, in conjunction with ministries affected, will co-ordinate a response to these recommendations. This will involve an ongoing process of consultation and discussions with the appropriate stakeholders such as the professions, trades and community groups.
The task force’s recommendations are also pertinent in an increasingly competitive economy. One of the ways we can ensure our continued growth and development is by striking down unwarranted barriers. Foreign-trained individuals with the proper qualifications must have the opportunity to practise in their chosen professions. As a province committed to equal opportunity for all residents, we have a responsibility to create and maintain standards of fairness that promote the best use of skills in our labour force.
Finally, I look forward to receiving input from those affected by this report so that the government’s response can be formulated in a thorough and timely way.
ACCESS TO PROFESSIONS AND TRADES
Mr Philip: We welcome the report that has now been tabled, although one year late. The minister’s response to the report is to have yet another study on the study. That is the type of action we can expect from this government.
We have noted the difficulties with the current training educational system that is a result of this government’s inaction, its underfunding. We showed yesterday that older workers are discriminated against when it comes to any kind of retraining, and we have seen that minorities and ethnic groups are not getting their fair share of the jobs and indeed, this government has refused to put in any kind of employment equity program that would remedy this situation. Instead, it is going to have another study on a study.
We have seen that the most underpaid workers in Ontario are those from the various minority groups, but this government refuses to enact any kind of legislation to deal with this. In looking through the study, one has to contrast it with the statement made by the Premier (Mr Peterson) at last week’s first ministers’ conference in which he talked about skills training being delivered provincially through a bipartite training council consisting of both labour and management. We see no mention of involvement of the workers or their representatives in this particular study which the minister has tabled.
The Ontario Federation of Labour in its education training paper makes it fairly clear that if you are going to have any kind of training, you must also have adequate public funding of the institutions and also provision of income support, child care, etc, in order that people from these various minority groups can take advantage of such training.
This government is completely silent on all of these items in tabling this study which it now intends to study still further. It is about time that this government showed some action and did less studying.
Mr B. Rae: I just want to make an observation with respect to this government’s increasing approach to the handling of the media with respect to these announcements. I note with interest, as I am sure do all of us who watch the sociology of this place, that there is an increasing tendency by members of the cabinet to make announcements in the House that involve rather extensive packaging, that this packaging is presented to us on very short notice, we are then asked to respond and then a rather lengthy press conference is held, usually scheduled for the very end of question period, which, as every member here knows, is precisely the time at which the press and members of the opposition and members of the government normally meet the press in the scrum.
I make no comment on this other than to say that it is an example of management of the media which is very obvious to all of us on this side. We have watched it, we have seen its evolution, we have watched its evolution. I would suspect that members of the gallery have noticed it as well, and if they have not, I would simply draw it to everyone’s attention.
Mr Reville: It is 1984, 1984 is here.
Mr B. Rae: It is 1984 all over again.
Mrs Marland: I think the most significant comment on this Task Force Report on Access to Professions and Trades in Ontario has to be, on behalf of our caucus, that we congratulate Peter Cumming, the chairperson, Enid Lee and Dr Dimitrios Oreopoulos for their work and their commitment in serving on the task force. However, I am sure that they are about to be faced with the same delusion and disappointment that so many other members of government-appointed task forces and study groups have in the past four years, whereby the commission of these people to a very responsible, important investigation into a very critical matter involving the employment of thousands of people in this province is always relegated to, “Thank you very much, you have done a very nice job; we will now look at it.”
The closing paragraph of the minister’s statement says, “I look forward to receiving input from those affected by this report so that the government’s response can be formulated in a thorough and timely way.” How many times does this government have to have these people bang their heads against the wall? The minister knows the input of those affected people. He does not have to wait for more input. He knew the problem before the report was even drafted. Now he has some clear recommendations, I presume, and he is going to study them further.
I think this whole situation is a further example of this government’s approach to problems. It does not ever want to make a decision, it does not ever want to be active. I think it is worth noting that this report that is tabled today on 22 November was in fact due in November 1988. So before the minister stands up and starts saying that he is going to start studying something further, why does he not look at where he is today?
He has the information he needs, why does he not move forward instantly with a remedy? I think it is insulting to ask for more input from those people who are affected, those people who have been crying out for opportunities for employment because they are trained professionals and they are equivalent to the people who hold those kinds of jobs already in Ontario, but they simply cannot get the licence to do the job that they are equipped to do. I think it is time he showed the responsibility that he is supposed to have as the Minister of Citizenship and showed some leadership that this government is totally lacking.
YORK REGION LAND DEVELOPMENT
Mr B. Rae: I have a question to the Premier. I have received a copy of a document which is entitled, Cabinet Submission Proposal and Recommendation, and it is a recommendation apparently for a commission of inquiry into the planning, development, financing and servicing of land in the region of York as provided for in the Municipal Act.
This follows several press reports with respect to internal memoranda within the Ministry of Municipal Affairs concerning the need for such an inquiry. I wonder if the Premier can tell us why it is that the government decided not to proceed with such an inquiry?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am not aware of that particular document, to which my honourable friend refers. The minister may well be and I can refer it to him.
Hon Mr Sweeney: My recollection is that my predecessor had asked several people in the ministry to look at a number of ways of dealing with a concern with respect to York region. The commission of inquiry was one of three options that was presented to him. One of the other options was a management inquiry using and working directly with the various municipalities in York region and that is the one that the minister opted for. Other than that, I am not quite sure what else the member is speaking to.
Mr B. Rae: I wonder why the government would have rejected the option of a commission of inquiry when it was the one apparently recommended to the minister, it was at the top of the list. Those advising the minister made it very clear that the problem with simply having an administrative review is that he would not have subpoena powers, he would not be able to call witnesses and insist on witnesses and he would not be able to get to the bottom of this problem, a problem which is documented in a 12-page memorandum which is attached to the cabinet submission. This document makes it very clear that there are officials within the ministry who are convinced that there is a problem that is larger than the government has been prepared to admit thus far. Would the minister undertake, since he is a new minister, at the very least to tell the House why he thinks that no such inquiry is called for?
Hon Mr Sweeney: Again, I am going on long-term recollection, but my memory was that the police were conducting an inquiry of their own at exactly the same time and the information and feedback that staff of my ministry were able to share with the ministry at that time was that the police had not been able to determine any basis for conducting a more full-scale inquiry and on the basis of that the previous minister made the determination that an administrative review where he could work directly with the staff and with the councils of the municipalities involved would have been more productive.
The analysis of members of my staff now, when I spoke to them about this several months ago, was that given what in fact has taken place, it was probably the right decision to have made.
Mr B. Rae: This document states quite categorically that not all the evidence is available to the police or to those conducting the management review. This document also makes it clear that in their view the only way to get to the bottom of the issue, which is to say the established link between developers, municipal officials, municipal politicians and the development process is a commission. It refers directly to issues which I myself raised in the House last October 1988 with respect to the concentration of land and the impact that has on development. All these issues are clearly stated and set out in recommended terms of inquiry for a commission.
I want to ask the minister, why would he reject a commission when his own staff are telling him that it is the only way to get to the bottom of this problem; that the problem will not be dealt with by a police investigation, that it will not be dealt with by a management review, because the issues are more complex and the issues involved are different?
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr B. Rae: Why would he not recognize that in terms of the draft cabinet submission we have here?
The Speaker: The question has been asked.
Hon Mr Sweeney: The options that were available to the previous minister were, as I indicated, threefold. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to all three of them. The previous minister examined all of the options, he examined the potential outcome of the various options and chose the procedure that he did.
All I can say to him once again is that even within the staff of my ministry today, the very gentleman who drafted that particular proposal has indicated that the facts have demonstrated that the minister’s decision was the proper one. I am not able to go back roughly about a year ago and review that decision once again. All I can say is things have worked appropriately based upon the decision that was made.
GOODS AND SERVICES TAX
Mr B. Rae: My new question is for the Treasurer. Yesterday we witnessed a rather extraordinary alliance between the Liberal Party of Ontario and the Progressive Conservative Party with respect to taxation. I would like to ask the Treasurer, in the light of this tax alliance, if he would be prepared to table, for the benefit of the House and the population of Ontario, so that people know just exactly what it is he has been saying to the government of Canada, all the documents which his ministry has prepared with respect to Ontario’s potential participation in the proposed goods and services tax.
Hon R. F. Nixon: There has been no discussion between the government of Ontario and the government of Canada, or for that matter with any of the other provinces and the government of Canada, since our last meeting in April, when those discussions were unilaterally terminated by the Minister of Finance for Canada.
Mr B. Rae: That is what I want. I want to know what the Treasurer was telling the government until the Premier (Mr Peterson) pulled the plug on him. The Premier pulled the plug on him and on those discussions when he said it was unacceptable. I want to know -- and the people of Ontario are entitled to know -- what was the Treasurer bargaining about, what was his position, what has he been saying and what has he put on the table? Why should the future of Ontario’s tax system and what Ontario --
The Speaker: Thank you. There were four questions there, I think.
Hon Mr R. F. Nixon: Yes, Mr Speaker, I think your count is correct.
The honourable member misrepresents the situation when he indicates that somehow or other --
Mr Wildman: Order, order.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member is incorrect when he asserts to the House that somehow or other the Premier has intruded himself into this sort of discussion, because that is not the case. The Premier, along with all the other premiers right across the nation, has reviewed the GST and has said it is unacceptable. The word “unacceptable” is a clear English word, and its meaning is clear. It is unacceptable to the Premier and the government of this province.
Mr B. Rae: The people of Ontario are entitled to know what the Treasurer is going to spring on them some time in the future.
Hon Mr Scott: You’re not going anywhere on this one. Take up a new question.
Mr B. Rae: I know the Attorney General (Mr Scott) likes secret government; we know what he thinks of secret government. What I want to ask the Treasurer is why the people of Ontario are not entitled to know what material he has had, what arguments he has been making, what background papers he has presented and his officials have presented in the discussions that took place up until April. Why do we not get that information?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I am sorry to have to respond to the honourable member’s daily attack of paranoia, but there is no plot, there is no secret government plan. He is incorrect in this regard. Any discussions with the government of Canada were all before last April, when naturally all tax --
Mr Farnan: Put it on the table, Treasurer.
The Speaker: Order. Order.
Hon Mr Scott: What we need is a real socialist party in this province.
Hon R. F. Nixon: All of the tax reviews were under discussion. There are no favours involved. We sit around the table and talk about the economy and what is the matter with the New Democratic Party, things like that.
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Premier whom I would like to welcome back to Ontario, and I want to say to the Premier --
Mr Brandt: Well, I did not expect to extend that warm a welcome, but I do want to say to the Premier that in discussions that we had in the House yesterday with respect to the motion put forward by the New Democratic Party, it appears in fact that the Treasurer of this province agrees that the 13.5 per cent manufacturers’ sales tax is outdated and must go in its current form.
It also appears that the Treasurer of Ontario, being the clear-thinking individual that he is, recognizes full well that there can be some considerable improvement made to the proposed nine per cent goods and services tax. Those two facts being before us, and having been debated in this House yesterday, I wonder if the Premier would share with the House under what set of circumstances would the province of Ontario -- and I would prefer that this question not be referred to the Treasurer, whom we heard from yesterday on this question -- consider some form of co-operative program with respect to these proposed tax adjustments at the federal level.
Hon Mr Peterson: First of all, let me thank my honourable friend for his very warm welcome back to the House, and I did miss him; I want him to know that. Let me welcome him into the leadership of his own party. I understand he joined the race when I was away. You just never know what mischief will overtake this place when I am away.
That being said, let me just say to my honourable friend that he asked a hypothetical question, and I want to say that it is extremely difficult to answer given the kind of presentation and the deportment of the federal government in this matter. He referred to the 13.5 per cent manufacturers’ sales tax, which he said is unacceptable. The federal government has called that the silent killer of jobs. The member recalls that?
Mr Brandt: Yes.
Hon Mr Peterson: Why would someone who feels that strongly about it have raised the tax from nine per cent, when they came in, to 13.5 per cent now? If the member was looking at that objectively, and I know he does, would he not wonder about the sincerity of a government that attacked its own policy that it raised some 50 per cent in its own tenure? So it is very difficult to know what is the real basis the federal government is operating on.
They also talk about the inflationary aspects of that tax. Most people do not agree with their assessment. They are predicting no response in terms of wages or prices throughout the community. We do not agree with those analyses.
So I tell my honourable friend it is extremely difficult to take what they are saying at, shall we say, face value in this entire matter.
Mr Brandt: Let me dissuade the Premier from any apprehensions he might have with respect to leadership aspirations. On the part of the interim leader of the Conservative Party, I am not a candidate. I have made that very clear. The Premier can rest a little more lightly at night as a result of that.
Secondly, may I say with respect to my supplementary, and I mean this with a great deal of sincerity, that it is easy to be against things --
Hon Mr Bradley: Yep, you know all about that.
Mr Brandt: -- and we understand that there is virtual unanimity at the federal level.
Hon Mr Bradley: Well, you know all about that.
Mr Brandt: I wish the Minister of the Environment would restrain himself. I will be back to him with my next question. I will be there shortly; he should just be calm.
The Speaker: Order. We have almost taken up the time of a member’s statement, so let’s finish this one before we get to the next one.
Mr Brandt: I am moving as quickly as I can, but it is difficult at times.
I want to say to the Premier that he, in fact, as the leader of the province of Ontario and as the first minister of this jurisdiction --
Mr Brandt: I would ask that government members please not take up my time with their applause -- has a responsibility to come forward with an alternative in the interests of Ontario and in the interests of this country. If he does not like the goods and services tax and the nine per cent proposed, and if in fact he agrees that the 13.5 per cent is an antiquated tax and should go, what does he propose as an alternative?
Hon Mr Peterson: It is no wonder he is not running for leader. I can understand on the basis of his last two questions. He has just changed his mind again.
I can say that my honourable friend would assume we caused the problems in Ottawa, which we did not. He should just look at the fiscal policy in Ottawa since they assumed office on 4 September 1984. They have done nothing appreciably with the deficit. This Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has dealt with the deficit in this province. He has shown a consistency of purpose. He does not change his mind just when an election comes along.
We have given the federal government advice on interest rates. They choose not to take our advice on interest rates. I say to my honourable friend, they are the authors of their own misfortune in many respects. Had they taken the advice of this Treasurer on all fiscal matters, in terms of transfers, tax rates, capital gains tax and a lot of other things, I can tell members that the federal Minister of Finance in this country would be in a lot better shape than he is today. Any time that he would like this Treasurer and this government to take over and run the country, we are prepared to do that, because we are a lot better.
Mr Pope: Now there’s a good reason for a leadership campaign.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Pack deal. They get both of you.
Mr Pope: A new Liberal candidate.
Hon Mr Peterson: Let’s all go to Ottawa and we will do it right.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: I am glad to hear that the Premier of the province of Ontario has now thrown his hat into that Liberal leadership ring at the federal level.
Let me say to the Premier, he knows full well that expenditures in this province are virtually triple, on an annualized increase basis, those of the federal government in Ottawa. When the Premier talks about fiscal control, he inherited virtually no deficit in this province, and the federal government inherited a crippling deficit which it is still trying to deal with.
What is the Premier’s alternative? I believe he has a responsibility to state quite clearly what the province of Ontario would prefer in a co-operative undertaking with the federal government. What does the Premier suggest be done?
Hon Mr Peterson: I invite a debate on the quality of this minister of finance versus the federal Minister of Finance. I invite that debate because I can tell the member, he inherited a deficit of some $3.6 billion and we can look at it today. This is a person who has developed a budget that pays as we go, that is responsible in all respects. Sure, we have increased services, and one day the member stands up in this House and says we should spend more on this, and the other day he says we should have less taxation.
That is the joy of being in opposition; he can have it both ways. That is what he prefers to do. But I can tell him, the Treasurer has shown a consistency and a responsibility that the federal Minister of Finance has not shown. The federal Minister of Finance has changed his rationale almost every day on the goods and services tax.
He originally said it was not to balance the budget; now he is saying it is to balance the budget. It is very difficult for provincial ministers of finance, all of them, who have found this new approach unacceptable, every single one of them, to deal with a government that changes its ideas and its rationale every single day. This is a government that is responsible in all respects and will continue to exercise its responsibility, but I will say to my honourable friend, unlike some of his --
The Speaker: Thank you. Order. That seems like a fairly lengthy response. New question to the Minister of the Environment?
Mr Brandt: Yes, you anticipated the direction in which I was going, sir.
Hon Mr Elston: You told him.
Mr Brandt: I know that I told him, and I wanted the minister to be prepared.
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. I would like to suggest to the minister that there are some concerns in eastern Ontario that I was able to identify as a result of a trip I made there this fall. One of those concerns is with respect to the community of Beachburg.
I want to show the minister a sample of the water in Beachburg and the effluent that is contained in that water. This is the water that Beachburg residents are forced to drink every day.
Mr Kerrio: Go ahead, Andy.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Down the hatch.
An hon member: Don’t do it, Andy.
Mr Brandt: Since the minister is prepared to force the citizens of that community of Beach-burg to drink this water, I wonder if he is prepared to drink the water of Beachburg himself.
An hon member: You go first.
Mr Brandt: I send that over to the minister.
Some hon members: Drink, drink, drink, drink.
The Speaker: Order. Order.
Hon Mr Bradley: Of course, I have no idea where the member for Sarnia gets anything that he sends across here, but I have my suspicions. I think what the member makes reference to, of course, is the amount of money that is being spent, a tremendous amount of money in the province of Ontario at the present time, on water and sewer projects, and other projects of this kind from one end of the province to the other, including eastern Ontario.
The member would want to know that my ministry is funding some 1,812 projects at the present time which are designed to improve and expand upon our province’s water systems. We have committed some $1 billion ongoing in financial assistance to ensure this work is completed in the coming years. This, of course, as the member would know, includes direct grants to municipalities for such things as water and sewer plants. It includes improving private water and sewage systems, as he is well aware, and commissioning studies for the needs of different municipal systems through the Life-Lines project which we put into place, which his federal friends have not joined yet but which we have municipalities in the province involved in, and includes beaches improvement and provincial water and sewage initiatives.
Mr Brandt: Let the record show that the minister was not prepared to drink the water that he is forcing the residents to drink in that community.
Hon R. F. Nixon: He’s not thirsty.
Mr Brandt: That is exactly what he just did. I want to give him an unequivocal assurance that that water came from Beachburg and that that is the water the residents are forced to drink.
My question to the minister is very simple: In the community of Smiths Falls, I want the minister to know that twice over the course of this past year the hospital in Smiths Falls had to be closed down because the sewer system backed up, contaminating that particular building, forcing them to close the hospital and to cancel surgery -- I say to the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) -- and disrupting operations there because of the unacceptable environmental conditions. What is the minister prepared to do to provide the money to that community? Since he is apparently funding thousands of communities, why not Smiths Falls?
Hon Mr Bradley: As the member is fully aware, having been the Minister of the Environment on one occasion -- that occasion, of course, when they were spending about $100 million less a year on water and sewage projects in the province of Ontario in terms of the direct grants, so he would well recall this situation. He knows that we go through the committee, which is a technical and scientific committee of the Ministry of Environment that evaluates all of the projects that come forward. In some cases, a number of municipalities proceed with those projects as they see fit. In other cases, they decide not to proceed.
I can tell the member that each and every one of them which puts forward such a proposal is evaluated carefully, and he has other colleagues in the Legislature who have had projects which have been approved. They have had difficulties and we have attempted to address those difficulties with tremendous amounts of money.
I mentioned some $1 billion in ongoing projects right across the province of Ontario, with about 400 of those projects going on in eastern Ontario at the present time. When they bring forward their proposals each year --
The Speaker: Thank you. Order.
Mr Brandt: My final supplementary is again to the minister. In spite of the fact that the minister indicates that there are a number of projects in eastern Ontario, the percentage of money that he has contributed and has committed to that part of the province is extremely low and unfair.
The community of Spencerville, as an example, for four years now has gone to the minister indicating a serious concern about leachate from an antiquated septic tank system which is contaminating the drinking water in that community. When is the minister prepared to make a commitment to some of these communities that have had to go to him on bended knee year after year to try to upgrade the systems that they have in their communities?
Hon Mr Bradley: I point out to the member, who has a very bad memory of these things and a bad memory of days gone by --
Mr Brandt: I have an excellent memory.
Hon Mr Bradley: -- that there are some 126 projects in various stages of completion in eastern Ontario at the present time, and in municipalities, for instance, outside Ottawa-Carleton, because I know he does not want to consider Ottawa-Carleton.
Our statistics, of course, clearly indicate that eastern Ontario is getting, in terms of population, for instance, more than its fair share in the province of Ontario. I can indicate to the member that the average project in eastern Ontario gets some 77 per cent of the project paid for. In other areas of the province that is not always the case.
Mr Wiseman: Oh, not in the rural areas.
Mr Sterling: Not in the region.
Hon Mr Bradley: In eastern Ontario, that in fact is the case, up to 85 per cent. Because a number of the communities are small, they get that kind of money.
I want to remind the member that projects such as Almonte, Richmond township, Russell township, Hagarty, Kingston township, Macksville, Wendover, Thurlow, Trenton, Tweed, Winchester --
The Speaker: That seems like a fairly --
The Speaker: Order. Would the minister take his seat.
The Speaker: Order. I would remind all members that half the question period is gone with four questions.
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN
Mr Philip: I have a question of the Attorney General. I am sure the minister will recognize that under the present Ombudsman Act, the Ombudsman in this province has fewer powers than in practically any other jurisdiction. I have a question concerning his bill which he introduced yesterday that restricts that jurisdiction still further.
Is it the Attorney General’s understanding that the bill he introduced yesterday excludes the Ombudsman from investigating any decision or administrative action of a public servant based on an order in council? Is that the intent of the bill?
Hon Mr Scott: No, it is not. While I am on my feet, I should explain that it is not the most restrictive ombudsman act in the world, as my friend says. It is the largest, most fully funded, most expansive government Ombudsman’s office in the western world.
Mr Philip: It is hard to understand how the minister could say that without a shovel. The Ombudsman, in his response to the Supreme Court case in Crown Trust Co clearly indicated that there was no attempt, contrary to the statement by the Attorney General yesterday in his statement on the bill, by the Ombudsman to investigate deliberations or proceedings of the cabinet. Does this bill in any way prohibit the Ombudsman from investigating decisions made under regulations which are orders in council? If so, why would he want to exclude 50 per cent of the present complaints that are launched with the Office of the Ombudsman?
Hon Mr Scott: None of that is what is happening at all. As the honourable member knows as well as anybody in the House, the Ombudsman Act excludes the Ombudsman’s power, and always has, to look into the proceedings of cabinet. A debate has existed for almost a decade about whether the proceedings of cabinet include simply the debate up to the decision and the decision, or the decision itself.
All previous ombudsmen, including Dr Hill, until the last year have taken the position that decisions of cabinet themselves cannot be reviewed by the Ombudsman. He changed his mind in the last year and a half of his office, and the purpose of this amendment is to add one word to clarify what everyone thought the law always was, which is that decisions of the executive council could not be reviewed by the Ombudsman.
There is no democratic government in the western world that, as the honourable member for Carleton (Mr Sterling) says, does not impose a political obligation to answer for decisions of cabinet. It is not an Ombudsman’s function. It is a political function discharged by the government of the day.
ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Mrs Marland: My question is to the Premier. He will remember that the subject of the troubles of the Ontario Human Rights Commission were referred by resolution of this House to the standing committee on government agencies. This morning the Liberal members of that committee voted against hearing from any former or present employees of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. This is like conducting the Dubin inquiry without calling Ben Johnson.
My question is this: Could the Premier tell this House and the people of Ontario if the stonewalling by the Liberal government members of that committee represents what his government stands for today in Ontario?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think that the people of this province understand the committee system of this House. The committees are independent and the members make independent decisions.
Mrs Marland: I am not about to believe in Alice in Wonderland today and I do not think the people of Ontario will accept that answer. The Premier appointed Raj Anand as the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. At that point, the Premier extolled his virtues, his abilities and his talents. My question today is, does the Premier not agree that it would be to the benefit of human rights and the human rights movement in this province to hear today from Raj Anand, who has served as chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission?
Hon Mr Peterson: I would assume the honourable member believes in the democratic system and I would assume the honourable member believes in the committee system of this House. I have every faith in the process to deal with those matters. I am not the one who makes those decisions. The member is so very persuasive, I am surprised she cannot persuade people to follow her lead in these matters.
Mr Dietsch: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. A great number of my constituents have expressed a great deal of concern to me regarding the congestion of the Queen Elizabeth Way. The volume of traffic is becoming heavier and heavier en route from St Catharines to Toronto. I would like the minister to give this House an update on the plans for its expansion, if he would.
Hon Mr Wrye: I know my friend the member for St Catharines-Brock has spoken with me about this important roadway on a number of occasions and I suppose, having chatted with him as recently as yesterday and heard the length of time it took him to get from St Catharines to Toronto, a period of time which I found a little astounding, I can understand the reason for the question today.
The member would want to know that there are plans for the expansion of the QEW from its present four lanes to six from Hamilton to St Catharines, that those plans are on the books now and that the work will begin shortly and will continue over the next six or seven years. The member would also want to know, and so would his constituents and those most involved in travelling that corridor, that in regard to the very first information asking for a bridge expansion widening, the contract for that project is now being advertised and that will be the very first stage of this important new project.
Mr Dietsch: In my view, we must do something now to wrestle with the problems of increasing traffic travel time. I think we should review such things as restricting the number of people travelling in cars, increasing car pooling, the number of lane changes, the limiting of lane usage, as they do in other North American centres, and extending rapid transit such as GO Transit. I would like to have the minister’s comments on those views.
Hon Mr Wrye: The honourable member raises a number of important possibilities, and I have asked my staff to accelerate some work that they were doing particularly looking at restricted driving lanes for high volumes of individuals and what we can do to encourage more people to use some of the excellent car pooling parking facilities that we have where individual drivers can come together in outlying areas, park their cars and go in in a single vehicle.
Indeed, we are doing everything in terms of public transit to continue the expansion of the GO Transit system onward to Hamilton so that some time in the mid-1990s we can have as full a service as possible to that community which will serve not only Burlington and Hamilton, but also people in the Niagara Peninsula and will serve them much better than we are able to do today.
WINDSOR AREA ECONOMY
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question for the Premier. The Premier will be aware of the incredibly deep recession that my community Windsor went through in the early 1980s. He should also be aware that in the last couple of months, the following companies have announced plant closures: Charles Laue, Gibson, Dominion Forge, Central Stampings with some layoffs, Fabco, International Playing Card and Tums. As well, the Ford Motor Co has announced that there is the likelihood that one of its engine plants will close, throwing 1,000 people out of work, and Chrysler Canada’s full-size van plant has announced the indefinite layoff of 400 employees.
There are a lot of people in my community who are concerned that we are heading in exactly the same direction that we were in the late 1970s, into a deep recession in my community. I would like to ask the Premier what specifically he is prepared to do to help diversify our economy in Windsor so that it is not so reliant on the auto industry.
Hon Mr Peterson: I certainly understand the concerns expressed by my honourable friend. As he knows, there are a variety of projects for growth for next year in Ontario. The operating premise right now is about two per cent, which is not recessionary, although admittedly, as my honourable friend says, it will have different effects on different parts of the province.
The government has been concerned about some of the structural problems in the province and one indeed is, shall we say, an overreliance on the automotive industry, and that particularly occurs in my honourable friend’s area. We have, as he knows, made a great number of investments through the Premier’s Council in a number of structural questions over the last two or three years, particularly in the areas of research and development, in areas that we think are going to have an effect on this province in the long term.
That being said -- my honourable friend asked me about Windsor; he could ask me about other communities that in some senses are more vulnerable -- my honourable friend will be aware as well that certain industries are more vulnerable under the new trading arrangements than others are, which is a great source of concern to us. But, on balance, the job situation has been up very substantially this year and we project again that it will grow next year. That does not deny for a minute that there will be certain areas of problems.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The latest statistics indicate that over 10,000 people are collecting unemployment insurance in the Windsor community, and there are nearly 2,000 people in the city of Windsor who are employables who are collecting welfare. We have a very high unemployment rate. The Premier’s home community of London has the lowest unemployment rate for an urban area in all of Canada.
I would like to ask the Premier specifically whether he thinks it is fair that the Windsor-Essex area has 885 provincial civil servants working and living in that area, whereas the Premier’s community, with the lowest unemployment and a well-diversified economy, has nearly 4,000 civil service jobs. I could run through other inequities that exist: Wellington, with nearly 2,000, Hamilton-Wentworth with nearly 3,000, and my community has fewer than 1,000 provincial civil service jobs. Is it not about time that the Premier responded to the requests from my community that we get our fair share so that the government can help diversify Windsor’s economy?
Hon Mr Peterson: I look back the last two or three years -- and I am not arguing for a minute that we cannot do a lot better -- but I look at the enormous range of projects that have gone into the Windsor area in the last two or three years under the remarkable leadership of the Minister of Transportation and others who have taken a very positive view in this matter.
We have worked very closely with the mayor on this matter, I can tell my honourable friend; not just this mayor but the previous mayor, who was a close ally of the member’s until he threw him out and who has told me that they have never seen such co-operation from Queen’s Park in their projects. We will continue to do that.
We recognize that the general prosperity in the province is not evenly distributed. I do not think my friend is accurate when he compares it to London. He could compare it to Hamilton, which I think has one of the best records in the province right now, or to the Toronto area. I am not suggesting there is an even number of public servants in each area. We have been trying to even out those opportunities. Look at the remarkable things that have gone on in northern Ontario and in many other communities in southwestern Ontario.
The member has every right to stand up in this House and draw attention to his particular community, but I say to my honourable friend, if he would look at the overall level of prosperity, it is pretty good. We will certainly try to respond in specific cases wherever we can and whenever there are things we can do that are reasonable in the circumstances.
POLICE USE OF FIREARMS
Mr Runciman: My question is for the Solicitor General and deals with one of the recommendations he made last week, specifically the suggestion of further restrictions on police officers in this province with respect to their ability to fire their weapons. Some police officers are suggesting that this proposal is really questioning the ability of police officers across Ontario to exercise proper judgement. I wonder if the minister would explain to the House why he feels it is necessary to bring in these kinds of additional controls.
Hon Mr Offer: I thank the honourable member for the question. I think it is important to realize that the recommendations of the Lewis task force report called upon our government to request or petition the federal government to amend subsection 25(4) of the Canadian Criminal Code. Currently, that particular subsection states that a police officer may discharge a firearm in the apprehension of an individual. The task force report said that the Criminal Code ought to be amended to say that discharge of a firearm should be permitted only where there is an immediate threat of death or danger to the officer or the public.
We have agreed with the thrust of the recommendation of the task force report, and in consultation with the Attorney General (Mr Scott), who will be petitioning the federal government, I will be asking for an amendment to the Criminal Code, not in the words of the task force report but rather in the words “where there are reasonable and probable grounds.” We believe that this will not only meet the thrust and the intent of the legislation, but also provide that degree of decision-making for the officer in the exercise of his function.
Mr Runciman: One has to be concerned about how police officers across this province are going to react to this kind of additional restriction. They already have restrictions on drawing their weapons and firing their weapons. Now they are going to have to consider the consequences, all in a split second, of course. I want to remind the minister of Constable Douglas Tribbling of the York Regional Police who, in 1984, entered a building where there was a suspected break-in and was shot five times, his gun still in the holster. We are going to have police officers across this province facing those kinds of concerns because of the additional restrictions the minister and his government are placing on them.
Is the minister prepared to consider this kind of an initiative, the impact it is going to have on police and, ultimately, on public safety across this province?
Hon Mr Offer: Let me tell the member that since I have been the Solicitor General, since 2 August of this year, I have taken the time and the opportunity to discuss this particular task force report not only with the community at large, but also with representatives of police forces across this province. Let me tell the House that they are very much aware of the necessity of this type of amendment. They understand what this amendment is designed to accomplish, and I am very confident and optimistic about the response of police forces in this province.
Mr Adams: My question is for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues. I know that the minister has been travelling through the province recently to promote awareness of the issue of wife assault. She will be in Peterborough later today. The government has undertaken an extensive public awareness campaign, including very graphic TV and radio commercials.
However, occupancy rates in emergency shelters for women and children escaping from violence are very high. In my riding, from 1 July to 30 September this year, one of the two residences operated by the Young Women’s Christian Association was at 186 per cent of its capacity. There were 85 children involved over that time period.
The Speaker: Do you have a question?
Mr Adams: What is the minister doing to address this problem?
Hon Mrs Wilson: I want to thank the member for Peterborough for addressing the issue of wife assault and raising his concerns, and also raising the awareness of people across the province and in his riding that wife assault is indeed a crime. There is no excuse for wife assault. It is not a private matter. Each of us has a responsibility for preventing wife assault.
The government’s commitment is to a long-term wife assault prevention strategy, and it includes a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach. It is a strategy that I believe is very effective. It is a three-pronged approach: first, in the area of prevention and education, second, in the area of enhanced criminalization and justice services and, third, in the area of shelter and counselling services.
Wife assault is a vicious cycle of repeated and very often increasingly intensified assaults. If we are to break that cycle, we are going to have to change attitudes. Changing attitudes involves public education. Those television commercials are very graphic but, in fact, they portray wife assault as it really exists.
Mr Adams: I am grateful to the minister for responding to my question. For my supplementary I would ask this: Has the minister considered the benefits of establishing some kind of follow-up counselling service for victims of family violence who have exhausted their permitted length of stay in a shelter and their immediate access to specialized counselling?
Hon Mrs Wilson: For assaulted women, having a safe place to go is vital. Our new funding formula for shelters will assist communities to provide those safe havens. Victims of wife assault have been designated as a special priority for first access to local housing authority units and also to a proportion of new nonprofit housing units. In addition, we are placing emphasis on second-stage housing which will provide the transition from the time in the shelter to housing that they will have on a permanent basis. There are now seven such projects in the province.
Counselling services are provided through various contracts with the Ministry of Community and Social Services. This year they have increased family counselling funding by more than 200 per cent, from some $2 million to more than $8 million this year alone. There are also other agencies within the community that, while they do not have a particular mandate for counselling, are providing that, in particular for children.
I believe that we have done a great deal but there is still a great deal to be done. I ask all members of the House to join with us in working, particularly during this month, on preventing wife assault in the province of Ontario.
NATIVE SUICIDE RATE
Mr Pouliot: My question is to the minister responsible for native affairs, in regard to yet another suicide. Last weekend in the small community of Kingfisher Lake, a 16-year-old youth hanged himself. In the northern communities north of Sioux Lookout, with a combined population of some 17,000 people, the native peoples have experienced some 40 suicides in the recent while, which averages between one and two a month, more than four times what the provincial average is. This calamity must cease. What emerges is the picture of an individual who is deprived, whose culture is shattered, who is confronted daily with poverty, unemployment, overcrowding and disease.
In view of the calamity, in view of the urgency of the situation, I am sure that the minister would share in our sorrow and wish to get to the bottom of this. Will he share with us what specific plans he has so that the lives of native people in northern Ontario will not have to result in a premature end? This is a problem for the minister’s soul.
Hon Mr Scott: I want to thank the honourable member for his question. I know how seriously he takes this very important issue, as do I. He will recognize that the high native suicide rate is not simply a function of natives who live in northern Ontario, but is a function of native populations across the country. It is a tragedy and its origins may be the ones the honourable member describes. I am very conscious of it.
As the member knows, the native affairs directorate is a directorate, not a ministry, and does not deliver policies or programs to communities. But I have been working very closely with my colleagues the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) and the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer), each of whom has a responsibility in this area and who has developed significant new programs at very considerable expense that are designed to focus on the mental health component of this serious question.
My honourable friend I think will be satisfied if he directs his question to them for details of those programs. However, if he wishes to phrase a supplemental I will do my best to begin to describe them for him.
Mr Pouliot: I am not going to ask the minister for self-government. The traditional picture of an Indian is one who endures great pain without crying out, endures frustration, keeps his emotions inside. The minister is right that the same problem has occurred in each and every province over the years in Canada.
People have taken the bull by the horns. They have established a task force in British Columbia, a task force in Saskatchewan, a task force in Manitoba to deal with a similar situation. I am asking the minister, at a reasonable cost, does he have the political will to go to the bottom of this affair? Will he commission a task force?
Hon Mr Scott: I have had occasion to work with a number of task forces in the past and I do not deny their utility. Certainly this government has instituted some. I do not think that a task force will teach us much that we do not know about this important and difficult social problem.
I want to emphasize to the honourable member that we take it seriously and both ministries co-operatively have funded, for example, Ojibway Tribal Family Services, which I believe serves in excess of 60 bands in northwestern Ontario and provides mental health services and other services that are designed to grapple with this very difficult kind of condition. The ministries also provide additional family service and children’s programs, young offender programs on the criminal side, in the northwest which are designed to focus on these serious questions.
The solutions are not short-term, but I want to assure the honourable member that the members of this government are directly concerned about the kinds of serious human questions he raises. Steps have been taken in the last three years that have never been taken before in Ontario to try and seriously address those questions. A mere inquiry is not going to advance the issue further.
TRAINING FOR FIREFIGHTERS
Mr Villeneuve: To the Minister of Skills Development: The minister probably knows much better than his predecessor that much of rural eastern Ontario is served only by volunteer fire departments. There are no full-time fire departments in my riding and in many others throughout eastern Ontario, although the area is crossed by the Toronto-Montreal and Toronto-Ottawa rail corridors, Highway 401, Highway 417 and many others.
Can the minister assure the residents of rural eastern Ontario served by volunteer fire departments that his ministry will not refuse training funds on the grounds that volunteer fire departments are not full-time municipal employees?
Hon Mr Conway: I want to thank my friend the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry for his question and for his interest in the whole issue of fire protection in rural Ontario. He should know and he will know that the government of which I am a part has taken very important initiatives in the area of providing additional support to rural volunteer fire departments.
I can think of circumstances that I know in my county where, under the direction and leadership of the member for London South (Mrs E. J. Smith) when she was the Solicitor General, we provided encouragement and support for the office of the Ontario fire marshal to provide training for rural volunteer firefighters. It is my understanding that support is still in place and available to communities in the united counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
Mr Villeneuve: Encouragement and dollars are a little different, and the dollars were not forthcoming. I am sorry to tell the minister that. His predecessor was a captive of the bureaucracy and I hope he will not be in the same rut as he was.
What sort of review has the minister conducted to determine why some volunteer fire departments were funded in the past by the Ministry of Skills Development and no longer are, and will the minister authorize funding for volunteer fire departments where there are not full-tuition employees to perform the very essential work we take for granted very often from our volunteer fire departments?
Hon Mr Conway: To my friend from Moose Creek, I simply want to reiterate that this government does recognize the important role the volunteer fire departments play across the province, and most especially in rural Ontario. I simply want to reiterate that we will continue to provide the support, but I repeat that the principal obligation there will fall on the office of the fire marshal, which office has, over the time we have been in office, provided very real encouragement and support to rural fire departments of a volunteer nature.
Mr D. R. Cooke: I have a question for the Minister of Health. The minister is presently reviewing the health professions legislation review with a view to bringing in new legislation to license the members of qualified and regulated health professions.
Bunny Waechter is a resident of a housing co-operative that houses a large number of people who, like Bunny, are disabled. They are concerned that the health professions legislation review will have an adverse effect on the attendant care they receive from homemakers, nursing assistants and others in order to perform their daily routines. For example, homemakers and nursing assistants often need to administer injections, inhalations and enemas under the direction of a doctor or nurse as part of a disabled person’s daily routine.
Could the minister indicate to the members of the House what actions the ministry is taking to ensure that these individuals continue to receive the help necessary to remain independent.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would like to acknowledge the member’s interest in this very important area. He knows it is one of the goals of our government and of the Ministry of Health in particular to be supportive of programs that make it possible for individuals who have disabilities to achieve the optimum level of independence and to live in the community wherever possible.
I want to recognize as well the leadership of my colleague the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Ms Collins) as an excellent advocate on behalf of disabled persons in ensuring that all the policies of this government are responsive.
Our aim at the Ministry of Health is to improve the regulation of Ontario’s health professionals while at the same time maintaining quality of care, ensuring quality of care and enhancing public protection. These are the guiding principles as I approach the health professions legislation review, which he knows I have received.
The legislation I intend to introduce, hopefully this spring, will embody these principles and policies. I want to assure the member that they will respect the needs of disabled persons in Ontario.
Mr D. R. Cooke: I am delighted the minister has such a strong commitment to maintaining the independence of disabled persons in the province. Is the minister able at this time to indicate if the possibility of exemptions will take place and be included in the health professions legislation when it is introduced?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am pleased to have a chance to qualify and clarify the process. Our ministry officials have met with representatives of the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons as well as with medical, professional and consumer groups and so forth, and with the Ministry of Community and Social Services as well, as we develop our response to the health professions legislation review. We will continue to meet with the groups to ensure the appropriate legislation will be tabled that will meet the needs of disabled persons in Ontario.
We are exploring ways of enhancing the ability of disabled persons to obtain assistance as well as to be able to live as independently as possible in the community.
The Speaker: Just before I call the next order, I would like to inform the members that in the lower west gallery we have Darlene Marzari, member of the British Columbia Legislature and chairman of the standing committee on public accounts.
Mr McCague: I have a petition, signed by 438 constituents, to the Premier and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas on November 18, 1986, the French Language Services Act of Ontario has been passed, the French and implementation procedures were not publicized to the awareness of the general public and seven elected members were absent in the House on the above date and the majority of citizens of Ontario were not represented; and whereas at no time have the people of Ontario chosen to become officially bilingual by giving a mandate to the government by referendum; and whereas the vast majority of Ontarians speak English fluently; and whereas the implementation of Bill 8 is proceeding with enormous cost to taxpayers while cutbacks are being made in funding in health care, education, environment, etc; and whereas one official language is a practical necessity; so
“We, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, hereby affirm that we desire English to be the one and only official language, and furthermore petition the government of Ontario to repeal Bill 8, the French Language Services Act of Ontario, without delay and keep English the only official language in this province”
“We further respectfully request the above-mentioned member of Parliament to stand and read this petition imploring every member of the House to study this law and to demand a copy of its implementation procedures manual, and to bravely reveal the contents of both law and implementation to his and her constituents, who may be able to intelligently take a personal stand on this issue as soon as possible.”
I do not necessarily endorse this, but I do understand the right of people to have these presented to the House.
The Speaker: With respect, I would like to draw the member’s attention to our new standing orders. You are allowed a brief time to explain it, not to read the whole thing directly. As you know, we have a new time limit on petitions. If the member has not read it, I am sure he will read it at breakfast tomorrow morning.
Mrs Fawcett: I have a petition from the people residing in my riding and the Quinte riding asking that the government refrain from further implementation of the French Language Services Act. I have attached my signature according to the standing orders and for no other reason.
Mr Eves: In order to save time, I have two petitions identically worded to the one introduced by the member for Simcoe West (Mr McCague), one signed by 33 constituents and the other signed by 55.
Mr Fleet: It is my duty to present a petition signed by 53 of my constituents, despite the fact that I am strongly and fundamentally in disagreement with the petition. The petition calls for the repeal of the French Language Services Act, 1986.
Mr Villeneuve: I have a similar petition as presented by my colleague the member for Simcoe West and I present it to this House.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INDEPENDENT HEALTH FACILITIES ACT, 1989
House in committee of the whole.
Consideration of Bill 147, An Act respecting Independent Health Facilities.
The First Deputy Chair: For the attention of members, you may recall that we had deferred to this time the taking of several votes on a variety of amendments that were proposed to this bill. Do we have unanimous consent to have one division?
Some hon members: No.
The committee divided on Mrs Caplan’s amendment to subsection 1(l), which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ayes 90; nays 0.
The First Deputy Chair: The next item is a motion by Mr Eves.
Mr Eves: I would like to explain the previous vote. First, we asked that the vote be stacked last week and we have since satisfied ourselves that in effect the minister’s amendment does the same thing that I was attempting to do with this amendment, which I shall now withdraw.
Section 1, as amended, agreed to.
The committee divided on Mr Reville’s amendment to subsection 5(7), which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes 27; nays 63.
Section 5 agreed to.
The committee divided on Mr Reville’s amendment to subsection 7(1), which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes 15; nays 75.
The committee divided on Mr Reville’s amendment to clause 7(3)(a) and clause 7(3)(b), which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes 27; nays 63.
The committee divided on Mr Eves’s amendment to subsection 7(7), which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes 13; nays 77.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
The committee divided on Mr Eves’s amendment to subsection 8(7), which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes 27; nays 63.
Section 8 agreed to.
The committee divided on Mr Eves’s amendment to subsection 9(5), which was negatived on the same vote.
Section 9 agreed to.
The committee divided on Mr Eves’s amendment to subsection 19(4), which was negatived on the same vote.
The committee divided on Mr Eves’s amendment to subsection 19(5), which was negatived on the same vote.
The committee divided on Mr Eves’s amendment to subsection 19(6), which was negatived on the same vote.
The committee divided on Mr Eves’s amendment to subsection 19(7), which was negatived on the same vote.
Section 19 agreed to.
The committee divided on Mr Eves’s amendment to subsection 22(l), which was negatived on the same vote.
Section 22 agreed to.
The committee divided on Mrs Caplan’s amendment to subsection 43(3), which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ayes 77; nays 13.
Section 43, as amended, agreed to.
Bill, as amended, ordered to be reported.
On motion by Mrs Caplan, the committee of the whole reported one bill with certain amendments.
VETERINARIANS ACT, 1989
Mr Ramsay moved second reading of Bill 39, An Act to revise the Veterinarians Act.
Hon Mr Ramsay: I wish to table, for second reading, a bill to revise the Veterinarians Act. The purpose of this bill is to make revisions to the existing Veterinarians Act to better protect the interests of the public with respect to veterinary medicine in Ontario.
Under the proposed new act, important requirements to protect the public and the rights of members of the veterinarian profession are: the Ontario Veterinary Association is continued as the College of Veterinarians in Ontario; provision for at least three and no more than five members of the council of the College of Veterinarians to be lay representatives; provision of an independent board to hear appeals made by the public or members in respect of decisions made by the complaints committee and appeals by members from decisions made by the registration and accreditation committees; provision for the making of regulations subject to the approval of cabinet to govern matters relating to the public interest, such as licensing and discipline; and provision for the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay) to require the council of the College of Veterinarians to amend, make or revoke regulations.
I wish to make it clear that the Ontario Veterinary Association has conducted its affairs in a very responsible manner and that this legislation is not an indication that the association has not governed the activities of its members satisfactorily. However, the Ontario Veterinary Association is a self-governing profession and it is important that the legislation the association administers provide appropriate protection for the public and the members of the profession.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food has worked with the Ontario Veterinary Association in the development of this new act. A ministry committee was appointed to deal with the matters pertaining to the development of this new legislation and to reach a consensus on the content of a draft act. In January of 1986 copies of the draft were distributed to all registered veterinarians in Ontario and to interested and affected individuals and organizations.
There were more than 125 written responses from organizations and individuals and numerous oral responses. Some of the organizations which met with the committee were: the Society of Ontario Veterinarians, the Ontario Institute of Agrologists, the Ontario branch of the Holstein Association of Canada, the Ontario Grain and Feed Dealers Association, the Ontario Pork Producers Marketing Board and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The committee is now satisfied that the proposed act addresses the significant concerns put forth by the public and members of the veterinarian profession.
I am confident that the proposed act will serve to better protect the public interest and the rights of members in the practice of veterinary medicine in Ontario. I urge the members of the House to give this bill quick passage.
Mr Reville: I need to find out from the minister whether this will have any effect on my favourite program, All Creatures Great and Small?
The Deputy Speaker: Any other comment, great or small?
Mr Villeneuve: Our party fully agrees with Bill 39. We have checked with the Ontario Veterinary Association and the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and our party is in full agreement with the upgrading via Bill 39 --
The Deputy Speaker: Is this question or comment on the minister’s statement?
Mr Villeneuve: This is two-minute debate. We have really no debate. We are in agreement with the bill and we will be supporting it.
Hon Mr Ramsay: I would like to certainly comment to my friend across the way about the show All Creatures Great and Small and absolutely guarantee the member that this bill will have no effect on that fabulous program.
The Deputy Speaker: Would any other member wish to participate in the debate?
Mr Wildman: On behalf of our caucus I want to say that we will be supporting Bill 39, An Act to revise the Veterinarians Act. The Ontario Veterinary Association has co-operated with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in developing legislation over the past 10 years and it will indeed enshrine and enhance the principles of responsible self-regulation by the veterinary profession. It has been a long time in coming. The first draft was published in January 1986. The bill received first reading in June 1989, three years later, and we have been waiting all these months now for the government to find the time to bring it before the House.
This bill is modelled on legislation covering other self-governing professions and it will ensure the protection of the rights of veterinarians in the event of actions taken by the governing body; in other words, there will be appeal procedures. We support the proposal that the Ontario Veterinary Association become the College of Veterinarians of Ontario with the responsibility for administering standards, ac-crediting veterinarians at veterinary clinics and handling public complaints and disciplining members.
Also, we note that decisions concerning registration and accreditation could be appealed to the health disciplines board and appeals regarding complaints could be heard by Divisional Court. Also, we support the view that at least three representatives on the council of the college would be lay representatives.
Essentially the bill will bring veterinarians into the same situation as other health care professionals in terms of how they govern their profession and determine that high standards are maintained. It is a piece of legislation that is certainly supported by the veterinarians in the province and by animal lovers and the agricultural community, I believe, as well. So we will be supporting the legislation.
Le Vice-Président : Merci. Questions et commentaires au sujet de la présentation du député ?
M. Reville : Mais non.
Le Vice-Présldent : Mais non. Dans ce cas-là, who else would like to participate in the debate in that case?
Mr Villeneuve: I guess I was a little premature in my original comments. We too as a party and I personally will be supporting the updating, particularly the upgrading, of this bill. The council of the college is to make the regulations and will be subject to the approval of the assembly here and the minister may advise the council and the college on the implementation of the act and the regulations. I guess that basically is legislation which the Ontario Veterinary Association has been looking for over a number of years. I have correspondence from them which fully endorses the regulation as set out in Bill 39 and we fully intend to support it and co-operate with the government.
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments on the member’s statement? If not, do other members wish to participate in the debate? If not, Mr Minister, would you like to wind up?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I would just like to say to the House that I appreciate the support for Bill 39 from the member for Algoma and my colleague the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for third reading.
BRUCELLOSIS REPEAL ACT, 1989
Mr Ramsay moved second reading of Bill 40, An Act to repeal the Brucellosis Act.
Hon Mr Ramsay: I rise to present today for second reading a bill to repeal the Brucellosis Act. Since this bovine disease has been controlled and eradicated, the legislation we presently have on the books has become redundant.
Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that was once prevalent in cattle herds and caused infertility at a cost of millions of dollars to livestock producers in this province. In 1956, the Brucellosis Act was passed to promote and control the administration of the vaccine to female calves. This legislation provided the initial steps to controlling brucellosis in cattle. At that time, the federal government provided the vaccine while the province provided for its distribution and controlled the administration, supplies and records.
From the onset of brucellosis vaccination, approximately 5.5 million calves have been vaccinated in Ontario. In 1985, Ontario’s domestic cattle herds were declared brucellosis-free, and on 1 November 1985 all brucellosis control was assumed by Agriculture Canada. Therefore, the act became redundant. Under an agreement with Agriculture Canada, brucellosis has been placed on a list of reportable diseases under the Animal Disease and Protection Act. As well, Agriculture Canada continues to provide a national vaccination program to livestock owners.
I want to assure members of the House that this government, in co-operation with the federal government, is taking all reasonable precautions to ensure that Ontario and Canada remain brucellosis-free. The federal government is continuing to offer a calfhood vaccination program to domestic livestock owners and those producers who export female cattle to other countries, and through a variety of herd health programs, my ministry strives to protect and improve the health status of our livestock industry.
Mr Reville: Two weeks ago on All Creatures Great and Small, an outbreak of brucellosis swept through the herd and every one of the Aberdeen Angus cows miscarried. The young chap who was trying to start a cattle farm had to sell the farm and go to work in a factory. I am delighted that we are brucellosis-free today.
Mr Villeneuve: I understand that we are brucellosis-free, however, we still have some isolated cases of brucellosis. Would the minister be aware, firstly, of what percentage of the animals had to be destroyed or how many animals had to be destroyed in Ontario last year because of brucellosis, and secondly, what is the maximum amount that brucellosis can be prevalent in a province and still be considered brucellosis-free. We are brucellosis-free or designated as such, but we still have brucellosis.
Hon Mr Ramsay: I am sorry my colleague the member for Riverdale (Mr Reville) is leaving. I appreciate that he watches TVOntario and that he is very aware of the disease brucellosis and how serious the disease can be when it is not under control.
To my friend the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr Villeneuve), my understanding is that we are totally free in Ontario of brucellosis in cattle. There has been some report in the last couple of years in buffalo herds in Ontario and those herds were destroyed. Also, there is some brucellosis in Alberta in buffalo herds, but my knowledge is that there is no brucellosis in Ontario.
Mr Wildman: On behalf of our caucus, I would like to speak in favour of Bill 40, An Act to repeal the Brucellosis Act. As has been indicated, this is essentially a housekeeping bill.
The provincial government has not paid veterinarians for brucellosis vaccine for some years and the federal government has established a program which is national in scope to deal with the brucellosis disease.
It has been stated that brucellosis among cattle has been eradicated in Ontario, and that is certainly welcome. I do want to point out though that this is not the first time this statement has been made. Before he left, the member for Niagara South (Mr Haggerty) reminded me that the Minister of Agriculture and Food, Mr Stewart, some time ago was encouraged to say that and subsequent, unfortunately, to that statement there was an outbreak of brucellosis in southern Ontario. I think that obviously in Ontario we have to be on our guard to ensure that there is not another outbreak of this serious disease among cattle because of the terrible effect that it can have for the beef industry and the dairy industry in this province.
I have some comments and questions I would like to make at the committee stage, so I will leave it at that and, hopefully, we will deal with this briefly in committee of the whole.
The Deputy Speaker: Any questions and comments on the member’s statement? Sinon, le député de Stormont, Dundas et Glengarry.
M. Villeneuve: Merci bien. Just a short comment in support of Bill 40. I will be looking into the facts and figures with Agriculture Canada and in particular with the health of animals directorate of Agriculture Canada. I personally think that we do have some reactors to brucellosis yet, and they show up whenever we are exporting to the United States. Many of our farmers are still vaccinating, at their own cost, against brucellosis, and I, at the committee stage, will certainly be looking deeper into exactly the amount and the numbers that have been prevalent here in Ontario. I know once you get below a certain percentage of reactors, you wind up with a designation as brucellosis-free, and it is very fortunate that over the blood testing over the last number of years we have been able to eradicate or bring brucellosis under control to a minimum that we now qualify as a brucellosis-free province.
We have another disease very similar to brucellosis, known as leptospirosis. I know we have some problems in wild animals with that one, and it is at times to some degree difficult to tell the difference. It basically creates the same problems in animals. But certainly the beef and dairy industry are very important to this province, and I certainly hope that by going through and recognizing that we are brucellosis-free, we will always continue to keep our guard up against a very devastating bovine disease.
Le Vice-Président : Questions et commentaires au sujet de la présentation du député ?
Mr McLean: I just want to comment briefly on the statement made by the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry who I see is very well aware of the situation with regard to brucellosis. I just wanted to say that when it is in committee I know that there are reactors, I know that when you export cattle that there are many that are left behind because of the high count that they have. I just wanted the minister to be aware that he should have some of these statistics when it gets into committee, whereby the export marketers of cattle will be familiar with what is taking place in Ontario today.
The Deputy Speaker: Any other questions and comments on the member’s statement? If not, would the member wish to respond?
Mr Villeneuve: I thank my colleague from Simcoe East. There is also a rather intriguing situation where there are times when an animal will not be known as a reactor but will, at times, be known as questionable or doubtful; and we are not getting a positive reaction but it is not a negative reaction. I do not know where these animals fit into the statistics. I know if they happened to wind up as questionable after the second blood test, normally the health of animals directorate recommends that they go for beef and certainly the beef has no problem with it, particularly if it is a matter of keeping our designation as brucellosis-free. So some of my questions in committee will be oriented around not only the positive reactors but those animals that have tested as questionable or doubtful, and I would like to know the numbers over the last period of time.
The Deputy Speaker: Do other members wish to participate in the debate? Le député de Riverdale.
Mr Reville: I am concerned lest people misinterpret my rather light-hearted intervention. I had an opportunity in 1967 to work on a dairy farm north of Kingston where we were milking about 100 Holstein. We did in fact in those days vaccinate for brucellosis. It was a concern that any prudent dairy farmer would have because, of course, we were trying to generate our own stock as well. We had a bull. We also had a gentleman with a very lugubrious face who would attend at various times and artificially inseminate the cows.
Being a city boy, I was not always clear as to which cow should be inseminated and I think we inseminated a lot of the wrong cows because I could not quite understand the nature of this bulling thing that seems to go on out there in the field.
Knowing how hard dairy farmers and beef cattle farmers work and how much time they must spend at that, clearly brucellosis is no laughing matter and I just wanted to put that on the record lest anybody misinterpret my light-hearted earlier approach.
Mr Villeneuve: In reply to my colleague the member for Riverdale, I certainly have a great deal of respect for the agricultural critic of the New Democratic Party. He originally came from eastern Ontario, a great part of Ontario. He now represents a northern Ontario riding but he has limited past experience. I would suggest that the NDP, now that we know we have a resident connoisseur, could possibly consider changing the role of critic from the member for Algoma to the member for Riverdale.
Mr Reville: Thank you very much for that vote of confidence and should my colleague the member for Algoma ever flag in his duties, which I do not expect, I would be happy to do whatever humble part I could.
Hon Mr Ramsey: Since it is the desire of the members to enter into committee of the whole, I could reserve that time for responding to inquiries the members may have.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
House in committee of the whole.
BRUCELLOSIS REPEAL ACT, 1989
Consideration of Bill 40, An Act to repeal the Brucellosis Act.
Hon Mr Ramsay: I request permission of the House to bring in some assistants from the ministry in order to facilitate good responses to some of the technical questions that members may want to ask.
The First Deputy Chair: Does the minister have any opening comments?
Hon Mr Ramsay: No, I am quite happy to attempt to respond to questions my critics may have.
Mr Wildman: Just very briefly, perhaps the minister and the officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food could provide the committee with the statistics of reactors, numbers of reactors and where exactly we are with brucellosis in this province. As I said, “eradicated” can mean a number of things. We are brucellosis-free in Ontario, and we welcome that, but we would like to know what information the ministry has on this. Also, can the ministry indicate and assure us that all payments under the agreements of veterinarians under the old act have, in fact. been completed?
Finally, some time ago OMAF told Ontario farm organizations that there would be a new program to deal with cattle or animal diseases that would be established in this province, and as far as I know, nothing has been heard of that since, so I would like to know what is happening in that regard.
Hon Mr Ramsey: The first thing, I think, that needs to be said is that Ontario has been officially declared brucellosis-free since 1985. We no longer appoint veterinarians to provide vaccine, ear tags or certificates as authorized under the act, because the federal government really takes that in charge now. All payments have been made under the act to veterinarians for services rendered before 1985 and any that was needed since then.
I am endeavouring to get the statistics for the member on reactors and some of that detailed information, and as soon as I have that I will be quite happy to report back to the House.
Mr Wildman: Again, I would just like to know what happened with the promise that there would be a new program on animal diseases.
Hon Mr Ramsey: I am not aware of this program that the member refers to.
The First Deputy Chair: Any other comments?
Mr Villeneuve: Would the minister or his officials know how many reactors, positive or questionable, we had in the last year to brucellosis? Would the minister have an idea of that?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I have to ask the member to repeat the question. I was unable to hear it. I am sorry.
Mr Villeneuve: I simply want to know, and I know we still have reactors both positive and questionable to brucellosis, would the minister know how many reactors we had in the province of Ontario last year?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I do not have that number. If we have any suspicious animals after testing, we retest, and we do not believe we have any reactors in Ontario.
Mr Villeneuve: What percentage or what level of minimum reactors do we have to have prior to qualifying for a brucellosis-free designation?
Hon Mr Ramsey: I do not have that information. I would be quite happy to get that for the member.
Mr Villeneuve: Finally, I know that we still have some herds that go through the annual blood test to make sure that they keep their free listing status. Do we still perform the milk ring test to establish whether at the consumer level -- do we still have some reactors at that level? Are we still continuing that?
Hon Mr Ramsey: We are continuing testing. We test in many ways. The milk testing that the member refers to continues to this day. Also, we are continually testing blood samples that we obtain through veterinarians and abattoirs around the province, so we are constantly testing and are quite assured that this province is brucellosis-free.
Mr McLean: I have a question. Since we are brucellosis-free now, could the minister tell us what a farmer has to do to have an accredited herd or a herd where he can export cattle? What procedure does he go through to do that?
Hon Mr Ramsey: The Department of Agriculture will test the herd and then issue a certificate in due course, once the test has been successfully passed.
Mr McLean: If they are not acceptable and they do not pass the test, what number would there be that the minister would be aware of -- and I guess he is getting the information to find out how many there are that do not pass the test -- that cannot export cattle. I am in the dairy business, so I know about exporting a little bit. How many last year would there be that were tested and were unacceptable to export?
Hon Mr Ramsey: I would like to reiterate that what I said in my statement is that since 1984 the entire province of Ontario has been declared brucellosis-free. We are not picking up any positive tests since then.
The First Deputy Chair: Are there further comments or questions? Are we ready to proceed through the bill?
Sections 1 to 5, inclusive, agreed to
Bill ordered to be reported.
On motion by Mr Ramsay, the committee of the whole reported one bill without amendment.
Hon Mr Ward: I seek unanimous consent so that we can proceed with third reading of Bill 147.
The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous agreement?
INDEPENDENT HEALTH FACILITIES ACT, 1989
Hon Mrs Caplan moved third reading of Bill 147, An Act respecting Independent Health Facilities.
The Deputy Speaker: Would the minister have an opening statement?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I have agreed that the critics opposite can speak first and that I will wrap up.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Riverdale.
Mr Reville: One hand clapping always sounds a bit forlorn, does it not? That is from a different cultural tradition.
Seeing that I am the first speaker, maybe I could just briefly recite the legislative history of Bill 147. The bill was introduced in June 1988. The second reading debate proceeded somewhat intermittently in the fall, winter and spring of 1988-89. The public hearings were in August 1989, during the whole month of August, and the bill was reported back. It was sent back out for further public hearings which took place during four days at the end of October and the early part of November and returned to committee of the whole on 16 November, where further amendments were debated. Those amendments have now been decided on in a number of divisions this very day and we are now in the third reading debate.
Bill 147, An Act respecting Independent Health Facilities, is a bill that nobody likes very much. It is true that Bill 147 did receive support from some quarters, but that support was lukewarm. The more common response to Bill 147 has been vigorous opposition. It is hard to imagine a public policy approach that is so awkward that it could attract the opposition of both the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario Federation of Labour, but that was what Bill 147 managed to achieve.
I would like to stop at this point and note that in the gallery today are a number of officials from the Ministry of Health. In fact, I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for the hard work that they did during this 18-month period, through hearings that were not always as jocular as I like to be. There were a number of matters that were very contentious, and I would like to thank them for the alacrity with which they provided information and for hanging in to the bitter end, as it were.
To the extent that Bill 147 creates a procedure for quality assurance in health care facilities outside hospitals, the bill is eminently supportable. Quality assurance is indeed the wave of the future, and we here in Ontario should be riding that wave. I hope that this modest foray into the quality assured health care world will be successful. I hope that it will be so successful that the lessons learned from this can be applied across the entire health care field.
To the extent that Bill 147 creates a process by which health care planning may more accurately reflect health care needs, the bill is eminently supportable. What should be clear to anyone who has been paying even modest attention to our health care system is that it has grown somewhat like a weed, wherever it might take root, like the weed, without the benefit of very much in the way of planning or outcome evaluation. Perhaps that would always be the nature of a system that is both heavily political and heavily entrepreneurial.
Bill 147, when it was first introduced, was a relatively modest effort. I am not speaking about the government’s rhetoric, of course, which was, as usual, resounding and bombastic. I am talking about the actual impact that the bill was intended to have. It was designed to pick up about 20 existing health facilities of various kinds, mostly involving minor surgical procedures that could be done outside of hospital, and was projected to add, either through ministerial request or district health council needs assessment, about five new facilities in its first year; all in all, 25 independent health facilities and about $25 million.
That, in health finance, is modest. This is hard to believe, that $25 million is modest, but it is indeed modest. When one considers that one per cent of the health care expenditure in Ontario is around $140 million, $25 million is modest. It makes one think of the big trouble C. D. Howe got into when he said, “What’s a million?” in another place. He would, by today’s terms, be considered a piker.
When my amendment to section 7 was accepted, at first unanimously and later by the government only, the bill cast its net much more widely. According to ministry figures, the net will now catch about $200 million in health care expenditure on an annualized basis, and that is by virtue of the way the schedule of benefits is designed. Technical fees, also known as T fees, will become facility fees under this legislation, and those charging them will be grandfathered and will be entitled to apply for licensing. So Bill 147 grew very quickly. It started at 25 and now is maybe 1,800, that sort of number of operations.
I will make one brief comment on subsection 7(7) because it has been commented on at length on other occasions. It continues to be my strong belief that an attempt to develop a quality assurance approach to diagnostic services is very much in the public interest. I am aware of the anxieties that this change has caused for diagnostic imagers throughout the province, and those include not only radiologists but radiological technicians, respirologists, people expert in nuclear medicine, ultrasonographers and allied health care professionals.
I have asked for and received assurances from the minister that all the key stakeholders will indeed be heavily involved in the implementation of the legislation in respect of subsection 7(7). I hope that all those stakeholders will come to see the new approach as an opportunity to work at the leading edge of quality assurance in this country.
That said, I remain profoundly disappointed in the bill as a whole. The government has promised more than the bill can deliver. It was initially touted as a weapon in the free trade war, and this bill is a very wet noodle in that connection. Yes, it does express a preference for Canadian operators, but there is no monetary advantage that will be accorded Canadians. A preference for Canadian management appeared briefly in the bill, and just as quickly disappeared again. That said to me that I was right when I suggested the government was only kidding.
I think that goes, too, for the government’s interest, at least its expressed interest, in encouraging the nonprofit health care sector. Again, there is a modest, and for me meaningless, preference. It is clear to me and to other commentators that the real intention of the government is to reinforce and encourage the privatization of health care service delivery.
The Ontario Medical Association was worried about bargain basement medicine. The Ontario Public Services Employees Union was worried about low-ball medicine. I think those worries are real. The nursing home sector, for example, is 92 per cent or 93 per cent privately owned; that, in spite of a stated government preference for nonprofit ownership of nursing homes. We hear frequently from consumers that they are not satisfied with nursing home services. The Ontario Hospital Association thought the bill would produce high-volume, high-tech health care boutiques. I think so too. Who needs them?
If you read the bill, amendments and all, you cannot escape feeling certain that the bill has almost nothing to do with community health. Yes, independent health facilities will be located outside hospitals, but community health is a lot more than geographical in its concept. Community health requires community relevance and community accountability. If the government had been really interested in community health, and had the minister meant it when she said she wanted to expand community health services and opportunities, why did the government and the minister resist putting into the bill structures and a philosophy that would have enhanced the development of community health opportunities? I have to reject out of hand the claim that the involvement of district health councils will ensure relevance and accountability.
Let’s look at how district health councils are chosen. Let’s look at the resources they have available. Let’s look at the record of district health councils when it comes to outreach and consultation. Let’s look at what the people do who serve on district health councils. It is my view that ordering council appointments that result in appointing people of the highest socioeconomic groupings will not do the kind of community outreach and accountability job that we need to get done. I do not blame the people for not being able to do it, any more than you can blame somebody for being representative of one group and not of another, but clearly, district health councils do not now represent a cross-section of any community that I can imagine.
I fear that, so far from encouraging the development of grass-roots, community-specific responses to health needs, the bill may actually discourage them.
The Choice in Health Clinic is the prime example. It was established as a community response to the failure of government to provide access to abortion services for the women of this province, close to home or otherwise. The Choice in Health Clinic provides abortion services to 2,000 women annually, yet the grandfathering clause in Bill 147 excludes the Choice in Health Clinic.
Likewise, the Toronto Birth Centre is a community response to the interest that more and more parents have in having their children born in a more friendly, less medical environment. For 10 years, the government of Ontario has sandbagged the Toronto Birth Centre, first for philosophical reasons and later for bureaucratic ones. The grandfather clause also excludes the Toronto Birth Centre Inc. Maybe there will be a proposal call for birthing centres and maybe there will not. Maybe the Toronto Birth Centre Inc will be successful in responding to a proposal call and maybe it will not.
The effect, however, is that government has managed to frustrate the community will, both in deed and in legislation, over these years. I tried in three different ways to ensure that the Toronto Birth Centre Inc and the Choice in Health Clinic would not be victims of Bill 147, and, of course, the government rejected all three approaches. That says to me that community innovation and community responsibility is not worth much to this government.
We New Democrats will be voting against Bill 147. Clearly, we will be watching with interest the government’s performance as Bill 147 is implemented, and we are looking forward to the first annual report that will be required by the legislation. In the meantime, we shall continue to press for real community alternatives, real health promotion and real disease prevention in this province.
Mr Eves: I wish to get a few comments on the record with respect to third reading of Bill 147. I will not be lengthy this afternoon because I have been lengthy on other occasions and I have had ample opportunity, as have other members, to have some input in second reading debate -- the committee stage of this bill took many weeks and, of course, we have had committee of the whole House as well -- before third reading debate today.
But I do want to put on the record some concerns that I have and my party has with respect to Bill 147. I also would like to put on the record -- and I do not normally do this, but I think - in this instance, this particular association has not had an opportunity perhaps to be heard that it should have had overall -- I am speaking of the Ontario Association of Radiologists.
Before I start my final remarks, I would like to read at least in part, and if the Speaker permits, in whole, a letter of this very date, 22 November 1989, addressed to the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) and signed by the vice-president of the Ontario Association of Radiologists, Dr Tim Richardson:
“Dear Madam Minister:
“I was interested to listen to the proceedings of the committee of the whole concerning Bill 147 last Thursday.” That would have been 16 November. “As I was present personally at the Legislature I was able to listen to the discussions between you and the Health critics of the opposition parties.
“I was dismayed to hear you make two statements in particular after all the additional information you received when amendment 7 went back to the committee of social development. In particular, once again you stated, ‘What we have heard is that there is some voluntary peer review program.’ As I stated in our brief from the Ontario Association of Radiology and as was stated by many other radiologists as well as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the peer review program is not voluntary but indeed is mandatory. As we stated and as the College of Physicians and Surgeons admitted, we believe that this mandatory peer review program, along with the HARP Act, are pieces of legislation which could be expanded upon without Bill 147 to assure quality control.
“Several minutes later you stated, ‘They (CPSO) pointed out to me that specifically they were concerned about the fact that cardiac catheterizations, a procedure normally done in hospitals with the kind of quality assurance programs that are provided in hospitals, are taking place in community-based facilities. They were concerned about that.’ This is a false statement. All cardiac catheterizations in Ontario are done in hospitals and none are in out-of-hospital community-based facilities.
“I trust this letter will serve to correct the inaccuracies of your statement last Thursday.
“Yours truly, Tim Richardson.”
I just wanted to get that on the record because I really think that the radiologists are one group that has been somewhat unfairly dealt with, in my opinion, with respect to Bill 147. Initially they were told, not only verbally but in writing no less, by officials from the Ministry of Health that they need not appear at Bill 147 hearings because, rest assured, the government had absolutely no intention of ever including them in Bill 147.
Then, lo and behold, the government accepted the amendment of the member for Riverdale (Mr Reville) with respect to subsection 7(7) and the radiologists were included. Then we went through the very unusual step of sending the bill out to committee so the people who were told that this bill would never affect them had the opportunity to defend themselves, because now they were included.
I would like to believe that when we went back to committee, this was a proceeding that everybody was listening to with an open mind and would actually maybe consider not accepting the member for Riverdale’s amendment. But having sat through the committee proceedings at all stages, I cannot help but believe that the government’s attitude all along was, “We’ll go through the window-dressing of allowing the radiologists to come in, but don’t confuse us with the facts because our minds are already made up and we’re going to shove this sucker down their throats whether they like it or whether they don’t.” That is exactly what happened.
During those proceedings, when the radiologists had four days to attend, 30 and 31 October, 6 and 7 November, during those four days on at least one occasion that I am certain of the executive director of the health insurance division, Dr MacMillan, admitted, when I asked him the question very directly whether this type of quality control for radiology clinics had to be included in Bill 147 or whether it was possible to do it outside of the parameters of Bill 147 along the lines of the eight-point plan suggested by the radiology association, he said, in his opinion, it could be done either way, inside or outside Bill 147.
I agree with him. I think that is a very honest and direct statement. For the life of me, I do not know why we have to proceed this way. Proceeding without a substantial part of the medical profession’s co-operation I think is only inviting trouble in terms of morale in our health care system in the province.
Having got those comments out of the way, I would like to deal in a much more general sense with Bill 147 and explain how I think it started out and where it ended up today. How it started out is this bill right here. This was a bill of 30 pages in length, with 36 sections. If you listen to the officials from the Ministry of Health, and I have no reason to doubt what they say, they spent a great deal of time, months, even years, preparing this piece of legislation.
Supposedly, at least I would like to hope, if they spent that much time preparing such a significant piece of legislation, they would have got some public input and they would have got especially some input on the health field from all kinds of health care professionals and providers before even drafting the first draft of the bill.
Initially, the bill was heralded as a bill that was going to provide an expansion of community-based health facilities throughout the province. I do not think that we have been through this before, I do not think there is any member of this Legislature who is not in favour of that basic principle and concept. That was fine. That is how we started out.
When this bill was introduced and we debated it on second reading, some of us on this side of the House found some rather draconian measures in the bill, things like inspection procedures and measures, things like no right to appeal from certain decisions, things like no written reasons for certain decisions. We found these fairly offensive.
After second reading debate, the ministry officials did go back and redraft the bill and they did solve or alleviate some of the concerns that were raised by members on this side of the House. What we found was a reprinted bill with some 22 amendments by the government between second reading debate and the bill appearing in the standing committee on social development of the Legislature.
Some of these problems, though, have still not been addressed, and I and my colleague the member for Riverdale were forced to introduce amendments at the committee stage and again at the committee of the whole House stage with respect to rights of appeal. There are some decisions, such as decisions made by the Minister of Health, which are not appealable, or if appealable, appealable only to the Lieutenant Governor in Council, not to an independent board and not to the Divisional Court, as pertains to other sections of the bill. We felt very strongly that these appeal rights and procedures should be consistent throughout the piece of legislation.
We also felt that seeing as how the ministry by its own admission only planned on expanding by five or six independent health facilities a year in the province, surely when they asked for proposals and applicants submitted applications, they should be entitled to written reasons why they were denied; if they were not successful applicants, why their applications were not accepted. The reason given by ministry officials was primarily that this would place an undue burden on the Ministry of Health. When we are only talking about perhaps accepting five or six in a year, even assuming of course that there would be many more than one applicant for each proposal, I do not think that is an undue burden on the Ministry of Health.
I also think there is a basic concept of fairness here that we have to deal with. If people are going to make submissions on proposals requested by the government, the very least they have the right to expect are written reasons why their applications have been denied. They should have those automatically, without having to request them, and they should have them before they have to launch an appeal process of any sort whatsoever, so they have a basis to know what their appeal is about.
I also raised concerns, and made amendments which were defeated by the government members, about such appeals being appealable not only on questions of law, but on questions of fact or fact and law combined. Those also were not accepted by the government members at the committee stage.
I have a real problem with the legislation now because the initial reasons given for Bill 147 and the reasons being given recently for different aspects of the bill, in my mind, are totally different. The bill now seems to me to be more interested in cost containment in the health care system than in expansion of community-based health facilities.
It also seems to me that the ministry is now trying to justify the amendment that includes radiologists, subsection 7(7), through quality assurance. Now quality assurance becomes the main theme of the bill. I thought the main theme of the bill was community-based health facilities. If we look through the minister’s remarks on second reading, I think any objective observer will say that the gist of her remarks was that this was an expansion of community-based health facilities. Quality assurance was certainly not the main theme when the bill was introduced. It became the main theme after the subsection 7(7) amendment passed. So I think there is a big divergence of opinion here and change of opinion or change of intent, the original intent of the bill and what the intent is today.
Again, by the ministry’s own admission, originally the number of health facilities to be grandfathered by Bill 147 was somewhere around 20, as my colleague the member for Riverdale has stated. Now, by including radiologists, radiology clinics and all kinds of clinics that were caught, if you want to put it that way, through subsection 7(7), there are at least another 1,800 that are included. I think 1,800 is a long way from 20 and we should think about that.
This piece of legislation was never drafted to do the types of things that, through a lot of amendments and machinations -- the ministry may as well have started all over again. They would have been a lot better off, I think. The ministry amended the bill 22 times before it went to committee. They amended the bill another 16 times in committee, not counting some amendments that the member for Riverdale made, which were accepted, and some amendments I made, which were accepted. Then when the bill came back to committee of the whole House, the government amended another 13 times.
Here is a bill that started out with 36 sections, took two years to prepare, and now it has been amended 22 times, 16 times, 13 times, not counting opposition amendments. I do not think it was very well thought out initially. I do not know what went on for the two years before the first draft came up; obviously not a whole heck of a lot in terms of what is called consultation. They were supposed to do that in the two years they were drafting the bill. I do not know why they would have to amend a bill that had 36 sections to start with over 50 times unless it was a pretty rummy piece of legislation to start with and they did not understand what they were trying to do.
The fact of the matter is, in my opinion, the reason the bill was amended so many times is that the government is now trying to make this piece of legislation do something that it was never intended to do and never the government’s intention to do in the first place. But they found a way of cost-containing radiology clinics so they jumped on that bandwagon: “This is a great idea. We will bring those in, we will control those health care costs and we will explain it away by quality assurance. That will be our new theme.” They can do that and obviously they are going to do it this afternoon. They are going to pass this piece of legislation.
I just caution the minister, as I have before, that I really think in our health care system we need co-operation among all health care professions and health care providers. I think we have to work together in a consultative approach. We have to agree before we move if at all possible. I think the approach that is being taken here, at least with respect to radiologists, is a very confrontational approach. They did not agree.
They agree and they admit that there are some concerns by some clinics, and they came forward with an eight-point plan to resolve some of those. I do not think that the minister should try to shove this legislation down their throats. I think she should work co-operatively with them. I do not know what her definition of co-operation and consultation is, but it is not, “I will listen to see what you have to say and if I do not agree with you, I will pass whatever I want to pass anyway.” That is not a co-operative, consultative approach to government; that is a confrontational approach to government.
Let’s deal with the issue of quality assurance for a moment. I do not think there is any member of this Legislature who is against quality assurance. It may very well be that there needs to be more quality assurance in all aspects of health care in our system today. Nobody disagrees with that, I do not think.
They may disagree as to how that should be achieved, what mechanisms we can use, etc, but I think that if the real concern is now quality assurance, that can be done either by some sort of plan such as the radiologists submitted -- and I know that the minister is going to appoint a committee to look into these concerns, but she is going to appoint it after she passes the legislation that they do not want. I think that is starting on not very solid footing for a co-operative, consultative approach in the future.
If this government wanted to do it by legislation, I think a far more commonsense approach may have been the Health Disciplines Act, may have been a new act altogether. The minister has indicated that she intends to proceed with some new legislation next spring, and we look forward to working that piece of legislation through with her. But I really think that is the way she should have proceeded. I do not think she should have proceeded by trying to include these people in a piece of legislation that was never intended to include them, by the ministry’s own admission in writing, in the first place.
I also think that the minister has left her government open for potential lawsuits with respect to a very discriminatory, or what could be interpreted as a very discriminatory, piece of legislation. She is going to bring some physicians under this piece of legislation, some clinics, but not all. There are going to be two sets of rules here for quality assurance. If you happen to have a radiology clinic, you have a stricter set of rules than if you do not have a radiology clinic. I think the minister is opening up a real can of worms or Pandora’s box with respect to potential problems, and she is alienating the medical community while she is doing so.
I think some amendments that were accepted were necessary and I applaud the ministry for accepting them. One that I made and got some support from ministry officials on and assistance in drafting, to say the least, was with respect to transferability of licences. I think that that is very important if we are going to have a continuity of community-based facilities in the province. There were other amendments made both by the ministry and by my colleague the member for Riverdale that I was happy to support because I thought that they improved the piece of legislation.
I can tell you, Madam Minister, that we in our party would not have any problem supporting this legislation if you had not tried to make it into something it was never intended to be.
The Deputy Speaker: May I remind the member for Parry Sound that the standing orders say you address all your remarks directly through the speaker using the third person singular.
Mr Eves: I shall try to do that, Mr Speaker.
Mr Kerrio: Explain what you mean by being brief.
Mr Eves: Explain what I meant by being brief? What I meant by being brief was that on second reading of this bill my definition of brief was many hours long, so today we are talking here in minutes instead of hours. I am almost near the end of my remarks, as a matter of fact.
I also would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Health officials who are in the gallery today, because indeed they have been most helpful and this has been a long and arduous process, regardless of which side of the piece of legislation you are on or which different aspects of it you are on.
I think these types of disagreements with respect to legislation are what the democratic process in Canada is all about. I do want to make the point here this afternoon that we think there are some very big problems with the legislation in the way it is in its current form and we do not think those problems had to be addressed by legislation. We think it could have been done and perhaps best would have been done by a more consultative, co-operative approach to the legislation.
The Deputy Speaker: Are there any questions and comments on the member’s statement?
Mr Daigeler: I must say I have great difficulty with the consistency of the member from the third party. On the one hand, he says he is all upset if the government listens to the public, listens to the committee and brings in amendments. He is upset that the bill was not perfect from the beginning. Then, if the government does not refer it to committee, he says the government is arrogant and does not want to listen to the public.
I would like to ask the member from the third party, which way is it he wants us to go? Does he want us to go the way the Minister of Health has shown in this case? She has referred it to the committee, has listened to the public, and I would like to indicate has listened even to both opposition parties. Rather than criticize the minister for having been open to the amendment process at committee stage, which is designed for that purpose, I think he should congratulate the minister for her willingness to integrate amendments that were brought to the committee.
Mr Eves: Very briefly, I say to the member that I do not think a bill that is 36 sections long and has to be amended 51 times is a very competent approach to government. Some of those amendments were needed, maybe half a dozen, but 51? That is more than one per section. That is almost one and a half for every section in the bill. Did they get any section right that they did not have to amend?
The problem I have with the legislation, and I will repeat it again, is that we are now trying to make a piece of legislation that originally, in my opinion, was designed for an expansion of community-based health facilities in the province of Ontario so more Ontarians could get health care closer to home -- that was the stated intent. That is what we all agreed upon in principle. What we have here today is a piece of legislation that is more interested in cost containment than it is in community-based health facilities.
It is more interested in justifying that cost containment by a speech on quality assurance that we did not even hear about when the bill was first introduced except perhaps as a passing comment. It certainly was not the main and underlying principle behind the legislation. We all agree that there needs to be quality assurance. We just do not agree it has to be done in this particular fashion by this particular piece of legislation at this particular time.
The Deputy Speaker: Do other members wish to participate in the debate?
Mrs Cunningham: I suppose my comments on Bill 147, as a participant in the hearings of the committee, would be my tremendous disappointment as to what the bill was intended to do, which I supported, and how it really ended up. I think this is the perfect example of a government that is really trying to accomplish too much in a bill that was meant to improve in a very small way, but in a very significant way, the accessibility of surgical procedures to the public, to patients and ill individuals in our community.
Sometimes in life when you take on that kind of task with a very direct intent and try to do so many other things, what you do is fail. I think this bill fails to meet its basic intent, and that was the expansion of community-based services.
I enjoyed very much the presentation on behalf of the administration during the first couple of days of hearings as it tried to explain the intent of the legislation. I became somewhat annoyed and angry as the proceedings found their way to conclusion over the period of time, because I think we were given many opportunities to take another look at a piece of legislation.
Because of the input of the members of the public and professions who appeared over the period of time, I think we had a wonderful opportunity to make some changes, to go back to the drawing board and to make this intent of the expansion of community-based services work for very small services in this intent, the surgical procedures. I think it was a great opportunity we missed.
Because of the way the legislation is written and the powers of the minister, and I am quoting from one of the documents we read, “The private sector will not likely want to get involved in establishing independent health facilities.” This point was made on a number of occasions and is of great disappointment in this free enterprise society we all live in, where we depend on each other and each other’s expertise and commitment.
We should of course be encouraging the expansion of community-based health facilities. We rely very much on the public and on the medical profession to support us in this intent. What we heard is that this bill will not encourage the further development of these facilities for a number of reasons, many of which are technical and have been addressed already by my colleague the member for Parry Sound (Mr Eves), not only in committee but in this House on a number of occasions. I will not address this today, except to say that the very people we are depending on to get involved, the physicians and the health care workers, have told us that in its present form they could not.
I think the public has been somewhat confused by the intent of this legislation, given the response by the people we depend on to make it work. That is, of course, the physicians. The other confusion, and a concern on behalf of the public, is the idea that with this legislation and with the way one would have to compete to be able to get approval from the government to open an independent health facility, we may not be looking at the kind of quality services or quality procedures we have enjoyed in the past.
I am very realistic in knowing that this bill will be passed. I underline my great concern that as independent health facilities are looked at by the government, we will not be looking at bargain basement health care, which was put to us by a concern by the Ontario Medical Association and others, and that we will not be looking at cost cutting on some surgical procedures by those competing to get licences, which could endanger people’s health.
Physicians and medical people across this province, this country and this world have worked hard to come up with the kind of technology we are able to enjoy in Ontario, not to its fullest because of the tremendous cost and because of the lack of availability across our province, but what we do not want to happen with this legislation is to see the kind of cost cutting and bidding that would allow a facility to open that would be of lesser quality than what we are able to operate right now.
Assurance of quality, I suppose, would be something we are all very concerned about. We would hope that even now, without this particular bill, that there would be opportunities to further ensure quality through peer review and quality assessment.
I had the distinct opportunity to listen to the presentations before the committee and to learn from the OMA what it thought about peer review and quality assurance and how it offered recommendations for improvement even without this piece of legislation.
I think that is another disappointment for myself. We have been accused in this province of overgoverning and overlegislating and making ourselves less competitive. I look at this piece of legislation as fitting into that particular category, especially as it relates to the issue of assessments and quality.
I am reading from the OMA brief:
“Ministry of Health officials have suggested that Bill 147 is necessary because it would allow the government to order an assessment of a health facility. However, subsection 3(1a) of the Health Disciplines Act says it is the duty of the minister to ‘inquire into or direct the appropriate council or councils to inquire into the state of the practice of one or more health disciplines in any locality or institution.’”
The OMA said that it believed this did apply to individual practices and I surely hope that is so. They went on to advise us that this same Health Disciplines Act “provides the mechanism for quality assurance programs,” and they refer to subsection 46(2f) where it is stated that “the college can introduce ‘such other objects relating to human health care as the council considers desirable.’”
We were assured in the very early stages of the presentations to our committee that this issue of assessment and quality could be addressed with existing legislation. I would think this ought to be one of the goals of the government of Ontario, not to duplicate unnecessary legislation and unnecessary bureaucracy, which is only costly to the public and, by the way, does not add to the front-line health services the public has come to expect and should expect and that we should be able to provide.
We know we have a tremendous challenge in Ontario to meet the needs of our neighbours, our friends and our family members in the provision of health care and to put it into bureaucracy that is unnecessary is irresponsible.
I further pursued that question with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario as it came before us, I think just a week ago, to further help us out with the issue of peer review and quality assessment. They provided us with a comparison. They told us what happened at this point in time in Ontario and they also advised us how they could improve upon it.
When asked the very direct question, could these criteria be met in the areas of peer review and quality assessment under the present legislation? they very clearly answered yes. I do not really think they wanted to respond in a positive way. For some reason, I had that feeling, but I have to compliment them. This is the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s representatives. They did answer in a positive way when I asked them if we could work within the existing legislation around the issue of quality assurance to the citizens of Ontario when it comes to delivery of health care in general and health care in independent health facilities. There is no need to address it in this piece of legislation.
We take a look at the next part, the planned development of facilities. This government has told us that it has a particular emphasis and priority for expansion of health facilities into the community -- community-based health care, it is referred to. Most of us are aware of the role of the district health councils. I would suggest that without this legislation at all this particular challenge could have been written into their terms of reference, and that is to assist the government with the location of independent health facilities based on need, based on geography and based on the very real necessity of what we can afford and how best we can deliver the service.
If I take a look at the third rationale explained to us in the preamble by the minister as we looked at Bill 147 for the first time, that was the third part, which was the planned development of facilities. I would tell members that we could have done that without this bill.
I think the last part of the rationale, the fourth part that was addressed by the government, again one that I support, was the concern over charges to patients. If we go back to the beginning, looking at new legislation, and address each part to see if we are responding responsibly on behalf of the public, I would have to say that the expansion of community-based services has not been met under this piece of legislation.
In fact, we have been told they cannot expand and will not expand readily, by the OMA, by many other physicians who came before the committee and by private citizens who also shared their concerns over procedures that are available to them now that will be closed down given this piece of legislation.
Ensuring quality was the second point. I have spoken to it. We can do it already. We know that. We have been told the Health Disciplines Act will serve us well.
Planned development of facilities: What are the district health councils out there for now except to help us plan.
Charges to patients: This is the one that I think has detracted from the real essence of the bill because this one is the amendment in section 7 of the legislation. It is one that has caused great concern to the radiology community in Ontario, but should in my opinion cause even greater concern to the government of this province. I will tell members why. If we are ever going to improve things in the delivery of medical care in this province, we have to work with the providers of the service. We have to work with the physicians and the health care providers.
Mr D. S. Cooke: How did you vote the first time?
Mr Pouliot: How did you vote?
Mrs Cunningham: On the question, and I am glad someone asked it, on how I voted, I have to admit that I got caught down at the door with the buzzer -- I am not particularly used to the new House rules -- still chatting away with one of my colleagues. I will say right now that my intent of course was to vote against the amendment to section 7.
Mr D. S. Cooke: We wondered how you voted the first time.
Mrs Cunningham: As to the way I voted the first time, I did vote in favour of it.
I would like to talk a little bit about process here. I think this a good example of, when you get good information you ought to be open-minded and change your position. I think that is what we are elected to do. The information I got that day was not sufficient for me to have voted at all. In fact, that is the real concern right now. People would say that is a flip-flop. It is not a flip-flop. The real concern about this legislation is that this amendment was made after the government said it would not even be looking at that as part of this legislation. Radiology clinics were never meant to be subjected to Bill 147 in the way they have been.
Mr D. S. Cooke: But you did vote for it.
Mrs Cunningham: I did vote for it. I do not know why the member keeps asking me to take up the time of this House to explain why I voted for it. I voted for it because I thought the information I had was good and correct, but it was not. Then we had public hearings and I listened. Unlike other members of this House, I did listen. I have changed my mind and I am very proud of it.
I would like to tell members about one of the things that I listened to. It says here: “It is unfortunate that I have to be sending this letter to you at the last minute, but I believe that the far-reaching consequences of this amendment only recently came to the attention of the medical profession. It is, however, with great dismay that I learned that all three political parties have approved this amendment on its earlier reading.”
I should note and underline that our party voted against it today because we got better information that told us this was a most unfair amendment and that proper communication had not taken place. We should be ashamed of ourselves for writing legislation like this at the last minute in this Legislative Assembly.
The most important paragraph of this letter reads: “Interruption of the current method of remunerating the technical component of diagnostic facilities will cause major disruptions. In my own particular area, nuclear medicine” -- and this is someone who works at a hospital in London; not a radiologist who works in a clinic but a physician who works at a hospital -- ”the diagnostic outpatient procedures that we perform involve a fixed cost for radiopharmaceuticals, technologists’ time and the use of relatively expensive imaging equipment. These will have to be accounted for in revised hospital global budgets. It is easy to come to the conclusion that modification of the bill represents an attempt to force down global costs of the system by making these procedures relatively unavailable.”
If that is the case, I would think the government ought to very carefully make certain that this does not happen.
The next letter around section 7 -- and I am not choosing these for any particular reason except that they are succinct --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Order, please. The Chair has been listening to the debate this afternoon at some length. I simply want to bring to the attention of the House that the practice of this House is that on third reading we do have a debate, but the debate centres on the question of whether or not the bill will be read a third time. We are deviating somewhat from that practice.
I am becoming a little concerned. I am not concerned at all if the House decides to change its standing orders or to make it a practice to have a much broader debate on third reading, but we should do so by thinking through the process. I would not want us to get into a totally different practice simply by neglect. If the member is near the conclusion of her remarks, I do not think we have a problem, but I simply want to point out to her that the practice of the House has been to have a somewhat different type of debate on third reading and we are close to having second-reading debate all over again. I do not think that is our intention.
If the member is near the conclusion of her remarks and we can then proceed, we do not have a problem. I simply draw that to your attention for your consideration.
Mrs Cunningham: Thank you, Mr Speaker, I am nearing the end of my remarks and I am now talking again about the amendment to section 7. I think, in all fairness, I would like to continue on for a couple of minutes.
When Bill 147 was proposed, no one in the medical profession would have guessed that it would ever have included over 1,800 facilities. It started with some 20 independent health facilities. It was supposed to be expanded to five and now, because of this amendment, we are looking at some 1,800 facilities.
We right now do not give our health care system the kind of support it needs in order to carry out the inspections, as they sit right now, in peer review or any other way. We do not supply the support system to our hospitals and to our physicians in private offices now in order to ensure quality review. We have the mechanism, but we do not do it. Who would have guessed, in the fourth part of this, when we took a look at it, the rationale is to cut costs. If we are honest, that is what we are really trying to do here, with no rationale, reasoning or planning around it.
“This amendment will place under bureaucratic control, without compensation, private facilities which we have struggled to build and maintain over literally the lifetimes of many of the partners.” This is from a group of radiologists who have written to me and their voices are being heard by very few elected people, obviously. “This amendment will completely abolish new practice and will politicize the practice of medicine throughout Ontario, limiting any new facilities to the discretion of the government and its bureaucrats.
“This amendment will further restrict patient access by placing offices on global budgets, unable to address increases in case load or changes in examination complexity. We do not self-refer. We run our offices with honesty, integrity and professionalism. Why then have we been singled out in such an unreasonable, unfair and discriminatory fashion?”
I will close by saying that if we do have physicians in any offices or hospitals across this province who are taking advantage of our billing system as it now exists, we should do something about that. We should not have introduced a piece of legislation and made a last-minute amendment, which is unfair, on which the confidence of the government has been challenged by numbers of medical people across this province.
If the real issue is inappropriate billing, inappropriate use and inappropriate use of X-ray facilities, we should be dealing with that issue and this bill does not do it. I am extremely disappointed in where we started, in a bill that I supported in principle, and where we have ended up, which has left literally thousands of physicians across this province demoralized by the kind of accusations that have been made during the hearings by the very presence of that particular amendment and by the responses of the government to their concerns.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I know honourable members will agree that we have no shortage of challenges facing our health care system in Ontario. The real test for the future will be how well we understand those challenges and how thoroughly we answer the questions that they pose.
What are the challenges? I think, in general, there is a consensus that they fall into three broad categories: economic pressures, explosion of technologies, and the ageing of our population. My fellow ministers of health representing all political parties, all stripes if you will, from across this country, had dinner here in Toronto recently at the International Conference on Quality Assurance and Effectiveness in Health Care and we discussed the challenges that we all face. The challenges are the same right across this country and we face them regardless of party affiliation.
One of the things we agreed on when we met and chatted in Toronto last week was that health is not a partisan issue and it certainly has never had a tradition or history of partisanship in this country in recent times. In fact, in 1984 there was unique unanimity in the passage of the Canada Health Act.
One of the most serious challenges we face is to ensure that the services people receive are effective, appropriate and safe. Effectiveness and safety are also known as quality assurance, and quality assurance is at the very top of my personal agenda. The Independent Health Facilities Act is another important step on the road to quality assurance in this province. It is not the first step, it is just the latest step, because this government has been putting into place many policies and programs over the past two years that are designed to improve quality through quality assurance. All of our initiatives are designed to ensure that the health services the people of this province receive are safe and effective and appropriate.
Our goal is to improve the health of all Ontarians and our vision is clear. I would like to review for the honourable members some of the initiatives that have taken place or are already under way, which are a part of our quality assurance agenda and my personal commitment to quality improvement in this province: Mandatory core programs in public health; utilization review committees in hospitals; alternative funding for clinical teaching units; encouraging the establishment of comprehensive health organizations, health service organizations and community health centres; amending regulations under the Public Hospitals Act to involve nurses on hospital committees; establishment of the Lowy drug inquiry; implementation of recommendations of the McLeish report on Ontario’s air ambulance system; guidelines for emergency rooms; appointment of co-ordinators within the ministry in a number of vital areas, and I think everyone is familiar with all six of those vital areas, including, as well, further on top of these specialty care areas, areas such as nursing services; sponsoring a number of projects and programs in conjunction with organizations such as the Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis and the department of health management at the University of Toronto, health research projects focusing on health systems research.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and in concern for the time available today I will not go on at length about all of the initiatives. However, there are many quality assurance initiatives that have been undertaken and it does serve to illustrate how long and how seriously this government and my ministry have been working in this extremely important area. It also illustrates how the Independent Health Facilities Act flows from and becomes the next step in our ongoing efforts to make sure that the health services that are made available to the people of Ontario are as safe and as effective as possible.
This act, it goes without saying, is not the last step in this journey, either. There will be many more steps to be taken and they will be taken in the public interest.
For the last year and a half, as a result of extensive consultation and dialogue, Bill 147 has gone through a substantial transition. I am proud of this process and I am proud of the product. Deciding to take an open approach to consultation, to listen to concerns and to be willing to make changes to improve the legislation in order to make it better and more workable has not been an easy task. The government has been criticized for taking this approach. Last week and again today we heard comments about the number of amendments to the sections of this bill. This does represent a departure from the norm, it did mean taking time, listening and accepting criticism, but in the end it has meant a much better piece of legislation and that makes the process worth while.
This process has been unique in yet another way: advice and input have not only been received and listened to from those working in the field -- the professionals, if you will, the providers -- but also from the opposition parties. The bill that is before us today is a result of amendments made by all three parties. We have had many lively and spirited debates and I appreciate the co-operation and the valuable insight provided by members of the opposition during the process of this piece of legislation.
I would also like to acknowledge the important contribution by many members of this Legislature on both sides of this House. I would like to thank in particular the whip of the committee, through the committee hearings process, the member for Oakville South (Mr Carrothers). I would also like to acknowledge the superb job of the chairmen of the committee, the member for Brantford (Mr Neumann) and the member for Ottawa-Rideau (Mrs O’Neill), in conducting those hearings in a way which allowed the public to have an important and significant say during the process of the legislative debate.
Last week there was some discussion regarding the purpose of this bill -- we heard it again today -- as to whether or not the amendment to section 7, which brings certain diagnostic facilities within the act, has changed the intention of the government and the spirit of the act. I would like to reiterate the three objectives of the act, and say the objectives have not changed and are equally applied to these diagnostic facilities which this new amendment captures.
The original intent and objectives of this act remain, and I will state them again: to provide a funding mechanism for the expansion of much needed community-based health services; to ensure that patients receive effective, quality health care in such facilities; and to plan for the establishment of such facilities in the context of a process that, with the participation of district health councils, takes local needs into account and evaluates the merits of providing specific services in a community-based setting.
I would like, as we address this act, to take just a few minutes to discuss the amendment to section 7 which expands the legislation to cover certain diagnostic facilities. I supported this amendment when moved by the member for Riverdale as I feel it is within the spirit and the original intent of the legislation. The two main reasons which have been given for the amendment related to the second and third objectives of the act, which I just read into the record; namely, ensuring effectiveness and quality of care and providing a mechanism for the planned growth of facilities. The most recent series of public hearings have served to clarify that this is needed in this province.
We heard, for example, from the hospital sector about the concerns over unnecessary and costly duplication of services, duplication which occurs outside the planning process established by the local district health councils. We have heard from members of the medical profession and from medical technologists about the need for the development of standards and procedures for ensuring the quality of care. From the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, they came forward and expertly explained why this legislation takes us one giant step forward towards assuring quality in community facilities.
There were some excellent submissions during the public hearings. I was most impressed by the eight-point plan proposed by the Ontario Association of Radiologists. This plan specifically proposed a mechanism to work towards development of quality-of-care standards and a standardized method of utilization review.
In order to ensure that this dialogue and consultation continue, I have asked Dr Robert MacMillan, executive director for the health insurance division, to chair an implementation advisory committee. The first meeting of this committee will occur shortly. I will be asking for early proclamation of this act, because I believe it is so significant and important to the people of this province. I believe it is in the public interest. There is considerable work to be done in preparing for the implementation, and the advisory committee will be key to much of this work.
The suggestion has been made that this legislation is discriminatory, that it places an extra requirement on some members of the medical profession which it does not place on others, that if we were truly concerned about quality of care in all practices, why would we not proceed with a broader scope at this time. That point was again made by the critic for the third party today. I do not feel this legislation is discriminatory. It is a first step towards enhancing and ensuring quality of care.
The facilities affected by the legislation will cover the majority of those that perform highly technical, sophisticated and expensive services. As the College of Physicians and Surgeons indicated, this permits an incremental approach to ensuring enhanced quality assurance in facilities and is a step in the right direction. That is why I support this position.
I have been asked to put on the record, as I have done before, that the existing facilities, providing a quality-assured, needed service, will be fairly and equitably compensated. I am pleased to reiterate that today. I have given the same assurance in writing to many who have written to me on this subject. I have also told the hospitals that they will continue to be fairly reimbursed for their outpatient diagnostic work.
I would like to again express strong feelings that this consultation and dialogue have been a most useful process and that the act we will be voting on today is an excellent example of how such dialogue can benefit the legislative process.
I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of my ministry officials in making this bill a reality. There were many who were involved in the process of the drafting and the shepherding of this legislation. In the members’ gallery today are Dr Bob MacMillan, Gilbert Sharpe, Marsha Barnes, Rebecca Gotlieb, Bev Lyman, Marcia Macks and Marilyn Wilson. I would ask that they stand and be recognized and thanked appropriately. Their task really was outstanding. I want members to know how proud I am of the work they have done.
I would also like to introduce guests in the members’ gallery. Gilbert Sharpe has invited his cousins, who should be nice to Gilbert. Noah Shopsowitz is here. And I am pleased also that my daughter is able to be in the members’ gallery today.
The Acting Speaker: Order. I would just like to point out there is one person in that gallery you missed and one person in the other gallery you missed.
To be serious for a moment, we seem to be having a little trouble about debate on third reading and we seem to be setting some rather unusual precedents as to how we might proceed. I take it, since there are not a lot of objections being raised on all sides, that the House has concurred with all of this. That is fine, but I want the House to be aware that it is a bit unusual, in a debate on third reading, to be doing introductions of who is in the gallery on the day. I do not sense that the House is offended by that, but if I am able to engage personally in third reading again, I now have an interesting precedent that is set. If you bring them in by the busloads, we would probably have to allow you to introduce them all. I hope the minister is not going to introduce everybody who is here.
Hon Mrs Caplan: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I can assure you, when you check Hansard, you will see that my remarks are shorter than my critics in the opposition. I have tried to read and address my comments as briefly as I can.
I also would like to acknowledge the staff in my office, both Joyce Rowlands and Pankaj Varma. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to do that. Many people do work so hard to help. If it is all right, I would also like to acknowledge the role that the member for Kingston and The Islands (Mr Keyes) played in the committee hearings --
The Acting Speaker: I am going to have to stop the acknowledgements now because I have personal knowledge that the member for Riverdale has eight bus loads of delegates from the Ontario Federation of Labour conference arriving, and I am not going to let him introduce them either. Proceed.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I hope I have made it clear to all members of the House that effective quality health care is at the top of my personal agenda. It is the most significant concern facing us today and the most significant challenge. I want to restate my commitment to co-operation with all of our partners in health. I am determined that in Ontario the Ministry of Health will deserve its name. Together in partnership we can find the answers that we seek. I believe that is the very least that a caring society can do.
When people ask me at the end of the day what I think about being Minister of Health and what I want to accomplish, I usually tell them, “I think about my four children.” They range in age from 17 to 25, and they remind me that the awesome responsibilities that I have are not only for today but must be aimed at helping to set the course to improve tomorrow for them, for your children and for our grandchildren. The legacy that we received and the heritage of Canadian medicare, which even with its flaws is the envy of the world, must be protected and enhanced, and to do that we must strive to create the kind of relationships that will see us move confidently into the next decade and beyond. I believe the Independent Health Facilities Act will help us to meet that challenge.
The Acting Speaker: Mrs Caplan has moved third reading of Bill 147.
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to take the vote on Bill 147 at the conclusion of the third reading debate on Bill 20.
ONTARIO MUNICIPAL IMPROVEMENT CORPORATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Ward, on behalf of Mr R. F. Nixon, moved third reading of Bill 18, An Act to amend the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corporation Act.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): The government House leader has moved third reading of Bill 18. Is there any debate on the matter? Are we ready for the question?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported.
DEVELOPMENT CHARGES ACT, 1989
Mr Ballinger moved, on behalf of Mr Sweeney, third reading of Bill 20, An Act to provide for the Payment of Development Charges.
Mr Ballinger: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I would like to acknowledge the following people.
Mr Ballinger: I just want to say to the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke), do not take my thunder away. I have been waiting all day for this.
Today I am moving third reading of legislation designed to bring order and reason to the long-standing practice of charging developers for growth-related capital costs. I would like to take a moment to highlight some of the changes that have been made to this bill since it received second reading.
In all, the government proposed just over 50 amendments affecting more than 30 sections of the bill. That may seem like many but I would point out that the vast majority of these changes were the result of much input received during the extensive public consultation undertaken this summer --
Mr D. S. Cooke: It was badly drafted.
Mr Ballinger: It was not badly drafted at all. This is a government that listens.
Municipalities, developers and members of the public told us what they thought and the government did listen, even if the opposition does not believe that. Most of the changes are minor and simply clarify parts of the legislation, however, some represent fairly significant policy changes.
Perhaps the most important change is in the definition of capital costs. The list of eligible capital expenditures is being expanded to include rolling stock, such as additional fire trucks required as a result of growth, furniture, equipment and library materials.
Another change will permit a municipality to cover capital costs related to services not directly owned by the municipality or located within the municipal boundaries. This would cover, for example, cases where a municipality shares the cost of facilities located in another municipality such as a landfill site or a water treatment plant. These changes were made at the request of municipalities.
Still another change clarifies that levies can be charged to cover capital costs of local boards, such as library boards, police commissions or hydroelectric utilities.
We also have changed the rules on what is known as front-end financing. This occurs when the first developer in a particular area pays for all necessary servicing on the understanding that those who later develop other properties in the same area will pay their fair share to the municipality, which will refund part of the first developer’s front-end payment. Originally, the legislation only permitted front-end agreements covering sewer, water and roads. Both municipalities and developers have asked that rules be broadened so front-end agreements can cover whatever services the two parties wish. The ministry sees no reason not to grant this request.
We also have, at the request of the municipalities, given all municipalities two years to develop and pass a development charge bylaw. The original legislation required municipalities that have a maximum residential levy in excess of $3,000 to pass a bylaw within one year.
We would also draw members’ attention to a change that is important, given my minister’s other responsibility as Minister of Housing. During the public hearings on this legislation, many people suggested exemptions for afford-able housing. We feel a provincially imposed exemption from payment of levies for modestly priced housing would not be appropriate for a couple of reasons.
First, although levies are charged at the beginning of the development process, the final selling price of the houses is usually not known until much later in the process. Secondly, many areas of the province contain a large percentage of affordable housing with modest lot levies. In those cases, an exemption would be unnecessary.
As well, municipalities may feel it appropriate to exempt certain public facilities, such as churches and child care centres, from paying full lot levies. This legislation therefore allows municipalities the option of granting total or partial exemption for affordable housing and institutions. We hope municipalities will assess their community needs and consider using this exemption.
As mentioned earlier, lot levies are nothing new in high-growth areas of Ontario. This legislation. for the first time, makes municipalities accountable for the levies they charge. It will ensure that all municipalities play by fair, clearly set and easily understood rules.
Mr Morin-Strom: I appreciate the opportunity to speak on Bill 20, An Act to provide for the Payment of Development Charges. This bill, which gives the legislative authority for the imposition of lot levies, is another example of a tremendous tax grab that this province is imposing upon workers, consumers and, in this case particularly, home buyers in the province of Ontario.
Mr Fleet: It’s the municipal level.
Mr Morin-Strom: I know, and it is another example of a government passing the buck to municipalities and avoiding its responsibility to fund the costs of services and, in particular, educational facilities in municipalities across the province of Ontario.
Mr Fleet: Can’t have it both ways.
Mr D. S. Cooke: That is exactly what is happening, passing the cost on.
Mr Pouliot: You ought to be ashamed.
Mr Morin-Strom: Tied to this bill, introduced in the last budget, was a severe cutback in funding for capital and, in particular, for new school construction in the province of Ontario. What had been a historical commitment across this province of 75 per cent funding --
Mr D. R. Cooke: That’s not so. There was no cutback in funding in the last --
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. I just want to point out to you it is my job to see that everybody gets a chance to speak, but I cannot do that if you want to do it all at the same time. We will have to adjourn and become a choral society. So let’s do this by the book, one at a time. If you do not like what a member is saying, at the end of what he has to say, you will have an opportunity to make comments or ask questions. Write it all down and take the exercise just the way it is written out, to make your comments and questions at that time. But he does have the right to make his speech uninterrupted by others, particularly when they are not even sitting in their own seats. Proceed.
Mr Morin-Strom: There has been a historical commitment to school boards across this province to provide 75 per cent of the cost of new school construction for school boards in the province of Ontario. Tied to this bill is a cutback in that commitment from 75 per cent to 60 per cent. That tax burden is being put on local property taxpayers. In some communities which have the opportunity and have growth taking place, they will have the right to apply lot levies to new housing construction. For communities that do not have such growth, they will pay a penalty in terms of the provincial support for new school construction and will have to make up the difference. In either case, the cost goes on the property taxpayer, either through his property taxes directly or through lot levies which will be paid by new home buyers.
One can see some sense in terms of municipal lot levies in wanting to bring uniformity to a system which was extremely unwieldy, with different municipalities applying different formulas and on different bases from community to community, particularly in southern Ontario. At the present time, lot levies in some communities are over $10,000 for hard services and infrastructure tied to municipal services. This bill will now add an additional lot levy for school boards for school construction of anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000. This lot levy proposal makes a mockery of the Liberal government’s supposed commitment to keep housing affordable in the province of Ontario.
This proposal specifically targets purchasers of new homes as the people who must pay for new schools. Purchasers of secondhand homes will not have to pay this price. For example, a lot levy is not required for a family that had their home built in 1988 or 1989, but for a family whose home is built next year, a lot levy of an additional $5,000 to $10,000 for school construction will be required in many communities across the province of Ontario.
As well, one of the disincentives that this will place will be with respect to the willingness of many communities to go ahead with affordable housing projects. The government has made minor changes which will permit exemptions to be provided for affordable housing. Unfortunately, there is no compulsion in the legislation to do so.
There is no incentive for municipalities to do so, and we certainly heard from a number of those municipalities in the greater Toronto area that had no interest in that kind of approach and that are not interested in the development of affordable housing. How can one expect them to come up with the difference in cost if they are not able to apply a lot levy for certain types of housing?
The government has not provided assurances that we, as a province and as a government, will provide the cost of those lot levies to absorb that additional cost, particularly on affordable homes. A lot levy of $15,000 to $20,000 total, in terms of municipal and education levies, will make a significant difference as to whether housing stock will be created at an affordable level in many communities of this province or not.
This bill was a seriously flawed bill from the day it was introduced. We had extensive hearings over the summer. We had a summary of recommendations on various aspects of this bill, nearly 80 pages of changes that were recommended by organizations and school boards across the province of Ontario.
The government had a bill that had many flaws and, as a result, had to come in with a series of amendments. Unfortunately, only a very few of the amendments were substantive in nature and addressed the real issues that we heard in committee on this bill. The vast majority of the more than 100 pages of amendments we have received on this bill were technical in nature because of poor government drafting of a bill that was not thought out properly in advance and was flawed in many respects.
It is unbelievable that a bill that originally took 30 pages to draft, with 49 sections, ended up with an initial proposal of 54 pages of government amendments in early October. The following week we got another 16 pages of government amendments, and in the end, we had a complete overhaul again, with more than 100 pages of government amendments that have been received on a bill that took 30 pages to write originally.
The government should have withdrawn the bill, gone into a real serious consultation on this bill and listened to the people who we heard from over this summer and redrafted a bill that made sense and would do for the housing that we desperately need in many areas of this province what we want in terms of providing affordable housing, not a penalty that is going to hurt an industry that is vital to this area and certainly one that is going to hurt many families that are having such a hard time in finding housing that is reasonable and affordable for themselves.
We are strongly opposed to this bill and regret that the government did not withdraw it.
Mr Cousens: I would like to add some remarks in this, the final chance before the government goes ahead and does what it wants to do. Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that it has been a very difficult process for all of us looking on, wanting to change this flawed legislation from the very beginning. The fact that the parliamentary assistant points to some 50 amendments in some 30 different sections tells me and tells the world, an admission on the part of this government, that when it brought in this bill, Bill 20, on May 17, it was not right in the first place. The fact of the matter is, it is still not right. It is still flawed. That is the beginning point, and it is going to be the ending point, because we are going to have to come back to this bill over time in the future to get the government to reconsider different aspects of it.
The one good bit of news I would like to table has to do with the meeting that was held in York region with the chairman of the region, Gord Landon, who is the regional councillor for Markham, and the three other MPPs who serve York region along with myself. They happen to include the parliamentary assistant for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the member for Durham-York (Mr Ballinger); the member for York North (Mr Beer), and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the member for York Centre (Mr Sorbara). When it comes to serving the needs of York region, what I am very pleased to say is that we are able to sit down in the same room at the same time and work things out. I would like to go on record and compliment the honourable parliamentary assistant for having gone to task and trying to --
Mr Pope: Not even Mahoney agrees with that.
Mr Cousens: -- once in a long time, for having gone back to the government and convincing the minister to make some of the amendments that were made, ,because it was essential that they were made. It was the basis of the presentation that had been made by York region when its delegation came to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. We were concerned that the taxes in York region could have gone up by 40 per cent had those changes not been made. It was almost like the court of last resort when we had that meeting. The fact that these changes were finally made is some satisfaction. It is still headline news, though, in my community, “Bill 20 to undergo Changes” -- and our community is at least celebrating some of the changes that have been made.
I would like to give a great deal of credit to the kind of thinking that was enunciated by our community in York region. It was coming back to this government, frustrated to the extent that this government is introducing all kinds of changes, not backing them up with research and fact, not doing its homework beforehand so that therefore the minister would come out and table things at the last moment.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But these guys do not know how to fix anything when it is broken. What we were talking about was a system that did not need to have 50 amendments. Suddenly, when they try to propose changes, they do not know how to do it. May I say that the people of Ontario are going to do something about these Liberals next time they have a chance. As it stands here, all I can do is sit and talk against it, vote against it and make sure the people of Ontario understand what is happening with this government.
When it was tabled in the Legislature, we had a chance to bring this before committee, and among the presentations that were made was indeed the one from the town of Markham. It points out a number of issues on how the taxes have increased within our region over the past year from previous years by over 17.7 per cent within the local town levels, that it has increased by over 20 per cent at the school board levels and with all the things that the province is doing passing things down to local municipalities, it is becoming more and more difficult for the municipalities to fulfil their responsibilities.
Mr Faubert: That has nothing to do with it.
Mr Cousens: I will just say that it has to do with Bill 20. The member is very eloquent from his seat. I wish he would stand up and speak like a man rather than sit back there and carp.
I am concerned with a number of the factors that go into this bill, especially what it is going to with the educational taxes and how those taxes are going to be redirected.
I would like to refer to the key points that were made by the Toronto Board of Education. They made a number of points that I agree with 100 per cent on the problems of educational lot levy. I would like to just put them in the record at this point, because they have not changed from the original discussions we had.
The first point is that lot levies for school boards should not be substituted for provincial funding for capital programs. This government in Ontario is reducing the capital it is allocating for school boards from 75 per cent towards that capital to 60 per cent. If you start looking at what it is going to cost for a lot right now, you are talking about $750,000 an acre in the town of Markham and you are seeing the local school board paying $4.5 million for a lot that would be six acres. Before, when we had arrangements with the developers, we were able to get those lots for $75,000 or less an acre.
I realize there are changes. I realize there are factors that would cause it to change. The fact is that while the province brings in this new bill, it is going to be at the same time reducing its commitment to the cost of capital for new schools, especially in the buying of property.
Mr D. R. Cooke: That’s not correct. It is not saying that. It’s not true.
Mr Cousens: If the member does not think I am correct, he should stand up and speak when he has a chance to say it.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Cousens: I repeat the point because the honourable members do not seem to have good ears. Lot levies for school boards should not be substituted for provincial funding for capital programs.
The second point is that the burden of lot levies will be borne by new home buyers and all forms of affordable housing, which may have a negative effect on the provision of nonprofit housing. It is difficult enough for a person to buy a new home without the high cost levies that are going to be on the property from now on for people who want to buy a home. For that reason, I also say this bill is wrong.
The next point that is made by the Toronto Board of Education -- people from around Ontario sometimes think nothing good comes out of Toronto, but this report here is dead on and this government does not know how to listen to it. I wonder what is going to happen to all those Metro MPPs who in fact are going against the will of their own people.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The member for Kitchener is out of order.
Mr Cousens: The third point they make is that lot levies do not relate to the ability to pay. The government is just going after the people who are buying a new home but not affecting the whole of the community, people who buy older homes or people who have other situations.
The fourth point is that education as a basic government service should not be funded by a user-pay tax.
These are just a few of the points that were raised by the Toronto Board of Education. There are many more and the fact of the matter is that this government is wrongminded to come along now and try to introduce this tax to try to cover its problems. It should be putting money where it counts. Education is the number one priority, but to do it by this means, at the same time as it reduces its commitment to it, is having a negative impact on the future of education in our province.
I disagree with it. I will vote against it. I hope that some day someone gets into power who changes it so that it is done correctly.
The Deputy Speaker: Any questions and comments on the member’s statement? If not, do other members wish to participate in the debate? If not, does the minister wish to respond?
Mr Ballinger: First of all,. I want to thank you for the promotion, Mr Speaker. It is the best promotion I have had all day. In fact, this is the only one I have had today.
I want to wrap up on behalf of the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr Sweeney). So little time and so many arguments. In responding to both the member for Sault Ste Marie (Mr Morin-Strom) and the member for Markham (Mr Cousens), I am somewhat perplexed at the comments that relate to the bill as being a poorly drafted piece of legislation.
In the two years I have been here, if there is any one thing I have learned that is sort of really ironic, it is that the government cannot win. If we propose a piece of legislation unamended, then we get accused of not listening to all the deputations and to the honourable members of the opposition. When we do that and hold public hearings and we even have 52 amendments, many of them minor, but some quite substantive ones, based on submissions to the committee, then both members who are speaking today on behalf of their respective parties say, “It’s a poorly drafted piece of legislation because the government doesn’t listen.” What a joke that is. The government did listen and it did respond.
There are two major amendments in this piece of legislation that are going to be well received out there by the community. One is the expansion of capital costs for the municipalities that the honourable member for Markham spoke about. He was getting severely beat up in his own riding, trying to influence the government to account for that amendment. We did that as a government. It is a good amendment and it is well received by most of the municipalities in Ontario.
The second one, and I want to respond to the member for Sault Ste Marie on this, is the question about affordable housing. This is a municipally permissive bill. This is not a directive; it is municipally permissive. What this bill allows is for municipalities within their own realm, when they are making decisions about housing, to take into consideration those costs of the levies, so that they can be reflected in any subdivision or site plan agreement they may have. So in fact if they want to lower them and meet the provincial requirements of 25 per cent, they can attach that percentage to the levy, or else they can completely do away with the levy if they deem that it is in the public interest of the community they represent.
Those are the positive points of this bill. I do not think we should sit here and be critical of those two. Those two are very important and will be well received out there by the municipalities, communities and nonprofit groups that are working very hard within their communities to provide affordable housing. It is very easy for the people in opposition to be critical, and I accept that. But our job as the government is to propose legislation that will reflect what is really happening in Ontario.
In those growth-related areas, and let me tell the House, I represent one. I just happen to represent the riding of Durham-York. Both parts of my riding are under tremendous growth. Had we had an education levy in my riding five, six, seven or eight years ago, I would not have as many portables in my community, not because the government has cut back but because our $1.2 billion for capital construction of schools is there, our three-year commitment that the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) brought out. It is just that we are trailing behind in the infrastructure.
That particular levy, five or 10 years from now in those growth-related areas, will be perceived as wisdom: very, very good wisdom. On behalf of my minister, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I am pleased to have this opportunity to move third and final reading of Bill 20, which will be received out there by most communities as a decent piece of legislation.
The House divided on Mr Sweeney’s motion for third reading of Bill 20, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Adams, Ballinger, Brown, Campbell, Caplan, Carrothers, Conway, Cooke, D. R., Cordiano, Curling, Daigeler, Dietsch, Eakins, Elston, Epp, Faubert, Fawcett, Fleet, Fontaine, Furlong, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Hart, Hošek, Kerrio, Kozyra. LeBourdais, Lipsett, Lupusella, Mahoney, Mancini, Matrundola, McGuigan, McLeod, Miclash, Miller, Morin, Neumann, Nixon, J. B;
Oddie Munro, Offer, O’Neil, H., O’Neill, Y., Owen, Patten, Phillips, G., Roberts, Smith, E. J., Sola, Sullivan, Tatham, Ward, Wilson, Wong.
Allen, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Cousens, Cunningham, Eves, Grier, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Laughren, Mackenzie, Martel, McCague, McLean, Morin-Strom, Philip, E., Pollock, Pope, Pouliot, Sterling, Wildman.
Ayes 54; nays 21.
INDEPENDENT HEALTH FACILITIES ACT, 1989
The House divided on Mrs Caplan’s motion for third reading of Bill 147, which was agreed to on the same vote.
The House adjourned at 1758.