The House met at 1000.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr Ward moved that the following committees be authorized to meet during the winter adjournment in accordance with the schedule of meeting dates agreed to by the three party whips and tabled with the Clerk of the Assembly to examine and inquire into the following matters:
Select committee on constitutional and intergovernmental affairs be appointed, in anticipation of a first ministers’ conference on Senate reform tentatively scheduled for 1 November 1990, to undertake a program of consultation on Senate reform; that the committee have authority to meet concurrently with the House and during any adjournment of the House; that the committee be authorized to travel from place to place in Canada; that, subject to the proclamation on or by 21 June 1990 of the Constitution Amendment Act, 1987, signed in Ottawa on 3 June 1987, the committee complete its program of consultation and present its report to the House by 15 October 1990; and that the committee be composed of the following members: Mr Furlong (chair), Mr Allen, Mr Breaugh. Mr Eves, Mr Grandmaître, Mr Harris, Ms Hošek, Mr McGuinty, Ms Oddie Munro, Mr Polsinelli and Miss Roberts;
Select committee on education to consider life-long learning;
Select committee on energy be appointed, in view of the increasing evidence of the contribution of combustion of fossil fuels to global warming, among other contributors, substantial understanding of the implications of climatic change on the environment and economy of Ontario and on human activity, and widespread public concern regarding these issues, and in view of the fact that energy policy has a direct bearing on these issues because of its impact on the mix, level and efficiency of use of all types of primary energy resources, to identify the extent to which current provincial energy policy affects carbon dioxide emissions, the potential for controlling, stabilizing or reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and the types of public policy or program initiatives to achieve the objectives of limiting the adverse environmental and economic impacts of carbon dioxide emissions, and to consider (i) all energy sources, including oil, natural gas, coal, electricity, and alternative energy sources, with an emphasis on energy produced by the combustion of fossil fuels to provide heat or motive power; (ii) in the case of electricity and alternate energy sources, both the direct use of fossil fuels and the economic potential for noncombustion energy sources; (iii) demand management initiatives, including energy efficiency, with respect to their roles as noncarbon dioxide-forming sources of energy; and (iv) all sectors of energy applications, including the industrial, commercial, residential, institutional and transportation sectors; that the committee have authority to meet concurrently with the House and during any adjournment of the House; that the committee be authorized to travel from place to place in Canada; that the committee present an interim report on 19 March 1990 and that a final report be presented to the House in the autumn of 1990; and that the committee be composed of the following members: Mrs Sullivan (chair), Mr Brown, Mr Callahan, Mr Charlton, Mr D. R. Cooke (Kitchener), Mr Cureatz, Mrs Grier, Mr Kerrio, Mr McGuigan, Mr Pollock, and Mr M. C. Ray (Windsor-Walkerville);
Special committee on the parliamentary precinct to meet from time to time at the call of the co-chairs of the committee to consider matters related to the restoration of the Parliament building:
Standing committee on administration of justice to consider alternative dispute resolution:
Standing committee on finance and economic affairs to consider matters relating to prebudget consultation;
Standing committee on general government to conduct public hearings on and clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance, for a maximum of five weeks; that the committee be authorized to adjourn to places in Ontario for not more than six days; that the bill be reported to the House on 19 March 1990; and that in the event that the committee fails to report the said bill on the date specified, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to the House and the report shall be deemed to be received and adopted by the House;
Standing committee on government agencies to consider the operation of certain agencies, boards and commissions of the government of Ontario;
Standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to consider matters relating to the procedures and administration of the House and to freedom of information and protection of individual privacy;
Standing committee on the Ombudsman to consider the denied case of Farm Q;
Standing committee on public accounts to consider the annual report of the Provincial Auditor;
Standing committee on resources development to conduct public hearings on and clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 208, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act, for a maximum of six weeks; that the Bill be reported to the House on 19 March 1990; and that in the event that the committee fails to report the said bill on the date specified, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to the House and the report shall be deemed to be received and adopted by the House;
Standing committee on social development to consider the expanding utilization of food banks in Ontario.
Mr D. S. Cooke: There will be considerable discussion on this motion, Mr Speaker. I thought perhaps there would have been some opening statements from the government House leader on this motion, since this is a very unusual and very extensive motion, a motion that for the first time since I have been a member of this assembly introduces in its form closure in committees, which has not been done in this place before.
I might start off by saying that -- I am out of breath because I just ran up here -- this morning was the first time that our caucus has seen some aspects of this motion. There was no consultation. There was no consultation in the wording. Even the motions dealing with the select committees were only shared in their final form, or any form at all, with the opposition parties yesterday. The motion re-establishing a select committee on constitutional affairs to look at Senate reform was shared with the opposition parties yesterday.
Normally with a committee like that, drafts are circulated and shared with opposition parties and some consensus is developed as to how the committee will proceed and the wording so that these committees are as nonpartisan as possible when studying issues dealing with national unity and national affairs.
The same point can be made about the select committee on energy, that there was no consultation and that the motions were first shared with us yesterday. Our critics in those particular areas will have more to say about that later this morning or later this afternoon.
But I specifically want to make some reference to the references and the motions dealing with the standing committee on general government and the standing committee on resources development.
First of all, the reference on standing committee on general government says, “The standing committee on general government to conduct public hearings on and clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 68” -- which is the major third attempt on reform of the insurance legislation in this province, as members will recall and as anyone who is watching us on TV today will recall, and is the promise that the government would bring in legislation to lower insurance rates in the province -- “An Act to amend Certain Acts respecting Insurance, for a maximum of five weeks; that the committee be authorized to adjourn to places in Ontario for not more than six days; that the bill be reported to the House on 19 March 1990; and that in the event that the committee fails to report the said bill on the date specified, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to the House and the report shall be deemed to be received and adopted by the House.”
This particular aspect of this reference is totally prejudging anything that might happen in the standing committee on general government on insurance. It is offensive to the opposition and it is offensive to anybody who believes in the legislative process and the parliamentary process in this place. It is the first time that this type of thing has ever happened, that before the reference even occurs, before the committee even starts its public hearings, the government is, by motion, bringing in closure in the committee.
It is a bloody shame that this should be happening in this Legislature, and I think people should understand exactly what has happened over the time with the insurance legislation.
We had several consultants who looked at the insurance problem. We had a promise three or four days before the last election that the Premier (Mr Peterson) had a plan to lower insurance rates. Then we had a piece of insurance legislation brought in that failed. We had another piece of insurance legislation brought in that failed. Then we had this legislation that brings in so-called no-fault insurance, which is offensive to many people in this province, not because it is no-fault but because of the levels of compensation and because of the plan that will not lower insurance rates in this province.
But forgetting the specifics of the legislation, the purpose of public hearings, of course, is to hear from the public and not to prejudge what the public will be indicating and not to prejudge what the members of the committee will decide on that legislation. However, the government obviously is saying that it is going to prejudge what the committee will decide, that it is not going to give the committee perhaps adequate time to deal with clause-by-clause and that it is going through the process of public hearings because we on this side forced the government to have public hearings.
Let’s understand that when we first began the process on this particular legislation --
Mr Faubert: Nonsense.
Mr D. S. Cooke: My friend the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr Faubert) can say “nonsense,” but the fact of the matter is that the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) indicated, as did the government House leader, that there was no need for public hearings on this bill. They did not even want to have public hearings on this bill. It was my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) and this caucus that forced the government to have public hearings and forced it to listen to the public.
But what the Liberals are really saying now is that it is all going to be a public relations exercise and that anything the public has to say will not be listened to by this government. I think the arrogance of the Liberal government has achieved new heights in this province.
Hon Mr Ward: Read the motion.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have read the motion, and I say to the government House leader that it might have been helpful if the motion had been shared with us before reading it on the business paper today.
I also think one has to look at the reference that deals with the standing committee on resources development as well, which states that it will “conduct public hearings on and clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 208,” which we should understand is the rewriting of the health and safety legislation of this province. There was an original piece of legislation that was brought in here, Bill 208, that had a consensus that there was some support within organized labour. Then, when the bill was actually called for, after months and months of delays because of pressure from the business community across this province, the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) indicated there were going to be a whole series of major amendments brought in which basically watered down, if not eliminated, the major advantages that were presented in the original form of Bill 208.
Now what they are saying is that this bill, which amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act, will have a maximum of six weeks; the bill will “be reported to the House on 19 March 1990; and that in the event that the committee fails to report the said bill on the date specified, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to the House and the report shall be deemed to be received and adopted by the House.”
Here we are on the last day that the Legislature sits before its break for Christmas, the committee has not even begun to have public hearings on Bill 208 and the government is saying, “There’s no report yet, but we’re going to prejudge the report that the resources development committee makes and the House is going to deem to have received that report before they have even started meeting.”
It is an offensive motion, and I think it is antidemocratic. It is arrogant and it has soured the last several days of this sitting of this Legislature.
When my caucus met this morning and we reviewed these motions, I would say we were outraged by the process that has been implemented, the lack of consultation, the wording, and the assumption and prejudgement of the public hearings of these bills.
We will be talking about this at length today, tomorrow and however long it takes, but this is not the appropriate way to proceed. It is no coincidence that this motion on closure of both of these bills is being brought in on what was supposed to be the last day that the House was going to be sitting.
But I think that it is the wrong way to proceed, especially when most of this session has been proceeding with co-operation and goodwill on both sides of the House. It is unfortunate that this has to happen.
The government does not even need to do this. The fact of the matter is that if there was an assumption or if there was a feeling that the opposition parties were taking too long with legislation, then all they would have to do is bring in the appropriate motion when we come back in March and closure could be brought in.
That is exactly what could happen but, instead, the government has decided to try to do it now when it feels that the opposition parties feel a bit of time pressure and that we would all like to adjourn for the Christmas holidays.
I really think it is offensive and I think that any members, especially Liberal members who have been here for a number of years, will recognize that this has never been done before. But they continue to be upset with the process that was used on such legislation as Bill 162 and the Sunday shopping legislation. If anything, what has been proven with the facts and the issues that were brought out on the Sunday shopping legislation, when public hearings were held at length and when we delayed the process of that legislation in committee, is that we were correct. If the government had listened to us in that process, we would not be having the chaos that we currently have under the Sunday shopping legislation in Ontario now.
In view of the comments I have made and the feeling of our caucus, I would like to move an amendment to the resolution that is before us. We will prepare a further motion on the standing committee on resources development.
The Deputy Speaker: Mr D. S. Cooke moves that the reference to the standing committee on general government on Bill 68 be amended by deleting all the words after “19 March 1990” in the fifth line.
Hon Mr Ward: I find the comments made by the opposition House leader remarkable, to say the least. First of all, during the course of his remarks he made some references to the fact that this business motion represents, in either one form or another, a closure motion or a time allocation motion. It does neither of those things.
The opposition House leader will know full well that over the course of the past several weeks we have discussed and negotiated in good faith, at both the House leaders’ meetings and the whips’ meetings, the committee schedules for the coming recess. The business motions that are here provide for those times as agreed upon.
It does not prejudge the outcome of any committee. It achieves one thing and one thing only: It puts the debates on those two very important bills back in this House on the first day back. The standing orders of this Legislature provide an opportunity for any bill being reported back from committee to be put into committee of the whole House. If there is a desire for any further discussion, that takes but one member of this Legislature to achieve. It does not prejudge or put a time allocation on any amendment or any motion whatsoever.
Maybe the opposition House leader expected something else in these motions and maybe he thinks they do something else. They do but one thing: They give those two committees the times that were agreed upon to deal with those bills during the recess and they put those bills back here on 19 March to continue the discussion if the need arises.
There are very good reasons for it, if we look at the nature of both of these bills. First of all, we have Bill 68, the auto insurance bill. The member knows full well, as do others, that without some very fundamental changes to the insurance product in this province, motorists throughout the province are going to face very substantial increases.
We do not have the luxury to talk this out for a year and a half unless the drivers of this province are quite willing to accept increases in the neighbourhood of 30 per cent for the coming year. The member knows that. All opposition members know it, as well as government members. The bill has to be dealt with expeditiously and we will have a full debate. There is not one day, one minute, of debate time being denied by this motion, and he is absolutely incorrect.
Mr Mackenzie: Just put back on the jackboots. That’s what you’ve done.
The Chair: Order, please.
Hon Mr Ward: I ask members to show me where there is any denial of time. The occupational health and safety legislation, frankly, we need in this province to protect workers, for very good reason.
Mr D. S. Cooke: You don’t want to have any debate.
Mr Wildman: Why the deeming?
The Chair: Order, please.
Hon Mr Ward: There will be as much debate as is required on each and every section of that bill. There is no time allocation in this motion. There is no closure in this motion. The bills will merely be dealt with in this House the first day back, and quite frankly, given the nature of these bills, that is as it should be.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Riverdale.
Mr Reville: I will defer to the member for Nipissing.
Mr Harris: I just want to clarify, since from my remarks the House may not be able to determine exactly what it is I am speaking of. If I understand it, I am dealing with an amendment from the New Democratic Party to delete under the section “standing committee on general government” the words “and that” and from there on. Okay?
Mr Reville: Yes.
Mr Wildman: The fifth line.
Mr Harris: We are just dealing with that at this time.
Mr Wildman: Yes. We can deal with the others later.
Mr Harris: I want to indicate my support for the amendment and I want to comment briefly on exactly what is being proposed and suggested by the government House leader and why it is totally unnecessary for him to do it this way.
The amendment part itself -- when we look at the motion, it says “and that in the event the committee fails to report the said bill on the date specified, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to the House and the report shall be deemed to be received and adopted by the House.”
What this is doing in effect is prejudging the entire work of the committee. It is, in effect, total and ultimate closure, saying we are going to close it out now, regardless of what the committee finds, regardless of what stage it is at and regardless of whether --
Mr Bossy: Some four months down the way.
Mr Harris: Well, some of the minions in the back row object. What I am saying to the government members is that if they sit on this committee, and they will be sitting on the committee, regardless of what they think come 18 March, regardless of whether the minister says, “Look guys, there are some problems here,” and regardless of the technical drafting of legislation we have seen from the government side, this will be deemed to be finished and out of committee and will be deemed to be passed, adopted and received by the House.
Mr Fleet: It can still be debated. Debate doesn’t end.
The Chair: Order, please. One member at a time please.
The Chair: Order. All members who wish to speak will have a chance to speak. The standing orders call for one member at a time. Now, only the member for Nipissing has the floor.
Mr Harris: This deeming is a very over-excessive use of power that is not required. It takes away the independence of the committee. It takes away any sense that there is any independent thought on the committee, and quite frankly, the people who should be most offended, absolutely most offended, are those members of the Liberal Party who will be sitting on the committee, because in effect what the government is saying is: “Look, we have the power to do what you want at your bidding, minister, Premier or House leader. We can do all those things, but let’s at least keep the charade that we are sort of independent. Let’s not upfront, right in the motion, say, ‘You’re not independent; what you say doesn’t matter; what you think on March 19 doesn’t matter. That’s it.’”
There is more than ample power for the committee to close this out any time it wants and to say: “We have had enough and we now understand, through the hearings, where the opposition party is coming from. We totally disagree. We don’t want to listen any more. We’re going to send it back to the House and it can be done any time by the committee.”
We might object at that time if we feel that it has not received a full hearing, but for the government House leader to phrase the motion in this fashion is saying: “Listen, we don’t care what you find. We don’t care how the hearings go. We don’t care what you find in clause-by-clause. We don’t even care if the minister, at that particular point in time, and the officials in the ministry, are not ready to report, because we are prejudging it all right now.” There is absolutely no necessity for that kind of power and, in fact, it is a slight on the committee.
If the House leader, as he has said, is concerned about time lines and the government agenda -- and it is no secret. We know the government agenda is to have this very flawed, overly short-term, politically disastrous bill in place next spring. We understand that agenda. The industry understands that agenda. All of the people directly involved understand. I am not sure the nine million potential victims in Ontario understand that, but all sides of this House and those people who have been involved understand that.
There is nothing the matter with the government’s signalling that intention. There is actually nothing the matter, in my view, with the House leader’s insisting that the committee report to the House on the very first day back. I do not have a difficulty with that. But to prejudge what that report is going to be, to prejudge that it has been passed and this is what it says: “We are deeming things into the future,” is totally inappropriate. It is a very extensive abuse of the power of prejudging and it is totally unnecessary.
We are getting close to Christmas. Things get accelerated and we are doing things in a hurry. The government House leader, in his comments, indicated that we discussed this. Everybody knows what the intent of the government is, and I agree, we have discussed it. We know what the intent of the government is.
As a matter of fact, I do not mind suggesting to the members and putting it on the record officially in the House that the House leaders did make a deal. We did make a deal and we did agree and we gave our word, on behalf of our parties, as to the amount of time that would be spent in hearings, when that time would be spent and the amount of days that would be spent travelling on the road, and I suggest that I do not think that needs to be in the motion either.
What that is saying is: “Well, I know, House leader for the Conservative Party and House leader for the New Democratic Party, we agreed on that, but your words are no good. We don’t trust you, so we are going to spell it out in the motion and we are going to have a vote on it.” I resent that a tad, I tell the members. I resent that a little bit. However, come 1 January, I will not be the House leader for the party, so somebody else can carry that resentment forward at that time.
There is nothing inappropriate about that in the sense of procedural precedence, and I can live with it. I would not have put it in the motion. It is in there and I think it does not belong in the motion, but none the less, it is there and I cannot say to this House that is a dangerous precedent.
But the other thing is that there is no necessity for it. We all know the time line. The committee, particularly given the fact that the government has a majority on the committee, has the power at any time to do what it wants and to report when it wants, and I would urge the government House leader to accept the amendment. If the motion ends that the bill be reported to the House on 19 March 1990, it is stronger than I think needs to be required, but I do not think that deems a whole bunch of things that nobody really wants to prejudge and to be deemed, and the motion is far more palatable that way.
I would prefer that it indicate that the committee report to the House on 19 March the status of the bill. If, in fact, the government has ordered the members of the committee to give up their independence and do what it tells them and it is going to do all this by 18 March, so be it. I just do not understand why it wants that public. I do not understand why it wants to say to the public right now, “Whatever the hearings produce, whatever we get into as we examine clause-by-clause doesn’t matter a whit.” I would have thought you would have tried to carry the charade on a little bit --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Harris: Through you, Mr Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Third person singular or plural.
Mr Harris: -- that you would have wanted to carry on this charade that there was some sense of independence in the committee.
I suggest to the House leader that, should this amendment be accepted, and there will be another one required on another committee further down, he will have all the power he needs. Even politically it makes much more sense for his party. It is a lot easier for the Liberal members on the committee to go home and say: “Yes, it’s really meaningful. You know, I’m sitting on the insurance committee this spring and it’s really meaningful. I’m going to hear what the public has to say, what the industry has to say, what the various groups have to say and I’m going to be in there. I’m going to try to make this a better piece of legislation.” You have got a fighting chance to explain that to your constituents if you will accept this amendment. If you do not, you have no chance at all to explain that there is even the slightest hint of openness or of independence on the part of the committee.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to remind all members who will be debating of standing order 22(a), to address their remarks not only through the Speaker but to the Speaker, which means that you do not address other members directly as “you.”
Mr Reville: I think one of the difficulties is that the government motions that have been moved are extremely offensive. I think every member of the House should feel personally offended by these motions and I think that is probably why some of the parliamentary niceties are more difficult to observe on an occasion like this. I am going to try very hard to observe them.
We are all, in one of our personae, intensely partisan creatures. There would be no reason for us to be here if we did not have a world view, if we did not have some ideology. I know my friends in government say that they are a government without ideology, and they seem to be proud of that, but my friends to my left have an ideology; we have an ideology. That is one of the curious paradoxes of this place, that it is sometimes easier for New Democrats to get along with Tories, because at least Tories believe in something. It is not a view that we share, but they have a view. If they want to defend it, by God, we will defend their right to defend that.
I think, however, that as I try to calm the kind of shrieks of impotent rage I feel at this sort of thing and become a little less partisan and a little more small-p political, I want to say to the House that this kind of motion diminishes each and every member of the Legislature.
We have all been sent here because our constituents thought we could go and do some kind of a job representing them. The time at which the representation happens in this place in the most meaningful way is when the public is invited to come before a committee of the Legislature and share with that committee its views on a matter of important public policy.
My experience has been that each member who has been assigned to a committee wants to take some pride in the work that he or she will do on that committee and that he wants to feel that no matter what the line is of his particular party, he will in fact listen to the arguments that are put, and if somebody makes a particularly compelling argument, each and every member of that committee would want to feel as though he could listen to the compelling argument he has heard and perhaps take action on it.
What I think this kind of motion means is that the members of the Legislature, in spite of protestations that the ordinary member should have more power, will in fact have even less. In a sense, this is the hardest news for backbench members of the government, because it means that they will become mere spear carriers for their minister or for their premier. It makes me feel somewhat grateful, in that connection at any rate, that I am not a backbench member of the government, although of course it is the fondest wish of those of us in opposition that we will one day be a member of the government, and obviously we hope that that day will be sooner rather than later, but at least the members of the opposition will be able to express their disagreement in a more important way.
I think what this kind of motion says is that a committee will become a mere complaints department, that in fact the public will come and say what it has to say and the committee will be able to do absolutely nothing with those views. It is perhaps one of the most painful situations, in which the committee will be seen to have responsibility but will have no authority.
I have had the opportunity to serve on many of the standing committees. I have watched, for instance, my colleague the member for Scarborough West (Mr R. F. Johnston) when he was chair of the standing committee on social development and my colleague the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren), who is currently the chair of the standing committee on resources development, work very hard to ensure that members of the public were treated with respect and with dignity, and they worked hard to juggle the pressures of the agenda to make sure that members of the committee had a chance to ask questions and to in fact pose contrary views if that was the case.
I know from having talked to those particular members at length about this how much they value that part of the parliamentary process, the part where the public is invited and welcomed, apparently, to come and say, “We disagree with the policy of the government” or “We agree with the policy of the government” or “We would recommend these changes or that change.” We like to say, all of us, that public participation is what our view of democracy is about.
Yet what the government is suggesting is that, yes, we will go through this routine of inviting the public in, and regardless of what the public may have to say, regardless of what ministry officials may be ready to do or may not be ready to do, at some point we are going to pretend that the process is complete and we are going to send it back here, where in fact, as anyone knows, we put on this theatre, it is on television, but nothing really happens. I make a speech, someone else makes a speech, but movement is not going to happen in here.
The kind of “Roll up your sleeves, let’s try to figure out the best way to solve this problem, given that we have differing views of the world, given that we have competing ideologies, given that we are on different people’s sides,” those kinds of things often do get sorted out in a clause-by-clause process in a committee that is really trying to come to grips with the different approaches to problem-solving that there always are. But once it gets back into here, it becomes so ritualistic it becomes a kind of mating dance, and we know who the dominant partner in that dance is always going to be: It is going to be the one with the 94 votes. The search for an appropriate remedy will not be as good a search. The solution that is found will not be as complete a solution, because in fact it will edit out those competing views.
When this place works the best, and it has at various times over the years worked extraordinarily well, is when there is no fear of accepting an idea from some wild-eyed New Democrat if in fact that idea in the end will make public policy more fairly implemented or more completely implemented. We have seen occasions, in obviously less big-P political situations -- I mean, one of the dilemmas here, and I risk kind of slipping into a partisan mode here, is that basically the government has done two things in the last little while and it has now created an artificial situation to ensure that the two things it has done happen according to some kind of time line that it needs for its political purposes. As it happens, these happen to be two issues which are controversial and they are issues on which there are very starkly opposing points of view.
My hope is that the government will reconsider its approach to trying to time its agenda. I do not blame the government for trying to do that, but I think it would be a terrible shame if the government missed out on the benefit that the public process can achieve. I hope that has happened even as we speak.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I would like to briefly reaffirm the comments and support the comments made by the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke) and by my House leader.
I find this so-called closure motion a little too offensive, since we advertised that we will have public hearings and the purpose of the public hearings is to hopefully seek input from the public. We have even allocated time for the committee to travel, and it travels around the province encouraging people to come and make presentations on what they think of Bill 68 and the impact; yet we tell the committee that regardless of what it hears, if for some reason the committee fails to report the bill, it does not really matter because it is deemed to be passed by the committee, reported to the House and adopted.
What really is the purpose of the hearings? Why encourage people to make presentations when there is a very strong possibility that it will not make one iota of a difference?
Why do we need the time allocation? Why can the bill not simply come back to the House on 19 March and at that point in time then take the appropriate action, but if the committee has some reason -- God knows, maybe the Liberal members on the committee will feel that it is not time to report. Maybe the chairman will not be around. Maybe he will abscond to Africa or someplace. We never know what will happen in the future. Why prejudge it? What is the urgency?
Now the government House leader has indicated that if it is not reported back by that time, if it is not passed, then we are responsible for a 30 per cent increase in insurance rates. That is pretty close to a threat. I think that possibly the House leader has overreacted in his eagerness to have us leave the chamber today.
I would strongly support the amendment that has been placed before the House. Hopefully the government can give consideration to the fact that we do not need a closure of this type.
M. R. F. Johnston : J’aimerais dire quelque chose concernant ce problème. I think it is important from time to time for members to refer back to Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice when we start to look at changes and the evolution of our system.
Over the last number of years I think we have seen a lot of proposals put forward by the executive councils of this administration and of the preceding administration to make the Legislature more efficient, if I can put it that way, in the executive council’s view of things. In so doing, I think we have had a bit of a curtailment of the rights of the minorities, something which, as a legislator of some time here now, really concerns me, because we can never look at what goes on here just at the moment but rather in terms of what this institution is and what the democratic principles of that institution are.
When I see this historical development of closure and time allocation from the days of the Corn Laws in England, the problems around Parnell and the Irish question and look today to see where we are at now, it was brought in first of all as a matter of national crisis for a government where there was the probability of a major Irish rebellion. That was the first time closure was ever brought in. These days it comes in like this, without notice; it is dropped on us overnight with a whole new concept of deeming brought in, which we have seen now mostly in this last year and a half.
I just say to members that this is a very dangerous road to go down. The evolution in our parliamentary democracy should be slow and considered. It should not be precipitous and only meeting the needs of the executive council.
What I want to do is remind members that Erskine May deals with this at some length concerning the rights of standing committees and what is expected of them. I refer members to pages 678 through 681 of Erskine May. Essentially, it says the following:
“It is the duty of a standing committee, as of all committees, to give the matters referred to it due and sufficient consideration. The chairman of a standing committee will not therefore normally accept motions in pursuance of which the committee would conclude its deliberations before it has gone through the bill committed to it.’’
It has a similar position for select committees as well.
What it does say is that there are provisions for time allocation, but they are brought in by the committee itself and by the mover of the bill, generally speaking, usually at the stage where it is believed “that the committee do not proceed” or cannot proceed further “with the bill.”
Instead, this is a pre-emptory strike. This is a presumption that a bill will meet that kind of impasse and, in advance of ever going to a standing committee, which has the right to order its own business and the right to decide whether or not it wishes to bring in its own form of time allocation or closure, that the executive council will foist that on to the committee itself. That is a very dangerous concept.
When it comes to the section on allocation-of-time orders, Erskine May also talks about this going through a procedure where the committee gets a chance to look at that time allocation to decide what it thinks about it, how it goes through the subcommittee process and then the committee itself makes some decisions on it.
I suggest to members that is a far better way of going. It respects the committee process much more fundamentally than does a deeming by the executive council of what the timetable and outcomes of a committee will be, and that is where we should be putting the onus, especially -- and I do not want to be too cynical -- when one realizes what a massive majority the Liberal government has in the committees if it really wished to bring in closure at the appropriate time.
Just recently in this House I raised questions where the bureaucracy ignored the results of a standing committee. It presumed that a Catholic would want to give his money necessarily to support the Catholic separate school system, which is not necessarily the case constitutionally. Although a change had been made in the standing committee, the bureaucracy and the government were going ahead with information that was incorrect and that was all based on second reading.
I see this deeming motion as being a way of actually ensuring that a government never has to listen to the standing committee, and if it wished to, with its majority, it could make sure that the committee never would come to a resolution; therefore, the deeming process would have to go through and the bill, as it was reported at second reading, would be the obvious outcome. That fundamentally then takes away the powers of the standing committee and its own viability in terms of operating as a major organ of this House.
I think there is some agreement being achieved between the House leaders on this point and that the deeming will not be brought forward, but I just say to members that there is the danger of looking at democracy and democratic institutions like this with an efficiency model rather than a democratic-procedure-and-rights model in mind. The more we swing into the presumption that the needs of the executive council are what this place must serve fundamentally, and not the needs of representation and the people as a whole, the greater the danger is to our democracy.
Mr Velshi: I listened carefully and I would like to just comment on some of the things I have heard this morning.
The member for Windsor-Riverside started by saying this is a closure motion. When we met in committee, and I am on this committee, the impression I got was that this was an arrangement made between the three House leaders, that we would be meeting for five weeks, that we would travel for no more than six days and that we would be going to four centres other than Metropolitan Toronto. That was the understanding between all members of all the parties that were sitting together at that meeting.
So when I listened to the member for Windsor-Riverside, I started wondering to myself, “Has my House leader changed the ground rules somewhere between then and now?” Then I heard the member for Nipissing (Mr Harris) stand up and state that what has been done by my House leader is just that the verbal agreement reached between the three House leaders has now been put in writing. I think the member for Nipissing mentioned that he takes offence by the fact that he has not been trusted and that what was discussed verbally between the three House leaders is now being put in writing.
We are looking at two different questions here: Is it a closure, or is this something that the three House leaders have agreed the committee would meet for five weeks and report back on? To me that is the crux of the matter. This particular resolution, or whatever it is, is not going to change what my committee is going to be doing. We are still going to proceed as planned; it is not going to make any change for us. One member suggested that when we start discussing this matter in the House it is some sort of a ritualistic dance because we are in the majority, but I must state that we are also in the majority in committee. So where do we talk?
If this is not being put in writing and if this is being objected to by the two opposition parties, then I must question the reason for their objection. Is it that they do not want to abide by the original agreement reached between the three House leaders and that they want access to the position that they may want to extend the committee meetings? If that is the case, then I think it is a job for the three House leaders to sit again and discuss and then not leave it until the committee stage for us, as members of the committee, to decide that.
All of us have agreed that we will do what is necessary in five weeks. We have decided when we will report back to the committee. We have decided on when to report back to the House here. I am just wondering what games the opposition is up to right now in terms of objecting to what already has been agreed upon by the three House leaders.
If my House leader now wants to make any change in the wording of this particular resolution, I will go along with that, but I must say that the intent of this is strictly what was decided upon by the three House leaders in the first instance and there is no game being played; there is no charade. As members of the Liberal Party on that committee, we are quite serious about what we are planning to do, and I think it is wrong for the opposition members to say we are part of a game that is being played. If this was decided by the three House leaders, whatever happens lies squarely at their feet; it is their responsibility and has nothing to do with any charade that they think is going on.
Mr Mackenzie: This is one of the occasions when I really wish I had the education to put into words my feelings about my reaction when I read this first thing this morning. I can say honestly that I have some difficulty in controlling --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Only the member for Hamilton East has the floor.
Mr Mackenzie: I have some real difficulty in controlling what amounts literally to rage in this House. I want to make a couple of arguments and will try to do them in a calm and collected way, but I want to read once again the motion to the members of this House. It does not matter which of the two bills we use. Obviously the one that is my main concern is Bill 208.
The Deputy Speaker: Excuse me a second. Order, please, member for Nipissing. There are many private conversations. The Speaker would like to listen to the member for Hamilton East, who is the only one who has the floor.
Mr Mackenzie: If I can read the motion once again; I will take the second one, but it does not really matter which one we use, the one from the standing committee on resources development or from the standing committee on general government, “to conduct public hearings on clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 208, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act for a maximum of six weeks; that the bill be reported to the House on March 19, 1990; and that in the event that the committee fails to report the said bill on the date specified, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to the House and the report shall be deemed to be received and adopted by the House.”
It does not take a university education to understand what the government was doing. Maybe they did not understand what they were doing; I hope that is the case. But if they did understand what they were doing, they were posing one of the biggest threats I have ever seen to what we call our democratic process in this province, and I was offended and enraged.
Surely the members of this House understand that when we have bills as controversial as some of the bills we are dealing with in committee and in this break, they have a clear, absolute majority on those committees; they can move closure at any time they want, if that is the route they are going to go.
But when we have a bill as important as Bill 208 -- and I was not going to get into it, but incidentally, a bill that deals with the health and safety of workers in this province, where this year now we are running at a record rate of 339 death claims in the workplace; and 227 workplace injuries every singe hour -- surely to goodness they understand that by passing this kind of motion in this House and then sending this bill out for hearings around this province, what they are clearly saying to all of the submitters -- they are saying it to their own backbenchers, but it obviously does not matter if they have their marching orders -- is that it does not mean a damn what kind of arguments are made before that committee.
Let me tell members that as it stands, if this motion ever got to the people who were making the submissions, I can say right now that the immediate response would be, “Why in blazes is the Legislature of Ontario going through this absolute con game of holding hearings when it has decided what it is going to do in advance and when we have deemed exactly what we are going to do, regardless of what kinds of arguments, good or bad, are made by the submitters?”
It is almost unbelievable that we would have seen this kind of motion before this House. I hope the people of Ontario clearly understand that if this kind of action is what this government means, we are moving from not just a large and obviously very arrogant majority in this province but to the kind of absolute disdain for the process that marks a tinpot dictator, a Romanian Ceausescu or some of the drug lords. I am not kidding. I could not believe what I read this morning. I myself feared sending this kind of message out to my own colleagues in the trade union movement. The reaction would have been immediate; it would have been disbelief; it would have been uproar.
Who is calling the shots in this government that we get this kind of motion on the floor of this House when it is obvious the government already has the majority and it can do it any time? Forgive me for saying it, but at least let us go through the charade, if that is what it is, of the hearings; let’s not say that they do not matter before we even start. Surely to goodness this cannot be allowed to happen in this House.
Is this what we warned about as we started getting more and more closure measures in Ontario, which has been the pattern over the past few years and strangely enough, in most cases, from huge majority governments? Is this what we are to expect, to see this kind of absolute disdain for any input from the people of the province?
Change it drastically. I think it needs more than just moving out the deeming in this particular recommendation. I ask the government members to understand clearly that they may have their marching orders, but if they did have a semblance of independence and wanted to do something at some of these hearings or even to accept some of the arguments that may be made by some of the submitters, they have gutted themselves as well as gutting the opposition in this Ontario Legislature.
I do hope we are seeing some major changes. This, I think, was unconscionable, and I hope the people of Ontario also will take a look at the little episode that has taken place here this morning in this chamber.
Hon Mr Ward: Under questions and comments. I guess --
The Deputy Speaker: There are no questions and comments.
Hon Mr Ward: There are not? If I may speak to the remarks that were just made by my friend the member for Hamilton East (Mr Mackenzie) --
The Deputy Speaker: The problem is, you have already spoken, and there are no questions and comments.
Hon Mr Ward: Okay, I tried.
Motion agreed to.
The Deputy Speaker: Mr Laughren moves that the motion as amended be further amended as follows:
“That the reference to the standing committee on resources development on Bill 208 be amended by deleting all the words after the word ‘House’ in the fourth line and inserting thereto ‘on 26 March 1990.’”
Mr Laughren: It is with some reluctance that I even move this motion, and I do it because I see it as the only possible compromise to save any kind of dignity for the committee system in this place.
It is completely and absolutely unacceptable to say to a group of legislators: “You are members of a committee and you are going to hear public hearings. When those public hearings have been concluded within a time frame agreed to, whatever you have been talking about will be deemed to have been completed and sent back into this assembly.” I understand that when it comes back into the assembly it can go into committee of the whole House. That surely is not the point.
Let me be very specific in this example. The resources development committee, of which I am chair, had agreed that we would hold five weeks of public hearings and have one week -- four days basically -- of clause-by-clause debate by members of the committee. During those four or five days of clause-by-clause debate it was our hope that, having listened to the presentations all across this province for five weeks, there would be some amendments we might want to make.
However, at the end of that four or five days we not have completed the clause-by-clause; as most members know, we are talking about a bill that rewrites the health and safety legislation in this province, so it would be quite optimistic to assume that at the end of four or five days we would have completed our deliberations on the clause-by-clause debate. There was a real hope that if we did not finish in four or five days, then with the assembly coming back for the spring session on 19 March, we could continue the debate in our regular meetings in the afternoons when the House was in session. I think that was the best solution.
There was absolutely no indication from anybody, certainly in the opposition, that there was going to be any kind of filibuster on this debate. I think this demeans the committee process by saying: “You must not do that. You must send it back to this chamber.” I think that is truly offensive and unnecessary. I think it was downright foolish to do.
Let me give an example of another time when the resources committee debated the subject of mining health and safety. There was a real concern about the number of deaths in the mining industry.
The resources committee was given the responsibility of examining the problem of health and safety in the mines all across the province and presenting a report to this assembly. We did that. When we came to make our recommendations, I can tell the House that -- and I do not fear contradiction from government members here either -- the committee sat down and hammered out a series of recommendations. As I recall, there were about 50 recommendations in that report.
We worked extremely hard as a committee. Everybody in that committee made compromises, and we came up with a report that was unanimous. If members think that is easy to do on a matter of health and safety in our mines then they do not understand the nature of this place. The committee worked extremely hard and we came up with what I think was a good report.
If the House leader and the rest of the cabinet decide they cannot trust the committee system to do what is best, then I think they are saying something pretty profound about the committee system, and I really find that very offensive.
I do not want to assume that other people have the same values as I have, but there are many of us in this assembly who get our satisfaction in this place from the committee system. If you come into this place in question period, you see the high rollers at work. You see the two opposition leaders, the Premier (Mr Peterson) and the cabinet, and that is their platform. Other members of this assembly are more like props during question period.
It is in the committees that the real work goes on about changing legislation and about hearing from the public. If you take that away from the committee system you are taking a great deal away from ordinary members of this assembly, the ordinary backbenchers in this place. If I was a government backbencher, I would be even more offended than I am now as an opposition member.
I was hoping that a government member would stand in his or her place and defend this process. I know that is difficult here, but that is another indication of why the committee system can do things that this assembly cannot do. In committee, it is not at all unusual to have government members expressing a view that is in opposition to what official government policy is.
For example, if we are debating a clause, such as in Bill 208, it would not be at all unusual to have a government member say, “I don’t like that particular clause, and I think we could amend it in such and such a way.” That means, of course, there is at least an element of independence in the committee system.
There is no element of independence in this assembly. Once again, if the government House leader presumes what the committee is going to do by automatically referring a subject matter back to this assembly, he is demeaning the committee system in this place, and I regret that very much. If I was a government member, I would be most angry about what the government House leader has done to them.
Another point is, why was this motion not presented to the committee for debate of the committee? Why in the name of heaven is this laid upon this assembly this morning to be debated this morning? The government House leader should tell me why this motion, even if it was drafted in this form, could not have been presented to the resources development committee when we have been meeting in the last number of weeks. I do not know why, and I can see that other members on the government side do not know why either.
Why could this not have been presented to the resources committee so that we could debate it? Perhaps we could have saved some of the agony of this morning if the resources committee, among ourselves, had been able to say to the government House leader, “This is unacceptable,” because I believe this is unacceptable to government members as well. Whether they stand in their place this morning and say so, I do not know. I do not really care, to tell members the truth, but I tell them it is fundamentally wrong.
At least I have moved an amendment that says that nothing is deemed to have been done, that we will deal with this in five weeks of public hearings, at which point it will be referred back to this assembly on 26 March -- not 19 March but 26 March.
I must say that, given the nature of this bill, we know there is going to be a lot of interest in it as we travel the province. What the government House leader is asking the committee to do, in the dead of winter, if I might put it that way, is travel throughout the entire province, including more exotic locales such as Dryden, Fort Frances, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie and Timmins, holding hearings.
Now if we are going to hold hearings in all of these places and hear representations, some people will be for the bill and some people will be against the bill. Surely to goodness we want to feel as committee members that when we are listening to those people it is actually sinking in and that we are not just there sitting in front of a presenter and pretending to listen, that we are absorbing it and we have full intentions of listening in a way that could lead to amendments to the bill.
It is terribly important that we feel this ourselves and that the people who are making presentations have the confidence that they are not just going through the motions. Nothing will undermine the public participation process more than if people have a sense that it is all a charade and that we are really not out there to do anything but use up some time, to give it a pretence of public participation. That really is offensive to people out there and to us as members.
I think most of us have better things to do with our time than play a game of charades during recesses of this assembly. Most members work very hard on the committee system and anything that takes away from the legitimacy of that work surely should be resisted mightily by those of us in this assembly.
I do not want to go on at length. I simply conclude by saying that I think this motion is regrettable and was unnecessary. If the government does not have the confidence in the political system and in the committee system in particular, then stand in your place and say so and do everything in this assembly, because that is what the government is asking us to do. It is asking us to go through the motions of holding hearings and then come back here and let the assembly decide what amendments should be put, and that is fundamentally wrong if it wants the committee system to work in this province. If the government takes away the committee system, what does it do to public participation and public hearings on controversial legislation?
I think the government has made a mistake. I understand my amendment will be accepted -- I am pleased by that -- but I can tell the government that I do not move this amendment with any sense of victory or of accomplishment even. As a matter of fact, it is with great reluctance that I even accept this kind of compromise because it really does compromise the political system and the committee system, and it takes away from what most of us try to do when we go out across the province and listen to presentations by people who care very much about the presentations they are making.
Those of us who have sat on hearings all across the province know that people put a lot of work into those presentations. They care very much about what they are saying and what they are doing, and if they get the sense that it is just a charade and that we are there to listen and then toss it back in the laps of the majority here in the assembly, then I think that is a sad change in the way we will be perceived in Ontario.
I have moved the amendment because I think that it removes the deeming process, makes it somewhat less offensive than the original motion and also gives the committee an extra week to deal with clause-by-clause.
Mr Harris: I will not be too long on this one because we are dealing with a similar amendment to the one I spoke to on the amendment we just passed on the standing committee on general government. It will not surprise the House then that I would take exception, particularly on behalf of all members of the committee and, indeed, for the precedent of deeming provisions in the motion that we are going to delete, to deeming that things have been passed.
As we have had discussions as House leaders I, in fairness, believe that the drafting of the crafty House leader’s staff was perhaps tighter than even the House leader intended. It is, indeed, their job to close as many loopholes as possible, as they see them, and tie down the time lines as much as possible. I suggest in their drafting they did that all right. In effect, they closed out debate not just in the committee, by the way, but saying “deemed to be received and adopted by the House” means that, regardless of what comes back from the committee, there is no debate, it is deemed to have been accepted. We cannot even debate it back in the Legislature, which is far in excess of the power that any government in this country. I think, provincially or federally, has ever asked for in advance.
Many times closure is brought in, many times they say, “Enough is enough, we’re going to close you out,” but to preclose you out in the committee and then to prejudge and close out any debate in the House -- and in fact, as House leaders, we discussed this in looking for a more acceptable compromise to meet the intent of what the government was saying, in effect the setting of precedence whereby the government was going to accept whatever came in, was going to accept that report regardless of what was in it.
I think there is an awareness that that was a very dangerous precedent as well for the government and for the ministers of the crown and for the Premier, because what they were saying is, “If perchance we can’t control the majority on the committee at some particular point in time, we’re already saying we’re going to accept that too.” I agree that is unlikely, given the performance that I have seen over this period of time.
We will support the amendment, obviously, and I think there is a consensus that the amendment makes it a better referral motion. The 26th will provide for a more logical time frame when we come back, and I want the House to understand that, even after the amendment, in effect the government is closing the committee out. They are saying, “You are going to report on the 26th whether you’re ready to or not and you’re going to report the bill; you’re not going to deal with the bill any more.”
We object to that and are not in favour of that. However, we do not find that nearly as offensive as that in addition to that we have deemed it to be passed and we have deemed it to be debated and we have deemed it to be accepted all the way along the line.
To avoid repeating any arguments I made in the last little debate on the motion on the standing committee on general government, I will conclude my remarks there.
Miss Martel: I will not speak long on this particular issue, but there are some things that I want to say because I am particularly incensed by what has happened here this morning and I think all members of this assembly, regardless on what side of the House they sit, should be too, especially if they take any pride in the work that they do on the various committees in this House. It is not often, because of the numbers, for Liberal members in particular to make an impact on this place outside of the committee system, but what has happened here today by the two government motions that were moved in terms of the auto insurance bill and in terms of Bill 208 has really undercut especially the work Liberal members will do on committee. If the members do not see that, then there is something dramatically wrong here.
Let me go back and give two reasons why I am particularly unhappy with what has happened. If I go back to the original motion, which of course said halfway down that the bill must be reported to the House on a particular date and that in the event the committee fails to report the said bill on the date specified, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee -- meaning, in fact, that anything that has been done will have been deemed to be passed and we will prejudge what work the committee will do, prejudge any amendments, prejudge anything that has gone on from the hearings and the consequences and the results and the changes that should have come out of the hearings -- if I look at that, I really have to consider that the government is being extremely hypocritical when I go back and look at some of the things that happened around Bill 162 and some of the things that were said about the so-called importance of committees at that point in time.
I remember clearly when we came back last October and we started in the first week to call for public hearings on Bill 162, the former Minister of Labour sat in his place and day after day after day said the committees will decide; the committees will decide if there will be public hearings; the standing committee on resources development will decide when, where, how long and where we will sit, and on and on and on about how important the committees were and how those individual members, the 10 of them, would have the right to negotiate, compromise and come up with some kind of decision because their work was important, committees were important and people on those committees should have those kinds of rights.
I remember during the course of the public hearings themselves even the Liberal members telling presenters not to worry, their views would be taken into account, when we came back to this place and started the clause-by-clause and went through it their concerns would be heard and we would make the changes to make the bill better.
There was no discussion about how that debate was going to be limited or how the government House leader was going to prejudge what the committee would do, but in fact the Liberal members tried to assure all of those presenters that their views would be taken into account, we would respect what they had to say, the time they took to say it and the effort they made to come and say it and we would make some kind of changes to accommodate their concerns and make the bill better.
What has happened today with the motion moved by the government House leader is to undercut that whole process and to say to committees and to say to the public: “We don’t give a damn what you say when you come to public hearings, we’re going to decide how the bill is going to look. It’s going to come back into this place at a particular time, and as committee members, muzzle yourselves, because you’re not going to have the chance to respond to the concerns you heard, you’re not going to have any chance to make the changes. We’ll come and we’ll do it in the House, and all those committee members who spent time on the road travelling, listening to people, dealing with them, well, their views and their opinions are for naught because it’s going to be decided in this place, in this assembly, and never mind the kind of work you do as members and never mind what your input and participation should be.”
It is the hypocrisy that I see here today that offends me, as an honourable member of this House and an honourable member of committee in this House as well.
The second thing that really disturbs me today is the view of the committee process itself as described in this particular motion, in the kind of motion we are seeing.
Most of us come here and feel that we can probably make a greater impact in committee, because if we are not the leader or the House leader or people who are up every day in question period, then where we think we are going to make some of our impact is in the committee system itself.
What I see here is a fundamental change in the view of the importance of committee, and I do not care if there is a precedent and it has been done on Bill 47 or Bill 147 or whatever, it was wrong then and it is wrong now. We should never be moving in this House to cut the legs out from under committee members by saying: “We don’t care where you are in the process. By 19 March or by 26 March, that bill is coming in here. We don’t care where you are in committee, we don’t care what other changes you’d like to make, we don’t care what you have to say, it’s coming back in here whether you like it or not.”
I am offended by that. I think that is a disgrace. I think if Liberal members sat down and thought seriously about it, they should feel like they have been taken to the cleaners too, because basically, what all of you have been told is that your input is for nothing. The government House leader says: “We want this bill back in this House by a particular date. You people shut it down. Keep your mouths closed. Get it through and get it in here.”
I, for one, came here thinking that I had a contribution to make on behalf of the people I represent and I resent being told when it is going to be shut down and how it is going to be, and I think Liberal members in the back bench should feel that same way.
There are two things that really bother me in terms of the motion: the deeming process that I talked about earlier, that it will come back here, we are going to prejudge what the committee has to say and it is going to come back here and we are going to deal with as a whole, regardless of what the committee members want to do with it or want to say about it; and second, the timing.
As I said earlier, it may have been done before. It was wrong then. It was wrong to set that precedent and it is wrong to continue with that precedent now. We should never be moving to shut down committee members in that kind of way, and I find it even unacceptable for me to accept the date of the 26th, because I still think what it does is tell honourable members: “We don’t care where you are or what you have to say or what you want to contribute. The fact of the matter is the government House leader and a few other people want it in here and that’s the way it’s going to be. If you don’t like it, too bad.”
I think that is a total undermining of the committee process. If people do not understand that, I am not sure what is wrong, because we might as well just say: “Never mind committees, never mind public hearings, never mind public input. We’ll come in here and we’ll debate everything and every piece of legislation day after day after day in here as members. We will not allow for public input and we will not allow for change and we will do it here.” You might as well take the committee system and scrap it, because by those two motions that is exactly what you do.
Finally, I am concerned about the timing of the motion. I find it interesting that the committees never saw this before, and what chance they would have had to deal with it, given that there are six Liberal members on it in a majority. We can all appreciate it would have gone through in there too, but at least some of us may have seen it before it appeared on Orders and Notices today.
I find the timing a little bit more than coincidental that here we are trying to finish in a spirit of some kind of co-operation and these two things hit the fan today and we are expected to say: “Well, it’s too bad. We would all like to get out of here and we’ll accept it.”
I am not happy with the amendment that has been put forward by my colleague. I do not accept it. My House leader knows that and I said that to him, because I think it is a terrible precedent that has been set already. We should not be continuing with it, and anyone who cares anything about the committee process in here should not find it acceptable either.
Hon Mr Ward: I think the honourable member may get to have closing remarks if it is his amendment.
I just want to indicate to the members of the House that in the spirit of co-operation spoken about by my colleague the member for Sudbury East, the government will be supporting the amendment, but I do want to speak very specifically to some of the points that the member tried to make and I think some points that were reinforced by the House leader from the third party.
All of us here have spent a lot of time over the years in committee. Looking around the Legislature, I see many members who work very hard and diligently on not only government bills but on other issues within committee and I just want to point out that there is one thing in the original motion that I think is fundamental and is being overlooked by members of the opposition. It is that the report of the committee shall be deemed to be received and adopted by the House.
I think my colleague the third-party House leader pointed out in his remarks that it basically gives an unbridled authority to the committee in that it says that what the committee decides will be accepted and adopted by the House. That provision is being deleted because, as I said in my opening remarks, I had one intent and one intent only, and that is that on these two very important bills they be put out for committee, for hearings and consultation during the recess.
On 19 March, this Legislature reconvenes. Without question, those are two very important pieces of legislation and they will be dealt with in this House by all members of this House, but I totally reject the argument that there is anything in the original motion that undercuts the authority of the committee. It merely says: “You have the recess to deal with these issues. At the conclusion of the recess, they will dealt with in the House by all members of the House.”
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): Before I proceed, I will look for direction to the House leaders to ensure that we have a proper understanding of the process that is taking place. If I am incorrect, please speak up to make sure that we all have an understanding. Speaking to Mr Laughren’s amendment to the motion, is it agreed it be carried?
Motion agreed to.
Mr Allen: Speaking to the motion with respect to the establishment of the select committee on constitutional and intergovernmental affairs, I want to say first of all that our party indeed supports the establishment of this committee, but I want to ask a question, which is, where is the motion that was inherent in the select committee’s initial report which was adopted by this House concerning the Meech Lake accord and the companion resolutions that were part and parcel of that report?
Members will remember that in accepting it, this House also accepted a motion and a recommendation of that committee that a standing committee of constitutional and intergovernmental affairs be established in light of the obvious likelihood that there was going to be a whole series of constitutional issues rising in the subsequent months and years, of which the Meech Lake debate was only part, and which would lead us on to a succession of highly important matters that related to the Constitution of this nation.
The first item that was to be addressed, of course, under the Meech Lake accord was the matter of the Senate. But we all knew that the question of aboriginal affairs and native self-government was highly central in the mind of the nation among many organizations and groups, not least of all the native peoples themselves, and that we were going to have to address that question.
We knew there were urgent concerns in the community at large and in particular among the multicultural community ethnic third nation, if you like, within our country, the third-language people, the heritage-language groups, that their place in the Constitution be recognized. There was a sense that in focusing continually on English, French and even English-French native issues, somehow a whole reality of Canada was being ignored and that we were going to have to address, as a Legislature and as a committee, the very complex and difficult questions that arose out of those constitutional issues that were on the horizon.
If I might add, there has been some loss inasmuch as that standing committee was not appointed and is not even now being appointed, because we have seen a debate proceed in public with respect to the Meech Lake accord in which numerous matters that were addressed by the committee have been, from my perspective and from our party’s perspective, fundamentally misunderstood. Those misunderstandings pervade through a public media that did not always understand the intricacies and complexities of some of the constitutional questions involved.
A standing committee would have been in a position to assist the government in responding adequately to those issues. Because if there has been one problem that has afflicted the debate around the Meech Lake accord, it has been that those who officially were its proponents -- in the first instance, the federal government and in the second instance, the signing parties, the other provinces -- let the whole issue proceed as though the elements of that accord did not need any further explanation or any further public defence or debate. In the course of that, a public attitude was generated which certainly has developed into a different kind of posture vis-à-vis that accord than this Legislature endorsed when it accepted the findings of the past select committee.
I regret that a standing committee was not put in place, but I might say better late than never and better a select committee than none. Certainly it is important that this House now grapple with the emerging issues that arise out of the public debate around the Constitution. We know that in the impasse one of the elements that may be of some significance in securing a break in the logjam would be the fact that the provinces that are signatories to the accord and the federal government as signatory to the accord moved to address the concerns that have arisen around the problem of the Senate and further constitutional reform on that subject.
I simply want to say at this point that our party has had an historic position with regard to the Senate, namely, that we think we can get along pretty well without it. This province appears to have no need of a second chamber. We have seen a second chamber that has been historically and remarkably irrelevant to the national process of public debate, with a few minor exceptions.
Our sense is that the concept of a triple E Senate is certainly one that we would not want to endorse. To have two national constitutional bodies that are equally elected by the same electorates, equally effective and equally powerful at the national level, is a sure formula, from our point of view and from my point of view, for a national stalemate. But at the same time, we recognize that some provinces, in particular Newfoundland and others, have got a significant stake in getting into that debate and seeing if there is not some important progress that can be made nationally on it. We are certainly willing to engage in that debate and to look at it, which will be of course the first business of this committee.
May I say in conclusion, because I do not want to take the time, which is passing very quickly, in which we have to deal with a number of matters prior to rising at noon, that our party certainly supports the creation of the committee and looks forward to its work in the subsequent months.
Mr Eves: It is a pleasure, I think, to rise and speak to this motion this morning. I am speaking in favour of the motion to create the select committee on constitutional and intergovernmental affairs. However, I would point out that I, as my colleague has indicated, had the privilege of sitting on the select committee on constitutional reform, which reported back to this House in June 1988.
One of the recommendations we made at that time was that a standing committee on constitutional and intergovernmental affairs be created. We made that recommendation for several reasons, the most basic being that everybody on the committee, regardless of political stripe, was in agreement that the process we had seen with the Meech Lake accord, so-called, was not one that we were happy with or pleased with.
We would hope that the province of Ontario would take the lead, as it often has throughout our nation’s history, in leading the way with respect to a select committee that would listen to the people and listen to the concerns of the people, as indeed we did about the Meech Lake accord, for further constitutional changes.
There were some other recommendations that were made by that committee as well. There was also a minority opinion, which my colleague the member for Nipissing (Mr Harris) and I put forward. One of the concerns that we had at that time was the very reality that we are dealing with now with respect to acceptance of the Meech Lake accord by all the provinces in Canada.
We pointed out several areas of major concern that we felt at that time could be best dealt with by some sort of parallel accord or some sort of a procedure by which those concerns could be dealt with at the same time that the Meech Lake accord was ratified. It would appear that is the path that Canada is eventually going to go down now anyway if there is any hope that the Meech Lake accord in any form is going to be adopted by June 1990.
It is unfortunate that we have wasted a great deal of time when we could have come to that conclusion. In fact, some of us did as early as June 1988. I think that this committee will serve a useful purpose, although I note by the wording of the motion itself that we are more concerned about consultation on Senate reform than we are about the Meech Lake accord.
I would have preferred that the committee would have had some very real input by this time, before this time, over the course of the past year or more, with respect to trying to do Ontario’s bit to try to solve the roadblocks with respect to the existing Meech Lake accord and the concerns expressed by several provincial premiers about that.
I do not for a moment, of course, take away from the first minister of this province’s duties and obligations with respect to constitutional reform, but I really thought that we had reached a consensus that was unanimously agreed to by every member of that committee, that we as legislators should have some very real input into constitutional reform in the future.
We could have started that procedure in July 1988, and had we done so, I think we might be a lot closer to consensus with respect to ratification of the Meech Lake accord in some form, perhaps with a parallel accord addressing the concerns that have been expressed by those provincial premiers. So although I am in favour of the motion, I am somewhat saddened by the fact that it does not cover everything that I think it should have covered, namely, dealing with the Meech Lake accord first and going on to Senate reform later.
Having said that, I say to the member for Niagara Falls (Mr Kerrio), I look forward to serving on this committee. I think it is indeed a very important one and I think I will find the work very interesting and hopefully rewarding.
Hon Mr Ward: Just very briefly, I very much appreciated the interventions of the member for Hamilton West (Mr Allen) and the member for Parry Sound (Mr Eves).
The member for Parry Sound made some references to the concerns that we all share relative to the Meech Lake accord and the tremendous work that has gone on, I believe, by all the premiers of the provinces in this country to bring about a national reconciliation on constitutional issues. The one point I would make is that, frankly, I do not think any province in this country or any Premier in this country has worked harder to achieve the kind of consensus that is necessary for that national reconciliation over constitutional matters.
The matter being referred to the select committee is a matter that is tentatively scheduled for discussion on 1 November 1990. All of us will recall some of the concerns about the ability of legislators and other Canadians to have input in those very difficult and sensitive negotiations that are necessary on these matters. I think this province is showing tremendous leadership in creating a mechanism by which there can be some input and some consideration by the people of this province at large, in advance of those very important meetings.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Ward moved that with the agreement of the House leaders and the whips of each party, committees may meet during the winter adjournment at times other than those specified in the schedule tabled today with the Clerk of the assembly to consider matters referred to them by the House or to consider matters designated pursuant to standing order 123.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Ward moved that committees be authorized to release their reports during the winter adjournment by depositing a copy of any report with the Clerk of the assembly, and upon the resumption of the meetings of the House, the chairs of such committees shall bring any such reports before the House in accordance with the standing orders.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Ward moved that the following substitutions be made to the membership of committees:
Select committee on education: Mrs Marland for Mr Villeneuve.
Special committee on the parliamentary precinct: Mr Villeneuve for Mr Sterling.
Standing committee on estimates: Mr Cousens for Mr Eves.
Standing committee on finance and economic affairs: Mr McLean for Mr Runciman.
Standing committee on general government, Mr Runciman for Mr McLean; Mr Wiseman for Mr Cureatz.
Standing committee on government agencies: Mr Sterling for Mrs Marland.
Standing committee on the Legislative Assembly: Mr Cureatz for Mr Sterling.
Standing committee on public accounts: Mr Harris for Mr Villeneuve.
Standing committee on resources development: Mr Harris for Mr Wiseman.
Motion agreed to.
The House recessed at 1144.
The House resumed at 1330.
The Speaker: Just before I call the first order under routine proceedings, I would like to remind the members that on Monday of this week the honourable member for Scarborough West brought to the attention of the House what he perceived to be a question of privilege affecting the Legislature as a whole.
He maintained that disrespect had been shown this chamber by public servants acting in a way that disregarded amendments made to a bill before it became law; that is to say, the public servants had prepared their action on the basis of the original bill and not on the basis of its amended form. Furthermore, the member objected to the fact that public servants were acting upon legislation before it had passed all the steps in the legislative process.
I have studied the representations made to me in the House on Monday, and after having considered them carefully, I must come to the conclusion that what we are dealing with here is an administrative error and not a contempt for this chamber. It is perfectly valid for the public service to proceed with plans based on a bill that is already in the system in order to be able to act swiftly once the bill becomes law. It goes without saying that if the bill is amended during the legislative process, then the public service must take note and act accordingly.
In the case before us, I am satisfied that the public service has indeed now taken note of the amendment that concerns us and has corrected any administrative error that might have flowed from this oversight. Therefore, I cannot find a prima facie case of privilege, as there seems to be no evidence of contempt. However, I do thank the member for bringing this to my attention.
Mrs Grier: Every year, the Ministry of the Environment issues a report on how the industries of the province that discharge their waste water into the province’s waterways are complying with the rules of the Ministry of the Environment. This report is awaited with interest because it provides a factual yardstick against which the performance of this government, as opposed to its public relations, can be measured.
In 1987, the report came out on 26 October; in 1988, on 16 November. Earlier this year, during discussion of the estimates of the Ministry of the Environment, I asked when we might expect the report and was told, “Any day.”
Today in the Toronto Star, we find a report that says that according to this awaited report on industrial dischargers, in 1988 only 122 of 168 industries had waste water that was under the province’s annual average pollution limits, and just 77 were able to meet the government’s requirements in monthly tests, while 91 exceeded the limits at least once.
We, of course, asked the minister’s office for a copy of the report, and guess what, Mr Speaker -- it is not available today. It is going to be available tomorrow, and tomorrow it is not anticipated that there will be a question period or a meeting of this House. So we are not going to be in a position to hold the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) accountable for this very important action. Contrast that with the announcement last week by the Premier (Mr Peterson) that Ontario’s fresh lakes were going to be a tourist area. Fresh they may be, but polluted.
Mr Villeneuve: On 9 November this year, my colleague the member for Hastings-Peterborough (Mr Pollock) met with the Minister of Natural Resources (Mrs McLeod) and others who were concerned about the infestation of the zebra mussel. I was to learn, following this meeting, that the Minister of Natural Resources was not willing to take a lead role to find a control for the zebra mussel.
I now see in a letter to the township of Osprey dated 13 December this year that the ministry is co-ordinating Ontario government efforts to address this problem. It would be appreciated if the minister could inform the members of this House just what these efforts of co-ordination are.
Another concern is that the minister informed the member for Hastings-Peterborough that reports of zebra mussels in Cornwall were unconfirmed. I remind the House that this meeting took place on 9 November. Mr Speaker, imagine my surprise to read in the Standard-Freeholder of 8 December that the ministry first confirmed mussels in Cornwall back in September, at least one month prior to the meeting with the member for Hastings-Peterborough.
I wonder if the minister has confirmed and informed the municipalities in the Cornwall area of the zebra mussel find and the financial implications. As an example, the cost to Monroe, Michigan in October of this year ran $50 million to replace water intake pipes. Now, only two months later, in December, the water flow has been reduced to a point where schools are shut and the fire department is unable to draw water from fire hydrants. This is a very real and important matter. It should be looked into.
Ms Oddie Munro: I am in receipt of correspondence dated 6 December from Local 794 CUPE, Hamilton Civic Hospital’s union, Pat Whitfield, president, in which she draws to my attention the reprehensible hate literature distributed by a Hamilton group calling itself Youth Action.
In speaking with the union by telephone on Monday of this week it was confirmed that members had, in fact, removed many circulars containing discriminatory and inflammatory messages posted in the geographic area, including the Hamilton Civic Hospital, and that subsequently members of the local had instructed their executive to write, demanding an immediate investigation of this organization to determine the extent of violations of existing human rights legislation and related provincial guidelines and policy. I have therefore brought this incident to the attention of the minister responsible for race relations and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (Mr Wong) and to the attention of the Attorney General (Mr Scott) and the Solicitor General (Mr Offer).
Hatred-reinforced behaviour should not be tolerated in our society. It does untold damage to innocent peoples and reinforces attitudes and actions which are totally unacceptable to our community, province and country. Each community must deal appropriately with incidents and organizations who overtly or covertly reinforce supremacist philosophies. Far from being an alarmist reaction, such investigation ensures consistent review by authorized individuals or bodies. What we want is a peaceful resolution of questionable activities which may contravene the laws of the land.
EVENTS IN PANAMA
Mr R. F. Johnston: I rise to decry the invasion of Panama last night by the American forces. It is one thing to dislike drug-runners; it is one thing to dislike criminals, but it is another thing to violate the sovereignty of a nation with military power. It is a very interesting thing that at this stage, when the other major imperialist nation is starting to withdraw its military forces and its influence, tyrannical as it has been on its sector, that the Monroe doctrine is alive and well in the hands of Mr Bush, the President of the United States of America.
It would be almost farcical if one thought about this in the abstract of, in the middle of the night a call to a presidential candidate that he was going to be appointed president and be sworn in by a judge who was found in the middle of the night, and then an invasion to be called shortly thereafter.
Why do we not have this kind of process started for Mr Ceausescu? Why do we not have him indicted in a Miami court and then go and have an invasion of Romania to make up for the terrible things that have been taking place there? Why is it that Mr Pinochet was not indicted in the same fashion and not removed years back? Why was the Guatemalan president not removed in exactly the same fashion? Why is it that the United States of America feels it has this right to invade a nation? Why should any other nation in that sphere feel secure, and how can we now, as members of the Organization of American States, be complicit in our agreement to this kind of process?
Mrs Cunningham: My statement today is directed to the Minister of the Environment. On 15 February he met with representatives of the Ontario Metis and Aboriginal Association, the organization which represents the 200,000 Metis and aboriginal people living off reserves in Ontario. OMAA expressed an interest in establishing an environmental co-ordinator position to assist OMAA’s communities in understanding how government-sponsored or private sector initiatives might affect their traditional lands and resources.
The minister invited them to submit a written proposal, which he received in April. After further discussions between his ministry officials and OMAA, OMAA was told that his ministry’s funding program excludes ongoing salaries.
The Ontario Metis and Aboriginal Association operates on an extremely limited budget and has no funding for developing proposals. The association took this proposal very seriously; obviously the minister did not. He did not have any intention of funding this staff position and he led them to believe that, by submitting a proposal, he would. Why does he not return their phone calls and explain his ministry’s action? The organization should have been informed at the beginning of these discussions that it would not be eligible for funding. This is just another example of this government’s inability to communicate with Ontario citizens.
Mr Faubert: In keeping with this Christmas season, I have a story once told to me by my father, but recently published by Dr Spencer Johnson. Once there was a little boy who, at this time of year, asked his father what he was going to get for Christmas. His father told him then about the precious present. “It is a present because it is a gift,” he said, “and it is precious because anyone who receives it is happy for ever.”
The little boy wished that someone would give him this precious present for Christmas, but he did not receive it. As the boy grew into a man he always wished for, but never received, the precious present, and he was disappointed. He travelled the world, acquired wealth and fame, searched for but never found the precious present. He then returned to ask his father, but his father had passed on. He was saddened by this loss, but also felt now that he would never learn the secret of the precious present.
But he remembered what his father had told him, that it was wise to remember and to learn from the past but not to live in the past, that it is wise to think about and plan for the future but not to live in the future. He then realized the simple secret of the precious present. It was just that, not the past, not the future, but the present -- the precious present. And he knew he really had his family, his friends and his life to enjoy now, in the present. He finally understood that he had received the precious present and he was at peace with himself.
Mr Speaker, may I take this opportunity to wish you and all colleagues on both sides of this House best wishes in this happiest and blessed of seasons and wish that all may this Christmas receive the gift of the precious present.
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Mr Charlton: The release yesterday of Ontario Hydro’s preferred plan, I think, aptly demonstrated the contention that a number of us have made over the last number of years that Hydro is not really seriously interested in energy efficiency and conservation in the province of Ontario. The predecessor to the Minister of Energy, in the role of minister, stated on a number of occasions that he was not satisfied that Hydro had done enough to bring energy efficiency into its planning process and, ultimately, into the electrical energy system in the province of Ontario.
I would ask that the current Minister of Energy proceed to determine whether she is satisfied, in consultation with her predecessor on the views that he held, as to whether Hydro has done the job properly, understanding that although it has changed the numbers slightly, Ontario Hydro has not increased its estimates of its ability to enhance the system with energy efficiency in Ontario. The only changes in the numbers are as a result of extended time lines in the plan that was tabled yesterday.
It is time that this government started providing the leadership and the direction to Ontario Hydro in order to accomplish the things that ministry studies show are possible.
Mr Pope: As the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) manoeuvres this province into complicity with the federal government in the administration of tax policies and the collection of taxes from the people of this province on a joint administrative basis, I find his comments in the Globe and Mail yesterday rather revealing.
As reported in today’s Globe and Mail, Mr Nixon “repeated his call for Mr Wilson to exempt municipalities, school boards, hospitals and universities from the GST. Nor is the province happy about the application of the GST to new housing, which Mr Nixon said would make it more difficult for people to afford to buy a new home.”
If Mr Nixon is so concerned about the tax burden on transfer payment recipients, then perhaps he could have exempted municipalities, hospitals, school boards and universities from his own employer health tax, something he has refused to do despite the repeated requests from the opposition.
As to the negative impact of the goods and services tax on the affordability of housing, the Ontario Treasurer should be reminded that his own government increased the land transfer tax, increased the sales tax rate and broadened the sales tax base and will implement a lot levy program which will add thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home. Given the record of this administration, it is difficult to see what more this Treasurer can do to make housing less affordable to the people of the province of Ontario.
Mr Turner wants to lead a tax revolt because of 32 tax increases at the federal level since 1984. This government has had 32 tax increases since 1985 and has ripped the taxpayers off for more than the federal government ever could.
Ms Poole: Today, I would like to introduce a young constituent of mine who is present in the members’ gallery today. Katie Harrigan is a grade 5 student in north Toronto. Several months ago, in a contest I sponsored at the north Toronto fall fair, she won, and so today she acts as the junior MPP for Eglinton. The only trouble is, if she does too good a job, l am sure my staff will be eager to have her replace me.
Ms Poole: I notice the opposition claps loudly for that one.
Katie is here to discover what it is that a politician does by living a day in the life of an MPP. She has explored the government buildings. She has gone down to the Office for Senior Citizens’ Affairs and participated in a staff meeting. This afternoon, she is going to be active in question period and then pay a courtesy visit to the Premier.
We hope it will provide some interesting and meaningful insights into the world of politics. Maybe we have even found ourselves a future leader. I would ask my colleagues to join me today in welcoming Katie Harrigan to Queen’s Park.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr Offer: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to announce today the introduction of a bill which represents the first comprehensive review of policing legislation in Ontario in over 40 years. The Police Services Act represents a cross-roads in policing. It embodies a new vision in government policy, policing practices and community attitude which stresses the value of police service over police force.
Making our streets and communities safe and secure by enforcing the law remains a vitally important function of the police, but it is now recognized that crime prevention, education and community-oriented services are as much a part of policing as law enforcement. For example, in the areas of sexual assault and spousal assault, police act not only as law enforcement officers but also provide much-needed assistance to victims.
The men and women of Ontario’s police forces also reach out to our communities to provide education ranging from traffic safety, drinking and driving to drug awareness. These are extremely valuable services which the police perform. They are all part of the contemporary concept of community policing, with its emphasis on provision of service.
The role of Ontario’s police has evolved to meet the challenges of today’s policing environment, but their legal framework, the Police Act, has fallen behind. And so, as stated in its title, the new Police Services Act reflects the changing role of police.
The act is founded on a declaration of principles which recognizes the need for close working relations between police and the community; providing safety and security of all persons; sensitivity to the multiracial and multicultural reality of Ontario; respect and sensitivity for victims of crime, and provision of policing services consistent with the spirit of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
This emphasis on service reinforces the government’s determination to ensure the highest quality police service to all citizens of Ontario. Members will note that when enacted, the Police Services Act will also provide a framework to accommodate recommendations and directives which have already been announced.
These include the implementation of mandatory employment equity programs in all police forces; a special investigations unit, and provision for a regulation on police pursuits. In addition, this bill will provide for a province-wide public complaints system applied to all police forces, which provides recourse to a civilian complaints commissioner.
This act is designed to strengthen police services by providing police officers and chiefs of police with clear direction and a more precise definition of their roles and responsibilities.
As members will be aware, a crucial element of policing in a community is the local board of commissioners. This commission will now be known as the municipal police services board and will become mandatory for each municipal police service in Ontario. The legislation will, for the first time, provide a clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of these boards in setting guidelines and establishing policing policy in the community. As well, these boards will ensure that policing meets provincial standards.
This act will further strengthen police service by providing, for the first time, uniformity in standards and effective guidelines to let the individual officer know his or her rights and responsibilities.
Through this legislation we are recognizing the value and importance of our system of law enforcement and the contribution which the men and women of our police forces make each day to maintain safe and secure communities.
The bill which I am tabling today is the product of an extensive process of review and consultation by my ministry together with the policing community, the Ministry of the Attorney General, other government ministries and the work of the Race Relations and Policing Task Force.
The Police Services Act is legislation for the people and the police. It will support and encourage their partnership.
CENTRE FOR WOMEN’S HEALTH
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am very pleased today to join with my colleague the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues (Mrs Wilson) in announcing a community health-centre devoted to women.
The new community health centre will serve women living in the Metro Toronto area. It will provide them with basic and specialized health care services in addition to health education and promotion and counselling services. I am pleased to inform the House that the Centre for Women’s Health will pay special attention to immigrants, teens, disabled and older women. The clients of the centre will be actively involved in developing the programs.
As members will know, the Ministry of Health believes that it is important to place emphasis on health education and on promotion so that people can make knowledgeable healthy lifestyle decisions. We have a health care system in Ontario which we know is second to none. As we move towards the 1990s, towards that vision this government and the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy have articulated so well for us, I want to stress that our vision will be achieved with the goal of quality assurance and appropriate care for everyone in this province.
We know that health care is not just the treatment of illness. It is a combination of elements involving not just hospitals, not just physicians, not just nurses and other health care professionals, but the people, individuals and patients as well. In Ontario, research tells us that approximately 80 per cent of services provided within the system are appropriate, quality care. Probably, because we are human and fallible, we will never reach 100 per cent, but one of the things we did in the past year was to focus on striving for continuous improvement in the delivery of health services.
Members have heard me say this before: We want to make the Ontario health care system incrementally better for every citizen and to do it, first, by concentrating on the challenges of the pressures on the system and, second, by doing this with the full co-operation and partnership with everyone involved in health care delivery. Last year we concentrated our efforts on many health care initiatives identified by communities, and this women’s centre is another important example of our commitment.
Operations at the centre will be phased in over three years. The Ministry of Health is providing the Centre for Women’s Health with initial operating funds of $160,671 and one-time funding of $397,000 for startup expenses. An annual operating budget of about of $1.9 million is expected when the centre is fully operational.
The centre will also provide consultative services on women’s health issues to family physicians and to the existing network of community health centres in Metropolitan Toronto. We are confident that the centre will be a valuable resource for women, for health care professionals and for other service providers.
I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to get this centre started. Because change is so challenging, I would also like to thank everyone providing services in the health care system, thank them sincerely for their dedication and for their efforts over the past year.
The centre’s steering committee is looking for a site for the centre. Doctors, nurses, health promotion workers, outreach workers, social workers and a nutritionist are among the staff to be hired. It is estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 women per year will use the centre when it is fully operational. I would also like to inform the House that the Metropolitan Toronto district health council supports this initiative. Community-based care is an integral part of our health care system. There are now 30 community health centres approved in Ontario; 23 of those are in operation and they are expected to serve about 100,000 people next year.
In August 1987 our government committed itself to doubling the number of people served by community health centres over a five-year period. I am pleased to report to the House today that we are already more than 90 per cent of the way to achieving that goal.
The Speaker: The Minister of Education, Colleges and Universities and Skills Development.
Hon Mr Conway: Must you, Mr Speaker?
EDUCATION OF HEARING-IMPAIRED
Hon Mr Conway: I am none the less pleased today to release the Review of Ontario Education Programs for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, a review that I know my friend the member for Scarborough West (Mr R. F. Johnston), among others, will read with great interest.
This report contains the findings and recommendations of two committees. The first, an internal review committee, included representatives of school boards and of the provincial schools for the deaf; the second, an external review committee, was comprised of experts in deaf education and other educators not employed by the jurisdictions under review.
This committee was ably chaired by Donald Rutledge, former associate director of the Toronto Board of Education, and was composed of the following members, three of whom are themselves deaf: Dr Gary Bunch, associate professor in the faculty of education at York University; Joseph McLaughlin, principal of the Alberta School for the Deaf; Dr Carol Musselman, associate professor in the department of special education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education; Dr Michael Rodda, professor in the department of educational psychology at the University of Alberta; Dr Roslyn Rosen, dean of continuing education at Gallaudet University. Washington, DC, and Dr Richard Stoker, director of the Central Institute for the Deaf in St Louis, Missouri.
During the past year both committees have studied provincial and school board programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing students with an English-language background. The committees held 11 public meetings across Ontario and received more than 130 submissions, delivered in writing, speech or sign language.
Among the major recommendations are the following: that the Ministry of Education begin a pilot project to investigate the use of American sign language as a language of instruction; that teacher training for deaf education be transferred to one or more of the Ontario faculties of education; that affirmative action programs be developed to increase the number of deaf and hard-of-hearing persons who are qualified teachers of the deaf.
I am inviting those with an interest in this special field of education to examine and to react to these recommendations put forward by these two committees. The Ministry of Education will begin immediately to give careful consideration to these recommendations. The ongoing input of individuals and groups, including parents, educators, organizations representing the deaf community and school boards, will assist the ministry in developing an action plan in response to the review. I expect that the first steps in this response will be in place by September 1990.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the individuals and groups that contributed in any way to this very important review. Special thanks should go to the members of the internal and external committees, who devoted so very much of their time and energy to this most important undertaking.
I would also like to thank the representatives of organizations who served as members of the advisory committee and the 13 school boards from across Ontario that participated.
Finally, I wish to acknowledge the contribution of my colleague the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Ms Collins) and her staff at the Office for Disabled Persons.
The Ministry of Education has also conducted a separate review of programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing students with a French-language background. As well, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities has reviewed educational opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at the post-secondary level. It is expected that the reports of these reviews will be available in the new year.
The report that I am tabling today is the product of a comprehensive study that brought together a wide spectrum of those involved in deaf education. Indeed, I believe that such a thorough review of deaf education programs and services has never before taken place in Canada and I am confident that the review will lead to improved educational programs for the deaf and hard of hearing.
CENTRE FOR WOMEN’S HEALTH
Mr Reville: New Democrats applaud the announcement of a community health centre devoted to women. We deplore the continued refusal of the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) to require that the discussion of the future of Women’s College Hospital be both public and participatory. Even as the minister announces an important new health opportunity for women, Women’s College Hospital is in grave peril: Give with one hand, take with the other.
EDUCATION OF HEARING-IMPAIRED
Mr R. F. Johnston: It is with some delight that I respond to the Minister of Education’s finally tabling at this late date -- we hoped for it in September -- of the reviews that have been done on deaf education. It was on 5 May 1988 that I introduced the resolution which got this under way. I must say we often do not see the fruits of our work here so quickly and I am delighted with it.
I might say that in the gallery today we have many deaf and hard-of-hearing people who participated so well in this process and made it have the very positive results that it has today, and on that I am also delighted to see them all here.
I think it is important to say that there is a great difference between the internal review and the external review. I will not characterize the internal review, but I will say that the external review is incredibly progressive and very exciting to see and I hope that is where the majority of the government’s reading takes place.
I want to say that the minister made it sound that like all that was recommended was a pilot project for American sign language. In fact, what has been advised here is that by 1991 American sign language be a language of instruction. I think that is a wonderful recommendation.
There is also a great recommendation for a centre for deafness studies and another one on an Ontario board of deaf education so that finally families and children in the system will have some say and control over the schools for the deaf in the province. I think this is a wonderful step forward and I encourage those in the community to keep up the pressure so that we get the changes that are advocated here as quickly as possible.
Mr Kormos: It probably does not come as much of a surprise that the announcement regarding the new Police Services Act would be timed as it is. Indeed, it is timed in such a way that it is presented on what will probably be the last day of this House sitting before a hiatus of some two months, which means that the act will not be undergoing the legislative scrutiny that it would have were it presented in a more timely fashion.
This warrants some serious about the content of the comments of the Solicitor General this afternoon. There appears to be something of an emphasis, on his part, on getting the police out there on to the street and having them solve crime. The fact is that, as it is right now in this province, we are sending good police officers out in the street telling them to fix crime and giving them broken tools or no tools whatsoever. We have a court system here in Ontario that is bogged down, creating trial delays and generating acquittals and dismissals of serious charges, not because people are not guilty, but because the system has not been updated or designed to accommodate the trials and the matters that are brought before it.
There is absolutely nothing in this proposal that would redesign and respond to criticisms of police commissions, in particular patronage appointments on police commissions, generating police commissions that are loaded down, bogged down themselves with patronage appointments who do little to advance the cause of that respective commission but rather impede or interfere with the effectiveness of a commission in a given municipality.
There is absolutely nothing in this proposal about easing the incredible burden that is being forced upon municipalities across Ontario when it comes to the cost of policing. This government has cut back on the funding it has provided to municipalities in Ontario. It shows every intention of continuing to do so, forcing more and more of the responsibility for providing these services on to the backs of property owners in municipalities. It is not only just not fair, but it is a contradiction to whatever the Solicitor General would have us believe this afternoon about his commitment to high-quality policing in Ontario.
A final comment that has to be made is on the myth that this Solicitor General wants to generate -- It is not new for this government to generate myths -- the talk about the process of review and consultation. Once again, what consultation? There are police officers across Ontario, in large municipalities and small municipalities, who when they hear that there has been consultation will say: “When? Where? How could it possibly happen without my having known about it?”
What this legislation requires is thorough and complete consultation with police officers, constables on the street and chiefs from municipalities across Ontario.
The Speaker: I have been listening for the last little while, and there are a lot of private conversations. They may be necessary, but they are terribly noisy.
EDUCATION OF HEARING-IMPAIRED
Mrs Marland: The statement by the Minister of Education (Mr Conway) this afternoon is just a further confirmation that this Liberal government is finishing off the year the way it started. When they receive a report with recommendations, they then decide that they will study it and have another report and further investigations. I think it is unfortunate that the Minister of Education has missed the opportunity this afternoon to bring some wonderful news to those parents and families who live every day with the lack of opportunity for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
The fact of the matter is that the information is in. It does not need further input. I think it is almost an insult where the ministry is saying that it will welcome further input from those groups that work with these students every day. I think to suggest that they will now give careful consideration to these recommendations is really a tremendous disappointment for those people. Would it not have been wonderful if the Minister of Education had stood in the House this afternoon with some good news and a very positive announcement about what exactly the ministry was going to do, not talking about a further review and perhaps starting something in September 1990?
Addressing the concerns of the deaf and hard-of-hearing students and their educational opportunities in this province has been long overdue. The information is there. It does not need more review and more study. I respectfully suggest to the minister that maybe he could start the new session in March with some good news, positive announcements of action, instead of continuing the old “Hey, rube” approach of this government, which is, “We’ll study another report and we’ll look at it again.”
Mrs Cunningham: In response to the same notice by the Minister of Education, we would urge the minister not only to respond by September 1990 but to take action by September 1990. The Ontario Association of the Deaf wants now the American sign language as the language of instruction in schools. They would support strongly the teacher training for deaf education that has been mentioned and recommended in the report today, but we should be starting on that now, in September. I expect the minister to stand up very shortly and make that statement. Assurance that the three schools for the deaf remain open is important to the families in Ontario, and that assurance must be given very soon so that they can make plans for next September. Placing these children in regular classrooms is fine for some, but most need the special education in the schools that are there now, and we expect to support the same three schools that are there.
I hope the Minister of Education will take these comments very seriously.
Mr Brandt: I want to briefly respond to the comments of the Solicitor General (Mr Offer) in connection with the Police Services Act. I would like to say that we agree with the minister to the effect that policing is going through a very sensitive transitional period in Ontario and we recognize certain changes are going to be necessary and needed to bring about a more modern response, a more effective response to the changes we all recognize are so essential.
I would like to say to the minister, however, that I think he should recognize, as I know the Attorney General (Mr Scott) does, that it is not a picnic on the streets for the policemen of this province. They need the support and a very clear mandate from the Solicitor General with respect to their responsibilities and how they are to carry them out.
We all recognize that a very substantial increase in crime has been occurring. The incidence of drugs is increasing on our streets, and the incidence of violence, family violence and a whole host of things that require a new response.
As we study this proposed legislation, one of the things our party will be looking for is that sensitive balance. I recognize it is difficult to achieve, but on the one hand we have to be absolutely certain the police have the tools and what is necessary for them to carry out their responsibilities, and on the other hand we have to be absolutely certain that the public’s interests and the public’s rights are also adequately protected at all times.
It is a difficult job. We do not look at this as a political matter but as one that is very much community oriented and one we would want to co-operate with the Solicitor General on undertaking.
Mr Speaker: That completes the allotted time for ministerial statements and responses, and I hope it completes a lot of the private conversations as well.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent for some remarks by the House leaders.
MEMBER FOR NIPISSING
Hon Mr Ward: It was with some regret that we learned yesterday that the member for Nipissing (Mr Harris) will be spending today as his last day as House leader for the third party.
I wanted to take this opportunity to say how much I have appreciated working with him over the past few months. He brings to his responsibilities a calm and common sense approach.
Members will know that I have not worked as long with this particular House leader as perhaps others in this House have so I went to both my predecessors to ask if they had any good things to say about the member for Nipissing. I consulted with my colleague the member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway) and he said he would get back to me later. I went to the member for Brant-Haldimand (Mr R. F. Nixon) and he said, “No, I can’t help you.”
But to the member, I want him to know that in the short period of time I have had to work with him I have found him to be very reasonable, very firm at times, and at times to have made a valuable contribution to the workings of this House.
I know he is looking forward to having a little more free time to pursue other endeavours. No doubt, perhaps during the course of the next few months, he will be able to improve his golf game or whatever it is he is up to.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I will just take a couple of minutes because I did not prepare any notes and there are not a lot of things that come to mind very quickly.
However, it has been an interesting, and at some times enjoyable period of time that I have been able to work with the Conservative House leader over the last couple of years. There have been some times in this House when the member for Nipissing and I have worked very closely together, most of the time either in my office or his over coffee, certainly never any --
An hon member: Coffee?
Mr D. S. Cooke: Of course. They were always business meetings.
The one thing I learned from the member for Nipissing was that whenever we walked out of his office or my office, I was getting very frustrated because he would get to the scrum before me. I thought that as the official opposition I should get to the cameras first. I tried a couple of tunes and my ribs are still bruised. He has better elbows than Gordie Howe did.
We are going to miss him. I think he contributed to getting this House to work closely and well together. Perhaps if the member for London North (Mrs Cunningham) wins, the member for Nipissing will be back at the House leaders’ meetings and all will be back to normal. We wish him the best of luck and congratulations on many years of good service as House leader.
Mr Harris: I really did not know this was about to take place today until my leader informed me just a few minutes ago.
Hon Mr Elston: Name names.
Mr Harris: Yes, name names.
I do not know why it is that nice things are said about me now. That has not been my experience of the past four years. I think it was Churchill who said this: When one of his opponents whom he had tangled with in the House had passed on and the news was relayed to Mr Churchill, it was said, “Now, you must go in and say a few nice words.” Churchill responded, “Before I say any nice words, I want to know for sure he is dead.”
There are many who suggest that what I have indicated and plan to embark on is one and the same as what happened to Churchill’s opponent. I do not happen to think so and I am looking forward to it very much.
I want to say briefly how much I have enjoyed the experience. For the past four years I have had a unique opportunity to see and, to do my job properly, to understand this Legislature much better than I ever did before and to understand the perspective of three different parties as I never had to before, both on legislation and on political agendas. Once you understand that and accept it, which is sometimes tough, I think you are able to function in that capacity as House leader.
We have seen substantial changes made to the rules. I have been very fortunate to have been part of that. I have had the tremendous opportunity to work with very talented individuals: the current Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), the current Minister of Education, Minister of Skills Development, Minister of Colleges and Universities et al (Mr Conway), and certainly the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke) and the former member for Bellwoods, now of labour fame. All I have enjoyed working with. All have contributed to the process and all have helped me to that better understanding and to a sense that there is more than one’s own viewpoint or one’s party s own viewpoint. If I have learned that much from it and if those who have been with me and who will follow me learn that much from it, it will be something.
Hon Mr Scott: Think it but don’t say it.
Mr Harris: The Attorney General (Mr Scott) interjects. It would be a great position for the Attorney General. There is something to be learned from all those hours of behind-the-scenes work -
Let me finally say my very great thanks to my caucus for having given me the opportunity, to the member for Parry Sound (Mr Eves) who as whip has filled in very ably for me, and probably most particularly of all to the member for Carleton (Mr Sterling): Whenever it came to the hard, behind-the-scenes work, the negotiations with the other parties on the rule changes and on the nitty-gritty daily hours and hours of work, the member for Carleton was always there.
I thank all of them very much.
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Premier. A little-known document accompanied the announcement by the Minister of Energy several months ago when, at that time, he announced the Power Corporation Act. I am referring to the memorandum of understanding between Ontario Hydro and the government.
Under this memorandum of understanding, the stance the Premier took yesterday, that Hydro was a child of which he had no knowledge and was not going to take any responsibility for, is clearly belied by this document. The document clearly states that what Ontario Hydro did from that point on had to be entirely compatible with the objectives of the government. The memorandum established a committee of five, chaired by the Premier, called the Hydro committee to promote the accountability of Ontario Hydro.
I want to ask the Premier, in his role as chairman, did he and his committee meet with the president of Ontario Hydro to discuss the long-term strategic plan, and in particular what did he tell the Hydro board and the president of Hydro when asked about the responsibilities to be carried out in a manner compatible with government policies?
The Speaker: Thank you. That is a fairly lengthy question.
Hon Mr Peterson: We meet on many occasions. As the member knows, I had some very strong views on Ontario Hydro and the kind of relationship with the government. Those have now been implemented through the Power Corporation Act and through the memorandum of understanding. We meet regularly. They express their views and we express our views. There is no question about that. The member should look at the changes that have gone on in Ontario Hydro because of the changes in government policy.
Mr B. Rae: I am trying to find what those changes are. The only change I can detect is a change from the leader of the Liberal Party, who in 1983 said, “It’s madness to keep rushing headlong into such a nuclear future when so many serious questions go unanswered,” or who said on 28 January 1984: “I do not see it [nuclear power] as an end. I see it as only something to tide us over until we get to the ultimate energy solution.” The Premier in 1984 referred to Hydro as a monster.
Since the Premier he has been good enough to tell Hydro what his views are with respect to the future of energy generation, electrical generation in Ontario, perhaps he would be good enough to share those views with the people of Ontario so we can find out what his policies are. The Minister of Energy (Mrs McLeod) did not tell us yesterday what her policies are. What are the Premier’s policies, as opposed to --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Peterson: There is nothing incompatible with what I have said and what has happened with Ontario Hydro. The member is quite right. I did refer to that as a monster out of control. Does he remember the former Minister of Energy, Jim Taylor, who talked about being mugged in the corridors of power by the officials at Hydro? Was that not the case? I can tell members that they did not mug us: we mugged them. That is what happened.
Members should look at what has happened in the Power Corporation Act. They should look at the independent look at nuclear safety of Professor Hare. They should look at what has happened with independent nuclear costing. I can tell members that we have done exactly what we have said. They have proceeded with co-generation programs. They have proceeded with active and aggressive programs for conservation.
My honourable friend said he is not aware of this, but he has been absent, obviously, on those critical days in the House in the last four years when this enormous progress has been made. Now they have laid a plan before the member and he can share his views on the matter.
Mr B. Rae: The question of who is the mugger and who is the muggee strikes me as an interesting one. If the first minister is saying that he is the person who is responsible for bringing Hydro to heel and to rein, can I then assume from what has taken place that the proposal that comes from Hydro is his own? Is that what he is now saying, that since he has successfully reined in Hydro and since he has successfully mugged Hydro and since he has wrestled Hydro to the ground, he is now prepared to take responsibility for the present Hydro gave us yesterday?
Hon Mr Peterson: I probably overstated the position. We have successfully mugged the member; that is what I should really have said.
Let me say that the situation, as my honourable friend knows, is the following. Ontario Hydro has put forward its view on the demand/supply options, both on demand and on supply. That will be subjected to a full environmental assessment. I can tell him this: At the end of the day, obviously the plan will have to be approved by the government. There is no question about this.
Even his members on the committee signed on to the select committee report that said they did not preclude any supply options pending a review. Even some members of his caucus, I guess just a few months ago, signed that report. He may have written some things off at this moment; they have not. They approach it with an honest, open, intellectual approach, unknown to some other members of his caucus.
I can say that if he has views on it, we want to hear them. So far we have not heard them. He may have some better ideas, although I would be very surprised if he does, but we will encourage him to bring those forward and present them to the people of this province.
Mr B. Rae: I think that is called having it both ways.
Mr B. Rae: I would like to ask the Premier a question about what is happening now as we head into 1990 in terms of our economy, and in particular about the way in which the economy is generating poverty.
One of the facts that I think has been the most difficult for all of us to come to terms with is that not only do we have so many people using food banks and not only do we have one in three kids going to school hungry, but the only conclusion we can draw from this is that of the people who are using food banks and the kids who are going to school hungry, many of the parents of those kids are working and many of the people who are using food banks are working.
I want to ask the first minister what he is going to do to deal with this problem of the working poor, to deal with the fact that there are hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of people who are working today who simply do not have enough to provide for themselves and their families?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the minister can tell my honourable friend of various programs we have to address the problems he speaks of.
The Speaker: The question is referred to the Minister of Community and Social Services.
Hon Mr Beer: The Transitions report that was presented to the government a year ago looked at a number of specific problems that dealt with those who were on some form of social assistance, and also at the problem of those who were not necessarily on social assistance but who were facing problems in making ends meet.
The Leader of the Opposition has noted the problems that presents in terms of health and education for many young people. I think the approach we have taken is to try to be very specific in focusing on children, on child poverty, on the plight of single parents and to recognize that there is no one simple answer.
Clearly the reforms that were undertaken during the past year, the $415 million, and the changes that will take place next month in terms of basic shelter where we are adding some $119 million, and in basic needs where we are adding a further $120 million, will provide funds to those who need them.
We recognize that there are related issues --
The Speaker: Order. It seems like a fairly full response.
Mr B. Rae: I am sorry the Premier cannot answer a question that is so basic to the condition of life for hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of people across the province. I say to the minister who responded that I am not talking about social assistance right now. I am talking about people who are working for $4.75, $5 or $5.25 an hour and who have to support their families on that kind of a wage. There are hundreds of thousands of those people.
I have not heard a single announcement from this government that talks about what it is going to do for the working poor. I am not talking about social assistance programs. I am talking now about what it is going to do for people who are working for a living and whose kids are going to school hungry. Not every kid who goes to school hungry has a mother or father on welfare. Many of those parents are working.
I want to ask the Premier again why the government has not put as much emphasis on what is happening to the working poor as it has --
The Speaker: Order. I hope you meant the minister.
Hon Mr Beer: I think it is important to note that in other areas we are trying to deal with issues to bring about relief for those who are receiving wages and are not on social assistance and to provide help for children.
There are a number of things in terms of tax assistance, kinds of programs for job retraining, for upgrading of skills so people can move into jobs which will provide greater funds, and with respect to children, a number of programs where the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Community and Social Services are working to try to ensure that they have a better nutritional balance and that they are able to receive adequate health care.
These are all things which are going forward. Clearly, as the economy changes, that puts greater pressure on that system. Through programs in the Ministry of Labour and through the various activities of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology, we want to be able to provide jobs that will give to people the funds that they require to meet their daily needs.
Mr B. Rae: I want to ask the minister a very simple question. It has been about a year and a half since the Social Assistance Review Committee report came down in September 1988. I want to ask the minister quite directly why it is that the government has as yet responded not at all to any of the proposals contained in that report dealing with people who are working and who are poor, in terms of increasing the minimum wage and other income support proposals that have been put forward.
There are some very fundamental questions about the kind of economy that is going to take us into the 1990s, an economy which, yes, generates jobs: jobs that are part-time, jobs that are low-paid, jobs that are flipping hamburgers for a living that are not enough to support a family. That is the kind of economy we are in danger of creating in Ontario.
My question for the minister is, why is there nothing in place now for the working poor as we head into a new decade, nothing at all?
Hon Mr Beer: I think there are several specific things that have happened. This government brought in a wage enhancement policy, some $88 million that was added to assist those who are at the lower end of the wage-earning scale. We are moving forward with the program of pay equity. We brought in changes specifically asked for in the social assistance review for the cancelling of OHIP premiums which, as the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has noted, will add some $700 million to the economy. These are specific.
We recognize that more needs to be done. We have made a commitment that we are going to continue with the program of wage enhancements for those who are working, particularly women, in fields that have traditionally just had women in them. I think what the member has to be looking at is how that commitment is carried out and, to date, we have moved to deal with very specific areas. We have done that and we will continue to do it in the new year.
YORK REGION LAND DEVELOPMENT
Mr Harris: I have a question for the Premier about the $8 million in taxpayers’ money that is missing in the town of Richmond Hill. It appears to me that at least four government ministries share responsibility, or at least have a vested interest in getting to the bottom of this extraordinary situation that has gone on for some time: The Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the Ministry of Treasury and Economics, the Ministry of the Solicitor General, through the OPP, and the Ministry of the Attorney General. It may involve others. We do not know.
The person ultimately responsible for determining where we go from here, I suggest, is the Premier. Can the Premier tell us when he first learned about the missing $8 million, and is he satisfied that the government of Ontario has been doing all that it can do to help the ratepayers and the town council of the town of Richmond Hill get to the bottom of this whole mess?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the minister can bring my honourable friend up to date on the details.
The Speaker: It has been referred to the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Hon Mr Sweeney: My honourable friend will be aware of the fact that the ministry worked with the council of Richmond Hill last spring to do an administrative review. As a result of that administrative review, a suggestion was made to Richmond Hill that it ought to bring in forensic accountants to take a much more detailed and much more expert look at its books. The forensic accountants reported to the council of Richmond Hill last evening, I believe it was, and that is when we first found out about the $8 million.
I want to be very clear, however, that the report of the accountants was that there was $8 million unaccounted for. They were very clear to say that that does not necessarily mean that the money is missing. It may very well be, but “unaccounted for” means several other possibilities in terms of the way in which the bookkeeping is done, in the terms and the way in which bonds, cheques and things like that are held in trust.
The accountants have clearly indicated to the council that there is a problem there. They are meeting today with the regional police force in York and they have also contracted to meet with the OPP. Those three activities are going to be ongoing.
Mr Harris: The ratepayers of Richmond Hill, municipal officials, the media and indeed members of this Legislature have been reporting problems to this Legislature, to the minister, to the Premier and to other ministers now for close to two years. I suggest to the minister that it is not a matter of whether this government will respond. I think it has to respond to this issue. Obviously, it is not going to get sorted out on its own.
The minister was petitioned to launch an investigation into these affairs more than a year ago. Again, last August, he was petitioned by the ratepayers and, it is my understanding, with an acceptance of the town council when the first $1.1 million was reported missing. I ask the minister again today, on behalf of the ratepayers and the town of Richmond Hill and of the integrity of the whole system, why will he not call a public inquiry into this whole matter so that we can get to the bottom of it?
Hon Mr Sweeney: Following the administrative review that was done there, staff of my ministry, in consultation with the council of Richmond Hill, identified several changes that had to be made in its practices. I am pleased to report that a number of those changes in fact have already been made and that council and my ministry were in the process of initiating several of the other changes when the latest information was brought to its attention.
We have made it very clear from the beginning when evidence is clearly identified that if there is a further need to go beyond what we have already done, we are quite prepared to do it. But in all fairness to Richmond Hill council, which is trying to come to grips with this, and the staff of the council, who at the moment are in some difficulty in terms of morale, the forensic accountants are still on the job. They have not completed their work yet.
The region of York police are on the job. The OPP are on the job. That process is undergoing, and I think in all fairness to all three parties we ought to leave that as an ongoing process. If it turns out that the government should --
The Speaker: Thank you. Order.
Mr Harris: The minister right at the end, and I am glad he was not completely cut off until I heard the last comment at the end, indicated that at some point in the future when he has determined I do not know what, he would he prepared to step in and do so. This has been brought to his attention now for close to two years. We have a report from Coopers and Lybrand that seemed to suggest, as I first read it, that everything was okay, although it did suggest the forensic audit.
We have been asking these questions. The ratepayers have been totally frustrated now for close to two years. I would ask the minister how much longer we have to wait before he steps in as minister, or the Ontario government steps in, and indeed perhaps takes over the administration of this town so we can get to the bottom of the facts. Has the minister considered that option? Will he take it if it is appropriate?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would remind my friend that the launching of the kind of inquiry he is speaking of is something that is done rather rarely in this province. As a matter of fact the staff of my ministry indicated that the last time was probably back about 1977, and I am sorry I cannot remember the particular incident. They did draw it to my attention, but it is not something that is done that often. It definitely is a last resort.
I would repeat that even the forensic accountants themselves, who made their first report to council last night, said that their findings are not complete; they are not yet finished. All that they reported in their first go-around was that that amount of money was unaccounted for. They said very clearly that does not mean that the money is missing. Now it may turn out to be that. The involvement of both the regional police and the provincial police may turn out to discover that. When those decisions and that investigation are more complete than they are now, I as the minister am quite prepared to take the action that would be necessary at that point in time.
Mr Pope: I have a question for the Minister of Colleges and Universities. I have given him notice of the question and sent him a document ahead of time. Richard Lauzon and Donna Lauzon are here from Timmins. They flew out this morning -- they are here in the west gallery -- out of concern for their daughter Dawn.
Could the minister explain to me how Dawn Lauzon could graduate from grade 13 in Timmins last year with an average of over 90 per cent and apply to the faculty of pharmacy at the University of Toronto and be advised by the dean of that faculty that she cannot be admitted to the faculty of pharmacy and that the dean recommends that if she wants to be admitted at some subsequent year, she not take any other university courses in the interim?
How can this be in the province where we want our young people to be educated, to receive training, to excel at their chosen professions and fields? How can it be that we have individuals in charge of admissions in faculties --
The Speaker: Order. The question has been put. Would the member take his seat?
Hon Mr Conway: I thank the honourable member for Cochrane South for notice of the question. The short answer is that no one is telling his constituent that she cannot pursue a university career, but it is true that we have a number of limited enrolment programs. Pharmacy is one of those such programs where the overall enrolments are limited for reasons that the very distinguished former Minister of Health might know better than most people.
The fact of the matter is that we as a community try to assess the overall demand for a given profession within the community and we then try to respond to that by ensuring that there is an adequate supply to meet that demand. It is no secret, for example, that overall in this province we have a very, very good number of pharmacists. Our pharmacist-to-doctor ratio in this province is very, very strong indeed.
Mr Pope: We are not talking about supply-and-demand ratios; we are not talking about any ratios at all. We are talking about educational opportunities for our young people. Here we have a dean of a faculty of pharmacy for the University of Toronto who said this, and I quote, to contradict what the minister just said, “Also, as I mentioned in my last letter, for her to be eligible for admission into the first year she cannot have a record of having taken any post-high school university courses.”
What kind of a message is that to a qualified youngster with a 90 per cent average, that if she wants to enter the faculty of her choice she cannot go to university? The real answer is not marks at all. It is something called a geographical quota system, where eastern Ontario students get 15 positions, northern Ontario students get 15 positions and Metropolitan Toronto and a 60-mile radius get over 50 per cent of the positions.
The Speaker: Thank you. Order.
Hon Mr Conway: A short answer to the last question is no and the honourable member knows that that is so. The letter to which he makes reference quotes the dean as being very clear about the chances, which as I read the letter -- let me just read that particular sentence from the letter: “Therefore,” the dean indicates, “her chance of being admitted into first-year pharmacy in 1990 are very good.”
The point I want to make is something that most members -- and I have to believe this member knows better than most that we are dealing with a limited enrolment program. If that is your preference, whether it be pharmacy, dentistry, law, education, there are criteria that must be met, that are understood.
I will admit to my friend from Timmins that there has been and continues to be a difficulty, not so far as the overall number of pharmacists in the province is concerned, but in terms of distribution, yes. We continue to struggle with a distribution problem in this profession as we do in others in this province. We, the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), myself and others in the government, are addressing various options that will hopefully relieve the pressure, particularly in northern Ontario.
Mr Pope: I hope that the minister will meet with Mr and Mrs Lauzon after question period to assure them that he will intervene on their behalf.
In 1979, the medical schools tried the same geographical preference nonsense, and I rose as a member of the governing party at the time and criticized the Minister of Colleges and Universities for this same nonsense. We are not talking about admissions to professional faculties on the basis of academic excellence. We are talking about limitations on their right to enter on the basis of where they come from in this province.
That is unacceptable. Not only does within a 60- mile radius of this place have over half of the positions assigned to them, but in terms of actual admissions it is over two thirds, and I am talking about documents provided to me by the faculty of pharmacy itself. How can this happen in this province?
Hon Mr Conway: I should just add that the Ontario Council on University Affairs is reviewing two proposals, one submitted by the University of Ottawa, a second submitted by Laurentian University, both of which, as I recall, deal with additional programs in pharmacy, particularly for francophones in the province so here there are other shortages in addition to the regional ones that were mentioned.
I want to stress as well that the Minister of Health has under way an inquiry looking at the whole question of the government’s relationship with pharmacy and the pharmaceutical industry in the province. That may very well have a bearing, and the honourable member will want to await that result as well.
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Mr Charlton: I have a question for the Premier. His Minister of Energy (Mrs McLeod) has very carefully over the past few months avoided taking any significant energy policy positions publicly. Very carefully again yesterday she avoided making any policy comment on the proposed plan that was released by Ontario Hydro.
Her predecessor, the member for Fort York (Mr Wong), seemed prepared to take on Ontario Hydro, as the Premier dreamed had already been done, and he indicated that he was unhappy with Hydro’s progress on energy efficiency matters and matters of independent parallel generation. He seemed prepared to proceed on those. Unfortunately, the Premier whisked him away before the job was done.
Can the Premier tell this House whether he is happy with the amount of energy efficiency and the amount of independent parallel generation which Hydro has managed to consolidate in the plan it released yesterday?
Hon Mr Peterson: Let me tell my honourable friend that I do not feel that I personally am competent to comment on all aspects of the plan. Whether the energy efficiency targets are reasonable or not, whether the conservation plan is reasonable or not, I am told that this is the most ambitious conservation program by any utility in North America.
The member always thinks he has better ideas on all these matters, so what they would like to hear from him is his ideas on how to do it better. I believe the member was a signatory to the report of the select committee which said that we should not preclude any other options; it is a long-term situation, 25 years.
Obviously, there is no question about the fact that we pushed Hydro very hard on conservation and on cogeneration. We have seen some results already in Fort Frances and I think we will see more, particularly as we are building the corridor in northwestern Ontario. So the member can see that it all fits together. Is that enough? Is it too little? Can it be done better? It may well be able to be done better and more.
If the member argues that we are going to need less Hydro 10 years from now than we have today, even with all these programs, then stand up and say so. If he does not think we should build anything, stand up and say so.
Hydro has put forward its ideas. They will be subjected to a complete and thorough independent review on the matter. At the end of the day the Environmental Assessment Board will give advice to the government and to the ministry and at the end of the day we will have to make decisions based on the --
The Speaker: Thank you.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Charlton: Obviously a clear case of the blind leading nobody over there. The Premier, instead of spending his time babbling on endlessly, might take the time to have his staff brief him from time to time. We have released two reports in the last five months that clearly indicate where we think this government and Hydro should be going, reports that in fact were based on studies done by this government’s own Ministry of Energy, studies which indicate potential success rates in this province for efficiency and for parallel generation far beyond anything that is indicated in Hydro’s report, only the minister is sitting on her own reports and not having anybody do anything with them.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr Charlton: The Premier said in July 1985: “I believe that Darlington will turn out to be one of the great mistakes that has been made. For many years we have advised that it never should have been proceeded -- ”
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Charlton: Hydro is now asking for three Darlingtons. Is that any less a mistake?
The Speaker: Is that your question?
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend has, I guess, obviously prejudged the matter, even though he signed a report saying he would not prejudge the matter.
Mr Mackenzie: Come on.
Hon Mr Peterson: He signed it. I did not sign the report.
Hon Mr Peterson: The member’s colleague signed the report.
Mr Charlton: You’ve got to read it now, David.
Hon Mr Peterson: I saw the recommendation. He has done a very thorough analysis on this matter and he has his own conclusions and I hope he will share them with everybody.
This is an important public debate, a fundamental public debate. It affects the values of our society, it affects the kind of society we are going to have in the future, its economic wellbeing, and indeed it goes beyond that as well. I think that is an important debate in which we should engage.
I understand that the member has put forward some reports. I have heard just briefly that they were looked at with not too much seriousness by anybody who understands the matter, but believe me, I understand even better than he does the problems of being the opposition energy critic. Believe me, I do; but we have had the glorious opportunity to be here and change Hydro and make some significant progress in this regard. I welcome my friend to take a constructive view of this matter, and anything he has to share with his colleagues will be taken with all the seriousness it deserves.
The Speaker: Order.
The Speaker: The member might as well rest for a while.
PROGRAM FOR OLDER WORKER ADJUSTMENT
Mrs Cunningham: My question is for the minister of all education in his capacity as Minister of Skills Development. In its last three throne speeches, dating as far back as 28 April 1987, this government has promised to deliver a training strategy for older workers in this province. The minister announced last week that the skills ministry will be undergoing a restructuring so that its primary focus will be on programs which assist people already in the workplace. Perhaps the minister could give us an update on his ministry’s efforts and successes, if any, in assisting older workers in this province.
Hon Mr Conway: The honourable member knows perfectly well that the responsibilities and the mandate for skills development covers a whole range of individuals and programs, and as I have said on earlier occasions, the training and the retraining of our incumbent workforce is going to be an increasingly important part of that responsibility.
We have in recent weeks announced some new initiatives. For example, the criteria of the Transitions program have been broadened. My colleague the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) has in recent weeks signed an agreement with the government of Canada in a related fashion. Certainly a number of the programs that we have in terms of literacy also have a very direct relationship to the particular group in the community that the honourable member refers to.
Mrs Cunningham: Older workers in this province feel somewhat abandoned by this government, and rightfully so. I have been down here almost two years and I have listened to the same kinds of responses to the Transitions program and now and as recently as last spring the same kind of response to the program for older worker adjustment.
The facts do not lie and we are looking for some serious consideration. The Transitions program is now operating at one quarter of its original budget. The promise was to assist some over 6,000 workers each year, and what have we done so far? Only 3,700 workers have been assisted at all. We should have been looking at some 12,000, 14,000, 15,000 workers by this time. We are not at one quarter of it.
For the program for older worker adjustment the government has not spent one penny. How specifically will the government change things with this new restructuring so that these people can get the support they need?
Hon Mr Conway: One of the realities, of course, is that over the past number of years the Ontario economy has been very strong in terms of employment opportunities. The so-called Nixon boom has provided very real growth across the economy. The honourable member knows very well the kind of drop in the unemployment rate that we have seen over much of the last four and a half years.
I admit that there are those in the community who have been thrown out of work. We have a number of programs that concern themselves with those individuals, and in particular measure, I would say to my very learned friend the member for London North, part of the solution that I see for improving the situation in the future is strengthening government’s partnership, particularly with labour and with business, because they too have a responsibility, and I am looking very much to new initiatives in those areas of strength and partnership.
SCHOOL BOARD SPENDING
Mr Owen: I too have a question to the Minister of Education. We are accustomed to hearing from local school boards complaining that we are not providing sufficient funding to assist them with their needs. However, I have been told that some school boards themselves contribute to their own difficulties. I have been shown certain figures that in the past 10 years some school boards have increased spending 150 per cent while many of those same boards have had a decline in enrolment, and further figures that showed that some school boards have increased numbers of teachers in the classroom while experiencing a decline in the number of students.
My question to the minister is, does he have any figures which would show what the increases have been in school board spending in recent years and whether those increases have been reasonable, in his view?
Hon Mr Conway: I thank my honourable friend for a question about this aspect of the educational debate, certainly a debate that I know many members have participated in in recent weeks as a result of the transfer announcements.
Looking at the situation, I can tell my honourable friend that in the period from 1980 to 1988, when we experienced system-wide declines, average daily enrolment declined in that eight-year period by something like 9.5 percent. In that period of time, when the average daily enrolment was declining in the neighbourhood of nine per cent or 10 per cent and the consumer price index was rising, in total, by about 65 per cent, school board expenditures, averaged across the province, increased by about 90 per cent.
Mr Owen: I have also been shown some figures which show that the number of teachers in administrative positions during that same time increased by 80 per cent, paraprofessionals increased by as much as 200 per cent and other professionals as much as 130 per cent in the school boards, while clerks at the school board level increased by only 20 per cent. It has been suggested to me that administrative staff has greatly increased in its ratio to the student numbers.
My question to the minister is, does the minister have any statistics with regard to the increase in administrative staff at the school board level and whether or not the same is an investment in terms of the education tax dollars?
Hon Mr Conway: I cannot easily cite the data for the administrative personnel within school jurisdictions, but I can say that over the period from 1978 to 1988 there has certainly been a growth in the professional and specialized services across the system. That reflects a number of new initiatives that in many cases were mandated by this Legislature and by this and other governments, recognizing a desire by the community to expand the frontier of public education.
Mr Laughren: I have a question for the Treasurer. The Treasurer will know, of course, that the federal government has determined that it is going to reduce the goods and services tax from nine per cent to seven per cent, and in an act of true Tory perversion, some of the people they are going to make pay for that are low-income people whose tax credits will be reduced by up to $125 a year.
Since the Treasurer obviously has become an accomplice to the GST, since he is going to fold his own tax system in with it, could he tell us what representations he has made to the federal government, in order to minimize the impact of the GST on low-income people, to make sure that those sales tax credits are restored and enriched?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I would hope that one of the honourable member’s friends in Ottawa, or perhaps one of mine, is asking that very question.
The honourable member, to be fair -- and he is a fair man -- must realize that the original sales tax credit as announced at the nine percent level was supposed to make families earning about $30,000 in fact be better off under the system than they otherwise would be. It is not my job to defend it. That is a fact that was put forward in the original structure.
I examined quite carefully what the Minister of Finance said about that when he said that the amount of credit would be reduced. Of course, if you are paying seven per cent and not nine per cent, the actual assistance in order to make families at $30,000 tax-free essentially would be reduced. According to the Minister of Finance, his calculations are that he has achieved that perfect, or imperfect, balance.
Mr Laughren: I am surprised that the Treasurer thinks it could be perfect, even.
The Treasurer will know that when he raised his sales tax in Ontario, which is very similar to the GST, he did not enrich the sales tax credits in the province. Further, when he raised the provincial income tax, which is going up as of 1 January 1990 in Ontario, he once again did not raise the tax credits for low-income people in Ontario.
There are 300,000 taxpayers in Ontario who earn under $10,000 a year and who still pay provincial income tax. Could the Treasurer give us a commitment here and now that he will remove those low-income people, some of them $2,000 below the poverty level, from Ontario’s provincial income tax rolls by the next budget?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I would like to give that commitment, but of course I cannot. The honourable member would know that at the same time those taxes were raised -- and by the way, the House is still to decide on the income tax increase, I understand --
Hon R. F. Nixon: In the next half-hour, perhaps we will have a chance to vote on that.
The honourable member would know that the additional revenue that came in from those sources was largely directed towards programs that, through the recommendations of the Social Assistance Review Committee as well as the improvements in job opportunities and training, would benefit everybody, but particularly those people whose incomes are insufficient and who would have an opportunity to benefit from these enlightened new programs.
LAC MINERALS LTD
Mrs Marland: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. It is the understanding of my party that the regulations for the Aggregate Resources Act, 1989, have finally been developed and that the act will be proclaimed shortly. I would hope that one of the first cases to come under the new act would be LAC Minerals’ plan to expand the quarry operated by Milton Limestone on the Milton outlier, which is part of the Niagara Escarpment. There are significant environmental concerns regarding this expansion, which would require that one million gallons of water be drained each day to keep the quarry dry.
My question to the minister is this: Can she give this House her assurance that the LAC Minerals expansion plans will be subject to the provisions of the Aggregate Resources Act?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I can assure the honourable member that the new Aggregate Resources Act and its regulations will be proclaimed on 1 January 1990 and that any applications that come forward subsequent to that date will fall under the new Aggregate Resources Act and its regulations.
I am familiar with the specific project which the honourable member raises in the House. I know that there are a number of concerns that have been expressed about that project and environmental implications. I understand that there have been requests made for some detailed consideration of the environmental impact and that the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) is in fact reviewing those considerations.
Mrs Marland: We already have a very serious problem with the water table on the outlier and local farmers are finding their wells and ponds drying up and the production of their land shrinking. All of this is occurring at a time when the quarry is draining 250,000 gallons of water a day. I know that the minister must know that the town of Milton council and the Halton Region Conservation Authority, Halton region itself and the Niagara Escarpment Commission all agree that something must be done, and done quickly, to protect the environment of the Milton outlier.
My supplementary is this: If the Aggregate Resources Act cannot control the draining of the outlier water table by this quarry, what other steps will she, as minister, take to investigate the company’s operations and to prevent further damage to the escarpment environment?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I think the honourable member suggests that there may be a difficulty with the new Aggregate Resources Act in terms of its ability to look at the particular considerations involved in licensing new pits and quarries. I would trust that in fact that will not be the case, because there are many provisions of that new act which are designed to deal with the concerns about the environmental impact of the operations of pits and quarries and ensure that we are able to be responsive to that, both at the time of licensing and also through processes of rehabilitation. I know that there will be individual situations that are unique and require unique consideration and we will certainly undertake to give those particular situations every possible consideration.
NATURAL GAS PIPELINE
Mr Reycraft: My question is to the same minister, but in her capacity as Minister of Energy. It concerns an application by Union Gas to the Ontario Energy Board to expand its transmission capacity on the pipeline route from Trafalgar, near Oakville, to Dawn, in Lambton county. This line runs through the townships of Lobo, London and West Nissouri in Middlesex county. It is being expanded to allow Union Gas to meet the increasing demands for additional supply from its contract customer, TransCanada Pipelines, which in turn wants additional supplies of natural gas to meet its export commitments to the United States. I want to ask the minister: Is she aware of this application by Union Gas to the Ontario Energy Board and is she aware of the rationale behind it?
Hon Mrs McLeod: Yes, I am aware of the application of Union Gas to the Ontario Energy Board for expansion of its transmission capacity in that area. It is certainly the responsibility of the Ontario Energy Board to examine both the necessity for those transmission lines and any concerns related to it.
I very much appreciate the member’s interest and concern in this particular issue and I know that reflects the concerns of many of his constituents. The Ontario Energy Board is the forum in which these concerns can and should be addressed. It is my understanding that the Ontario Energy Board is holding hearings in two phases. The first phase of those hearings has been temporarily adjourned pending some further confirmation of the actual status of contracts. Phase 2 hearings are expected to begin in February.
Mr Reycraft: The construction of this pipeline will result in a fourth pipeline being constructed in Middlesex, while Union Gas is just now finishing its third. In order to carry out the pipeline expansion, Union Gas is going to have to expropriate a large quantity of productive agricultural land, over 325 acres in Middlesex alone. Union Gas argues that the pipeline is in the public interest, but farm land is being expropriated in order to allow Union Gas to meet the demands of energy-hungry Americans. What can farmers in Middlesex do to protect themselves from having their land seized so that Union Gas can sell more natural gas to the United States?
Hon Mrs McLeod: Certainly it is within the mandate of the Ontario Energy Board to examine all of the issues that relate to a particular application. I would certainly urge all those who are affected and concerned to present their concerns to the Ontario Energy Board.
In this regard, I understand that there is some $208,000 in intervener funding which is being made available to the Middlesex Landowners’ Association to be able to participate in phase 2 hearings. It is also my understanding that those phase 2 hearings were originally scheduled for the fall but that, at the request of the affected farming community, the hearings have been postponed until February so that concerned constituents in the member’s area can make their representations. I am confident the Ontario Energy Board will give them a full hearing and consideration -
The Speaker: There are a number of private conversations again. The member for Windsor-Riverside is waiting to ask his question and would like to be heard.
CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. It deals with children’s mental health facilities in my community of Essex-Windsor. As of November 1989, there are nearly 500 children in Windsor and Essex county on waiting lists for services from children’s mental health facilities in Windsor. The Regional Children’s Centre has 343 children and a wait of up to two years, Maryvale has 79 children and a wait of up to two years, Glengarda School for Exceptional Children has 23 with a wait of up to one year, the Children’s Achievement Association has a wait of at least one year and Child’s Place a wait of one year.
Does the minister not realize that these children, who are in desperate need of mental health care at times and who can be referred at a particular age, at age 13, are not even children any longer by the time they actually get service and that the long-term consequences of not getting service when they need it and help when they need it means that we are going to pay the price and those families are paying the price? When is the minister going to do something to make sure that children in this province have access to mental health services when they need them?
Hon Mr Beer: I thank the honourable member for the question. We have been meeting with officials of the Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres and I will be meeting with the executive early in the new year. They have sent me a letter outlining specific areas of concern that they have and we will be dealing with that very shortly.
I think one of the things we are doing with them is looking specifically at the question of waiting lists and trying to see if there is not some way that we can deal with that much more effectively, but clearly the member’s point in terms of children waiting is one that we are concerned about, and we do want to move to deal with that specifically.
Mr Pouliot: The minister is far too cautious and guarded. With respect, buddy, this is not the diplomatic corps. These kinds of situations call for direct action. The minister has people at the Lakehead Regional Family Centre, workers who have been on strike, a legal work stoppage, since 15 December. They have had it up to here, with respect, partly with the minister’s platitudes. They want some of the situations that are written down here resolved. There is a morale problem and a high turnover problem. They have lost 60 people in the last two years. There is a $5,000 difference. The minister has reneged on the commitment of his deputy minister. He has divested himself from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
The Speaker: And the question might be?
Mr Pouliot: What is the minister going to do about it? This is an urgent situation. Certainly the minister is not waiting for a woman on call in the middle of the night, always an elderly woman, to lose her life so that the minister will start taking direct action.
The Speaker: Order. Would the member please take his seat? That is the second time it was asked.
Hon Mr Beer: First of all, with respect to the general area, I have said we are dealing directly with the representatives of the children’s mental health centres. We recognize the issues and we are trying to work with them to resolve them.
On the specific issue of the Lakehead Regional Family Centre, as the honourable member knows, there are negotiations under way between the centre and those who are employed there. We want to ensure that is resolved and we will do whatever we can to assist those who are now discussing that particular situation. We recognize that there are a number of problems, but we have to deal with the whole area. We take it very seriously and are working specifically on that and the other issues that have been raised.
ASSISTANCE TO WRITERS
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Minister of Culture and Communications. It relates to a program, partially funded by the province of Ontario, known as the federal public lending rights program. The minister may be aware that this program was in fact set up some four years ago and the current cost of the program is in the range of some $300,000, the purpose of the program being to assist writers in Ontario and throughout Canada with respect to some of the published works that they are engaged in. It is a lending program from libraries to recognize that our need for writers is quite evident in this province, and they assist in literary activities of various kinds. Can the minister give her assurance to this House that this program is in fact going to be continued?
Hon Ms Hart: I thank the member for the question, If I heard him correctly, I think he said that it was a federal program. Perhaps I am in error in my hearing, but if it is a federal program it is not one I can do a whole lot about except that I will recognize what he says very clearly, that we have some great writers here in Ontario. We have a lot of programs that support writers, both through the Ontario Arts Council and through my ministry, and we will of course continue those programs.
Mr Brandt: If I misled the minister, I did so inadvertently. It is a federal program jointly funded by Ontario. My concern is that the federal government has enhanced its funding for this program to encourage writers and to encourage publishing in Ontario. The minister knows the publishing industry is primarily centred in our province, but it also encourages writers across the country.
Hon Mr Scott: This is what happens when you answer your own phone.
Mr Brandt: The concern that I have is -- if I can somehow speak over the interjections of the Attorney General (Mr Scott) who constantly berates us on this side of the House when we are asking serious questions -- is the minister prepared to continue funding her ministry’s part of this bill? It is extremely important to the writers of our province, and they want to know that they have the minister’s support for the continuation of the program. Is the minister prepared to make the commitment that she will not cut this program out of her ministry?
Hon Mrs Hart: The member has raised a program that I am afraid I do not know about. In fact, the support for writers by this government, which is quite substantial support, is primarily funded through the Ontario Arts Council. As the member will appreciate, I would not be in a position, or anyone in my ministry, since we are not professional writers, to make the judgement as peers should make that one writer over another should be funded. So we have delegated that authority to the Ontario Arts Council, and of course we so will continue to support writers in Ontario.
TEMAGAMI DISTRICT RESOURCES
Mr Fleet: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. This week a legislative committee completed hearings in forest management practices in the Temagami area. The minister is aware of my strong concern that adequate environmental considerations be taken into account in Temagami and that the public debate about these issues be based on facts and not myths. For instance, we on the committee heard uncontroverted evidence that Temagami is not the last stand of old-growth red and white pine in Ontario. Would the minister please advise of some of the areas in Toronto where old-growth pine are known to be and what steps her ministry is taking to ensure that such stands are not logged?
Hon Mrs McLeod: It is coincidental, but perhaps not inappropriate, that the first question of the session was on the Temagami forest issue and the last question of the session may well be on the Temagami forest issue. May I just indicate that I appreciate the interest of this member on this issue and that I appreciate as well the work that the standing committee on resources development has done over recent weeks in wrestling with the many different perspectives on an issue that has certainly been a complex and challenging one for my ministry.
I do appreciate an opportunity to add information that is helpful in this situation at any opportunity and I am pleased to be able to assure all members of the House that Temagami is not in fact the area that contains the last or the only old red and white pine stands in Ontario. There are very substantial stands of old red and white pine near Parry Sound, in Algonquin Park, between Espanola and Sault Ste Marie, near Thunder Bay, Atikokan and Fort Frances.
Having said that, of course we recognize the importance of the old stands. We have put 100,000 hectares of forest area in Temagami into a reserve category which protects about 30 per cent of the old red and white pine. We are carrying out further studies and look forward to the old-growth symposium on this subject in January.
Mr Fleet: Do I get a supplementary?
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time for oral questions and responses.
Mr Ward moved that committees may meet as required following routine proceedings this afternoon.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Campbell: I present to the Legislative Assembly a petition regarding Bill 8 given to me by Ontario residents. While I recognize and understand the standing orders concerning the presentation of petitions, I cannot in good conscience support this one in any form.
Mr Eakins: I have a petition addressed to His Honour the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, the secondary teachers of Victoria county beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows,” and it goes on to make a number of provisions and is signed by 105 Victoria county secondary school teachers.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a petition to the Parliament of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We, the parents of children attending Saint-Antoine school, Tecumseh, petition for your support in attaining from the Ministry of Education the immediate expenditure of funds for the purchase of land to provide a site for a new French-language Catholic elementary school in our area in view of their commitment made in April 1989 to fund the purchase of such land for this project. We also petition you for support in order that such a school be granted funds for construction as soon as possible. We ask for this in view of our crisis situation due to the growing overcrowding of our school and the continued predicted rapid growth in the student population.”
I file this petition on my behalf and also on behalf of the member for Essex-Kent (Mr McGuigan), since there are students in both constituencies.
ÉCOLE DE LANGUE FRANÇAISE
M. Pouliot : J’aimerais adresser au Parlement de l’Ontario la petition suivante :
« Nous, soussignés, adressons au Parlement de l’Ontario la pétition suivante :
« Nous, les parents des enfants de l’école St-Antoine, Tecumseh, Ontario effectuons une pétition demandant votre appui, en demandant au ministère de l’Éducation de la province de l’Ontario, pour l’achat immédiat d’un terrain pour la construction d’une école élémentaire catholique de langue française dans notre communauté selon leur promesse en avril 1989 pour l’achat.
« Nous supplions aussi votre appui pour des fonds pour la construction de cette école aussitôt que possible. Nous demandons ceci à cause de l’augmentation progressive dans notre population d’élèves. »
Mr McLean: I have a petition which reads:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows.”
It goes on and indicates what it is for. The essence is they request the withdrawal of Bill 8.
Mr Owen: I have a petition with 92 names objecting to the French Language Services Act.
TEMAGAMI DISTRICT RESOURCES
Mrs Grier: “We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario respectfully requesting that the province of Ontario take action in stopping any further logging in Temagami. We further request that the province address the legitimate aboriginal claims and take immediate action to preserve Ontario’s old-growth forest for the children of the province.”
This petition was collected by Casey and Connie Roberts and signed by 120 residents, and I support their appeal.
The Speaker: It is not necessary to name the collectors of the petition.
ANIMALS FOR RESEARCH
Mr Brown: I have a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It relates to the use of animals in cosmetic and product testing.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Mr Laughren from the standing committee on resources development presented the committee’s report and requested that it be placed on the Orders and Notices paper for consideration pursuant to standing order 36(b).
The Speaker: The member may wish to make a brief statement on this report.
Mr Laughren: I will be very brief indeed. When the resources development committee determined that it wanted to take a brief look at resource management in the Temagami area, it utilized -- for the first time, I believe, under standing order 123 of the new standing orders -- the right of a committee to have a subcommittee look at an issue, whether or not the full committee is meeting on another matter.
In this case, the subcommittee determined, because of the motion put by my colleague the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman), that the committee would take a look at resource management in the Temagami area and, more specifically, to utilize what is known as the Benson report, which was commissioned by the Teme-Augama Anishnabai native people to look at resource management, a study paid for by the Ministry of Northern Development.
For the benefit perhaps of other committees, they might want to reflect on the experience of the resources committee in this matter. We had a very difficult time because we were assigned only 12 hours to deal with the entire matter. That was all we were allowed. I would think that committees would be wise to consider undertaking projects that are less comprehensive than, for example, resource management in the Temagami area. It simply was put too big a project for a committee to do in only 12 hours.
We called witnesses before the committee and we debated it and had a good exchange with those people who appeared before the committee. However, it was impossible for us to go to Temagami, which I regretted very much because members of the committee, I believe, would have learned more and appreciated the issue more if we had been able to go to Temagami ourselves.
There is attached to the report a dissenting opinion partly because the committee did not have time to make any specific recommendations. I hope very much that in the future we will be able to debate the matter further in this assembly.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
MINING TAX AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Mancini moved first reading of Bill 104, An Act to amend the Mining Tax Act.
Motion agreed to.
ONTARIO HOME OWNERSHIP SAVINGS PLAN AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Mancini moved first reading of Bill 105, An Act to amend the Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan Act, 1988.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Mancini: This bill implements the changes to the Ontario home ownership savings plan program for the first-time home buyer arising out of the budget of the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) of 17 May 1989. These changes are designed to enhance the attractiveness of the program and include that higher-yield, fixed-term investments such as guaranteed investment certificates are now eligible investments, in addition to demand deposits; the early release of plan deposits is now allowed when a buyer has agreed to make interim payments to a builder as part of the agreement of purchase and sale; planholders who acquire an interest in a home as a result of marriage or inheritance are no longer required to pay back any tax credits received in previous years, and an individual whose spouse owned a home prior to but not after the marriage is now eligible to participate in the OHOSP program.
These important changes are going to be of great benefit to a large number of people.
EASEMENT STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Hon Mr Sorbara moved first reading of Bill 106, An Act to amend certain Acts with respect to Easements and other matters.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Sorbara: Very briefly, the act exempts municipalities from the requirement to register a notice of claim under the Registry Act to preserve easements more than 40 years old until 31 December 1999. It gives municipalities a final opportunity -- I said “final opportunity” -- to do survey and legal work necessary to register notices of claims. I know that the municipalities are going to be very happy about this.
The act also amends the Municipal Act and the Ministry of Government Services Act to deal with the regulation of disputes regarding the location, use and maintenance of public utilities located on private land.
I am sure that all members are going to want to support this measure, as it is something that municipalities have been urging us to do for quite some time.
The Speaker: Introduction of bills. Another one?
Hon Mr Sorbara: Yes. I know it is here somewhere. I will just defer to my friend the Solicitor General for a moment, because I think I have not been provided with a copy of the bill.
POLICE SERVICES ACT, 1989
Hon Mr Offer moved first reading of Bill 107, An Act to revise the Police Act and amend the law relating to Police Services.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker: The minister gave an explanation earlier.
BUSINESS NAMES ACT, 1989
Hon Mr Sorbara moved first reading of Bill 108, An Act respecting Business Names.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, prior to calling the eighth order, I would seek unanimous consent that the bell on this vote be limited to five minutes.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INCOME TAX AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Resuming consideration of the motion for second reading of Bill 60, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act.
The Speaker: I will then call for the deferred vote on the motion for second reading of Bill 60.
The House divided on Mr Mancini’s motion for second reading of Bill 60, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Adams, Ballinger, Beer, Bossy, Brown, Callahan, Campbell, Carrothers, Cleary, Collins, Conway, Curling, Daigeler, Elliot, Faubert, Fawcett, Fleet, Fontaine, Furlong, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Hart, Hošek, Kanter, Kerrio, Keyes, Kozyra, Kwinter, Lipsett, Lupusella, MacDonald, Mahoney, Mancini, McClelland, McGuigan, McLeod, Miclash, Miller, Morin, Nixon, J. B., Nixon, R. F., Oddie Munro, Offer, O’Neil, H., O’Neill, Y., Owen, Patten, Pelissero, Poole, Ramsay, Reycraft, Riddell, Roberts, Smith, D. W., Smith, E. J., Sola, Sorbara, South, Stoner, Sullivan, Sweeney, Tatham, Ward, Wilson, Wong.
Allen, Brandt, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D.S., Cousens, Cunningham, Eves, Grier, Harris, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Johnston, R. F., Laughren, Mackenzie, Marland, Martel, McCague, McLean, Morin-Strom, Philip, E., Pollock, Pope, Pouliot, Rae, B., Reville, Sterling, Villeneuve, Wildman.
Ayes 65; nays 29.
Bill ordered for third reading.
Hon Mr Ward: I would request consent to proceed to third reading on Bill 60.
INCOME TAX AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Mancini moved third reading of Bill 60, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act.
The Speaker: The member for Cochrane South wishes to speak on third reading.
Mr Pope: Yes, I do. I will be about 10 minutes. By the luck of the draw. I was not able to speak on second reading, although I was available to do so. So I wanted to take this opportunity on third reading, in addressing the need for third reading, to put on the record some of our basic concerns and reasons why we think that third reading should not be granted to this bill.
Third reading implies --
The Speaker: Before I allow the member to continue, I know there are many things that many members wish to talk about with their colleagues. Order. We will try again. The member for Cochrane South.
Mr Pope: Now that I have emptied the place. I would like to continue.
As I was saying, I wanted to address why we should not have third reading on this bill. In doing so, I want to very briefly -- and I do mean that -- put on the record our position with respect to certain tax policies of this government and our concerns about them.
My colleagues addressed very specific features of this particular measure and their specific concerns about it on second reading in committee of the whole House. I am sure members found their arguments convincing and persuasive and will join with us in voting down this bill on third reading. It is third reading we are addressing and I want to indicate that I am opposed to third reading of this bill because this bill, in its purest sense, underlines the tax policy position of the Liberal administration of this province, one that we simply can no longer afford or accept.
We have seen this government bring in, since 1985, 32 different tax increases. We have seen those tax increases add to the payroll burden of small businesses. We have seen the effect, the cost of travel in all parts of the province with gasoline tax increases. We have seen the impact of these tax increases with respect to the cost of housing, the cost of tires, the cost of paying for parking in downtown Metropolitan Toronto, the cost of goods in every part of this province but most particularly in the downtown core of Metropolitan Toronto. These are the consequences of tax policies that affect people in their everyday lives. It is not some idle philosophy being debated in this Legislature between three political parties: it is consequences on people and their daily lives.
We find this government is too flippant with the attitude that whenever it has a problem, whenever it needs more revenue, it just increases the taxes, and that is the end of its obligations or accountability to the people of the province of Ontario.
I really have to say that it is starting to have a dramatic impact on the people of this province. Nothing is more dramatic than an increase in the personal income tax rates since the Liberals came to power of over 10 per cent, from 48 per cent in 1985 to 53 per cent on 1 January 1990 under this bill. It is simply too much for people to have to pay. People in their daily lives will be affected, small businesses will be affected, industry will be affected. Ontario’s competitive position will be affected.
We have already seen other provinces discussing this. We have seen headlines: “Ontario has to be competitive to stay in business, Nixon says, in addressing tax policies.” There are growing concerns about the pace of Ontario’s industrial development. There are growing concerns about perhaps a recessionary cycle in some key industries, about loss of jobs, unemployment. All of this ties into a recessionary philosophy or a recessionary feeling about our economy, fuelled by inflation, high interest rates and tax increases.
Small business payroll taxes in this province since 1981 have gone up by over 106 per cent. They have doubled. Imagine, a small businessman today pays twice in payroll tax deductions what he paid in 1981 for each and every employee. That impact has to have an effect on small business in this province.
Not only have we seen direct tax increases by this administration, but we have also seen an offloading of responsibilities to municipalities, boards of education and many others. The result has been double-digit municipal tax increases for the last two years in this province and double-digit board of education tax increases. We have seen too many of these headlines, “Queen’s Park Blamed for Proposed 12.4 Per Cent Property Tax Increase.” This is in Metro Toronto, but it is the same story across the province. We simply cannot afford this kind of tax regime, this kind of tax policy any more in this province.
There is no doubt -- Statistics Canada said it last summer -- that tax policies are the chief cause of inflation right now in this country. Nowhere is the impact of tax policies on inflation clearer than in the Ontario where we have seen total provincial revenues from tax sources increase by over 100 per cent since the Liberals came to power -- a 100 per cent increase in tax revenues since this Liberal government was sworn in in 1985.
It is coming out of taxpayers’ pockets. It is coming out of teachers’ pockets. It is coming out miners’ pockets. It is coming out of bush workers’ pockets. It is coming out of small business. Everyone is paying the tune and it is too much. It is too much to increase the personal income tax rate to 53 per cent of the federal tax rate. That is why we cannot proceed with third reading. That is why we cannot vote for third reading on this measure.
This Liberal government has not only increased taxes, has not only shifted responsibilities over to the municipalities and boards of education, but there are also its general legislative grant transfer payment policies to boards of education, its unconditional grant transfer policies in terms of municipalities and many other government grants to agencies that perform vital public functions across this province.
This policy of transfer payments is not what they wish for themselves from the federal government, but it is what they have foisted on boards of education, municipalities and other agencies in this province.
Just some quick facts and then I really will sum up on third reading: Three of the five budgets tabled by the Liberals, including the two tabled by majority Liberal governments, have contained massive tax hikes. Over the past five years total provincial tax revenues will have increased by $15.2 billion or by 101.1 per cent. The Liberals will collect twice as much in taxes this year as the former Progressive Conservative government collected in 1984-85.
Since 1984-85 tax revenues have increased at almost twice the rate of economic growth and at about double the rate of growth in personal income in this province -- twice the rate of growth in income, twice the rate of growth of the economy. Fuelled by strong economic growth and a 10.4 per cent increase in the Ontario personal income tax rate, inflows from the personal income tax, will have more than doubled since 1984-85.
In 1989-90 personal income tax revenues will reach a projected $12,636,000,000, up 102 per cent from the 1984-85 total of $6,253,000,000. A one percentage point increase in the retail sales tax implemented in the 1988-89 budget will help push revenues from this source to $8,679,000,000 in this fiscal year, an increase of 96.1 per cent relative to 1984-85.
Under the Liberals, the gasoline tax on unleaded gasoline has been increased by 36.1 per cent. We had a federal election on an eight per cent increase in gasoline tax. This government increased the gasoline tax on unleaded gasoline by 36.1 per cent.
There are a whole host of other taxes. They are even taxing tires now. When you buy tires for your cars, they are taxing it.
We have talked at length in the Legislature over the past few days about the current commercial concentration levy. These tax increases, and this one in particular, the personal income rate, are not acceptable. We cannot afford it. People are having financial difficulties in their daily lives that this government is creating. They have an obligation to help.
We have heard a number of arguments on the need for these additional revenues. One is that this government has reduced the deficit. In fact, I think I am entitled to indicate to the House that from my analysis of the financial dealings of this Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), on 31 March 1989 in one afternoon, using automatic bank transfers to municipal accounts, he transferred out $400 million on account of 1989-90 expenditures for municipalities and on an accrual basis put it into the previous 1988-89 year.
The deficit, if he had waited six hours, would have jumped from $700 million to $1.1 billion. Because he did not wait the six hours and prefloat it, he tried to claim the deficit went the opposite way. We know it has not. We know the deficit is actually increasing when you look at expenditures on the basis of their application to the tax years.
Do we have the improved services the Liberals all boast about? Tell me about the lineups for cardiac surgery that we have seen in this province for the last four years. Tell me about the lack of anaesthetists in Atikokan and Thunder Bay. Talk to me about the outflow of specialty doctor surgery teams to the United States as a result of the attitude of confrontation that this government engages in with the medical profession. Tell me about the decline in basic health care services to a the people of Ontario that has been exhibited in example after example by my friend the member for Parry Sound (Mr Eves) over the last four months.
There is no doubt about it. There is a decline in the quality of health care in this province and there is a decline in public confidence in the ability of this government to deliver the quality health care they have a right to expect.
Tell me about the 200,000 students who are now in portables, 7,500 of them across the province, an all-time high. Tell me about the Lauzons today, and many other parents across this province who can no longer get their sons and daughters of academic excellence and ability into post-secondary education, into professional schools, into medical schools so they can serve the people of this province, as we ourselves had an opportunity to do.
Housing: How has housing improved? Nothing has been more dramatic in terms of the failures of this government than the lack of an affordable housing policy for the people, to help the people of Ontario. Fifteen per cent of all the money goes to consultants and most of them have to be Liberals to get it. That is where the money is going. There has been nothing more dramatic than the failure of this government to deliver affordable housing and affordable housing programs.
OPP: Reduction in staff complements of basic Ontario Provincial Police services across Ontario, particularly in eastern Ontario and particularly outside the Kingston area, dramatic reductions in the Ontario Provincial Police complement.
We have seen nothing but disaster after disaster in the resource sector with mining exploration activity down 48 per cent this year over last year, with mines closing down in Kirkland Lake, Latchford and Wawa, and with sawmills closing down across far northern Ontario. We have seen nothing but layoffs in the steel industry and concerns about the future of the steel industry in Sault Ste Marie and Hamilton.
We have seen nothing by way of economic and industrial restructuring, employment programs and training programs that will help and assist workers who are going to be laid off, or whose jobs are threatened or who desperately need upgrading and retraining so that they can function in the new, technologically more efficient industries of the future: none of that. We see none of the basics being done and in fact we see them deteriorating.
Why would we vote on third reading to increase personal income taxes, not by one per cent but by two per cent to 53 per cent of the federal income tax rate, a change from 48 per cent when we were in power to 53 per cent.
Tax Freedom Day this year was on 7 July. With this government’s record, Tax Freedom Day this coming year will be on 7 August, and that means every man, woman and child will be working full-time and part-time to try and make ends meet. It means they will be working until the middle of the summer, if not the end of the summer, in order to pay taxes to the government.
We have not seen any constraint or restraint from this government. We have seen 46 per cent, 50 per cent and 60 per cent increases in administrative expenses, and none of it going to the front-line services to help people out. This is not a performance this government can be proud of. These are not tax measures they can be proud of. These are not tax measures we can support.
Hon Mr Mancini: I need just a moment or two to wind up. I know we are very pressed for time today and there is a great deal of business to be done, but I have to place on the record that, yes, there have been some increases in taxes here in Ontario. One of the major reasons we have had to increase taxes is because of the cuts in federal transfer payments to the province. The government of Canada is systematically avoiding its responsibility and is systematically lowering its rate of assistance to the province for such things as education, and most importantly, health care.
The member opposite constantly talks about the quality of health care. When the government of Canada reduces its transfer payments, that hurts health care and the province of Ontario has to take appropriate action to make sure that our health care system., which I understand next year will be well over $15 billion, is appropriately funded.
The honourable member has been in the House a long time. He knows why these actions are necessary. He may not like them and we may not like them, but we have to keep our institutions operational, and most of all we have to ensure that quality health care is the order of the day here in Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker: Mr Mancini has moved third reading of Bill 60.
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Hon Mr Mancini: I assume we are going to stack the vote on this at 5:45. We are not going to stack it? That is fine. Let’s get it done now then.
The Deputy Speaker: If you want to have the vote stacked, five members will have to stand up. If there is nobody standing up, the motion gets carried.
Motion agreed to.
TEACHERS’ PENSION ACT, 1989
Mr Conway moved third reading of Bill 66, An Act to revise the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1989, and to make related amendments to the Teaching Profession Act.
The Deputy Speaker: Does the minister have an opening statement?
Hon Mr Conway: I have some comments, but I know other members want to speak so I think perhaps it would be sensible if I kept my remarks to the end.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Questions and comments?
The Deputy Speaker: Well, of course, if you have questions and comments on the minister’s statement.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I just wanted to say as a comment that I was glad the minister took all that time to gather his thoughts, as he was explaining to me he was before, because it was certainly very helpful.
Mr Morin-Strom: I appreciate the opportunity as the pension critic for the New Democratic Party to be able to speak on this very important bill, Bill 66, the Teachers’ Pension Act. Unfortunately, we cannot support the actions that are being taken by this government with respect to the pension plans affecting tens of thousands of teachers across this province.
The principles behind this act are in direct contravention of the beliefs of our party and of the vast majority of the citizens of this province. This bill sets a precedent that is totally unacceptable to us and we cannot see this kind of legislation go forward on third reading.
I think it is most unfortunate this government did not listen to the excellent presentations it heard in the public hearings portion of the standing committee on social development’s address towards this issue.
This bill, which was held up by the government and then necessitated a very rushed process of public hearings, did not allow the kind of extensive examination that would have been in the best interests, not only of the teachers but of the government of the day. The government enforced its whip and forced its members on the committee to toe the government line, even though it was quite clear that the actions taken in this bill were not in line with some of the claims that had been made by the minister on originally introducing this bill or with respect to offers the minister had made to the teachers’ federations of this province to enter into discussions leading towards other options for the pension plan that would govern teachers in Ontario.
This government has acted in bad faith in those discussions. It has not seriously addressed the three options that were suggested in this bill. This bill was to offer three alternatives: the first alternative, a government-run plan; a second alternative, a joint control plan, and a third alternative, the opportunity for the members to take over the plan themselves.
In the final analysis this government betrayed its commitment, its statements that it was going to look seriously at all three options and totally rejected out of hand any opportunity for the second and third options. In this bill now it has taken over the pension plan of the teachers lock, stock and barrel. The government has given itself new powers with respect to this plan, powers with respect to the control of the funds that are the property of the teaching profession, of the teachers of Ontario, who are in the plan for the purpose of the benefit of themselves and their families in their later years.
Pension plans are enforced savings plans. They are the most important savings plan we have as a society. The people of this province depend upon their pension plans as a way of accumulating funds so that they have some protection in their later years for themselves and their families. These funds should be managed in a fashion that is in the best interests only of the workers and their families. There should be an obligation, and the principles that we stand for would impose an obligation, upon the fund management that these funds are funds that are held in trust for the benefit of these workers and their families, and that all actions with respect to those funds should be to obtain the maximum return on the fund at the absolute minimum risk and ensure that the benefits of the plan accrue not only to current members but to future members.
This government had studies done for it with respect to pension policy in Ontario, most specifically with respect to the pension plans affecting teachers and the public servants of Ontario. Those studies that were done in the last two years, commonly referred to as the Rowan, the Coward and the Slater studies, all indicted the government quite seriously with respect to the mismanagement of those funds, the inability of this government to put those funds into the control of boards that were run at arm’s length with the government.
This government in this bill has taken over greater control of this plan and this bill sets precedents that we as a Legislature should not see go forward.
This bill has more than 100 sections to it, the details of the pension plan, as this government wants to operate it unilaterally, in a separate schedule, schedule 1 of the bill, which is going to be under the complete control of the cabinet of Ontario. The normal practice in this Legislature is that legislation can only be changed by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario: 80 per cent of the clauses in this bill are put aside into a schedule that can be changed unilaterally, arbitrarily by the cabinet of the province of Ontario, without any reference to the Legislature, without any consultation with the participants of the plan, whose funds are in this plan.
We offered the government the opportunity that if the cabinet of this province was going to want to come in and change the plan unilaterally, arbitrarily, without coming to the Legislature, at the least it should have had logo and consult with the teachers and get the concurrence to make those kinds of changes.
This government has refused that, has maintained its right to be able to change at whim clauses to this pension act. This government has never been serious about the option of joint control. They know that the teachers of this province have indicated that they wanted a joint-control plan. The teachers wanted to speak to the minister about it. They were very interested in it. The minister was categorical in the final analysis late last week, when he finally stated that “we in government are not prepared to accept what the teachers want, which is a binding arbitration mechanism.”
This government refused to have any kind of mechanism with respect to how differences, disputes between the joint-control partners of a plan would be able to reach a resolution. In the final analysis, this government wanted to have the final say on all aspects of this pension plan, and the bill, as coming out of committee, stacked by its members toeing the government’s line, is now one which in fact takes away rights that teachers have had in the past, takes away rights that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario has had in the past with respect to governance of this pension plan and indicates where the government is going in the future with respect to that most critical issue as to who owns the funds in a pension plan.
This government now is clearly on side with the employers of this province, with Conrad Black and his cronies, that the pension plans of this province belong to the employers. In this case, this pension plan belongs solely to the government of Ontario. They view these funds as not belonging to the teachers of this province, and this government is going to take any surpluses, any actuarial gains that are in this plan and use them for its own purposes, not for the purposes of the beneficiaries of this plan.
When it comes to deficits, the government claims it is going to pay off the accumulated deficiency of some $4 billion, but its claim is totally belied by its own figures with respect to that repayment schedule. The government has abandoned its commitment to pay off that liability, and just yesterday in committee we received the specific figures, the amortization schedule, that this government has taken, completely overriding the protections of the Pension Benefits Act of the province of Ontario, which protects members in other pension funds. The private sector funds have the protections of the Pension Benefits Act, but the teachers and the public servants of this province do not have those protections.
If there is a liability in a pension plan, there is a requirement under the Pension Benefits Act to meet that deficiency within a 15-year time frame. This government has asked for specific exclusions from the Pension Benefits Act. They are written into the act. The government has laid out a farcical timetable, a 40-year timetable, to pay off this under a payment schedule that no banker, no money manager, no fiscally responsible person could ever accept in the province of Ontario. The payments are not even half what the interest is on that debt. The debt continues to accumulate. That debt, which on the government’s own schedule, starting off as 1 January 1990, starts at $4 billion, is going to increase not just for the next few years. That debt is going to continue to increase for the next 25 years.
That debt to the pension plan, under this government schedule, is going to be more than $9 billion in the year 2014. It is going to take 25 years before this government stops increasing the debt on this plan. The debt is going to go from $4 billion up to $9 billion, a complete abdication of the responsibility of this government for reasonable fiscal management in Ontario, passing the burden on to future governments, certainly not Liberal governments, in the province of Ontario. A government 25 years from now is finally going to have the obligation, under this law, to start paying off that debt and will be paying it off for the final 15 years, when the debt finally comes down from that $9 billion to zero.
This government refuses to take responsibility for any of the liabilities and the deficit of the plan and, at the same time, it wants access to the surpluses so that it can avoid making payments into the plan, so that it can take contribution holidays and totally abdicate its responsibilities to the members of this plan.
This bill is utter theft by this government. It is the theft of the funds of the pensioners, the teachers of this province, and it cannot be accepted by reasonable people, by the general public and should certainly not be accepted by all the members of this Legislative Assembly.
I indicate that we are totally and absolutely opposed to this bill. We know what is coming in terms of pension legislation in the spring. The philosophy that this government is imposing on the teachers and the public servants of this province is going to be the same philosophy that the money in a pension plan belongs to the employer, and the pensioners of all pensions that have funds in any fashion in this province had better beware of this government. They had better wise up to what this government is doing. We want to see this pension philosophy turned over completely and utterly.
Ms Bryden: I would just like to commend the member for Sault Ste Marie on his very clear statement that the government has taken complete control of the teachers’ pension fund and has refused to listen to any of the teachers’ requests for a share in the administration of their jointly paid for pension fund in this province.
The Deputy Speaker: Other questions and comments? Le député de Lac Nipigon.
Mr Pouliot: As usual, you have been ripping the people off, sir. You have refused to make --
The Deputy Speaker: Address the Speaker, please.
Mr Pouliot: Right through you, Mr Speaker, with high respect, you have refused to bargain --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Standing order 22(a) says you address the Speaker.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I think he was. You misinterpreted.
Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, you are costing me very valuable time. I acknowledge your presence, with respect, again.
You, sir, are the architect of nothing but an injustice being done to the teachers. You do not want to talk about your own pension plan because if this one is in trouble --
The Deputy Speaker: Address the Speaker, please; standing order 22(a).
Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, to the minister, if this plan is in trouble, can you imagine what your plan, the plan that you, personally, and other members of this House will benefit -- you have $14 billion in one bank account; another $5 billion in the other bank account. You need not be a mathematical genius or anyone from Harvard or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: When you are short, you transfer.
Your actuarial figures: The very people that we trust, Mr Speaker, are saying that if the plan is well-managed, if the government had not “gypped” the contribution from the workers from the pensions, the plan could well withstand 50 years of projection, would indeed be very well funded, and the teachers would be the recipients, not of an extra one per cent abuse but the recipients of their deferred wages, of their contributions, decade after decade. You have failed miserably and you are not to be commended.
On the opposite hand, I think the member for Sault Ste Marie has presented the Minister of Education with a unique opportunity to do what is right to redress the wrong that this House has been faced with since the introduction of the bill.
The Deputy Speaker: I invite strongly the member for Lake Nipigon and all other members to read the wording of standing order 22(a) and address only the Speaker and no other member.
Mrs Cunningham: It is with some degree of sadness that I find myself in this Legislative Assembly this afternoon speaking to Bill 66. I want members to know that the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, through the hard work of the caucus members here at Queen’s Park, especially our interim leader the member for Sarnia (Mr Brandt) and our Education critic the member for Burlington South (Mr Jackson), have spent many hours supporting the statements that the member for Sarnia made and the promises he made to the teachers. That was that the party is totally, completely and unequivocally in favour of a dispute settlement mechanism. The second promise he made is that “this party is willing to fight with you to bring an element of fairness to your pension situation.”
In September 1988 the Treasurer of Ontario (Mr R. F. Nixon) invited the teachers of Ontario to enter into discussions to contemplate real pension reform. Although the discussions began on a note of high expectations for all of us in the education sector, high expectations for true reform, the Treasurer brought the discussion to a screeching halt on 11 January 1989. Discussions were terminated because teachers disagreed with the government’s concept of full and equal partnership. The government’s message to teachers was crystal clear: “Since teachers don’t agree with our definition of equal partnership, the government is going to legislate pension reform that meets the government’s needs and meets the government’s agenda.”
It appears now that the government’s intention from the beginning, sadly, of pension discussions was to impose the government’s control model on teachers. Throughout pension discussions with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, the government showed little serious commitment to meeting the pension needs of plan members. The government, we believe, knew all along that the teachers were reluctant to enter into a partnership that did not have a dispute-settling mechanism. The government’s definition of pension partnership with the teachers means that the government and teachers should be full and equal partners in the amount they contribute to the plan and in the way they share risks and rewards, but there is no place in the partnership model for teachers to have a voice in the management of their pension plan.
Teachers were willing to share the risks and rewards, but only if they could have a meaningful say in the management of the pension fund. And the only way teachers can have a meaningful say, like other members of our society, the only way they can be partners is for that partnership to have a dispute-settling mechanism, a way of resolving disputes between equals -- a basic principle on which our society is based and which we support in this House. However, the government turned a deaf ear to the teachers’ understandable desire to be a part of the decision-making process that would decide their pension futures, something that we encourage other groups to do on a day-to-day basis in the business world.
Teachers were not invited to work out the details that produce the three models of plan governance the government afforded teachers. The government’s attitude was high-handed and uncompromising, and we all witnessed it. Teachers were not part of the process that drafted the mistake-ridden Bill 41 that the government withdrew in embarrassment earlier this fall, and we reminded it of that at the time.
They were denied a meaningful input into the drafting of Bill 66. When Bill 66 went to committee, teachers were denied the time it takes to present amendments to a bill that is technical, complex and not without error. “Public participation” it is normally called.
During committee hearings, the Minister of Education became the phantom of the committee. Representatives of almost 150,000 active and retired teachers came to the committee to state their views and express concern about legislation that will shape their pension futures. The committee heard from the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, from each of the five provincial affiliates, from the Superannuated Teachers of Ontario and from local teacher organizations across this province, as did individual members in this Legislative Assembly for the last few months.
They came to express their concerns here, as they did in our offices. They came to state their views to the Minister of Education (Mr Conway), but he did not listen. He shut the door. He did not even give the teachers the courtesy of attending the presentation made by the OTF. Since the minister did not come to hear what the teachers had to say, let me tell him, through you, Mr Speaker, what he did not hear for himself.
This is what they said. They are willing to share risks and rewards in their pension plans. They told us that -- each and every one of us who are elected here today. But they do want a mechanism to ensure an equal say in the management of their plan. Teachers are willing to pay for the pension benefits they earn, but they want a say in how those pension benefits are costed. So do we in our individual plans.
The government’s joint partnership model is not acceptable to teachers because it does not allow teacher representatives to enter into pension discussions with any assurance that those representatives could expect to strike a pension deal. If, under the government’s view of joint partnership, there is a surplus in the fund, if the contribution rate is higher than the benefit earned, then there are three options. A contribution holiday for teachers and government is the first one. The second one is an improvement in benefits for plan members, and the third one is a combination of contribution holiday and benefit improvement.
But what if teachers decide they want to improve pension benefits? If the government says no, the contribution is reduced and teachers have no recourse at all. They have no option but to accept the government’s decision. How can the government offer a partnership model that gives teachers no say in the management of their pension plan? Local school boards would never get away with this kind of model, not at all. If local school boards were to operate like this, we would have strikes all over Ontario.
We try to set an example in those local boards, and we looked to the government a few years ago for leadership. This is not leadership. The issues are clear. Basic pensions of teachers are now protected within the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1983. The government proposes, in Bill 66, to make changes to all aspects of the teachers’ pension plan by simply passing an order in council. The Lieutenant Governor in Council has absolute control over the plan, without consulting with teacher representatives.
Government must give teachers 45 days’ notice before making changes in the pension plan, but there is no provision in Bill 66 that calls for the government to meet with those whose lives will be changed by unilateral government decisions. Bad management. One would not get away with this in the private sector. Businesses could not keep on moving along smartly.
The Legislature is also excluded from the process under this bill. Any amendments to the Teachers’ Superannuation Act must be presented in this House. Bill 66 removes a fundamental protection of the individual by allowing the cabinet to make changes to the teachers’ pension plan without coming to this House for debate.
Those of us who were teachers in this province would never allow our boards to operate like that and those of us who are teachers who are elected to this Legislative Assembly know darned well what our attitude was when we were out there in the ranks. Those of us who were school board trustees know how business is operated in school boards, and this is not a good model.
It was only at the insistence of opposition members -- and my great respect goes to my colleague the member for Burlington South on the committee that he represented us so strongly on -- it was only on his insistence, and that of others, that the orders made by cabinet under section 9 of the bill will come to this assembly, and that only after the fact, not before. The Liberals are abusing their power of government. It is painfully obvious to the citizens of Ontario, especially to teachers, that the Liberals are unwilling to listen to the needs of the ordinary citizen. This is just one of many bills that I have witnessed that have been pushed through committee in this fashion.
The minister had the opportunity to correct some of the major inadequacies of Bill 66, but he shut the door. As an example on that point, the minister did have the opportunity to accept an amendment that would permit the Lieutenant Governor in Council to amend the plan if the Minister and the OTF agreed. If no agreement was possible, amendments to the teachers’ pension plan could still be made, as they are now, by presenting the appropriate bill to this House. But no, the minister refused to listen. He repeatedly stated in this House that many meetings have taken place with teacher representatives over the last 16 to 18 months.
The fact is that the minister shut off all lines of communication about teacher pensions with the OTF. The minister did meet with the OTF on two occasions: on 27 October with the OTF executive, a routine meeting by the new Minister of Education, a meeting which places a focus on all educational issues and not just pensions; on 15 November with the table officers of OTF for approximately two hours to discuss the breakdown of communications over teacher pensions. Two hours out of the last four months is not the open government that was the platform of the Liberal Party but a short time ago.
The minister must surely be aware of the meeting his staff have had with the staff of OTF and the affiliates to correct the multitude of errors in Bill 41; meetings to correct the technical aspects of the bill but not to discuss the substantive issues that remain outstanding. It is a lack of communication with the people directly involved in the issues that brings Bill 66 before us today. If the minister had taken the time to meet with the teachers, we would not be here today having a totally unacceptable piece of legislation rammed down the throats of the citizens of Ontario. Basic freedoms have been denied. The practice of democracy is not part of the government’s agenda.
Notwithstanding the minister’s refusal to meet with the teachers, the time allocated to the standing committee on social development to hear from teachers was severely restricted. This is true of other committees as well. One hour, that is the time the government set aside to hear from the OFF. The medical profession would complain the same way with Bill 147. The provincial affiliates were allotted one half-hour. Local teacher groups were given only 15 minutes to comment on a major piece of legislation that will affect numbers of lives and the lives of their families; a piece of legislation that impacts on each and every one of them for their total teaching career and during their retired lives.
This government has made a joke of the democratic process, a joke that negatively reflects on every member of this House, regardless of party affiliation. The Liberals are setting a precedent with this legislation that must be avoided in a democratic society. We cannot leave the decisions to the Lieutenant Governor in Council alone. This assembly has a duty to represent the citizens of this province in an open and fair way.
This bill excludes the normal practices of this Legislature and does not reflect the personal and professional needs of the members of the teachers’ pension plan. Teachers will be required to pay an additional one percent in contributions. The taxpayers of this province who I represent as an employer will also be required to pay one per cent more. No additional benefits will accrue to teachers under this bill. The additional contributions will be used to pay off the government’s debt, the unfunded liability that the government so graciously indicated that it would be paying. That is what we all listen to.
The government has indicated in schedule 2 of the bill that payments will be made over 40 years to pay off this unfunded liability, an unfunded liability that continues to get larger, not smaller, over the next 25 years. Bad management. From just over $4 billion in 1990 to more than $9 billion in the year 2014. This government is transferring the debt of today to the next generation of Ontario taxpayers.
Was this not the very reason why the government wanted to address the teachers’ pension plan in the first place, getting back to square one? Was that not the initial question? The government told us, teachers, parents, school board trustees and elected members of’ this Legislature, that there would be no intergenerational transfer of debt. But future teachers and future taxpayers, including our children, will pay a high price for this government’s political expediency. The government cannot follow its own basic principles. How can it expect the teachers of the province to show any respect for its objectives when teachers are treated in such an autocratic fashion?
The minister has fumbled this legislation for the last four months. Today he has dropped the ball. The teachers of this province have called for his resignation because they have no confidence in him. They have called for his resignation because they have lost respect for him. It is understandable why the teachers of this province are angry. This government will force this bill down their throats. Only time will reveal the ending to this sad story on democracy.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I would like to join in the debate briefly, although third reading of this kind of bill in the face of this kind of majority, is one of those great existential moments of futility and primordial angst. You know you are not going to affect anything, you know there is no chance for amendment at this stage: all you have is a chance to revisit past losses in committee and past examples of arrogance or insensitivity by the government and use these few moments in time to relish the shame that one hopes one can bring on a government at this stage.
First, I would like to take a moment to thank and praise the member for Sault Ste Marie (Mr Morin-Strom), who jumped into the breach because of my being hospitalized and being unable to take the normal responsibility for this bill. Thank goodness he did, because he actually understands actuarial matters in a way that I certainly do not. Even after the limited hearings I have been party to, I still find myself a little bit overwhelmed by some of the language and equations that show themselves up in this legislation.
The member for Sault Ste Marie did a superb job in raising questions that stumped members of the civil service for minutes at a time. There would be these muffled whispers and huddles around the minister as everyone looked a little perplexed and somebody finally came up with an answer, which usually did not --
Mr D. S. Cooke: How long was the minister stumped for?
Mr R. F. Johnston: The minister usually just sat there relatively catatonic, which for him is a rarity, and waited for the wisdom to come forward. It was actually good theatre in many ways, and I really do appreciate the work the member for Sault Ste Marie did. It was superb.
Ultimately, when we look at what we have before us today, it is a bit of a charade that was played out, one which is bound to add to the cynicism that people in general and teachers in particular will have about this process and the process of consultation.
We had a bill that was introduced as Bill 41 which, as I indicated at second reading, broke all records for amendments. We will never know how many there were, but well in excess of 100, we are told. It came back as Bill 66. We then had, right up to the last minute in committee, amendments which were four and five pages long, being read in somnolent tones by the minister in almost incomprehensible fashion. He even managed to stump the member for Halton North (Mr Elliot), my old math teacher, and others in the committee.
It was a case of a government never really on top of its own legislation, this in spite of the fact that throughout all of it, the government was carrying on this ruse that it was wanting to listen to the teachers and wanting to provide options for them to be able to share in a meaningful way in the administration of their plan.
From the very beginning, and now it must have hit home a week or so ago to the teachers, there was no honesty behind that public presentation by the government that it was open on this matter. It must be very clear at the moment to the teachers that this was just a charade and that in fact the government, from the beginning, wanted this to be its plan, wanted it to be as tightly controlled in as hard-handed and iron-fisted a fashion as I could ever imagine in legislative terms, and that it had never really thought at all about a move to shared responsibility for the workers’ pensions.
We had in this period of time the minister becoming aloof, then totally unapproachable and, even when his office was occupied, able to disappear Noriega-like into the ether and not be seen. It was quite a phenomenal approach, teachers now who used to think the doors were open, that even Bette Stephenson was an approachable and open human being in comparison with what they have run into in the last little while.
Mr D. S. Cooke: She was open, but let’s not push it.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Did I go too far? I withdraw. It would be dangerous to rewrite history too excessively here.
But I want to just put in context what has been done here. The ministry, through the powers of the executive council and order in council, has the right to establish a majority control of the board for the pension administration. Not only has it got that control, but it now has the extra control of being able to appoint directly the chair if it is not happy with whom its majority on that board would appoint.
It is phenomenal. It is like saying in regard to a committee of this Legislature that the majority of members of the government who are on that committee are not capable of actually nominating their own committee chair. Of course, we have seen that time and time again, so that is probably where they got the idea from.
We have seen a unilateral ability to change the terms of this act and it was only as a last-minute thought, at the 11th hour, that the government even thought that perhaps there should be a notification provision in this. The first two drafts of this bill did not mention anything at all about notifying the Ontario Teachers’ Federation or the other affiliates to the federation of any changes that may be made to the bill, changes that might be tantamount to rescinding the plan itself, if you can believe it.
The government brought in a motion of a 45-day notice, and my colleague and I brought in an amendment which said to make that 120 days so it can be meaningful and put in with this a requirement for consultation with the OTF during that 120-day period and if necessary, if both sides wish to waive this, a provision to waive. This was turned down by the government. This kind of pro forma consultation, not saying the government had to listen to what the teachers said, not saying it had to agree with what the teachers said, but that it should necessarily have to consult with them about changes to a plan which is with their money and which might be tantamount to actually rescinding the plan, was turned down by the government without any kind of a replacement motion on its own part.
If we look at the powers that this government has given itself, it has made Conrad Black look like a piker in pension matters. When I look at my situation and that of anybody else in this House who has a mortgage, I say, “My goodness, I would love to have the provisions for the paydown of my mortgage that are in this plan.” It is wonderful. It does not even pay interest. It does not even match the interest that is needed to be paid.
The previous speaker said that it was a matter of turning the debt over to the next generation. That is not true. It is turning it over to three generations down the road, not the next generation but my great-great-grandchildren. By 2014, this government will have lowered the debt that is so enormous and so difficult for this government now from $4 billion all the way down to $9 billion. I guess they have that wrong. That is sort of double or more than double the debt, by 2014. That is the next generation.
Mr Reycraft: What is it in 2030?
Mr R. F. Johnston: 2030 is some 40 years from now. That is the point.
Mr Reycraft: What is the debt in 2030?
Mr R. F. Johnston: The member for Middlesex does not have the right to have a mortgage on his house that is 40 years from now and that pays it down then. Everybody else who has a pension plan in the province of Ontario, except for the public service, which was hurt badly just recently with this kind of legislation, has to pay down his debts in 15 years, and the member knows that.
Instead, what the government has done is set up this wonderful scheme for itself, whereby it takes 40 years and in the meantime, it is going to be able to work out little deals because of its total powers here, to even restrict the amounts of money that it will be putting in if there are certain surpluses and other means of being able to make a little money on the side, as the member for Sault Ste Marie showed time and time again in committee. It is an affront, what the government has done.
If I were a teacher in this province at the moment, I would feel insulted. There is a reversal of roles here which I do not understand at all. I hear Tories now getting up and supporting the teachers and their demands. When they were in government, I never remember their talking about pensions as deferred wages. I never remember their talking about the workers having the rights to control the pension plans. All of a sudden, they do. Those guys opposite, who sometimes used to talk that way, have out-Conraded Conrad Black.
It is just incredible. The Dominion workers, looking at what the government has done, will say, “My goodness, they learned a good lesson from Conrad.” Conrad bought himself a newspaper with their pension plan. My rhetorical question is, what is the government going to buy with its profits off their plan now and their money? Nuclear power plants? Is that what it is going to be? What the government has done is incredibly offensive.
I would just say, in closing, that we may have lost this particular battle, the government may have forged new ground here, bad examples for other governments in the country to look at in terms of pension plan legislation, but this will come back to haunt the government, not just those who are teachers and will hear from their colleagues about this but the rest as well. This is an offence not just to people who have a good plan at the moment in the teaching profession, but to those people who hope to have plans that they control and who understand that it is their money that needs the protection and that the government should not have this total Stalinistic control.
Mr Elliot: I have a brief comment to make to set the record straight. I followed the discussion with a great deal of interest and I am sure that the minister who has carried this bill in committee will be responding. I wanted to correct the record, though, on one personal comment that was made with respect to this last dissertation, to set the minds of the people of Halton North at ease more than anything else.
To the member for Scarborough West, I recognize that I am superannuated, but I have never thought of myself as old, even as a math teacher.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I have a 20-second response. Anybody who taught me math years back -- well, number one, that is a contradiction -- but anybody who tried to teach me math back in my high school years and claims not to be old at this point has a difficulty in understanding linear mathematical thought.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): The chair accepts the apologies from both members.
Mr Jackson: I wish to rise and respond to what I believe is a very sad legislative outcome for Bill 66, an act respecting teachers’ pensions in the province of Ontario.
It is the Christmas season, as we on our very last day prepare to go home to be with our families, even perhaps to reflect upon all that we have benefited from in the past year, count our blessings and take stock of what we have really accomplished in the last year. For some in this House, this is not going to be a pleasant Christmas. It is not because, quite clearly, with the passage of this bill today, this government will have hijacked the teachers’ pensions in this province.
Quite frankly, I consider that unconscionable and I suspect that each member should, with equal conscience, be looking at all of the constituents and the contributions that they have made to this province in the course of the last year and preceding. They singled out in 1986 the doctors in this province and in 1987 the pharmacists and the nursing home operators, and it just so happens that as we close this decade, this government has chosen to attack the teachers of this province.
The fact is that when I look at A Christmas Carol, as everybody does -- it is a great tradition for most people -- I am going to revisit the Dickens classic, Oliver Twist, and I somehow think of our Premier (Mr Peterson) as Mr Bumble, referring to Oliver’s very simple request that if he is going to make a contribution, he might anticipate something equal and possibly even slightly better in return.
This image really haunts me. I can see the Premier as Mr Bumble whose comments to date in this whole debate has been limited to his reference to calling the teachers of this province silly. That is all that he has contributed to this debate in the last year and a half. But that same Mr Bumble Premier is going to waltz down to New York with his Minister of Education (Mr Conway) tightly pinched by the ear with a plan for sale.
He is going to have a pension plan for sale. Quite frankly all he has done with this master-stroke of fiscal reshuffling of numbers is that he has taken the perception by Standard and Poor’s and those in New York we in this province borrow money from and has simply gone and said, “We have a plan in which we have responsibility for all the liability, but we can lay claim to only a part of the surpluses of this fund,” but now, after today, having passed this bill, that Premier can waltz down to New York and say, “We have a plan now that we control and have all the assets of, but the liabilities are shared more equally now with the plan members.”
I, for one, will not succumb to the simplicity of this move, nor the duplicity of it, by voting for it. I will be voting against this bill. My experience in the last two weeks of public hearings and clause-by-clause debate has convinced me that there are several principles that have been put at risk here by some members of this House.
First, I think we have seen a new standard of misconduct in bargaining with a group of Ontario citizens, 150,000 present and former teachers in this province. It has been clearly documented that this government has been bad-faith bargaining with the teachers. As I have said, we in this House have created legislation after legislation to protect employees in this province from employers who would bargain in bad faith. When a government does this to any group in society, there is no law to protect them from the government they have elected. The only way for protection will be exercised at the next ballot box. That cannot happen too soon for the teachers of Ontario.
The fact is that bad-faith bargaining was demonstrated when this government had the audacity to suggest in a letter on 26 September to the president of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, signed by the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) -- I will quote from this letter. He talks about the fact that, “Dr Slater’s concept of a new partnership with joint trusteeship appears attractive to us,” the government. “Underlying his proposal is the principle that teachers and the government should be full and equal partners in the amount they contribute to the plan, in the way they share its risks and rewards, and in the role they play in the management of the pension funds in the future.”
The key words here are “full and equal partners.” The reason that is important is that this was the one and only time this government ever uttered those words to the teachers of Ontario. Meaningful discussions were taking place with teachers, they thought.
The government discussed three options. They discussed the government plan, but they never discussed with the teachers the construction of the government plan we now have before us. They talked about a joint plan. They did not call it a full and equal partnership; they only referred to it as a joint plan.
Then we found out several weeks ago that this government was really unwilling to go to full public hearings. They stood prepared to limit the amount of public involvement in this bill to a few short hours. Fortunately that decision was reversed and fortunately there was an opportunity. Although there was an opportunity for the teachers’ federations of this province to participate in those hearings, it is now abundantly clear that the government had no intention of listening.
How can we say that? We can say that because during the course of these discussions with the government, we repeatedly called -- both the members of the New Democratic Party and myself persistently called upon this government to publicly declare which of the three plans it was going to promote. Yet they insisted on proceeding with this bill without even declaring which of the options they were going to impose in this legislation.
We had one, the parliamentary assistant to the Treasurer, for example, who indicated, “We were not ready as a government to table our plan, and we certainly were not ready with our amendments.” Funnily enough, 20 minutes later, under persistent pressuring of the Minister of Education, all of a sudden magically we had all the amendments appear.
That spoke volumes for the way in which this government has played cat and mouse with this bill, the way in which it has covered its real intent in the way it was going to negotiate with teachers. It is obvious now that certain members of the government were not even advised how the government was ultimately going to play out this bill, so that those teachers who were involved who approached their members in good faith, who came to their constituency offices and sat down, thought they were talking to a backbench Liberal member who understood what was actually going to happen.
Much of the tragedy of this is the fact that the Treasurer has used some of the government members as pawns in this very ugly chess match. That was demonstrated during the public hearings. The contradictions that existed between several former teachers and Liberal backbenchers of his government were demonstrated very clearly.
Mr Furlong: Absolute nonsense.
Mr D. R. Cooke: Your nose is growing.
Mr Jackson: I suggest they read Hansard. They should read something about this bill because it is apparent a lot of the Liberal members have not understood what has been happening with this bill.
As I said, we are always anxious to create bills that will protect employees from employers in bad-faith bargaining, but it is apparent that this government is unwilling to suffer itself with the same standard it would impose on anyone else in society. I want to suggest that this bill will be long remembered for the fact that it hijacked the pension, vested control in the cabinet and has a payment schedule that is frankly irresponsible. There are only two other pension plans we know about that have a 40-year payout figure, the province of Quebec and the state of Massachusetts in the United States.
As has been previously indicated, this unfunded liability will be allowed to grow from $4 billion to over $9 billion. This kind of Liberal abuse was visited by the federal Liberals in a previous decade and now it is going to be hung around the taxpayers of this province, on future generations of taxpayers in this province, in a fashion we have never seen before.
They think they are getting away with something cute with this bill and they are not. The fact is that future generations will be strangled by the way they have configured this. They are going to be able to borrow more and more money at cheaper rates, in their view, as a result of this clever fiscal trick. The fact is they have abandoned a principle. The principle has been referred to as well: Pension funds are deferred income and are held in trust on behalf of the plan members or those who have made the contributions.
This government has walked all over that principle by passing this bill and by not accepting some of the amendments. Those amendments were lifted from other pension plans in this province based on standards that have been upheld by our court system in terms of equality and protection for those people who make the contributions, but this government has walked on that principle. This bill shows contempt for 150,000 active and former teachers in Ontario. This bill will increase a contribution by one per cent and provide the government to take a contribution holiday.
We have tabled over two dozen amendments to this bill. Several of those dealt with improvements for superannuated teachers and for women teachers who badly need some minor adjustments in their benefits package. When I tabled those, the Minister of Education ruled them out of order and said, “This bill is not about benefits.” To the Minister of Education: No truer words were said.
This whole exercise never was about teachers’ benefits. It never was about their pension plan. It was all about a fiscal strategy for the Treasurer. Every member in this House should remember our earliest days in primary education. We presume that we were all taught well. Our earliest lessons were given to us by our parents and by our teachers in our schools. The fact is that at that time we should have learned about fairness, about equality and about compassion.
It is obvious the Liberal government of Ontario has forgotten those early lessons that were given to us by our parents and by our teachers, and now they are going to suffer the consequences of having walked away from those important principles. I, for one, cannot support that and I, for one, and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario will not support Bill 66.
Mr B. Rae: In closing off the debate for our party, I cannot resist saying a few words about the members of the Conservative Party who have spoken today. Over many years I have sat in this House and in other places listening to the Tories with respect to the question of pensions. I want to say that I remember the day the government introduced this bill. The party that was the first to say, “Ready, aye, ready,” the party that was the first to say this was the fiscally responsible thing to do was the Conservative Party of Ontario. That is what they said then. That is what their official spokesman who responded on that day said.
I want to remind those who have a very short memory that for 42 years in this province we had a party in power that deprived millions, not just a few but millions of Ontarians of a private pension. We had a government in this province that allowed employers to skim off moneys they decided were surplus. We had a government in this province that allowed employers in droves to go on contribution holidays and not put a nickel in a plan, at the same time as their employees were forced to put in.
We had a government in this province that sat back and did nothing while employees changed jobs -- I remember a fellow came into my office in the middle of the last recession in 1983. He had had eight separate jobs in this province. He came here from Prince Edward Island back in the 1930s and he did not have a nickel in a pension plan, not a cent that he could call his own or that he could take from one job to the next. That is the heritage of the Tories in the province of Ontario when it comes to pensions.
In case anybody thinks it was any different for the teachers, the Tories now describe this plan as the hijacking of a plan. What the hell was there to hijack? Bill Davis sat on that plan, controlled it, ran it and said exactly how it was going to be run and how it was going to be operated. The Tories ran that plan for 42 years. When I hear from the Tories today -- they are all around lobbying the teachers and have been the source of all good things for teachers as they prepare for their various leadership campaigns -- I want to say that I am more than sceptical; I am derisive of this approach.
To those who are being lobbied, to those who are being importuned, to those who are being paid attention in a way they never were for 42 years, and I can assure members never will be again after an election campaign is over, I want to just say to my friends in the teaching profession -- some of them may even be listening to me as I speak -- beware, be wary and have a memory that extends beyond the last 30 minutes.
I have heard of wolves in sheeps’ clothing and I have heard of wolves in democrats’ clothing, but this is a bit ridiculous when we have the Tories saying: “Here we are on behalf of employees. We want to fight the battle for employees.” The Tories have stiffed employees in this province, whether they are teachers or public sector workers or working in the private sector, for half a century. They did it while they were in government for 42 years. I do not see why anybody should believe them when they are in a well-deserved period of opposition as the third party.
I want to say this as well, to the government --
Mr Pelissero: Be gentle.
Hon Mr Ward: You had the crowd with you. Now you’re going to blow it
Mr B. Rae: I have to be fair.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr B. Rae: The issue before us is relatively simple. The amounts of money involved are very large. No one should be under any illusions about that. The teachers’ pension fund, together with the civil service pension fund, raises hundreds of millions, indeed billions of dollars every year. It raises it in two ways. It raises it in terms of contributions that come from teachers and contributions that come from the government, and it raises it in the form of the amount of money that the fund itself accumulates simply through its investments.
The issue, however, is really a relatively simple and clear one. The government has said that instead of having two funds, we are going to have one. We are going to increase the amount of money that has to be paid into the plan by teachers by one per cent, so it will go up to nearly nine percent of salary going into the fund. At the same time the government said, and it said in many different ways -- the rhetoric said -- “We want to create a partnership.”
Without getting into any of the legal technicalities, what is a partnership? A partnership is something where two people, or three or five or seven come together on relatively equal terms. They determine between themselves the rules by which the partnership will be run. They determine between themselves the ways in which decisions will be made.
In the case of a pension fund, what would a partnership look like? A partnership would look like this: The partners themselves would decide how much money should be contributed to the plan. The partners themselves would decide how the money that has been paid into the plan should be invested. The partners themselves would appoint trustees to the plan who would take responsibility for the plan and determine how those investments should be made.
The partners themselves would determine if the plan needed to extract more money in terms of contribution because it was falling short, or would determine, if things seemed to be going very well: “We can pay out more in benefits. We can allow people to retire a little earlier. We can do something for those who have been retired for a long time because they have suffered at the hands of inflation.”
There are all kinds of things. They may determine, for example, that survivors, widows, surviving spouses of people who have died may be very short of money. The plan may not have done enough because it was not a very generous plan 20 or 30 years ago. The trustees may say in their wisdom. “There are some 75-year-old and 80-year-old former teachers out there, or the widows of former teachers, who are not doing very well and we can afford this year to give out a little bit more.”
A partnership would provide for one other thing. On any of those questions, how much should be put in or how much should be taken out, and they both put money into the plan, if the partners disagree, in any fair partnership there would be a way of resolving the differences between the two partners or three partners or four partners.
I suggest to the members of the House, to the members of the Liberal Party that this is not what they have done. First of all, it is the government that has said how much money has to go into the plan. They announced it, and when they announced it the Tories said that seemed a fiscally responsible thing to do.
The teachers have said, after much heart-searching I think it is fair to say: “Okay, we can live with that extra one per cent. We can see the logic of having to pay back that unfunded liability, of having to cover for that and of having to be able to pay for indexation which is an important benefit in our society today.”
People are prepared to pay for that. I have not heard any objections from teachers to the notion of having to pay more into the plan. There were objections at the beginning. We heard them loud and clear at the beginning, but I think that now the issue is not focused on the question of how much money is going into the plan. That is not the focus.
The focus now is on a different question and that is: “Whose money is it anyway? Who is going to control what happens to that money? Who is going to determine how the plan will he managed? What do we do when there are differences between the various partners as to what is going to happen to our money?”
The government has a response and I want to describe it in as neutral a term as I can. The government says: “We are the government of Ontario. We are the guardians of the public purse. We have a responsibility to all the taxpayers of the province. The money we contribute into the plan does not come from the sky; it comes from taxpayers. It is a substantial sum of money, indeed it is hundreds of millions of dollars a year, which we have to pay into that plan on behalf of all the taxpayers.”
The Treasurer has said on a number of occasions, and to give him credit he says it with as much vigour and in that way, that inimitable style he has, “‘That’s a responsibility which I’m not going to give up; I’m not going to let some arbitrator whom I don’t even know and whom I have probably never even met determine how the plan is going to be run.”
That is the position which the government has taken. I might point out that it is not a novel position. It is the same position which, I suggest, the party that now sits on my left, the Tory party of Ontario, took for 42 years. If members believe that the Tories would have given over to a third party the determination of a dispute between them and teachers with respect to a pension plan, then I have some swamp land in Florida that I would be glad to sell them at a very reasonable price. It just is not true.
Mr B. Rae: The member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke) just said that I should have declared that on my conflict-of-interest statement. It shows that we are getting very close indeed to the holiday season.
I want to try to respond to that argument, because it is a strong argument, and I want to respond to it as simply as I can. It is to say this to government members: When the government puts money into the plan, it does so as an employer. It does not do so, if I may put it another way, as the supreme legislator for all of Ontario. It does so because it is representing the school boards of this province. It is representing them collectively and putting its money in as an employer and therefore -- I see members shaking their heads. This is really the dispute that we have. This is the disagreement that we have and that the teachers of this province have with the government on this question. This really is what it comes down to. How democratic is this province prepared to be with money which it puts in and which the teachers put in as well?
I say to members opposite that, as we head into the 1990s, I cannot conceive of our saying to teachers, of our saying to employees whose lives are going to be changed beyond recognition in the 1990s in terms of industrial change, I cannot conceive of our saying to them, “You can put money into the plan, but you cannot determine what will happen to it, you cannot determine the participation rates, you cannot determine the benefit rates, you cannot determine what happens and you have no right to fair arbitration.”
Mr Haggerty: Bob, there’s three options there.
Mr B. Rae: I hear the questions and the heckling coming from the opposite side. I can just say to the members opposite very sincerely that this question will not go away because what the government has done, as an employer, to the teachers is precisely what employers are doing to their own employees across the private sector.
Now, I know full well the corridor talk out there: “Teachers are well paid. What are they moaning about? What are they griping about?” They are well paid. They have a good early pension plan. They have a good pension plan. Why are they complaining?” I know full well that the government has taken the view that it can afford to isolate the teachers on this issue because they are seen by much of society as a relatively privileged group, a relatively well off group in comparison with some others. That has been the political calculation that the Liberal Party has made.
But I want to suggest to the Liberal Party members that they have made a terrible miscalculation because they have failed to understand that this is not a question simply of how much money is put in or indeed how much money is paid out; it is a question of who owns the plan. It is a question of ownership of the money which you put in, and with that ownership should come some rights. I want to suggest that what we are beginning to see in our society -- I could give another speech in which I would say I think it is part of what we are seeing around the world -- is a desire on the part of people to take more responsibility for what they see as theirs and a determination not be pushed around and pushed aside.
The teachers’ claim to arbitration is a perfectly legitimate claim when you consider the hundreds of millions of dollars of teachers’ money that is in that plan just as surely as the employer has put money into that plan. It is as much theirs. That is what makes the teachers’ claim to arbitration such a profound one and such a democratic one. So when I hear the government laying claim to whatever surplus comes down the pipe -- and I know there are those who say, “There is no surplus” -- I can assure members that it is quite possible that indeed there will be one, given the ways in which contribution rates are established and the ways in which the conservative estimates of the plan’s investment possibilities have been set out by the government. I just say that.
The government is acting no differently from any other employer. My colleague the member for Scarborough West said it most clearly when he compared the government to Conrad Black. I have made that comparison myself on a couple of occasions. Why did we get mad at Conrad Black?
We got mad at Conrad Black because he took the money as surplus -- and the court said he could not do that -- and because he insisted, on occasion, on going on contribution holidays when he thought there was enough money in the plan. If I may say so in response to the Liberal members who are sitting there quietly listening to what I have to say, I do not see any difference in what this government has done. They are saying, “We get the surplus, we can go on contribution holiday if we want and we will determine how the plan operates.” Then they say to the teachers, “Now you can run the plan.”
I want to say this about that because it may well be that the Minister of Education will again make that as his final offer, saying: “Fine. If this isn’t good enough, you run the plan.” Run what plan? They are asking the teachers to run a plan for which the government legislation has determined what the rates of contribution will be. The legislation determines, by regulation and by law, the plan in every way, shape and form, and then they say to the teachers, “Now you run it.” Run what? If we are not prepared to give people the responsibility of taking responsibility for these decisions and some real rights when it comes to determining how a plan will work, how it will be invested, rather than as a kind of captive of government policy, I think the teachers are right to be very sceptical and say: “What exactly are you asking us to run here? What are we being asked to carry the can for, something for which we have no real responsibility?”
In closing, I want to suggest to members that what I believe the government has done is ultimately going to be of great benefit to the province for this simple reason. It has created an alliance of public servants, of teachers, of private sector employees, those who have plans and those who do not have plans, who recognize that the savings that are accumulating in pensions today are worth billions and billions of dollars and that within Canadian capital markets they are among the most significant players in a modern economy. I see the prospects of a social revolution in the 1990s where teachers and public sector employees and private sector employees are going to say:
“We can run these plans. We can run them on behalf of our members. We can run them on behalf the people who have elected us to do that job. We want to take responsibility for those decisions, we want to take some ownership of those plans and we want to be given the responsibility and the right to participate in those plans and the right to arbitration if there are disagreements between us and employers as to what should happen.”
But what we have is the first step in a government strategy. They have done it for themselves when it comes to the public sector, when it comes to teachers, and now the next strategy will come when they do it for private sector employees. All I can say to the government is that they have created a democratic alliance that has a very different vision of our pension future and for that we in this party as, if I may say so, the advocates of that alliance, certainly since I have been in provincial politics, are truly grateful.
Mr Jackson: I have to rise and respond to the leader of the New Democratic Party. I am surprised that Bill 66 has provided him with an opportunity, in the presence of the teachers’ federation, to dust off an old Tory-bashing speech which he had really hoped he would be able to present at the New Democratic leadership convention earlier this year.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Jackson: it probably shows why he is the longest-surviving leader of a political party in Ontario. I am quite convinced that he would rather revisit history than challenge the future, and that is what we are here to do in the House today. I am sure he is disappointed, but I would like to suggest that the teachers of this province will judge for themselves the conduct of every single member in this Legislature. They will bear witness to every single member in this Legislature for their conduct, and the political parties, not only on pensions but on all education issues. Whether or not certain political parties have taken a holiday of conscience on the important issue of defence of public education or the promotion of destreaming in spite of all the pedagogical evidence to the contrary. I would rather forge a consensus with the member than try to claim unjustly that we championed a cause in the presence of those victims when that really is the issue before us today.
Hon Mr Conway: It has been a good debate. It has been a long debate, as we can see this afternoon. It is a debate on which there is a variance of opinion.
I want to begin my closing remarks, and they will be brief remarks, by thanking the members of the House who participated this afternoon. The member for Scarborough West rightly observed the very excellent contribution that has been made by the member for Sault Ste Marie (Mr Morin-Strom), someone with whom I have not found myself in very much agreement, but someone for whom I have obviously gained a great deal of respect as we have worked our way through a very complicated piece of legislation.
Having talked about primordial angst, my friend the member for Scarborough West has left me --
The reference to Noriega seemed to be also very special for this time of year.
What does one say about the member for Burlington? I really, as always --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Conway: I do want to say that I thought the members of the standing committee on social development, under the very able gavel of the member for Ottawa-Rideau (Mrs O’Neill), discharged their important responsibilities in the discussions of and in the deliberations upon Bill 66 in an exemplary fashion. I want, simply as a visitor to that committee, to pay tribute to the committee, to the chair particularly and to my colleagues the member for Durham West (Mrs Stoner), the member for Middlesex (Mr Reycraft), the member for Halton North (Mr Elliot), the member for Northumberland (Mrs Fawcett) and certainly to my parliamentary assistant for Education, the member for Kingston and the Islands (Mr Keyes), many of whom bring an experience and a sensitivity to this particular issue that I do not ever expect to be able to match from personal experience. As Minister of Education, I want to say that they have served the Legislature, and certainly served the community, very well.
As well, I have to commend those who came forward during the hearings process. I know a number of the presenters are here today. While we have not agreed, they certainly made a very valuable contribution, pointing out how it is they would like to see the bill amended and the policy changed.
As a final thank you, I think the members of the committee would join me in paying tribute to a number of people who are in the gallery here today. I am going to name some of those people from the teachers’ pension policy unit: Janet Skelton, Nancy Hoch, Margot Nielson, Reva Orlicky, Joan MacCallum, John Burton and John Viktorin. They have all been extremely helpful to me and to the committee. As I think my friend the member for Scarborough West was pointing out, they have provided answers to questions that, quite frankly, the minister was not immediately able to provide. I want to particularly thank Janet Skelton and that group, including Kathy Bouey and the people from legislative counsel as well, because this bill, as has been commented upon, was not uncomplicated.
I want simply and finally to indicate what the government has been about in this particular initiative, as my friend the Treasurer appropriately joins us at this point. It was several months ago that the government indicated its intentions in the area of teachers’ pension reform. We recognized that the plan, which is a good plan, was in some difficulty, that the indexation benefit that had been provided some time ago was simply not properly funded and that in the intervening years, from the mid-1970s through to the late 1980s, there had accrued a very significant unfunded liability on that account. We felt an obligation to the teachers, both those who are now retired and those who will retire at some point in the future, and to the taxpayers because I think it has to be said that both teachers and taxpayers have a very real interest in this plan being healthy and able to meet the obligations expected of it into the future.
I have said to the committee that I have not been particularly happy about being faced with the situation which was allowed to develop over these past 13 or 14 years. Like my friends in the opposition, I would rather make peace than cause discord. I know the joy that it brings to one’s soul to be able to, on a day like this, offer the kind of rhetorical flourish that members opposite have done with a very considerable and calculated effect today. I used to do that myself; never as well, but I understand how fulfilling that can be.
Let’s not kid ourselves. We have a plan which is in trouble, and it ought to bring no great joy to anyone in this assembly that for whatever reason a plan of such stellar offering has none the less come to such difficulty. I simply have to say to the Leader of the Opposition that I do not want it said into the future that this government or this Legislature was in any way responsible for an inadequacy that was going to hurt the plan into the future. What we want, of course, is to make sure that this plan is going to be adequately and properly funded so that the benefits which it offers will be there for the teachers when they retire. That has to be stressed in a way that has not perhaps been underlined by my honourable friends opposite.
When I meet the teachers across the province, and I have met several over the past number of weeks as we have continued the debate, I have engaged --
Mr Jackson: You must have bumped into them, Sean.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Coming and going to my office, I bump into them all the time.
Mr Brandt: They have even gone to your office.
Hon Mr Conway: I have bumped into them and I have invited them to discuss the matter with me. I have to say to my friend the member for Sarnia that they have come to my office. They have come, I am sure, to his office as well.
The difference in perspective between us at this particular point in time -- that is, between the government and the opposition -- is that while the opposition can enjoy the rhetoric, we must accept the responsibility. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously. I know the kind of easy politics that would allow one certain licence in this debate, but I have to say as a responsible minister of the crown that I do not want to be in a position, now or into the future, where I am going to have to face the teachers of this province and tell them how it is or why it is that this plan cannot deliver the benefits that they rightly expect it is going to deliver.
If we do not make the changes that this bill contemplates, I can assure honourable members that this plan will not be able to provide the benefits and meet the obligations expected of it. Let there be no confusion or any great disagreement about that. That is my obligation and the obligation of the government to those thousands and tens of thousands of teachers who quite rightly look to this Legislature for a responsible government, and we are offering it, however painful it may appear to some in this particular initiative.
I do not think it does anyone any good to wonder aloud how a predecessor government could have entered into the kind of arrangement that has brought us to this unhappy fate in 1989. What it was that motivated a Progressive Conservative government, as the 1975 election dawned before it, I cannot imagine. I was not here at the time. I am simply saying that we as a government feel a need to put this very important and good plan on a sounder financial footing than it has known in the recent years. The members opposite know what of I speak.
We have a benefit, an enormously important but a very expensive benefit, called indexation that has been inadequately financed. I simply want to say to my very good friends opposite that they would want and expect a genuine responsible government -- what they want and expect of an opposition I will leave to their private consideration -- to act in a way that was going to ensure that a pension plan like this, a defined benefit plan, was going to be able to meet the obligations expected and demanded of it.
Mr B. Rae: Give this man a vest and a watch, please.
Hon Mr Conway: I do not give the Leader of the Opposition any great quarter in this debate, except to say that he will of course want to tell the people of York South that, as part of the arrangement made, the government has accepted full responsibility to retire the multibillion-dollar unfunded liability that has developed between 1975-76 and 1989.
My friends in the no-down-payment party of course are not happy with the Treasurer and the government’s decision in so far as a schedule for amortization is concerned. The Treasurer ought to have heard them last night. It was really an indication that Christmas was here, because I have not heard a socialist advance the arguments that were being advanced late last night about the fiscal irresponsibility of the government in so far as meeting an obligation that we have accepted is concerned.
Hon R. F. Nixon: They wanted to renounce the obligation?
Hon Mr Conway: I will not perhaps use the phrase that I would like to, but there is a very large lemon out there called the unfunded liability, and I have not heard too many in the community offer to pick that up. The Treasurer has grudgingly, from his point of view, agreed --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Conway: -- painful as it must be, to say, “On behalf of the taxpayers of Ontario, we will accept the full responsibility for what we expect will be a $4-billion-plus unfunded liability.” That we have accepted to pay.
Mrs Marland: How come you’re not so worried about the WCB?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Conway: The deputy House leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, newly anointed, opines that this may not be adequate. I am sure that in her time as a member of the party when the party of which she is a member was in government she offered that kind of advice to her friends when they had the responsibility and did nothing to address it.
Let’s not kid ourselves about what is at issue here. The plan is in trouble. We seek to put the plan in a much sounder financial position. We have accepted the responsibility for the unfunded liability. The opposition does not like the way in which we have indicated we will do that; that is understandable.
I must say, finally, how much debate has there been heard about the question of partnership? Let me just conclude my remarks this afternoon by saying that this policy and this legislation provides a range of options.
Mr B. Rae: Ha ha.
Hon Mr Conway: The Leader of the Opposition giggles; guffaws.
I can say this, in fairness to the Ontario Teachers’ Federation: When they had to make a choice, when the heat was on, for all that we have disagreed, at a critical moment they were not heard to say, “Mommy, mommy, what do I do?” They indicated that they were not ready for a member-run plan, and I understand that, but that is an option provided for in both this policy and in this legislation.
My good friend the member for Victoria-Haliburton (Mr Eakins) was talking to me earlier today about, how is it that OMERS is a member-run plan and we cannot get to a teacher-run plan? That is a good question and I hope over the coming weeks and months and years that I am going to have a more positive response to my good friend the member for Victoria-Haliburton.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Conway: Of course, a lot has been said about a partnership, and I must indicate as well that it is, I believe, the preferred option from both the teachers’ and from the government’s point of view to have a partnership, but I have to say here what I have said here before and elsewhere: While we are interested in a partnership and while we will continue to explore in good faith with the teachers a discussion about how it is we can come to partnership --
Mr R. F. Johnston: You wouldn’t even consult.
Mr Morin-Strom: You wouldn’t even talk to them.
Hon Mr Conway: My friends opposite, particularly my friends in the New Democratic Party, seem to think that consultation must mean agreement. I have consulted with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Conway: -- I have consulted with a variety of individual teachers, and I have said to them that we are interested in partnership, but we will not accept a partnership based on a collective bargaining principle. The kind of partnership we want is and must be a partnership of equals, and that must be a partnership of equals where both parties accept equally the share of risk and reward.
Mr B. Rae: And you decide.
Hon Mr Conway: My friend the Leader of the Opposition knows precisely what I am talking about: A partnership where one party gets all of the risk and the other party gets all of the rewards is not, in the eyes of most people, a real partnership.
So the teachers have indicated in the here and now that any partnership that does not contain binding arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism is simply not on. I respect their right to say that and to believe that, as I expect they will respect the government’s right to argue that a partnership cannot contain binding arbitration.
That is not to say that there are not other ways of creating a real and effective partnership, and I want to be very clear, as members break for the holiday season and as this bill passes through its final stage before royal assent, that as we enact this legislation, at first instance we are of course, opting for the government-sponsored plan because we have not been able thus far to work out a partnership and the teachers’ view that a member-run plan is not yet possible, but this legislation provides that we can move on from a government-sponsored plan to one of those other alternatives, and I sincerely hope and I expect that in the future we will move on to one of those other two models for governance.
I recommend this legislation and the policy which informs it as very, very important legislation that I believe is in the interests, not just of taxpayers, but of all the teachers currently teaching and those retired, because it is in their interest that this plan be in better health to face the obligations of the future than it was before Bill 66 was considered.
The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the “ayes” have it.
Call in the members.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, we seek consent to take the division at the conclusion of the business of the day.
The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous Consent for the government House leader’s motion to take the vote at the end of business of the day?
The Deputy Speaker: If the government House leader would want to consult with the Clerk Assistant, what is the new wording now, please?
Hon Mr Ward: The vote will take place concluding the budget debate.
While I am on my feet, I will seek unanimous consent that the business of the House continue past the normal adjournment hour and that we complete the business of the day.
Hon Mr Ward: I would also seek agreement before the next order that the time be divided equally among the parties, 20 minutes for each speaker.
BUDGET DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the amendment to the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.
Mr Brandt: There are many important debates that occur in this House. We have just concluded one with respect to Bill 66, which of course is of vital and critical importance, but perhaps when you look at the activities of the government as they relate to Ontario, there is no more important, no more vital and no more critical activity than that of the budget that is brought in by the Treasurer.
It is interesting, when one looks back at the history over the course of the past few years, when the Treasurer sat on the other side of the House, when he in fact was in opposition, and the position that the Treasurer took in connection with such a long litany of activities on the part of the previous government as they relate to tax increases and the very articulate and I think the very forceful position that was put forward by the Treasurer, which essentially boiled down to a position that you cannot take too much out of the economy without causing a whole series of problems, some of which are inflationary, some of which can in fact spark a recession. Certainly, at the very least, some of these tax increases can result in a very major and very significant slowdown in economic activity.
What disturbs me is that the very lessons that the Treasurer attempted to share with all of us during the course of his many years in opposition were lessons that he did not take to heart himself.
I said to the Treasurer during the course of question period one day, and it pained me to have to do this, that I would like the Treasurer to share with me another jurisdiction anywhere in North America that is raising taxes as rapidly as his government and under his stewardship. The Treasurer was unable to, or unwilling, or perhaps refused to respond to that particular question, because it is my belief and that of the members of my party that in fact there is no other jurisdiction anywhere that is raising taxes as rapidly as the government of Ontario.
We have had record increases in revenues because there has in fact been a very strong Ontario economy, for about, I might add, two years prior to the government changing hands. But the fact of the matter is that during the period of time that this government has been in office, increases in revenues have been moving up at an extremely rapid rate, which is good for the economy, but what is bad for the economy is that those increases in revenues have been coupled with absolutely unbelievably high tax increases at the selfsame time, at a time when we would expect --
Mr D. R. Cooke: Why is the economy doing so well then?
Mr Brandt: I am going to share with the member for Kitchener some ways in which some savings could have been introduced by the government of Ontario so that it would not have had to increase taxes as rapidly as it did. But the reality is -- and I do not believe that there is any question whatsoever in the minds of any of the government members; certainly there is not in terms of the members of my party -- that there is no government anywhere that we know of that has raised taxes as rapidly as has happened under the current Treasurer.
What does that mean in terms of its impact on the Ontario economy? I happen to have, I guess, a degree of fiscal conservativism in my blood. I make no apology for that, because I know that the minister has to pay the bills, I know that he has to fine-tune the economy to be competitive and I know that he has to be very sensitive in his application of various tax initiatives to make sure that he does not tilt the balance too far and let government become too intrusive into the lives of each and every citizen whom we are attempting to provide programs for and whom we are attempting to provide a better way of life for.
The reality is that the tilt has occurred with this government. The member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway) said today that this period of time will be known as the Nixon boom. I would suggest to members that in the short period of time ahead, the boys at the Shell station will be referring to this as the Nixon bust, because in fact the economy is starting to slow down very rapidly, I think and I would put forward the argument that that is happening in great part because of far too many tax increases that have occurred and that I do not believe were necessary. Those tax increases are in great part the result of the Treasurer’s decisions and the decisions of the government of Ontario, quite frankly, to become as involved as they have become involved in the economy of Ontario.
Not only have they done this, but they have passed on extremely high tax increases as a result of passing on responsibilities to the other levels of government, primarily municipalities and school boards. It is interesting to note that when this government came to power, some 46 or 47 per cent of educational administration costs were funded by the government of Ontario.
Mr Harris: And a good government it was.
Mr Brandt: A good government it was at that time, certainly.
When the present government was in opposition, it looked at those numbers and indicated that that was not good enough, that it was in fact going to provide even more money to make education a more fairly funded service of the government of Ontario. In fact, that particular funding has eroded very rapidly in spite of these record-breaking tax increases. We are now moving towards 40 per cent government funding on the part of the province.
I would point out that it was not all that many months ago that we sat in this House talking about courtroom security. It was the Attorney General (Mr Scott), who I am pleased is in the House today and listening to this debate, who said: “Courtroom security is not going to cost the municipalities any money. Courtroom security is going to be a free pass-through of responsibility, and boy, they are going to be so pleased to receive this new program.”
I want to tell the Attorney General he is wrong. The municipalities across this province have indicated virtually unanimously that he is wrong in passing that program on to them. They now estimate that the cost of that program in terms of increases in municipal budgets is going to add about one per cent to the tax rate of the local municipalities. That is in addition to all of these other costs that he has passed through.
How does the government solve the problem of putting too much of a burden on local municipalities? First of all, they have cut back educational funding; second, they added on courtroom security; then they add on the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement program that was introduced by the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley).
Did they in fact provide any funding to assist with that program? No. What they have said is that municipalities have an obligation to meet certain environmental targets, certain environmental objectives, but that in fact that is going to have to be funded at the local level. Once again, they have passed on costs that I feel are irresponsible, from the standpoint of the decision-making of the government and should never, ever have been introduced in the fashion in which they were.
Sunday shopping, the favourite subject of the Attorney General which comes up all so frequently: Instead of the Attorney General leading the fight on Sunday shopping -- you can shop in certain parts of Ontario quite legally on Sunday at the moment -- I say to the Attorney General that in passing on the full responsibility for Sunday shopping to the local municipalities, he has one more time added costs to the books of the local governments and the local municipalities.
Why is it, I ask the Attorney General and through him the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), that municipalities are so upset? Why is it that for the first time in 90 years the municipalities had an emergency meeting in Toronto and felt it necessary to get a message through to him very directly, that message being that he is passing on responsibilities without the concomitant financial resources to look after those responsibilities?
It has never been that way before. The Treasurer can sit there with his pious attitude, but the reality is that he is setting off double-digit tax increases for local municipalities right across this province. That is unacceptable. The property taxes in this province have been and will continue to be the most regressive form of taxation, but he does not care about that. He simply dreams up these new programs, whether they be in education or whether they be for municipal initiatives, and then he passes on the costs without recognizing how extremely expensive they are.
I have to tell the Treasurer that when he made the decision a year ago to freeze unconditional grants, he sent a very clear message to the municipalities that he was not going to work with them as equal partners in local government, which I believe is a provincial responsibility. He sent a very clear message that they were on their own in terms of having to raise adequate local taxes, which were escalating very rapidly at that time and were aggravated even further by the unconditional grant freeze he brought in. That has resulted not only in the large tax increases of last year, but even larger tax increases are expected this year.
I indicated I would share with some of the members of the government ways in which the government could have saved some money. When you take a look at some of the expenditures that have been introduced by this government and at some of the ways in which it has squandered taxpayers’ money, it is a wonder the Treasurer even shows up in this House. It is a wonder he comes here this evening to hear some of the messages I want to share with him.
Let us start with one of the most expensive programs. Seven thousand new, additional civil servants have been hired. At a time when virtually every other government in Canada has reduced the size of the bureaucracy, the Treasurer is running against the grain. Now I am not suggesting for a moment that he could save the salaries and the costs and expenditures related to 7,000 civil servants, but I will tell him this: He could quite easily have slowed that increase down. He could have hired fewer people. He could have saved multimillions of dollars, which he did not do.
The cost of that, I might add, and the Treasurer is well aware of this, was some $350 million annually, and that translates over the four-year period of a government’s mandate to about $1.5 billion. In consultants’ fees he is now up to $165 million, and $165 million over four years is another $500-million bill. A very substantial chunk of that money, in my view, again could have been saved. When he hires 7,000 new civil servants, the next thing he has to do is go out and lease space for them, buy office furniture for them, pay travelling expenses and do a whole myriad of other things that are necessary in order to look after those employees.
It just so happens office space is relatively expensive here in Toronto, and that office space --
Hon Mr Peterson: In North Bay.
Mr Brandt: Yes, there was office space leased in other areas besides Toronto, but the fact of the matter is that the office space alone that was leased by his government in Toronto amounts to some $60 million a year, an expenditure over four years of close to $250 million.
Just those three programs alone -- 7,000 new civil servants, consultants at a $165 million a year, leased space at some $60 million a year -- those expenditures over the life of a government add up to billions of dollars, a very substantial percentage of which could have been saved.
Let’s look at some of the smaller items that are so aggravating when we take a look at how they slip through and how these mistakes were made. We had an eight-and-a-half-minute video. My colleagues will recall that the government wasted some $750,000 to have it produced. In checking with the people who are the professionals in the field and who talked in terms of what the normal production costs were -- I happen to be in favour of the film. I happen to believe in the promotion of Ontario, particularly from an industrial standpoint to create new jobs and new opportunities. I am totally in favour of that.
If it was a $50,000 expenditure, I would not be mentioning it. In fact, if it was a $100,000 expenditure, I would probably give the government the margin of error and say that maybe it is a supercolossal stupendous hit of some kind that could be worth something in the order of $100,000. But $750,000 is so far out of whack. It is so high compared to what that product should be priced at. Again, it is a very flagrant waste of taxpayers’ money.
Within the last few days we had the Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini) jump the gun. Maybe he was trying to impress the Premier (Mr Peterson) with how he was going to operate the Ministry of Revenue, but here is the man who is the collector, here is the man who collects all this revenue and what he does is make a very classic error in taking a precipitous kind of step where he has a whole series of instructions printed up by the thousands in advance only to find out that the information was wrong.
The Treasurer should extract those dollars from the very flesh and bones of the Minister of Revenue. What the Minister of Revenue has to do now is literally eat some $100,000 worth of incorrect information that was going to be sent out to the people of Ontario.
Those kinds of areas, those kinds of mistakes are just simply unacceptable. It is needless. It is senseless. It is irresponsible spending, and at a time, I want to say to the Treasurer who does have a grasp of the economic realities of the day -- he knows and has stated so many times before that you cannot substantially increase government spending without reducing consumer spending. If you take all of this money out of the economy -- he knows as well as I do that on 1 January 1990 he takes out of the economy of Ontario another $3 billion on top of everything he has done up until this point in time. It is simply too much and the citizens of this province cannot withstand that kind of tax increase.
This comes at a time when there is a slowdown in business investment, when consumer spending is down and retailers are suffering, as he well knows from the sales that are going on well before Christmas. Layoffs are occurring in many of our industrial operations throughout the province. We have a rather dramatic slowdown on the horizon. When does the Treasurer choose a point in time to take these additional dollars out of the economy? He chooses 1 January 1990 when we will need the maximum of activity in terms of consumer spending to help the economy get through this very rough period.
In the few moments available to me, let me give members some indication of the kinds of thought processes that go through Liberal minds. They are going to increase the employer health levy by $2.5 billion -- a new tax -- but as the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) and the Treasurer have said, “We are going to be putting $1 billion back into the taxpayers’ pockets,” and they are, but they quite inappropriately try to describe and depict that as some kind of a windfall for the people of Ontario in terms of the new $1 billion that is supposedly going back into the taxpayers’ pockets.
The fact of the matter is that it is a dumb move and it is taking an additional $1.5 billion net out of the economy. They are taking more money out than they are putting back in. All they are doing is shuffling around the sources from which they are going to be extricating these particular dollars.
I have to tell members that as a result of the activities of the Treasurer and as a result of the budget that has been brought in by the Treasurer of this province, I have an amendment that I would like to move at this time.
The Speaker: Mr Brandt moves that the amendment to the motion be amended by deleting all words following “condemns the government for” and inserting the following:
“Failing to consult with farmers on major program cuts and its continuing insensitivity to the needs of Ontario’s agrifood sector; its failure to control its expenditures which will in turn make it more difficult for the province to support positive measures to assist Ontario citizens during an economic slowdown; pursuing tax and regulatory policies which stifle economic growth and which threaten to undermine the competitiveness of Ontario’s industries;
“Failing to develop an economic strategy to reduce regional disparities in the province and to encourage sustainable growth; its hostile attitude towards the province’s small business sector as exemplified by the imposition of the new employer payroll tax; the continued deterioration of the province’s health care system and its failure to honour its commitment to provide 4,400 new hospital beds;
“Its efforts to transform driving into the new sin activity in Ontario, with increases in the gasoline and fuel tax, vehicle registration tax, an increase in the cost of licence permits, and its introduction of a new tax on tires; failing to address adequately the needs of those on social assistance and those who require food banks to survive;
“Failing to address adequately the environmental issues besieging the province; failing to recognize the uniqueness of the Rouge Valley system and deeming it a provincial park in order to preserve it for generations to come; failing to practice sound management techniques in controlling the growth and excessive expenditures necessary to sustain the civil service;
“Therefore, this House declares its lack of confidence in the government.”
Mr B. Rae: It is always a pleasure to participate in debates in the House, but none as much as on this occasion because this is the first time in memory that I can recall the Premier being here for this discussion. It is a courtesy I appreciate and I say that sincerely.
I am sure he will recall his days as Leader of the Opposition, the occasional sense of frustration one felt that whatever pearls of wisdom one had were not necessarily being paid any attention to. I have never had that sense and I know that everything I say is taken very seriously by the government, as it is by members of the third party which sits to my left.
Mr Brandt: By two seats.
Mr B. Rae: By two seats; well, there you are.
Mr Brandt: Let’s just keep things in perspective. Don’t run away with this.
Mr B. Rae: It looks good on him. Let me enjoy it.
I think it is fair to say we are in the middle of a rather dramatic change in the life of the province. We have come, I think it would be fair to say, if not to the end of an unparalleled period of economic growth and of expanded revenues, then we are certainly coming to a point where all the indications and all the signs are that the increase in jobs, the increase in employment and the steady increase in output, which had been very much an underpinning of the years since 1983-84, is no longer something we can take for granted or can assume is going to continue to be the case.
There are many causes for that change. Some of them are beyond the control of this government. No doubt it will be very easy for members opposite and others to simply point to a litany of mistakes that have been made, point to the federal level where we are indeed the victims of policies that make no sense. Our dollar is too high to make exports competitive. Our interest rates are too high to allow small businesses to expand. The Tory tax system in Ottawa is a devastating tragedy. These are all realities with which our economy has to contend.
We have a free trade agreement that has created enormous problems for many sectors of our economy. We have as well broader changes, environmental changes that are taking place. It is not possible for governments to carry on as if we did not have to worry about the greenhouse effect, as if we did not have to recognize the very real changes in an environmentally sound approach to governance and to the economy, and the dramatic effect these changes are going to have on our own economy here in Ontario. We are all having to change. We are having to change our habits as individuals, and governments are going to have to change their habits as well, lean only say that I see no signs from this government that it recognizes the seriousness and severity of the changes that are there.
Let me start by saying that I do not see the logic of the ways in which budgets themselves are presented. I think we are past the day when a budget can be presented that does not do two other things. As well as presenting us with an indication of what outputs there are, of what unemployment will be, of what tax revenues will be and what expenditures will be, the normal statement of what is in a budget, I think we need two other kinds of statements that are not out there as a sort of frill, but are integrated into our budgetary process, integrated into the way governments make decisions.
I want to suggest that we need, as well as a pure and simple sort of bottom-line economic approach, which I will be going into in a moment, an environmental statement from this government that comes simultaneously with the budget it presents.
We cannot go on as schizophrenically as we do. We have governments that say that growth is inevitably a good thing and you have treasurers who take great pride in growth and treasurers who talk about the growth in revenues that comes from the economic growth that is out there and the growth in output that is there.
At the same time we are, as a society, not only benefiting from that growth; we are also paying the price of it. Growth is not an unmitigatedly good thing. It is not an unlimitedly good thing. The kind of economic growth that is taking place in our society has enormous costs for us as well as benefits.
Whether we argue about Temagami, whether we argue about the future of forestry, whether we deal with the costs of growth in terms of pollution, whether we deal with the costs of growth in terms of garbage disposal, whether we deal with the costs of growth in terms of urban congestion and the decline of the quality of life in many of our urban centres as a result of the kinds of growth that has happened, I want to suggest that we need, as well as the economic pros and cons, the pluses and minuses, the intakes and the outputs, a clear statement of where we are at environmentally.
The Treasurer is going to have to get used to this. He is going to have to get used to understanding that growth is not by itself a completely great thing. I would compare it to the Treasurer going to the doctor and the doctor saying to the Treasurer, “Bob, I want to tell you have grown 10 pounds this year.” That is growth; it is growth of a kind.
Mr Laughren: He’d be happy with that.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Very attractive it is too.
Mr B. Rae: That is growth of a kind. He wears it well. It looks good on him. But I say, in all seriousness, when we deal with this question of the expansion of our economy, we have to integrate that with what we know to be the environmental cost. It will not do for us to have our green consciences out here somewhere, playing like Jiminy Cricket, saying, “No, no, we have to do this.” It will not do to have the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) occasionally weighing in with the kind of piety which we now associate almost exclusively with his presence here, reminding us all of the good things the government is doing and what we must do, without understanding that the reason we are in an environmental mess is because of the way in which our economy functions.
The Premier has his Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy. What I am suggesting is that the work of the round table has to be integrated into the life of this government. It has to be integrated into the life of the province. I also want to suggest that, at the same time as we are including our environmental health in the way in which we present budgets, we also have to look at the disparities that have grown among us.
We have witnessed the most extended period of economic boom in this province, I would suggest, in its modern day history. It is hard to recall a time -- perhaps after the Second World War, when we saw so many changes which led to the tremendous social changes in this province in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Perhaps one could compare that time to what we have been going through. But I do not think there are any easy parallels to what we have seen.
But I think every member, looking at his or her own constituency, would realize and recognize that the changes that have taken place have by no means been shared equally in our society. We are increasingly a society of relatively well-off people, of a middle class which is not expanding at any great rate but which is in fact contracting, and a growing number of people who are having an extraordinarily difficult time surviving and having any kind of access to a decent life in our community.
This is not simply a welfare problem. This is not a problem of inadequate welfare payments to people who receive welfare benefits. It is a problem that is economic in its origin. It is because of the changing nature of our economy and the changing nature of the economic base of our society, and I believe it lies at the very core of the choices we have to make as a society as we head into the 1990s.
We cannot assume any longer that, as John Kennedy once said, a rising tide lifts all ships. I want to suggest that the statistics and our commonsense view would suggest that if we look around our constituencies, the rising tide of the 1980s has not lifted all ships. In fact, some have sunk. Some have been left very badly behind. I suggest that it is not good enough for the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), when he presents his economic report, the budget which we are debating today, to ignore the social consequences, the social facts about our province.
How many people are living in poverty? How many people are living on the very margin of our society? How many people are having to pay more and more in taxes which fall on them and receive fewer and fewer benefits as they do their work in society?
I feel very strongly that our budgetary debates in this province have to integrate what happens in our society, what happens to our environment and what happens in our economy. I want to suggest that we now have no real way of doling that. We do not have the kind of information that allows us to do it. We have not really been able to join this debate. But in making the choices that we are being asked to make, I think we have to have that kind of information and that kind of presence in front of us.
I want to make two very brief and very basic points. There is not time, in the 20 minutes that are left, to be able to float quite as freely as I would like to do. I want to refer to the two basic issues. The first is the question of taxation. Then I want to come to the question of change, because I believe we are in for some very dramatic change.
With respect to taxation, I think the people know that everybody has to pay something, or most people have to pay something, and some people will have to pay a great deal for the necessary work of government, for the necessary work of the community. I do not want to be unduly partisan in my comments with respect to the comments that have been made by the third party. I just want to say this: We do not have to invent what the Tories would do to our taxes in Ontario. We do not have to make up what the Tory tax future would be like. We only have to look and see what the Tories have done since 1984 when they have taken responsibility for the federal income tax policies and the federal sales tax policies of Canada.
We have a government, a Tory government in Ottawa, with a Tory Minister of Finance who comes from Etobicoke in this province, who is a member of the Tory party who has increased the taxes on working families by 44 per cent since 1984 and has decreased the taxes by six per cent of the top-income earners in Canada. Now that is Tory taxation. The working class, the working people, ordinary people get stiffed, and the upper-income people get a deal. That is what we mean by Tory taxes.
I know full well that the Tory campaign in the next election, whenever that comes, will be a campaign that will say on the one hand, “The tax system is terrible; get the government off your backs” -- it will be a repeat of Ronald Reagan in 1980. They will go through the list of all the civil servants who have been hired who should not have been hired. They will go through all the egregious examples of government waste that should not have been allowed to take place and they will say: “Put us in there. We’ll make sure it never happens again.”
I think the public is beyond that. I really do, because I want to suggest that every citizen in this province knows that services and the quality of services are what define a decent government and for many people are the only way they have to live a decent life in our society, because the market will not do it for them and the market has not done it for them. They know full well that these are programs that have to be paid for and they know full well that under the Tories, under the goods and services tax, that is going to hit them harder than it is going to hit anybody else. They know full well that you have your business entertainment deductions and your mergers and acquisition deductions and all your other things in the Tory tax system -- and, I might add, in the Liberal tax system when it comes to corporate taxes in Ontario -- and that is going to be the scepticism.
But I also want to suggest that just as a no-tax message will not work, a fair-tax message will and must work in this province. I want to say that no government has done more to create inequality in the tax system in this province than the Liberal government under the leadership of the member for London Centre.
Whether it is the increase in the sales tax, whether it is their refusal to show any leadership when it comes to the corporate tax field, there is no reason in this world why Ontario, as the business capital of Canada, could not show leadership in the field of corporate taxation.
I want the members to tell me why real estate companies are allowed to depreciate the value of their investment every year, when everybody in this province knows that the value of land has not depreciated in Ontario in the past five or 10 years. It has gone through the roof in terms of speculation, and yet you have this absurd notion that every developer out there is depreciating every year the value of the land which he has bought and that is being paid for by everybody else out of the tax system. I do not know why the Ontario taxpayers should be subsidizing the incredible mergers and acquisitions which have gone on in Ontario, and I do not know why we cannot show some kind of leadership in dealing with that right here in Ontario.
Some states have done it in the United States. The state of Delaware has done it. The state of Massachusetts has done it. Other states have done it. There is no reason why we cannot show some leadership here in Ontario when it comes to the question of taxation.
The fact of the matter is that a no-tax message is not a message which has credibility with the public. A fair-tax message is a message which makes sense to people, and I want to tell the taxpayers of Ontario they are being stiffed by this government, not because there is some magic nirvana out there in terms of a no-tax Heaven, not because we believe that services are unnecessary, but because we believe those who have the ability to pay in Ontario ought to be paying and they are not paying today, and that is the kind of tax system we need in Ontario.
I also want to suggest that in terms of the changes that are happening in Ontario, the past two years have been wasted years. I want to suggest that we have had all kinds of well-meaning reports coming out of the Premier’s Council telling us what might or might not happen. Those reports have been good reading and I know the authors well. I have been having discussions with the authors for nearly a decade in the case of one of the Premier’s advisers. I have known him for 25 years. I can say they are very bright people, and the reports make great reading and they are very interesting.
I see no sign that any of what is being said in those reports is being integrated in any way into the life-blood of this government as it affects working families. I see no sign that the laid-off workers in Windsor, Oshawa, Sault Ste Marie and Etobicoke have benefited from one simple change made in one basic law that would improve their lot when faced with a plant closure. It is all very well to have these interestingly academic discussions, but I can say that since 1987 --
Hon Mr Sorbara: Huh.
Mr B. Rae: The member for York Centre, who at one time was the Minister of Labour, is scoffing at me. I want to tell him to show me the changes in pension law that have made any difference, show me the changes in bankruptcy law. My friend shakes his finger at me. He was up in his seat, I cannot tell him how many times, promising me that he was going to move on bankruptcy. He was going to move on protection for workers affected by a bankruptcy. He did not nothing. Bupkes. Absolutely nothing for the workers of this province when it comes to it. Nothing at all.
Hon Mrs Caplan: Bupkes. I know what that means.
Mr B. Rae: The Minister of Health understands what I am talking about. The member for York Centre promised a good game, but he has done nothing at all. That report has been sitting on the desk of the Minister of Labour since 1984 and nothing has happened and nothing has changed.
I could go through the list, whether it comes to environmental change on Temagami, a conference on the old forest, a conference on old forest growth, but nothing that shows an understanding, that shows a comprehension of the need for action and for tough decisions. When it comes to pensions, we have seen a government that has been prepared to talk, but when it comes to action, what does it do in its own jurisdiction? It behaves just like the kinds of employers that we had to move laws in this province to change back in the mid-1980s.
I think it is time for some greater changes. I do not think we have seen those changes and I do not think we have seen those measures taken by the government in its action. I do not think we have seen the kind of leadership which people have been expecting, but I also know that these are judgements which the public itself is going to be making.
We have already moved our motion, anticipated by my colleague the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren) who has served so effectively as our critic on financial matters and we will be voting on that motion in which we indicate our lack of confidence in the financial leadership of the government.
I want to close on a somewhat different note. I do not think it has been a secret that this has been a year of some personal turmoil for me. I want to say to all the members of the House how much I have appreciated their enormous kindness to me and to my family. I want to say to the leader of the third party that I have enjoyed working with him and want to say to all the members of the House, and especially to the members of my own caucus, how much their support has meant to me and how much their kindness has meant to me.
This is a time of the year in which our family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, and in the spirit of opening a new decade, I want to wish the very best of the season to you, Mr Speaker, to the officers of the House and to all the members of the House.
Hon Mr Peterson: I would say I am very happy to be here and share this windup with my colleagues the leaders of the other two parties in this House and say how happy I am to share with them their views and get their reflections on a number of the weighty issues of the day.
May I say also, Mr Speaker, through you to my colleagues, I wish a very happy Christmas and say how well you preside over this House.
This is a time for compliments, Mr Speaker. It is a time for generosity of spirit and of soul, indeed, with one exception: Someone told me today that the leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition said that I was getting more and more like Bill Davis every day. Now the question is, is that a compliment or an insult? But I replied in kind and I said, “You know, the Leader of the Opposition is getting more and more like I was when I was in that job every single day.” Now the question is, is that a compliment or is that an insult? So much of the same rhetoric and the same point of view and the same frustrations. I was just reminiscing with my dear colleague here about the joys of opposition and the joys of government. Believe me, there are some on both sides, some advantages and some disadvantages.
But I think where I disagree with my colleague opposite is that I think that all members of this House can look back to this last session with enormous pride. It has been, by any standard, I think, one wants to use, a very productive session. We have passed some 44 bills and 15 private member’s bills in some 35 days. The debate has been lively and, contrary to the views of some of my colleagues opposite, I would not for a minute think that all of these bills have been easy, by any stretch of the imagination. They have been difficult.
You have seen a government that has made decisions, not just run with the pack, not just looked outside, afraid to lead, but shown real leadership financially and in many other policy areas in this province. I am enormously proud to be working with my colleagues. The easy thing is not always the right thing. I know the temptation in opposition because I was there a lot longer than most opposition members; I know the temptation to take the easy way all the time. Frankly, that is expected and I do not begrudge that. Why would you? As the Minister of Education (Mr Conway) said a little while ago, there is a great difference between the rhetoric and the responsibility, and I think the challenge to that responsibility is what democracy is all about. I think it has been a worthwhile and good debate and I compliment all the members for that.
I want to say also that I am very proud to stand in support of the Treasurer. I think when the history of this great province is written, this man will stand as a giant among all of the treasurers, not just because of the 10 pounds he put on last week but because of his intellectual and moral capacity as well. Some members have not noticed, but I want to tell them this: The Treasurer is a member of a health club. He goes every morning. He has lost a substantial amount of weight, and I think we owe him our compliments on this svelte new body that he has trimmed down.
If you look back to the last budget -- and I could look back at a much longer space than that -- when you look at the major and fundamental and tough changes, the changes in OHIP premiums -- I am enormously proud that we have got rid of OHIP premiums, an amazing accomplishment.
My friend the leader of the third party still cannot understand it, but there was a $1-billion tax cut to individuals in this province. I had a very knowledgeable person come to me the other day and ask me how it happened, and it is this simple. Let me explain it to the member because I think it is worth while. When he goes back to Sarnia he will want to tell people about all the good things that this government has done and he will say this. The OHIP premiums for a family of four were $714. If you are paying them yourself, you are paying $714 straight off the bottom line. If it is being paid for you by your employer, it is a taxable benefit. So if you are in a 50 per cent taxation rate, you pay three --
Mr D. S. Cooke: That’s certainly a lot of my constituents.
Hon Mr Peterson: Well, it is certainly the member. What is he squawking about? If he had his way, he would be in about a 75 per cent tax rate, the way he wants to raise the salaries around here.
But let me just say to my honourable friend, since he raised the point, that what he has to understand is that, say, in a 25 per cent income tax rate, 25 per cent of that would be taxable. Now that is no longer taxable and that is money straight to the bottom line; in cumulative total, $1 billion extra to individuals that was not there before. I think my honourable friend would want to explain that because it is important.
At the same time, I want to say to my friend -- because I do not have a lot of time -- I want to talk about some of the infrastructure programs, the very aggressive programs that this Treasurer has embarked upon. On deficit management, I say with some pride, when you look at the deficit, of course he had raised taxes. There is no question about it. He has taken the responsibility for it. We still have one of the most competitive tax climates in this country anywhere.
I say to my friend he should look at the attractive places because we are keeping it humane. I do not want to address all the criticism tonight, but in my honourable friend’s amendment to the budget motion today he says on the one hand that we are spending too much and on the other hand he gives a whole bunch of ways to spend things. That is the classic dilemma of opposition. I used to do the same thing and I understand the difficulty.
But let me go beyond that. I want to congratulate the members for the wide range of legislation that has gone through this House. It has been difficult and controversial, from health and safety to pension legislation, the teachers’ legislation we just discussed today, auto insurance, workers’ compensation, court reform, education finance, the Power Corporation Act, the completion of Bill 8 on minority languages, employment equity, pay equity, and indeed a whole range of other issues have been dealt with by this government in this Legislature from race relations to police pursuits, anti-drug strategy and welfare reform.
The real question is, what fundamental problem has not been dealt with by this government? I will tell the members that is a far shorter list than the that of the ones that we have worked at because we do believe, like many of the issues, like the debate that was held today in this House, you cannot just deal superficially with these issues. We have to wrestle with them fundamentally. We recognize there are strong differences of opinion, but it is our responsibility and up to the best judgement that we have. We do not claim by any stretch of the imagination to be perfect, and we do not claim by any stretch of the imagination to have solved all of the problems, but I do tell the members that I think that we have engaged in an honest effort to resolve some of those matters.
I think it is worth while to reflect on the economy of this province, because it is the budget debate, and recognize that between 1985 and 1988 Ontario has experienced an increase in output of some 5.5 per cent per year. Employment created was 627,000 new jobs. This was greater than any other area in the world.
My honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae) made a number of good points. There are many other measurements to measuring the quality of life in any community and I accept the arguments that he has put forward. Even in 1989: We look forward to robust growth this year, in the order of 2.8 per cent and the creation of some 90,000 new jobs. If we look at statistics around the province, the unemployment rate has dropped substantially in northern Ontario, from about 10.5 per cent to 6.7 per cent in November. Youth unemployment has dropped more than four percentage points across the province. Our overall unemployment rate is the lowest in this country.
I stand in front of the House again and say that I would never assume, and neither would the Treasurer, to take credit for all of this. We are blessed here in one of the richest jurisdictions in the world. I know that members opposite are the first to blame us if there are any problems, and they are the last to give us any credit when anything goes well, but I understand the nature of partisan politics as well.
I think we have to be humble in recognizing the great strengths that we have, but these great challenges have taken place in a context of financial responsibility and fiscal integrity. The Treasurer has dropped the deficit by some $2 billion. You could make the argument that he is running a current operating surplus of some $2.5 billion at the present time. He has been paying the bills. I remember when I was elected, in 1975, there was a $10 billion budget. Do the members know what the deficit was that year? It was $2 billion or 20 per cent of all the operating revenue. I just say when the economists, when the historians get at the fiscal management of this province this man will stand as a giant. He has allowed us to have fiscal flexibility going into, shall I say, a more uncertain period in the future.
I recognize the fact that no one can predict with certainty what is going to happen next year or the year after that or the year after that. Mark Twain once said that the art of prophecy is very difficult, especially with respect to the future. I know that there are a number of different assumptions about that, and perhaps only God knows for sure, but in the absence of God the Treasurer tells me that the growth rate will be in the order of two per cent next year, the eighth successive year of growth in this province. We can look forward to expansion and the creation of some 71,000 new jobs and 84,000 new housing starts.
My friend opposite talked about some of the pressures that we are under, and I agree, with the economy. This country is changing. We are operating under a new set of rules now, not only a new globalized world in which we have to trade. That is a reality, but we also have to operate under the umbrella of a number of federal policies which, it is no secret, many members of this House have had some very serious objection to, be it free trade, a very high interest rate policy that is putting our cost of capital beyond the reach of many of our companies and out of line with our competitors or a high-dollar policy which is hurting our exporters beyond dispute. We all know that. We know that we are potentially facing a new round of consumption taxes, which the Treasurer and the government have been very worried about in terms of inflationary impact. We also know some of the changes of Investment Canada and other groups have allowed many strategic pieces of our economy to be sold out.
It is not my intention to launch a major diatribe -- members know of my worries in this regard -- except to say we do understand, I think, the new conditions under which we are functioning here and trying to do the best that we possibly can. We recognize some of the structural weaknesses, even in the midst of the great strength of this province. My friend opposite alluded to the Premier’s Council and to some of the work that has been done. He knows many of the members; many of the members of this House do know many of the members of the council.
I can say from my own point of view it has been an unbelievably rewarding experience to sit with my colleagues, members of the crown, labour leaders, business leaders, academics, people who ordinarily would be sitting opposite each other in adversarial situations, fighting with each other about something or other, but sitting down and honestly, genuinely wrestling with a number of the issues that we face now and in the long term. It has been, from my point of view, not only an interesting experience in sharing decision-making with members outside the government but also in co-ordinating policy responses, unlike my friend opposite. I think he has missed the significance in the things that have come directly out of that, because I think he has not followed the impact that has had on the policy.
We have developed tax support for research and development in our province. Some $56 million is going into the R and D superallowance, an initiative of that group. We are providing more than $40 million to support leading-edge research undertaken in consortia with the private sector and our universities.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Centres of excellence.
Mr Wildman: World-class.
Hon Mr Peterson: Absolutely. These are a direct result of the Premier’s Council. We are providing $25 million for a three-year extension of the university research incentive fund; we have established a $100-million growth ventures fund to support growth and development of small- and medium-sized businesses; a technical personnel program to assist small business. These are new ideas that have been adopted by the government and are working. They were never suggested as the solutions to our problems tomorrow, but we believe, with the agreement of labour, business and academics, they are attacking a number of the structural problems and deficiencies we have, because we do know that our contribution rate to research and development in this country is very low by competitive standards.
We do know that our trading patterns are too limited. We have to widen those, and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) has been very aggressive in widening out our trading patterns. We have formed new strategic alliances with a number of the leading industrial states in Europe and in the Pacific Rim. I think we can point to solid accomplishment in that way and a very strong and concrete plan to deal with a number of the problems.
My colleague the Treasurer has also addressed the problem of infrastructure. We recognize the growth here, we recognize that Toronto is one of the fastest growing areas in North America today, and I think we should talk about the problems of growth because there are a number of areas that have to be addressed. But I also say to my friend, how are we going to stop the growth? Are we going to put up a visa for people coming into Toronto and Ontario?
This happens to be one of the most attractive places in the world to live. Canadians want to come here, and people from across the world. It is all very noble to say, “We’ll shut this all off and not let anybody in,” but I will tell him at the same time these things have to be dealt with. We still live in a free and open country that allows people to come in here and we have to deal with those problems.
The Treasurer is dealing with those problems. In terms of infrastructure, $2 billion is going into infrastructure to keep our road system and our transit systems moving. We are moving with Quebec on new infrastructure proposals for a high-speed rail, for example. We are moving on new infrastructure in electricity with Manitoba and others and we think that these things are good not only for Ontario but for Canada as well.
We continue to strengthen our initiatives in the regions of this province, in northern Ontario and eastern Ontario, through mineral exploration, the northern Ontario heritage fund and a variety of other programs that I think have been sensibly tailored to try to, as best we possibly can, spread the prosperity, spread the opportunity and make sure every single Ontarian, in whatever part of this great province, has opportunity. That will continue to be the hallmark of this government.
We in the Premier’s Council and the government also recognize that the single most effective strategic weapon for improving our competitive ability is our human capital, is our educational system and the kinds of training and retraining programs that we have here for now and in the future. I need not go into great detail, because I realize my time is limited, but members are aware of the fundamental initiatives this government has undertaken. We are providing funds for school boards to offer half-day junior and senior kindergarten. We are cutting the teacher-student ratio in the junior grades.
All of the educators tell us those are the most strategic times in a young child’s life, and I say to the members very frankly that I cannot guarantee a result from that program tomorrow. Twenty years from now we will look back, I think, with great pride and say, “We have made a difference,” because we are striking at the core of the problem, not just the superficial aspects of the problem.
We have revitalized the curriculum in our public schools. We are providing provincial benchmarks to better assess our own performance. We are eliminating streaming in grade 9. We are redeveloping the core curriculum. Indeed, I invite members to look at the changes and I say that this minister and his predecessors have attacked these problems in a fundamental way because we want structural results. We are not just looking for the quick and easy fix to some of these problems that are profound.
From all the programs, from adult literacy and the increase of the contribution there to many others, I think that we are going to see real results because of this foresighted planning by the ministers.
Members will also see, coming up in the spring, a refocusing of our training philosophy. We have debated this at great length in the Premier’s Council and we have discussed it with a number of our colleagues. We will be moving the philosophy, the training, out of the hands of government into the hands of the actual participants in the workplace, the experts, into business and labour in a joint fashion and we think we are developing models that can be one of the solutions to some of the problems we are facing in our province today.
We will continue to work at these things in a structural way and we will need the help, goodwill and support of all members of this House in so doing.
I have a number of other things I would like to say, and I know that the time is rather short and been agreed to, but if my colleagues will just be a little bit lenient with me, I would be grateful.
I also want to say that we seen in this government’s hand major moves with respect to welfare and changes in philosophy as well as financial commitment. We have seen, with the adoption of the Social Assistance Review Committee report and the major changes in the Treasurer’s budget of last spring, that we are increasing our payments for shelter support, we are removing barriers which serve as a disincentive to work, we are expanding the network of employment counselling and referral and we are increasing children’s benefit. We are not unmindful of some of the disparities that exist in this great province. I do not pretend that we are magic, that we can solve them all, but I do say this represents a very serious and active attack.
The Speaker: The time is up. Will the members agree? Fine.
Hon Mr Peterson: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I appreciate it. I will try to be brief.
I want to say that the social assistance benefits will have increased from the year 1984-85 to the year 1989-90 by some 92 per cent, in a way that we think is going to make a difference for a number of Ontarians.
I would like to speak about health care and the reorientation that has gone on in that regard and the things that are happening through the council. I probably do not have the time today, but I can tell the members some real results are being achieved. We are not just mouthing the old rhetoric about a community-based system and about preventive medicine; we are actually doing something about that. With the able leadership of the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), I believe we are going to see a health care system which I accept is one of the best in the entire world today, if not the best, will continue to be the best, and our planning will make sure it is the best 20 years from now.
We are not unmindful of the pressures -- the pressures of an ageing population, the financial pressures on the system, the new technologies, new diseases and new demands -- but I can tell the members, with her planning and her foresightedness, we will be in a position to meet all of that and maintain the very high quality in the system today. I want to say that I think we will continue in that way in many --
Hon Mr Peterson: I would like to speak about the environment and some of the leadership that the minister has provided. My friends opposite are not particularly interested in hearing it, obviously, so I will not go on at great length, except to say I am enormously proud of the leadership that this government has provided: the leadership with respect to acid rain, the leadership with respect to recycling and the banning of CFCs and a lot of other areas that are looked upon as models by other jurisdictions.
I just want to tell my friend the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren) -- he probably was not there. He may have been invited, but he probably was not there when the United Nations gave an award to my colleague the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) and said this -- this is from the United Nations. This was not from the NDP in Nickel Belt, but this was from the United Nations. It said, “One country, one province has found a model where the everyday householder can participate in recycling.”
The Speaker: Order. Perhaps the Premier could wish everyone a merry Christmas.
Hon Mr Peterson: Could I just say then, in conclusion, Mr Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity and I want to thank the members for their co-operation as we have struggled with a lot of these difficult issues? There is just one other issue I want to talk about, if I may, very briefly, with respect to the state of this country at the present time.
We do know that there is an enormous number of pressures, linguistic, cultural and regional pressures, in this country at the present time. I just want to say that I want to congratulate the Attorney General (Mr Scott), the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party as well for their contributions to an extremely important debate.
I think the sensitivities that are shown here and the sensitivities that are shown across this country are extremely important in dealing at a particularly fragile time in our own history. We see them in our own province with respect to Bill 8 and we all have a great responsibility. I am proud to say that is a responsibility that is shared by many of my colleagues in this House.
In conclusion, may I just say, on this very happy occasion, a very merry Christmas to all of my colleagues? I am very happy to share some of the accomplishments of this House with them, and with others, because it has been an enormously productive season. To all of my colleagues, I wish the warmth of this very happy holiday season and I look forward to seeing you next March, when we can continue this great discussion.
The Speaker: On Wednesday 17 May 1989 Mr Nixon moved, seconded by Mr Peterson, “That this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.”
On Thursday 18 May 1989 Mr Laughren moved that the motion “That this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government” be amended by deleting the words following “That” and adding thereto the following:
“This House, recognizing that the 1989 budget fails the fundamental test of tax fairness, condemns the government for:
“Refusing to implement a minimum corporate income tax on profits, and instead taxing payrolls and jobs,
“Failing to distribute taxes fairly with an inheritance tax or other wealth tax for the richest of our citizens,
“Sheltering the banks and financial institutions from any new capital taxes,
“Introducing virtually no relief for low-income families, and continuing the absurdity of taxing families that earn $10,000 below the poverty line,
“Broadening and increasing consumption taxes that hit low- and middle-income people the hardest,
“Ignoring the north when it comes to investment and jobs, and instead using it as a source of tax revenue,
“Continuing to starve municipalities and school boards of much-needed funding, while simply piggybacking on the pain of the unfair tax increases of the Wilson budget,
“Failing to address adequately the needs of those on social assistance and those who dine at food banks,
“Therefore, this House declares its lack of confidence in this government.”
Today Mr Brandt moved that the amendment to the motion be amended by deleting all words following “condemns the government for” and inserting the following:
“Failing to consult with farmers on major program cuts and its continuing insensitivity to the needs of Ontario’s agrifood sector;
“Its failure to control its expenditures which will in turn make it more difficult for the province to support positive measures to assist Ontario citizens during an economic slowdown;
“Pursuing tax and regulatory policies which stifle economic growth, and which threaten to undermine the competitiveness of Ontario’s industries;
“Failing to develop an economic strategy to reduce regional disparities in the province and to encourage sustainable growth;
“Its hostile attitude towards the province’s small business sector as exemplified by the imposition of the new employer payroll tax;
“The continued deterioration of the province’s health care system and its failure to honour its commitment to provide 4,400 new hospital beds;
“Its efforts to transform driving into the new sin activity in Ontario, with increases in the gasoline and fuel tax, vehicle registration tax, an increase in the cost of licence permits and its introduction of a new tax on tires;
“Failing to address adequately the needs of those on social assistance and those who require food banks to survive;
“Failing to address adequately the environmental issues besieging the province;
“Failing to recognize the uniqueness of the Rouge Valley system and deeming it a provincial park in order to preserve it for generations to come;
“Failing to practice sound management techniques in controlling the growth and excessive expenditures necessary to sustain the civil service;
“Therefore, this House declares its lack of confidence in the government.”
The Speaker: Order. The first question to be decided is the amendment to the amendment to the motion.
The House divided on Mr Brandt’s amendment to the amendment to the motion, which was negatived on the following vote:
Allen, Brandt, Bryden, Cooke, D. S., Cousens, Cunningham, Eves, Grier, Hampton, Harris, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Johnston, R. F., Kormos, Laughren, Mackenzie, Marland, Martel, McCague, McLean, Morin-Strom, Pollock, Rae, B., Reville, Villeneuve, Wildman.
Adams, Ballinger, Beer, Black, Bossy, Bradley, Brown, Callahan, Campbell, Caplan, Carrothers, Cleary, Collins, Conway, Cooke, D. R., Curling, Daigeler, Eakins, Elliot, Elston, Faubert, Fawcett, Fleet, Fontaine, Fulton, Furlong, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Hart, Hošek, Kanter, Kerrio, Keyes, Kozyra, Leone, Lipsett, Lupusella;
MacDonald, Mahoney, Mancini, Matrundola, McClelland, McGuigan, McLeod, Miller, Morin, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., Nixon, R. F., Oddie Munro, Offer, O’Neil, H., O’Neill, Y., Owen, Patten, Pelissero, Peterson, Phillips, G., Polsinelli, Poole, Ramsay, Ray, M. C., Reycraft, Riddell, Roberts, Ruprecht, Scott, Smith, D. W., Smith, E. J., Sorbara, South, Stoner, Sullivan, Sweeney, Tatham, Ward, Wilson, Wong.
Ayes 78; nays 26.
The House divided on Mr Laughren’s amendment to the motion, which was negatived on the same vote.
The House divided on Mr R. F. Nixon’s motion, which was agreed to on the same vote reversed.
The Speaker: Now, while members are in their seats, I would remind them that they deferred the vote on third reading of Bill 66. I will put that question now.
TEACHERS’ PENSION ACT, 1989
The House divided on Mr Conway’s motion for third reading of Bill 66, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Adams, Ballinger, Beer, Black, Bossy, Bradley, Brown, Callahan, Campbell, Caplan, Carrothers, Cleary, Collins, Conway, Cooke, D. R., Curling, Daigeler, Eakins, Elliot, Elston, Faubert, Fawcett, Fleet, Fontaine, Fulton, Furlong, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Hart, Hošek, Kanter, Kerrio, Keyes, Kozyra, Leone, Lipsett, Lupusella, MacDonald, Mahoney, Mancini, Matrundola, McClelland, McGuigan, McLeod, Miller, Morin, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., Nixon, R. F., Oddie Munro, Offer, O’Neil, H., O’Neill, Y., Owen, Patten, Pelissero, Peterson, Phillips, G., Polsinelli, Poole, Ramsay, Ray, M. C., Reycraft, Riddell, Roberts, Ruprecht, Scott, Smith, D. W., Smith, E. J., Sorbara, South, Stoner, Sullivan, Sweeney, Tatham, Ward, Wilson, Wong.
Allen, Brandt, Bryden, Cooke, D. S., Cousens, Cunningham, Eves, Grier, Hampton, Harris, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Johnston, R. F., Kormos, Laughren, Mackenzie, Marland, Martel, McCague, McLean, Morin-Strom, Pollock, Rae, B., Reville, Villeneuve, Wildman.
Ayes 78; nays 26.
SUPPLY ACT / LOI DE CRÉDITS
Mr R. F. Nixon moved first reading of Bill 109, An Act to authorize the payment of certain amounts for the Public Service for the fiscal year ending 31 March 1990.
M. Nixon propose la première lecture du projet de loi 109, Loi autorisant le paiement de certaines sommes destinées à la fonction publique pour l’exercice se terminant le 31 mars 1990.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
Mr R. F. Nixon moved second reading of Bill 109, An Act to authorize the payment of certain amounts for the Public Service for the fiscal year ending the 31 March 1990.
M. Nixon propose la deuxième lecture du projet de loi 109, Loi autorisant le paiement de certaines sommes destinées à la fonction publique pour l’exercice se terminant le 31 mars 1990.
Mr Laughren: There is a long tradition in this Assembly that when the supply bill is introduced there is a long and rambling debate on it because of the amount of money involved. Before I start I do want to say how pleased I am that all those members who came to here this speech were able to be here early enough to hear the last of the speech by the Premier (Mr Peterson) as well.
We will not delay passage of this bill. I will simply say that we look forward to the spring when we will have another, and full, debate on the next budget.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
La motion de troisième lecture est également adoptée.
Hon Mr Ward: I am advised that His Honour the Administrator awaits to give royal assent to certain bills.
His Honour the Administrator of Ontario entered the chamber of the Legislative Assembly and took his seat upon the throne.
ROYAL ASSENT / SANCTION ROYALE
Hon Mr Howland: Pray be seated.
The Speaker: May it please Your Honour, the Legislative Assembly of the province has, at its present sittings thereof, passed certain bills to which, in the name of and on behalf of the said Legislative Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour’s assent.
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: The following are the titles of the bills to which Your Honour’s assent is prayed:
Bill 60, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act;
Bill 66, An Act to revise the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1983 and to make related amendments to the Teaching Profession Act.
Clerk of the House: In Her Majesty’s name, His Honour the Administrator doth assent to these bills.
The Speaker: May it please Your Honour, we, Her Majesty’s most dutiful and faithful subjects of the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario in session assembled, approach Your Honour with sentiments of unfeigned devotion and loyalty to Her Majesty’s person and government, and humbly beg to present for Your Honour’s acceptance, a bill entitled An Act to authorize the payment of certain amounts for the Public Service for the fiscal year ending 31 March 1990.
Clerk of the House: His Honour the Administrator doth thank Her Majesty’s dutiful and loyal subjects, accept their benevolence and assent to this bill in Her Majesty’s name.
Son Honneur l’administrateur remercie les bons et loyaux sujets de Sa Majesté, accepte leur bienveillance et sanctionne ce projet de loi au nom de Sa Majesté.
His Honour the Administrator was pleased to retire from the chamber.
Hon Mr Ward: Just before I put forward one more motion, I did want to acknowledge the group of pages we have here today who have served so well over the course of the past several weeks. They have been a particularly delightful and cheerful lot, having had to work some nights over the course of the last week or so, and we wish them well and all the best of the holiday season.
The Speaker: May I also wish all members a safe, happy and joyful holiday season.
On motion by Mr Ward, the House adjourned until Monday 19 March 1990.
The House adjourned at 1914.