The House met at 1330.
Mr Farnan: In Cambridge, there is a serious lack of help available to parents of developmentally delayed children. Cambridge has one group home for these children. Its five beds are filled and there are 12 names on the waiting list. In the meantime, those families use the city’s only relief bed to ease their burden by providing temporary care for their children. That one bed is no longer enough. Cambridge must have another group home.
As 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week care givers, these parents are exhausted. Their families are suffering and their marriages are being adversely affected, all because there is no temporary relief from the constant care they must give their special children.
No parent wants to institutionalize his or her child, especially when a group home setting would be far more appropriate and beneficial to both child and family. In Cambridge, the association for the mentally retarded has developed a proposal for a children’s group home, and the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer) gave the association’s executive director assurances that he fully supported the proposal. However, despite receiving the proposal four months ago, the ministry has not yet approved the necessary funds. Meanwhile, children wait, their families wait and the situation grows more critical with each passing day.
How can the government of Ontario turn its back on these families and their special needs?
NATIONAL SAFE DRIVING WEEK
Mr Villeneuve: Now that the snow and cold weather have reached Toronto, it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on National Safe Driving Week.
The Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere programs now under way and a good reminder that drinking and driving is unacceptable.
Christmas parties are already beginning, so when travel is involved, please plan to have a designated driver or take a cab.
We should also make sure that our cars are ready to withstand winter driving conditions, from tires to wiper fluid. Now that the driving is more dangerous, with the anticipation of 53-foot highway trailers, Ontario drivers will have to be more careful than ever.
In Ontario, snowy and icy roads mean salt trucks. Road de-icers are a necessity, but salt corrodes and pollutes. This winter season, let’s hope the Ontario government finally gets serious about looking for a road salt replacement.
Calcium magnesium acetate, or CMA, is one possibility which is only one tenth as corrosive as conventional road salt. There are no large-scale facilities for CMA production in Ontario. This also presents a prospect for new jobs, which the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) should look into, particularly for the economically deprived areas such as eastern Ontario.
Mr Faubert: As we begin to celebrate this holiday season, all of our thoughts turn to those in our society who are less fortunate, those among us who need the help of government and their neighbours in the community in order to provide the necessities of life.
Substantial hope was given to those in this situation in the announcement last 18 May of a new agenda for social assistance. Support for social services was increased by $415 million on a full-year basis. In this fiscal year, social assistance benefits will total $2.3 billion, a 92 per cent increase since 1984-85. Higher shelter allowances and an increase in the general benefit rate will come into effect this January, and an increase in children’s benefits and a new support to employment programs came into effect last October. These reforms place Ontario in the forefront of social service reform across North America.
However, many families still will be relying on food banks during this holiday season. The profile of those who use this service has changed from primarily those on social assistance to also include refugees and the working poor. For this reason, I will once again this Christmas be organizing a food drive in my riding, utilizing my constituency office as a food drop point. I have called on Scarborough residents to donate nonperishable food items so that a few more people will be able to enjoy a better Christmas. All contributions dropped off at my constituency office will be donated to the St Ninian’s food bank for distribution to Scarborough residents in need of this service.
We must ensure that all our citizens can enjoy the blessings of family and friends over the holiday season. As good neighbours, we all have a role to play.
Mr Laughren: In July, again in August, again in September, again in October, again in November and now in December, I reminded the minister responsible for the automobile insurance mess in this province that there was a problem about which he was doing absolutely nothing. My colleague the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) reminded him, as well; namely, the possibility or the reality of an insurance conglomerate transferring a policy from one of its subsidiaries to another one of its subsidiaries, thus evading the ceiling on rate increases, more recently, of 7.6 per cent.
Not only has the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet (Mr Elston) done absolutely nothing about this, he has not even had the decency to reply to my letters. The last time I raised it in this House, way back in early November, off the record he said he could not find the correspondence. I sent him the correspondence to remind him of his responsibilities, and at this point we are now in the month of December -- still no reply from the minister. I assume that that kind of practice is still going on, and the minister sits there nodding sagely, doing absolutely nothing about it.
Mr Speaker, I know you did not like it when I said last time that he was an accomplice to fraud when he allowed this to go on, so I will not repeat that charge again.
The Speaker: I would really ask that all members be careful with their language.
Mrs Cunningham: I am sure that members of this Legislature will be surprised to learn that this government is still using outdated terminology in its legislation which refers to developmentally disabled children. As a result, the Progressive Conservative Party has decided to correct the situation by amending the Education Act to comply with Word Choices: A Lexicon of Preferred Terms for Disability Issues, published by the Ontario Office for Disabled Persons.
Today I will be tabling a bill that removes the pejorative term “trainable retarded” from the Education Act and replaces it with the preferred term “trainable developmentally disabled.” The term “trainable retarded” has not been used in education circles or in this province for some 10 or more years, yet it still remains within the Education Act.
Children in our schools are taught tolerance and understanding in our education system and in our communities. I hope all members will help ensure a speedy passage of this progressive piece of legislation, a very necessary piece of legislation, to help show we understand this important lesson.
CHRISTMAS FUND BROADCAST
Mr Lipsett: I rise today to recognize the efforts of the organizers, performers and contributors to the CFOS-CFPS-Sun Times Christmas Fund Broadcast. This past Sunday, 3 December, marked the occasion of the 50th annual broadcast in support of the Save the Children-Canada program.
This pledge-by-telephone broadcast requesting local area talent to perform before a live audience and on the air waves started the first year that CFOS radio began broadcasting in Owen Sound. Co-sponsored over the years by the local radio station and the daily newspaper, the broadcast has generated an estimated $517,000 over the past 50 years. This year’s broadcast received $20,570 in pledges. In addition to the broadcast, donations are received at the Sun Times office until the end of January. Each year it is an opportunity for the residents of Grey and Bruce counties to extend the spirit of generosity to those less fortunate children around the world.
This 50th annual broadcast is a milestone for which the sponsors, volunteers and performers over the years deserve our most sincere appreciation. I am confident that we will carry on this Christmas season tradition for another 50 years or more.
Mr Hampton: In the continuing auto insurance debate, one voice above all others should be listened to with care. One spokesperson is, in a real sense, detached from the issues and can give an objective opinion on what is happening. I refer to the consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who is neither a lawyer in the sense that he stands to make money out of existing insurance systems, nor is he tied to insurance companies -- nor is he tied to the government. Mr Nader has built a reputation as quite accurately a consumer advocate, first taking on automobile corporations like General Motors and Ford and then following up on other consumer questions.
What has Mr Nader had to say about the government’s insurance scheme? He quite bluntly has said that the Ontario motorist protection plan is a surrender to the power of the insurance industry, and he has urged its critics to unmask who is pulling the strings.
It is no secret who is pulling the strings -- it is the insurance companies. Jack Carr, a University of Toronto economist, says that the government’s insurance scheme will give the insurance companies at least an additional $630 million a year from the pockets of insurance consumers. I suggest that we all listen very carefully to what Mr Nader has to say on this issue.
PENETANGUISHENE MENTAL HEALTH CENTRE
Mr McLean: My statement is for the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) and it concerns the registered nurses at the Oak Ridge division of the Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre.
The minister is no doubt aware that registered nurses who had previously worked out of the dispensary attending to medical and psychiatric patients’ needs became assigned as part of the staff count, and their job specifications were expanded to include a large portion of security duties. However, there were no negotiations to include an increment to their salary to offset an added security role.
The minister recently allocated $20 million to registered nurses and registered nurses’ assistants in Ontario to combat increased difficulties in hiring, retention, poor educational opportunities and assistance in other areas. Registered nurses at Oak Ridge have presented a special case to the bargaining team for the 1990 negotiations, and on 20 December the negotiating parties will decide if the special case is to proceed to negotiations.
The minister has greatly increased the role of the registered nurses at Oak Ridge but has not been paying them accordingly. Therefore, I urge her to ensure that the registered nurses’ special case is included in the 1990 bargaining process. I think that would be the fair and equitable thing for her to do for the registered nurses at Oak Ridge.
COMMUNITY LAND TRUSTS
Mr Tatham: Affordable housing in perpetuity -- can it be done? One promising solution for providing affordable housing is the community land trust model. The trust buys the land and buildings, holding the land in trust, and sells the buildings to families. The home buyer enters into a long-term lease with the land trust which includes a limited appreciation provision on the resale of the building. “Limited appreciation” means a restriction on the amount of profit that can be made when the property is sold.
Nearly all community land trusts have a general goal of permanently removing land from the speculative market. The home buyer has to pay a land leasing fee, but it is a very modest fee compared to the cost of a housing lot. If the home buyer wishes to sell the home, the land trust has the first right to purchase, so it can be resold at an affordable price.
Community land trusts -- CLTs -- have been at work in urban rural areas of the United States since 1968 and now exist in more than 20 states. They are demonstrating success and making affordable housing opportunities more widely available. In the process, they are stabilizing neighbourhoods and communities and making extremely effective use of public and private subsidies. Most importantly, community land trusts create housing that is affordable into the future.
Hon Mr Ward: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I understand that statements have been circulated by the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon). Unfortunately, he is somewhat detained and I would suggest --
An hon member: Here he is.
Hon Mr Ward: -- that he is here.
The Speaker: Now that the elevator has worked well, I will call for ministerial statements.
Mr Laughren: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think the Treasurer -- and he is usually very good about this -- intended to have his statement circulated but it has not been done.
Hon Mr Ward: Here they come.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon R. F. Nixon: In the 1989 budget I announced the introduction of an unclaimed property program for Ontario. Today I will be introducing a bill to enact the program. This bill establishes a mechanism for the province to find the owners of unclaimed assets other than land and physical assets. Individuals, companies and other holders of unclaimed property will be required to notify the public trustee, who will advertise for owners in Ontario daily newspapers.
The public trustee will refer owners to the holders so that they can claim their property. Property that remains unclaimed will be turned over to the public trustee. Proceeds from the property will be placed in the consolidated revenue fund and used to benefit the people of this province. Owners will have a perpetual right to claim the value of their property from the trustee.
Mr Laughren: I would like to use the argument that I do not understand this statement very well because I have just had it, but I am not sure that, no matter how long I look at it, I will understand it.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question to the Minister of Financial Institutions. I have a confidential memo from the Workers’ Compensation Board that says that as a result of the changes to auto insurance which the minister is planning to bring in, as those amendments are currently designed, it will have the following effects. According to this memo, the proposed amendments of the government will diminish the rights injured workers currently enjoy under the act. That is the first thing it will do.
The second thing it will do is transfer a portion of the overall cost burden of motor vehicle accidents from the private insurance sector to the workers’ compensation system.
As they are currently designed, these amendments will, according to the Workers’ Compensation Board, cost the Workers’ Compensation Board some $25 million at the same time as they diminish the rights of injured workers.
The Speaker: Question.
Mr B. Rae: Can the minister justify that kind of legislation?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman has a memo which I have not seen. Obviously it is confidential to him and it remains confidential to me. We have had discussions with the workers’ compensation people about the effect of this and we have had some very good discussions. Originally there were some projections that it may have been much higher than that. In fact, we have not yet, I think, discovered really what the numbers are going to be.
We do know that with respect to providing service for individuals under workers’ compensation, that pure no-fault system, the workers’ compensation system, has been augmented in the past by a second choice for individuals which has had to be paid for by the employers and indirectly of course by employees, so that they would have some kind of double coverage. It is my view that what we have in front of us with respect to an amendment of the collateral benefit rule means that it will be a fair compensation system and that it will replace lost wages. From my point of view, a fairer system is a better system and a more affordable system overall.
Mr B. Rae: I am astonished that the minister would not know something as basic as this about a piece of legislation, but what this memorandum states very clearly is that the act will take away the rights of injured workers in some cases, some very specific cases, that it will have the effect of transferring costs from the private insurance system over to the workers’ compensation system and that it will increase the costs to the Workers’ Compensation Board by as much as $25 million a year, which increases the unfunded liability of the board by some $500 million. The unfunded liability of the board is already $7.5 billion. This increases the unfunded liability by another $500 million.
Again, can the minister explain why the government would bring in an act which adds to the costs of the workers’ compensation system, which amounts to a direct --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr B. Rae: -- subsidy of the private insurance system and which takes rights away from injured people?
Hon Mr Elston: No, I do not agree with the honourable gentleman’s review of the circumstances. In my view, we have moved to do something which has been requested for some time; that is, clarify the collateral benefit rule and have people being reimbursed only once for lost wages and other things.
I can tell the honourable gentleman that under the current pure no-fault system which is offered by workers’ compensation there is a second option available to an injured worker, and that is to proceed under the insurance policy, also paid for by the employer, to insure against automobile accidents. In this circumstance, we have only said that when the collateral benefits are to be put into effect you can collect only once for those losses and not collect twice.
We think that overall our system is much fairer. There is no question in my mind that there are going to be some costs incurred in the workers’ compensation system because of the working of that rule, but in terms of the exact exposure we are not certain that the number which the member has used is the accurate one. We are not sure in fact that the previous numbers which were brought to our attention by workers’ compensation --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Elston: -- were accurate. We have worked with them, we are talking with them and looking at how we can define --
The Speaker: Order. It seems like a fairly ample response.
Mr B. Rae: The Workers’ Compensation Board, in this confidential memorandum, states very clearly that the law proposed by the Liberals will do two things. It will take rights away from injured workers; it will diminish the rights that injured workers currently enjoy under section 8 of the act. That is the first thing that it will do, according to the board.
The second thing is that it will transfer a portion of the overall cost burden of motor vehicle accidents from the private insurance sector to the workers’ compensation system. This is going to cost the workers’ compensation system some $25 million, which then means, according to the figures that they have, that the government is saving the private insurance companies that much money.
That is the transfer that is being effected. They are taking it out of the pockets of injured people and they are also giving it as a form of subsidy to the private insurance companies. The government is subsidizing the insurance companies through OHIP. We know they are subsidizing the insurance companies through OHIP --
The Speaker: The question.
Mr B. Rae: -- and now they are doing it through the workers’ compensation system. Why is the minister giving the private sector insurance companies such a good deal and taking so much money out of the pockets of people who have been injured? Why is he doing that?
Hon Mr Elston: There is clearly a misunderstanding on the part of the honourable member for York South. He knows that our system has been designed to make sure that the premiums paid into the automobile insurance system will go more in proportion to the injured than ever before. That is our strategy.
His New Democratic Party colleague the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) really wants us to retain the current tort-based system, which flies in the face of some of the things that the NDP policy people used to talk about in terms of fairness. He knows that our system is projected to have fair compensation to people who are victims of accidents. He is right when he says there may be some transfer of cost over to workers’ compensation, but let’s look at who pays for that system.
The employer, whether he or she pays for workers’ compensation coverage or for automobile coverage, will be paying premiums to affect a just and quick settlement for the injured employees as a result of an automobile accident. This is a fair way of dealing with it, it is a balanced approach and we are not subsidizing the private insurance companies.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. Since I know the Premier (Mr Peterson) will not answer the question when I put it to him, there is no point in even letting him deflect it. I might as well go directly to the minister.
I asked the minister yesterday some questions about layoffs. I would like to ask the minister some more questions about layoffs. Over the last year the Algoma Steel Corp in Sault Ste Marie has lost some 1,500 jobs, 300 of which were announced last Thursday. The Sault has about 80,000 people. A loss of 1,500 jobs is, again using the figures that I used yesterday, the equivalent of over 40,000 lost jobs in Metropolitan Toronto. A haemorrhage of this size in the Sault in terms of jobs is massive when you consider the size of the whole community.
The Speaker: Your question.
Mr B. Rae: My question to the minister is this: He admitted outside yesterday that there were going to be even more layoffs. I want to ask him what programs, apart from the program for older worker adjustment, which we have already discussed in this House, does the minister have in place which are going to help the workers who are affected by these layoffs which we now see are taking place across the province?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I would like to defer that question to the Minister of Labour.
The Speaker: It has been referred to the Minister of Labour.
Hon Mr Phillips: I think all members in the House would share the concern we have with the layoffs that we have seen occurring in the last few weeks. I think it is important as we look ahead at the situation that we remind ourselves first of the things that we have done to help those workers who have been laid off.
This province has -- the only province, by the way -- a severance program, a program that pays workers who are laid off. It is important that those workers have some redress to ensure that they have some --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Phillips: -- economic substance to get by the layoff period. Also, I think it is important to remember that we have something called POWA, the program for older worker adjustment, which is a program that we have negotiated with the federal government to ensure that we have some assistance for older workers. For workers who are 45 years of age and over we have something called the Transitions program, which was designed to assist those workers with training.
Just to refresh our memories, there is the severance program for workers who are laid off, POWA for older workers and the Transitions program. I might add, in a moment --
The Speaker: Thank you. Perhaps you would wait for the supplementary. It might fit in.
Mr B. Rae: We have a list from the ministry itself which is seven pages long and goes through all the companies in which there have been layoffs. Closures are at a higher level this year than last; 106 companies have either had reduced operations, partial closures or complete closures since 1 January 1989 to the end of October. That does not include the figures for November.
Again, I would like to ask the minister, where are the changes in pensions, where are the changes in employment standards, where are the changes in training law, all of which we have been waiting for now for over two years, which are going to help the workers who are affected by this kind of change?
It is coming, we can see it coming. Where are the laws, the acts and the programs in place that are going to help the workers who are going to be affected by these changes that are coming?
Hon Mr Phillips: Again, I recognize the importance of this matter and I think all of us, on all sides of the House, must begin to continue to address this situation. I remind us again, though, in terms of any of the provinces we are the only province that has severance pay. For workers who have more than five years’ experience it is one week’s pay for each year’s experience up to 26 weeks, the most progressive severance program. There is also POWA and there is also Transitions.
Another very important subject, which I began to raise earlier, is that the Premier anticipated the need for looking at this whole issue of training, of labour force adjustment, of trying to ensure that we have a workforce that is consistent with the future. A year ago, he asked the Premier’s Council to tackle this. One thing that I think will be of major benefit to all of us is something that the Premier’s Council is at this very moment looking at, and that is a training program that will look at the future needs of the workforce in this province, a training board that will have the participation of management and labour as we look ahead at dealing specifically with the changing marketplace in Ontario and how we best meet it.
Mr B. Rae: The minister has the nerve to talk about the older worker program. That is a federal program. It involves a total of $9 million in provincial money, $9 million to deal with the size of the industrial change which Ontario is undergoing in the steel industry, in the food processing industry, in the electronics industry. All those things that his leader talked about in the last federal election in terms of the effects of free trade are coming down the pipe in terms of free trade and the minister is doing nothing to deal with that issue as it affects workers.
There are no programs in place in terms of pensions, in terms of training, in terms of new provincial money under his jurisdiction to deal with the seriousness of this problem. He has got workers who are going to be heading into Christmas without a paycheque and his government has done nothing over the last two years to deal with it. The years since 1987 have been wasted years --
The Speaker: Do you have a question?
Mr B. Rae: -- in terms of preparing for the adjustments which we are going through. When are we going to get these programs and why do we not have these programs before Christmas?
Hon Mr Phillips: I am sure the member would not want to mislead anyone who is in a position where he is being laid off, but there are severance programs available to those workers. Any worker who has been employed for five years or more receives one week of severance for each year of employment. No other province has that.
There is much more we can do and much more we must do, but I think it is important to remember these programs are in place, they do not exist in any other province -- 26 weeks of severance pay. These are not insubstantial amounts. Yes, there is more we can do. That is available. There is also the Transitions program for the workers 45 years of age and over and the POWA program for workers 55 years of age and over. Yes, there is more we can do. The Ontario training board will look at those matters.
As we speak, we are urging the federal government to move on its job strategies, which is an important element of this. Let’s not forget it is the federal government which has the prime responsibility in this area. But we are not standing still and we will continue to work with workers who are laid off in these unfortunate circumstances.
The Speaker: New question. The member for Sarnia.
Mr Brandt: My question --
Some hon members: Haircut, haircut.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: You get a haircut and these people just cannot control themselves. In my case, it was either that or buy a violin. I decided to get the haircut.
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Premier and I want to address the Premier about a problem which I see emerging in the province and which I think is a very serious one.
I am sure the Premier would agree with me that the cost of doing business bears a direct relationship to the degree of economic activity in a jurisdiction. His government has recently introduced two very substantial tax increases, the commercial concentration levy and also the health levy. Those two taxes in particular are going to increase the cost of doing business in Ontario very substantially. Parking rates, as an example, are suggested to go to a rate of some $25 a day in downtown Toronto, which is fully a 142 per cent increase over the cost of parking in Toronto now.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr Brandt: Why, at a time when there is a predictable slowdown in the economy, which is imminent according to all of the political and economic pundits on this question, would the government be increasing taxes so substantially?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the Treasurer can help out my honourable friend with his new haircut.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member refers to the employer health tax which replaces OHIP premiums. We are very proud of the fact that we are living up to the promise made by this party before we were a government and now we are in government. It really means that OHIP premiums will be a thing of the past. We will move away from medicare as an insurance and go into an era where it is a universal program, which is the way it should have been right from the start. The honourable member would know that the employer health tax is designed to replace those premiums and pay for about 16 per cent of the cost of medicare. He asks why we have applied that tax. That is the reason.
The second one is the commercial concentration tax as it is applied to parking spaces. I think the member is aware that the announcement of that tax was associated with the announcement of $2 billion extra to be spent on transportation infrastructure, most of it, at least $1.2 billion, in the greater Toronto area. He is aware, of course, that the consolidated revenue fund of the province supports and subsidizes the Toronto Transit Commission to the tune of $200 million a year. We hope to improve the service as well as improving GO Transit and building roads and bridges, which costs a lot of money. The purpose of that commercial concentration tax is to provide the funds on the basis of users to fund the program.
Hon Mr Scott: What is wrong with that?
Mr Brandt: I will tell the Attorney General what is wrong with that. The Treasurer has substantially increased the cost of doing business in this province, and he knows that.
With respect to the promise made by the government to remove OHIP fees, I might add that the Treasurer did not at the time come clean with the Ontario public and indicate that he was going to collect fully $500 million more money when he made this transition and simply shift it on to the backs of the employers of this province. How can he justify what is fully a $3.1-billion additional tax grab? He can couch it in whatever way he wants with respect to avoiding the direct charge to Ontario taxpayers, but I want to tell him that his increases have --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: I am getting to my question.
The Speaker: I thought you had placed your question and then you wanted to tell --
Mr Brandt: I do not think I had. Maybe I rolled over it quickly, Mr Speaker, and did not realize it.
The Speaker: Then place your question.
Mr Brandt: I will.
The Speaker: Thank you. I appreciate your co-operation.
Mr Brandt: You always have my co-operation, sir.
My question to the Treasurer is this: How can he justify a $3. 1-billion increase in additional taxes at a time when the Ontario economy is noticeably slowing, even according to his reports?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I want to deal with two comments that the honourable member has made. I want to set his troubled mind at rest. There is no overlapping or extra payment associated with the support of medicare from the transition from premiums to the employer health tax. I have told him and the other members of the House that before and he remains unconvinced. I regret that, but that is factual.
I would also like to say that, by way of doing away with premiums, we are actually putting back into the pockets of the taxpayers across the province, including the residents of Sarnia and Lambton county, close to $1 billion in money they otherwise would have paid in personal income taxes or medicare premiums. This is not smoke-and-mirrors money; this is money left in the pockets of all of us, as well as all of the other citizens of Ontario, which is a stimulus to the business ambience of this province and accounts to some degree for the economy being buoyant. So I want to tell the honourable member that we are replacing the OHIP premiums with this tax, which we believe to be fair and equitable and eminently justifiable by any reasonable person.
Mr Brandt: The Treasurer himself indicated in the headline in the Toronto Star on 6 October 1989, “Ontario Must Stay Competitive to Keep Businesses,” and the members will note that there are a number of businesses leaving this province at this time.
I want to say to the Treasurer that while he proudly stands up and indicates the money going back into the taxpayers pockets, he makes light of the fact that he is, even without the argument and the debate that we have had about double collection for January through March of 1990, collecting fully half a billion dollars more in revenue than he would have, had he kept the OHIP premiums in place.
Perhaps this question might be a justifiable one to the Treasurer. Can he share with the members of this House any other provincial jurisdiction in Canada that is increasing taxes as rapidly as his government?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think that the question should more properly be phrased, “Is there any other government in Canada that is offering such a spectrum of modern and useful services as this government?” But I think that the honourable member, as a taxpayer of the province as well as a member of this Legislature, should share our pride in the initiatives that have been taken to improve the quality of education, to improve our environment, to see that our medicare system and our hospitals are as good as any that can be found anywhere. We are very proud of this accomplishment and we are doing this at the same time as we are reducing our deficit from the $3 billion that it was when the member was in charge to under $600 million this year.
Mr Brandt: I want to address my next question to the Minister of Health and I want to revisit with the minister the discussion that we had yesterday, where she took issue with my press release. I want to say to the minister by way of comment that I stand by every word of the press release that I issued yesterday, and if the minister wants to debate that, I am prepared to do that now.
The minister would not admit in this House to the fact that certain services would be withdrawn from those citizens of Ontario who were not prepared to pay their OHIP premiums in that double period between January and March of 1990. She said something else outside the House. Would the minister clarify her position and that of the government, so that the people of Ontario will know exactly what she means for a change?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I think the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) explained very well to the leader of the third party, and as hard as he will try to confuse the people of this province, I will once again state very, very clearly that all residents of Ontario are covered for the health services that they receive. We are attempting to communicate with them during this time of transition to ensure that they understand exactly what that means and what their obligations are.
Mr Brandt: Then let me be very direct with the Minister of Health, who is collecting this tax on behalf of the Treasurer. The people of Ontario will be paying their OHIP premiums until the end of December 1989. Correct? As of 1 January 1990, the new employer health levy will come on stream. Will the minister tell me what period of time is missing in between and why the double taxation for the first four months of 1990?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I know that the leader of the third party really does understand this, which is why I take such exception to the irresponsible message that he is trying to give to the people of this province in suggesting that they should be worried about whether or not they are covered. I want him to know very, very clearly that in fact during this time, as we switch from a premium to a tax, all residents of the province of Ontario will have access to health services.
We will ensure that they have the information that they need to understand this transition, and I want to say very clearly to the leader of the third party that he must assist us in giving people the information they need during this time of transition, so that they will have confidence that we will smoothly move from a premium to a tax.
Mr Brandt: I want to be helpful to the minister and I want to say, by way of explanation to the people of Ontario who may be listening to this debate today, that the minister is collecting through this new scheme under the Treasurer fully $500 million in additional money. The amount of money for OHIP premiums that is involved in this exchange is about $100 million.
The government is already collecting hundreds of millions of dollars of additional money over and above what would normally be collected. Why does the minister not simply say to the people of Ontario that she is not going to doublebill them for the first four months of 1990?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I think it is that the leader of the third party does not want to understand. The Treasurer was very, very clear. There will be no additional premium notices going out after 1 January. The member should know that. As of 1 January, there will be a tax and health services will be funded from the consolidated revenue as are all government programs.
Everyone in this province, all residents of Ontario, will be covered and have access to the health services they need. They will require a health number. We will attempt to communicate to them, so that they have all of the information that they need through this time of transition, but I want them to have confidence that they will all be covered and have access to the services they need.
The Speaker: Order. I hope you are all aware of what the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini) just stated -- 20(b), that no other member shall participate except on a point of order.
Mr Wildman: I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources related to the industry-ministry Report of the Task Force on Forest Management Agreements, which was finished in October 1988 but was never published by the ministry and has only now been published before the environmental assessment by the industry.
How does the minister respond to these criticisms: First, that the ministry’s province-wide cap on nursery stock production has resulted in insufficient stock to reforest the cutover areas and, second, that the ministry has been unable to produce stock meeting the standards which it agreed to under the FMAs? How is it the ministry is not producing enough stock to cover the cutover areas and is not producing stock that is of the standard required in order to ensure regeneration of our forests?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I think I would want to return to that specific FMA document which reviews, if I recall it correctly, four very specific forest management agreements and makes some very positive comments in recommending that those forest management agreements be renewed because of the success that is identified in having been able to carry out good forest management. Obviously, a part of the review process was also to recommend some areas in which improvements can take place. There has clearly been a focus within the last years to increase the amount of regeneration that is taking place and to ensure that is reflected in new FMAs that are signed.
Mr Wildman: The minister may not be aware that it specifically states that this is true of 10 out of the 13 forest management agreements. Can the minister explain how it was that the report found that there is insufficient funding being provided for the crown management units as well and that, besides not meeting the obligations under the FMAs, the ministry is not providing enough funding to carry out its own reforestation program on crown management units? What has the ministry been doing since October 1988 to rectify the situation and respond to the criticisms that the minister has kept secret for over a year?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I do not think there is any secret at all about the kind of work that is being done in the whole area of forest management and forest regeneration. I do not have any need to keep secret the numbers of acres that are being regenerated, to look at the improvements that have been made in fact within the period of the last year when we had a $230-million budget for forest management.
I think it is not appropriate to simply reflect on a report which is looking back on a past situation and to take out specific criticisms, given the context of that report which is generally very positive. Let me recognize instead a specific figure for hectares regenerated. I will just use this one figure: in 1986-87, 123,607 acres; by the next year, it was 135,979 and in 1988-89, it was 150,513.
I think along with the increase in the forest management budget last year, as we look at the total provincial perspective, we are in fact improving our regeneration. Yes, there is more that we can do. That is always the case. The concerns about timber production policy and the recommendations the class environmental assessment makes will become part of our future direction.
The Speaker: Order. Are you just about finished? Okay, I do not mind waiting. Order.
ADVOCACY AND GUARDIANSHIP
Mrs Cunningham: My question is for the Minister of Health. Today I want to bring to the attention of the minister the need for independent advocates for vulnerable adults. This Liberal government, and specifically the Attorney General (Mr Scott), has been promising to put in place an advocacy program since it has been in power. What has resulted? First of all, at great expense, the Manson report, then the Fram report and the O’Sullivan report, and it is my understanding, since 1987 and three big reports, we have yet another committee studying this issue. When will the minister respond to the need for independent advocates for vulnerable adults?
Hon Mrs Caplan: Mr Speaker, as this matter goes far beyond the Ministry of Health, I will refer it to the Attorney General.
The Speaker: It has been referred to the Attorney General.
Hon Mr Scott: I am very grateful for the question. Of course, it would not have been possible to even ask the question before 1985, because the previous government had not the slightest interest in this subject. However, when we came in in 1985, we commissioned the three reports that the honourable member has referred to.
They deal with two subjects essentially: the issue of guardianship, which is a technical and very complex subject, and the issue of advocacy. They run, of course, across a variety of ministries in the government service. We have a committee that is developing options which, if effective, as we believe they will be, will introduce in Ontario for the first time potential for advocacy and guardianship unlike any service available anywhere else in the western world.
It is going to take a considerable period of time to do it, and I always remember how the Conservatives hectored me because we were not doing pay equity fast enough. Does the member remember that? It was before her time, but they will remember. They gave us hell about it every day and then we did it. Now we are going to do this carefully and prudently, but I want the honourable member to know that it is a priority with us and we are moving towards it.
Mrs Cunningham: I do not want to argue with the Attorney General but the issue of advocacy had in fact been dealt with by the Conservative government long before 1987 and advocacy in psychiatric hospitals had been in place. There was a beginning. There was a problem. This report looked at it. It was the beginning of advocacy in this province, and I was part of that so I know it very well.
I should go on to say that given three more reports, everyone in this House is probably aware of the very sad case of Leila Smith, an ex-patient in her 50s, who was beaten and later fell down some stairs. She spent 11 months in a coma, and this occurred in November 1986. If action could have been taken to address the urgent need for independent advocates, perhaps all the later cases of abuse in Cedar Glen could have been avoided.
The Speaker: And the question would be?
Mrs Cunningham: I do, of course, have another question. It is obvious to all of us that there is a real need for this service --
The Speaker: Supplementary question, please.
Mrs Cunningham: -- and I would like to know if the minister will be prepared to introduce this important legislation first thing in the next session.
Hon Mr Scott: If the honourable member is correct, and I very much doubt it, that the Conservatives ever had the slightest interest in advocacy for frail adults, it would have appeared -- which of us remember? -- in the famous Miller speech from the throne where, in an effort to buy support from the third party, a whole lot of things that the Conservatives had never shown the slightest interest in for 40 years appeared.
Now we happen to be interested in this issue, and I want to assure the honourable member that it is being given a priority. But we are very conscious that what we are engaged in, particularly on the guardianship side, is a technical issue that presents a lot of difficulties in light of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I want to assure the honourablc member that we will be addressing her concerns.
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Minister of Culture and Communications. I appreciate that the minister has been visiting across the province, criss-crossing and encouraging and identifying with cultural organizations in Ontario. Yesterday we had the good fortune that she was in Simcoe county. The problem that I have and hear from the --
The Speaker: Order. Would all members show a little more respect for the rules they passed? Order. Supplementary, the member for Simcoe Centre.
Mr Owen: I have not asked the question yet.
The Speaker: Order. We will just wait. We have lots of time. Question, the member for Simcoe Centre.
Mr Owen: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The concern that I had expressed yesterday at the organization the minister visited and the other cultural organizations in my area is that they have a problem with getting volunteers. There may be many explanations today, and my question to the minister is, I know that she identifies and she encourages volunteers, but is there any other leadership that can be shown to encourage and to bring about more volunteerism? I have been shown that if we could double in this province the number of hours or people in volunteer to the cultural organizations, we would have another 300 million hours available to these organizations.
Hon Ms Hart: I thank the member for Simcoe Centre for raising this problem. It is a societal problem largely based on the fact that the women of our society, who traditionally did the volunteer work, are now very often occupied outside the home in paying occupations, but that is not the end of the story.
Of course we need volunteers and we have a great many volunteers now, men and women. Those volunteers enable our cultural organizations to exist. Perhaps I could give the member some examples. He will have heard of the LACACs, the local architectural conservation advisory committees, in virtually every community in this province. These are all voluntary committees. There are 2,000 volunteers across the province and yes, our ministry does fund those LACACs and makes sure they can exist.
Mr Owen: On another day I would like to ask about the contributions to the arts by the federal and provincial governments, but for today I would like to comment about their concern with donations from individuals and the corporate sector. They have advised me that in the past 16 years individual donations to these organizations have dropped 30 per cent and that corporate donations, again to the nonprofit sector, are down over the past 14 years by almost 20 per cent. They say they are having a serious problem.
I would like to know what the minister’s ministry can do to show leadership to encourage more donations to these various organizations, because without more help some of them are going to have trouble surviving.
Hon Ms Hart: We are actually victims of our own success. Since the early 1970s in Ontario we have had an explosion of cultural activity, and as the cultural sector has grown and has become more important to the economy it has outstripped our ability, as governments at all levels, to fund it.
All levels of government have been encouraging the corporate sector to participate as partners in the funding of very many cultural activities. Most recently we have had a program, which we call Investment in the Arts, that is intended to lever funds from the private sector. It has worked. We have put in $10 million and we have levered a corresponding $l0 million. But I would be the first to say that it is not enough and that we will be working further to reach more corporations.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of the Environment and it requires merely a yes or no answer. Can the minister tell the House whether he personally supports the placing of a garbage dump on lands at the edge of the Rouge Valley?
The Speaker: Minister, yes or no?
Hon Mr Bradley: I do not think the member ever expected to get a yes or no answer from me on any subject because --
Hon Mr Elston: She did not expect that at all. She needs a full explanation from this minister.
Hon Mr Bradley: She knows a full explanation is required, as my friend the member for Bruce (Mr Elston) indicates.
I can indicate clearly that the choice of any particular site selected by a municipality is the choice of that municipality. The role of the Ministry of the Environment is to ensure that the Environmental Assessment Board has a hearing on it, which it would do on any site that might be selected, but no decision, as I understand it, has been made by any municipality at this time. It would be wrong, I think, for me to speculate on that.
The member will know that virtually every application that comes in -- I am sure there are people out there who would like a political decision to be made by the Minister of the Environment that no, this site will not be considered or this project will not be considered, but our role is to ensure that the Environmental Assessment Board listens to the arguments and makes a decision. We will ensure that happens.
Mrs Grier: I did not need to have a lecture on process from the minister. I was asking him his personal position on this issue that is critical to a great many people in Metropolitan Toronto and the surrounding area. Let me ask the minister again, does he or does he not support lands on the edge of the Rouge Valley being designated as a suitable site for garbage disposal?
Hon Mr Bradley: As I indicated to the member and as I will indicate on any occasion, let’s put it in perspective. For instance, the choice for the Ontario Waste Management Corp toxic waste facility is probably about 25 miles from my house. There are a lot of people who would like --
Mrs Grier: That’s appropriate.
Hon Mr Bradley: The member says that’s appropriate. I will share that with my colleagues in St Catharines.
What some people would like me to do, for instance, is to say, “You wouldn’t possibly consider it in this particular area of the province, would you?” I explain to them that we have a process and that this process is that people who have objections to any particular choice made by a proponent will have the opportunity to oppose it. Not only will they have the opportunity to oppose those, but as the member knows, because of the very progressive legislation brought forward by the Attorney General (Mr Scott), they will have government funding, or proponent funding in this case, to assist them in making their case no matter what choice is made.
It would be very irresponsible for me as the Minister of the Environment to say, when any proposal is brought forward, that it will not be considered.
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health. Several weeks ago, as I am sure the minister is aware, a patient at Christie Park Nursing Home suffered a fatal beating by a psychogeriatric patient. Nursing homes across the province have a problem with this type of patient. They feel the only options they have now are to call the police or to send such patients to psychiatric hospitals. Is this the way the minister and her ministry want to see the ill and elderly people of this province treated?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member opposite knows, my priority is and always will be patient care. I can tell him that we have taken an approach within the nursing home branch to work with nursing homes to ensure they bring their homes up to compliance. I want him to know that while there is still room for progress and for improvement -- there always is -- I think we are moving towards an era of a co-operative approach to ensuring that standards within nursing homes are met and that patient care is the priority.
Mr Eves: I am sure the minister is well aware that nursing homes across the province do not receive funding adequate to their needs for special programs for these patients. There is no space at homes for the aged, which generally do a very good job with this type of patient; there is not any space left at these homes in the province. Psychiatric hospitals are not the answer for these patients and reporting them to the police certainly is not the answer.
What specific steps is the minister and her ministry taking to enable various people in the province to deal with this type of patient? She has just told us she is very concerned about it. She should tell us what specific steps she is taking, what funding and programs --
The Speaker: The minister.
Mr Eves: -- she has in place to specifically deal with their very real needs.
The Speaker: Order. That is the second time you have asked those questions.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to thank my critic for this very important question. I know that he will acknowledge, as will all members in the House, that we have no long-term care system in place. What we have is fragmented and unco-ordinated. There is no common assessment process. This was identified some time ago. My colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Beer) announced our intention to develop a comprehensive, long-term care system. This long-term care reform is something we are actively working on. I know the member will be very interested in the progress we are making when we are ready to make an announcement in due course.
Mr Faubert: My question is to the Minister of the Environment and actually requires more than a yes or no answer.
Residents throughout the greater Toronto area and residents of urban communities across this province are acutely aware that air quality problems continue to plague our urban areas. We are all aware that automobile emissions contribute substantially to the smog levels with which residents living in cities such as Scarborough, and across Metropolitan Toronto, must contend. Can the minister advise the House whether the emission controls currently in place are sufficient or whether further controls are being considered?
Hon Mr Bradley: There are a number of initiatives that can be taken and I want to indicate that some of those initiatives have already been taken. I want to assure the member they will continue to be implemented in future years. The member may be aware that we implemented in this province something they did not have in other provinces -- I am assured it is going to happen next summer -- and that is the use of lower smog gasoline so that the volatility of gas is lowered rather considerably and the smog in urban municipalities, for instance, is reduced by about eight to 10 per cent, not only for the people in the area but also for those who are downstream.
In addition to that, the Canadian Council of Resource and Environment Ministers met in October of this year and I was an advocate of adopting the proposed California standards for the 1994 model year. I am pleased the conference accepted the suggestion of Ontario.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Bradley: There was unanimous agreement that in Canada we would adopt the California standards for nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and carbon --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Faubert: Urban smog is not the only concern resulting from automobile emissions. Ozone depletion is also considered a serious consequence. This is a problem that is of concern not only in Ontario, but as the minister points out, nationally from coast to coast and therefore it must be dealt with on that national level. The minister mentioned a promise by the federal government to announce national regulations on vehicle emissions. Can the minister advise when these announcements are expected to take place?
Hon Mr Bradley: The agreement was at the conference of Environment ministers and it would be announced very soon. We have to recognize that it takes the automobile companies some three years to implement the actual changes in terms of the equipment that is put into automobiles. There was an indication by the federal minister, as I indicated, that we would probably have to have an announcement in November of this year.
I have no reason to believe that we will not soon see that change announced by the federal minister since there was a commitment at the Canadian Council of Resource and Environment Ministers of Canada. I would expect that very soon there would be what we call a preregulation announcement, so that the people who are involved in automobile manufacturing would know what would be coming off the line in September 1993 in terms of the 1994 models, would know that we would want to have the proposed Californian standards for the substances I indicated. I am optimistic that that commitment will be kept and that we could see that in the not too distant future.
The Speaker: New question, the member for Lake Nipigon.
NORTHERN HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, with respect, on a point of order before I proceed with the question: Those wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing are contravening, and I know why they are upset. It is because I am about to ask the Minister of Health one more time a question about the critical shortage of doctors in northern Ontario.
The minister will be aware of a telegram addressed and signed by 13 reeves, mayors and hospital chairpersons highlighting the critical shortage of physicians in hospitals along the north shore of Lake Superior. The minister is being blessed. She is being extended the compliment of an invitation to attend a meeting at her convenience in January or February so that she will be the recipient of our answers to her problem that she has been unable to solve to this date.
Yes or no, will the minister join us at a meeting in Terrace Bay?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member opposite knows, I have travelled extensively throughout the north and I am very aware of the challenges of attracting health professionals to northern communities to deliver health services. He knows as well that while we have an adequate supply of physicians across Ontario, we have geographical distribution issues that must be addressed.
He knows as well that I established the Northern Health Manpower Committee which is just beginning to meet. We have a director of the underserviced area program. I say to him that I would be pleased to have the director meet with his community, but if possible and I have the opportunity, I would be pleased of course, as always, to meet with community leaders as I travel throughout the north.
Mr Pouliot: Let’s get this straight here. We are not asking the minister to travel to British Columbia to examine the solutions that were taken to solve the problems under a former regime. We are asking her to meet her own people. Thirteen communities are saying to the minister, “Pay us the compliment of a visit, Your Grace.” Those are the people paying her wages and they want a meeting with her in January or February. Will the minister give it to them?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member opposite, of all members in this House, knows that I have travelled extensively and have visited communities in his own riding. I always try to meet with community leaders as I travel through the north. I say to him that I will be in the north again, as soon as I can possibly arrange it given my schedule, and I will continue to meet with northern leaders.
However, in the meantime I would encourage his constituents and his community leaders to set up a meeting with our northern co-ordinator and with the underserviced area program director so that they can be aware of the many initiatives we have undertaken already to meet the challenges of northern Ontario in the delivery of health services.
LENGTHS OF TRUCKS AND TRAILERS
Mr Wiseman: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. On 25 October in a speech to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto, concerning 53-foot trailers on Ontario roads and highways, the minister stated and I quote, “I continue to be concerned about the potential safety implications of changes such as those.” Not one month later, on 23 November, the minister announced that he was endorsing new truck length standards, including those of the 53-foot trailers.
Perhaps the minister could explain this incredible about-face in policy and also table the studies that led him to believe that 53-foot trailers were safer than 48-foot trailers?
If I could, Mr Speaker, I have --
The Speaker: Perhaps we will get the response.
Hon Mr Wrye: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and perhaps we will have time for the supplementary.
An hon member: Do not bet on it, though.
Hon Mr Wrye: But perhaps not.
First of all, let me say to my honourable friend that I am surprised he has not had an opportunity to read the three-year $3-million study by the Roads and Transportation Association of Canada which was published, I believe, in early 1988 and was the basis for the action that has now been taken by a majority of the jurisdictions in Canada, which have joined the majority of the jurisdictions in the United States. I want to make him the commitment today that I am prepared to send him a copy of that study.
I want to make it very clear to the honourable gentleman that the concerns I expressed in the speech at the Metro Board of Trade are absolutely consistent with the concerns I expressed again in the speech to the Ontario Trucking Association. I believe they are concerns that are shared by the senior leadership of the OTA, that we ensure that in 1989, and indeed beyond, our trucking industry and our trucks on the highways are just as safe as they can possibly be.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT / COMITÉ PERMANENT DES AFFAIRES SOCIALES
Mrs O’Neill from the standing committee on social development presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Mme O’Neill du Comité permanent des affaires sociales présente le rapport suivant et propose son adoption :
Your committee begs to report the following bills as amended:
Bill 64, An Act to amend the Education Act and certain other Acts relating to Education Assessment.
Bill 65, An Act to amend the Ottawa-Carleton French-Language School Board Act, 1988.
Projet de loi 65, Loi portant modification de la Loi de 1988 sur le Conseil scolaire de langue française d’Ottawa-Carleton.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
Bill 64 ordered for third reading.
Bill 65 ordered for third reading.
Le projet de loi 65 devra passer à l’étape de troisième lecture.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
UNCLAIMED INTANGIBLE PROPERTY ACT, 1989
Mr R. F. Nixon moved first reading of Bill 86, An Act respecting the Custody of Unclaimed Intangible Property.
The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will say “aye.”
All those opposed will say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mrs Cunningham: I move that leave be given to introduce a bill entitled An Act to amend various Acts with respect to Easements and Other Matters and that it now be read the first time.
The Speaker: Mrs Cunningham has moved that leave be given to introduce a bill entitled An Act to amend the Education Act and that it now be read the first time.
That is not what I heard, was it? That is the long title. There seemed to be something wrong. My words did not seem to be the same as your words. There was a lot more to it than that.
Mrs Cunningham: Mr Speaker, my intent was to amend the Education Act. When we asked for assistance from your office, this is the way it was presented to us.
The Speaker: Shall we put this on record as amending the Education Act?
Mrs Cunningham: Okay, Mr Speaker, I will. The short title is the Education Amendment Act, 1989.
Mrs Cunningham moved first reading of Bill 87, An Act to amend the Education Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mrs Cunningham: Very simply, the purpose of the bill is to update the terminology used in the act with respect to developmentally disabled children and pupils.
ONTARIO MORTGAGE BROKERS ASSOCIATION ACT, 1989
Mr M. C. Ray moved first reading of Bill Pr46, An Act to revive Ontario Mortgage Brokers Association.
Motion agreed to.
ALARM SYSTEMS ACT, 1989
Mr McLean moved first reading of Bill 88, An Act to regulate Alarm Systems.
The Speaker: The member may have a brief explanation.
Mr McLean: A brief, three-paragraph explanation. The purpose of the bill is to regulate alarm systems installed on real property. The bill establishes a licensing system for persons engaged in the business of providing alarm services and persons employed as alarm installers.
The bill provides for investigations regarding the suitability of persons applying for licences and investigations of complaints against persons providing alarm services.
LABOUR RELATIONS AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 89, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Mackenzie: The purpose of the bill is to prevent the hiring of strikebreakers and to control access to a work premise that is affected by a strike or lockout. The bill prohibits an employer from hiring or using the services of a person to do the work of an employee who is on strike or locked out unless that person is specifically authorized to do so. Similarly, when a picket line is established at a place of access to a work premise, access is limited to persons specifically authorized by the bill.
The bill repeals a provision of the act dealing with professional strikebreakers and strike-related misconduct.
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: I believe the member for London North adjourned.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, before the debate resumes I would like to advise the House that by agreement the three parties will split the last hour, 20 minutes to each party, beginning at 4:45, and I would ask that the table keep track of the time.
The Speaker: I understand the parties have agreed. However, I hope there is unanimous consent here today.
Mrs Cunningham: I would like to spend a few minutes on a couple of concerns I have with regard to this new bill on automobile insurance.
I guess it goes back to the very beginning with regard to the question and the issue and the concern of the government in 1987 when it stated: “We have a real problem with automobile insurance rates; they are increasing. We are concerned about that. We are not sure how it will affect the public, and our extreme desire would be to see us able to reduce them.”
I am sure that many of us would be making those kinds of statements, especially when we are not certain about circumstances. As a result, in order to get a handle on the real issue and the real problem, the commission was established with the leadership of the Honourable Mr Justice Coulter Osborne, the Supreme Court of Ontario commissioner, and he did produce quite an extensive report; probably one of the best reports on auto insurance that has been put together in the history of any province in Canada, and it is called the Report of Inquiry into Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation in Ontario. It is extremely thorough.
Some of us have spent a lot of time studying it and asking questions about it. I have to admit that we have not been able to get better advice as we have been asking our questions about the proposed legislation.
I would just like to sum up my remarks by saying a couple of things. I think Mr Justice Osborne’s conclusions should be taken very seriously. He says, “I have reached the conclusion that existing no-fault benefits ought to be substantially expanded” -- no-fault, of course, does exist now to a point -- “made truly no-fault in their character, and that the right to individual compensation in the tort system ought to be maintained.”
I think that is what we should be looking at in the public inquiry that will take place on this particular bill. I am hoping the government members will be totally open to suggestions for improvement based on, I think, expert witnesses who have already indicated to a number of us from all three parties that they would like to be part of these deliberations.
“In the system I have proposed,” he goes on to say, “the need to sue has been reduced.” I think basically that is what the insurance industry was telling us, that the need to sue or the action of suing is one that was of great concern to it and, certainly, the results of those actions, which in fact resulted in some very substantive payouts, was a concern.
I should remind the House that on page 363 of the Osborne report, where it outlines the progression of motor-vehicle-accident-related claims through the courts, it does show in 1985 that there were 232,207 third-party-liability claims reported. This was in 1985. 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 claims.
I think sometimes when we talk about the system being able to sustain these kinds of actions, one should remember that, yes, 1.6 per cent of the claims -- and the members remind me that is a lot of dollars and that is what we really need to understand -- and in spite of $1.8 billion, in spite of all of those numbers, Mr Justice Osborne still says, “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 be an exporter not an importer of compensation systems.”
I think we should underline those words. Our present system is working with a few flaws and the underlying recommendation is that we should be an exporter not an importer of compensation systems.
This is the recommendation by the Honourable Mr Justice Coulter A. Osborne, for those who are wondering just who said that.
I should also like to underline another conclusion. In the main body of the report, he does develop the arguments for this conclusion. Understanding the propensity of those of us who are elected to like little summaries, the beginning of this report does say, “Summary of Finding and Recommendations.” For those who took it further and tried to understand it and tried to ask further questions, I would say that we would come back to the very beginning of the study and agree with his other conclusion where he states:
“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 important on the backs of over 90 per cent of injured Ontario motorists who now have the right to seek non-economic compensation.”
So if we are going to make these substantive changes where 90 per cent of injured Ontario motorists now, today, have the right to seek non-economic compensation, I would think we should be very seriously looking at any new evidence that would support the present bill. That is what I am going to be looking for. If the government is really serious about and confident in this new legislation, I would expect it would have witnesses before the committee who would support the very premise and the very essence of that bill.
We were accused sometimes during our speech yesterday of reading letters from solicitors. I tried very hard not to read letters from solicitors only because it seemed to offend members of the government, not because I was not seriously taking their advice, because in fact I was. Those are the persons who are most familiar with the legislation and whom we, as citizens, require to help us in any resolution of disputes over the availability of remuneration because of a car accident.
I can only say that no matter what way one wants to look at this new legislation, the actions that take place now on behalf of victims will take place in the same manner in the future timewise. We will still need mediators and we will still need advocates, we will still need lawyers, we will still need to be paying individuals to represent us either privately ourselves or through the insurance companies that represent us. It will still take a very long period of time.
I suppose one of the issues that we have thoroughly looked at would be the issue of the $500,000 for the up-front money, if someone is disabled, for the care of the individual and the rehabilitation. That has been presented on a number of occasions by the members of the Liberal government.
Looking into the reality of that sum of money, that is the kind of money that would be spent over a very long period of time. In fact, we were advised that the most one could get out of that money would be some $1,500 a month, and if that is the case, we know that anybody who was not able to sue but who needed long-term care or around-the-clock care could not begin to receive that kind of service in his own home, even paying the minimum wage or paying the minimum wage of a support system that basically supports a $10-an-hour income for people who are out there to assist disabled victims of car accidents or those in ill health.
We are most concerned with this legislation and our great plea at this point in time would be that the Liberal members of this government remain open-minded. We are hoping we can give them that credit at this point in time even though, with due respect, the minister, I think in a moment of weakness, has been quoted as saying that the hearings will not make a difference. I would hope that would not, in fact, be something he would continue with, because that was a statement that was made at the beginning of the Sunday shopping hearings, and we know where they went.
I would hope that the people of Ontario will find some hope that the government will be listening to them during the public hearings on this no-fault automobile legislation.
We have a number of letters from parents of children who have been hurt, a number of letters from children whose parents have been hurt, and they all describe in great detail what would happen to them under this no-fault legislation in its present form and what has happened to them in the past. We must consider very seriously important changes to this legislation so that we can be assured that what we are buying in the public marketplace and in the private marketplace is something that we can depend on and something that we know will be there whenever, God forbid, any of us needs it or family members need it.
I will close my remarks and hope that the members and the minister, in particular, will be open-minded about the input in the public hearings and that this legislation will be changed rather significantly before it is passed in this House. We should be very grateful to have the kind of expertise we have in the province of Ontario and we should be listening very carefully to the Honourable Mr Justice Coulter Osborne as he advises very carefully in his more recent report.
Mr Kormos: We are not as interested in seeing this legislation amended or tinkered with as we are in seeing it defeated, quashed, tossed into the waste-basket where it indeed belongs.
It is not too hard to understand where the legislation came from, because the Insurance Bureau of Canada demanded of this government a threshold system some number of years ago. Finally, the government is delivering to its boss, to the master’s voice, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, and it is selling out the drivers of Ontario lock, stock and barrel in the process.
Now, it should not surprise us. This is the same government that told us one thing and then did another about Sunday shopping -- Sunday working. This is the government, the Liberal government that said one thing and did another about openness. This is the government that said one thing and did another about its responsibility in terms of funding educational systems here in Ontario, including places like Niagara College in Welland.
Mr J. B. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: My point of order is quite simply that I understood this was an opportunity for individual members to respond to the speech delivered by the member for London North. I have heard the member for Welland-Thorold deliver a diatribe against the government, but that has nothing to do with anything. He should be speaking to the speech given by the member for London North.
The Deputy Speaker: The member may continue.
Mr Kormos: The member for York Mills, who does not know spit from Shinola, would not know whether it was drilled, punched or bored, and his purpose in the point of order was, of course, to cut my -- he has never participated in the debate because he does not know the bill in any way, shape or form. He demonstrated that at the Advocates’ Society a month ago.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The member’s time is up. The member for Wellington.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I have just a few brief comments. First, I want to congratulate my colleague the member for London North, and maybe for the information of the House, it is her birthday today, too, so we should be especially kind. That is especially meant for the member for York Mills.
I am quite concerned about the legislation. I am pleased that the government is going to send it to public hearings. My concern is with a health aspect of it. I feel that the money that is saved in not paying lawyers will end up paying doctors to do much the same thing. I am not sure how the members in the Legislature find dealing with the Workers’ Compensation Board, but I find it extremely difficult. We have people, constituents, who in my mind have extremely good cases and they cannot get the support from the doctors that they need to establish there that they do have an injury. I feel that we are heading in that direction with this piece of legislation, Bill 68. It does not make much sense to me to create another problem in the medical profession, as there is enough there now.
It is ironic that the former Minister of Health, the member for Bruce (Mr Elston), who is just entering the chamber, is also the sponsor of the bill. As the former Minister of Health, I am sure he realizes that there is a problem in our health delivery system now -- lack of dollars, for one thing. This type of legislation is only going to increase that cost and I hope that when the bill is brought into committee, consideration is given to this one aspect of it.
Again, I commend the member for London North, who made many excellent suggestions of how it could be improved. Hopefully, for once, the Liberal government will listen to some of these excellent recommendations.
Mr J. B. Nixon: I too want to congratulate the member for London North on her birthday and a speech well delivered. I can only say that I must take issue with one point in her speech. When she says that the system is working reasonably well, I think she makes a mistake. We have heard for the last two or three years about the problems with the automobile insurance premiums in this province. We have heard consistently, day after day, the complaints, since 1985, from consumers, the opposition and people and members of our own caucus.
All of us have been concerned about high premiums. Finally, the government has taken the decision to act in an expeditious way to deal with these problems, and I too, like the member for London North, look forward to committee hearings on this bill.
I think people will find that the bill fulfils many of the requirements that they see as necessary to be fulfilled. One of the things, though, that does concern me is that the party of virtue, sweetness, light and all goodness has so little to say on this bill that it degenerates into ad hominem and personal attacks and has no matters of substance left to say, that being the New Democratic Party, not the member for London North, who did deliver a serious, thoughtful speech, for which I thank her.
Mr Sterling: I did not expect to get this opportunity, but I welcome it. I do not want to be repetitive, because I know that the debate has gone on a long time regarding this act respecting insurance. I do want to say, however, that this whole debate and the time of the Legislature that has been taken over the past week and the time that is going to be taken by a committee which is going to travel across this province for six weeks into the new year is all unnecessary.
It is amazing, as you become a member of this Legislature and you sit here longer and longer, and particularly as I experienced watching this Liberal government over the past five years -- it seems it is bent on creating work for itself. That is how I would sum up what Bill 68 is all about. It is resulting from the Premier (Mr Peterson) standing up in one part of this province and saying, “I’ve got a plan to make auto insurance premiums lower for everybody in this province,” when in fact he did not have such a plan.
Instead of gracefully backing down and letting either one of the two options fall, either going to public automobile insurance, as the New Democratic Party would want, or dealing with the present system, going ahead with tort reform in a progressive manner and therefore keeping the premiums in check, he decided to bring in this abysmal piece of legislation which is not going to solve any problems and is eventually going to lead to where the New Democratic Party wants this government to go, and that is to public automobile insurance.
The Deputy Speaker: Would the member for London North wish to respond?
Mrs Cunningham: Just shortly. Mr Speaker. I will have to reiterate, but before I do, I would just like to say that when we are advising the public about the Ontario motorist protection plan, which is the guide that was sent out, I think it is interesting to note that we never mentioned any circumstances under which we could sue. They were never mentioned. The ministry talks about all the perks to the new system. “In very extreme circumstances” being described as “permanent, serious disfigurement; or permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function caused by continuing injury which is physical in nature” is not mentioned in this pamphlet.
I think that when the government was letting members of the public know about the guide to the Ontario motorist protection plan, it would have been very important to let them know under what circumstance, or under the only circumstance, whereby they could be fairly compensated through the court system, and it is not even mentioned. I think that is extremely important.
My final point is this: If we are going to ask someone with the distinction that Coulter Osborne has in this province, a person who has worked very hard to make sure that fairness is available to all in many areas of law, I think maybe we should think very carefully about what he says. He did conclude, and I will say it again, that aside from the provision of a modest degree of additional stability for automobile insurers, premium cost 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. Ninety per cent of us is a lot. He did look at all of the other systems and he said that this one is the one we should live with, with a few changes.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you, and happy birthday. The member for Cambridge.
Mr Farnan: Bill 68 is a bad deal for consumers. I think that is the bottom line. What constitutes a good deal? Well, a consumer would probably sum it up like this: a superior product at the same price, or the same product at a lower price. That is very simple. I think people can understand that.
When we are talking about auto insurance we can apply the same principle. Does Bill 68 constitute a superior product at the same price? Does it constitute the same product at a lower price?
Let’s go back to Cambridge three days before the last provincial election and recall the words of the Premier of this present government when he said, “I have a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums.” I invite the members here to examine those words. “I have a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums.” It is very clear; he is going to lower auto insurance premiums. He does not say anything about the product, whether it is going to improve or whether it is going to decrease in value as a product, but one thing he does say is that the cost of the product is going to go down.
The people of Cambridge are the kind of people who like to take you at your word, so they take the words of the Premier -- when he says, “I have a very specific plan to reduce the cost of auto insurance,” they understand that the premiums will go down and the product will remain substantially the same.
Unfortunately, what has happened, Mr Speaker -- you know this as well as I do -- is that the cost of the premiums have not remained the same. The member for York Mills suggested that there was a problem before the Liberals came along and addressed this issue. Well, I can tell the member for York Mills that since the Premier made his promise to reduce auto insurance premiums, we have had a 4.5 per cent, another 4.5 per cent, a 7.6 per cent and now an 8 per cent increase. This constitutes a 25 per cent increase.
How do you put that alongside the words of the Premier, “I have a very specific plan to reduce the cost of auto insurance premiums,” when in fact, the cost has actually risen 25 per cent? You do not have to be a mathematical genius to realize that the Premier was wrong. The cost of premiums did not go down; in fact, they went in the opposite direction and in quite a radical manner. A 25 per cent increase in any product, in the consumer’s mind, is a very significant increase.
An inferior product, in fact, is now being offered through Bill 68. We are going to get a lot less for a lot more money. In other words, the product is going to decrease and the cost of the product is going to escalate. In consumers minds, that’s a very bad deal.
Let me make a simple analogy for the members of the House and those citizens of Ontario who may be listening in to us today. Let us imagine the manufacturer of a detergent who was offering a package of detergent at $4 a package and he says: “I’ve got a deal for you guys. We’re going to sell the package for $5 and we’re going to decrease the amount of detergent in the package by half. Have I got a deal for you.”
No wonder the pages are laughing, because the pages can see that this constitutes a very bad deal. If the pages here can see it constitutes a very bad deal, I am sure the people of Ontario also will see that it is a very bad deal.
Are consumers getting less under the new government scheme of threshold no-fault? According to a consumers’ group, the Committee for Fair Action in Insurance Reform -- they outlined the problem and the concerns Ontario should have about this new proposed system. They say the no-fault legislation recently announced by the government takes away your rights and those of your family to recover damages in almost all cases if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident in Ontario. In almost all cases it takes away your right. Only in extreme and limited cases where you are catastrophically injured will you or your family be able to recover damages for injuries or full loss of income. In fact, to be more specific, by means of this legislation, only if you are rendered a paraplegic, a quadriplegic, seriously brain damaged or dead will you have the right to sue. Is it a good deal for consumers? In the vast majority of cases in which people’s lives are seriously affected in a very negative way, the right to sue has been taken away.
Under this new bill, the people of Ontario will be, very soon, taking a serious financial risk in riding in a motor vehicle on Ontario roads. Even buying additional insurance at substantial cost will not fully protect us. Under the proposed plan, we will get nothing for pain and suffering. If you are an employee, you will be unable to recover full loss of wages. If you are self-employed, you will be unable to recover losses associated with disruption of your business. Indeed, you could lose your business and recover nothing.
You will be unable to recover for many serious physical injuries, including broken bones, scarring, torn muscles and the pain and suffering that accompanies these and other injuries. You will not be able to recover for any emotional or psychological injuries, such as depression, shock and anxiety. No matter what you earn, the most you can recover is $450 per week, and many of the drivers who are injured will receive a lot less.
For consumers this is obviously a very, very bad deal. They are going to get a lot less, and people know that. Not only are they going to get a lot less, they are going to pay a lot more. This is a very, very simple concept. I have received thousands -- I repeat, thousands -- of letters on this issue. I venture to add that I also invited response from my community through a mailout. But I have received thousands of letters, and the vast majority of the people of Cambridge, the same town where the Premier made this promise which he has failed to keep, know that what they are getting is not what the Premier promised. I have taken a selection of these letters and I would like to read them into the record.
From Fred Smith and Aileen Wakeford of Pinetree Crescent, Cambridge:
“As it stands now, the proposed plan ignores recommendations of your own advisers. I do not believe it will produce lower premiums. The only beneficiary to this plan will be the dangerous drivers and most certainly the insurance companies.”
Dorothy Bowyer of Alexander Avenue states her position thus:
“I feel that the suggestion of no fault is a wrong principle. While it is often difficult to establish blame, there are very many cases where blame is obvious. It will be grossly unfair to reduce the cost of insurance for persons who will drive while impaired or inflict damage on innocent persons.
John Reid of John S. Reid Insurance Agency points to a critical flaw in the Liberal insurance scheme:
“This type of coverage places the working person in a very dangerous position financially. I am referring to the fact that if a person is injured in an accident other than life-threatening, he or she may be out of pocket thousands of dollars if unable to continue to work on a full-time basis while recovering. This insurance scheme contradicts our Charter of Rights, which guarantees a citizen to a just consideration. Perhaps indeed Bill 68 can be challenged successfully under the charter.”
Finally, Rosemary McLaughlin of Sterling McGregor writes at great length about how, as an innocent victim, her life has been seriously affected as the result of an accident. Ms McLaughlin is the innocent victim in this accident. The letter is in quite some detail, as were many of the letters I received: “I’ll have to live with my life the way it has changed and get no compensation, and the accident was not even my fault. I am sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in similar circumstances.” How true.
Who are the beneficiaries of this legislation? It is not the drivers, it is not the consumers of this province, it is certainly not the lawyers. The great beneficiaries of the insurance legislation as proposed by this Liberal government are the insurance companies themselves. It is with a great degree of reluctance that I have to state what I believe to be the fact that this legislation is in a very real sense a payoff from the Liberal Party to the insurance industry for the support received by the Liberals in the last election.
It is interesting that the only people who are not complaining about this legislation are the insurance companies. In fact, they love it. And why would the insurance industry not love this legislation? Look at what they get. They get the right to increase premiums and they get the right to take away the rights of the consumer to go to court and claim full compensation. Is it not fantastic? The insurance industry, with its legalese and paperwork and the ability to bamboozle with its fine print, will now deal with a consuming public that will not have the right to the protection of the legal profession.
Let me suggest to the members that the insurance industry looks upon this as the right to get rid of lawyers, and in many cases lawyers protect the public from insurance companies. What we have now, I suggest to members, is Little Red Riding Hood dealing with the big bad wolf. I do not have to ask members who they think the insurance company is represented by, Little Red Riding Hood or the wolf, nor do I have to ask members who the consumers of Ontario are represented by. But certainly this Liberal government is exposing the consumers of Ontario to a consumer sector that, by and large, has been viewed as ripping off the ordinary drivers of this province.
There are a variety of groups that will be negatively impacted by this legislation. I want to deal with them.
Union members: Unions are generally strong in this province and have negotiated substantial income replacement benefits and pension benefits. Those benefits, part of the workers’ earned pay package, are deducted from the no-fault benefits. So union members lose as a result of this legislation. But not only union members lose; all workers lose. Because of the deductible, no one gets paid for the first week of disability. The person injured when his stopped car is run into from behind and who earns $500 weekly has to bear that $500 loss himself. On top of that, as long as he remains disabled and entitled to benefits, he only gets 80 per cent of his lost earnings. So he must bear that additional $100 weekly loss himself.
High earners: High earners are hurt by this legislation. As the maximum payment is $450 weekly, if the injured person earns $700 a week, he will lose $250 a week as long as he remains disabled. If when he buys his automobile insurance policy he has the foresight to buy additional coverage, that $450 maximum can be raised so that he can reduce his loss. But no insurance company will sell him insurance to cover his full loss of earnings, and the additional coverage he buys will cost him an additional premium, thereby raising his cost of automobile insurance.
People covered by workers’ compensation: Suppose the person run into from behind is a truck driver covered by workers’ compensation. He gets nothing at all in no-fault benefits. He must take whatever he can get from workers’ compensation and join the multitude of injured workers who regularly march on Queen’s Park complaining of their treatment by the Workers’ Compensation Board.
School teachers: School teachers and many others who have substantial sick-pay plans will lose as a result of this legislation. Sick pay has to be used up before the no-fault insurance pays anything. Suppose the injury keeps the teacher off work for six months. He uses up his six months’ accumulated sick pay and gets nothing in no-fault benefits. If after he gets back to work he misses time because of the flu, a heart attack or any one of many illnesses that we all must be concerned about, he has used up all his accumulated sick pay because of an accident that was someone else’s fault and he gets no pay during his absence from work due to the sickness, whether it was flu, heart attack, etc.
Is this fair? Is this a good consumer piece of legislation? Heck, no. Ask any teacher in this province. Teachers, whom this government has already alienated because of the manner in which it is dealing with their pensions, are going to be even more angry as a result of this particular legislation.
Small business people, self-employed: These people will also be affected by this legislation. Often a businessman will plow his profits back into the business and the income he takes out does not represent what he is building. If he is disabled from working, all he gets is 80 per cent of his gross weekly income. If it is a new business, he may have no income from it yet, in which case he gets nothing. As a result of his time away from work he may lose his business. He gets nothing for that.
If he gets any benefits, he gets them only until he is able to return to work. He gets nothing for the time, after his disability ends, that he has to spend rebuilding his business to what it was at the time of the accident. A businessman may be able to prove that he lost a substantial business deal because of his injuries; however, he gets no compensation for this. Is this good protection? Is this the way to encourage small business? Not at all.
Farmers lose out on this. Farmers will particularly suffer because they are self-employed people who seldom have much provable income. Their earnings are, to a very large extent, absorbed by the farm rather than going into their pockets. It will be very difficult for a disabled farmer to qualify for much of a weekly benefit, if any. If he has to hire someone to help with the chores, then no-fault coverage pays nothing for this. Is this good legislation? It is not good legislation.
Students will suffer. Students who lose their year as a result of an accident, students who may have to repeat a year as a result of an accident and who will lose a year of earnings as a result of an accident will not get any compensation.
Homemakers: Let’s talk about homemakers because it affects literally hundreds of thousands, millions of people in this province Like a student, a homemaker is entitled to a weekly benefit of $185 only if as a result of her injury she is unable to perform all or substantially all of her normal activities. Like a student, she will have to be virtually bedridden to qualify.
What about the homemaker who is unable to perform, say, half of her normal activities? This is not unusual. She gets nothing under the plan. If she has to hire someone to help her with the housework or with the children, she cannot claim that expense from anyone.
As we look at this legislation and examine how it affects different segments of the community, one after the other we see that this government is introducing a very bad consumer package. This government runs the risk of alienating, even more than it already has, very powerful sectors in our society: homemakers, teachers, small businessmen, all workers. Every one of these groups is negatively affected and impacted by this legislation.
I want to tell this government we are going to use this time to go out and preach the message of what it is doing, because we have to do this. It is our responsibility to do this because what the government is doing, I would say, constitutes shady business practice.
As a consumer critic, if I found an individual business operating the way this government is operating with this legislation, I would be standing up in the House and saying, “Why is the government allowing this business to get away with this kind of shady dealings?” How can a business go out and try to sell this kind of false advertising when in actual fact it is increasing the cost of the product and reducing the value of the product. Obviously we have to have legislation that takes care of those individuals and businesses that defraud and cheat and mislead the consumer. It is a sad day for Ontario when it is not some business or individual out there that is cheating and defrauding the consumers of Ontario, when it is in actual fact the government of Ontario which is at fault, it is the government of Ontario which is basically ripping off the consumers of Ontario.
So many people have to drive. A car is an essential part of many people’s lifestyle. Going to work, getting groceries, visiting friends, distances have to be travelled. There are very few people, very few families that can get along without a car, and this government is selling them a package. I can promise members I am going back to the people of Cambridge and my colleagues are going to go out to their constituents. We are going to go out to the province and we are going to say to the people of the province, “Remember 7 September 1987.”
Mr Cousens: What happened then?
Mr Farnan: We are going to point out that the Premier on that occasion made the promise that he had a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums. We know the plan is now costing us 25 per cent more. We know that all of these sectors which I have enumerated, and demonstrated how they will be negatively impacted, are going to get an inferior product.
There are some issues that stick. Let me tell members there are times when governments can get away with issues, but I have a sneaking suspicion about this particular issue. I think this issue is going to come back to haunt this government. I think the people of Ontario are going to look at the kinds of donations that have been made by the auto insurance industry to the Liberal Party, they are going to look at those donations and I can assure members I am going to help them to look at it because we are going to dig out that research and we are going to let people see what is happening.
The people of Ontario will see the direct correlation between the dollars poured into the Liberal Party and legislation that the Liberal Party then produces, about which the insurance companies say, “Boy, did we ever back a winner,” and which the insurance companies are getting for a very small investment, I might remind members. The member for Brantford (Mr Neumann) will know; he received insurance companies’ donations just like other members in the House, the member for Guelph (Mr Ferraro) and the member for Kitchener-Wilmot (Mr Sweeney), all of the members in the House who have received this kind of generous donation from the auto insurance industry.
Mr Callahan: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise on section 23 of the standing orders and I suggest that the member is imputing improper motives to the members of this House. I suggest that is certainly not a very honourable thing to do.
The Deputy Speaker: The member may proceed.
Mr Farnan: I want to assure the member for Brampton South that the last thing I would want to do would be to impute motive to any individual member of the House. I have to leave it to the people of Ontario to decide what the motives of the Liberal government were in passing this legislation based on the perhaps accidental reality that this same government received extraordinary financial support from the insurance industry. Far be it from me to make that kind of accusation, but I believe the people of Ontario are fairminded and the people of Ontario are also not going to be taken for granted and are not going to allow the facts to be swept under the carpet.
This issue is a sleeper. I do hope that the government realizes in time that it has gone on a course that is unacceptable to the people of Ontario and I do want to assure the people of Ontario that the New Democratic Party will be faithful to them as consumers. We are not going to stand by as the Liberal government puts forward an inferior product at increased prices.
New Democrats have a plan for auto insurance. Our plan for auto insurance is the same after the election as it was before the election. We do not have to make promises on auto insurance that we will not keep. Not only do we have a plan, we have a plan that has been implemented and works; indeed it does in fact result in decreased auto insurance premiums for a superior product. That is a good deal, that is a consumer deal and that is a different deal than what the Liberals are offering the people of Ontario with this very inadequate, very poor legislation.
Mr Callahan: The member for Cambridge has read from what was very well researched for him obviously, but I doubt that he has ever dealt with the human situation where people have been in an accident, consider themselves not to be at fault, and because a charge is laid, any compensation whatsoever to look after their family is denied them. This plan would take that away. They would in fact get it, and the question of fault would not be of any importance.
I might also suggest that I had the privilege of travelling this province when we dealt with the bill that was being proposed by my good friend the member for St Catharines-Brock (Mr Dietsch), wherein they were espousing public auto insurance, and it seems pretty obvious that that had a detrimental effect on the existence of the Manitoba government. In fact, it resulted in a number of charges being laid because there was behind-the-scenes fixing of tickets in order to avoid increases that were imposed at the licence level.
Now if that is what my friend the member for Cambridge is suggesting we have as public auto insurance, then I think he is dreaming in Technicolor. But I say to him that the concern should be, and I think the concern is, that in fact people will be fairly dealt with when they have an accident, that in fact they will not be denied that coverage. They will not be required to wait lengthy periods of time to receive compensation to look after their families. I think in a very real respect that is the important thing.
I wish the member for Cambridge and his colleagues would get off the public auto kick and perhaps consider this legislation and deal with it.
Ms Bryden: I just want to congratulate my colleague the member for Cambridge on the very fine way in which he has pointed out that Bill 68 is a sellout of the car drivers of Ontario. It will continue to leave them at the mercy of the insurance companies and I would submit, as he has submitted, that the only way to avoid that is to bring in a publicly operated auto insurance scheme, and that is what I and my party will continue to advocate.
Mr Cousens: What the honourable member for Cambridge referred to in his speech had to do with the use of the tort and the use of lawyers in order to protect someone from a problem they might be having. When I heard the member speaking very eloquently on this whole subject, he was speaking very much in favour of having the tort system in existence, and I wondered just how that position that he related fits in with the New Democratic Party policy about the use of lawyers within the whole insurance appeals system.
I just wondered whether the member was carving new territory on it or whether that was consistent with the general views held by the New Democratic Party, because as a party it has taken a pretty strong stand that would not involve the legal profession in any way, generally speaking. I would be very interested in some kind of clarification on the member’s position there.
Mr Morin-Strom: I would like to congratulate my colleague the member for Cambridge on the excellent remarks he has made on this particular initiative from this government, which certainly does not have the interests of the drivers of the province of Ontario at heart at all in its plans.
The only advocate for the government’s action in fact is the insurance industry in Ontario. They are the only beneficiaries of this program. Certainly the so-called product reform that has been announced by this government shows conclusively how insincere and manipulative the Premier and his government have been over the last two years when it comes to the issue of high car insurance premiums.
It also shows, as my colleague has just shown, what the industry has got in return for the more than $230,000 it contributed to the Ontario Liberal Party in 1987 and 1988. The government’s no-fault proposals will only put a smile on the face of the insurance industry. Only a tiny fraction of claims will ever end up in court, while premiums continue to rise. Overall, the result will be less money paid out to accident victims, reduced costs to companies and bigger profits for the industry.
As my colleague has indicated, the key promise in the last election campaign was the Premier’s statement three days before the election and his commitment, “We have a very specific plan to lower insurance rates.” Time after time, we have seen, since this last government was elected, that no plan in fact exists. This government is not going to do anything to bring down the skyrocketing costs of insurance in the province. The only beneficiary of this action is the automobile insurance industry itself.
Mr Farnan: I want to just say a few words about perception, the perception of 1987. There are many Liberal members here in this House who owe their seats to the Premier. Basically, he went out and, with his sleeves rolled up and his shirt open and his tie pulled down, it was: “This is good old Dave. You can trust Dave. This is honest Dave. This is open Dave. You can tell Dave.”
I want to tell the House that that perception of the Premier -- you can dress him up in red, you can undo his shirt, you can roll up his sleeves, but no longer is it “honest Dave,” because no longer will the people of Ontario believe what has been said and what is being said by this Premier. When a Premier says, “I have a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance,” people understand what that means and they know that what the Premier said and what has happened are two different things.
On the one hand, premiums have continued to escalate; on the other hand, the product that is being offered is being reduced and cut and hacked until all that is left is a skeleton and shell. So come the next election, they can dress the Premier up in his red track suit, they can roll up his sleeves, they can undo his tie and they can try to sell him as “open Dave, honest Dave,” but those days, my friends, are gone. They are gone because the people of Ontario do not believe we have a Premier that is being honest with them, and indeed on this issue, he has not been honest with them.
Mr Cousens: Before I begin, I would just question why the member for Cambridge did not answer my question. We have an opportunity to -- whether or not he is in a position to --
The Deputy Speaker: Sorry.
Mr Cousens: That is too bad, because I would be interested.
Mr Farnan: I would be happy to --
Mr Cousens: If there is unanimous consent we could have the honourable member --
Mr Neumann: We don’t want to hear more of his rhetoric.
Mr Cousens: I would be pleased to see him answer the question that I asked if there is unanimous consent from the House.
Mr Kerrio: No way. You can’t trust him.
Mr Cousens: Oh, that is too bad.
The Deputy Speaker: Since there is no unanimous consent, the member for Markham may proceed.
Mr Cousens: I was interested in seeing how the New Democratic Party members can explain themselves away from some of their positions. It would have given him a chance to dig a deeper hole for himself.
In reviewing Bill 68, I have a number of concerns I would like to table for consideration by the House. I have broken my presentation into 10 points and would therefore like to elaborate on them in order as I put them.
The first point I want to make is that the government has reneged on its promise of lower automobile insurance rates. In a moment of the election campaign of 1987 -- it must have been one of those weak moments when the Premier had an inspiration -- but on 7 September at a campaign stop in Cambridge, the Premier said that he had “a very specific plan to lower insurance rates.”
He has never retracted that statement, nor has he disputed the fact that he has been quoted correctly in that statement, yet it is obvious to those of us today who are now looking at the legislation before this House now that the Premier did not have “a very specific plan to lower insurance rates.”
The fact of the matter is that he had no plan. The people of Ontario and the people who were listening and saw him using that as part of his platform planks gave him the authority to become Premier again, yet he has greatly disappointed everyone who will be affected by this very -- I do not want to use any unparliamentary language -- this statement that has not been proven by fact.
What has happened is that from 1 January 1988 to 17 April 1989, the rates for insurance have risen by 16.6 per cent. They increased by 4.5 per cent on 1 January 1988. Six months later on 1 August 1988, they increased by another 4.5 per cent, and the rates for insurance for automobiles increased on 17 April 1989 by 7.6 per cent. All of this from a government which prides itself on slogans such as, “We did what we said we would do.”
The fact of the matter is that when we look at the speech from the throne back in 1987, the government then said:
“My government will protect Ontarians from unfair and arbitrary practices in the marketplace. In doing so, we will take steps to promote increased consumer awareness.
“We recently announced a comprehensive package of new auto insurance legislation. Among other provisions, the program will cap auto insurance premiums and establish a public review process under which insurance rates must be justified.”
I think the fact of the matter is that what they said then, they have had to retract and do again. There has been no building of trust between the people of Ontario and this government. What the government is now doing is coming in to establish yet another type of process by which it will be able to manage the insurance industry for the people of the province.
When the Premier said on 7 September 1987 that he had a specific plan to lower insurance rates, the people of Ontario, who were having a hard enough time paying their mortgages and making ends meet, really felt that this would be an opportunity to cap the cost on insurance. It is certainly a worry that everybody has had, that insurance costs continue to rise along with everything else. If we are going to have a Premier in this province who would suddenly put the lid on that, that would be something great for them.
What we are seeing is that those people are going to be even more disadvantaged by the legislation the government is coming out with. For instance, if people who are disabled have an accident and that accident incurs costs that have to be paid, they will have to pay those costs out of their own pocket under the existing legislation rather than having them paid for on an ongoing basis. They will have to accumulate those costs, pay them out of their own bank account and after they have all been tallied up, then they can submit them for payment.
What we are also seeing is those very same people who may well be making more than $23,400 a year will only be paid at the rate of $450 a week for any time they are disabled. They are not going to be better off if there is an accident. I am going to come to some specific examples in my presentation that show how the average citizen in the province of Ontario is going to be severely disadvantaged by the legislation that is before us. That is my first point. The government has reneged on its promise to lower automobile insurance rates.
My second point is that the government’s bungling of automobile insurance has cost the taxpayers dearly. There are two very extensive reports that were put together on this subject. I have one of them here, the report that was done in 1987, the Report of Inquiry into Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation in Ontario, by the Honourable Mr Justice Coulter A. Osborne.
That report alone cost the province in excess of $1.4 million. There is a detailed statement, probably one of the best that has ever been put together in North America, on automobile insurance. The government has disregarded the recommendations in that report. We also have another report that was put together by the Slater commission, and that too has almost gone on a burner in which it is not even being considered.
The establishment of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board has been another cost item that this government has expended money on. This exercise has cost the taxpayers of Ontario $14 million in just under two years. Fourteen million for what? It is hard to know that we have had anything out of that board that is of any value, and now we are starting to see that, in regard to the promise that was made by the Premier of a specific plan, it still does not work out as much of a plan. In the meantime, he has spent an enormous amount of money and ignored the recommendations that have come from those areas.
The third point that I would like to make is that the government is planning to implement a threshold no-fault car insurance plan in Ontario despite very pointed criticism of this system in the Osborne report, which it commissioned. I would like to refer in part to the Osborne report. There are a number of recommendations in it. I have not had a chance to read every word in it, but I have been able to find a few quotations that the government should have been able to --
Mr Neumann: You are cherry-picking, in other words.
Mr Cousens: If the member wants me to read the whole thing, I can but I think it would take an awful lot of time of the Legislature to do it.
I would like to put on the record some of the comments that were made by Justice Coulter Osborne. On page 3 he says:
“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 Ontario motorists who now have the right to seek noneconomic compensation.”
In other words, he starts off very strongly in his statement suggesting that the province not consider seriously the whole no-fault suggestion.
He goes on on page 4 to say, “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 be an exporter, not an importer of compensation systems.”
In fact, the kind of no-fault insurance that is being recommended in this legislation has been brought into some 17 different states in the United States. Two of those states have backed away from it because they have found that it really was not working, and though it received a great deal of publicity back in the 1970s as a way of solving the problem of automobile insurance, the fact of the matter is what we have in Ontario could be tweaked, modified, changed and improved, but to make the kind of changes that are being suggested by this government is certainly not in keeping with the reality of the analysis that was done by Justice Osborne.
He goes on and in his recommendation 120 specifically he says: “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.”
As we look at what is being considered for the province of Ontario, I think it is important for us to realize that the government is going ahead and doing what it wants to do without consideration of a very extensive report that was done on this subject, a report that came back with strong recommendations of other ways of solving the insurance dilemma the Premier made after making his big promise about having a solution. The fact of the matter is that Mr Justice Coulter Osborne’s commission said, “Don’t do it this way.” Having one of the best commission reports we have ever had in this province, to just come along and disregard it is almost typical of the Peterson approach to running things.
I would like to go to my next point. My next point has to do with the fact that the government would have the public believe that lawyers are driving up the cost of claims settlements. A lot of people falsely believe that lawyers are an important part of the cost that goes into the system, yet in Mr Justice Coulter Osborne’s review -- I am looking at page 363 -- he has in some detail the costs that go into claims and settlements for insurance. I would like to refer to his totals for 1985. What he does is point to the number of claims made, the actions commenced, the actions that were set down for trial, the number of trials that took place and the judgements that followed.
Many people are inclined to think that the insurance industry is one of the great big contributors to the coffers of the Law Society of Upper Canada. That is far from the case. What really happened here in 1985 was that 232,207 claims were made. Actions were commenced on only 16,842 of those. When you take it through to trial, 858 went to trial with only 711 judgements. We are talking about 1.6 per cent of the claims, so a very small proportion of the cost that has gone into automobile insurance has been the cost for legal services.
I think what we really have to understand in this House is that the government is coming along and saying, “Lawyers are a high part of the cost of claims settlements.” The facts speak a different story: 1.6 per cent of the claims really required some kind of legal involvement. So why come along and remove that option?
My fifth point has to do with the narrow wording within the legislation itself of what the threshold will be. I believe, as does our caucus, that the narrow wording of the bill is going to lead to a large number of problems. In order to proceed with legal action a person must die, in which case the estate would benefit, or the person must sustain “permanent serious disfigurement” or “permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function caused by continuing injury which is physical in nature.”
What I am really asking here of the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) is that he is going to be leaving the interpretation up to the courts to interpret the uncertain language of what he has described as the threshold at which time someone can bring any kind of action following an incident. In other words, in his legislation, what is “permanent”? Is that going to be a disability that lasts one, two or 20 years? What is a “serious impairment”? By whose standards are we judging the seriousness of an accident, the victim, the courts or insurance companies? What is a “serious impairment”? What classifies as an “important bodily function”?
Medicine has long accepted that there may be more than a physical component to chronic pain. How is the term “physical” to be defined? The threshold as defined in the government legislation expressly prevents anyone suffering from 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.
One of the groups that can testify to this problem is the Ontario Head Injury Association. That happens to be one of the most frequent injuries and disabilities. It creates all kinds of behavioural and psychological problems that can arise from that type of injury.
I have received a letter from Raymond Rempel of the Ontario Head Injury Association who says in his letter to me: “The Ontario Head Injury Association is an organization which represents a very high proportion of present and future users of third-party auto insurance. We are appalled at the restrictions that will preclude access for future head injury victims to insurance money. This action most definitely will restrict those people who sustain a head injury from recapturing the quality of life that they enjoyed before their accident.”
I continue with the problems people will have with increased litigation. One case: I guess what we are seeing is that people who will be in an automobile accident will have to go and challenge what the threshold is. How are they going to settle the damages?
What we are talking about here is legislation that is still not clear. We might well be leaving it up to the interpretation of cabinet or someone else to determine just exactly what is meant by this bill and I do not want that. I would rather that we here in this House have a clear understanding of all the bill means to the people of Ontario.
We have to look at another factor, and it is my sixth point. The generous benefits of the new system are not as generous as the government would have us believe. The level of no-fault benefits contained in the present system of $140 per week maximum for loss of income has not been adjusted since 1978. The Osborne report recommended increasing these benefits substantially. Now, with this bill, the government plans to increase maximum weekly payments for loss of income to $450.
Had the benefits been increased immediately as Osborne had recommended, the amount the government is now offering would not seem so generous. As well, the government has decided not to index the new level of benefits to inflation. The minister has promised to review the benefit levels periodically. Even with modest inflation, the real value of benefits could be cut in half over several years.
I mentioned this earlier: It has to do with who in the greater Toronto area can live on $450 a week. There are many people who are coping on that and less, but if you are already on salary in your business and then you are disabled because of an accident and all you are able to bring in is $450 a week, I venture to say that there are many people whose expenses for their mortgage, homes, education for their children, clothes, food and the high cost of living in large urban areas, not just in the greater Toronto area, is far in excess of $450. They are going to suffer a heavy pecuniary hardship because of an accident.
This bill does nothing to recognize that not everybody will be able to survive on that $450-a-week availability of funds. What we are suggesting here is that this is a flawed part of the legislation and that the government should review it and look at it with more flexibility in mind.
My seventh point is that there are no cost savings for consumers under the new system. I think we have to look at the fact that the eight per cent premium increase for drivers in urban areas is an average increase that urban drivers are going to face with this new legislation. Eight per cent across the board does not mean to say that another person who has had some kind of accident or some kind of record is not going to have a far greater increase than the eight per cent average. That is a fact.
Let’s just look at the concern some people of our community have. I received a letter from Older Adults in Action in my community. They have sent me a letter signed by -- it looks as if there are about 70 or 80 signatures on it.
They are saying “the Older Adults in Action of the town of Markham, would like to go on record as protesting the increase in automobile insurance rates for the senior population of Ontario.
“Our club, of approximately 250 members, was formed to give seniors in Markham the opportunity to meet and take part in activities which would increase their health both mentally and physically and to make their lives more agreeable socially.”
They go on and explain some of their concerns.
They are a group of people genuinely concerned about increasing the cost of driving their cars because many of them have cars and can get around only with them. They are not able to pay a large increase in insurance premiums because they are on fixed incomes and their fixed incomes are not increasing at the rate everything else is.
The taxation level at the municipal level has increased in a significant way, largely because this province has passed on so many services at the municipal level, and then we start looking at this extra cost for car insurance.
I have another letter from a constituent who comes from Thornhill: “I have been a driver for over 20 years, and have now found out, that because of a relatively minor accident last August, for which I made a claim to my insurance company, this same insurance company may decide not to reinsure me. As well, I may have difficult in being insured with other insurance companies. I find this preposterous.”
That really leads me to my next point.
Mr D. R. Cooke: This bill will help that guy.
Mr Cousens: If the member thinks it is going to help, we will have to hear what he has to say when he gets up to speak in the Legislature or when he makes a presentation to the committee. I am satisfied that the people of Ontario will be paying more for their insurance premiums and receiving less coverage because of it.
What I just read was a point that leads to the eighth point of my presentation. That is the whole problem of cherry-picking. What the person from Thornhill was concerned about was that having had a minor accident, now she is having trouble even finding an insurance company that will cover her. I think the people of Ontario are wise enough to realize that the insurance companies are able to select who they are and why they are not going to write a policy for. What they are doing is writing those policies for those who present the lowest risk.
What is going to happen with this legislation is that it is going to spur this practice forward. Companies will be much more eager to insure those individuals whose employers provide income maintenance programs. In this way insurance companies would avoid the risk of paying out the $450.
Although the Minister of Financial Institutions insists there will be no two-tiered system of risks, the figures speak for themselves. From 1 November 1988 to 31 July 1989 the number of people insured by the Facility Association, which is the insurer of last resort, increased by 103 per cent. Ontario premiums now represent 77.4 per cent of the association’s nationwide business compared to 71.3 per cent a year earlier.
Insurance companies are going to be backing away from serving certain people. This legislation we are considering that is supposed to be the be-all and end-all certainly is not the total solution to it.
My ninth point is that innocent victims of car accidents will suffer under the new system. I have a few scenarios that I would like to put on the record.
The first is of a factory worker earning $800 a week. He 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. Under present legislation, the present system, he would have received $10,000 damages for pain and suffering, and damages for lost income at $800 a week for 52 weeks which would amount to $41,600, for a total of $51,600.
What we see under the proposed system is that the damages for pain and suffering, injuries that do not meet the threshold definition of a serious accident, are zero. The damages for lost income are only $450 a week, which is the maximum allowed under the proposed no-fault benefits plan, times 52 weeks which is $23,400. This person then would receive $23,400, a difference of $28,200 less under the proposed plan.
That is one example of someone who will suffer under this new system. I think there could be an awful lot of people who will fall in that category.
I would like to give another illustration. Again, these are hypothetical, based on real facts and the kind of dilemma we are going to have with the system and under the proposed system.
A mother who witnesses her child being run over and killed goes into nervous shock and suffers a severe psychiatric illness as a result. The mother earns $25,000 a year at her job but is off work for two years while undergoing therapy. Under the present system, the damages for pain and suffering, witnessing the child’s death and suffering from the psychiatric illness, would give her $40,000. Damages for lost income, in that she was making $25,000 a year, for two years would be $50,000, giving her under the present system $90,000.
Under the proposed system, this system the government is so proud of, for damages for pain and suffering -- the disability must be physical in nature -- she gets nothing. For damages for lost income -- the mother herself was not injured in the accident yet she was still sick -- under this proposed system she receives zero. The difference under this system and the system we have now is $90,000.
There are other examples that point to the kinds of problems. Let me give members one more. A 12-year-old child is struck at a crosswalk and suffers a broken back. He is in the hospital for three months and misses his school year as a result. Under the present system he would get $25,000 for damages for pain and suffering and he would get $15,000 damages for delayed entry into the workforce because he is now one year behind in his schooling. That is $40,000.
Under the proposed system, for damages for pain and suffering -- the injuries do not meet the threshold definition -- he would get nothing. For damages for delayed entry into the workforce, he would get nothing. The difference between what is now present and available and under the proposed plan is $40,000. I just cannot see how the system that is being proposed by the government is better than the system we already have.
I have a letter -- I have a number of letters from people who are saying this -- from John Bates, president of People to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, known as PRIDE. I would like to quote just one paragraph from his letter that substantiates even further the point I am trying to make. He says:
“The so-called threshold, as envisioned in the proposed no-fault system, will introduce a degree of uncertainty about who will be permitted to recover compensation through the courts. We do not know what the permanent disability means, for example. We fear that victim compensation could be severely limited.”
I will just tell Mr Bates, if he is listening or reading this Hansard, that he is right. His compensation could be severely limited by this legislation.
The proposals that are being made by our caucus have called for a number of things. I think one of the important roles we have in opposition is to come forward with meaningful and realistic suggestions that can be used as an alternative plan, an alternative approach.
In presenting these, I would like to give a great deal of recognition to the member for Leeds-Grenville (Mr Runciman) who has been the spokesman for our party on this subject. I do not think many people in Ontario understand the limited resources we have in opposition. We have 17 members and each of us has a very specialized focus within our critic area. The member for Leeds-Grenville has taken this issue very seriously, has researched it and studied it and spent hundreds of hours trying to get a hold on it and understand it as best he can.
Probably he is one of the most well-read and well-informed people on automobile insurance in Ontario. He is in demand across the province, speaking to people to try to hold up some kind of balance on this. I have to say that a great deal of appreciation is due to him for the excellent way in which he has given me and our caucus assistance. He has given the people of Ontario another view of how we could proceed with a good automobile insurance setup.
Many of the views that have been part of our party’s presentation are as follows:
The first thing is to dissolve the costly cost-setting, rate-setting bureaucracy that exists now in Ontario. When you realize this bureaucracy has already cost over $14 million, who knows how much computer equipment they have and everything else that has gone into it? Here we are in a province in which we are short of schools, short of roads and short of services of many kinds, and yet for the Premier’s dream of that reduced-cost insurance he is plowing all kinds of money, some $14 million or more if you include the cost of the reports; he is up over $15 million. The clock is still ticking and the bank is still sending the money. We are saying, dissolve the costly rate-setting bureaucracy.
Second, establish a rate review system comparable to Alberta’s. I did not realize it but the member for Leeds-Grenville was telling me that in Alberta they have a staff of eight people and there is a co-operative relationship that exists between the province of Alberta and the industry. So there is not the sense of bureaucratic decision-making that does things by edict, but instead there is a working through and a working together to help put together not a consensus but a proposal that will be acceptable and in the best interests of the people of Alberta.
The third point we would make as a caucus is that there should be an insurance Ombudsman, and why not? Why not have one? It is not something you would want to put under the existing Ombudsman for the province. We are talking about a specialized area. I have people who have been caught up in accidents of different kinds; there are so many foolish things that can happen on the road.
A person who comes into the province of Ontario and does not have a legal driver’s licence can be involved in an accident. My constituent who was in a very serious accident caused by a person who did not even have a driver’s licence for the province of Ontario ended up not being able to claim the cost because by the time they went to have it discussed with the insurance company the person had a licence and they said, “Well, you know, he could have had it beforehand.”
There are so many areas in which, if you had some kind of clear thinking by an independent-minded individual who could take each issue, issue by issue, objectively and without any kind of prejudice on either side, come up with a balanced decision for it, I believe there is an awful lot of room for an insurance Ombudsman in the province of Ontario.
The fourth point we would suggest is that there be a wide-ranging tort reform measure. What we are really saying is that there can be limits to how much someone can claim for different kinds of accidents. I really do not want to get to the kind of meat chart we have had in the Workers’ Compensation Board, but there is an opportunity here to find ways in which, if people are going to have a claim, there are some that come through and everyone would agree they are unreasonably large claims.
It has nothing to do with automobile insurance, but one case that comes to mind is where a thief fell through a skylight into a house and then claimed liability against the owner of the house for several million dollars because the skylight was not safe. It is the kind of thing where insurance companies suddenly realize they could be forced into having to pay settlements far in excess of what is reasonable.
What we really could do is determine by legislation and agree what is reasonable as to the extent one can claim for an accident or an incident. That could have been something that we did years ago and yet we have not done it. It is probably too easy. What government likes to do is get involved in it, and as it gets involved, I think it messes it up even more.
The next point that was made by our caucus is improved driver education in licensing. I do not think we can do enough to make sure that the roads are safe. I am chairman of our Ontario PC caucus task force on transportation and we are looking at a number of initiatives that can be taken to affect the transportation systems in the greater Toronto area. We are looking not only at the infrastructure that is needed but at lifestyle changes, and when we look at those lifestyle changes we might well be looking at having licensing as something where people are required to have their licence reviewed every three or five years.
Just because you have a driver’s licence you do not have it for life. It is a privilege and it is something you make sure you really have a respect for and be prepared to lose it if you are not prepared to understand the rules of the road or follow through on the way in which road rules are changing.
I have to say that the whole importance of improved driver education and licensing has to be an important issue. I am sure we could do an awful lot more to make our highways safer all around the province if drivers would learn to understand how to handle the snow when it comes, how to be a defensive driver, and how we can somehow make our cars so that they are better maintained and we are not just allowing them to go to the last bit, and if we are going to allow our cars to be in bad shape, then we have to take those cars off the road.
It is a privilege to drive. It is a privilege to use the roads. It is something that should not and cannot be abused.
I go to the next point, and that has to do with another thing that needs to be done. I think this will affect insurance rates and accident rates in a very positive way. That is to have stricter enforcement of highway and traffic laws. We have people dipping in and out of lanes of traffic. We have all kinds of accidents that are caused and then the persons who caused them just disappear. We have got to find a way of getting them. Maybe we have to bring in more technology so that if someone is doing something wrong and his licence has been photographed by an electronics sensor, then we are able to catch him for it and make him pay the penalty.
What we have to do is have a further examination of the choice no-fault system and this is a system which would allow consumers to choose the coverage they want. What we have to face up to is that here in Queen’s Park at the Ontario Legislative Building we do not have all the answers. I think we are going to force some of those answers by having a public inquiry on the whole automobile insurance rate structure, on this legislation, where because our caucus has been instrumental in forcing the government to have those public hearings, those public hearings will start in the new year and we will have an opportunity to hear from the people at large and have a chance to study and analyse their thinking and suggestions.
I am worried that all we have said and all we have tried to do through our caucus’s presentations, the leadership that has been given by my friend the member for Leeds-Grenville and the participation of all our members of caucus on this issue, will be for naught, because the fact of the matter is that the Premier of this province is still convinced he has that answer to the statement he made back on 7 September 1987 when he said, “I have a very specific plan to lower insurance rates.” I am satisfied he did not have it then, he does not have it now and we in the province are the ones who are going to suffer because of it.
Now we will go through the process of reviewing this legislation and we will have a chance to study it. Do you know what I am afraid of, Mr Speaker? I am sure you do know. It is that nothing will be done because of it. The government will stonewall the presentations. It will be very similar to the decisions that were made by this government on Sunday shopping. They came along and had thousands of names on petitions, hundreds of thousands of names of people anxious to have this thing looked at and discussed in a balanced way. There have been bills that I have presented to the Attorney General (Mr Scott) and I have just been stonewalled.
I guess the people of Ontario elected a government that they thought had such a specific answer. I am telling them they did not have it when the government was elected in 1987 and they do not have it now. The likelihood of this government’s revising, amending and changing this legislation so that it begins to reflect the needs of the people of Ontario is something I do not think will happen.
None the less, it is on the record. I have given my 10 points on why I am genuinely concerned with the direction this bill is going to take the government. I hope there is a chance that someone in the Office of the Premier will have some sense and will reconsider what they are trying to do to us now.
Mr Ferraro: I enjoyed listening to the comments of the member of the third party. Not that the Premier ever needs defence, but I have listened to the discussions going on and much has been made about his statement of 7 September 1987 when, in the great riding of Guelph, the Premier indicated he had a specific plan to lower insurance premiums. The opposition, both parties, and rightly so -- I do not blame them, quite frankly -- have said that really we have not lowered insurance premiums and that indeed the Premier did not tell the truth.
I understand that and I understand what they are saying. If I were in opposition, I would probably take that approach, but if that scenario is a viable one, I say that in light of the fact that all members know that insurance premiums were rising tremendously and in light of the fact that the government as a result had specific plans and investigated the insurance industry, for one, with the insurance board -- we have capped the insurance rate on three occasions and I think it is safe to say, having been involved in the discussions leading up to the Ontario motorist protection plan, that if we did not take this comprehensive approach to insurance, insurance premiums would rise 30 per cent to 35 per cent. I would like to think the members would agree that indeed insurance premiums would rise substantially.
I say this quite candidly to my friends opposite, if the scenario they are taking is a viable one from their perspective, then surely most reasonable minded individuals would say the scenario that we are projecting, whereby we are going to take a plan and allow insurance premiums to rise on average eight per cent and zero per cent in other areas, means the Premier did keep his word.
Mr McLean: I want to comment briefly on the remarks of the member for Markham with regard to Bill 68, the insurance issue. I want to expand on that by saying that a bright new day for Ontario is coming shortly, and for the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario, and that bright day is going to be when the members of my party on 12 May 1990 will be electing a new leader for the Progressive Conservative Party and, I have no hesitation in saying, the next Premier of Ontario.
When the Liberals became the government, they promised no walls and no barriers. That moment never happened and I do not expect it ever will. But when members of my party use a one-person, one-vote system on 12 May, there will truly be no walls and no barriers when they pick the man or woman of their choice to lead my party through the next decade.
People in the riding of Simcoe East who want more information about this bright new day, where we are going to solve a lot of the problems that have taken place today, and those who want a membership so they can participate in this unique membership democracy, can call Gilles Cinq-Mars in Penetanguishene at 549-8038 or Tom Garry at 484-0069, or they can write to the Simcoe East PC Association at P0 Box 2401, Orillia, L3V 6V7. The cutoff date for new members is 19 March and I am sure everyone will want to purchase one.
The previous member’s speech with regards to Bill 68 is just one of those items we will be rectifying when we come to power. I commend my colleague the member for Markham on those very excellent remarks that he made.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): I do not want to interrupt the telethon. I just have to point out to the members that the standing orders do provide that this is the time for comments and questions. The standing orders are silent on whether you can do a 90-second telethon. I do not believe that was our intention and I would not like to see that become the practice.
Are there any further comments or questions? Do we have a further advertisement from the member for Markham?
Mr Cousens: l am sorry, there is no advertisement here. I see it as a statement that I would like to just make very clear. Leadership is something that is earned. It is something that the people of Ontario have given to the existing Premier, and the fact is that when the member for Guelph seems to try to escape the reality of the fact that the Premier made a commitment in September 1987 that he was going to reduce insurance rates and that he had a specific plan to do it, that in itself is a breach of trust.
It is a breach of trust of a very significant nature. He came along and made a promise. I guess that is something that becomes very standard with Liberal politics. The members opposite can say what they want before they get elected, and then when they are in office they can go and do whatever they want. That is not the way I see government running. It is not any wonder that people have a bad opinion of politicians.
What they want to do is have politicians they can trust, and then we end up having this kind of stuff going on. I say if you are going to make a statement before you get elected, you follow right through after you are elected. If the Premier is going to come along and make that kind of statement, he is not filled with integrity as he should be. He said he was going to add more hospital beds and he has cut down 2,000.
I am dealing specifically with the insurance industry. There is no doubt that there is a large gap between what the Premier said when he said he had a specific plan and what we are dealing with here today. He had no plan, and what we are dealing with is a real serious problem that is going to be on the backs of the small-income earner in Ontario who drives a car.
The fact is it is not doing them any favours, it is not doing us any favours and he is not doing politicians any favours because he is giving politicians a bad name.
The Acting Speaker: I would just remind the members that earlier this afternoon the House agreed that at 4:45 we would begin windups and that there would be an allocation of time by the table officers of 20 minutes to each of the political parties.
It is now 4:45 and I am at the pleasure of the House as to how we would proceed. It is my understanding that the leader of the third party would begin the windups. Perhaps someone could help me.
Mr Sterling: I was informed by the whips that the time would be postponed until five o’clock and that it was to be divided at that time.
The Acting Speaker: You have the chair at a bit of an awkward moment here. The chair and the table officers are not mindful of visits that the whips have had to one another during the course of an afternoon and the best we can go by is an agreement reached by unanimous consent of the House earlier in the day.
That agreement would say that the windups start at 4:45 and that each of the parties gets an allocation of 20 minutes. I do not see that I have any choice, other than to abide by that agreement. If there is anyone who could assist me in the matter; I do not want to force anyone to speak.
Mr Morin-Strom: I would like to move that we have unanimous consent to divide the time starting at five o’clock to 5:45 and that we continue with the debate until five o’clock.
The Acting Speaker: I am going to have to confer here. We have a lot of unanimous consents this afternoon. I think it would be my judgement that if there is unanimous consent to set aside a motion that was put previously, that would be agreed. If the House concurs with that, then we can proceed to the motion by the member for Sault Ste. Marie seeking unanimous consent to begin the process at five o’clock and the allocation would be 15 minutes per party.
Mr Morin-Strom: I appreciate the opportunity that the House has given me to be able to speak just in advance of the final speeches to be given by the leaders of the various parties or their representatives. This bill, Bill 68, is a vital initiative of this government which fulfils, I guess, what the government calls its Ontario motorist protection plan, but in fact it provides protection only for the insurance industry. It does not provide any kind of protection whatsoever for drivers in the province of Ontario.
This legislation announced over the summer by the Liberal government in fact takes away the rights of drivers and their families to be able to recover damages in almost all cases if they are injured in a motor vehicle accident in Ontario. Only in extreme and limited cases where a driver or a passenger is catastrophically injured will he or she or the family be able to recover damages for injuries or for full loss of income.
Drivers in this province will be taking a very serious financial risk in riding in a motor vehicle on Ontario’s roads, and even with the possible purchase of additional insurance at substantial cost they will still not be fully protected. Under the proposed plan, recovery in most cases will be limited as follows:
First, an injured victim will not get anything for pain or suffering;
Second, if you are an employee, you will be unable to recover your full loss of wages;
Third, if you are self-employed, you will be unable to recover loss of profit and losses associated with disruption of business. The driver in fact could lose his whole business and recover nothing;
Fourth, drivers will be unable to recover for many serious physical injuries, including broken bones, scarring, torn muscles and the pain and suffering that accompanies these and many other injuries;
Fifth, injured victims of car accidents will not be able to recover for any emotional or psychological injuries such as depression, shock or anxiety; and finally,
No matter what a victim may earn, the most that he or she can recover will be $450 per week. Many will receive far less than that.
This initiative, which is the latest saga in this government’s attempt to do something about the mounting crisis facing automobile insurance, is another attempt at a stopgap measure. It does not address the fundamental issues, which are rates that are skyrocketing in the province of Ontario, where the insurance industry is making a record profit, where drivers are unable to afford to continue to operate their vehicles because of skyrocketing costs.
Auto insurance is compulsory in the province of Ontario. All drivers must have auto insurance. But we have a system which ensures that the beneficiary is the insurance industry. That private sector has a guaranteed source of income from all drivers in the province of Ontario and it has the right to continue to increase its rates of insurance well out of the range of inflation. Year after year, we have seen premium increases from the insurance industry, approved by this government, which have compounded the problem.
This no-fault product reform announced by the Peterson Liberals shows just how insincere and manipulative the Premier and his government have been over the last several years when it comes to the issue of high insurance premiums. It certainly shows what the insurance industry has got in return for the some $230,000 it contributed to the Liberals’ election campaign in 1987, and then continuing contributions in 1988.
The government’s no-fault proposals have put a big smile on the face of the industry. However, only a tiny fraction of the claims that are made will ever end up getting reasonable compensation, while premiums continue to increase. This bill provides subsidies to the insurance industry from private insurance plans, from employees’ insurance plans with their employers and, as we heard illustrated earlier today, from the Workers’ Compensation Board as well.
The government puts forward initiative after initiative to help subsidize the insurance industry. Programs in the government’s announced Ontario motorist protection plan that are designed and intended to provide greater safety on the road, to reduce the level of accidents on our highways, to control speeding on the highways, to put more enforcement in place to see that the rules of the highways are enforced, in fact only benefit the insurance industry.
The government continues to approve increased insurance rates, in direct contradiction to the Premier’s commitment during the last election campaign. On 7 September 1987, three days before the last election, the Premier said, “We have a very specific plan to lower insurance rates.” Since that time, this government has done everything it can to disavow itself of that commitment and instead to funnel greater and greater revenues into the pockets of the insurance industry.
This government has attempted one solution after another to try to deal with the skyrocketing costs of auto insurance in the province of Ontario. It has become apparent to everyone that there is only one solution left, the solution that has proven successful in other provinces in our great country and one that this government continues quite deliberately to avoid. The only solution is one such as the three western provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia have put forward and have found so successful in keeping rates substantially below those in the province of Ontario. That, of course, is a driver-owned public auto insurance plan.
An Ontario plan similar to one in one of those western provinces would provide substantial cost advantages for all aspects of auto insurance. It would reduce cost for the adjustment, appraisal and repair of vehicles. It would provide drive-in claim centres that would provide prompt settlement and speed up repairs.
Universal insurance coverage could also be obtained by linking the issuance of licence plates to public auto insurance. It has been compulsory to carry auto insurance in Ontario since 1980, but it is estimated that there are now over 200,000 motorists driving without any coverage at all. Driver-owned auto insurance is more efficient and more economical than private auto insurance. It can deliver better coverage, simpler administration and lower premiums.
Independent studies, as has been most recently illustrated by the Consumers’ Association of Canada, have shown that the operating costs of public plans are about half those of private insurance systems. It is not fewer accidents or a rural economy or government subsidization that gives the people of the three western provinces a fair and affordable car insurance system, nor is it the greed of Ontario drivers that causes the problems here. Rather, it is the difference in the insurance systems.
This Liberal government is opposed to a driver auto insurance plan, and it has done everything possible to avoid looking seriously at the only option that could possibly fulfil the Premier’s promise to lower insurance rates in the province of Ontario. The Liberals have done nothing to stop the rate gouging and the arrogance of the auto insurance companies. We in the New Democratic Party will continue to fight for an insurance system in Ontario that is fairer and cheaper. We have been told by thousands of drivers across the province of Ontario that the need here has never been greater.
This bill has to be defeated. This bill does not fulfil the Premier’s promise to lower insurance premiums in the province of Ontario. We will be doing everything possible to give the public full access to the committee that will be dealing with this bill in the public hearings that will follow this second-reading debate.
The public has to be heard on this issue, because the public is not being served by this bill. I would ask that this bill be defeated today and that this government go back to the drawing-board and look clearly, fairly and honestly at the only solution to the promise that the Premier made two years ago. This government has to look at the option of public auto insurance if we are going to have any opportunity at all in this province to deal with the escalating rates of insurance and provide drivers with a fair system of affordable auto insurance for all drivers in the province of Ontario.
The Acting Speaker: We are very near to five o’clock. Members will know that we have an agreement to begin the wrapup debates at five. I think we will call it five o’clock and begin with the member for Sarnia, the leader of the third party.
Mr Brandt: I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this debate, and I apologize to you, Mr Speaker, and to the House for the confusion that I may have inadvertently created earlier, knowing, as most of the members do, that I am not one to create confusion all that frequently in this House. I understood we were to begin at five o’clock, and I apologize that apparently I was scheduled to speak at quarter to five.
I think it is interesting that this debate has ended up exactly where the various studies that have been taken on this particular question have told us we should not be; namely, with a no-fault plan.
When one looks, first, at the Osborne report, it very clearly stated in that report, as I recall from my reading of the document, that we are to avoid in Ontario any no-fault plan because it was unfair to good drivers, that they in fact would be penalized for a no-fault system that was being considered for Ontario as part of a whole agenda of other alternatives.
When we look, as well, at the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, again, the recommendation was that we avoid no-fault insurance because it did not, as we have now seen since the time that the report has been brought forward by the minister, guarantee any lower rates for insurance. In fact, we have had substantially increased rates as a direct result of the proposal that has come in. That has occurred as a result of a number of things that I will address in some detail during the course of my brief remarks this afternoon.
Earlier today in this House, I had the opportunity to speak on the question of taxation in Ontario. I took some issue with the fact that the government of Ontario, when compared to every other provincial jurisdiction in the entire country, is raising taxes more quickly and at a faster rate than any other province. That is not even a point of dispute any more, or a point of debate.
The average increase across the board for every other province in Canada is somewhere in the range of about 6.5 per cent, some perhaps slightly higher or slightly lower, but that is about the range, which is somewhat in keeping with the rate of inflation, slightly higher.
But what happens here in the province of Ontario, and I will relate this back to insurance in a moment, is that we have been looking at 10 per cent compounded annual increases over the course of the past four years. The honourable members opposite who form the government constantly suggest that, on one hand, we want to cut taxes; on the other hand, we want to increase the amount of money available for programs.
Well, in one fell swoop, as my colleagues are only all too well aware, there was $143 million in tax breaks given to the large insurance corporations that will continue to provide insurance coverage for automobiles in this province. That was $143 million that could have gone towards building additional school rooms, that could have gone towards the construction of additional hospital beds or constructed highways or a host of other priorities that are badly needed by the province.
What happened was really quite an unusual turn of events, because when one looks at why this came about, what resulted in the government making this giveaway to large insurance companies was basically that it got itself on the horns of an extremely complex and difficult dilemma.
When that started was back in April 1987, when the government, in order to take a political stance prior to an election which was going to come up in a few short months, in September of that same year, decided it was going to do what was popular for the public at that time, admittedly, and that was to freeze rates.
When they froze those rates -- obviously, for every action there is a reaction, and the reaction was that with the pressure on rates to increase among these various insurance companies, they started very rapidly losing money. What happened then was that the government arbitrarily established, even though the recommendations were for a series of different numbers, in its own mind -- completely in an arbitrary way, completely in a unilateral fashion -- the rate that should be established in Ontario when an increase was going to be allowed.
Again, there were some problems that were created for the insurance industry. To buy themselves out of the dilemma that they themselves caused, in order to purchase their way out of this and not see it reflect directly in the rates, they went to the insurance companies and they said, “We’re going to give you a $143-million tax break.” Probably when one looks at any number of tax concessions that have been made in this province over a long period of time, this is one of the most ambitious and costly programs that really has ever been perpetrated on the Ontario public, because effectively what the government was doing was subsidizing auto insurance rates through what I consider to be an inappropriate tax concession to these insurance companies.
With the program that is being proposed to us, is that the end of this entire cost? There is at least one economics professor who estimates the cost to be something in the range of $650 million, because now instead of paying health costs or lost wages because of lost work, a driver who is involved in an accident, whether it is his or her fault, will have to use all of his or her sick credits before the insurance company will pay any benefits at all. In other words, there is another impediment placed in the path of someone who wants to collect legitimate costs as a result of an accident that occurs. Now they have to fall back, when it is available, on coverage they have paid for in a different fashion and they have to exhaust that coverage. Once having exhausted that coverage, then this new program that has been developed by the government of Ontario will kick into action and will effectively cover those individuals who have been subjected to an accident.
Why are we in this mess? I wonder if the members of the government party have asked themselves that question. Why is the public confused and angry and why are newspaper ads showing up in the major newspapers across this province now saying that the program being proposed is one that is fraught with a number of very serious shortcomings? We are in this mess in part because admittedly, and our party is one that looks at those economic realities very closely, insurance rates were rising very rapidly. In part as a result of the intervention of the official opposition and its position, which our party does not agree with, in terms of a completely government-operated scheme, it became a political issue that had to be addressed.
The best way to address it in April 1987 was to simply say, “Zap, you’re frozen.” Where did I get that quote from? I remember it from another politician at some earlier time. But they froze the insurance rates, as members will recall, in somewhat the same fashion that a federal politician indicated that prices and wages would be frozen. That would not work, he stated, at that particular time, and I suggest to members that the freeze did not work in April 1987 either. So rates were rising rapidly and there was tremendous pressure in the system and there had to be a political response. That was frankly the kind of political response that was brought forward by the government of the day.
The second thing that happened, and the member for Guelph alluded to this in his most articulate address, which I heard earlier when I was watching the proceedings from my office, when he admitted openly before this forum as a member of the government party that the Premier on 7 September 1987 did in fact say that he had a specific plan to lower auto insurance rates. We take that to mean something other than what the Premier said on 7 September 1987, because now I guess he fulfils his commitment by lowering the rates from some artificial, arbitrary increase that is established in the mind of the government and anything less than 30 or 35 per cent is considered to be a bargain to the consuming public of Ontario.
The fact of the matter is that the Premier very clearly left the impression that he was going to lower auto insurance rates as they were on 7 September 1987, that this was the benchmark and that was the time frame within which he would lower those rates. Obviously the specific plan that he talked about was nothing more than a Keystone Kops kind of saga in that everybody in the government started to run around very quickly and try to find some way of getting a handle on this monster that they had created; namely, a way by which the government could respond to a very ill-thought-out statement by the Premier of this province. He had no way of lowering auto insurance rates. He knew that, but the Ontario public, when it voted for many of the members opposite, did not know that.
So here we are at this particular point in the debate where we have some serious concerns about the way in which this plan has been structured. We really believe that there is a very good chance that people who are injured in auto accidents will not get adequate coverage as a result of the kind of threshold that has been arrived at by the government. It has been suggested by those in the insurance industry who are far more knowledgeable than I that some 95 per cent of the accidents will be covered under the no-fault system, but that will not cover at all the very large and substantial number of people, many of whom will suffer from mental illness, mental problems as a result of the accident. This will be one of the most strict and one of the most limited and one of the most oppressive no-fault schemes that has been introduced anywhere in North America.
Of the other schemes that we have looked at, the Michigan scheme was one which this government took some time to review. The Michigan scheme is somewhere at the range of about 80 per cent to 85 per cent and the courts have made some determinations there which have given greater flexibility, if you will, to the courts and to the legal fraternity in that state in taking action where there is legitimate cause and reason to so do.
But our party has pressed -- as has the official opposition, in fairness -- to hold hearings on this matter, not only in Toronto but also across Ontario, because there are legitimate concerns. This is a multibillion-dollar industry. It is a required service. It is mandatory that every driver of the millions in this province carry insurance. They have no choice over that. It is the responsibility of the 130 of us in this House to make sure that we put forward a program, that we put forward an insurance scheme that will provide adequate benefits, adequate coverage and a fair and just system. As it stands before us now, we believe it is extremely flawed and frankly has a number of problems that have to be corrected. I suggest an amendment which we will bring forward during the course of those hearings would be to add mental injury as one of the ways in which the scheme could be fairer than the proposed scheme as it is before us at the moment.
We think it is quite a legitimate exercise, not a delaying tactic by the opposition but a very legitimate exercise, that we hear from the experts in the field. They have not seen this plan before. The hearings that took place before the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, the discussions that have taken place up until this point in time have been in the abstract. They have talked only about what might be. We now have a specific proposition before us, a specific plan which people can address in a very direct, very specific way, and I think it is only reasonable and appropriate that the people of Ontario have a voice in how we structure this plan, that they have a voice in what we end up with to make sure that we get the best possible plan at the lowest-possible price to serve the interests of the citizens of this province.
Mr B. Rae: I am delighted to have the opportunity to participate in yet one more discussion on the question of automobile insurance. This is an issue that I have been discussing in this House for several years and it is one which, together with many of my colleagues, has been, I think, a test for us of the government’s intentions and of the government’s plans.
The bill which is before us and which we are now sending to committee is the latest in several instalments of the Liberal Party’s response to the insurance crisis. It is a bill which does two things, and I want to talk about both of these aspects.
The first thing it does is to maintain the monopoly of the private sector insurance companies, of the private, profit insurance companies, on the provision of insurance for drivers. Not only does it maintain that monopoly, but it provides for an extensive subsidy of those insurance companies by other insurance companies, by workers who have negotiated collective agreements, by the Workers’ Compensation Board, by taxpayers and by the government of Ontario. So we have this fivefold subsidy to these insurance companies, this gift of literally hundreds of millions of dollars which goes to the private profit insurance companies, and their monopoly is maintained and strengthened by this system.
I want to say to the government that it has created a system which combines the worst of all possible worlds. It is a system which should be utterly rejected by this House and which shows the utter absence of leadership on the part of the Liberal government when it comes to the question of car insurance. Let me put it this way: If the industry needs to be subsidized by workers who have signed collective agreements providing for their own disability plans and those plans have to be used up before people can qualify for no-fault benefits, if the system is subsidized by workers’ compensation, as I demonstrated this afternoon, where the workers will lose rights to sue and at the same time money will be transferred from the Workers’ Compensation Board that was previously paid for by the insurance companies, if it is subsidized by the taxpayers because the government has eliminated the tax on premiums, if it is subsidized by OHIP because of the money which is now going to be paid for out of health insurance that was previously paid for by the companies, I think we are entitled to ask this question.
This industry obviously cannot survive without extensive public support, support coming in the form of subsidies from taxpayers, taxpayers dollars, dollars from workers who have negotiated agreements and dollars coming out of all the workers’ compensation system and OHIP. It is obvious: the private insurance industry is incapable of running insurance in Ontario. They have demonstrated it, and I do not think it is right or proper that the taxpayers of Ontario or the workers of Ontario should be handing money out of their pockets in order to go to the shareholders of the insurance companies. I think that is wrong. I think that is a transfer of wealth from the ordinary person and from average people to an upper-income group that is intolerable in our society. I do not want to see a system that transfers money out of the pockets of ordinary people into the pockets of the insurance companies and their shareholders. That is why we say, far better to have a public, driver-owned plan than this private, profit Liberal subsidized system which is being created by the Premier and his Liberal government.
We believe very profoundly that the system which is being created, still run by the private companies, is by its very nature an inefficient and unfair system. We think that when any hard-nosed person looks at the economics of this system, he will see that it is only able to survive because of the amount and the degree of the subsidy that is coming from the taxpayer. This is an example of corporate welfare bumism such as we have not seen in this House for ages and ages. The insurance companies are being given more handouts from this Liberal government, more wealth simply transferred to them from the pockets of people who drive and the pockets of people who at work have negotiated collective agreements. This industry cannot survive without a public handout. I am not going to stand by and let this government simply ram this thing through without giving the public a chance to see how ridiculous it is.
When we brought forward our plans in the last election for driver-owned insurance, what did the Liberal Party say, what did the insurance brokers say and what did the insurance companies say? They said to us, “Oh, you know, the only reason they have those rates in Saskatchewan or British Columbia is because they are subsidized.”
Let me tell members something. I would rather have a publicly supported public industry than a publicly supported private industry which is simply transferring that money over to shareholders. This is what we are seeing. We are seeing a system now where taxpayers are being asked to subsidize the profits of the insurance companies. It is a rotten stinking scheme and should be exposed as such.
The insurance companies got exactly the deal from the Liberal Party that they asked for and wanted. Everybody in this room knows the backdrop to this question. The insurance companies talked to the government of Ontario and they were leaving in droves. Insurance companies were carrying out their economic blackmail over the last year. They carried out their process of blackmail and said, “If we don’t get the rate structure we want, if we don’t get the plan we want, if we don’t get the system we want, we won’t write the insurance in Ontario, we’ll leave.”
So the Liberals said: “What kind of a system do you want? Tell us what it is.” The insurance companies told them and that is exactly what the Liberals produced. How else would members explain the amount of public money that is being transferred to the insurance companies? How else would members explain the fact that the system of no-fault benefits, which is set out in a separate schedule, is restrictive, offensive, allows fewer benefits to people who are really sick than they would even get under workers’ compensation and limits the amount of money to people who need institutional care or permanent care to $1,500 a month, when we all know that that is a recipe for permanent institutionalization of those people? Even the Supreme Court of Canada has said that the money which is paid out for somebody who is permanently disabled cannot just provide for what it would cost to put somebody in an institution, but should also provide for how much it costs to care for somebody at home.
The no-fault benefits that are provided under this plan are a scandal. They are scandalously low. They are designed to create poverty and hardship among people who are affected by accidents. I can tell the minister that when he hears from the disabled rights groups across this province, when he hears from people who have experience of what it really costs to live with a permanent disability, he will be embarrassed and ashamed of the plan that he has proposed, because it is a plan which is offensive to anybody who believes that people who are injured or who are hurt deserve to be compensated in a way that allows them to live with dignity.
I say to the minister that when he looks at that schedule, it is a schedule which can only be described as profoundly offensive. The insurance companies must have written this. It must be the bill which the insurance companies wanted, which they have been crying for desperately. It is exactly on the lines of what the insurance companies proposed before the last election. It is precisely the plan they want because it allows them to run the plans, it allows them to control the plans, and it allows them to limit the amount that they have to pay out when it comes to people getting sick.
I think there can be no other explanation for what the Liberal government has done when one considers as well the question of the limitation on the rights of people with respect to their legal rights. How else do we explain the fact that the words that are used in the act, in terms of what it takes to be able to seek a remedy in the courts, are “permanent serious disfigurement” or “permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function caused by a continuing injury which is physical in nature,” when we know that that is precisely the wording that the insurance companies asked for?
We know as well that it is language that even the Honourable Mr Justice Osborne said was too restrictive. Even in Michigan they said it is too restrictive; even in the United States they say it is too restrictive.
We also know -- and I say to the minister I cannot understand how in 1989 going into 1990, it would be possible for the Liberal Party to ignore -- the traumatic effect that accidents have on people’s lives, on people’s emotions, on people’s psyches. Basically he is going back to the brutal sort of meat chart philosophy of days long gone by when it comes to assessing what it means to have a disability.
I say with great feeling to the minister, if he talks to anybody who has been affected by an injury or an accident, and I know he has because of the work that he has done as a lawyer and because of the work that he has done in his constituency, he will appreciate that the major impact that even the pain itself causes is often emotional in nature. He will also know that there are people who can be traumatized for life from driving, traumatized for life from going outside or from carrying on ordinarily, people who can lose several years of their ability to carry on, to have a job and to raise a family and to carry on with their social life, because of the impact of an accident. This is not simply lawyers’ talk; this is what happens to people.
I want to say to the minister that any system which does not provide for those people is not a true insurance system. It is not a true insurance system for people; it is a system which ensures the profits of the insurance companies, but that is all it does. This is a makeshift plan. This is a put-together plan. This is a plan written by the insurance companies that went into the Premier’s office and said, “If you don’t give us the bill we want, we won’t write business in Ontario and then what will you do?” We already know that the Liberal Party has run the last three years saying, “There’s no way we’re going to introduce a public plan.”
I can tell you what Bob Rae would say when the insurance companies come into the Premier’s office and they say, “If you don’t do what we want, we’re going to get out of Ontario,” I would say: “Good riddance to you, my friends, goodbye. We’ll run the plan ourselves.” That is the truth, the simple truth.
Companies in Manitoba and in Saskatchewan and in British Columbia have tried. They have tried to make that argument to the people in Manitoba, in Saskatchewan and in BC, and that is what they said. What happened? The governments in those provinces turned around and had the courage to take on the industry, had the courage to say, “We are going to provide a service.”
This is a horse invented by a committee. It has several humps and bumps, all of which are intended to provide for one industry alone and for one interest alone, and that is the interest of the private insurance companies in this province: not the interest of drivers, not the interest of people affected by accidents, not the interest of those families who have been devastated by accidents, but the interest of one industry alone, the private profit insurance industry.
I do not think there is anything that has revealed the true nature of the Liberal Party more clearly than its attitude to this question of insurance and how it has handled that. The Liberal Party has had four years to deal with the insurance crisis. They have diddled and they have dithered, they have dallied and they have waited. They have talked to the insurance companies, they have listened to the insurance brokers and they have bought this system designed by the insurance industry for the insurance industry. They have resisted every serious, sensible proposal by us to say, “Look, let’s create a fairer system, a better system.”
Finally, Mr Speaker, I want to say to you that I do not believe that this is the end of this issue at all. Together with my colleagues, I am convinced that we have to have a look at the whole question of disability in a new way. I find it hard to understand why it is that this government has taken this long to introduce a plan for a universal sickness and accident disability scheme that would provide for all those people affected by accidents and injuries, whether they are on the job, whether they are at work, whether they are on the road, whatever form they may take: a universal plan, a sensible plan that would cover all the citizens of Ontario. That is the kind of plan we need, not this scheme written by the insurance companies for the insurance companies, but a plan that is written by the people and for the people.
Hon Mr Elston: I have agreed from time to time with some of the presentations in front of the Legislative Assembly from some of the members on the opposite side. I agree even today with some of the things that have been said by the member for York South (Mr B. Rae) and the member for Sarnia.
The member for Sarnia has talked about cost as a big issue, the member for York South has talked about cost as a big issue, the fact that the drivers of this province have no choice. If they are to drive in this province, they must have insurance and it is up to the Legislative Assembly and the government of this province to ensure that they have a product which is both available and affordable; that the product which is available provides them with timely and adequate benefits to ensure that they can go through those very traumatic times when accidents claim their active stages of life, so that they can recuperate without fear of loss of their homes or businesses, so that they can proceed to get back to work, to get back to their families, to get back to the style of enjoyment of life that we all work so hard and diligently in this Legislative Assembly to ensure.
There is no question that I will disagree strongly with the member for York South when he talks about this being a plan that is written for the insurance companies, because it is not true. This company that he keeps over there with his group of philosophical buddies, who want to run every piece of business in the province under the aegis of a Socialist government, is well known to us, but it has nothing to lend to us who believe in the ability of the individual to carry on business in this province in a way which benefits the broader public whom we represent.
We know about the policies of which the New Democratic Party no longer speaks, the ones that talk about nationalizing financial institutions, that talk about nationalizing mining companies, that talk about nationalizing resource industries. We know about that. They do not talk about it any more. There was a time, for instance, when the member for York South refused to say the S word. He does not say that very often any more. In fact, it is hard for him to say he is a socialist, because be knows the people of Ontario want to have responsible government, not Socialist government.
What we have done is that this government has intervened in the private sector in a way which will ensure a very strong regulatory presence in this province, to ensure that the private sector delivers a product in a timely and effective manner, so that injured victims are not left wanting when they are in need most. That is the situation whether an accident is caused by the individual who is driving or whether the accident has been caused by someone else.
There is genuine need for the body to be healed, genuine need for the support that is required for families in this province to be attended to without having to go through an adversarial system which ensures one thing, delay; time consumed away from the activity of rehabilitation of that individual so that he or she can get back to a productive life, to a happy life, to a satisfying life.
Yes, we have put in place a proposal which is an Ontario-manufactured plan. It reflects what is in fact the situation in Ontario, that we have a medical system, unlike Michigan or New York or any of the other American states to which the New Democrats, always espousing some kind of Canadian nationalism, have quickly come to turn to for their sustenance when it comes to opposition to our plan.
They hold high Ralph Nader, that great American, to say, “This is not a good Canadian plan,” while they refuse to acknowledge the interventions of someone like Phil Edmonston from the Consumers’ Association of Canada who says, “This plan should be pure no-fault.” I will even acknowledge much further that Mr Edmonston says this should be public, but he says: “For one thing, I disagree with Ralph Nader. We should have a pure no-fault system and we should have a Canadian system.” I agree with Mr Edmonston, with the exception of his reliance on the public sector.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Elston: I can tell that my friends in the NDP are having some problems. They do not like to be told that they are going to the United States to import their opposition. They do not like to be told that when they look at our great system in Canada, which provides for us the medical care and support through taxpayer dollars, that they would like to see that thrown away as well. They do not want to indicate that they, along with others, have advocated no-fault systems before, but when it is convenient, in the moment of need for political support they quickly abandon their desire to go to no-fault systems. They quickly abandon it so that they can protect the few while abandoning the broad coverage of the public in this province.
We have a program here that will support those people when they are injured. It is not a program that is designed to make people wealthy. That is not what insurance is about. It is designed to sustain people so that they can recover, so that they can get better. It is a system that is designed to provide some care and compassion, and yes, we agree with the member for York South when he says the insurance industry has not always delivered no-fault benefits well.
In fact, we have a tough regulatory model incorporated in this bill that will ensure they will deliver those benefits in a timely and effective manner. We have gone much farther than that. We have indicated that where there are serious and permanent injuries, where there are problems sustained beyond the normal level of minor accidents that we see on a day-to-day basis in this province, they will have access to the courts so that the judges and lawyers in that system can put forward the evidentiary material required to prove loss, to show that there is damage beyond what is compensated under the no-fault benefits, that there is a continuing problem from which these people will have difficulty recovering and therefore enjoying life to the full. We have that in this bill.
I want to agree with those people who say cost is an important feature. They say the benefits are miserly; at least that is the allegation. Let me put it in this context: For those people who earn small amounts of money, I find it is totally unacceptable that someone who will never receive $1,000 a week will be forced to buy a policy that would provide benefits at $1,000 a week. I will not have those people who do not earn large amounts of money subsidizing those large wage earners. That is not fair.
This system is a proposal where people will have an affordable product, but they will have something much more than that. They will have the ability to buy coverage that suits their particular economic structure. It is a requirement that each individual examine his or her needs to ensure that he or she has the correct amount of insurance coverage, not the amount that somebody determines he or she will have, some Socialist government run by the member for York South. In the Liberal Party we believe in the ability of the individual to make decisions in his or her own benefit, to determine the appropriate choices for him or her and for him or her alone.
We have also provided the access to the courts these people talk about as being so critical. We have allowed a threshold system to exist so that we can determine that there are special needs that must be met. Yes, I fully acknowledge that costs will fall from this system because we will not need as much litigation in the system, and I will say that this system balances the issue of affordability with the issue of cost.
Mr Farnan: I have a point of order, Mr Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: To which standing order do you have a point of order?
Mr Farnan: I depend upon your excellent knowledge of the rules to point it out. The minister referred to the coming Socialist government. I would remind him that it is the coming Social Democratic government of Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order.
Hon Mr Elston: The issue is cost. It is a big item for people who have to buy insurance. The member for Welland-Thorold has very strongly held views and I respect him for that. The member for York South likewise has strongly held views and I respect him for those. But I cannot stand here and say that I agree with their tactics, which are to delay in a way that is designed to frustrate the savings in the system this new program will provide for the drivers of Ontario.
I will not stand by and let them try to wreck this program so that it will play into their hands to create their great public socialist system. I will not stand by and let them delay the savings in the system and the fairness and balance that is included in this system, designed to protect the drivers of Ontario, put together by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the government of Ontario for the benefit of the people of Ontario.
As they call upon their great icons from the United States to come and intervene on their behalf to say how un-Canadian this is, we will see the true value of the New Democrats.
I want to turn now for a second to the member for Sarnia who made some interventions of worthwhile note, misguided as they might be in his understanding of the act and its content. He is sincere about including in the program various other parts of assistance that he believes it would be important for us to consider. We will consider them in committee. We will have the hearings, as people have suggested we have.
The one thing we have to be very aware of is that every time the opposition comes into this place, it demands we spend more. The member for Sarnia spoke at length about how the money that is now saved for the people of Ontario, the three per cent tax that was a pass-through by the industry to the drivers, could be better spent on building schools or building something else, and we agree that there is always a better use for money in accordance with their wishes. They wish to spend more. What does he do in the next statement he makes? He says that we should have a bigger plan, that we should have a much more costly plan, that we should add parts to this plan that would put it beyond the realm of the individual to afford it.
As we get the proposals coming in to the committee, and as they come to the House and come to us, we will be providing some questions about the cost to those people who are putting them forward. We will delve into the issue of cost of each of the components they are proposing because those people, those opposition people, are as aware as members as we are that cost is a very big concern for seniors who are on fixed income, that young people are concerned about cost and that others are concerned about the cost of this system.
Yes, we are concerned about fairness. This is a balanced approach. It is designed to provide the support required for those people who have minor injuries, acknowledging that seriously injured people require extra assistance, and that is provided.
We go much further beyond this bill. This bill is merely one part to a much broader and comprehensive strategy that the member for London North was actually pooh-poohing. She does not think it is worth while to reduce accidents in the way we are proceeding. She has not said that she likes the idea of building safer and better highways.
We have the programs in place to reduce accidents by enforcing the speed limit, by higher fines, by ensuring that impaired drivers who are convicted on occasion do not receive their licences back until they have passed the rehabilitation program successfully. We have bad drivers who will be singled out for treatment, with higher premiums. The good drivers will get the benefit of the lower premiums.
There will be those people who will try to withdraw from a full discussion of all the factors and good parts of this program. They will only give a little bit of information about the various prospects of people to recover. They will always try to define it away from a balanced coverage approach such as this one gives. They will, as opposition members, detract from it ad nauseam.
The NDP members are already on record saying they want to frustrate the delivery of insurance products through the private sector at all costs. They will fight to the last person, I think somebody said to me at one point, and they may very well do that.
I want to say that we require the support of the Legislative Assembly on second reading, the passage in principle of this bill, so that we can proceed to deal with it in committee and come back here to fine-tune the proposals so that we can put in place a balanced and good approach for the people of Ontario.
The House divided on Mr Elston’s motion for second reading of Bill 68, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Adams, Ballinger, Beer, Black, Bossy, Brown, Callahan, Campbell, Caplan, Chiarelli, Cleary, Collins, Conway, Cooke, D. R., Cordiano, Daigeler, Dietsch, Eakins, Elliot, Elston, Epp, Faubert, Fawcett, Ferraro, Fleet, Fontaine, Fulton, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Hart, Henderson, Hošek, Kanter, Kerio, Keyes, Kozyra, Kwinter, LeBourdais, Leone, Lipsett, Lupusella, MacDonald, Mahoney, Mancini, Matrundola, McClelland, McGuigan, McGuinty, McLeod, Miclash, Miller, Morin;
Neumann, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., Nixon, R.F., O’Neil, H., O’Neill, Y., Oddie Munro, Owen, Patten, Pelissero, Peterson, Phillips, G., Polsinelli, Poole, Ramsay, Ray, M. C., Reycraft, Riddell, Roberts, Ruprecht, Smith, D. W., Smith, E. J., South, Sweeney, Tatham, Velshi, Ward, Wilson, Wrye.
Allen, Brandt, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D.S., Cousens, Eves, Farnan, Grier, Hampton, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Kormos, Laughren, Mackenzie, Marland, Martel, McCague, McLean, Morin-Strom, Philip, E., Pollock, Pope, Pouliot, Rae, B., Reville, Runciman, Sterling, Villeneuve, Wildman, Wiseman.
Ayes 81; nays 31.
Bill ordered for standing committee on general government.
The House adjourned at 1801.