The House met at 1330.
ANNUAL REPORT, OFFICE OF THE PROVINCIAL AUDITOR
The Speaker: Just before I call the first order of business, I beg to inform the House I am today laying upon the table the annual report of the Provincial Auditor of Ontario for the year ended 31 March 1989.
Mr McCague: Where is it? You said you laid it on the table; I can’t see it.
The Speaker: It is in the mail; it is in the mailbox.
Mr Kormos: It is outrageous that yesterday in a press release the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston), the Legislature’s very own Tom Pepper, would suggest that no alternative solutions have been offered to the government with respect to the automobile insurance crisis here in the province of Ontario. That is bizarre because long before I was here, during the 13-year tenure of Mel Swart, and since, this government has been reminded on an almost daily basis that the alternative is one of a public, nonprofit, driver-owned automobile insurance system like those in the three western provinces which consistently continue to provide automobile insurance coverage at significantly lower rates than that provided in Ontario.
The New Democratic Party, in its policy paper Highway Robbery, offered by the member for York South (Mr B. Rae), the leader, and by Mel Swart back in 1987, had this to say:
“Nor do we consider it necessary or appropriate to impose any kind of threshold requirement. Any threshold limit such as that used in Michigan leads to disputes about the threshold level. In fact, as much time is spent on litigation about Michigan’s threshold level as about settlements themselves.
New Democrats are opposed to the loss of individual legal rights entailed by such thresholds, just as we are opposed to their wholesale elimination by so-called ‘pure’ no-fault arrangements.” We very much believe that a public, driver-owned, nonprofit system can provide auto insurance fairly and affordably while retaining the right to full compensation.
Mr McLean: My statement is directed to the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) and it concerns his government’s taxation and spending policies, which have resulted in a decrease in Metropolitan Toronto’s $2.7-billion-a-year tourism industry. He is sending mixed signals to the taxpayers of Ontario. Earlier this year he hit the people of Ontario with the second tax grab, of $l.3 billion, in as many years. We were hit with higher gasoline taxes, a commercial concentration tax, a new tire tax, a payroll tax and increased land transfer taxes, to name but a few.
How does the Treasurer attempt to justify his tax grabs? He claims his government needs this revenue to pay for new and existing programs for the people of Ontario. But he is wrong. It appears the money is really needed for some pretty creative empire building.
Since September 1985, the government has increased its leased office space by nearly one million square feet. The leased office space costs taxpayers about $60 million. The same government has hired more than 7,000 new civil servants. The Treasurer continues to say the increases and new taxes are needed to assist the people, but I say the money is needed to lease expensive office space, hire an exorbitant number of civil servants and build an empire, all at the taxpayers’ expense.
The Provincial Auditor appears to agree with my assessment of the government’s mismanagement of the tax dollars of Ontario.
Mr MacDonald: I am pleased to stand in the House today to acknowledge the efforts of Clarence Milligan. Forty years ago, Clarence started farming and today, at a healthy age of 86. he continues to farm in eastern Ontario.
Attendance at the annual conference of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is what brings Clarence to Toronto this week. In 1986, the federation recognized Clarence’s dedication to agriculture when it inducted him into its hall of fame. More recently, the federation presented Clarence with a plaque to recognize his 40-year contribution to agriculture.
This resident of the town of Napanee has demonstrated loyalty and commitment. His dedication to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has set an example for all farmers across Ontario.
In addition to his accomplishments in agriculture, Clarence holds the honour of having been, during the Diefenbaker cabinet years. a member of the House of Commons. The former member joins us today in the gallery and at this moment I would like to take time to welcome Clarence Milligan.
LENGTHS OF TRUCKS AND TRAILERS
Mr Morin-Strom: We do not need and we do not want monster trucks on our streets and highways. Our highways are dangerous enough today without the government allowing another two-metre increase in the length of trucks in Ontario.
Just a month ago, the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye) said he would not allow the extra-long trucks because of safety concerns, but I guess safety considerations do not matter when the Liberals want to make political points at an annual convention of the Ontario Trucking Association. The minister has no excuse for this flip-flop that is a direct threat to the driving public in Ontario.
When we have transport trailers that cannot manoeuvre on approved city-street trucking routes, when we have highways that are being wrecked by the massive trucks already on them and when we have a two-lane Trans-Canada Highway as our major national trucking route, how can this government propose that the rolling monsters be even bigger? Surely our lives and our enjoyment of life are more important than just how much additional stuff can be jammed on to a tractor-trailer. I would ask the Liberals to just consider the general public before they act.
The Canadian Automobile Association argues that longer trucks endanger the lives of ordinary drivers, the Ontario Provincial Police say they will make a bad situation worse and People to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, the organization dedicated to making driving safer, says it is just plain crazy. Is the minister crazy or is he going to come to his senses and do something about making our highways safer?
CONSTABLE KIMBERLEY SERRICK
Mr Runciman: I rise to extend condolences to the family of Kimberley Serrick, an Ontario Provincial Police officer who was struck by a car and killed on Sunday in Petrolia while out jogging. The driver of the vehicle has been charged with impaired driving causing death, along with other related offences. It seems most ironic that she would die in this way, knowing that as an officer of the law she was charged with the responsibility of apprehending such motorists.
This is an extremely difficult time for the family of Constable Serrick. It was only last February that her younger sister was killed in a car accident in Orangeville. The loss of yet another daughter must be very painful for the Serrick family, and I know I speak for all members in saying that our hearts go out to them.
Members will know that Constable Serrick worked here at Queen’s Park for the Ontario Government Protective Service for two years before leaving in September 1988 to join the OPP. She also served in the militia with the Canadian army cadets, where she attained the rank of second lieutenant, a commission she was extremely proud of.
Sergeant Gord Perry of the Petrolia OPP has informed me that all officers in his detachment will be travelling to Orangeville this Thursday to attend the funeral of their late comrade. Sergeant Perry described Constable Serrick as being very proud of her top physical condition. She had taken additional training to assist with investigations dealing with family violence and especially those involving child abuse.
Many members of the community of Petrolia took up a collection for Constable Serrick’s family. It was their way of showing their love and respect for her.
Again I want to express condolences to the Serrick family on behalf of all members of the Legislature.
Mr Dietsch: I would like to take this opportunity to inform this House of an extremely worthwhile and innovative development.
Yesterday I attended the ground-breaking ceremony of the Autoworkers Village, the project of Canadian Auto Workers Local 199. Autoworkers Village is on its way to becoming a reality after the suggestion was made two years ago to use the 15 acres of property behind the union hall to provide low-cost housing for retired workers.
In addition, after a survey of the city they found that a large number of retirees and surviving spouses were finding it difficult to look after their family homes and many were reluctant to move into apartments.
A further benefit of this project will be that the assets retirees have accumulated in their family home can now be utilized in the enjoyment of their retired life by more recreation and possibly more travel.
This project, as the members can see, has required strong leadership, dedication and a lot of bard work. I would like to commend James Council. Al Bratton and John Clout, the entire retiree housing board and the retirees themselves for their great strides in providing services beyond the workplace and beyond 65.
I am thrilled to see the teamwork and community concern of Local 199, which I feel is a good example for all of us.
Mr Laughren: I would like to quote some comments of a speech by Tom Delaney of the Consumers’ Association of Canada (Ontario) in a speech he made yesterday afternoon. He questioned whether or not no-fault was fairer than tort law, and he said:
“As a means of compensating people injured in automobile accidents, the existing tort system is fundamentally flawed. It does not recognize that many accidents are the result of simple, everyday human mistakes and, by failing to recognize this, it grossly under-compensates many injured people. The tort system can also fail to compensate injured people who for whatever reason, are unable to demonstrate that someone else was at fault. The compensation provided to injured people is not based upon the degree of fault of the negligent driver, nor is it always based upon the injured person’s needs. Instead, it depends upon the amount of coverage carried by the at-fault driver, the insurance company’s willingness to negotiate, the skill of the lawyer retained by the injured party to negotiate or to litigate and many other factors. It is simply not a fair system.”
Delaney went on to say:
“How much more evidence will it take for the Ontario government to do the right thing by consumers (and by the insurance industry) by not passing Bill 68; but by introducing instead, a bill to create a government-run pure no-fault system for auto insurance in the province of Ontario. There is still no light at the end of the tunnel for consumers on auto insurance. Perhaps it will take an election result to make politicians come to their senses.”
Mr Pollock: The Minister of Natural Resources (Mrs McLeod) has increased the four-day fishing licence to $6.50, an increase of 30 per cent, and a seasonal licence to $11.50, an increase of 15 per cent. This is a surprise and unfair. because the Ministry of Natural Resources has not increased its budget for the last three years. They have flat-lined their budget, meaning that they did not keep pace with inflation.
Some anglers were willing to pay for a licence to fish if the revenue went into restocking programs. However, when the minister flat-lined her own budget, they felt that they had been led down the garden path.
At the same time the minister increased the licence, she reduced the quota for sport fish. There is no mention in the newspaper article that she is cutting back on gill netting in the areas of the Great Lakes. The minister is penalizing the sports fisherman and not putting any restriction on the commercial fisherman. Restrictions and increased cost to the sports fisherman are certainly affecting our tourist industry.
COUNTY OF MIDDLESEX
Mr Reycraft: I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge two important projects of historical significance that have just been completed in my riding.
On Saturday I attended the official opening of the Middlesex county jail restoration project along with my colleague the Minister of Culture and Communications (Ms Hart). This achievement is the result of the tireless efforts of many people to restore Middlesex county’s historical administrative centre.
These dedication ceremonies were also marked by the release of a book outlining the history of Middlesex for the last 200 years, including a history of county government. Entitled Middle-sex -- Two Centuries, it was commissioned by county council and may be the only project of its kind in the province.
The book was the brainchild of editor Edward Phelps, librarian for the regional collection at the University of Western Ontario library. Contributions were also made by John Leverton, Pat Morden, Mike Pizzuti. Joe Sheik and David Hallam.
I would like to congratulate all of these people, as well as Middlesex county warden Charles Corbett and his 28 council colleagues, for two jobs well done. Both of these projects will add tremendously to the historical culture of Middlesex county.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
ANNUAL REPORT, ONTARIO ADVISORY COUNCIL ON SENIOR CITIZENS / RAPPORT ANNUEL DU CONSEIL CONSULTATIF DE L’ONTARIO SUR L’ÂGE D’OR
Hon Mr Morin: It is my honour to table with the House today the 15th annual report of the Ontario Advisory Council on Senior Citizens.
This year, council distinguished itself by undertaking province-wide consultations to help determine attitudes towards ageing in multicultural Ontario. This resulted in the production of a major report, titled Aging Together -- An Exploration of Attitudes towards Aging in Multicultural Ontario, which was released earlier this year.
The report addresses such issues as access to
services, housing and long-term care, health care, finances and relationships, and contains a number of recommendations that are now being reviewed by my office.
Au cours de la dernière année, le conseil s’est aussi penché sur les questions relatives aux logements, aux droits des grands-parents et sur la substitution des pouvoirs décisionnels des personnes atteintes d’incapacité mentale. Il a également continué a donner suite aux recommandations présentées dans son important rapport intitulé: La vie, c’est la liberté de mouvement; rédigé en 1987 en collaboration avec le Conseil consultatif de l’Ontario sur les personnes handicapées.
The council also continues to distribute its quarterly newsletter, titled Especially for Seniors, which is now sent to almost one million readers. Winners of an essay competition which asked readers to outline what it means to be a senior were published in Are you Listening? This publication was released by the office during this year’s Senior Citizens’ Month.
The council continues to provide invaluable advice and guidance to the Office for Senior Citizens’ Affairs. I am particularly grateful for the strong support they have given to me.
Chaque membre du conseil possède une connaissance approfondie des personnes âgées de l’Ontario et des questions touchant cet important groupe de la population. Au cours des années, leur dévouement a produit des résultats remarquables.
The work done by council’s outgoing chair-person. Ivy St Lawrence, is deeply appreciated. I wish to thank Mrs St Lawrence for the fine leadership she provided to council during the past four years.
Council’s new chairman is JoAnne Fillimore.
Mrs Fillimore is present in the gallery today, and I am delighted to acknowledge her presence.
ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME
Hon Mrs Caplan: On 1 December each year, we are asked by the World Health Organization to observe World AIDS Day.
As Friday of this week approaches, it is appropriate for us to reflect on how the AIDS epidemic is affecting us all. As members may know, the World Health Organization’s chosen theme for AIDS Day this year is youth, and surely our young people are uppermost in our minds whenever we think about AIDS.
This government and my ministry have taken a leadership role in bringing Ontarians much needed information about AIDS and in responding effectively to the AIDS challenge. Through our schools we are talking openly to our children. Through the media we say to people, “Let’s talk” about all aspects of AIDS by using our provincial AIDS hotline.
I am proud, as Minister of Health, of Ontario’s response to AIDS and I want to stress the need, as World AIDS Day approaches, for continued efforts on all fronts against this disease.
To this end, I am pleased to announce today additional funding on two of those fronts: AIDS outpatient clinics and scientific research. I am allocating a total of $688,750 in new funding for four clinics. The clinic at Sunnybrook Medical Centre in Toronto will receive $290,600. The Toronto Hospital will receive $86,850 a year. Ottawa General Hospital’s AIDS clinic will receive $102,500. In Hamilton, the new AIDS outpatient clinic at the McMaster site of Chedoke McMaster Hospitals will receive $208,800.
Ontario’s comprehensive response to AIDS also includes research into new ways of treating the disease. In April 1987 I announced a grant of $1.5 million to the University of Toronto to build a virus isolation laboratory. Construction of this state-of-the-art facility is virtually complete and research will begin shortly into drugs that show promise of effectiveness against HIV. In this connection, I am pleased to announce a further grant from my ministry to the University of Toronto of $250,000 for laboratory equipment.
Just yesterday, I had the honour of officially opening here in Toronto the St Michael’s Hospital AIDS outpatient clinic, for which my ministry has already provided substantial funding.
As members will know, I recently appointed Marnie Paikin of Burlington to chair the newly created Ontario AIDS Advisory Committee and I am looking to her and to the committee for advice on how to continuously improve the effectiveness of our battle against this disease.
I want to take this opportunity to remind members that since the AIDS epidemic began, Ontario has channelled more than $60 million into comprehensive initiatives including clinics, laboratories, drug programs, research, community support and public awareness campaigns. That $60 million does not include, by the way, all the physicians’ services, inpatient hospital care and home care associated with the treatment of AIDS.
I am confident that this strategic approach will lead to the development of a network that will serve us well as we devise ever more effective ways of responding to AIDS and HIV.
ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME
Mr D. S. Cooke: I would like to reply briefly to the statement of the Minister of Health. We in the New Democratic Party join with the government in recognizing 1 December as World AIDS Day. I would like to say to the minister, however, that it would be inappropriate to indicate that services across this province are equally available in all communities.
As the minister will know, there are a fair number of clinics accessible here in Toronto, but clinics do not exist in most areas of this province. There are not adequate hospital services available to the majority of people who are experiencing and living with AIDS on a daily basis. There have been applications for other clinics at other hospitals, one of them I know for sure in my own community, and that clinic to this date has still not been funded.
There are still not adequate services in terms of hospice services. There is one hospice in this province and that exists here in Toronto. It provides an excellent service, but that is not something that is available to the vast majority of people across this province.
Home care and other support services so that people do not have to access hospitals for months upon months are not available uniformly across this province. They are inadequate to meet the challenge of people living with AIDS across this province. So I would say to the minister that in terms of services we have a long way to go in this province.
In terms of prevention, this government over the years has, I think, done a fairly good job in public awareness and advertising and trying to get that point across. That is not to say we do not have more to do and more to learn, but I think the government has shown some leadership in that area.
I guess I would like to finish by simply saying that the slogan “Let’s talk” is one we all agree needs to be done on this issue. I think all 130 of us in this Legislature should once in a while talk about this issue. I continue to be amazed that the whole issue of AIDS is raised so seldom in this Legislature, so seldom in question period, so seldom in debate. I think all of us need to ask ourselves whether we are doing enough talking, discussing and debating on this issue.
ANNUAL REPORT, ONTARIO ADVISORY COUNCIL ON SENIOR CITIZENS
Ms Bryden: I welcome the publication of the annual report of the Ontario Advisory Council on Senior Citizens. It is always full of very good suggestions on how to improve the life and opportunities of seniors.
I am particularly impressed by its discussion of the transportation needs of seniors and the strong recommendations for public funding of transit operators to provide adequate services to seniors, and to the frail, elderly and ambulatory seniors. It points out that there is no adequate sharing of the costs of those things, and that in April 1988 there was a major report on recommendations on how to improve access to all transit for frail and ambulatory disabled persons, but I do not think there has been a great deal of action on this report.
I also note that there is a call for an integrated homemakers program, which is still not available except for pilot projects in the Toronto area or in six areas of the province. We still have a long way to go and we are still looking for a policy on adequate dental care for seniors, which was promised in the 1985 election.
ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME
Mr Eves: It is a pleasure for me to rise in support of the statement on AIDS by the Minister of Health in the Legislature this afternoon. I compliment her on the steps she has been taking with respect to clinics and research.
There is just one caution or one note that I would like to bring to her attention, and that is that when we develop these outpatient clinics in hospitals it also puts a tremendous burden on the inpatient services, because sooner or later many of these patients become patients in the hospital as opposed to outpatients at the clinic. I just hope that she and her ministry take this into account when they are determining and assessing hospital budgets, especially those that go out of their way, as many of them in the province now do, to establish AIDS clinics.
I would also be very remiss in commenting on this statement this afternoon in the Legislature if we did not take particular awareness of the Metropolitan Toronto home care program, which has an AIDS component to its delivery of services and is celebrating its 25th anniversary today. They serve over some 7,000 people in Metropolitan Toronto daily and are the oldest in North America. I think they are to be congratulated for their efforts.
ANNUAL REPORT, ONTARIO ADVISORY COUNCIL ON SENIOR CITIZENS
Mr Brandt: I want to respond to the statement the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs made in the House today in connection with the release of the annual report of the seniors’ advisory council.
Let me first begin by thanking and congratulating Mrs St Lawrence for her efforts during the past year and wish the new chairman, JoAnne Fillimore, all the best in terms of success in the ensuing period for which she will have the responsibility of advising the minister on certain matters pertaining to seniors.
From the perspective of our party, we recognize the extremely important segment of the population represented by our seniors in Ontario. They are rapidly increasing in numbers, as the minister well knows. I think it is paramount that the minister get the maximum degree of input from the seniors’ community and from the advisory council in order to develop programs that are flexible and recognize the substantial increase in population that will occur as a result of the demographics we face in Ontario, pro-grams that are also affordable.
I think the seniors recognize that there are some very real changes coming that are going to be difficult for both the seniors and government to handle. I speak about the fact that in today’s society there are six workers for each senior who are supporting seniors on pensions. That is going to change to about three workers supporting one person on pension early in the year 2000.
Those kinds of dramatic changes mean we have to keep a degree of flexibility and open-mindedness on those programs so that we can assist seniors to have the kind of comfort and lifestyle they have worked for and deserve, and at the same time do it in such a way that it can be afforded by the rest of the population.
I congratulate the advisory council on the release of the report, wish them well in the coming year and offer the minister the co-operation of my party in his efforts to assist seniors in the province.
Mr Sterling: In glancing through the annual report, which I congratulate the advisory committee on, on page 23 the members of the committee regret that the Ministry of Health no longer prints and distributes a pamphlet relating to drug use by seniors. I would advise the advisory committee that our party has recently produced a pamphlet called Check the Mix, dealing with drug use. It is a very excellent pamphlet that we would be quite willing to forward to the committee for its use.
I would like to say in addition that I was glad to see the advisory committee support changes in legislation relating to decision-making for mentally incapable persons. We wrote to the Attorney General (Mr Scott) some six or eight months ago requesting that he bring forward legislation in this regard at a very early time. We think the time has passed for discussion on it and that legislation should be introduced here and passed by this Legislature to deal with this very difficult problem. We are with them 100 per cent on that.
We also appreciate their offer to share in the costs with regard to homemakers. We think it is very generous of the seniors community to make that offer.
Mr Philip: I might mention that one of the outstanding figures in the field of public auditing in the world is our own Provincial Auditor. He and his staff are in our gallery and we might like to welcome him and show our appreciation.
Mr Philip: I have a question for the Chairman of Management Board, stemming from the auditor’s report, regarding the contracting of consulting services by this government. The Provincial Auditor in the report tabled today has concluded, “Although government directives discourage continuous reliance on consultants, annual expenditures for consulting services have increased from $86 million in 1985 to $165 million in 1989,” or a 92 per cent increase in the four years this government has been in office.
Can the minister explain why this government has so flagrantly violated its own directives to the extent of expending more than $165 million on hired guns last year?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman would like to advise the people of the province that the reason the consulting services are high is that we have had an unprecedented amount of capital construction in this Ontario we so much love. We are preparing for the future.
We are doing more work on highways 416, 407 and 403. We are putting more septic and water systems in the ground than ever before. We are dealing with cleanup of water pollution. We are dealing with the construction of new buildings to accommodate the needs of hospitals and social services right across the province.
We need the people, the engineers, architects and designers of highways to do the work that could have been done before, but was not. We need those people to make sure the services are available not only today for the people of the province, but also into the future. It is critical that we become highly competitive and have an infrastructure that allows that to occur.
The Speaker: Order. Just before I recognize the member for the supplementary, it would make it much easier for me, and I am sure for all, if one member spoke at one time.
Mr Philip: The auditor has given different reasons for the increase. For example, the Provincial Auditor has pointed out that the consultants’ salaries were approximately 70 per cent higher than the salaries provided to public employees doing approximately the same kind of work.
Why would this government spend 70 per cent more on outside consultants than it would cost to have public servants doing identical work? Is the minister not satisfied with the public servants’ ability to provide the jobs, or does he simply want to float away the taxpayers’ money to his friends in the consulting firms?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman would probably want to understand that we do go outside government to get consulting services from time to time because we do not retain on staff people with expertise to deal with certain things, such as architects and engineers. We also go out and get people who have particular expertise to advise us in important legal matters.
We do that because there are people who are not required on staff at all times. We do pay more for those people outside because we do not have them on the payroll and we would not want the taxpayers to carry those people right on through unless they were needed. There are situations where, quite frankly, it is better to retain outside counsel, better to retain outside engineers, better to retain outside architectural help than to have them on the public payroll at all times.
Mr Philip: The minister says it is better to use outside consultants. That is not the conclusion of the auditor. The auditor has concluded that in most instances, “Continued reliance on consultants is uneconomic,” to use his words, and furthermore that it permits a firm to gain a monopoly on a particular area. Over the last few years the auditor chastised many of the government’s ministries over the way in which consulting services then were tendered or not tendered or sent out.
What is the minister going to do specifically to ensure that the work that can be done by public servants is done by public servants, and to deal with the criticism that is given in this auditor’s report?
Hon Mr Elston: The situation ought to be put into perspective. The perspective is that in fact we are doing a good job in Ontario and that we comply with the directives. There is more room for improvement and all of us here would say there can be more improvement, but let us be very specific about what has to be done. When there are special jobs that need to be done, we must retain the best people we can. If they are not inside, we go outside. Where there are situations that we can handle internally, we do that.
With respect to the issue about a firm being able to develop a monopoly, we are quite sensitive about that. It applies not only with respect to people who are developing expertise in engineering and other things, but also with respect to the supply of information technology. We thoroughly review the people who participate incur tender calls at all levels. We also do a very thorough analysis to see who is able to provide the service so that we are not dependent on one particular firm or one particular individual. We have a much broader participation in the consulting world than we have ever had.
YORK REGION LAND DEVELOPMENT
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question to the Premier as a follow-up question with regard to the dealings between York region and developers and politicians. I would like to ask the Premier as a follow-up from yesterday’s questions, can the Premier tell us when a decision was made not to hold a public inquiry, who made that decision and was the Premier involved in making that decision?
Hon Mr Peterson: That was made after the police investigation. There was a thorough police investigation, I believe for 11 months, and then a decision was made that it could not go any further.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The Premier did not give us the date and did not indicate who was involved in making that decision and whether he specifically was involved.
Since it is very clear that the Minister of Municipal Affairs was involved in making the decision and that Gordon Ashworth was involved in making the decision -- a person who did not work in somebody else’s office; a person who worked in the Premier’s office, a person who was high in his office and was responsible for advising the Premier on these issues, responsible for advising him on an issue like this, which the Premier must understand has far-reaching political consequences for his future and the future of his government -- is the Premier telling us today and yesterday that he had nothing to do with the decision not to call a public inquiry?
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend misrepresents the facts in the circumstances. There was a meeting that was reported --
Hon Mr Peterson: I will withdraw, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Peterson: He is wrong in his interpretation of the facts, shall I say, a little more charitably? The minister and others have told the members what happened in the circumstances, as have I. There was a meeting last February in the midst of a police investigation. That police investigation carried on to its logical conclusion. It went on for some 11 months and they came to the conclusion that charges could not be laid in the circumstances. Those were the circumstances that happened.
Mr D. S. Cooke: When?
Hon Mr Peterson: There was a press release by the police, I am told, in May or June of that year, saying that a thorough investigation would be done and no charges would be laid.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I guess one of the rationales the Premier has used and his minister has used is that we could not have a public inquiry while a police investigation was going on. It is clear that the police investigation is complete and there are still many questions surrounding the dealings between politicians, the Premier’s government and his donors and Liberal politicians in that area of the province.
Is it not appropriate, now that the police investigation is complete -- he cannot use that as a copout -- that the Premier quit the coverup of the problems in this issue and call a public inquiry into this matter now?
Hon Mr Peterson: There was a thorough police investigation. They came to their conclusions. I can tell my honourable friend that I do not fear a public inquiry. If there are any facts or anything to inquire into, why does he not stand up in this House --
Mr D. S. Cooke: The minister said that.
Hon Mr Peterson: The minister did not say that. The member is factually incorrect again. Just because he stands up and says it and repeats it and shouts does not mean he is correct. That is absolutely wrong, and he can ask the minister and/or the former minister, but I understand people like him wanting to stand up and say something that was not accurate in fact. We are used to that on this side of the House. If he stands up in this House and gives one scintilla of evidence of anything amiss, we will look into it in exhaustive detail.
Rather than just casting innuendo or allegations, he should stand up in this House and tell us what he knows and we will track it down. The police did not find anything after 11 months. He may be a lot brighter than they are. He may know a lot of things they do not know. If he does, he should stand up and say so, but he should not hide behind the immunity of this House casting aspersions on things that he does not know or does not understand. If he has proof, he should stand up and say so.
Mr Brandt: The police said they wanted an inquiry.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It was a recommendation from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
Hon Mr Peterson: That is nonsense.
Mr Brandt: I am being encouraged to raise a question with the Attorney General (Mr Scott), which I will save for another moment. My question today is for the Minister of Community and Social Services.
The auditor’s report indicates that up to one third of all day care centres in Ontario are not in compliance with the safety rules and regulations as set down by the legislative requirements of the province. Recognizing that this does cause some degree of concern, quite obviously, among the parents who have children in those day care centres, why is it that the government continues to issue unrestricted licences to those particular establishments, recognizing that they are not in compliance with the rules and regulations that he himself has set down?
Hon Mr Beer: If the honourable member would care to review the statement which I made in the House last week, he will see that we have addressed the major issues and questions which the auditor has brought forward. Indeed, we recognized those earlier this year when my predecessor set up an internal review of all of our procedures. In that statement last week, I set out various checklists and inspection procedures that we have been and are now following which we believe ensure that people can place their children in the day care centres and know that they are properly licensed.
Mr Brandt: Let me quote from the auditor’s report. “Infractions included consistent under-staffing, unsafe supervision of children, unsanitary facilities and substandard meals.” These conditions were identified in 11 out of 24 day care centres; in eight of the 11 problem day cares, conditions have existed for an average of some three years.
The minister indicates that he is going to be taking action on the concerns that are in the auditor’s report, which I am repeating for him today. How can the minister answer the question raised, and the fact that he is already aware of, that his staff have been fully aware of this problem for some time now? This did not just come up during the course of the last seven days, as the Attorney General is well aware. In fact, he could have taken action some long time ago.
Why has he waited this period of time before any action has been taken?
Hon Mr Beer: In fact, and let me be very clear, we have been taking action and have not just begun this process in the last week. When we received the report, we issued directives in terms of specific things that should be done.
Let us just back up a moment and understand very clearly the tremendous growth that has been experienced by the entire child care system. We recognize, with the auditor, that some of that growth has produced problems. One of the things we have been particularly conscious of during this past year has been the need to ensure better management procedures throughout to take care of exactly some of the situations which the member has raised, which the auditor has raised and in fact which have come up internally. We believe the steps we have taken are going to ensure that this system, which has, as I say, grown at a great rate over the last three or four years, is one where people can place their children and know that they will be in safe and secure conditions.
Mr Brandt: Up to 35,000 children, according to the auditor’s estimates, are being looked after in day care centres in either unsafe or unacceptable conditions at the moment. The minister’s staff has been aware of this for some time.
Why were the day care centres not required in any way, shape or form to advise the parents of these children that the centres they were occupying were not in compliance and that they were not getting the full service as required under the legislation? Surely it would only stand to reason and make common sense that the parents should at least be advised that there is a problem and that the minister is taking corrective action or some steps are being taken. Why was that not done?
Hon Mr Beer: We encourage very highly parent participation in all of the day care centres and operations that we fund. Under the guidelines that we have been working on now through the better part of this year, we are ensuring that everyone is aware of exactly what the situation is in the day care. Previously we sent out a poster which sets out, so that parents may see clearly upon entering the premises, the checklist of all the different things that are supposed to be there and be available.
As I said before, we recognize that in the past, with the tremendous growth, there have been some problems, but we believe we have specific. ally addressed the points raised by the auditor and indeed have taken action on those earlier this year.
Mr Pope: My question is to the Premier. The 1989 annual report of the Provincial Auditor clearly indicates this government’s lack of commitment to the justice system of Ontario. Two of the worst problems referred to in the auditor’s report involve the lack of safety measures in our courts and the underutilization of existing and new courtrooms. Even in our busiest cities, where the backlog of cases awaiting trial has risen to 15,000 in 1988 and criminal cases awaiting trial for more than 18 months has risen to over 600, our courts in those busy centres are being used for only two and three quarter hours a working day.
How can the Premier justify justice denied to the people of Ontario by delays and, at the same time, the availability of empty courtrooms?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the Attorney General could help out my honourable friend.
Hon Mr Scott: There is great utility in the Provincial Auditor’s report, because he finally puts to rest the assertion that additional courtroom resources are needed in Ontario. That is a point I have been trying to make to the House and to my friends for four years: what is required is not new courtroom resources but better utilization of the resources.
The practical difficulty here, as the honourable members would know if they would listen, is that the matter of assigning judges to a courtroom or to a trial is not a matter over which the administration of justice has any control whatever. It is a feature of judicial independence, and only judges can assign judges to courtrooms or cases. We are working with the judges in our new regional system to try to improve utilization.
Honourable members will be interested to know that the two drug cases in the district court that were dismissed two weeks ago because of charter delays did not represent a shortage of resources; they represented a failure to assign judges to cases. This is a problem that we have to work with, but it is almost entirely a question of judicial independence.
Mr Pope: Now that we have established that the Attorney General’s answer to the auditor’s report is to blame the judges, the Provincial Auditor finds something very different. He finds that the problem is a lack of commitment of the Attorney General to a proper utilization of our court facilities. Because of that, we have courtrooms being used on average, in our busiest centres, for two and three quarter hours a day.
Not only that, we have the Attorney General with not even a system of monitoring courtroom use or assigning courtrooms more properly, for better usage, for the use of the citizens of the province of Ontario.
The Speaker: And the question might be?
Mr Pope: He had no summaries of information available in his ministry for the Provincial Auditor to detail courtroom use, he had no information available about the lack of security provisions in these courts and he had no way of monitoring their usage. That is the failure. How can the Attorney General justify it?
Hon Mr Scott: The honourable member, as usual, is quite wrong. The auditor has noted that the court security bill passed by the House will take care of the security problems. He makes that observation himself.
The second thing, which I will plead guilty to, is a failure of monitoring. He recognizes that we are moving in that direction. But what I want the honourable members to understand, because they press me about it all the time, is that new courtroom and physical resources are not what are required. The auditor has made that point plainly. If members of the third party keep coming to me asking for more courtrooms for their districts, they can eat the auditor’s report. He has finally made a point I have wanted to make here effectively for years.
In his overall assessment, he says: “The government of Ontario is being satisfactorily administered overall. This view is consistent with that expressed in the past few years.” What he means is the past four years, and what he means is that when those political palaeoliths were thrown out of office, we finally got started on administering the government of Ontario.
Mr Pope: Now we have the Attorney General rewriting the auditor’s report for his own purposes. It is clear when we are talking about the failure of utilization of the justice system, delays in the justice system, he is not telling the opposition members to eat the auditor’s report, he is telling 15,000 litigants in this province who have to wait for a trial that they can eat the auditor’s report; he is telling people who are concerned about 600 criminals awaiting trial that they can eat the auditor’s report.
The failure of the courtroom security system in this province is not the fault of municipalities, whom he foisted the responsibility on, it is the Attorney General’s fault.
The Speaker: And the question might be?
Mr Pope: Between 1987 and 1988, courtroom security procedures declined by 50 per cent, from 216,000 searches in 1987 to 112,000 searches in 1988, at a time when seven times more dangerous weapons were being --
The Speaker: Do you have a question?
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Scott: I love these days when the member for Cochrane South (Mr Pope) comes to town. It makes me feel great, and I want to thank him for his questions because they make the week go faster.
As he will want to know, the auditor notes that a new act has been passed that is going to deal with courtroom security for the first time in the history of this province. When I was practising in the courts, we had a government that sat around here for 42 years and did nothing. We have introduced a regional system, a new security act, merger of the courts, and I admit my friend was only Attorney General for six months at the end of the regime, but nothing was done over all that time.
Progress is being made, and if the honourable member wants to know what a political palaeolith is, it is an extinct, historic, out-of-power animal.
The Speaker: Order. Would the members please allow another member to ask a question. Thank you.
YORK REGION LAND DEVELOPMENT
Mr D. S. Cooke: I would like to go back to the Premier. Since he did not answer the question that I asked a few moments ago, could the Premier tell us today whether he was involved at all in the decision-making process either prior to the 1 February meeting or after the 1 February meeting when the final decision was made not to call a public inquiry into the dealings between York region developers and politicians? What was the Premier’s involvement in that process of determining there would be no public inquiry?
Hon Mr Peterson: After the police investigation concluded, and as I said to my honourable friend, I think that was in May or June, there was a decision made, and I was aware of it, to leave it at that. There was nothing else that could be done in the circumstances, barring some new evidence or some new proof. If the member has any new proof, why does he not stand up in this House and tell everybody about it and we will investigate it?
Mr D. S. Cooke: All we have been saying in the past few days is that we accept the recommendations from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs that there should be a public inquiry. The Premier and his bureaucrats and his minister are the ones that are involved in a coverup not to get the facts out about what is going on up in York region.
Yesterday the Premier indicated that he was not aware of the 1 February meeting. Today in Toronto Star, when Mr Ashworth’s lawyer as asked whether the Premier had been made aware of that meeting, asked whether the Premier was involved in the decision-making process surrounding the 1 February meeting, Brannan, the lawyer representing the Premier’s former employee, quoted Ashworth as saying, “No comment.”
Is it not very clear that what Mr Ashworth is saying is that the Premier was involved in the decision leading up to the 1 February meeting? He was aware of it and his staff had done their job; they had advised him. He was aware of it.
The Speaker: Order. The question has been asked.
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend takes licence, he takes liberty, he believes that by standing up in this House he can draw his own conclusions, and I think he is entitled to do that, but just because he says something does not mean it is correct. As a matter of fact, I find a lot of the things he says are incorrect on many, many occasions; fraught with hyperbole and exaggeration and accusation.
Frankly, he is quite wrong in the circumstances. He has got the right, I guess, he is over 21, to stand in this House and say anything he wants, to draw his own conclusions even if he is wrong, which I find frankly he consistently is.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Premier, and I trust that this will not be fraught with hyperbole and exaggeration. I trust as well that the Premier will read page 28 of the Provincial Auditor’s report which states that the expenditures “demonstrate” -- it is at the bottom of the page, to save the Premier some time -- ”a lack of respect for taxpayers’ funds,” which is some-thing we have been saying about this government for some time.
I wonder if the Premier could perhaps inform the House who the ministers were who were engaged in these rather questionable activities: $6,300 for a staff Christmas party, $3,700 for a retirement dinner and $1,100 for a membership of a social club? If the Premier wants more, I have them. I would like to know the answer to those three.
Hon Mr Peterson: The Attorney General tells me he could answer that question.
Hon Mr Scott: I want to tell the honourable member that the Christmas party was a Christmas party held by the Ministry of the Attorney General, parallel to one held by every ministry in government, for which the bill was sent to the minister’s office rather than to the ministry. That bookkeeping error was corrected, and the ministry paid for its Christmas party like any other.
The retirement dinner was a dinner held for the judges of the Supreme Court of Ontario, which was attended by the member for Rainy River (Mr Hampton) and a member of the Conservative caucus, and is one of a series of annual dinners that are given every year, not in respect of retirement, but to the judges.
The last item is the social club fees. The university club fees, where I entertain for the ministry, were billed to the minister’s office and were paid. That was corrected years ago, but it was an oversight; it should not have occurred. It was an invoicing error, and I am grateful that the auditor brought it to our attention.
Mr Brandt: It is so nice to hear the Attorney General fess up once in a while as to what is going on in his ministry.
Since this question has been referred by the Premier to the Attorney General, maybe he could also enlighten the House as to which minister, Toronto-based, was so insensitive as to charge the taxpayers of Ontario over $400 for dry-cleaning bills, when that is clearly in opposition to anything that is ever allowed to any minister. Was that the Attorney General again or was it someone else because, quite frankly, his clothes do not look that good?
The Speaker: Order. I thought maybe it was the Attorney General’s tie the other day.
Hon Mr Scott: Some honourable members may recall that in 1985, when the new government was elected, a poll was done in the press gallery to determine who was the best-dressed member of the House --
Mr Brandt: And it wasn’t you.
Hon Mr Scott: As a matter of fact, it was me.
Hon Mr Scott: I have been in government four years, and I can only speak for the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) and myself when I say that neither of us has had any pressing done in the entire period of time.
But I do want to draw the honourable member’s attention to the useful work the auditor does, and I will speak to the university club fees because that is my responsibility. What should be noticed is that it really is an appropriate observation but not a criticism to say that the ministry’s Christmas party, because it was misinvoiced and the judges’ annual dinner, because it was misidentified --
The Speaker: Thank you.
The Speaker: Order. New question, the member for Lake Nipigon.
NORTHERN HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Pouliot: My question is to the Minister of Health regarding the very serious nursing shortage in Ontario. Last week the minister indicated that she felt comfortable with a vacancy rate of some two per cent. With respect, I think the minister is simply playing with numbers, for in northeastern Ontario at present the vacancy rate -- the shortage of nurses -- is in the magnitude of 5.5 per cent and in the northwest it is 5.1 per cent.
As the minister responsible for health care in the province, what specific plans does she have to correct or alleviate to some extent this serious problem in northern Ontario?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member opposite knows, I have travelled extensively through northern Ontario on a number of occasions since becoming minister. I know he is aware of my understanding of the issues of remoteness and geography and of the special challenges of delivering health care services throughout northern Ontario.
One of the reasons I established the northern health manpower committee was to look at seeking the advice of people who live in the north as to how we can meet those challenges. I want him to know as well that a number of innovative programs are under way via the underserviced area program which are looking at how we can offer the kinds of incentives for individuals, whether they are in nursing or in other areas of health care, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, audiology, chiropodists and so forth, as well as others, to offer services throughout northern Ontario.
Mr Hampton: More fluff. The point is that the nursing shortage in northeastern and northwestern Ontario has gone on now for over two years. In fact, the numbers are slightly better, a little bit better. But in northwestern Ontario alone there is a shortage of 59 nurses. The shortages occur most frequently in acute care and critical care.
The minister said she now has the northern health manpower committee. That committee was announced last November. The people appointed to it were not appointed unti1 July and, to our information, it has met only once. What is the minister going to do? Offer us more fluff? These are real shortages. These are people who are going without acute care and critical care because there is a shortage of nurses. She is in charge. What is she going to do?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member opposite that if he were to look at this situation fairly, he would acknowledge that while there is much to be done, we are making progress. We have got some of the very best advice possible through the northern health manpower commit-tee, which has met. The member knows as well that we have a number of programs to ensure that people of northern Ontario have access to the services they need.
I am not saying there is not more to do. Of course there is. The challenges the north poses to us are challenges of remoteness and geography, and the fact is that we must do much better in overall manpower planning, human resource planning, in all aspects of health care in this province.
I want him to know of my commitment to ensure that we review the needs of northern Ontario, as well as the needs of southern Ontario, as we develop policy initiatives, because of my commitment to make sure the people of this province have equity in access to effective and quality health care as close to home as possible.
Mr Harris: I would like to stick with questions to the Chairman of Management Board on the Provincial Auditor’s report. The Chairman of Management Board will know that the guidelines for rental cars call for the renting of compact and subcompact cars. I wonder if the minister can explain why the auditor’s report turns up, not isolated cases, not the odd one -- by that, I interpret him to mean not just the Ministry of the Attorney General, which the auditor seems to expect to be over on everything and to violate the guidelines -- but numerous instances where Cadillacs, Lincolns, Fifth Avenues and those kinds of cars have been the rule of the day on numerous instances.
I wonder if the minister can explain that. Also, at the same time, on a similar related matter, can he explain why, for hotel rooms, the government rate was not even asked for? I see in here 18 occasions at $100 a night in North Bay, where he would know the government rate is nowhere close to that for any hotel anywhere in my city.
The Speaker: Thank you. Did that include your supplementary?
Hon Mr Elston: With respect to North Bay, I can tell the honourable gentleman that particular rental was for a judge, not a government employee. The member knows that the judiciary is independent. A number of the rentals which have been noted were for members of boards and agencies. That is no reason for us to refuse to look at how we can ensure that people rent proper cars, for sure, but I ask the honourable gentleman just to note that the independent nature of some of our organizations makes it somewhat more difficult to pursue adherence to the guidelines.
However, we are pursuing that. We have seen, for instance, in the auditor’s report that our activity level on that is progressing quite well, beyond where it was when we first came into office. We wish to have accountability not only with respect to the guidelines for rentals of cars but also for the transfer payment agencies about which the auditor says we have done good things.
Just to put this in context for the people of the province, I want to note the auditor has said that we have improved in our administration, that we have taken seriously the points which he has shown to us in the past could be rectified and improved. We are making progress, substantial progress, but we likewise are not perfect; we are working on that, and we are making very good progress on that.
Mr Harris: The minister smiles and the Attorney General (Mr Scott) laughs at some of these expenditures because individually they do not seem large. But the auditor says, “Collectively, then, these findings are significant and demonstrate a lack of respect for taxpayers’ funds.”
Can the minister explain to me why he cannot have a policy that no minister, no member, no employee of this government will ever be reimbursed in excess of the amount of the guideline for a government rate for a hotel, a compact car or a subcompact car? Why can he not have a simple policy that says, “You might have spent more, but we are paying you only the government guideline”? Why can he not do that?
Hon Mr Elston: Lest the people get the wrong impression from the way that gentleman interprets our role over here, we have been very keen to fix up practices which we did not find to be completely acceptable. We have done a revamping of the way in which we tender contracts. We heard about consulting contracts before. We have dealt with the issues about the problem of not providing timely decisions about bringing capital projects into place for sewage and water, for dealing with outstanding issues.
We have dealt with improving, updating and upgrading the guidelines in a manner that is practical and enforceable, and when somebody brings to our attention that we can improve, we agree; we can improve. We have made wonderful, good, grand strides towards improving our accountability. The auditor has indicated that he would rate us as 7 out of 10, and that is good. It is a good performance, but it is not good enough, and we will do better. I can tell the member, we are doing a lot more with the money we are spending on a comparison basis than those guys every thought was possible, and we will continue to improve. We are not perfect but we will enforce our guidelines.
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. In June 1988, a young man by the name of John Wolfe was killed in a hit-and-run incident in Barrie by a person who was driving a stolen vehicle. The vehicle had been left unattended and with the keys in the ignition.
There was an inquest, and a recommendation of the inquest read as follows: “That the Minister of Transportation add the following to the Highway Traffic Act: that it be an offence to leave keys in an unattended vehicle on either private or public property, resulting in the loss of points and a fine.”
My question to the minister is, would he consider this or a similar amendment to help deter future loss of life and property?
Hon Mr Wrye: Very clearly, the incident that the honourable member raises is a very serious and very tragic instance of a really terrible loss of human life through the recklessness of another individual. I have asked my officials to take a look at the issue very carefully, and I thank the honourable member for raising the issue for us so that as we bring forward our next amendments to the Highway Traffic Act, we can determine whether this would be an appropriate amendment.
I think very clearly the honourable member and other members of the House would recognize that there is a measure of not wishing to interfere in terms of vehicles and private property; indeed, not wishing to interfere in an area where to do so really does not enhance, other than in a single situation, the issue of public safety.
I would much prefer to begin to work and continue working on a number of educational programs which are designed to convince the public that leaving keys in an unattended car is very injudicious and very dangerous.
Mr Owen: The family of this young man is very well known and respected in the Barrie area. They feel that their son and brother would be alive today if it were an offence to leave keys in an unattended vehicle. They realize that passing such a law would not bring John back, but they feel it might save someone else’s life.
I agree with their opinion that the kind of person who would steal a car might well be one who would drive that same car in a reckless manner, and I would ask the minister if he could address this particular problem and try to help someone else’s life in the future.
Hon Mr Wrye: I can only say to the honourable member that, as we bring forward further amendments to the Highway Traffic Act, we are going to review the matter and the very serious recommendation that the coroner’s jury put forward. As well, we are going to look at the experience and whether there are precedents in other jurisdictions.
I say to the honourable member that at the very least it is our view that additional education measures are necessary. Certainly at the very least drivers who leave keys in unattended cars are leaving themselves open to theft, a lot of additional heartache for themselves and police work, and at the very most we end up with situations such as the very tragic situation in his own constituency. So we are looking at additional educational efforts.
Mr Allen: I want to take the Minister of Community and Social Services back to the Provincial Auditor’s report and the section dealing with day care.
The minister will know, since he has seen the report and had an opportunity to review it in advance, the auditor notes at one point that “one third of the licences issued were unrestricted even though the program adviser had explicitly identified areas of noncompliance with the legislation.” The report then goes on to cite two cases, and then further on 22 more centres which were not in compliance for periods of three, four and five years even though the noncompliance had to do with quite serious matters.
There were regulations in the past; they were not enforced. The minister sent out a poster last year; he is sending out a letter now that will advise that regulations are going to be tightened up and they will be enforced. But how can we really believe that anything is going to change?
Hon Mr Beer: As my colleague has pointed out, we have instituted new procedures. These are, I think, open and public. There will be plenty of opportunities to ensure that we are following the practices that we have put forward. I certainly want to make that commitment not only to members of the House but to all the people in the province who are using day care facilities.
As I said in answer to an earlier question, we recognize that over the past few years, with the tremendous growth of the system, there have been some problems in terms of the management of the system. One of the things we are trying to address as specifically and clearly as we can is the issues which the auditor has raised and which others have raised to ensure that this kind of situation is not repeated.
Mr Allen: We have heard, as parents have heard, those kinds of commitments from previous ministers in the past. There have been regulations in the past, quite clearly. Presumably the minister made some attempt to get the regulations out into the field so they would be known about and they would be complied with, but they were not and nothing was done for years on end.
Perhaps the minister should tell us, what is his new budget and how much improved is his budget for enforcement and how many more of personnel are going to be thrown into the task of enforcement? What new resources is he throwing into this task so parents can be absolutely clear that the new regulations, unlike the old, will be enforced?
Hon Mr Beer: I think that what we have done in terms of the directives that went out several months ago regarding these procedures -- that they are, in fact, being followed and are being carried out.
In terms of our commitment to a future program, as the member is aware, we are at work now on the second three-year cycle for child care and will be addressing that issue in the new year in the House. But these specific directives which are in the auditor’s report and in the statement I made last week, I think, are our public commitment to everyone in the province that we are going to be following up with each centre to ensure that these initiatives are followed.
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health arising out of the Provincial Auditor’s report. The auditor’s report clearly identifies a particular matter at York-Finch General Hospital -- on page 47, to be helpful to the minister -- stating that approximately 15 per cent of all beds in York-Finch General Hospital were occupied by chronic care patients when, in fact, it is designated solely as an acute care hospital. The auditor’s report goes on to point out that this led to a loss of funds for the hospital and a loss of service, in terms of health care, to the community.
Some of those patients, 15 of them to be exact, were chronic care patients that were in York-Finch General Hospital for over a year. How is it that her ministry was unable to find appropriate chronic care placement for those patients?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member opposite once again displays his lack of knowledge about how the health care system works overall and the relationship between the ministry and the hospitals. He knows, as well, that we have undertaken a review of long-term care and an acknowledgement that in fact there is today a fragmented and uncoordinated approach to long-term care. He knows that the York-Finch General Hospital provides services as a transfer payment agency and that one of the things that the ministry has undertaken to support hospitals in delivering services is the establishment of such things as central bed registries so that the hospitals will know what services are available in different hospitals across this province.
Mr Eves: In conversation with the auditor’s staff during the lockup, some of our researchers were told that the York-Finch General Hospital situation is not unique. Many hospitals in Metropolitan Toronto, and in fact I believe the exact quote of the auditor’s report is 148 out of 223 public hospitals in the province, have chronic care patients in their systems, when they are supposed to be providing acute care. As the auditor has pointed out, this not only results in loss of funds to those hospitals, but it results in a loss of very basic health care service to the community that those hospitals are supposed to provide.
Well, the minister shakes her head. The auditor disagrees with her. She can tell me I do not know anything about it. Is she going to tell the auditor that he does not know anything about how the health care system works either?
The Speaker: Is that your question?
Mr Eves: Will she not now admit that she has made a mistake? She should reinstate her commitment to deliver those extra 3,000 chronic care beds that the Premier (Mr Peterson) said were necessary during the 1985 election campaign and that the auditor has confirmed again today are necessary.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member opposite that the fact that there are people inappropriately placed, whether they are in acute beds or in chronic care beds or in nursing homes or in homes for the aged, is in fact one of the challenges that face us here in the province of Ontario. That is one of the reasons that what we have instituted in a review of long-term care is to start focusing on people and the services they need and all the alternative ways that those services can be provided.
Many, in fact most, of the hospitals in this province experience the frustration of finding services that could be provided in alternative ways, whether they are inpatient services that could be provided on an outpatient basis or those services which could be provided in alternative ways right across this province, and we are working with them to identify those opportunities so that we can use our resources more effectively to ensure that the care the people receive is, in fact, appropriate.
The Speaker: It appears to me that there are quite a few conversations taking place.
Mrs Marland: Well, the answers are so boring.
The Speaker: Order. I did not recognize the member for Mississauga South.
Mr Kanter: I have a question to the Minister of the Health. The issue of organ donations has once again been highlighted by the decision of the family of Olympic swimmer Victor Davis to donate his organs so that others may have a second chance at life. As the minister will recall, last April this House adopted my private member’s resolution to encourage organ donations in Ontario. Could the minister tell us what initiatives have been taken by the government to increase the awareness of the public about the need for organ donations?
Hon Mrs Caplan: First, I would like to commend the member for St Andrew-St Patrick for his efforts to increase awareness in the public on this very important issue. I think all members of the House recognize the importance of increased awareness for organ donations. He knows that the ministry is funding the multiple organ retrieval and exchange program, referred to as MORE. It is expected that this initiative will be operational by January. It will be the first of its kind in Canada, and we are confident that in fact it will help those who need organ transplants in this province.
Mr Kanter: I appreciate the information about the MORE program, which is designed to help in the retrieval of these organs. As the minister will recall, during the debate I made a specific proposal calling on an amendment to regulations under the Public Hospitals Act so that attending physicians would be encouraged to ask some questions to have more potential donors under appropriate circumstances in hospital. Can the minister advise whether she has made any progress on amendments to the regulations under the Public Hospitals Act to encourage the supply of organs for donations?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to say to the member and to all members in this House who participated in the debate that we took very seriously the discussion and the debate that took place at that time and that we have proceeded to draft regulations which would provide for the establishment of protocol and procedures in hospitals to encourage the donation of organs and tissues.
I am pleased to inform the member that in fact we are in the final stages of consultation and that the legislative counsel has informed us of suggested revisions. We will be discussing this with the Ontario Hospital Association, the Ontario Medical Association, the staff of MORE itself, the Ontario Nurses’ Association and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, because we want this regulation to give us the result to improve access to organ retrieval in this province.
I want to acknowledge the contribution that the member opposite has played in this most important issue and say that we hope to see this regulation in place in the very near future.
LENGTHS OF TRUCKS AND TRAILERS
Mr Pouliot: The Minister of Transportation plans to allow extra-long trucks on our over-crowded highways. Officials at both CN and CP are saying that his decision could possibly kill the railways. The Ontario Provincial Police are saying that his decision will make a bad situation worse. Officials at the Canadian Automobile Association are predicting that we shall have more fatalities on our highways and more people will be badly injured.
Last month -- and I have been watching the minister very carefully -- I remember very vividly that the minister mentioned that he was against longer trucks for safety reasons, and now he has changed his mind. Why did he do so? Who got to him?
Hon Mr Wrye: I think it is interesting to hear the point of view that is offered by the honourable gentleman and the point of view that he offers that he suggests some people are saying.
I would only say to the honourable gentleman that the decision we have taken makes Ontario no longer part of what I would call a regulatory island. The honourable member would know that some 35 states already have exactly the same kind of trucking length regulations as we have proposed. The honourable member would also know that the proposal which we are suggesting we will put in place is now present in four western provinces and in the province of Quebec.
The honourable member will further know that since we brought in the safety code earlier this year, the levels of compliance have improved quite dramatically, so consequently some of the safety concerns which existed earlier are no longer present.
Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, tell me, why should I take the word of the minister against the word of the Provincial Auditor or the words of a police officer?
The Speaker: Is that your question?
Mr Pouliot: This is what his safety record is:
In 1988, 22 per cent of trucks inspected were removed from the highways. The Provincial Auditor says that. Last week, at one scale station on Highway 400, more than 20 per cent out of 300 trucks were told to get off the highway. The minister cannot even police what he has at the present time, and because of a lobby, with respect, the minister wants to make the situation worse. When will he simply come to his senses, do what is right, consult with those associations and say no to expediency?
Hon Mr Wrye: The honourable gentleman raised a couple of interesting points in the course of his question. He suggested we had, in the course of his first question, an overcrowded highway situation and that this would make it worse, and he suggested that again. I would just point out to him that a number of large businesses which now use the highways with their trucks not only say that there will not be an increase in the number of trucks as a result of this proposed change, they are talking about reductions of the number of trucks that they will be needing on the roadways of 10 per cent to 15 per cent. So rather than going up in numbers of trucks, we are actually going to go down.
As well, the honourable member continues to raise the issue of safety concerns, and I acknowledge that the honourable member and my friends at the CAA and others are quite correct to be worried about ensuring that safety is the absolute, number one result of this change. I can only say to the honourable gentleman that where those same regulations are in place in the United States, in 35 of 50 states, there is no --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Pouliot: That is incorrect.
The Speaker: Let’s relax just a little bit.
Mr Jackson: To the Minister of Health:
Today the Provincial Auditor’s report makes reference to about a 90 per cent increase in the amount of money spent by the government on consulting fees. Could the minister please confirm or deny that she or members of her immediate staff or members of her ministry engaged a consulting firm specifically for the purposes of developing a strategy to combat the exposure of her government’s failure to honour its election commitment for 4,400 new beds in the province of Ontario? Will she confirm or deny whether or not she has commissioned such an activity to assist her to defend against that election promise she has broken?
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, I would say to the member opposite that from time to time in a number of different areas we seek advice, as he heard from the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet (Mr Elston), to give us the expertise, whether it is in planning for new facilities or for a number of different areas. I cannot specifically mention to the member any or all of the areas of expertise which the ministry goes out to determine for it, but I would be pleased, in fact, to look into his request.
Mr Wildman: I have a petition signed by approximately 450 residents of Algoma and Sault Ste Marie. The petitioners are petitioning the Ontario government to continue the operation of existing D-class liquor stores in northern Ontario, particularly in small communities in northern Ontario, rather than replacing them with agency stores. I support the petition and I have affixed my name thereto.
Mr Dietsch: I have a petition to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly from concerned citizens in the Niagara region who wish to express deep frustration to the Minister of Health. The petition outlines some of the long delays in waiting for relocation of loved ones, the chronically ill patients suffering under poor physical conditions at the general hospital, and they request immediate attention to this situation. It is signed by some 5,138 constituents of the Niagara region.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT
Mr Pelissero from the standing committee on general government presented the committee’s report and moved the adoption of its recommendations.
Mr Pelissero: The report deals with the acid rain abatement programs. On 6 June 1989 a motion directed the committee to review the final progress reports of the Ministry of the Environment with respect to Inco, Falconbridge, Algoma Steel and Ontario Hydro. Subsequently, the committee met on 15, 22 and 29 June and, finally, on 9 November to discuss its findings. I would like to present the report at this time.
On motion by Mr Pelissero, the debate was adjourned.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND PROTECTION OF PRIVACY AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 / LOI DE 1989 MODIFIANT LA LOT SUR L’ACCÈS À L’INFORMATION ET LA PROTECTION DE LA VIE PRIVÉE
Mr Elston moved first reading of Bill 84, An Act to amend the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 1987 and certain other Acts in respect of Confidentiality Provisions.
M. Elston propose la première lecture du projet de loi 84, Loi portant modification de la Loi de 1987 sur l’accès à l’information et la protection de la vie privée et de certaines autres lois en ce qui concerne les dispositions qui ont trait au caractère confidentiel.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
Hon Mr Elston: Very briefly, this bill is required under the legislation and in fact has not only bad substantial input from the various ministries involved with freedom-of-information issues around confidentiality but also has come out of a process of consultation with the committee of the Legislature and I think substantially complies with recommendations given.
There may be one or two areas that we will have other discussions about, but generally speaking, I think we have complied with the wishes of the committee, and I look forward to having some time with it to study the areas about which there may still be some minor disagreements.
INTERVENOR FUNDING PROJECT AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 / LOI DE 1989 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LE PROJET D’AIDE FINANCIÈRE AUX INTERVENANTS
Mr Chiarelli moved first reading of Bill 85, An Act to amend the Intervenor Funding Project Act, 1988.
M. Chiarelli propose la première lecture du projet de loi 85, Loi portant modification de la Loi de 1988 sur le projet d’aide financière aux intervenants.
Mr Chiarelli: At the present time, the Intervenor Funding Project Act provides that public interest groups may apply for intervener funding for Ontario Energy Board and Environmental Assessment Board hearings. The purpose of the proposed amendment is to extend application of the act to public interest groups appearing in major Ontario Municipal Board hearings and to include municipalities as eligible funding sources.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INSURANCE STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance.
The Speaker: The member for Leeds-Grenville, I believe, was in full flight on the previous occasion and may wish to continue.
Mr Runciman: I have had some time to calm down now, so it may take me a few minutes to get into full flight again, but I certainly appreciate the opportunity to continue with my comments with respect to Bill 68 and express the concerns certainly of my party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, with respect to this legislation and, I hope in any event, the growing concerns among the people of Ontario.
The member from Oakville is not present. I was talking about my understanding of the dilemma that insurance companies in this province find themselves in with respect to insurance initiatives undertaken by this government in the past number of years. It has been a rather chaotic situation, to say the least, where the government really has had no agenda, no vision of where it wanted to go with respect to auto insurance, let alone a number of other issues that I could raise as well.
But we are dealing with auto insurance specifically under this bill, and I simply want to once again suggest very clearly that this government, up to this point in time, has really had no idea of where it wanted to go. It had an ill-thought-out, off-the-wall kind of promise made by the leader of its party, the member for London Centre (Mr Peterson), during the September 1987 election, and then it fell upon the shoulders of the bureaucracy to try to come up with some way of meeting that promise.
Of course, as we now realize, that was an impossible task to assign to anyone. We have seen increases in auto insurance over the past two years in the approximate area of 20 per cent. We have seen insurance companies lose significant amounts of money because of the activities of this government, the speculation on the changes earlier this year where insurance companies lost in the neighbourhood of $150 million to $450 million. Those are the figures that I have heard bandied about.
So again I am expressing some degree of understanding of the industry’s support for this no-fault initiative introduced by the government. We know that the industry is going to gain a significant amount of money: tax and OHIP relief in the neighbourhood of $150 million and other benefits that will flow to the insurance industry, in the neighbourhood of approximately-according to Professor Jack Can of the University of Toronto -- $630 million. That is using the 90 per cent figure in terms of the threshold that the government is standing by. But Mr Can and others believe that, in effect, close to 95 to 97 per cent of accident victims in this province will not be able to pass the threshold outlined in this piece of legislation.
In effect, the real windfall to the insurance industry in this province would be perhaps more in the neighbourhood of $1 billion. I guess that we can appreciate the industry being relatively quietly supportive of this, because obviously it does not want to go running around the province saying this is the greatest thing since sliced bread, because insurance industry spokespersons are not generally received too well by the population at large. If they come out too vigorously in support of this measure, perhaps the population at large may be more cognizant of the concerns with respect to whether or not this is indeed in the best interests of Ontario consumers and motorists.
But again, as I said, the industry currently is dealing, as we all are, with a large majority government that is going to be in office for approximately another two years. They are the guys whom we have to deal with, whom the industry has to deal with. They are going along with this in a rather comfortable way, but I have suggested to them that they do not let down their guard. This is a government and this is a party that will have no reluctance whatsoever to move to government-run auto insurance if they think it is in their political interest. In short-term interests that may be the case. We have seen so many instances -- not only auto insurance; we can go down through a host of issues -- where the government has acted in what it views as its short-term political interests and, “To hell with the long-term interests, we’ll deal with them when they arrive.”
That is indeed unfortunate. We certainly see it in the growth of the province’s debt. And I am not talking about annual deficit; I am talking about the growth of the debt which this government, in unprecedented economic good times, has not reduced, has not cut into, but instead has built up over the past four years.
I was trying to urge the industry especially to be cautious, to continue to be on guard with respect to this government. I was, members may recall, pointing to the tendencies of this government and certain key players in this government to be supportive of intrusive legislation, legislation that will enable the government to intrude in a significant manner into the private sector, as they have done in auto insurance with the establishment of the rate-setting board back in the fall of 1987 and as they have done in a host of other areas. They have no reluctance whatsoever to intrude in a significant fashion into the private sector.
This government is interventionist. We have a socialist party sitting off to my right, but I guess perhaps, in the most generous way I can, I can describe the current Liberal government as a quasi-socialist party. They have no reservations, as I have suggested to the Attorney General (Mr Scott), a former fund-raiser for the New Democratic Party. We have a range of members sitting on the back benches who have served loyally and for a long period of time for the socialists of this province.
I mentioned the member for Oakville, and I want to be fair to her. I suggested that when she ran for the Liberal nomination there was quite a tug of war at the time between the NDP and the Liberal Party as to whom she would be a candidate for. She came over to me afterwards when the House adjourned and said that at some point a prominent Liberal by the name of Marc Lalonde had suggested that she might be a good Conservative. I want to put that on the record, that she has apparently been accused of being supportive of all three parties at some point in her life. I regret that the member is not here so that she could hear me putting that on the record.
The Deputy Speaker: Well, it is all related to Bill 68, is it not?
Mr Runciman: Just give me time, Mr Speaker; I tend to tie these things in as I go along.
I am pleased to read and hear over the airwaves that the minister has consented to public hearings on this bill. We have certainly, along with the official opposition, felt that was critical. We have had some objections expressed in respect to public hearings.
I said the member for Oakville and I want to clarify this. It is the member for Oakwood (Ms Hošek). I correct the record.
With respect to public hearings, we had some arguments presented earlier by the minister, that perhaps this was not necessary, that we had to get on with the task. But the reason, as I said, we are in this dilemma, this crisis with respect to auto insurance and the continuing loss of private companies operating in this field and continuing outflow of consumers from the private insurers into the Facility Association fund, is really because of the bad management, the crisis management of the government with respect to handling this whole matter.
We felt that it was critical. We are having a significant change that is going to impact on most Ontarians and it is important not only that people across this province have an opportunity to be heard and to express their view, their concerns, perhaps their support for this legislation, but also that the people of the province generally have a better opportunity to appreciate and understand the implications of this legislation. Obviously, I can only gauge this by the response in my own constituency office. There still is not a great awareness out there among members of the public about what the government is up to with this legislation.
No doubt that fits in with their agenda quite well. They are hoping that this is going to go by as a minor blip in terms of public awareness, that there is not going to be any great appreciation of the fact that what is happening is that they are going to see a reduction in benefits with an increase in rates. That is the reality. There are certainly some positive elements to this with respect to speeding up benefits, etc, but they are very much minor factors when you look at the total package, the total impact that this is going to have upon drivers and the consumers of this province.
The member for London North (Mrs Cunning-ham), because of illness in her own family, is unable to be here this week and perhaps may not be here next week as we move towards conclusion of second reading on this bill. I simply want to say on her behalf that she is very strongly opposed to this legislation because of her own personal experiences, the unfortunate accident that her son was involved in some time ago.
Because of the current system, although it is not perfect, she was able to provide the necessary rehabilitation for her son. When one looks at the rehab benefits that the government is moving towards in this legislation, anyone who has really had an experience with the current system, despite all its blemishes and flaws, will indeed stand up and say: “Minister, I much prefer the current system. Let’s make some minor modifications. Let’s make some changes” -- and we have suggested tort reform, which the government is doing -- “but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.” That, in essence, is what this government is doing.
As Justice Coulter Osborne said, we should be an exporter of insurance systems, not an importer. We have perhaps the finest system in the world currently in existence in this province. As Justice Osborne pointed out, some changes are required, some changes are needed to address the affordability question, to address a number of other issues -- fairness, etc -- but let’s not throw out what is indeed perhaps one of the finest systems in the world.
The government in its ad hoc fashion has rejected the recommendations of Justice Osborne, which, by the way, cost the taxpayers in excess of $1 million, and has rejected the recommendations of its own Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, which over its brief life cost the taxpayers in excess of $10 million to have virtually all of its recommendations rejected by the government, a thing that certainly should concern taxpayers of this province. But the message in many instances is not getting out, for reasons I am not quite sure of, but I guess that is one of the frustrations that goes along with being a member of an opposition party, when you recognize wrongs are not being addressed by the government and in fact are not even being recognized, for whatever reasons, by the public at large.
I wanted to put on the record the very serious concerns of the member for London North about the way the government is moving with respect to the provision of a no-fault plan based on her own experiences. Hopefully during committee hearings, or if indeed we get into debate on third reading -- and I suspect we will -- the member will at that point have an opportunity to very clearly put on the record her own very unfortunate experiences with respect to the accident that occurred to her son and with the insurance industry as a result of that accident and perhaps give all of us a better understanding, a first-person understanding of someone who has been down the road, who has really experienced the kind of situation where the current system, despite some time delays, has been clearly of benefit to her and to her family and, most important, to her son.
I also note, by looking at some of the clippings -- which are increasing, I must say -- with respect to the government’s proposal, that the Consumers’ Association of Canada has come out strongly in opposition to this measure. I do not necessarily share their reasons for opposition to this. They tend to be more supportive of the position taken by the New Democratic Party, which is for a government-run program, a pure no-fault program where everyone loses the right to access to the courts, which, I guess, is not only pure no-fault but pure socialism.
In any event, I have had some difficulty. I have a lot of good feelings about the Consumers Association of Canada and the efforts it undertakes on behalf of the consumers of this province, the consumers of this country. I think members will note that over the past number of years it has experienced a significant reduction in contributions by the public. One of the reasons, I think, is that the consumers’ association is regrettably becoming more and more politicized. In some respects, they could be accused of being -- I will not use the word “mouthpiece,” but certainly taking positions that have striking similarity to the platform planks of the New Democratic Party.
Mr Pouliot: Nice pink shirts.
Mr Runciman: Yes, as the member for Lake Nipigon says, “Nice pink shirts.” I think he is not just referring to mine; he is referring to the ones that the members of the consumers’ association are wearing these days.
I have expressed those views to the members, and I think they are sensitive to it with respect to their problems with fund-raising. It is one thing to take the position that is supposedly in support of consumers, but I think that perhaps they should be reflecting upon what is really in the best interests of the people at large rather than a particular segment of the population and trying to persuade them of the wrongness of their political views. Essentially, in many instances that is what we are getting into with the recommendations of the association.
I thought more important, from my perspective in any event, than the consumers’ association’s criticism the fact that Ralph Nader, who is the consumer champion of the United States, if you will, has come out foursquare against the government’s proposal. Although one would accuse him, I suppose -- certainly some American Republicans would accuse him -- of being to the left of the political spectrum. I think that Mr Nader, in my view anyway, as best he can with his association, tends to be apolitical, tends to, for the most part -- I am sure there are perhaps some instances when that could be changed -- truly represent the concerns of consumers in the United States. I think it is significant that he has gotten himself involved. We have seen a host of other associations, groups and organizations also start to get involved in this effort to get the attention of the government with respect to the drawbacks that are inherent in this legislation.
Again, I am not optimistic that anything is going to occur. In one of the articles that I read recently it indicated that the minister was not about to change his mind, and I suspect that is indeed the case. I have been down this road for a number of years now as the critic for Financial Institutions. I went through the Bill 2 hearings process, which established the rate-setting authority with the massive intervention into the private sector, and witness after witness testified at those hearings with respect to some of the shortcomings of that legislation and the problems it was going to create down the road. But none of that testimony was listened to, nothing of significance changed with respect to the bill as it was introduced.
We had one amendment, dealing with discrimination, introduced by the NDP which was supported by the government members. Our party did not support it because we knew at that time, and the testimony before us clearly indicated as well, that it was going to result in good drivers in the province being penalized while bad drivers would benefit and we would see groups like senior citizens facing rate increases in the neighbourhood of 80 and 90 per cent. That is what happened.
My point in all of this is that despite that testimony, despite reports commissioned by the ministry through a company called Mercer telling the government that this was going to happen, all of this testimony was completely ignored. So when the minister says now, before we even get into public hearings, that, “Nothing is really going to change. I want to get this thing on the books by spring of next year, get the insurance companies wound up and into this thing by the summer of 1990, 50 do not look for any significant changes,” I give the minister credit. At least he is being honest up front that this public hearing process, for all intents and purposes, is going to be nothing but a charade.
But we are used to that. We can go through all kinds of legislation that we have had to deal with in the past two or three years where we have gone through this kind of process. The court security act is a recent one that comes to mind, where all kinds of witnesses are appearing before us, telling us about the problems inherent in this legislation. Those concerns are completely ignored and the government forges ahead, much to the detriment of the people of this province.
That is what lies ahead with respect to this initiative. It is a clear indication of this government not having any agenda, not having any clear vision of where it wants to go, of what it ultimately hopes to achieve. It has been dealing with this on a crisis-by-crisis basis, trying to come up, as I have called it, with an overnight, scat-of-the-pants, ad hoc answer that will cool the political heat for a period of time. Then when the heat level begins to rise again, they will jump at some other short-term answer or solution.
They are hoping and praying that they are going to hit it lucky, that there is going to be some panacea out there with respect to placating the consumers of this province, but it is not going to happen. No-fault is not that panacea. It certainly is not. It is going to create all kinds of problems.
I gather that within the inner sanctum of the Liberal government the way they approach this is: “As long as this gets us over the hump, as long as this gets us past the next provincial election, maybe we can fool the people again. We fooled them in 1987 and maybe we can fool them again. This will not raise its ugly head again until after the election, and with any luck we will return as a majority government.”
I have to assume that is the reasoning behind this latest initiative. You look at the fact that Mr Justice Coulter Osborne at a cost of $1 million plus recommended against this. You look at the fact that the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board at a cost of close to $12 million of taxpayers’ money recommended against this.
We hear rumblings -- I find this somewhat difficult to believe but we hear rumblings -- that the Attorney General is quite unhappy with this piece of legislation. He has been meeting with lawyers’ groups across the province and has been indicating that be was ganged up on in cabinet, that he was mugged in the cabinet corridors and that he has a great deal of difficulty with this legislation.
I take that with a grain of salt because we know the Attorney General is one of the perhaps three key people in the cabinet. If he was strongly opposed to this initiative, based on the recommendations of the board and Justice Osborne, I think his opinions would have had a little more weight than he suggests they had when he is meeting with groups concerned about this legislation. So I am taking this with a grain of salt.
I hope that the Attorney General is being honest and upfront with the groups he is meeting with, and that he is not saying one thing to lawyers and advocates for the disabled and something else when he is sitting within the caucus room of the Liberal Party of Ontario. Who knows? When we are talking about a piece of legislation that has such a significant impact on the people of this province, I would think that if the Attorney General feels as strongly as he is suggesting, or as I am hearing rumours he is suggesting, to private interest groups, to private sector groups, he should be stepping out of cabinet. That is my view.
He should not be sneaking around in the back rooms and meeting rooms of this province saying: “I do not agree with what my government is doing. I do not agree with what the cabinet decision was with respect to automobile insurance. I think this no-fault program is all wrong. It is going to hurt the people of this province. It is going to hurt the disabled. It is going to hurt innocent accident victims. It is going to hurt a multitude of people.” If he feels that way, he should not be sitting in that seat any longer. He should be removing himself from the executive council.
If this were a minor matter, I could understand of the executive council remaining in a member’s seat and keeping his opinions to himself -- cabinet solidarity. But we are talking about a significant issue that of course impacts on the lawyers, both defence and plaintiff lawyers, the group that he is among other things representing in this House as the chief law officer, as the Attorney General. It seems to me it is the kind of matter he should be expressing his views on publicly.
In any event, I am only suggesting that if that is the case and those are the views of the Attorney General, in my view it is incumbent upon him to make those views known publicly and I think that at that time it would perhaps also be incumbent upon him to resign his seat on the executive council. We do not see that happening and there is no question that sort of action would take a great deal of courage on his part.
We will just have to wait and see as this argument festers over the next month and a half and as more information comes to light. If his views are as we have heard, perhaps the committee may want to call the Attorney General as a witness. I do not think that is unheard of. If the Attorney General has some concerns and if the Liberal members of the committee that will be dealing with this in a public hearing process are so confident about the Attorney General’s views, then they would have no reluctance whatsoever to see the Attorney General appear as a witness.
That would be most interesting. I am getting some affirmative head-shakes from across the aisle. I may be holding the parliamentary assistant to his head-shake. That was a yes, was it not? That was a yes.
Mr Ferraro: Whatever you want to call it is fine with us.
Mr Runciman: I want it on the record that the parliamentary assistant is being most cordial today and indicated that if the opposition is interested in hearing the Attorney General’s views, he would probably have no difficulty with that.
Mr Ballinger: I thought he was just scratching his head.
Mr Runciman: No, he was not scratching his head, but I thank the member for his contribution to the debate anyway.
I want to talk about a couple of things the minister has well said in this press release, this press article. I want to put this on the record so that it is there in case the minister tends to contradict himself in the next few months and that certainly would not be unprecedented. He has clearly indicated that there will be no interim rate increase.
I do not know about that. If the minister is truly concerned about the health of the industry in Ontario and wants to maintain a viable private sector with respect to the provision of automobile insurance in this province, that is something he may want to take another look at. I am not sure. This certainly has not been caucused or discussed by our party, but again we have some sympathy with the situation some members of the industry have in this province in terms of the shortfall in revenues, in terms of trying to meet the costs that are inherent in the provision of automobile insurance in this province.
I was told by an industry representative that his company alone would be losing in the neighbour-hood of $14 million to $15 million, simply by a delay in this plan coming into being, if it was not allocated increases prior to the particular date that was earlier suggested; I think it was 1 March 1990. It will be interesting to see what transpires over the next period of time and whether the minister is able to keep that promise. He has to step aside from the political implications of any such initiative and take a look at it. If he is committed to maintaining a viable private sector in this province, perhaps he will have to review that decision, that comment, that commitment.
I talked at length about it two weeks ago, I guess it was, when we discussed this and I have also mentioned today my understanding for the position taken by the industry and its rather low profile on this issue, and the fact that if it could be publicly as supportive as it privately feels, that would in no small part, I suspect, lead to growing concern among the electorate of the province.
I want to talk again about the savings the industry is going to receive. We are using the figure of $1 billion of windfall to the industry. I know some of them will take issue with that, but I am basing it on a study by Professor Jack Can from the University of Toronto. As we know, on the record, the OHIP and tax savings are going to be in the neighbourhood of $140 million. In our view and the view of most experts, including Osborne and including the auto insurance board, this plan, the threshold introduced by this government, is going to restrict access to the courts to probably 95 to 97 per cent of accident victims.
I know that some of the savings to insurance companies Professor Can outlined, the $630 million which could be closer to $800 million, will flow out to what we would have considered in the past to be at-fault drivers, rather than going to innocent victims or flowing to innocent victims. About a fifth of that, if I recall my figures correctly, will be outflowing to at-fault drivers.
I want to reiterate our difficulty with that as a principle and the whole concept of no-fault. We have a problem with the idea of individuals not being held responsible for their actions. That in essence is what no-fault is all about, an individual in society not being held responsible for his or her actions. As a party we have a great deal of difficulty with that concept. It certainly is a growing one in society and one that causes many of us concern. Everyone seems to have growing rights and diminishing responsibilities.
In essence, that is what we are doing with the auto insurance sector, removing responsibilities with the no-fault element and allowing the bad drivers, the bad actors in society to escape, if you will, responsibility for their actions. One of the ways they do not escape their responsibilities under the current system is through the rate structure and through the fact that the rates would increase significantly if there were bad actors on the highways and roads of this province.
A concern that is growing, one the minister has dismissed out of hand, is clearly identified in the Quebec experience and in a number of American jurisdictions, and that is the question of highway traffic safety. The study in Quebec I cited last week showed the incidence of highway traffic accidents increasing significantly, and perhaps more importantly, the incidence of highway traffic deaths increasing significantly under a no-fault process.
If we transpose the results of the Quebec experience into Ontario, we could be looking at an increase in deaths in this province in the neighbourhood of 100 additional deaths per year because of the encouragement, if you will, of the bad actors, the bad drivers in society to get back out on the road because of no-fault auto insurance, a lowering of premiums for those bad actors, a lessening or a reduction or a complete elimination in many instances of responsibility for their actions on the highways and roads.
That is a very significant concern, one that has been ignored by the government and one that the minister suggests is going to be handled by the addition of X number of new OPP patrol officers and a few other provisions that they are hoping to deal with in terms of highway safety. Increasing fines is one of those provisions, which I gather we are going to see legislation on shortly, but that is another ruse to increase government revenues. I am not sure that is going to have much impact on highway safety, if you look at the government’s record with respect to increasing virtually every licence fee it can get its hands on in this province.
We can look at the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario. They have increased fees across the board and all the licensing through the consumer and commercial relations branch in the neighbourhood of 400 or 500 per cent. Now they are going to do the same with highway traffic fines and they are going to say, “We’re doing this in the interest of safety in the province.”
What they are doing is that they are really interested in lining the pockets of this government, if you take a look at the way they have increased taxes 105 per cent in the past four years. We have talked about the way they have increased licence fees, the way they have increased all these various fees associated with government by 400 to 500 to 600 to 700 per cent.
The groups out there, such as the small legion groups that are trying to get special occasion permits, know what is happening and hopefully -- from this side of the aisle I guess I have to say “hopefully” -- that sort of thing is going to build up resentment among the people of Ontario that will ultimately result in the defeat of this Liberal government.
We want to talk a bit about the $450-a-week provision. That $450 is the maximum payment for loss of income under this plan if someone is involved in an accident and is unable to work for a period of time. We have some difficulty with that provision as well. I want to just use an example in Toronto.
A TTC driver in Toronto -- a bus driver or a subway driver -- earns in the neighbourhood of $48,000 a year. Under the government’s program, he is going to make $450 a week, which is some $23,000 or $24,000 a year; I do not have my calculator with me. What we are going to see is that particular individual, who may have a heavy mortgage, who may have a family to support on his income, have that income reduced to about $22,000 or $23,000 a year. What is going to happen? Where is that money going to come from? How is he ever going to hope to recover the $20,000 he is going to lose? How is his family going to survive? How is he going to keep up his mortgage payments?
There does not seem to be any appreciation or understanding by this government of that kind of dilemma that is going to confront so many Ontarians, no appreciation, no recognition. They are simply turning a blind eye to that sort of situation and hoping against hope that people out there are not going to notice that this no-fault plan could very seriously impact on me and my family if I happen to be an innocent victim of a car accident. I could lose my home. I could have to declare personal bankruptcy.
That is a reality if you have someone like that living in Metropolitan Toronto, for example, with the high cost of living, trying to survive with a family and make mortgage payments or high rental payments. He or she loses about $20,000 a year because of an accident that he or she had no responsibility for, and there is no recourse, no way of recovering those lost moneys. Why does the government not address that kind of situation and tell us how that individual is going to be helped by this program? They are not going to be helped by this program.
If you use the current system, you would certainly have every opportunity to recover those lost funds, but recover significantly more for pain and suffering. Not only the victim himself or herself, but family members as well would have the opportunity for some recovery through the current tort system that exists in this province. That is all being tossed out the window. That is the kind of message that has to get out to the people of this province. They have to really begin to appreciate the risks that are involved in this initiative the government has committed itself to.
I want to put on the record a couple of comments that were in an article in the Globe and Mail just last week, on 24 November. This had to do with a group advocating for the disabled in the province, expressing concerns. I am going to read this into the record and I will provide Hansard with a copy afterwards.
“One inexcusable element in the government’s proposal is the arbitrary $1,500 monthly limit on expenses for long-term care. Insurers need not pay if they can persuade an institution (many of which are totally or substantially government subsidized) to admit the accident victim. In a province that institutionalizes disabled people at an unprecedented rate and provides virtually no community support, this limit represents a ‘life sentence’ for many disabled people.
“It is highly ironic that this limit should be announced a few weeks after the Supreme Court of Canada compelled auto insurers to support community living for accident victims. Despite government policy to respect the wishes of disabled people and their families for community living, the government’s plan will increase the rate at which Ontario residents wind up in institutions.”
There is another element that I want to put on the record from this same article.
“Another intolerable provision of the plan is that accident victims or their families must first ‘incur expenses for rehabilitation and long-term care before payment will be considered by the victim’s insurers. This removes these benefits from the reach of many accident victims. As leading long-term care expert Jane Staub has said, ‘The need for families to spend their own money will create undue hardships, especially for poor families whose breadwinner may well be the injured claimant.’”
That is an important ingredient of this and an element that I talked about last week: the impact on the poor of this province. I have talked about and I quoted concerns in respect to the disabled, and that is an element we have to be very concerned about, but I am also very much concerned about its impact on the poor of this province.
Mr Speaker, I am glad to see you back in the chair. As a member representing the same area of the province as I represent, and I have brought this matter to your attention before, I want to again raise it in the House; a study done by the federal government a couple of years ago which showed that in our region of eastern Ontario the highest percentage of families existing on less than $10,000, and the highest percentage of families existing on less than $5,000 per year reside in eastern Ontario.
So, Mr Speaker, when we are talking about the impact of this legislation on poor families of this province, you and I and other representatives of eastern Ontario should be especially concerned because it is going to impact on many of the people we represent in a far greater way than many other regions of this province.
I am not going to speak too much longer.
This is an element that does greatly concern me, the impact upon the poor and the impact upon the disabled, and the fact that many, many families across this province are going to be very seriously hurt by this legislation. I have talked about even moderately well-to-do families, and I guess most of us outside of the Metropolitan Toronto region would consider $48,000 a year to be a pretty good income, but for those trying to survive on it in the greater Toronto area it is tough, especially if one has a family and one has high rent payments or a mortgage. So it is impacting upon those people as well as the people in my region of the province who are perhaps making only $15,000, $20,000 a year or less. There is no recognition of that in this legislation. There is no way of addressing that concern.
It is of great concern to me and of great concern to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario that the government simply does not want to recognize that concern, does not want to recognize the validity of those concerns in respect to the handicapped, in respect to the poor, in respect to highway traffic safety, in respect to a host of concerns about this legislation. They are simply ignoring them.
When we ask the minister specific questions about its impact on individuals, on families, on highway traffic safety, we get nonanswers. We get this minister continually standing up in the House going on at length with his set speech about the benefits of speedy, responsive no-fault and so on, but never, never addressing the very real concerns that are out there. Never once have we had what I would describe as a meaningful response from that minister.
I like the minister. I have a great deal of respect for his ability, but I also have some concern about his efforts at bafflegab in respect to this issue, in respect to the genuine concerns that we, as opposition members in this House, are trying to raise, trying to get answered, and we are simply being faced with this wall of noninformation. We are going to attempt over the next few weeks to break through that wall and try to get some answers and try to get these very real concerns of many, many people across this province ad-dressed.
Tying in this whole question in terms of its impact on poor families, in coming to a conclusion I want to once again lay the responsibility for what has happened in the auto insurance field in this province at the doorstep of the leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, the Premier (Mr Peterson). He made a promise in 1987, near the end of the provincial election campaign, that he had a very specific plan to lower automobile insurance rates.
I think we all know that was not the case, that he had no such plan, and that indeed following the election the government, through its bureaucracy, was set scrambling to try to meet that promise, to try and come up with some sort of process that would indeed meet that promise. We found out that it was unmeetable, unachievable, that it was a promise that could not be kept.
As a result, we have seen what I think can only be accurately described as chaos in the auto insurance field in this province. We have seen the government have massive intrusion with rate setting; we have seen the backoff following recommendations that it ignored its own auto insurance board, all of these things costing taxpayers millions and millions of dollars just flushed down the toilet by this Liberal government. We have seen nothing but panic reactions at every step of the process; panic reactions that have cost the taxpayers of this province and are going to continue to cost us.
As I said, one of the elements of this is its impact on the poor. Again mentioning my point that this has to be laid at the doorstep of the Premier, this is a gentleman who I do not think has a clear appreciation of the problems faced by the less-fortunate people in this province.
Mr Ballinger: Oh, come on.
Mr Runciman: I know it bothers some of the members opposite to hear this sort of thing, but based upon my own observations over the past number of years we are talking about a man who was raised in very privileged surroundings, someone who was born into wealth, someone who has never really had to get out and slug it out on a day-to-day basis, someone who has no appreciation of what it means to work shift work, what it means to try and pay the rent when one is scratching away to make a monthly rent payment or a mortgage payment. That gentleman has no appreciation of that. He has no appreciation of not having enough money in the house to buy groceries at the end of the week.
Some people in this House do have that appreciation and a lot of people in this province have that appreciation. That gentleman, the leader of that particular party, the Liberal Party of Ontario, has no appreciation, and the introduction of this kind of legislation clearly points that out. Its impact on the disabled and especially its impact on the poor of this province very clearly identify it. That man has no understanding, no appreciation and, in my view, no compassion for the real poor of this province.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Runciman: I want to tell members that I have no apologies in respect to making these comments because I feel quite strongly about this. I have witnessed this gentleman and I have witnessed the activities of this government over the past number of years and they have confirmed my views in respect to where he is coming from.
We have heard him talk about his business experience. I think most of us could become president of daddy’s firm when we are 26 if we had a daddy who was a very wealthy man and had a big, warm chair for us.
Mr Ballinger: Enough of the cheap shots.
Mr Runciman: You can call it what you will; I feel quite strongly. You talk about that being a cheap shot; I am talking about a Premier of the province who will bring in legislation like this, that hurts, that seriously hurts the poor of this province, and who could not care less.
His minister gives us bafflegab, stonewalls us day after day and will provide no meaningful answers on serious questions. I do not mind saying that. That man does not care. If he really cared, we would not have this legislation before us today. Our party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, is going to fight this to the end.
Mr Laughren: I wish to engage in the debate on Bill 68.
Following the previous speaker from the Conservative caucus, it gives me a great deal of pleasure because I heard him clearly say that he was angry that the government does not have much concern for those people with low incomes who will be hurt by this legislation. I agree with the member for Leeds-Grenville. That is precisely the case.
I would simply ask the member for Leeds-Grenville to extend his argument, if he believes that as firmly as he seemed to believe it when he said it, that we should be striving for the lowest possible premiums in Ontario and that, of course, will come only through a public automobile insurance plan.
I assume the member for Leeds-Grenville would agree that he wants the lowest possible premiums and if that is the only way to get the lowest possible premiums, if the member for Leeds-Grenville really cases about those low-income families he is talking about, he would then of course support a public automobile insurance plan in the province of Ontario.
The debate surrounding auto insurance has been a fascinating one. I would guess that in the next few years some academic will write a thesis on the whole question of the spectacle of this government wrestling with the auto insurance question. I believe that most firmly, as the government tried to deal with the rate levels, with the discriminatory rates that were in existence when it formed the government, with the availability of insurance, that question, with the question of fault versus no-fault and whether a private insurance plan is more appropriate in Ontario than a publicly or driver-owned insurance plan.
It really has been a spectacle to watch the government try to deal with all of these issues in the form of legislation. The government brought in legislation and brought in the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, the rate board that it established. When that board set rates that were too high for them to accept, given the anger that was out there in the community, it was no problem; they abolished the board and simply brought in new legislation.
It really has been a spectacle and now, of course, we have another bill.
I must say I agree with the member for Leeds-Grenville on another matter. I do not know how the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet (Mr Elston) has kept his job through the whole process. I can think of only one reason that has allowed him to keep his job and that is because the Premier made a promise on this issue and if the Premier were to dump the Chairman of Management Board from looking after the insurance industry, he would then look pretty silly himself.
All of us, I am sure, recall what the Premier said in the 1987 election campaign. He said, “I have a specific plan to lower insurance rates in the province of Ontario.” Nobody even pretends any more that this Bill 68 will lower insurance premiums in Ontario. If the members on the government side believe this is going to lower insurance rates, I trust they will rise in their place and say so. If they believe it will not lower insurance rates, what does that say about the promise of the Premier? What does it say?
Someone once said that a Liberal promise was an oxymoron. I would say a Liberal commitment is an oxymoron. The promises they can make; the commitments they cannot keep or will not keep. It was a very clear promise made by the Premier, the first minister of the province, that insurance rates would be lowered, with a specific plan, not as the Liberals often do by waving a wishing wand, but he had a specific plan to lower insurance rates.
Everyone I have talked to agrees this bill will not do it. It simply cannot do it. Yet nobody seems to be taking the Premier to task very much.
I suspect this bill has the worst aspects of any combination of factors that go into making up an insurance plan. It has probably the worst aspects for the free market advocate because of its regulatory aspects, so I would suspect that believers in the free market such as the person who spoke before me, the member for Leeds-Grenville, hate this bill because they are great advocates of the free market. They cannot stand it. I am a great advocate of a driver-owned public plan. I hate this bill, because it has all the worst aspects of the free market with none of the benefits of a public plan. It is ridiculous. It is a ridiculous piece of legislation.
The government is being laughed at all across the province because of this legislation. It really is a pathetic performance on the part of this government. If it was bringing in pure no-fault insurance or even limited no-fault, then members would think that would allow the government to deliver an adequate level of benefits. I mean, there must be a tradeoff here. If the government is going to bring in an insurance program that limits fault, which means that the insurance companies will not have to pay out so much, then surely to goodness it must be able to increase the level of benefits substantially and fairly. I know what the level of benefits is in this bill. Not only are they inadequate, it has not even indexed them. What kind of nonsense is that? What kind of protection is that for the drivers of Ontario?
As I re-read the bill, it mentions 80 per cent of net earnings -- that is net earnings, not gross earnings -- to a maximum of $23,400. Go and tell an injured worker that is going to be the level of benefits he or she receives. They will run the government out of town. Why is it that an injured worker will get a level of benefits almost twice as high as this and a person injured in a car accident will get this kind of level? It is ludicrous.
The government has got the worst of all possible worlds with this legislation. Not only that, but the benefits are secondary to other forms of insurance, so if members have got another kind of insurance through their employment or through their own private insurance for which they pay separate premiums, the industry does not even have to pay out until they have made out their payment and then the insurance industry just makes up the difference in what the level of benefits should be.
I want to tell members, that is really something else. Not only is the government subsidizing the industry on the no-fault aspect, it is subsidizing the industry on the level of benefits; it is saying to the industry, ‘Don’t you worry now, we will make sure that all the other private plans have to pay before the auto insurance plan kicks in.” It is also saying, of course, “Don’t worry about that premium tax either.” There used to be a three per cent premium tax in the province of Ontario, and that raised almost $100 million a year -- $95 million, I believe -- to the province. Almost $100 million a year. What does the government say? “We are cancelling that. We will give you $95 million a year just to bring in this plan.” My goodness.
At present, if someone gets hurt in a car accident, the OHIP costs are billed to the insurance company. Under this new legislation, no. The state, the province, the taxpayers of Ontario, all taxpayers, are going to pick that up. We are talking about another $48 million.
So just in those two aspects of this bill -- the cancellation of the premium tax, which is almost $100 million, and the fact that the industry will not have to pay the OHIP bills any more -- we have a $143-million subsidy to the auto insurance industry of this province. That is what the government is doing. What a boondoggle. What a bunch of bandits the members opposite are. They are handing that out to the insurance industry, and do they know why they are doing it? They are hoping that the insurance premiums will not go up as fast and that maybe they will find a premium somewhere in the province where it will even go down for some individual in the province, and then they will say the Premier’s promise has been kept. Well, they are not going to.
There are three kinds of robins: Robin Hood, robin redbreast and you, you robber. I will not complete the story the way it was told to me. I missed something there.
Mr Laughren: I do have to watch myself from time to time in this assembly --
Mr Pouliot: Nobody else is watching you. Mr Laughren: I appreciate the presence of the late member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot). This really is a strange, strange piece of legislation. I think of the inefficiency, I think of how much money the taxpayers have spent just in perusing and coming up with a new solution to auto insurance. I cannot remember the figure on the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board that was set up and then abolished, but it was somewhere between $5 million and $10 million that went totally down the toilet. That is where it went, because the government set it up, it made its recommendations, the government did not like the recommendations, so it abolished the board and brought in another bill.
It is absolutely ridiculous what the government has done here. And why? Because the government did not have the courage to deal with the central issue, and that is whether it wants a private plan that behaves according to the market, or whether it wants a public plan, such as is in existence in the western provinces. That is the problem. The government did not have the courage to deal with that. Guess where the heartland of auto insurance is in this province: London, Ontario. Guess which riding the Premier represents: London, Ontario. All a coincidence, of course; all strictly a coincidence. Well, London, Ontario, is well.
I was checking some of the numbers on efficiency between the private industry and the public industry, particularly in British Columbia. I did not go to them and ask them their numbers. I went to Mr Justice Coulter Osborne, appointed by the government to look into insurance matters. He made a comment that the commission on premiums in Ontario ranges anywhere from 7 1/2 per cent to 20 per cent of the annual premiums. In British Columbia, which has a government-run, driver-owned system, the commission rate is seven per cent. Well, if they do it out there with a seven per cent commission, and you have some agents in Ontario taking 20 per cent out of the system, what does that tell the government about the relative efficiency of the two systems? If the government has got a sense of fairness at all, it will know that those people are taking more out of the system than should be taken out of it.
I looked at the expense ratio between the two systems. The expense ratio -- expenses in relation to premiums -- is 16 per cent in British Columbia. Guess what the expense ratio is in Ontario. Not 16 per cent, not 18 per cent, not 20 per cent, not 22 per cent, and not 25 per cent; it is 30.9 per cent. Now how in the world does the government justify that? I hear these advocates of the free market and free enterprise talk about the efficiency of free enterprise and the inefficiency of government all the time. I hear that often. But here we have an example and proof that a government-run plan is much more efficient than a private plan and the government chooses to ignore those numbers.
Why? Guess why. Guess who has done the successful lobbying with this government. The insurance industry of the province. But the government has not made them happy either. Does the government think they are happy with this stupid system it has got? Bill 68 will not make the system any less stupid than it is now and yet here the government goes, because it does not have the courage to deal with the central question.
It does not matter that commissions are lower in British Columbia. It does not matter that British Columbia is almost twice as efficient vis-à-vis the expense ratio. And these are not just numbers. Just that expense ratio itself -- 16 per cent versus over 30 per cent -- would save the average driver about $100 a year. When I hear the member for Leeds-Grenville talking about his concern for people with low incomes, I did not hear him, however, say that the public plan was much more efficient than the private plan. This is a classic case of the government trying to have the best of both worlds and ending up with the worst of both worlds, the private and the public sector plans. At some point, this government is going to have to deal with that.
I personally sin very proud of the policy that my party has been espousing for these many years, and it would not stop with Bill 68; it would put together all the insurance needs of people who get hurt, regardless of where they get hurt and regardless of fault. It would be a universal system. Such a system does exist out there -- it exists in New Zealand, for example -- and whether you get hurt in a car, on the job or at home, you are covered, regardless of fault.
Here we have a system that is not no-fault because it has a limited threshold and yet it is not pure fault where you can sue whenever you feel like it. It is neither. It is nothing. It is a stupid plan, and I cannot --
Mr Brown: Do you read your election documents?
Mr Laughren: Yes, I have read all the material that my party stands for, and I can say that if you just deal with auto insurance, a public plan in itself would be worth doing. It is when you eventually get to the stage where you put all of the compensation plans together that you will realize a maximum efficiency, not the way the government is doing it. It is really ending up with the worst of both worlds with this bill.
If the members of the Liberal government would stop and think about what they are doing and think of how silly they have looked over the past few years in trying to deal with auto insurance, they might come to their senses and start saying to the front bench over there: “Look, for heaven’s sake, we are being embarrassed day after day after day with these insurance plans. The industry is mad at us. The consumers are mad at us. Why can’t we come up with a public plan that will satisfy the needs of Ontario drivers in a fair and nondiscriminatory way?”
Mr Pouliot: I want to voice my concern and, of course, more importantly, the concerns of our constituents. We are presented with really what is a sham, and the word is not too strong. What we have here is a fraud, a world of make-believe, tales of Houdini. Sometimes you think you see the benefit under the proposed legislation, but most times those benefits are not existent or real.
The no-fault plan proposal, as it is titled by the government, should really be called a reduced benefit plan, because let’s call it what it is. What the government is proposing is reduced benefits for the motorists of Ontario. The government is saying that unless your injuries are catastrophic, the result of a motor vehicle accident, and permanent -- fortunately there are not too many paraplegics in Ontario -- you will receive absolutely no compensation for pain and/or injury, for discomfort, for trauma.
Many people believe, wrongly, that there is a compensation chart associated with the no-fault plan; that, for instance, you will get $2,500 for a broken rib, $5,000 for a broken arm, $l0,000 for a broken leg. I am sorry; there is no such thing. There is not one penny; as my friend the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos), the critic, would say, not a nickel, not a dime, not a penny, zilch. If you need therapy after a broken leg, you do not get any money for the broken leg, and you do not get any money for therapy. You get no money for a wheelchair unless you are permanently confined to that apparatus. You get no money for insomnia, you get no money for headaches, nausea, numbness. There is no money available from the government.
If you belong to a plan, and the plan is really specific when it comes to benefit to the motorist, there is no chance that you will ever double dip. Members of this House know what double dipping is; in fact, some of them go beyond to the triple dip and quadruple dip. They feel their needs are many. If you have a weekly disability provision in your collective agreement, you have a small private insurance, for instance, that says if you are off work you shall be compensated to the tune of $100 or $200 a week, let’s say -- it could be any amount of money -- you will have to exhaust that before you can latch on to the plan that is proposed by the government. So there goes your sick leave credit, there goes your weekly indemnity program. It is really a reduced benefit plan.
Just last week I had the chance to chat with the minister responsible for the no-fault plan. I suggested to him that he listen very carefully to a true story that happened a few months ago. Of course, the name of the person has been changed, and so has the location, but it is a true story.
Maria is a first-generation Canadian of Portuguese heritage who works for the minimum wage. She cleans the rooms down the road here at the Royal York and gets $5 an hour. One day on her way to work she gets off the bus -- public transit. It is a little slippery and she gets hit by a motorist. Keep in mind that Maria makes $5 an hour; 40 hours at her designated place of work will constitute a workweek, so that is $200 a week.
Let’s not catastrophize because it is a true story. She does not get hit by Conrad Black. She does not get hit by the chauffeur of a limo with a minister in the back seat. She does not get paralysed for life. Let’s not be catastrophic; let’s be factual here. But she suffered a broken leg and lost her glasses; one pair of glasses. Most people do not carry spares -- you certainly do not at $5 an hour -- and Maria was certainly no exception.
Ironically, had this accident happened when this legislation was in force and in effect, she would get less than the minimum wage of $5 an hour in the province. It is illegal to work for less than $5 an hour; that is what the government says. That is why we have minimum wage. But she got hit by a car on the way to work; she was off work for months. The government says:
“Now you will be making less than the minimum wage because you got hit by a car, Maria, because you get 80 per cent; so that is going to bring you from $5 an hour in terms of income to $4 an hour.”
Under any other circumstances you could go to the Ministry of Labour and say: “I was robbed. I was not adequately compensated.” But since you got hit by scar, it is costing you 20 per cent, and you go from $5 to a morally illegal $4 an hour. And you do not have the right to sue because you are not a paraplegic. Your injuries are not severe enough or, let’s say, permanent or catastrophic. So you get 20 per cent less, $160 a week.
Even more ironically, by virtue of the provisions that are put forward, an unemployed person who qualifies under the other established threshold, if he has not worked in the past two years, let’s say, would be getting more money than a person working at a minimum wage. This is a twist of fate of the worst order. If one wishes to develop this over time, once you address the kind of proposed legislation which is ill fated, because it is really cast in hell, one could go, because it is a reality, as far as saying that Maria would have been better off going to the Royal York, hoping to get a job to clean the rooms. The problem with
Maria is that she could not afford side insurance.
This is a no-fault plan for motorists. We are asking people to take out insurance against the motorist, because there is no coverage for any of the supplementary. This is the world upside down. We were saying it is no-fault. If it is not my fault, if I get hit by a car as a pedestrian, I want to make sure that I buy protection in case I get hit. Does that make a lot of sense? It does not make a lot of sense to me.
The minister has mentioned that he wished to ask his aides, the people in his ministry, to look at it and to come back, to see if it was revenue-neutral. I said to the minister, “I am really not too concerned, if I may be so bold -- heck, I really do not give a heck if it is revenue-neutral.” The thing is, it is not going to cost a great deal. There is a human dimension which borders on the proverbial in cases such as Maria. It is not going to cost the insurance company one bit to make sure that if she gets hit by a car as a pedestrian, she will at least get the minimum wage. Give me a break. That is normal. Who is going to complain, the insurance companies? It is not going to affect that many people.
Consider the idea, the philosophy, the style, the methodology even to suggest -- and that is the way it appears -- that a person making the minimum wage, a pedestrian, can come off public transit, get run over by a car and lose 20 per cent. This is nothing short of that -- I ask anyone to deny it -- in this present form. Thank heaven, provisions are here for many amendments, and I think that is really one of them. If people are deliberately to get up in this House, regardless of partisanship and political strife. they would agree with anyone who says that if you get run over by a car, you should at least get the minimum wage. Let’s face it.
I do not want to take too much of the valuable time of my distinguished colleague, Mr Speaker, but I have some other comments that pretty well ask what will happen to people. If you will bear with me, I will depart from normalcy and read them; this is not a prepared text, but I jotted them down. I want to make sure that I read them in the right order. It has been done in this House before.
In fact, I saw with my very eyes not very recently that some members were reading from prepared texts. I am fully aware that it is contrary, although the word is ambiguous, and it gives you, Mr Speaker, flexibility and latitude in exercising your function.
You will receive inadequate compensation for your injuries and lost income. “Inadequate” means you are not breaking even here. It is your fault if you get hurt. That is almost the way it works. Your friendly banker, when you go and pay your mortgage, will not ask you whose fault it is. It is your fault because you cannot make your payments, and you cannot make your payments because you are the victim -- the victim of an accident but also the victim of the system.
Your premiums are not going to go down -- this is a point of view -- or they will not rise as much. They will raise your premiums. They cut your benefits dramatically, drastically, but they say it is going to cost you less. It is not going to cost you less. If you pay $1,000, you will pay eight per cent more, $1,080.
What should be said is, it is anticipated that it will cost you less than it would have cost you if we had not gone to a reduced-benefit plan. You will pay more in premiums, even though the government promised in 1987 that it had a plan to reduce these costs.
There was one morning when I got out on the right side of the bed -- I always do -- but I said, “Gilles, you remember the promise that was made, that the government had a special plan.” That was in 1987. I am sure, coincidentally, it was right before the last provincial election. I will leave that one alone. A lot has been said. Enough has been said about that.
You will pay more in taxes to cover the further $141 million handed back to the insurance companies by the government. I mean, they are starting to develop a team here. What you are doing is, you are giving $141 million back to the government. It is going to have to come from someplace; likely, it will come from general taxation.
You are also telling the insurance companies:
“Here is $141 million that you didn’t have before. We are giving this back to you. You don’t have to pay us any more. On top of it, you can raise your premiums by eight per cent.” That is a $141-million divided by insurance companies, on a scale, then eight per cent more for the premiums.
But the trick here is that the cost of doing business is reduced dramatically; that over 90 per cent of the people -- closer to 95 per cent of the people -- have no recourse. They pay eight per cent more out of their pockets to buy protection, to buy car insurance. They will pay out of general taxation their share of the $141 million to go back to the companies, so they are paying twice; plus, in 95 per cent of the cases, they have given up their right to sue, their right to recourse. I mean, I have heard of losers. The consumer often takes a beating. I have heard of double losers, but I am getting scared here. This is not a lose-lose situation; this is a lose-lose-lose situation. There is almost no end to it.
When I see the robbery that has taken place -- robbery,” because you can see the scheme. You can see how deliberate, how systematic, month after month, in successive years. You can see the major players. You can ace the team being developed. You can see the lemon being squeezed, once, twice, three times. I say to you, Mr Speaker, that these kinds of conditions should definitely not be allowed to prevail. Often I have mentioned, and in the recent past, that the middle class -- yes, the less fortunate, if you wish, the working poor and the middle class -- was under a state of siege, a feeling that the world has pretty well descended upon us, that we no longer have hopes of having a fair system. The bottom line is that the consumer ends up paying for everything, more so than ever before.
These kinds of endeavours are another component. But when you mention it to people, they say: “Look, I can’t take it any more. I mean, I want to participate in the system, but I am getting a little less in the left pocket, a little less in the right pocket. First, I throw out the holidays and I cut down on Christmas a bit, and now my car premiums are going up. My insurance premiums are going up eight per cent. I am going to pay more on general taxation because I’ve got to give $141 million back to the insurance company, plus I need my weekly indemnity program. Hey, what am I going to do? I am the wage-earner in the family, and I have two little ones at home. I’ve got to protect myself, so I have to buy a side insurance to cover the show.”
Those are questions that people ask, that couples talk about among themselves, and they are in business too. They are in the business of making ends meet, and they are having some difficulty with this proposal, among others. I have mentioned already -- I am ahead of myself -- that you have to provide for your loved ones additional disability insurance, as a provider for your family.
If you are self-employed and you are showing a small profit -- I bet your first job, Mr Speaker, was with a small entrepreneur. The reason I say this -- it is not a wager -- is that in most cases, eight out of 10, we enjoyed the opportunity of working for the first time in our lives, being gainfully employed, with a small business.
Well, those small business people, who are really the thrust of our economic system, will not be compensated for profit. Even if you sell the odd quart of milk -- but it is sometimes a lost leader, if you wish -- you sell lottery tickets, Lotto 649, a chance to dream and then a chance to fleece with the Encore; you know, the proverbial straw. They are very imaginative that way. It is a place where, if you are a bit of a sinner, you buys pack of cigarettes.
Well, if the entrepreneur is hit in scar collision or as a pedestrian, he is not going to be compensated for profits. There is no such thing. Probably more than just to the hill, there is a path between the maybe not-so-friendly banker, but those bankers are old-fashioned. You can with-draw and withdraw, but they want you to deposit now and then. If you cannot meet your payments, you find out that humour does not become the banker and he becomes not so friendly and he forecloses.
Mr Kerrio: You are dealing at the wrong bank.
Mr Pouliot: You are a lawyer. You have, I am sure, handled many of those cases, or witnessed them.
You give up the right to sue for pain and suffering and other traumatic experiences, and perhaps this is more than your legal right to be compensated, to have recourse. This is where it hurts, because we eliminate 80 per cent of the pain and suffering that happen in the real world.
In summary and in conclusion, you will be forced to live in a system whose government’s own advisers, if you wish, have warned that it is inoperative in the real world. It will not work. You will be assaulted left and right. Circumstances will force the government to go back to the drawing table to come up with a system that is well thought of. that will give fair play I have no quarrel with any component of an industry saying: “The bottom line is, I must shows profit. I am more efficient. I am more competitive.” Providing you have that essence of competition at the marketplace, I have no quarrel with that. I show and hold no grudges, show no hatred towards insurance companies or anybody, be it Bay Street or Wall Street; none at all. I want to wish the people well.
But I also want a fair shake. I want an even hand here. I do not want a stacked deck. I feel that this kind of proposal is tainted with a sense of panic and political expediency. Oh, it would be unfair to charge the government of the day with all the faults, but I know that this could have been thought outs lot better, that fairness in this case is not the prevailing factor. They are not doing themselves, as a political force, if you wish, a great favour, because when they do something wrong, inevitably in the short run, long run, they may not pay the political price. I do not think that is important, because at the next election, they will have at least 130 members back.
We believe that if we run again -- not “believe,” but we hope -- we will be successful. That is not very important.
The thing is, we have millions of motorists in the province of Ontario -- what is it, 5.5 million or 6 million? -- who are going to suffer. They are being gypped here. Their premiums are going up by eight per cent, and people are busy making ends meet. They do not have the time, they do not have the training, like my friend the member for Welland-Thorold, a lawyer of prominence who is very eloquent.
Mr Ferraro: Pay him, Peter.
Mr Pouliot: We are not all lawyers. When we buy insurance, we take for granted that we are buying protection. That is 95 per cent of the people.
We talk over the phone or we drop in -- it is usually a friend, Harry the insurance broker, or Jane -- and we say, “Look, I’m going to renew my car insurance for the following year.” He or she will say, “Eight per cent more.” The thing is, I know what kind of protection I am getting, a bit, the grand lines. But I do not know now. I assume that I am protected until, not calamity -- I do not want to say that, because it only affects, thank heavens, a few people. But when I am hurt and when I go and see my doctor and he recommends that I take three months off work, I have to believe in him. That is what I am there for. I am going to get better, but I am losing from the time I get hit. I am not even breaking even in this case. In fact, it is so bad that it is an invitation to long-term, certain poverty.
If you have a family of four and you live in the greater Toronto area, you need $25,000 to be certified nonpoor. If your family income is less for a family of four, two children, a spouse; if you make less than $25,000, you are certified, accredited, you are declared poor, because you cannot make it in Toronto. You will never make more than $23,000 if you get hit by a car, whether you are a pedestrian, a passenger or the driver of that car. So you have a 100 per cent guarantee that if you are the only breadwinner and you have a family of four -- two children, one spouse -- in Toronto, you will be below the poverty level.
It will only pay 80 per cent, to a maximum of $23,000. Imagine. This is fair play? This replaces the system. This saves you money? For the privilege of going one way to the poorhouse while you are injured, we are going to charge you eight per cent more. You are going to pay more to be poor.
It is not entirely fair, but sometimes you have to simplify to illustrate.
What this plan means to us, and we read -- if we read it three times -- well, we can read and we can understand. I mean, if I read it five times and I cannot understand, it is not I who cannot read; it is someone else who cannot draft. I have had a problem with it but it has not answered the 10 or 11 questions, and that is my worry.
The real problems in the real world are not answered by this plan. I am buying protection, but this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It pretends to have clout, to have teeth against the insurance companies. It does not even lay a hand on them, really.
Again, it was last week. What an irony. Maybe the exercise of politics -- I was on my feet and commending the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye) and the Minister of Mines (Mr O’Neil) for the declaration that he made in the riding of Lake Nipigon. He must have thought I was busy and therefore did not wish to accompany him. The riding of Lake Nipigon will be the recipient of more money from the Ministry of Transportation in the next five years than any other northern riding in the province. What did I do, Mr Speaker? You were right there; your memory is flawless. I said, ‘Thank you, minister.” I said thank you to the Minister of Mines for dusting off the old mining agreement from the attic that had not been revised since 1906 and coming up with something which is more realistic.
But today when the people of the north -- until we get four-laned completely, until the plans of the minister take place, when we have to pass those monster trucks on the highways that are single-laned in the north under very adverse conditions, without any passing lanes, with long winters, a colder climate, hills, rock cuts, single lanes, the minister has to think about that. He has to think about the reduced benefit plan proposed for the sake of expediency -- that is really what it is -- by this government.
As I was elated last week -- the minister is right, we had a good week; he listened well -- I am just as disappointed today. Those are the twists of politics, so I cannot, with all the sincerity at my command, help but remind the government that if it goes through with its proposal as is, with the low quality of comprehensive protection and, in terms of real dollars, insufficient dollars to compensate people for injuries, it is on the road to destruction. This is not a good document. It should not be introduced. Now that it has been introduced, the government has recourse. It can go back to the drawing table and make it better, because that is a duty.
I am just reminded by a colleague, Mr Speaker; would you kindly check in accordance with the standing orders that the House is duly constituted?
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz) ordered the bells rung.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): A quorum is present. We ask the honourable member for Lake Nipigon to continue the debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance.
Mr Pouliot: It is indeed most unfortunate that the standing orders “force me” to evoke a quorum. As I was saying before too many people chose to leave on another assignment, there were some questions that needed to be asked. For the climate, what is being proposed is most uncertain. Most unfortunately, to date those questions have not been answered. I did what I could with my colleague to bring forth what we feel are legitimate grievances. They speak on behalf of the people who do not have a voice. They offer tangible, concrete solutions which are almost costless. They give the government a chance to bring forth amendments that will render fairness, fair play, especially to those people who are less fortunate.
Mr Kormos: That is an impressive contribution to this debate. Quite frankly, I have a question and a comment. The fact is that these clowns, the Liberals sitting in this House, have been so thoroughly dishonest with the members of the public of Ontario, they have masqueraded a piece of legislation that was written in the boardrooms of the auto insurance industry. It is going to increase the profits of the auto insurance industry, profits like it has never seen before. At the same time, they are ignoring the interests of drivers across Ontario.
They care no more for drivers in Ontario than they cared for injured workers. They care no more for drivers in Ontario than they cared for those people who are being forced to work on
Sundays in shopping plazas and grocery stores by big corporations that have no qualms about breaking the law. They are repaying a debt in excess of $100,000; and that is the recorded debt, those are the bucks we know about. Lord knows, we ain’t talking about fridges and paint jobs here; we are talking about over $100,000 that the auto insurance industry put in the pockets of these clowns in the last general election.
Mr Ballinger: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: My understanding of the standing orders is that the member can only address his comments to the previous speaker. He will have lots of opportunity to go through this tirade. We have heard it for weeks in here.
The Acting Speaker: I thank the honourable member for bringing that to my attention. The honourable member for Welland-Thorold, will you address your comments to the comments of the honourable member for Lake Nipigon on this.
Mr Kormos: May I have back my time that the point of order occupied?
The fact is that these clowns do not give a tinker’s damn about the drivers of Ontario. They are into fridges, paint jobs and payoffs to big corporations like the auto insurance industry in Ontario. We know it, the people in Ontario know it.
The Acting Speaker: I was hesitant to ask for unanimous consent to allow the honourable member more time. Continuing the debate, I recognize at this time the honourable member for Guelph.
Mr Ferraro: I have just a comment, if I may. I do not want to comment on the last speakers; there will be ample opportunity and two minutes would not suffice. But first, can I correct the record vis-à-vis the earlier statement of the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren)? I discussed this with him and I am sure he would agree with correcting the record. The member for Nickel Belt indicated that the plan that is being proposed was going to cover, as far as remuneration is concerned, 80 per cent of net income. The plan that we are proposing in fact covers 80 per cent of gross income. I am sure the member for Nickel Belt wanted me to correct the record.
Just briefly to the member for Lake Nipigon, his example about Maria the Portuguese lady and the minimum wage, I say quite candidly, is correct. Our formula, if you work it out on minimum wage on the basis of a 37-hour week -- I understand a lot of people on minimum wage work a 37-hour week -- would pay back at the rate of minimum wage. We can argue at another time that it would not be enough. If indeed the individual, however, were working a 40-hour week, then it would be slightly below minimum wage, and I say quite candidly to the member for Lake Nipigon that this indeed is something that the committee will look at in public hearings and that we would like to address.
Mr Pouliot: I sense a positive tone that if we cannot do it, here we will do it in committee. I know it is not the place to debate and to exchange views, but that is a start, with the less fortunate. With respect, the member mentioned that if we twist -- not twist, but if we use the figures to our advantage for the sake of argument, we are about at 37 hours out of 40. We are talking about the minimum wage. You do not need much of a push to come back. It cannot come from me. I do not have the clout. I have got as much clout as Mickey Mouse. I can suggest, though. It is refreshing. It is a start. It is such a small step, but it is a step in the right direction, and I will say this candidly, just as an example of how flawed the legislation is. This is what scares the living daylight out of people, be it pedestrians or motorists.
Except for the members of the executive W council, the members of the cabinet who are fortunate to be the recipients of a service provided by the taxpayers of Ontario -- they have someone at their disposal to drive back and forth. But let us not lure ourselves. Even for them, that is only for part of the time. In fact, in most cases it should not even be mentioned because it is a minimal part of time. The thing is no one is immune. So when we say, “Charity begins at home,” ordinary people that we are, most of us, look at our own circumstances and then we go back to the bill and we ask ourselves: “I’m buying protection. Am I getting value for money?” No, we are paying higher premiums and we are not getting what we deserve for our dollar.
Mr Hampton: I am going to be very brief in my remarks since I know other members want to speak. I merely want to emphasize the most salient points of what is going on here so that everyone will hear again exactly how bad, how awful and how wrong this insurance scheme is.
I think the voters of the province should understand what is going on with this insurance scheme. The government has essentially gone to the insurance companies and said, “You write the legislation, you write the legislation that you want.”
That is what has happened, because if you go back over the past two years and you read about the kind of insurance schemes that the insurance companies were advocating, this is it. This is it, pure and simple. This is what the insurance companies were saying back in 1985, 1986 and 1987, during the election campaign. This is what they wanted.
What does it constitute? What is in it? Compensation will not be rewarded for serious physical injuries such as broken bones, scarring or torn muscles. These are not considered permanent under this legislation. In other words, you can suffer very serious harm, harm that may last for two or three years and there is no compensation for it.
Emotional or psychological injuries such as depression, shock and anxiety will also not be compensated. In terms of the evolution of the common law, it took an awful long time for our legal system to recognize that things like depression, shock and anxiety which are caused by an accident or by an incident can be just as serious as physical damage, and this government now, in one stroke, is going to wipe it all out. Again, the insurance industry has written this legislation.
There is no way to recover the innocent accident victim’s full loss of income, and we will use the example again: Under the new plan only 80 per cent of wages will be reimbursed, up to a limit of $450 per week, much below the average industrial wage in this province, an awful lot below that, as my colleague the member for Lake Nipigon has just emphasized. This is wage compensation for poverty, that is what it is. This is not wage compensation according to the standard wages in Ontario today. ‘Ibis is a poverty compensation scheme, but one that is very popular with the insurance companies.
Benefits under the plan will not be indexed to the cost of living. How incredible. At an inflation rate of five per cent annually, four years down the road what meagre compensation you are going to get is going to be worth 25 per cent less. How disgusting.
Here comes the greatest one of all: The fact of the matter is the government is going to subsidize the insurance companies while this scheme goes into practice. In the first year of operation alone the government is going to give the insurance companies of Ontario $141 million in subsidies by way of tax reductions and by way of OHIP assessments being returned. How incredible. private insurance companies on top of paying their auto insurance premiums. And while we speak of premiums, the record should also show that auto insurance premiums are going to rise eight per cent in the first year alone under this scheme. This is insurance legislation written by and for the insurance industry. They just happened to have rented a Liberal government to do it for them.
I think we should look at what the commentators are saying about this scheme. Ralph Nader has acquired a reputation as being a square shooter, someone who does not pull his punches but someone who can be counted on to speak out in the interest of consumers. This is what Ralph Nader has to say about this scheme. This was in the Toronto Star last week:
“Ralph Nader, the US consumer crusader, is supporting a coalition formed to oppose Ontario’s proposed auto insurance reform....
“He called the Ontario motorist protection plan ‘a surrender to the power of the insurance industry’ and urged its critics ‘to unmask who is pulling the strings of the Ontario Legislature.”’
Ralph Nader does not have a bone to pick with anyone. He is not a lawyer who is going to practise in Ontario, he is not a spokesperson for the insurance industry, he is not a spokesperson for the New Democratic Party. He has won a reputation across North America as someone who speaks out on behalf of consumers, someone who works on behalf of consumers. Over there we have the minister who is bringing in this legislation, who pretends that he knows more about this than Mr Nader.
Hon Mr Elston: I know more about Ontario than that guy does. I know more about Ontario because I live here. I know my country, I know Ontario, I know Canada. He doesn’t give a hoot for it.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please: I say to the honourable member, the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet, whom I have nothing but the highest respect for --
Hon Mr Wrye: He is being provoked. The Acting Speaker: You are provoking each other, so let’s be a little less provoking.
Mr Hampton: I will now cite a Canadian lobby group. We have the Consumers’ Association of Canada. “The Ontario government’s plan for auto insurance reform provides no guarantee of premium savings or wider availability of coverage, the Consumers’ Association of Canada warns. They said: “Consumers have been promised premium savings. Will they deliver?”
The consumers’ association says, “Not under this bill.”
I will quote them again. They simply say, “Consumers who have private insurance would have to tap these payout benefits first before benefiting from the plan.” In other words, in order to make this plan, which the minister in charge says is so wonderful, work you have to go and tap your own disability insurance. Even private disability insurance is going to subsidize the auto insurance corporations under this minister’s bill. How wonderful. Everybody in our society, it turns out, is going to subsidize the auto insurance industry under this minister’s scheme. He says it is a great plan. This is absolutely incredible.
I promised my colleagues in the Progressive Conservative Party that I would not speak at length on this. I want only to say that I have tried to highlight what the problems are in this legislation. The fact of the matter is that this is legislation written by the insurance companies for the insurance companies. All they had to do was rent the Liberal government to pass it for them. That is where we are in Ontario today.
Mr Kormos: We should be thankful indeed to the member for Rainy River for his contribution, because he speaks of Ralph Nader as a square-shooter while the member for Rainy River is a straight-shooter. He tells it the way it is and there is no getting around it.
He talked about the degree of subsidy. We have three systems working in the western provinces here in Canada that have not denied people the right to sue, that provide speedy, generous no-fault benefits and yet still provide auto insurance to every driver in each of those three western provinces, at premiums that are significantly less than what they are here in Ontario and that is before the eight per cent increase. He promises eight per cent, but my goodness, we have heard this government’s promises before and we are hard-pressed to believe him now.
We are not dealing here with the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston). We are dealing here with a mythomaniac, one who would have the public believe all sorts of bizarre and quite frankly fascinating mythical things about this insurance package. It is a payback, straight and simple. The insurance companies invested big bucks in this government. Indeed, the member for Rainy River talks about this government having been merely for rent by the insurance industry. That puts them in the ranks with some of the world’s oldest profession, I suppose.
This government is quite eager to have lawyers out of the picture. Why? Because they know that lawyers fight for people’s rights. They want people to be victims of the insurance industry, without representation. They want people to be victimized by the auto insurance industry in this province without the benefit of having lawyers fighting for them. That is what this government wants and that is why this government has been so quick to criticize the role of the bar.
The bar has a response to those clowns over there who are trying to run this scam through, this little bit of legerdemain, this little bit of sleight of hand. If we are in a circus, we have to have clowns, and here they are. If they want to regulate lawyers’ fees, do that, but do not screw the driving public.
Hon Mr Elston: I think it is worth while to note that the theatrics of the member for Welland-Thorold are always very entertaining but highly suspect. He, along with others, is a highly skilled fiction writer and even better as a stage performer. We might want to examine his rendition of this act. Probably we could describe it in terms of a new title. Because of his alliances, it might be more appropriately called Peter and the Wolves or something like that, some equally interesting piece of fiction.
Let me say one thing about Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader, who was raised in front of the House in the report by the member for Rainy River, had indicated that we should retain the entire legal system, as he saw it from his ivory tower in the United States of America. In that place, they obviously know what is best for Canada. From time to time, the New Democratic Party will import its heroes from the United States to tell us exactly what we should do in Canada. Not here.
His next quotation was from the Consumers’ Association of Canada, which says to Ralph Nader: “Ralph Nader, you are all wet. We want pure no-fault in Canada. We do not want anything to do with your silly system of lawyers.” In fact, the Consumers’ Association of Canada says: “We do not want Ralph Nader’s version. We want a Canadian version. We want something different entirely.”
I will admit that they also said they wanted public, and we can disagree with that because we believe there is a system that is able to deliver services here in Ontario. But they do not agree with Ralph Nader. They do not agree, as that guy over there says, that Ralph Nader is right for Canada. Our system is developed in Ontario for Ontario drivers in a fair and balanced manner.
Mr Hampton: I want only to say this to the minister: If he had one tenth the reputation Ralph Nader has, he would have no problem selling this legislation.
The second thing I want to say to the minister is that he very conveniently leaves out what the consumers’ association says. The Consumers’ Association of Canada says that it wants a government-run insurance plan as in British Columbia, as in Saskatchewan, as in Manitoba. If the minister would bring such a program forward, he might even have the support of this House.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please, considering the standing orders provide for everybody to comment and question. Do other members wish to participate in the debate?
Mr McLean: I am pleased to have this opportunity to say a few words about Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance.
I have a great number of reservations about anything this government dreams up when it comes to insuring motorists in Ontario. We can just look at this government’s record with respect to insurance and we can clearly see that this matter has been bungled. For example, this government has reneged on the Premier’s election promise that he had a specific plan to lower insurance rates. That promise evaporated and all we got was more insurance premium increases.
I want to give the members a few facts and then I want to relate some specific cases that I have in my riding at the present time because of this government.
For example, this government’s meddling in automobile insurance has hit taxpayers in their pocketbooks extremely hard. This government has commissioned two expensive studies of automobile insurance in this province and then ignored both of them. The government established the expensive Ontario Automobile Insurance Board and then turned around and interfered with, or completely ignored, the work of this same rate review board.
For example, this government plans to implement threshold no-fault insurance in Ontario despite very pointed criticism of this system in the Osborne report, which it itself commissioned.
For example, this government is trying desperately to find scapegoats to take the heat over its own failures. We witnessed this government blaming doctors for not using an imaginary hotline to find hospital beds. Now we can witness the same government trying to convince the public that lawyers are driving up the cost of claim settlements.
On page 363 in volume one of the Osborne report we can see the progression of motor vehicle accident related claims through the courts. We can clearly see that in 1985 there were 232,207 third-party liability claims reported. Only 4,383 of these cases went to trial and only 3,755 proceeded through to judgement. That is just 1.6 per cent of the claims.
Another example is the narrow wording of threshold that I think will cause a number of problems in the areas of the interpretation of “permanent injury,” the classification of “an important bodily function,” the definition of “physical” as it relates to the physical component to chronic pain.
I am also concerned that the so-called generous benefits of the government’s new system are not as generous as it would have us believe. The level of no-fault benefits has not been adjusted since 1978. They now will rise to $450 and they will not be indexed to inflation.
The new insurance commission that will replace the rate review board and the superintendent of insurance will have very little power. It will do nothing but review and approve rates that will still he set by the insurance companies. I am concerned about this commission’s apparent lack of authority and power.
Other concerns I have about the government’s new automobile system include:
There is no cost saving for consumers under the new system because there are no caps placed on individual rate increases, and the government is relying on the regulatory powers of this yet-to-be-formed insurance commission.
The new system allows continued cherry picking whereby insurance companies may continue writing policies for clients who present the lowest risk of outlay.
The introduction of this new system will cost consumers about $773 million including $480 million the insurance companies save in compensation payout for pain and suffering under the new threshold, $150 million the insurance companies will save in compensation payouts for economic loss under the new threshold, $95 million in revenue the government will forego by eliminating the three per cent tax drivers currently pay on insurance policies written in Ontario and the $48 million insurance companies will no longer have to pay to OHIP for medical service provided to innocent victims of car accidents.
I have told members that I do not like Bill 68 and now I would like to conclude by suggesting what could be done to give the people of Ontario the type of insurance system they deserve.
The government should put an end to the costly rate-setting bureaucracy and establish a rate review system similar to that already in place in the province of Alberta; appoint an insurance ombudsman and institute wide-ranging tort reform measures; make immediate improvements to driver education and licensing as well as implementing stricter enforcement of highway traffic laws; further examination of the “choice no-fault” system which would allow consumers to choose the coverage they want. They should choose and not the politicians or the insurance companies.
The minister in a news release has indicated that the focus of the new plan will be on prompt compensation and rehabilitation. If you are in an accident, how can you get compensation unless you are dead or permanently injured?
This government will have raised insurance by a total of 24.6 per cent by the time this eight per cent for urban drivers comes in. I thought all indications of insurance increases would be in the neighbourhood of 30 per cent to 35 per cent, but that was for full coverage.
I will give members some examples of where people will be injured and have no coverage at all. The Minister of Financial Institutions in this news release has certainly tried to deflect the strong criticism, which is warranted, that they are receiving.
The Osborne report indicated, “I have concluded that aside from the provision of a modest degree of additional stability for automobile insurers, cost/premiums decreases would be modest were we to proceed to threshold no-fault and those modest cost savings would be imported on the backs of over 90 per cent of injured Ontario motorists who now have the right to seek noneconomic compensation.”
There are many things in the Osborne report that I agree with, but this government certainly does not find many that it agrees with.
The narrow wording of the threshold would lead to many problems. The generous benefits of the new system are not as generous as the government would have us believe. I want to relate to members a couple of cases, with regard to the benefits this minister feels are going to take place, in a system where real people will be injured and will not collect any compensation.
A factory worker earning $800 a week suffers a whiplash injury when his car is rear-ended. His neck injury prevents him from working for one year because of the heavy lifting and twisting involved in his job. In the present system, that individual would get $10,000 damages for pain and suffering and $41,600 damages for lost income, form total of $51,600.
Do members know what he gets under this minister’s proposed system? Damages for pain and suffering -- the injuries do not meet the threshold definition of serious -- he gets zip; he gets nothing. Damages for lost income, $450 a week. The maximum allowed under the pro-posed no-fault benefits plan is $23,400. Under the new system he will get $23,400, which is a difference of $28,200 less under the new system than he would have got under the present system.
There is another example of a mother who witnessed her child being run over and killed. She goes into nervous shock and suffers a severe psychiatric illness as a result. The mother earned $25,000 a year at her job but is off work for two years while undergoing therapy. Under the • present system, she would get $40,000 for damages for pain and suffering, witnessing the child’s death and suffering the psychiatric illness, $50,000 damages for lost income, at $25,000 a year for two years, for a total of $90,000.
Do members know what she would get under the new system? I think the people who are listening will be interested in this. Under the proposed system, damages for pain and suffering, since the disability must be physical in nature, she gets nothing; damages for lost income, since the mother herself was not injured in the accident, she gets nothing. Under the new system, she gets nothing. Under the present system, she gets $90,000. Does the minister think that is fair?
I want to give the minister one more example: a 12-year-old who is struck at a crosswalk and suffers a broken back, is in hospital for three months and misses his school year as a result, which could happen to many of these young pages here. In the present system, he would get $25,000 for damages for pain and suffering, $15,000 damages for delayed entry into the workforce because he is one year behind in schooling, for a total of $40,000. Under the proposed system, damages for pain and suffering, injuries do not meet threshold definition of serious, he gets nothing. Damages for delayed entry into the workforce, he gets nothing. The difference is $40,000 less under the proposed plan. Does the minister call this insurance that people pay for?
I have already stated the position that we feel the government should take. This automobile insurance plan is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That is exactly what it is. It is not a fact at all. When I see this newsletter from the minister saying that the opposition or people who are opposed to it should have an alternative, we do have alternatives and so did the Osborne report have alternatives, but did this government listen? No, it did not.
I want to relate to the minister the case of an individual in my riding who has been in touch with my office on many occasions, and I just want to read part of her letter.
“Please find enclosed a copy of a letter from Royal Insurance. Thank you so much for your interest in my fight with Royal Insurance.
“Much paper has flowed back and forth. To date, I received $2,500 which is supposed to sustain me for seven months. Most of it went to pay rent for my home, insurance premiums and the like. My parents have been subsidizing me as well. They are retired. I cannot allow them to continue and I have decided to give up my home.
“My recovery is very slow and very painful.” This is a person who was in an automobile accident and has not worked since. “I can only assume there is a communication problem between Royal’s head office and their adjusting company. The president of Royal Insurance telephoned my lawyer to apologize for their treatment of me and to assure me that payment would be forthcoming. They could not have advised Maitland’s because they immediately asked for more documentation.
“They want the moon for $140 a week. I can only assume that the company has a bruised ego because of my lawyer’s plea directly to the president of Royal. The one thing I do know is that I cannot depend on any regular payments from Royal. They want me to beg, hoping perhaps I will get fed up with the mind games they are playing and go away.”
This is a person who got $2,500 from an insurance company to help her live for seven months. I have a problem with letters such as this, and I know that the minister would, because he knows this is not tight, but I have to tell members that insurance companies today are certainly having second thoughts with regards to insuring certain people.
I have another letter from Glenn McGregor of Foxmead. He had his insurance with this company for 30 years. Economical Mutual Insurance Company has dropped his business insurance, they say because he is semiretired and that he and his son, Gary’s Towing, lent each other trucks. They cancelled his son’s insurance for $6,000 worth and his for approximately $3,000. He tells me he had to pay $1,000 last winter on an accident his 22-year-old son had with the car. Whether this had anything to do with it is a mystery. His agent cannot seem to understand why they were dropped either. I think something should be done about insurance companies.
I also have copies of the letter from the companies where they indicated to him: “Subsequent to our numerous conversations re the insurance occupation, in light of the fact that the insured operation is unacceptable to us we have no alternative but to maintain our original decision to remarket this risk.” These are a couple of cases within my riding that we see, and it is just starting to happen. I am getting letters to no end from people in my riding with regard to this government’s policy on insurance.
If Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance, becomes law, you will still be able to sue the person who drops a bowling ball on your foot, but not the one who runs over it with the car. Is that not interesting? You can still sue somebody if they drop a bowling ball on your foot, but if you get run over with a car you do not get any insurance. In other words, people will be able to fracture your foot at no cost to them just as long as they use a motor vehicle to do it. If an innocent victim must take several months off work, suffers pain or depression, misses exams and incurs damages of $30,000, he or she can recover against anyone except the person who has done it in a car. That person become immune and cannot be sued for one red cent.
Under the government’s insurance scheme, the victim’s car insurance company may pay 80 per cent of the salary up to a maximum of $450 a week, except for the first week. OHIP will pay the medical bills, but the victim will get nothing for pain and suffering. If the victim is self-employed, he or she will get nothing for business losses; if the victim makes more than $450 a week there will be nothing to make up the difference, and if the victim has sick leave or some private insurance that replaces the income, he or she may get nothing at all. If the victim actually loses a foot, he or she can probably sue, at least the victim can go to court and ask the judge to find that the injury has met the threshold where no-fault ends and ordinary legal rights return. It kicks in the moment a victim dies or suffers a permanent injury on a continuous basis.
Mr D. R. Cooke: Stay off the road.
Mr McLean: The member for Kitchener says we should stay off the roads. There are a lot of people who are not going to be able to get on the roads because they are not going to be able to get insurance.
I believe the adage that the lawyers are the cause of high costs in insurance is not borne out by the facts. It works out to approximately 1.6 percent of all the claims. I believe this minister’s new legislation is certainly not acceptable to the people of this province in its present form. I believe some of the Osborne comments and suggestions. The minister would have done well to have listened and implemented some of those suggestions in his legislation.
I believe people should be able and should have the opportunity to buy full coverage for their automobile. I also believe it should be at a reasonable cost. But when I see the insurance proposed going up 24.6 per cent, and no coverage in many cases, it really makes me stop and wonder what has happened to our insurance industry.
Government interference, I believe, is the major problem. The indications were, before the government was involved, that insurance premiums were going to be raised approximately 30 per cent in their present form. I would far sooner have paid the 30 per cent and had full coverage and suing rights than to pay 24.6 per cent and have no rights at all and no insurance coverage at all. It certainly is a big difference to me.
I think the people of this province should have the opportunity to have full input into this legislation. I believe there should be open and full public hearings across this province for the people who want to come and look at the legislation to make sure they feel it will be acceptable and the coverage will be acceptable to them.
I say the government should rethink. I know what will probably happen. They will probably bring in 50 amendments to this legislation, as they have with pretty near every other bill that has been here before. The minister is indicating there may be up to 65 amendments. Is that tight? No, the minister would not indicate that. I knew the minister wanted to come here today and listen to some of the excellent points that have been made on this side of the Legislature so that when he does bring in his amendments they will be well thought out and it will be for the benefit of all the taxpayers of the province of Ontario.
Mrs Marland: In rising to speak on the motion for second reading of Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance, I think at the outset we had better make quite clear that this is a bill that deals with automobile insurance, and automobile insurance is not a matter that anyone who wishes to drive in Ontario has any choice about. Anything that pertains to driving today in Ontario is not necessarily in any way a luxury.
So many people depend on their automobiles to get to work, to get to school, to get to doctors’ appointments. In a province like ours, even retired people who no longer go to work depend very much on being able to get into their cars and be protected from other drivers when they are driving; and also their passengers, whom they may as volunteer drivers be taking to cancer treatment, shopping, whatever. Everyone needs to be protected. Unfortunately, what we have in Bill 68 is not the kind of protection that people who drive automobiles today in Ontario need.
I think it is important, first of all, to put on the record that this Liberal government has reneged on yet another promise, and that was the very, very vocal promise to lower automobile insurance rates. On 7 September 1987, on an election campaign stop in Cambridge, the Premier said he had “a very specific plan to lower insurance rates.” While in Cambridge, the Premier denounced the New Democratic Party proposal of government-run auto insurance, stating, “You can say anything you want, but the point is, if you aspire to govern, you’ve got to be credible and base the things you say on accurate information, not just wishes and theories.”
One must ask today whether that statement by the Premier in September 1987 was not cryptic. One has to really wonder, when he says you have to be credible if you aspire to govern, what can be said today about that particular statement as it reflects on his particular government.
So much for lower insurance rates. I just want to place this on the record for those people who have not kept an accurate account of where we have been with insurance rates for the past two years.
On 1 January 1988 insurance rates rose 4.5 per cent, and on 1 August 1988, a few months later, they rose by another 4.5 percent. So there we have between January and August in 1988 an increase of nine per cent. Finally, on 17 April 1989, less than a year later, rates rose another 7.6 per cent. All this is from a government which prides itself on slogans such as, “We did what we said we would do.”
Unfortunately, on this issue, we have very accurate, tangible figures that prove this government has not done what it said it would do, and the people of Ontario will certainly remember that this government betrayed them in its promise to lower automobile insurance rates.
The government’s bungling of automobile insurance has cost taxpayers dearly. The government commissioned two expensive studies of automobile insurance in Ontario. One was the Slater study in 1986, and the other was the Osborne study in 1987. After commissioning these two expensive reports, what did they do but ignore the findings of those commissions?
The report of Mr Justice Coulter Osborne entitled Report of Inquiry into Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation in Ontario cost the Ontario taxpayers more than $1.4 million, yet the government failed to act on the 174 findings and 147 recommendations aimed at improving the delivery of accident compensation.
The member for Brantford (Mr Neumann), who is not in his seat, is interjecting, asking what we would do. My response to him is simply that if you have two commissions that concentrate on the same issue and then you turn around and simply throw their reports in the round file or on the shelves to gather dust and totally ignore their findings and recommendations, and they are an independent body, yes I would be more than willing if I were the government to tell the member what our solutions are.
Yes, the Progressive Conservatives do have solutions and recommendations. The Progressive Conservative caucus also listens. If we were to spend $1.4 million to find out from an independent source what would be the best solution to automobile insurance in this province, you can be sure that we would not turn around and ignore those recommendations and findings.
There is something else this Liberal government did as a solution for automobile insurance and the rates so applied. The government established the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board on 11 February 1988. The mandate of the board was to determine rates or ranges of rates that may be charged by insurance firms in accordance with a uniform risk classification system. However, the government has interfered with the work of the board and used it as a political whipping boy since day one. I will give examples of that.
In spite of the fact that this board was established, the government approved an industry rate hike of 4.5 per cent on 1 August 1988. The government announced on 9 February 1989 that it wanted to study no-fault car insurance. The government announced a 7.6 per cent cap on rates on 17 April 1989, and also on 17 April 1989 the government announced that it would not proceed with plans to eliminate age, sex and marital status as rating criteria for insurance companies effective 1 June 1989. Insurance companies making administrative changes in preparation for the new rate classification system were forced to spend millions of dollars for nothing, costs which will eventually be passed on to the consumers through higher premiums. That obviously is inevitable.
It is very apparent that the establishment of the toothless Ontario Automobile Insurance Board has been a costly exercise for the Ontario taxpayers. How costly? Over $14 million to date, and for what?
The government plans to implement threshold no-fault car insurance in Ontario. Let’s find out what that is about. They are going to implement threshold no-fault car insurance despite the very pointed criticisms of this system in the Osborne report, which this government commissioned and which cost $1.4 million. They pay that for the advice and then decide to go 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
I have two quotations that I want to read from the Osborne report. In volume 1, page 3, he writes:
“I have concluded that aside from the provision of a modest degree of additional stability for automobile insurers, cost/premium decreases would be modest were we to proceed to threshold no-fault and those modest cost savings would be imported on the backs of over 90 per cent of injured motorists who now have the right to seek noneconomic compensation.”
The second quotation from Mr Justice Osborne’s report is from volume 1, page 4:
“Having looked at a great number of compensation systems, in the final analysis, it seems to me that while our system is far from perfect, Ontario should bean exporter, not an importer of compensation systems.”
Finally, from volume 1, page 45, finding 120 of the Osborne report:
“Threshold no-fault should be rejected because it is relatively inefficient and unnecessarily arbitrary. There will either be no or minimal savings on transaction costs in threshold no-fault.”
That is the advice that the taxpayers of this province paid $1.4 million for, and that is exactly the advice that Mr Justice Osborne gave totally in opposition to what this bill today represents. He recommends not having threshold no-fault, and that is exactly what the Liberal government has now decided to introduce.
The government actually would have the public believe that lawyers are driving up the cost of claim settlements. Page 363 of the Osborne report, again in volume 1, outlines the progression of motor-vehicle-accident-related claims through the courts. The report shows that in 1985, when 232,207 third-party liability claims were reported, only 4,383 of these cases went to trial and only 3,755 proceeded through to judgement. That works out to 1.6 per cent of the claims, which is hardly an argument for the government to say that lawyers are driving up the cost of claim settlements.
Many of the different policy initiatives which comprise the Ontario motorist protection plan could have been implemented long ago. Mr Speaker, I know you will recall what an exciting day it was supposed to be here in these chambers when the Ontario motorist protection plan announcements were made. I just want to refresh the memory of those present as to what those announcements were, because I think the people in Ontario should really know what is going on with this Liberal government.
The Minister of Transportation made the following announcements. He said there would be higher fines for speeding and other traffic offences; campaigns to increase the use of seatbelts and daytime running lights; consideration of licence restrictions on new drivers; better identification and treatment of repeat drinking driver offences; increased funding for highway median barriers and paved shoulders; and improved freeway traffic management.
Are these policy initiatives ground-breaking? Hardly. They are the routine work of the Ministry of Transportation, and to make such a big hoopla about them, because they are unable to do something else in terms of real measures, is ludicrous. It is actually an insult to the people of Ontario. This kind of common sense enforcement is today, was yesterday and last year and the year before, a responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation; if it has not been doing it, the people of Ontario should know why.
I also want to tell members what the Attorney General announced. He announced increased availability of structured settlements; improvements to the method and time period for which prejudgement interest is calculated; and increased availability of advance payments for all persona] injury claims.
The Attorney General promised these initiatives on 9 February 1989, exclusive of any no-fault system being introduced. Again, these reform measures are not ground-breaking. In fact -- and this is really interesting -- they were derived from the Osborne report and the Ontario Law Reform Commission report on compensation for personal injuries and death. Again, the Attorney General tried to jump on some kind of publicity bandwagon and reannounced something that had already been announced.
We also had announcements from the Solicitor General (Mr Offer). I have to say, looking at these announcements, that obviously the Solicitor General was simply doing his job as Solicitor General. These announcements have very little to do with auto insurance, but since they were announced, I am going to read them into the record and ask again the rhetorical question about why now, what is new and where is the relevance.
He announced that an additional 115 officers would be hired by the Ontario Provincial Police and assigned to targeted areas with high traffic accident and compliance problems. I would have hoped that would have been a responsibility of this government in any case.
Another announcement was that an extra 25 OPP officers with fully-equipped cars would be assigned to the greater Toronto area, where traffic law compliance problems are acute. It certainly would be encouraging to have the greater Toronto area assigned something extra and above the normal, because we now recognize that those people who drive cars that are registered in the greater Toronto area are paying more for their driver’s licences and more for their motor vehicle licences. So it is about time, if this government is going to tax them and penalize them for living in the greater Toronto sits, that at least there might be some more protection for them on the roads. An additional 90 OPP officers will patrol Highway 401, the 400-series highways and Highway 69.
Continued operation of the Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere campaign -- well, I would hope so. It is proven by the RIDE campaign, which this government can take no credit for -- it was not this government that established the RIDE campaign, and if it wants to try to take credit for it, frankly, it is certainly trying to mislead the public because, in fact, the RIDE campaign and its success has come because of the observance of the people of Ontario of a program which our government introduced.
The Solicitor General stated, “We want to be part of the team effort.” Team effort; it is the responsibility of the Solicitor General to enforce existing highway safety laws. The Solicitor General is finally acting on a well-recognized program. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation 1987 statistics indicate that speeding was a contributing factor in 52 per cent of fatal traffic accidents, while alcohol was a contributing factor in 35 per cent of fatal traffic accidents.
I want to give the members another example of a program that was announced as part of the Ontario motorist protection plan, and again, it is a co-opted program. It is not new. This was an announcement made by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Sorbara). He announced that there would be increased use of the ministry’s ghost car program. For those members who are not familiar with it, that is the ghost car program which was started in 1984 by the former Progressive Conservative government.
A mechanically sound car is given a specific problem and then handed over to various garages for repair. The program attempts to weed out unscrupulous operators accused of making unnecessary or excessive repairs. The minister is trying to jump on the Ontario motorist protection plan bandwagon by seeking to improve an already successful and proven program. If it was not so serious, it would almost be entertaining. I guess they just sit there and look up what is on the books and on the shelves and think, “Now, what can we re-announce?” I do not think there is any imagination or initiative or vision in this current government. Either that, or the fact is that what we left for them is so good that they simply cannot improve on it.
I think it is important, since this bill addresses a threshold no-fault insurance system, that we had better all understand what is meant by “threshold,” because it is going to be very critical for the people of Ontario if this bill goes through as it is with regard to the threshold no-fault car insurance. The narrow wording of the threshold is what is going to lead to so many problems. The threshold simply means that in order to proceed with legal action, a person must die, in which case the estate would benefit, or the person must sustain -- and I will give the two examples that make that threshold eligibility. This is the first example, “permanent, serious disfigurement,” or the second example, “permanent, serious impairment of an important bodily function caused by continuing injury which is physical in nature.”
The sad part about this is that there is no minimum standard of eligibility to access the courts for compensation, and frankly, I do not know how anyone can stand in this House and vote in favour of this legislation as it is presently worded. I think you would only have to put yourself or a member of your family or someone you know in the position of having to establish the criteria for whether or not they meet that threshold.
Worse than that, the Minister of Financial Institutions is leaving everything up to the courts to interpret the threshold. We are saying here “permanent, serious disfigurement.” What is “permanent”? Is it one, two, 20 years?
What is “serious impairment”? By whose standards are we judging the seriousness of impairment, the seriousness of the accident? Is it the courts’ standards? Is it the victims’ standards? Is it the insurance companies’ standards? Who will make that judgement? What classifies as an important bodily function?
I can tell members that in Michigan, where they have this kind of system, it actually removes the rights of 94 per cent of the victims. Some 94 per cent of the victims will not qualify beyond that threshold.
Medicine has long accepted that there may be more than a physical component to chronic pain, and that is without question. How is the word “physical” to be defined, and again, by whom?
The threshold expressly prevents anyone suffering psychological, mental or emotional injury from seeking legal redress. The government is telling the public that emotional trauma, psychological trauma and the emotional devastation caused by an automobile accident are no longer worthy of compensation under the new plan. This is a sad day in this province if this government truly believes that is a legitimate opinion.
Head injury is the most frequent serious disability. Special behavioural or psychological problems may arise from this type of injury. I do not know how any government could consider eliminating legal redress for people who have psychological, mental or emotional injury resulting from an automobile accident, and I think it is terribly important for this government to look very, very closely at this threshold before it passes this legislation.
It is so important for them to have very clearly defined how legal action can be proceeded with, and if we think we are going back to the dark ages where chronic pain is something that can be weighed one way or the other and separated from the physiological to the psychological, we have probably gone back 200 years in medicine. I cannot understand how any government with the kind of resources that it has can ignore the fact that the physical component to chronic pain is very real.
I think this is a point in my debate today where it would be appropriate for me to adjourn the debate and continue on the following day on this particular piece of legislation.
On motion by Mrs Marland, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1800.